When Will I Learn? Another Lesson In The Cost Of Booking A Cheap Vacation

Dave Heron

Back in 1962 at the tender age of about 14, I had a summer job at Montreal Airport. It paid the princely sum of 65 cents per hour and involved taking food trays of semi-eaten meals that had been offloaded from long-haul flights and scraping them off airline chinaware into the trash.

About every 6th tray or so out came an untouched, still-wrapped filet mignon -- or hockey puck as we called them. Needless to say many of us supplemented our meager earnings with unauthorized self-serve takeout service.

At the end of the week, our $25 paycheques were disappointing but our bellies were full.

Fast=forward five decades. I took a call the other morning from a long-standing client we'll call Caroline. Battling insomnia the night before, she'd been surfing the internet in search of a budget getaway.

Sweet Caroline had found a quick and easy junket for less than the cost of dinner for 4 at any number of dining establishments within a 50km radius of home. And despite pointing out to her that this particular "resort" typically rented out by the hour -- she was firm in her intent.

Here are the gory details:

  • · The $699 package included taxes & fees.
  • · NCFs (what I call Nefarious Cash Fiddles) alone were $450.
  • · That left $249 as what we in the trade have come to know as the commissionable base.
  • · The booking had to be called in as the dear girl had a $50 voucher for some past indiscretion perpetrated by the tour operator.
  • · An hour of listening to the hold music indicated how important my call was.
  • · Another 45 minutes while the call center sorted out how to apply the voucher.
  • · Once the payment was made and the e-documents generated, a spelling error was noted and another hour ensued.
  • · To be fair, Sweet Caroline's name as per passport was Caroline Genevieve Mendoza Lllewelyn Trattoria Casa de Campo Smith.

Once all was said and done she popped by our office to collect the paperwork, armed with more questions than a CNN reporter at a Sara Huckabee Sanders White House press briefing.

By the time the sun set and Sweet Caroline had wandered home, our accounting guru came to me with the file. Encounters with our in-house version of KPMG are not for the faint of heart.

"Are you aware" she began, "that your gross take on this file came to $15.92?" Sheepishly I acknowledged I'd be postponing my visit to the Mercedes dealer.

"Are you also aware that you spent 7 hours of your own time, 3 hours of staff time and ran 423 sheets of paper at 10 cents per sheet to wrap up this gem?"

I came to the realization that this was one of those transactions where I'd have been further ahead when the call came in, to simply hand the client a couple of $50 bills and advise her to book the damn thing herself.

And so the file now hangs in a frame on the wall as a classic example of what not to do.

Looking back to 1962, that 10 hours of labor at 65 cents an hour would have netted me a windfall of $6.50. Factoring in inflation, that's $53.43 in today's dollars. I'd have been better off scraping airline meal trays. Even without the filet mignon bonus.

Adios for now.

Dave Heron practices his time management skills in Okotoks, Alberta, where he operates Pace Setter Travel & Tours.


Harold Wagner - October 1, 2018 @ 11:47
How true !
Greatly enjoyed Dave's comments. Many valid statements with humor well written. That begs the question, what to do if "customer service" is the motto of the agency ?

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