Of course, we all know that little else but fresh air is free, and that whoever gives us a bottle of water, or allows us to access their Internet connection, has had to pay for it, and therefore so will we – which is fine, because paying for it isn’t what I object to. I just think it should be rolled up into the overall cost, and not charged separately.
I think this matters – you may not agree, but I think it really matters. Wise holiday companies, hoteliers and cruise lines know it does, and know that even though we are paying, the best way to get on our good side is to treat us as guests. A complimentary drink when we check in to our hotel, or join our ship; a supply of bottled water, replaced daily, in our room or cabin; a cool, moist cloth held out when we return from an excursion on a hot day – all make us feel special. Being asked to cough up for Internet access, sometimes with a minimum 24-hour charge, when all we need is 15 minutes, doesn’t – it just annoys us.
I did a two-week, small-group tour of Namibia, in hot, dry weather. Our tour bus carried a chiller full of bottled water, and ice lollies – all free, help yourselves, whenever. Result: 16 happy passengers, every day. ‘Just what I need’, ‘Perfect’, ‘How wonderful’ and ‘So thoughtful’ we told our driver and our guide, every day. We also told our friends what a great tour operator we’d chosen.
I did a seven-night Mediterranean cruise on a very large ship, in the height of a very hot summer. With a wide – and excellent – choice of excursions every day, getting 2,500 passengers on their way was a huge undertaking. Giving them each a bottle of chilled water could have been simple, though. It wasn’t, because we each had to pay; and each transaction had to be billed, by hand and in duplicate – with a copy for the passenger, to check against their final bill. Result: queues, frustrated passengers, fractious children. Was it really worth giving crew members such a time-consuming task? Or giving the accounts department so many more transactions to process? Is it ever worth irritating your customers to the extent that this did?
Don’t even get me started on airlines that tell us it’s cheap to fly and then charge sky-high for such basics as having a suitcase or wanting to sit with the person you’re travelling with, and not a complete stranger. Making passengers feel special, and treating them like guests, is a long way down the list with some carriers. Too far down, if you ask me.
I know times are tough, budgets are tight. I know nothing’s free and everything costs money. And I am happy to pay – but please, work out the cost, take it up-front, and don’t keep charging me more.
PAT RICHARDSON Founder, HotelsThatWereNot.com