It is exactly two in the afternoon and Keiran is sprawled out on the couch sleeping. The afternoon trip went out at 1 PM, like normal, and I met a really nice family from New Jersey that were diving with us. They all did a discover scuba dive with us.
They made their reservation through the activity desk at their hotel.
I asked them how they found out about us, and they said that they had seen all our awesome reviews on Tripadvisor.com and also that they checked out our website and really liked it. When they got to the island and wanted to book a trip with us, they went to their activity desk and said “please make a booking for us with Octopus Diving.” The guy at the activity desk said “sure.” He called us up and made the reservation. To confirm the reservation the activity desk asked for a 20% deposit (this is normal). This means that when the family comes to us to dive they pay the total amount MINUS the 20% they gave to the activity desk. The activity desk keeps this as their commission for sending us business. This is how St Martin, and many of the other islands in the Caribbean work.
Now, I totally don’t mind giving activity desks or concierge’s 20% commission if somebody comes to the desk and says “Where should I go diving?” and they reply “Octopus Diving, of course!” If they are sending people my way, instead of somewhere else, then great! However, if somebody comes to the desk and says “I want to dive with Octopus Diving, can you call them for me?” Then I am paying a lot of money just for a phone call. PLUS, they never get it right.
“Hi, this is so and so from so and so resort. I have two divers. Do you have space tomorrow morning?”
“Yes” I reply.
“Okay great, do they need equipment?”
“Hold on…” Then I hear talking in the background. “Yes, they do.”
“Okay, great, can I get their name and room number.” I get the information.
“Please tell them to check in at 7:30 and to bring their certification cards with them.”
Then we hang up. The phone will ring two minutes later.
“Hi, this is so and so from so and so resort. I just made a reservation for two for tomorrow morning.”
“Sure.” I say.
“They want to know if they will have an instructor with them tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, of course. All our dives are guided.”
We hang up. Then, one minute later the phone rings AGAIN!
“Hi, me again.” Jeez, what is going on here!
“Yeah, they want you to know that they don’t have certification cards.”
“Ok, that normally isn’t a problem we can look them up on line. Wait, do you mean that they aren’t certified or they just don’t have their cards?”
“Let me ask.” I hear talking in the back ground.
“They have never been diving before and it is actually for three people, plus a snorkeler.”
“OK…” Imagine me rolling my eyes and holding back an exacerbated sigh. “No problem. Let me check the schedule again.”
This is the thing, they don’t know about diving. They don’t know the right questions to ask to get our divers the best experience. I have people turning up who have 200 dives under the belt and their concierge has signed them up for a discover scuba dive. OR, the reverse, (which is much worse) as we can’t take people on a two tank dive trip to 60 ft if they haven’t been diving before. We know the right questions to ask (when did they last dive? What is their certification level? Do they prefer wrecks or reefs? Do they have family that wants to snorkel?). Sometimes, after talking to someone, or exchanging emails, they confide in me that something traumatic happened the last time they were diving. So, I know to tell the instructor to take special care of them or suggest a private dive guide, or a shallow easy dive.
Or the Activity Desk will tell our divers the wrong time, or they book with the wrong numbers. Or, arranging taxis. The other day I had three people that booked from the concierge from the same hotel and they all arrived in separate taxis. If they had booked through me, I would’ve arranged one taxi to pick them all up, saving them time and money.
I’m not saying that this always happens. Sometimes we get an Activity Desk, like the new one that opened in Oyster Pond through Private Yacht Charters, and they send people to us because they know we offer excellent service and they want to send their clients our way. I am happy to give them 20%.
I guess, my point is… Please, if you are reading this and you intend to book diving with us, contact me BEFORE you get to the island. Or, even if you wait until you are on island, just stop by, or call, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You have obviously checked out our website, which I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours developing, so I’m not sure why I am giving 20% to the concierge if you specifically ask for us!
This goes for other activities as well. If you come to the island and you already know what you want to do, do those activities a favor and save them some money. Book direct.
OK, rant over.
Now back to more important things… like scuba diving and nappies!
(Sally wrote this blog 🙂 )