Before I narrate my harrowing experience, here is the takeaway (if you don’t have time to read through).
1. Don’t book a holiday online with Thomas Cook (TC). It is better to walk to their local office and put a face to the name that you are dealing with.
2. Don’t get fooled by the “personalized” tag of the holiday by TC. They will give only what they have and nothing more.
Now hear the story:
We are a family of 4 that was planning for a north eastern holiday. For some reason, TC name came to my mind and I browsed their website and sent in my inquiry through their online form. So far so good. Here is a summary of how this evolved till we boarded our flight to Guwahati.
So, what is really wrong here:
1. We obtained our final itinerary the evening before we were to board our flight next day early morning. That leaves hardly any room to reflect on pricing, hotel options, etc. Just pay so that you can go on a holiday.
2. The contact process with TC is one way. In other words, they will call you but you cannot call them. Our calls go to a call center person who checks and then gives a standard reply “our operations team will call you in 15 minutes”. In desperation, we would have made several calls while we received no call back.
3. Through this seven days of dealing with TC before the tour commenced, I had to interact/contact 6 people. (Jairaj Singh (our initial contact), Manish Thakur (presumably his boss), Prakash Thakur (service quality manager), Fatima Sheik (not sure who she is), Mubeen (Chennai person who was helpful) and Shabnam (some person in Mumbai who seem to know our case.). In other words, we had to run from one pillar to another post just to finalize the holiday. No initiative shown by TC to close the holiday plan.
4. The tour was never “personalized”. The two requests that we made for accommodating our places of interest were rejected due to monsoon. Essentially, they gave us what they had, not what we wanted.
5. Even after pushing the escalation to level 2, we received no phone calls, only an email saying that they tried to reach us and we were not contactable (!!!). In desperation, I provided 3 alternate numbers (by email) but no calls came through.
6. TC promised a driver cum guide that will take us around. What we got was more of a driver and less of a guide (with all due respects to him).
7. While the “personalized” tour promised stay in 4-star hotels (and accordingly priced), the stay in Chirapunjee was a lodge with not even a landline contact. As tourist we could see many more better resorts which could have qualified for our stay. In other words, you pay for a 4-star hotel stay and you get a lodge instead.
8. Finally, we received no calls from TC during the holiday to check if everything is ok.
We have done several holidays with various holiday planners. This by far will count as the most harrowing pre-tour experience. What saved the day was the enchanting beauty of Meghalaya!