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Managing ExpectationsJune 9, 2008 By: Ruthanne Terrero Travel Agent
I read with interest recently that an Australian university researcher has unearthed the fact that “matches made over the Internet often do not last because people end up choosing unsuitable partners and forming emotional bonds before meeting face-to-face.”
Doesn’t this remind you of the folks who book their travel over the Internet, complicated vacations that require true expertise, only to find that their trip was nothing at all as they had imagined?
The study went on to say that people tend to get carried away by witty comments and clever e-mails that are exchanged before the couples actually meet; in other words, they’re drawn in by creative prose rather than the actual facts. “You can never assume things are the way they seem online,” psychologist Matthew Bambling, from the Queensland University of Technology, told Reuters.
If you think about it, a lot of the problems that arise from the Internet, whether it involves a first date or a trip to the Maldives, come from the fact that people want to be believe what they read. They’re so anxious to find their true love or enjoy a fabulous vacation, they’re not looking for the warning signs, like the fact that the guy they’re e-mailing has ignored their questions about what he does for a living and whether he’s married, or that the travel website they’ve found a super deal on has no actual means of reaching a human being should something go awry.
Awkward situations also tend to arrive because it seems just about everyone, unless they’re Suze Orman, loves that heady feeling they get when they’re about to do something foolish, like spending too much money for a nonessential item and then billing it to a credit card that is about to reach its maximum limit. The funny thing is, humans tend to do things like that again and again, no matter how old they get.
A Cautionary Tale
Case in point: The New York Post recently had a report on a young woman who paid $19,000 on eBay for a “Sex and the City” package that was to include five nights in a luxury New York hotel, a ticket to the premiere of the “Sex and the City” movie, as well as its after-party, shopping sprees and other sundries. Lo and behold, she received an e-mail prior to her trip stating that she wasn’t getting into the premiere, nor was she getting into the after-party, which for her was the main purpose of the trip. What had led to her to purchase such a package online with her life savings? She was an admitted fanatic of the TV show, she told the paper.
Real-life travel agents need to be careful of this “want-to-believe” syndrome as well by managing their clients’ expectations. There will always be a case of a person who purchases a trip and wants the experience to be perfect—their hopes can only be dashed when the slightest bit of reality enters the scene. They won’t be prepared for the fact that it might be a bit hot in Rome during that week in August or that it tends to rain in the Caribbean on some afternoons because they are, after all, in the tropics. They might not realize that the hallways of their open-air-lobby hotel may not be air-conditioned; however, had they known that fact prior to their arrival they wouldn’t have called you hysterically at 8 p.m., demanding that you get them out of there.
Your advantage over the Internet is that you can hold your client’s hand during the trip-
planning process so that they can know what to expect every inch of the way along their journey. When they’re with you, it’s all right for them to form an emotional bond with the vacation they’re dreaming about, because you’re there to ensure that things will go right every step of the way. You are, after all, the real deal.