Foreigners are often rightly struck by many Americans’ appalling lack of knowledge about geography. It’s not news to travel agents.
Brenda Pascoe, an agent with Toronto’s Vision Travel Solutions, had a client ask for an oceanview room at her hotel in (landlocked) Orlando. And Hawaii appears to be particularly confusing to some: Stacy Sobo, an agent with Skye Travel Corp., Deerfield, N.H., and Kelly Sakryd, a strategic account manager with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, had nervous flyers requesting Amtrak tickets to Hawaii; another client had the same request, but because that person figured it would be less costly than flying.
When Rangerruss Travel Adventures agent Russell Black pointed out that train tickets to Oahu are impossible as there is a lot of water between Hawaii and the mainland, his customer said, “Okay, then I’ll take the bus.” Candie Steinman, an agent with Dream Vacations in Fort Myers, Fla., had a customer that insisted her friend had driven, and she was going to drive as well.
But Brenda O’Neale’s customer, who wanted to take a bus to Cancun, fared better. O’Neale, an agent in Indianapolis, did the research and discovered it actually is possible, though it takes about four days in each direction.
Equally challenging, it seems, is the concept of cruising from point A to point B, and how long it might take. Leslie Richardson from Jetsetters Cruises in Houston, Tex., recalled a request for a three-day cruise “to Hawaii, from Miami.”
Angelica Berwick was asked for a cruise from Oregon to Miami, five days or less. “I so wanted to tell him that’s a very popular cruise and all the tickets are sold out,” she said. “But I stayed professional.” Amy Hobbins, Journeys Unlimited Travel, Green Bay, Wisc., recalled a woman who wanted to cruise from Green Bay into Lake Michigan, down the St. Lawrence Seaway and to the Caribbean and back. After all, the client had a whole week off…
Karolle Fleurke Screaton of Ottawa’s Savour the World Travel said she “had a honeymooner flip out at me over her flight to Sri Lanka. It was absolutely unacceptable to her that the flight spanned two days, and she insisted I do better. I calmly explained to her that as amazing as I am, I can’t change the international dateline for her.”
Lynda Westlake of Vision Travel Solutions in Port Hope, Ontario, recalls the Swedish tourists who walked into her office asking for a day trip “to see Indian Summer.” And when Lorraine Simpson launched a Facebook page called Covfefe after President Trump famously came up the word, her phone was soon ringing with a request from someone wanting to book a trip there, “as it looked lovely.” Well, it does, doesn’t it?
Dedra Shahan, of Cowboy Way Travel, Stephenville, Texas, experienced a client that had a different sort of destination in mind. She so enjoyed her first cruise that she wanted to book another, this time to Las Vegas. “After I realized she was serious and possibly medicated, I explained that there were no ships doing that itinerary currently, and yes wouldn’t that be a fun sailing!” That politeness, by the way, paid off. “Her mother-in-law became one of my best customers, who sailed over 25 times,” Shahan said.
Janella McKinney of McKinney’s Family Vacations in Gadsden, Ala., tells of a recent customer who asked if the oceanview cabins were under water. “I said ‘yep, just like being in a fish bowl.’” Janine Corry, an agent with South Africa’s 24point7, had one who asked for a window seat for his flight to Mauritius, as “he likes fresh air.” Understandable! I mean, it is a long flight.
There are difficult customers and then there are red-zone difficult customers. Suzanne Haire with Travel Agent Suz in Indianapolis, Ind. recalls the destination wedding guest who asked for two rooms – and a guarantee that his wife and his girlfriend wouldn’t run into each other.
“I obviously advised that I could not and would not be part of this disaster waiting to happen,” she said.