NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Travel Research Online.
A few years ago, I worked in a brick-and-mortar agency as a generalist. One day, a good-looking couple came into the office and sat down at my desk. When I say this couple was good-looking, I mean really good looking. Both were dressed immaculately and it immediately piqued my interest. After all, people like THESE guys had money to burn.
As it turns out, I was right — they had money to burn. They wanted to burn it someplace odd, though –they specifically asked me about Hedonism Resort in Jamaica. During further qualification, they were interested in the “nude” side of the resort and the types of activities there. Eventually, I realized this couple was a swinger couple. I was able to keep my professionalism about me and discussed the resort and its amenities with them but, all the while, my inner self was in a bit of a fit. A swinger couple! At my desk! I wouldn’t consider myself a prude and those who have hung out with me any length of time can attest to my somewhat mischievous view of the world. But, swingers! The practice itself makes no sense to me, and makes me a bit uncomfortable. Eventually, we were able to find the right trip to Hedonism and off the couple went. They had a great time and have since booked other travel with me though nothing quite as jarring as that introductory journey.
The other day a friend of mine who works at a high-end hotel told me about a regular guest who comes in with the Mrs. once every couple of months, and had recently started showing up more regularly, but with his mistress instead. My friend was aghast at the guest’s boldness in bringing both his wife and his girlfriend to the same hotel, knowing the staff would be sure to notice. My friend went so far as to say that she could not service that guest any longer — anytime he showed up, she did what she could to ensure a colleague took care of his needs. Both of these instances have gotten me thinking about our role in things — how much should our personal morals affect how we service our clients, or what clients we service?
Moral issues in today’s society are certainly polarizing for many. I know of businesses who will not service certain customers, or people who will not patronize a specific business, on moral grounds. Both parties have every right to make that sort of decision as long as they are willing to deal with any consequences that come about: the business may not have as many sales as they’d like or the customer might have to go out of his way to find another business to frequent. But what do you do if one of your long-time clients turns out to be the sort to rub your morals the wrong way? Do you say something to the client in the hopes of “setting them straight” or do you keep your mouth shut?
At the end of the day, our job is to understand our clients’ needs and wants and to find them the right vacation experience or travel arrangements that fit those needs and wants. Nothing more and nothing less. What our clients choose to do with their lives and the decisions they make are no business of ours and our personal morality should never enter the picture. This is, I believe, one of the true hallmarks of a professional: the ability to separate the business and the personal and to interact with others on a level that does not mix the two inappropriately. If Mr. Jones starts taking Ms. Peacock to that secluded resort in Mexico, and you KNOW it’s not for business purposes, you have a responsibility to help facilitate those arrangements without letting your personal beliefs or viewpoints color the situation. I would go so far as to say that you have a responsibility to talk with the client candidly about how to handle certain thing;: for instance, you have an invoice for the trip to Mexico you need to send Mr. Jones. You typically mail it to his home. Since you know Mrs. Jones isn’t going on this trip, and likely does not know about it, it’s important to talk to Mr. Jones about how to get this information to him in another fashion.
Some may see this as being an “accomplice to the crime” yet, in business, we have a responsibility to ensure we take care of the needs of our clients, however it makes us feel. If your personal morality prevents this or if it keeps you up at night, makes you feel sick to your stomach or any other unpleasantness, remove yourself from the situation entirely and with class – don’t be judgmental. Realize that such a move could cause you to lose the client completely, rather than just for that sale. If you can afford to put your morality or your beliefs ahead of the potential sales from a client, more power to you. If you can’t, keep the morality out of business.
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea and Journeys By Steve, based in Springfield, MO. In addition to producing special events on board cruise ships, he specializes in escorted tours of Europe and the Holy Land and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his websites at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com and http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com.