Last Thursday night as I was in a music club listening to Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, I was the proud recipient of two panicked phone calls. The first was from a client in Northern Virginia who was frantic because she just realized that the passport she thought was valid, no longer was. The second was from a client in New York who had a similar revelation with her passport. Oh, and the group trip they were booked on was departing the next day!
International documents are a big thing with me. I always err on the side of caution and tell my clients to have at least 6 months left on their passports. I always request a copy of the first page to avoid the inevitable “Oh, wow, my name is Elizabeth? I just always go by Betty!” conversations. I got burned once back in 1997 and I vowed to myself that it never would happen again.
For these two clients, I specifically told them they would need to renew before the trip. They acknowledged they knew in an email to me. I sent a reminder to them when the final payment was made in late June. Likewise, they both acknowledged it. When the final documents were sent out, the part on my disclaimer about the client being responsible to have current identification and travel documents was highlighted on their invoices. Aside from going to their home, what more could I do?
I hated when my mother used to say “I told you so,” so I was sure that was not the way to go. So, like most travel professionals, I simply put on another hat—this one of magician. I sent them both emails with some of the same day passport companies we work with along with the addresses of their local passport offices—thankfully they were relatively close. My advice was to gather their old passport and the current travel invoice, go to the passport office first thing in the morning, and get in line. I told them to be prepared to abandon that mid-way and go to an expediter to resolve the issue.
While they were (presumably) on their way, I contacted both of their local US Congressmen’s constituent liaisons. From past experience, passport drones perk up when a Congressman or Senator calls. I explained the situation, told them where their constituents were and what we needed to have done.
Within 30 minutes of arriving at the passport office and standing in line, both were called out because an appointment had mysteriously opened up.
In the end, they had new passports approved by 10am and they needed to return to physically pick them up after noon. Crisis averted!
But as I let out a sigh of relief that I did not need to invoke “Plan C”, I wondered how two people came up with the same problem at the same time? Does our advice matter so little? Are consumers now trained to believe that they know best under all circumstances? I was shaking my head because I knew I could not have done more; yet I was the point man for the resolution.
This time it all worked out well. I had a nice stiff drink on Friday night along with a smile on my face knowing that had they booked this trip online, it likely would have been a total loss. And my clients? Well, right now they are probably sunning themselves on the white sands of Grace Bay with a frozen umbrella drink!
Do you find that some customers will never listen to your advice? How do you handle it?