Product Loyalty (archive 2003)

Dear Travel Coach

I am an experienced travel consultant and have started working for one of the top high street multiples. Being older is not a hindrance and the younger girls tend to look up to me as an auntie or older sister.


My problem is with Simon the manager. He recently passed on a directive from regional HQ telling us to switch sell a newly acquired city break operator in favour of all other options-even ones that clients specifically ask for. I fully understand the reasons, but I feel compromised. Our own “product” is not bad, but two or three of the independent brochures I am used to selling are definitely better.


Do I have to follow orders or can I persuade Simon to fight back against regional HQ?


Caroline from Bath.


Travel Coach says;



Dear Caroline,


Back in the mid 1970’s when the parents of your colleagues hadn’t even met I was an 18 year old getting my first work experience at the reception desk of a 5 Star hotel in Zurich. My line manager (Let’s call 

him Kaufman ) was 23 and making a name for himself as the most successful young manager out of the famous Lausanne hotel school. He kept this 300 room hotel at over 85% occupancy and was maintaining high levels of income. His bosses loved him, but his staff didn’t.


His methods were crude. He would overbook by about 40% and instruct us to tell arriving clients, face to face, that their room had not been guaranteed and had been sold to a “walk-in”. This presented the chance to tell the client that there was still a suite available and although it was twice the price, breakfast would be offered free of charge. Once he even made one of the receptionists get two customers to bid against each other for the

same room!


I regularly told him he was immoral and unethical, but his answer was always “look out for me in three years time, I’ll be the MD of Hilton”. Naively I also made my views known to my colleagues and when I applied to extend my stay, I was turned down. Kaufman and his boss (rightly?) saw me as a trouble-maker and sent

me packing.


The moral therefore, is do not mess with anything bigger than you. You may well be right, perhaps even God is on your side, but corporate directives sadly, are bigger than God. By all means have a private chat with Simon but do not try to use your influence with the girls to manipulate the situation. You will be the loser. Likewise if Simon has his eye on climbing the company ladder he will have no desire to nibble at the hand that feeds him.


Ask yourself these questions

  1. Is the vertically integrated programme really that bad?
  2. Can you find positive elements within it?
  3. What do the customers think? Their opinion is the most important. I know the company you are talking about and although they are now part of a multinational, the people who built the programme are as professional as the independents you are forced to abandon.
  4. What is really your gripe? Could it be the lack of freedom or simply a new discipline you need to get used to. Perhaps ultimately you don’t like having to report to someone who you feel has less experience

      than you.


To survive in this job you have not only to tow the line, but sooner than later you have to find the positives in it. When the company selected you they wanted your experience, talent and personality as elements of value. They chose you and now they need repaying and the best currency to a company is loyalty.  Who knows, if you can adapt you may even prosper beyond your expectations. The alternative is obvious.


Thanks for writing

Renato Fantoni  – TheTravel Coach



Kaufman did get promoted to general manager and then was headhunted by the biggest hotel in Zurich. However, some seven years later he was seen running a small hotel with his wife by a lake (naturally). I never found out if he fell from grace or simply changed his dream. I like to think that maybe just one or two of my words got through and that he treats his clients with (a modicum of ) respect now.


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