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You have chosen...wisely
Member Name: StampedingTurtes
Advantages: Good deals, trusted company, ATOL protected
Disadvantages: Some of the agents can be quite inexperienced
Having booked two holidays with Thomas Cook, I feel I should write a review of the experience of actually booking IN the shop. Not of the holiday itself (as I am yet to go away!)
Last year my boyfriend and I went into Thomas Cook to find out about a holiday to Tenerife. We actually ended up going for it there and then because the agent was so knowledgeable and the prices were great.
Our flight was comfortable and our transfers were good. The only negative I have is that the rep in Tenerife...the awful Brian...was a total idiot. He spent the rep meeting telling us how wonderful he thinks he is. It took us about four days to track him down when we needed to speak to someone and when we did find him he was hung over and entirely unhelpful. This I have to say is not Thomas Cook's fault and didn't particularly ruin our opinion of them or anything, he was just a fool.
So this year when we decided to go to Florida, we were open to Thomas Cook but decided to shop around.
We live in a relatively large town which has 4 main travel agents. Having been into all of them months ago, when we decided to book, we went in to Thomas Cook to get a fresh quote. As soon as I entered a girl pounced on me and took me to a desk. She was clearly quite new and very weak in her position of holiday expert. I know that people have to learn the job, but it was really off putting, she did not inspire confidence in the company.
So I thanked her and said I would think about it. We tried to return a few times to actually BUY a holiday, but each time, this same girl was the only person who was free and I did not have confidence in booking a holiday with her. I found it completely baffling that instead of trying to avoid a hard sell, we were trying to avoid this wishy washy, uninformed attitude that we'd experienced already!
We ended up travelling 25 miles to the nearest place with a travel agents! This is a large shopping and leisure centre outside of Glasgow. We headed in to Thomas Cook. I had money in my bag for a deposit and we knew exactly what we were looking for.
~~~~~ The Agent ~~~~~
The travel agent (we will call her Leigh, that's not her real name) that we spoke to was brilliant. She was about the same age as me and very confident in her job. She let us browse around the brochures for a good 5 minutes before asking if she could help with anything. I found this to be so refreshing, our other experiences were of either being attacked upon entry or having to wait in a queue to see someone.
On sitting down she immediately put us at ease and obviously knew her job well. She asked us all of the right questions with good humour and a nice, professional, but friendly attitude. She was clearly at ease and enjoying her job. This immediately made us feel comfortable and welcome.
~~~~~ Holiday Enquiry ~~~~~
First, we did a price enquiry. Leigh listened to all of our requirements about date and location and came up with a variety of hotels and packages. She showed us several of these - actually allowing us to look at the computer and choose things. She told us what she was doing when she made different enquiries on the system etc.
We came up with a good hotel on International Drive for an excellent price and dates that suited us. After this, she included the various extras we needed. Park tickets were first. We had wanted to buy two separate tickets, one for Disney etc and one for Universal etc. It turned out that there was a third ticket - the WOW! ticket - which combined all of the attractions and worked out roughly the same price. She advised us that this was probably better as we would receive real tickets - not printed out ones - and we would also receive some freebies with this ticket.
She worked out the prices and added this to the list, then moved on to car hire. We were met with some difficulties here. My boyfriend, who volunteered to drive, will be 24 when we go. Under local law, if you are between 21 - 24 you have to pay a $25 a day surcharge to drive. I assume this is to cover higher insurance costs.
So when adding it all together, this came to quite a lot of money. This is when Leigh's excellent customer service skills kicked in. She explained that many hotels run complimentary busses to various parks etc. So she re did the whole enquiry using a hotel which included these busses. She then worked out the price difference and wrote it out for us in the brochure over both hotels. We discussed it a little. Having a car was going to cost us £100 more in total because the hotels with the free transport are more expensive anyway. Leigh gave us her own opinions, but stayed quite neutral, giving us positive and negative aspects of both situations. This was really helpful in getting our thoughts clear.
We decided to go away and think about it as I had a sneaking suspicion that my boyfriend was more worried about the actual driving than about the money. We headed to the food court to sit and discuss. It turned out that he was mostly worried about the driving.
We went back and Leigh just picked up where we had left off. We decided to go with the car and the original hotel and she put it all through. She discounted almost everything! She even went and asked her manager if she could discount something else! When she worked it all out with absolutely everything included we were getting a great deal.
~~~~~ Attitude ~~~~~
Leigh's attitude was not about selling. It really seemed obvious that she wanted to get us the best deal possible. On working out the cost, she said that yes this was a good price etc but she was not pushy. There didn't seem to be that selling attitude that many travel agents have. Instead she just gave us the facts, pros and cons and allowed us to make up our own minds.
We ended up taking the holiday. She kept reminding us that we can change many aspects of it after booking, so if we decide not to have the car etc it can be taken off. This is good to know as it is a whole year until we go. It is useful to know that things can be tweaked if necessary.
~~~~~ Extras ~~~~~
Thomas Cook offer a wide range of extras with their holidays. For example, car hire is included but insurance is not. Leigh also informed us of Your Seat Your Choice. It costs £20 but allows us to pre book specific seats. We simply go on to the website and choose which two seats we want to sit in. This is useful for us as my boyfriend is a nervous flyer and I think that having that little bit of choice might help slightly, also it means we have guaranteed seats together. We were also able to add an extra 5kgs luggage each and there are options for in flight meals such as veggie and gluten allergy.
Leigh let us see the other hotel options. It's useful to note that you can request a low, middle or high floor room. You can also request a double bed, two queens, etc. You can request smoking or non smoking in some hotels and also add things like fruit, champagne or honeymoon/birthday options.
All of this choice let us feel like we were tailoring our holiday to our needs.
~~~~~ Conclusion ~~~~~
Overall we had a very positive experience with Leigh when we booked our holiday. It does show how the agent you book with makes a huge difference. Her personality was such that we felt relaxed and able to ask silly questions. She joked with us and talked about her own experienced as we looked though the options. She was clearly experienced and knowledgeable. This helped with our confidence. After all, you are going to commit to spend a lot of money on a holiday; you have to have confidence in the person booking it.
On the whole I would say that it comes down to booking with the right PERSON. Thomas Cook is a well established ATOL protected and trusted company which sends many people off on their holidays each year. But although this is a great company to book with, you must make sure that the agent who deals with your enquiries and your booking is someone who you have confidence in and someone who has lots of knowledge of the holiday you are booking. This way you can make sure you get exactly what you want from your booking.
The quality of Thomas Cook agents seems to vary quite dramatically. I would just say be on your guard for those who may be new or simply not so well informed. Choose your agent wisely though and your booking through Thomas Cook will be an enjoyable and exciting experience.
Summary: Choose your agent wisely and you'll get a good deal