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Stop whining about the Sandals policy change

Did you hear about the changes with the “Soon Come Back” program at Sandals? In case you have been living under a rock for the past two weeks, I will clue you in. In the past, if a client re-booked a vacation while at the resort, the original agent received the booking and the full commission.  Now, if the client re-books, the agent can take over the booking (with client’s authorization) and will only receive a flat 10% commission.  If this sudden shift in policy has you upset—get over it!

For the past two weeks, agents have been whining (yes, that is what has been happening) over this change in a policy that likely affects very few agents.  It’s unbecoming for a professional and if you spent half the effort researching the impact and a resolution, it likely would become a moot point.

Work around it

First of all, ask yourself how many of your Sandals clients re-book on site?  My agency sends about 60 clients a year to Beaches for a week in August. We have been doing it for 13 years and have had 3 clients take advantage of it—all in one year.  Why? Because I have “trained” my clients to check with me before committing to any travel as a solo parent with their kids. Why did those three book direct? The resort put some pressure on them and offered them a $150 spa credit.   When I found out, I claimed the reservation. I also told them that in the future, if the resort offered an incentive, I would match it. I figured it was worth it to me to lose $150 from the commission than to risk having the client consider not booking with me. So if it is such a big deal, match the incentive! Yes, the cost comes from your commission, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a flat 10%, right? Cost of trip is $8500. Commission at 16% is $1360.  $1360-$150=$1210.  Commission at 10% is $850. Problem mitigated.

Maybe they don’t like you

While this may seem foreign to you, some of your customers may not want you to handle their travel any longer and this is an easy, non-confrontational way out. I can’t help but recall the statistic from Carnival Cruise Lines several years ago regarding repeat passengers. A full 80% of second time cruisers did not book their cruise via the same channel as the first. It may not be you. It may be your client. Or something else entirely. For me, my clients get re-married or their kids grow older and I never see them again—and I am OK with that.  If that is the case, you need to figure out how to replace that client and the accompanying income!

When push comes to shove, Sandals will do what is best for Sandals. Just as the airlines and cruise lines will do what is best for them. Are you in business to backpedal on your policies because a customer whines?

Do what you do best and it will all work out. If you are the stellar agent you claim to be, there is nothing to worry about—the client will come running back to you to give you their business.  If not, you need to figure out how to replace the income. Maybe you need to kick up your service a notch. Maybe you need to look at a different niche or specialty. Maybe you need to look at a different supplier.  Regardless of what needs to be done, you need to do it. After all, it is your business; and ultimately you are responsible if it fails or succeeds—not Butch Stewart and his fiscally sound (if I say so myself) policy that you just happen to not like. Stop whining!

  11 thoughts on “Stop whining about the Sandals policy change

  1. dcta says:

    I think you have to talk honestly to the client: more and more first time clients come to me understanding just how I get paid. Often they’ll ask, “now if I book this air on line, does it affect you in any way?” This is an interesting change, but I am really seeing it more and more. I don’t mind telling them that they will be approached while at Sandals/Beaches and how that will affect me.

    More to the point, if they book while in Jamaica (or St. Lucia or Antigua, etc.) directly with Sandals, they may find that they are subject to Jamaica laws/courts should they need to cancel, etc. and expect a refund. They can’t count on it being as though it was sold to them by a US company……their recourse could be different.

    But I also talk to people about the “honeymoon or vacation halo effect”. Yes, you may be loving the vacation you are having at this very moment but 4-6 months down the road you may well come to feel that you want to discover something new – perhaps Europe – for next year? Why lock yourself into a limited part of the Caribbean and an all-inclusive?

  2. John Frenaye says:

    You are spot on about the honeymoon halo effect for sure. And the same goes fro cruises and to a certain degree the time shares.

    As to the Jamaican courts, probably not so much. Even the SCB bookings are handled by Unique Vacations and as such are subject to the US courts–likely have to bring any action against them in Miami.

  3. John, you need to be careful with your “work around” in light of Sandals’ strict no discounting/rebating policy. If they get wind of it, an agency can be black listed from selling Sandals/Beaches in the future. How will they find out? Likely they wouldn’t, unless you have a client telling the SBC on property rep “no thanks, my travel agent will give me the discount / resort credit too, so I don’t need to book with you.” :-/

  4. John Frenaye says:

    I am not suggesting rebating it per se. But there is nothing wrong with giving the customer a gift of a spa treatment. It is the same as an OBC for the cruise. Yes, you need to front the cash for it (and it may even be commissionable with Sandals) but if you do it after final payment and before departure and commission payment it is not a discount nor is it a rebate.

