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Don't Get Your Travel Advice from A Public Restroom

The list of bad things you can pick up in a public restroom is long, but bad travel advice isn't something most people worry about when they heed the call of nature. We’ve gotten used to people getting bad travel advice from unreliable sources, usually social media, but never in a public restroom from a total stranger claiming to be a travel agent. Until now.

Janet was working with a client on a friends trip to the Caribbean. After talking with the client, Janet recommended a particular all-inclusive resort that she felt was an ideal fit. I've written before about the importance of finding the right fit when it comes to all-inclusive resorts, and the effort Janet puts into finding the right fit for our clients. To include hauling me around to more all-inclusives than I care to think about so she can speak from first-hand experience. The client was excited about the trip and the resort Janet recommended, but wanted to make one final check with the traveling companion before Janet booked them. That's when we found out about the bathroom encounter.

The client's traveling companion was dining in a restaurant with another friend, and the two stopped in the restroom on their way out. They were chatting about the trip and the resort Janet recommended when a someone popped out of one of the stalls and warned against that resort. The stranger identified themself as a travel agent and declared that the resort served lousy food that was inedible, that it all came from the same kitchen, and that their booze was all well liquor. In case you don’t know what well liquor is, it’s the stuff bartenders keep down in the well of the bar…the place where the mixers and glasses are kept…so patrons don’t notice when they are being served cheap booze.

There are so many things wrong about what that travel agent did, but let me start with the obvious. Anybody can claim to be a travel agent...there are no licensing or certification requirements needed to sell travel in most states. Legitimate travel advisors take the time to go through extensive training and certification programs, and regular refresher training. They also operate from a strict code of ethics, and what that travel agent did was categorically unethical. When someone identifies themself as a travel agent and then proceeds to offer unsolicited advice, whether it be on social media or in a public restroom, you have no idea whether they or the information they offer are legitimate. And there is nothing OK with a travel agent approaching a total stranger in a public restroom with unsolicited advice on the basis of a conversation overheard while sitting on the toilet. That is stalker level creepy in my book.

Perhaps more important than the creepy behavior and unprofessional ethics of this bathroom travel agent, the information they provided was wrong. It was the kind of tripe you get from social media chat rooms where vitriol is often valued more than accuracy. We’ve been to the resort Janet recommended to her client...recently. We know what it does and doesn’t offer. The food we had was quite good. Of course I know that food preferences are highly subjective, but to describe this resort's food as inedible is mean-spirited and suggests to me the bathroom travel agent held a grudge against this resort for some reason known only to themself.

Which brings me to the two most objectively wrong claims the agent made: that all the food comes from a single kitchen, and that the resort only serves well liquor. A travel agent who has actually been to the resort knows better, or at least they should. The resort employs a staff of over 100 chefs, sous chefs, and culinary professionals who operate in teams dedicated to each the resort's 12 restaurants. Each restaurant has its own menu of regional cuisine to include classic French, Italian, Indian, Teppanyaki, Sushi, and more. And while the resort may use a common area for some of their food prep, I'm pretty sure I would have noticed if the sushi chef was pulling double duty cooking up escargot on the teppanyaki grill to be served in the French restaurant, or if the pasta chef was cooking up naan and chicken tikki in the Italian restaurant's brick oven and then sneaking it over to be served in the Indian restaurant. That didn't happen.

As far as the liquor, this particular resort is part of a brand that provides travel agents annual training, and both Janet and I sit through that training every year. As part of the program, they supply a list of all the liquor, beer and wine labels they serve at all of their resorts. It is one of the things I make it a point to check when I visit any of their resorts. During our stay, I saw all of the premium labels on the supplier's list served at all of the bars. Even the pool bar where you the use of well labels might be excused. As a former bourbon drinker, I can tell you the Makers Mark and Bullett bourbons I saw bartenders serve are not well labels.

Janet doesn’t limit her recommendations for clients to the resorts that appeal most to us. We take the time to talk with our clients and to visit a wide range of properties and brands. The unsolicited comments that bathroom travel agent offered were biased by their own preferences, and probably more than a little by content from social media chat rooms.

The moral of this story is simple...don’t get your travel advice from a public restroom. And definitely don’t listen to a stranger who accosts you after eavesdropping on your conversation while sitting on the toilet, even if they do self-identify as a travel agent. No professional travel advisor would do that.

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