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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Question for you: Consultation fees

Working in a travel agency has been a long time goal of mine. I'm learning a lot. Let's just keep it at that. Let me preface this by saying when I took the job, I understood the salary range for travel agents nationwide was on the low side of the pay scale. Now that it's been a couple months, the honeymoon is wearing off. I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated and entertaining thoughts of pursuing more "stable" career options. ie: consistent bi-weekly paycheck.

Frequent scenario: A potential client would contact me about a vacation they would like to take. I put together the necessary details, prices, reservations, and etc and once I present the information to the client, they reply with "Let me talk to my spouse/let me get back to you". Eighty percent of the time I get a follow up email a day or two later with a response that usually says: "I went ahead and booked my own trip" (This is either the result of finding a cheaper deal or using the information I've provided them.)

Don't get me started on the Orbitz/Travelocity/Travelzoo/Expedias/Pricelines out there. I ain't mad, but that's a post for a different day.

This happens A.L.O.T. At first I shrugged it off but now this is getting pretty frustrating. I put in a lot of time and effort into planning these trips and these potential clients take my knowledge and run with it. Some of the clients don't even bother to ask if my company can price match. (We can - - after all we want your business!) The more this happens, the more I find myself caring less about providing the best service. I just give my potential clients basic information about their trip. When they show a seriousness to work with me, I up the ante on the quality of service I provide.

E strongly argues that I should start charging these clients a fee with a disclaimer that says something along the lines of : "This is a deposit towards your vacation planning. Should you go along with the itinerary I've put together for you, the fee will apply to your vacation costs. Otherwise, I'll pocket the fee if you cancel or book your own travel."

E argues that TIME is every man's most valuable asset. The average busy American wants to travel but does not have the time to research the logistics and figure out all the miscellaneous details to goes into trip planning. There are people out there that would pay a travel agent to do this for them.

I agree with him to a certain extent but experience has taught me that these same busy Americans want this stuff for FREE!

A fee sounds like a fabulous idea as it ensures my time is compensated. Folks forget how valuable my time is. On the other hand, I find myself uncomfortable with this idea. Nobody likes getting nickeled and dimed. I'm afraid imposing a "consultation fee" will scare away potential clients.

Right now I'm just struggling to answer the question: Do I want to keep traveling down this road or should I start pursuing other opportunities?

Question for you: Is it worth it to pay a fee for something you can do yourself at home for free?

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