  5. GR says:

    fiscally sound? So you bring people down and tell them no changes ..could you not do that over a phone? I don’t have a problem with the changes but Sandals way of doing things and the way they say it.

  6. Geoff MIllar says:

    I know a lot of this is directed at me. I am very successful with or without Sandals policy and their decision alone will not affect me one way or another. It is the precedence it is setting with other resorts and the cruiselines. You think there is complaining now wait until the cruiselines start adjusting their onbord book policies because Sandals got away with it. Just like always, the agent community will not stand up against things we don’t agree with, just accept it and move on. It is the only industry that I have worked in that does this.

    I will always figure out how to be successful. Our business has grown over 30% each year and belive me my and our companies success does not hinge on Sandals Policy change. In fact we are a platimun agency with Sandals and have sold more Sandals this year than we ever have. So i guess what you are saying that for any change if it hurts us or the client we should just accept it and move on. Sorry I don’t agree.

  7. John Frenaye says:

    GR it is a fiscally sound policy for Sandals. No different than if you decided to compensate an outside agent 10% on a booking that was started by an employee in the office while he was not available.

    Geoff–I don’t think any comments (and certainly not the article) are directed towards you, and I agree there is no cohesiveness in the industry and suppliers are not afraid of us. Sad but true. We have demonstrated it time and time again. Commission cuts, eliminsations, increased NCF, tiered commissions, etc. The suppliers will do what is in THEIR best interest for their bottom line. Do they still need us–sure. But the fact is that history proves that they are in the driver’s seat.

    So, in a sense I am suggesting to take what they give. Shift your business model AWAY from commission. Personally I am not opposed to rebating 100% of the commission received to the client and charging them 15% of the bottom line.

  8. dcta says:

    Geoff –

    I have no idea who you are – and I doubt anyone (not John or anyone else) was directing their comments to you.

  9. Geoff MIllar says:

    First, dcta, I was not speaking literally when I said John was speaking to me. I was speaking medaphorically, that I was the person defined in what he was saying.

    John, I agree with most of what you say. The part I don’t agree with is that we should do nothing and just move on. As I stated, this change by Sandals is not going to make or break me. It is just one more thing that suppliers are doing to agents and if we don’t take a stand as an industry, how far do the suppliers have to go before we do take a stand.

    I do understand it is a business decision made by Sandals but at what expense. I love Sandals but I disagree with the way they handled this issue and I will take a stand. If my stand does not work I will then move on. It would be nice to see agents as a whole entity take a stand on something and show that we can be a powerful organization that has the ability to move marketshare when we do not agree with decisions that are made by suppliers. We have to stand up for ourselves because no one else is going to.

  10. dcga says:

    Well some of us will remember that it was only by refusing to sell Renaissance cruises even after they reinstated commission that Travel Agents made s point with the cruise lines. Are you willing to do that, Jeff? THAT would certainly affect your bottom line. Doesn’t effect me – I have sold exactly 2 Sandals and no Beaches in 5 years. While I do sell lots of commissionable product my bread and butter is in FIT with 12 to 15% markup and a pretty hefty fee. Only TAs who are willing to take a chance on freeing themselves from reliance on commission are going to be able to make a difference.

  11. Tina DaBella says:

    You call it whining, I call it Sandals is poaching our clients. They aggressively and actively take clients that we send there and solicit them to be their clients, thereby reducing our commission.

    And, when you can no longer book them thru an outside supplier like GOGO or Travel Impressions and not only collect a higher commission level, you now cannot have airfare booked thru the tour operator and have travel insurance cover the clients entire trip. It is not only a disservice to the travel agent, but the client.

    As well as the people at the resort booking the come again soon bookings are misinforming the clients. I have 2 couples that are repeat butler clients that was told, no problem in changing dates you will get the same rate if you are in the same travel season…well that is not true and Sandals customer service was so bad on this that they lost 2 butler repeat clients that this year have booked with Excellence resorts.

    I just tell my clients to email me from the resort what rate they are given and I will book them on my end and purchase them a $100 spa credit…..the rates are exactly the same as what is out there and the extra commission not only covers the spa credit but gives me a higher commission and I can add on the clients airfare and insurance to be booked in 1 place.

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