Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fam trip etiquette, a cautionary tale

During the holiday season words like “gratitude” and “giving thanks” get thrown around a lot. But one of the places we don’t really talk about them is on familiarization (fam) trips within the travel/incentive industry. I bring this up because I was recently on a fam trip to Asheville, NC and was disturbed by another planner’s behavior. After discussing this with another attendee who was likewise stunned, I decided to write this blog. More than just being ungrateful, I have seen a number of planners who are actively disingenuous and rude to their hosts. We don’t publically talk about this kind of thing very often. Most planners will talk to each other behind the backs of their hands but so rarely does anyone call out the offenders or really get to the heart of the problem. Perhaps it is time for this to change.

I will tell you the story of what happened on my recent trip. I will not use the planner’s name but anyone who was on the trip will surely know who I am talking about.

The main thing to note is that this fam to Asheville was only 1.5 days long. Get in on Sunday afternoon, leave by Tuesday morning. We had a fairly loose schedule that had us leaving the hotel on Monday morning at 9:45am (positively late by most fam standards) and also included time for a little shopping in the afternoon. I mention this because we certainly were not packed in like some fams I have been on. Keep this in mind as you read on…

The first night we had dessert at a wonderful local coffee/chocolate shop. Near the end of the night they brought us boxes to take some of the sweets with us. I was the first person to get my box and took a few cookies and a few brownie bites for my guest and myself. The planner I mentioned came up behind me and took (no joke) ¾ of the tray! I almost choked! So the rest of the group of 12 was left with nearly nothing to take with them. Rude, yes? Well, the story doesn’t end there.

On the way back to the hotel, the CVB rep was talking about our itinerary for the following day. She said something to the effect of “let me know if you won’t be joining us in the morning”. He immediately said “oh, we don’t have to be there? Okay, then I am letting you know [that I won’t be there].” I, already annoyed by his previous behavior, was blown away.

(By the way, the morning event was a charity event called Sole Hope where you cut uppers for shoes. They send those uppers to impoverished areas of the world where they teach the poor to make shoes. It helps fight the spread of disease, keeps feet sanitary and gives people jobs. It’s a very cool and easy charity event for groups!)

But I digress. The man was crude and rude. Unfortunately, this is not a random isolated incident. In fact, it is only a small example of this kind of behavior and is not even that rare in our industry. I have spoken to several coworkers about this and they have seen some pretty bad fam etiquette too. So we have compiled a short list below. None of these have to do with valid complaints like buses not showing up or sour food. They are examples of truly poor manners observed by members of our team:

  • Telling a host hotel to their face that they don’t care for their room and/or facilities
  • Complaining loudly about some aspect of the trip no one can change (TSA requirements, airline delays, etc)
  • Showing up to events obviously drunk or intoxicated in some way
  • Showing up to an event dressed completely inappropriately (cut-off shorts and a tank top to a formal dinner, etc)
  • Carrying on an (often loud) conversation with their guest during a site inspection when the DOS is describing their facilities
  • Skipping site tours or events altogether (sometimes this becomes necessary when work needs to be done but most of the time this is not the reason)
  • Changing flight arrangements and not telling the hosts, who then wait for them at the airport in vain. This is especially bad when the hosts have paid for the airfare.
  • Worse yet, people simply not showing up for the entire trip (sometimes without even informing the host)

Unbelievable, right? (Have any you want to add? Comment below!)

So I ask, what is going on here? What has happened to simple common courtesy? When you are invited to visit an area (especially when they are paying for you to be there), be gracious about it. Attend the events, be nice and be appreciative. Acting like you are entitled endears you to no one and just makes you look like a huge spoiled brat. You not only ruin the trip for your fellow planners but you make the CVB/hotel/transportation company/restaurant feel like they wasted their money. Fam trips are a nice perk of the business. You certainly have to work on most of these trips and they are not always a picnic. There can be several hotel sites in one day that require tons of walking and viewing of ballrooms and bedrooms. However, these ARE the point of the trip. They want to show you everything their city/area/resort has to offer.

I like to remember that because of these trips, I have been able to see plenty of locations that I would not normally have been able to on my own. I have certainly stayed at hotels I never could have afforded on a planners pay scale! Most of these are great experiences that I treasure and I am happy that they can lead to me bringing business there.

So I implore you, the next time you are on a trip, do what is asked of you and do it with good grace. This industry is built on relationships and people talk. You would be wise to remember that.

Anjee Sorge
Director of Operations

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