It happens. All the planning done, all the suitcases packed, all the anxieties soothed, all the apprehensions set aside. You get on the plane - and the horror strikes.
Where are my travel documents? Where is my hotel confirmation? Where are the theater tickets? Where are the sightseeing vouchers? Where are all the instructions?
"Did you pack them?"
"No, I didn't pack them. They were on the kitchen table so we wouldn't forget them."
"The kitchen table? I thought you put them in your purse."
"No, you didn't tell me that. You said you'd put them on the table so you wouldn't forget them. Don't tell me you don't have them."
"OK, I won't tell you. But I don't have them."
We can only imagine what the rest of the plane ride was like.
Thanksgiving morning, 9am, my phone rings. Sure enough, this little drama was reality for a family from Florida. No documents. No theater tickets. Nothing. Having just arrived in New York City for the holiday, they were semi-panicked.
So was I.
The family had purchased tickets to two prime shows for the weekend - tickets that were sitting back home on their kitchen table. 5 seats for that afternoon's performance of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, plus Friday's Billy Elliot show, were going to be difficult if not impossible to replace.
My first act was to call Applause Theater and Entertainment, our preferred ticket broker in the City. Knowing they'd be open on the holiday, I was still surprised to find the company's president, Rich Gladstone, working. I explained our customer's predicament and Rich thought about it for a bit, then came up with a solution. His solution required him to stay around in the City for half of the day, certainly delaying his family's Thanksgiving dinner plans, while he performed his magic to make sure our guest's family enjoyed their Radio City and Billy Elliot performances.
Meanwhile, I had the relatively easy task of re-issuing the sightseeing, dining and event documents.
At 1:40pm on Thanksgiving day I received an email from the formerly-frantic Floridians. "Joel, we are sitting in Radio City Music Hall waiting for the show to start. Rich was fantastic. His service on a Thanksgiving holiday was nothing short of extraordinary. Joel, you too, are unbelievable, helping my family over this holiday. You saved our trip. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
I guess there are several morals we can take from this.
1) It's important that our company has relationships with vendors who truly care about our mutual customers.
2) It's important that customers select travel sellers who back up their product in times of need - with real people, not URLs, FAQs and voice-response units
3) It's important to check the kitchen table before you leave the house
Thank you, Rich, for going far above and beyond in helping a traveler and his family. And thank you, Floridian family, for entrusting New York City Vacation Packages with your 2009 holiday in New York City.