How Far Would You Go?


magine that an affluent client who had used your travel agency in the past came to you, prepared to spend a substantial amount of money for a family vacation. The client indicated a resort hotel he had in mind.

Imagine that you had heard from past clients of their dissatisfaction with the resort in question.

Would you feel obliged to tell your client about others' experiences? And if you did so and the client insisted on going there anyway, would you sell the trip without comment, sell it only if the client signed a document relieving the agency of liability, or say you could not in good conscience book a place about which you had major concerns?

I pose this scenario because I heard recently about a situation in which an agency had knowledge about a hotel's questionable reputation and withheld it from a client.

When the client came back dissatisfied, the agency acknowledged that it had heard similar stories, leaving the client angry that the agency's knowledge hadn't been shared.

What's more, the agency offered the client nothing more than an "I'm sorry it didn't work out" response. The client is considering a change of agencies.

I'm not a lawyer but it seems to me that there is a considerable difference in potential liability for an agency, depending on whether the agency or the client makes the choice of suppliers.

In this instance, the agency would clearly be at fault if it recommended a supplier even though it had information about past problems with that company.

The issue of what to do when the client insists on a supplier is a trickier one. Agencies, particularly these days, are reluctant to turn down lucrative bookings. But is it worth a substantial commission if the ultimate cost is at least the loss of a good client -- and at worst a lawsuit?

I'm not running an agency so it's all too easy for me to say what I'd do but my inclination is to regard the long-term relationship with a good client as more important than the prospective commission from one booking.

How do you think the agency in this situation should have handled the matter? I'd be interested in your opinion.


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