My most nightmarish client | TravelResearchOnline


My most nightmarish client

This week I was looking through the archives at TRO for topics that were “hot buttons” for our readers and one kind of jumped out at me–nightmare clients!  We all have them. If anyone knows a way to get rid of them, please give me a call.

This week, I wanted to give our regulars a break and give you some time to have fun and to challenge you with a simple question:  Who is your nightmare?

Please, no names, but let’s have some fun this week as we head into summer and share some war stories.  I’ll go first because it is an easy recollection and one I will never forget!

We had organized a small group cruise for an affinity group. My client calls two weeks prior to sailing wanting to join the group. Through a series of well timed calls to the cruise line, I was able to secure a cabin for her on a sold out ship when a courtesy hold for another guest lapsed. Whew–great service!

As soon as she was paid in full, the problems began. For some reason, she felt entitled to an upgrade from an interior cabin to a balcony cabin because she had cruised with the same line… once… 10 years ago. I told her it would not happen and she called the cruise line–and surprisingly, they told her it was not happening either.  The following day she called asking for a $210 refund. When I questioned it, she explained that was what the cruise line was going to charge her for tips and she did not believe in tipping when she already paid for an all-inclusive experience. I refused to refund her anything on a trip she had not taken; and she agreed to handle it onboard. But, she admonished me that if they charged her, she would expect a reimbursement from me. Seeing where this was going, I wanted to be sure she knew they added a tip to all bar drinks and those are non-negotiable. I was informed that she would be bringing whatever beverages they needed onboard.  Sigh.

Well, the ship sails and I get “the call.” She was unable to locate our group at dinner. I initially thought that the late booking may have slipped through the cracks; but the cruise line said no. They checked and she was a no-show at dinner.  When I questioned that, she said she ate at the buffet. I explained that the group dines together in the dining room at the early sitting. She advised that would never do (despite asking for the early dinner when she booked) because she did not like the times of the two seatings. She asked me to ask some of our group to agree to dine with her at the various restaurants on her schedule. Uhm, no!  She hung up on me in a huff.

I heard nothing more the rest of the trip and assumed that she was just having a really bad travel day and all was well.  Wrong! And here is where my blood began to boil.

She presented a laundry list of “issues” that were never addressed while on board followed by a demand for a full refund. The whole trip was ruined.  The ship was old. The line to embark was long. There were not enough seats for her to eat near the pool. The hallways were dingy. Then the zinger—there were too many black people on board. She felt unsafe and like a “prisoner” in her cabin and feared for her children. Her children were 17 and 19!  In all my years, I had never been confronted with a complaint such as this.

I spoke with the others in the group and they did not indicate that there was anything out of the ordinary and racially they estimated it was 50% Caucasian, 30% Black, and the rest a mix mash of ethnicities. No one had any problems with safety, and one mother even commented how safe she felt letting her 4 year old daughter have the run of the ship on sea days.

When I contacted her to discuss this, she kept telling me that she saved money for a long time to do this trip and did not expect to have it ruined and that I needed to “do the right thing.” When I asked if she had addressed any of these issues while on board, she said she hadn’t because she did not want to cause a scene. When I asked her to detail her safety issues, she could only say that her son said there were a “lot of black kids” in the Club O2 and when she walked into the disco, she saw a “lot of blacks.” When I asked if there were any confrontations, she said no, but she felt uncomfortable and spent most of the time in the cabin. I was truly at a loss.

In the end, I decided to be forward with her and told her that I was concerned that her claims were unfounded. She was not happy with me and went on again about the safety and being on the ship with “so many blacks”. I finally asked her what color she expected people to be in Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport? She did not understand where I was coming from and I point blank told her that any issues she had were likely a result of her own fears and prejudices. If there were some operational issues with the cruise, she should have brought them up at the time. I offered to investigate any legitimate complaints and fight for her; but she offered none beyond a long embarkation line.

As for doing the right thing… I did. As soon as she hung up on me in a huff, I marked her profile with a big DNS code: Do Not Sell!

So there you have it. Tell me about your worst!


Have you had any nightmare clients? How do you handle them? How would you have handled this? Please leave a comment.


  One thought on “My most nightmarish client

  1. John, Thanks for your “nightmare client” story and it just shows how being a TA requires a bit of finesse and savvy. You handled it well. My most nightmarish client was when my husband and I were hosting a Baltic Cruise a couple of years ago. An 85 year old single women and US citizen, fell while in Copenhagen, on the cobblestoned streets. She was able to make it back to the ship under her own steam, but found out the next day she could not walk. She had broken her pelvis. The cruise line wanted her to disembark in St. Petersburg Russia at a hospital there as they were unprepared to handle something such as this. She was terrified about being left in Russia so we were able to persuade the cruise line to allow her to disembark in Stockholm where we were to end the journey. We arranged emergency evacuation in Stockholm and she flew home on a private jet to her hometown. I still get Christmas cards from her telling me we were her angles! I think there was a bit of Divine Intervention also! Regards, Natalie

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