Tuesday, 29 August 2017

More Thomas Cook frustration

My wife missed the cruise as she was not well, so we want to sort a holiday for her ASAP now she is feeling better - understandable. She likes to actually go in and talk to people in Thomas Cook about booking a holiday. To some extent I understand that, and, of course, in theory, the people there should be able to advise her and arrange the whole thing. We have seen that they struggle with the cruise issues recently.

She had been talking to the staff there last week anyway to sort the paperwork for insurance claim over the cruise, and she did say she was looking for a week in Rhodes, now that she is feeling better. They said they would look in to it for her.

Well, yesterday, bank holiday Monday, we went in to sort out this holiday. The web site was very clear that they open at 9:30am.

That was, of course, a lie, and we wasted a trip... The sign on the door said 11am.

This was not a good start, but Sandra was still keen to get this all sorted so we went in a second time later in the day.

To say it was disappointing is an understatement.

All she wanted was a week in Rhodes town, close to, or in, the old town itself, in a nice hotel. Flexible on dates and not fussy on price. What could have been simpler?

Thomas Cook have the slowest windows machines and systems I have seen in a long time - it took forever for them to get started and look for anything. They had nothing on "Thomas Cook holidays" as such. Eventually, after some prodding, they started to look for hotel only. I had checked on my phone, and could see BA fly Wednesdays and Saturdays, so simple enough - Saturday to Saturday hotels in Rhodes town, 4 or 5 star, not rocket science. Surely a travel agents can work out that they can in fact book hotels and flights and transfers/cars, and construct a holiday. I actually thought that is what travel agents did!

But no, they could not find anything suitable. They checked a few systems even. They had hotels some miles from Rhodes town. They suggested they could look further and call us later - which is what they were supposed to be doing a week before. Sandra spends a lot with them - we booked two expensive cruises through them this year alone - you would think they would maybe have some interest in keeping our business - but the attitude was really not good, and just not that interested.

Sandra ended up storming out, at which I was not too surprised.

So, back home, I google for hotels in Rhodes old town - within seconds I found a 5 star hotel right in the old town itself, looks lovely, available on the dates we were looking for! I booked on-line and club class flight with BA and even managed to contact the hotel and book a pick up from the airport.

There were actually a long list of possible airlines for the flights, including Thomas Cook!

Maybe, finally, Sandra will give up bothering with Thomas Cook in future. I don't know what margin they make, but I do know how much we have spent through them this year.

13 comments:

  1. I use Thomas Cook because I get 7% discount with them through work's discount scheme for employees. Or at least I use it when the discount works out cheaper than booking it myself.

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  2. We stopped using travel agents a few years ago, after booking a trip to Las Vegas… Before we even went, we were given misinformation about the hotel room we had booked, allot of back and forth and negotiation to get the room we thought we had booked in the first place! It also didn’t help that the travel agent didn’t have a direct relationship with the hotel, having to go via a third party! To top it off we also forfeited any points we could have earnt through the hotel loyalty scheme too.

    It seems travel agents often get access to a limited set of rooms with limited options compared to booking direct. It wouldn’t surprise me if guests booking direct with the hotel get preferential treatment to the best rooms too.

    Since then we have been back to Las Vegas and booked direct with the airline and hotel, best experience ever! We got the exact holiday we wanted, exact grade of room with additional perks thrown in. They also comped us 4 nights free when we were there, which they could not have done if it was pre-paid with a travel agent.

    Also, Thomas Cook in my opinion is the worst! If I had to use a travel agent it would either be Virgin Holidays or Thomson.

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  3. I guess the travel agency market is much like Internet provision - if ISPs compete on price, something has to give and it's usually customer service.
    If Sandra really wants to speak to people face to face, then I'd recommend Kuoni - never had a bad experience and the staff are knowledgeable and helpful. But then you get what you pay for.

