Tammy Levent | August 03, 2016 12:00 PM ET
Agent to Agent: Lights Out
Dear Tammy: I don’t know what to do. I sent my clients to see the Northern Lights but they didn’t see anything and now they want a refund. Help?
Tammy: That’s a hard situation to deal with, but what happens next depends on what you might have done. There are many places that guarantee seeing something. For example, often whale-watching excursions promise travelers they will see the whales. But honestly, nothing is really definite. Maybe the whales aren’t popping up through the water. And the Northern Lights — which is one of Mother Nature’s amazing displays of beauty — are just as unpredictable.
First, you need a dark, clear night to be able to see them, and it all depends on when you are traveling to the area. They are typically visible from late September to March. There are clear nights when the Northern Lights haven’t been seen and there’s nothing that you can do sitting in your office to make your client happy right now.
I know of another situation where a traveler was booked at Sandals for an excursion in Turks to see glow worms. About one hour after sunset in Turks, for only about 15 minutes, the marine worm performs a mating ritual, but that night they didn’t see any. There was a family of around 18 who paid around $65 a person. Trust me, they weren’t happy. But the night wasn’t ideal conditions, so why would you do the tour if you know that the night isn’t perfect? Why not postpone until the following day and not have a boatload of people upset with you? The tour company should have taken that into consideration.
When it comes to some excursions, like the whales, the tour operators will guarantee a whale sighting, but if one is not seen, the travelers will get a certificate for another ride. On the other hand, I recently sent people to France, but there was some flooding and they could not go into the Louvre. Their money was refunded too.
However, that isn’t the case with the Northern Lights. What you need to do is really spell out to your client the risks they are taking. You can write it in an email and have them return it that they understand it is not your fault if they do not see the Northern Lights. This disclaimer rids you of the liability.
As in most cases, it all comes down to communication. Talk with your clients before they leave for a trip and make sure that you know what their expectations are. However, you need to remind them of the realities. Simply, they may not see the Northern Lights and they are at their own financial risk.
You should also encourage your clients who want to see the Northern Lights that there are so many other amazing things to see in Iceland.
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