“The customer is always right”, a common phrase usually uttered by a disgruntled member of the general public who thinks they’ve been ‘wronged’. But the thing is, in the travel industry the customer is rarely right.

You see, we’re not serving burgers or selling mops with a revolutionary new handle.

We’re selling an experience. The problem with this is that one person’s expectations can differ wildly from another’s.

Anyone that’s worked in any sector of the travel/holiday industry will have a bag full of hilarious stories to tell when it comes to jilted customers – from airline staff (I really do take my hat off to you) to hotel maids to the omelet station dude at the breakfast buffet.

I’m blessed with a fantastic bunch of Travel Agent mates; so I asked them to share – plus a couple of my own. Here are a few of their recent examples of finicky, annoying and downright shameful examples of how not to act like a cool customer.


Coconut Guy


This guy walked in with a printed list of complaints (three pages) after a 14-night holiday to a popular Fijian 3.5 star island resort. He chose to go during hurricane season even when his TA warned him about possible weather. But the deal was just too good to pass up.

Here are some of his major qualms in list form:

  • There wasn’t a HAM radio in his room, why wasn’t he warned?
  • There were sharks in the ocean (Manta Rays) which made it too dangerous for him to swim.
  • It was windy and a coconut could’ve fallen from a tree and killed him. So he STAYED IN HIS HUT THE ENTIRE TIME.
  • The weather was bad (obviously)
  • Fijians aren’t very nice people (seriously!?)
  • He was dismayed that I didn’t call him daily to see how he was going

He wanted a full refund on his trip and $4000 compensation for his obvious near-death experience from being around coconuts and wind.

He walked away with a $50 store voucher.


Seasonal Denial


A customer phoned up to ask about information and availability on a tour called “Autumn Colours”. The TA enquired about which date she would like to travel.

“Mid-August” was her reply.

The TA politely explained that this tour would only operate in September-October due to autumn generally falling during these months. She said that was pretty stupid of the tour company and hung up.


An Unexpected Baby


A hands-on-hips mum once angrily confronted a TA at his desk after her daughter had fallen pregnant during a certain youth-branded coach tour of Europe.

She was obviously in the ‘blame’ stage of dealing with her predicament. The reason why she put the onus on the Agent was because he “switch-sold” her from the original tour company she had chosen because it was a better deal at the time.

Sorry love, but maybe you should’ve slipped a box of Durex in her bag before dropping her off at the airport.


Surprise, Surprise!


This teacher should’ve done her homework before booking. When she returned from a trip to India with a well-known adventure tour outfit she asked for a full refund.

Her reason was that the TA hadn’t fully prepared her for how ‘poor the people in India were’ and that she would be expected to walk down ‘dirty’ streets.



Gate-less in Seattle 

The Inbetweeners Movie directed by Ben Palmer

The Inbetweeners Movie directed by Ben Palmer

A shocked TA was presented with a bill for a one-way ticket from the USA to Australia and expected to pay for it. When asked why she told her that she couldn’t find the gate for her connecting flight at LAX.

So rather than picking up the phone and calling their 24hr support team she bought a new fare on the spot shifted the blame to her hapless Agent back in Sydney.

Sounds like a certain Gen-Y’er spent a few too many minutes in Duty-Free and realized that nobody was there to hold her hand.


The Architect

ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, Jim Carrey, 1994. ©Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, Jim Carrey, 1994. ©Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

A client asked their dumbfounded Agent why they should have to pay more for an Ocean View room in Hawaii. After explaining why this was a reasonable policy – they told her “Everybody goes to Hawaii to see the ocean, ALL of the rooms should automatically be ocean view!”

Sometimes I feel that people like this shouldn’t be given a passport.


The Foodies


Food and drink complaints are probably the most common. Travellers are shocked to find out that things are done differently in other countries. I wonder why these people even want to travel?

Here are a few statements from customers that thought their traumatic situations should warrant them compensation (up to the cost of their entire holiday):

  • My ceviche wasn’t served hot (wtf!), I want you to relocate me to another hotel for free.
  • Why can’t I bring my own soft drinks onto our cruise?
  • I don’t like the brand of gluten-free ice cream my five star Fijian island resort serves – can you do something about it?
  • Our hotel didn’t offer brown bread at the breakfast buffet; I’d like a full refund on the entire trip.
  • None of the fruit in Vanuatu was shiny like it is in the supermarkets at home.

What’s the funniest/worst customer complaint you’ve ever had?