Facade…or My Tour Leader from Hell (#32)

 

The Courtyard

This image has been sitting in my drafts folder for a long time.  I had written the usual few lines but could not bring myself to press the “Publish” button somehow.  This is one of my favourite photos of Siena, then why my reluctance to give it a place on my blog site? Then it hit me! Everytime I look at this photo, the face of my Tour Leader appears beside it!

Don’t get me wrong! I enjoyed my Europe tour immensely. I am just saying that this trip could have been so much more pleasant if our Tour Leader had not shown himself up to be such an inept, negative, lazy and jaded asshole!

Let me elaborate on why I use such strong terms.

From Day 1 at the airport, he made it clear to everyone that he didn’t want to go to Europe. He sounded angry and bitter with his tour company for assigning him to lead yet another tour to Europe! He had totally forgotten that while he may have gone to Europe many times as part of his job, it was a first time for many of us. We had been saving up and looking forward to the trip. He shouldn’t have taken out his frustrations on us.

During the tour, he hardly gave us time to look at our surroundings. It was always a hurried walk from Point A to Point B. It was stressful and energy-draining.

During the journey inside the bus, he did not volunteer any information on the towns we passed, nor draw our attention to any points of interest. It was clear that he was only going through the motions and crossing off the list in the tour itinerary.  Is it too much to expect our Tour Leader to have at least some basic knowledge of the country’s local customs, culture and practices? It got to the stage where everyone was resigned to the fact that there was no point in asking, because he either did not know or did not want to share any information.

Upon reaching our destination, our Tour Leader was always the first to get out of the bus. But instead of waiting for everyone to come out so that we could walk as a group, he would already start walking. Too bad if you are not out of the bus fast enough. And if you happen to be sitting at the back, good-luck to you! By the time you get to come out, the Tour Leader is way in front of you – that is, if you can even see him! He was indifferent to the disparity in our ages – ranging between 4 years to 81 years old!

The 4-year old girl and her mother suffered from altitude sickness while we were at Mont Blanc. They decided to opt out of the tour to Jangfraujoch, Switzerland. At the time when this change of mind was made known, our group had not even made it to Switzerland, which meant that the Jangfrau train tickets had not yet been purchased. The audacity of our Tour Leader! He refused to refund a single franc from their CHF530.00 that he had collected three days earlier from the family. I was disgusted with his unethical behaviour! I bet he kept the money for himself!

I am not ashamed to admit that I was secretly smirking when our Tour Leader had to walk back all the way to Pisa to look for two members who had not showed up. If only he had done a quick count at Pisa before herding everyone to the coach (a 10-minute walk away), he would have known there and then that we were still short of two people!

Now back to this image and why the Tour Leader’s face always appears alongside it. During our walk into Siena, we had to go past a stretch of ancient brick walls with arched openings at certain intervals. I was curious to find out if there was anything behind those walls. I was hoping that the Tour Leader would slow down his pace and give us a chance to take in our “new” surroundings. No such luck!

Knowing that there was little likelihood that I would pass that area again,  I walked up to one opening in the wall. I was delighted to spot a small, neat courtyard behind it. I took a snapshot and went to rejoin the group. I could not have been away for more than one minute. But the look on the face of the Tour Leader…you would think that I had killed his mother!

I don’t forget so easily. After this episode, I kept interactions with him to an absolute minimum, deliberately pressing his buttons whenever I got the opportunity.

My last “revenge” took place at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris. It felt good, but that’s another story!

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7 thoughts on “Facade…or My Tour Leader from Hell (#32)

  1. This sounds like an example of why it was not correct for so many of us to be brought up acting polite all of the time.
    Let me explain: Your tour guide acted like an asshole (wasn’t that your word?), and no person contacted the tour company during the entire trip? To report his awful behavior towards his clients (you and your fellow travelers)? Using cell phones, ipads or whatever modern technology, your tour guide should have been reported as soon as possible, and perhaps a replacement guide could have been sent out. (If it was a reputable company)
    I, too, was raised by my parents to accept people as they are. To “not rock the boat”. To be polite to everyone, even if they acted rude to me. As I get older, I see that is not always the best way to act. One has to stand up for oneself, and others, if need be. If someone is acting so rude, they are opening the door to be treated rudely.
    I am still challenged to act as I teach, but I get bolder all the time.

    By the way, I believe that tour guides make a good portion of their income from tips. I’ll bet that tour guide did not get any monetary tips!
    I sincerely hope that is the single worst trip you have ever taken. May all the rest of your travels show the better part of the country and inhabitants you visit.

    1. Thank-you for your input, Susan. Sometimes, it is not easy to break away from the practice/culture of “not rocking the boat” or “breaking one’s rice bowl” that has been imbued into us during our early years. I am in full agreement that as we get older, we become more inclined towards challenging some of these norms. While the tour guide behaved very badly, I think that the Travel Agency was partly to blame. If they had had their standard operating procedures in place and done their homework, they would asked the Tour Guide why no feedback forms were submitted. I know of so many other companies who email the client directly after the trip to get their feedback.

      This particular tour guide did not get any extra tips. My husband, who is usually a generous tipper (overly generous, in fact), did not tip extra this time. He is very particular about a person’s integrity, and this tour guide had conveniently “forgotten” to give him back Euro30.00 in change.

      This entire episode helped me realise the importance of having a good tour guide. I thought I had asked all the right questions regarding the tour, but failed to ask about the guide assigned to the group. I will do better next time.

      I wish you a great weekend with good weather for your plants, Susan!

  2. Ohhhh my God Helene!! I dont even know how to begin!! First of all, a person that hates his job better fin something else to do instead of ruining other people’s lives! I know the important role a tour guide plays in someone’s trip, and Im so sorry this tour guide gave you bad memories! Its really a shame… I hope he lost his job after that!! I would for sure complain to the company… this cannot happen!! 😦

    1. I highly doubt if he can hide his true colours for long. He didn’t accompany us back home, but stayed behind in Paris to act as a tour guide for a group of nuns who were going there for a convention! 🙂

  3. Since you asked about the review, I can get it off my chest. While we were on our last leg to Paris on the 11th day, the Tour Leader very nicely reminded all of us to fill in our Feedback Forms and hand them over to him. According to him, his tour agency is always looking for ways to improve the tour exeprience for its customers so our feedback was important. I turned to my daughter and said I did not remember getting any Feedback Form to fill up. The next day while we were in the bus, he again reminded us to pass the Feedback Forms to him. He then elaborated that as a Tour Leader, he had been given permission by his company to read all feedback submissions before handing them over to higher management. He then encouraged us to be open and frank with our feedback so that he could improve on his shortcomings, if any!
    By the way, he never gave any Feedback Forms for us to fill! Another couple told me they didn’t mind giving feedback until the Tour Leader said he could have the first look! My husband said the Tour Leader knew his performance was not up to the mark throughout the trip. Any negative feedback would put his job in jeopardy. To his management, he could just say that nobody submitted their Feedback Forms. Such a dishonest, devious man!

  4. Oh god, I’m so sorry for you and for this horrible experience! I had that kind of experience in the past, but it was for a day tour, I can’t even imagine how awful it must have been for such a long trip. Did the company have good review ? I can’t wait to read about your “reveng” a

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