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  4. For nice hotels arranged by someone with a brain, with decent extras, I'd suggest Emyr Thomas. Rob/Raffles who runs Head For Points recommends him - http://www.headforpoints.com/virtuoso-agent-london/

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  5. Most of the travel industry still use a viewdata like system - very backwards indeed

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    1. I used viewdata - I was on Prestel - 919995141 if I recall. It was way faster than these windows machines!

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  6. I find that building my own "package" is always the way to do it. BA Club or First Class, booked direct, using BA Amex card to boost air miles. Hotel booked direct with the firm to boost loyalty points. A firm like IHG is annoyingly a franchise so the quality varies wildly from hotel to hotel, but you can often get something comp'd like a very late 8pm checkout so you don't have to leave your luggage in a "secure luggage room" which is actually woefully UN-secure. Rental car booked direct with the manager of the nearest small (must be a small branch) of Hertz. Check Google StreetView to ensure you are dealing with a small branch. Phone and talk to him/her. Hertz staff are not permitted to make international phone calls so you will have to phone them. Agree the exact make, model and spec of the car if you are booking something at the top of the range. The manager will go and pick it up from a nearby dealer or branch the day before you arrive and you will normally be the second driver of a new car. Use Hertz #1 Gold Club to wield some leverage to achieve this. Use a local chauffeur/limo firm for the ride to/from the UK airport. Not taxis nor mini-cabs. The only bit I haven't got sorted out is the airport transfers at the remote/destination airport. Street taxis are generally bad. And "our local trusted driver" offered up by the hotel proprietor is usually pretty dangerous behind the wheel too. I have found that asking what the make/model of the car will be is a reasonable indicator of the preferred driver's attitude. Peugeot = avoid. Merc S-class = probably OK, but not guaranteed.

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  7. I find great trouble with Bank Holiday, Easter and Christmas opening times at large firms. Whatever the web site written by HQ says, the local manager just does whatever he/she can get away with. The note in the window will be handwritten or clearly locally printed in Comic Sans or Trebuchet. It's a give-away that the times were made up on the spot locally. I once went to a Ford dealer between Christmas and New Year. Web site said they were fully open for business. Web site showed details of a couple of cars I was interested in and would have done a deal on. Staff on site struggled to do anything and finally said "look, we don't know why you've come in at this time of year with all your questions, we're just here to hold the fort, not to sell cars, we can't find any of the cars you are talking about (even though they are listed for sale on our own web site), come back in the New Year when we are open, anyway the trade-in price you are expecting and the purchase price you are expecting are crazy and you won't get it". Went to another dealer and got exactly what I was told I could not have at the prices I was told were laughable.

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  8. i much prefer booking everything direct if possible - often agents like to take a deposit at the time of booking but booking direct means you can pay on checkout - the only exceptions seems to be flights and trains where you always seem to pay in full at the time of booking

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  9. We booked a hoilday to US/Canada in late 1990s with Thomas Cook. They sorted the flights and Rocky Mountaineer train, but they were useless on accommodation - just gave me a book of motels in BC to choose from. I've never used them since.
    I do now use the online hotel agencies as well as booking direct. We booked a hotel in Boise, Idaho in Jan for the night before the eclipse with hotels.com. The hotel mysteriously cancelled the reservation we had already paid for a few days before because of 'required maintenance' on the room. hotels.com found me another room in Boise and also ate the charge difference. Eclipse was magnificent in Eastern Oregon!

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  10. One advantage of booking a whole holiday with a travel agent is that if something goes wrong (such as cancelled flights or a hotel or airline going bankrupt), the travel agent has to sort it out. If you book everything direct and separately, you are on your own.

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    1. True. That is a risk of my independent method.

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  11. For the personal touch and bespoke arrangements, we've had success with Guy Johnson at Travel Counsellors - https://www.travelcounsellors.co.uk/guy.johnson - and would strongly recommend him (he used to manage a retail travel agent before setting out for himself).

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