Wacky traveller requests and complaints

2012-04-18 13:51
Fascinated by the human condition?

Become a travel reservations consultant.

While medical practitioners and psychologists may get to work with the more serious side of the psyche, reservation consultants are able to access a much more mundane, though no less intriguing side of our oh-so-human selves. There's something about people heading away on a dream holiday that brings to the surface the most bizarre sorts of requests, complaints and desires.

We chatted to two reservations consultants about their strangest, most aggravating, heart-warming and just down-right weird communications with clients. They explained that while it's mostly great working directly with clients, and not having to garner correct information through a third person, it does have its challenges... especially when they get held personally responsible for something as arbitrary as, wait for it... the weather!

Requests and questions

A lion cub for the holiday - A lady from the US called in to book a safari holiday in the gorgeous bushveld of our country. However, she wasn't satisfied with the idea of just being able to see animals from the impersonal distance of a game viewing vehicle, so she kindly requested the companionship of a lion cub for the duration of the vacation. Apparently it took some explaining to convince her that lion cubs are wild animals, not usually available as escorts.

Does South Africa have shops, electricity and laundry services? Yes, these were all questions asked by not one, but numerous clients.

Wild in the streets - One tends to think that by now most of the world would be aware of the fact that wild animals do not, in fact, roam around the bustling highways of Johannesburg, Cape Town and, for that matter, Nelspruit or Pofadder either. But, well, apparently not. It's still an idea that travel consultants have to disprove on a regular basis.

Hunger games - We all know travelling to strange shores may mean having to eat strange foods, or well, at least it used to. Somehow it seems as though many tourists have not yet gotten the memo that deep dark Africa is indeed not entirely inhabited by cannibals and carnivores. One client went so far as to ask if there was at least a McDonalds somewhere in South Africa where they could stock up on edible food before heading on safari. Ever polite, the consultant said they were welcome to do that, but forwarded them the tantalizing menu they would be met with during their lodge stay for good measure. Needless to say, a few MacDonalds burgers remained unflipped on that holiday.

The perfect honeymoon - One of the sweetest requests these ladies ever received was from a concerned groom-to-be who wanted the wedding night and honeymoon to be nothing less than magical for his bride. After requesting oysters, special chocolates and spa treatments - only to be executed by female hands if you please, as he wanted no male massage therapist touching his wife - he even went as far as explaining that the wedding night would be their first intimate experience and that the twin beds please be shifted as close together as possible. Bless.


As JRR Tolkien once said: "Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway."

Simply put, it's way less fun telling people you had a good holiday, than reviling them with tales of your disastrous vacation.
Thus the complaints travel consultants receive are often completely petty, over the top... and mostly from low budget/entry level clients looking to upgrade.

Anything you can do to stop the wind? To be fair, extreme weather conditions in a foreign country can be quite scary. I mean, how do you know if it's just a little worse than usual, or actually something to panic about? But calling up your travel consultant at 9pm, holding the phone against a window, and demanding to be moved to another hotel... that's just a little bit extreme.

Photo: affiliatemusketeer.com

We demand an un-rainy holiday - On a related note, a group of tourists had booked a self-drive from Cape Town all along the Garden Route and wanted to spend a few days at a beach. So, their consultant suggested Plettenberg Bay.

Being scheduled for February, the weather was expected to be mild, if not utterly perfect.

But, as fate would have it, the downpour started soon after they left Swellendam and didn't cease for the next four days - all of which were spent in Plett. On the third day, an irate client called up the consultant, claiming that they had been mislead about the weather, and that they were holding the consultant personally responsible.

Luckily, a transfer to a comfortable hotel in Port Elizabeth seemed to appease them somewhat.

I'll sue you for my game drive injury! - And in this case, injury is an overstatement. After trying to climb up the back of a game viewing vehicle - out of the line of sight of the ranger - a gentleman from the UK almost sued the travel company for the injuries sustained when the vehicle started moving with him half-on-half-off.

Sounds pretty bad, but the reality was that one foot had quite simply slipped and he quite clearly declined various offers from the lodge to call in professional medical help. While his leg was quite okay for the rest of his safari, it strangely became a problem when he had returned to the UK, apparently forcing him to miss a whole week of work.

Efforts to sue the company were unsuccessful, but he did manage to wangle a refund from the lodge.

Why don't you instruct me on what to tip? Another client called the travel consultant up in a royal huff after a game drive, as she had to tip the ranger, but didn't know how much. Even though the consultant quickly suggested a acceptable amount, the client insisted that this little detail should have been included in the itinerary to save her from all the embarrassment.

Photo: Shutterstock

Cockroaches everywhere! - It often happens that clients spot cockroaches or rodents roaming around their hotel room, and immediately call up the consultant instead of going straight to management. In one such case, they all but insisted on being moved to another classier hotel by the consultant. As that was not an option, she had no choice but to get the hotel to offer them an upgrade. Clients: 1. Consultant: 0

Welcome card spelling error - The spelling of names is a big deal to most people. Seeing your name - or something that looks suspiciously much like it - with just one letter out of place can leave one feeling strangely deflated, upset and even angry. So much so that one client actually insisted on having a hotel's welcome card bearing the incorrect spelling of his surname, replaced by a correct one. However, once again, hotel management was by-passed, and the consultant called up to sort it out... which it was in a matter of minutes.

Not all bad

Despite the crazy complaints and zany requests they receive, the travel consultants we chatted to both agreed that good definitely outweighs the bad. Most often than not they receive positive feedback from their clients... and sometimes even build life-long friendships.

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