Last night, while I was held captive on a tour bus seemingly re-routed by Gilligan and Skipper of the SS Minnow (the delay stretching to three hours you see), I received a few email responses from the Tourist Israel about my real-time complaints regarding the FIRST tour I took… and responded with complaints regarding this SECOND tour that went so completely off the rails.
Below are somewhat poorly formatted, unedited copies of the email chain… albeit I redacted the “travel geniuses” names:
TIME STAMPED: 2:24 PM on 2/22/2018
Thank you for your feedback. it’s important to us to listen to our customers in order to improve our service. I’m sorry to hear the tour didn’t exceed your expectations, however i’d be happy to provide some of the information that may help you understand the situation better.
In the itinerary we say that all times are approximated. Delays can happen and i’m sorry it took away some of your time, but i’m glad to hear you enjoyed your free time.
I can assure you that I will contact the operation team and specify clearer instruction regarding our driver’s delay, and I do apologize for what happened.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your time Israel and hope you’ll join us again in one of our other tours we offer.
[REDACTED], Travel Genius
TIME STAMPED: 2:30 PM on 2/22/2018
Thank you for your email and I am sorry to hear that your tour got off to such a bad start.
How was the rest of your day?
Looking forward to hearing back from you.
[REDACTED BUT A DIFFERENT PERSON], Travel Genius
TIME STAMPED: 2:32 PM on 2/22/2018
sorry to hear about your belongings. did everything worked out in the end?
[REDACTED], Travel Genius
There’s a lot to unpack here but I’ll leave it to my email replies which were hastily, angrily tapped out on my iPhone inbetween snippets of yesterday’s blog post.
TIME STAMPED: 6:26 PM on 2/22/2018
We arrived back to Tel Aviv last night around 8:10 pm, an hour or so later than scheduled. I would grade the tour a D+ as overall there was a lot less tour info and communication than I would have expected.
Today’s tour, while much better during the day as the driver was very informative and approachable, has unfortunately gone completely off the rails on our return. By my tally, it appears I’ll be lucky to be back at Tel Aviv by 10 pm… three hours later than your itinerary states. That’s beyond approximate times. I’m running the Tel Aviv marathon tomorrow morning and this completely messes up my plans for prepping for that, ie an early night’s sleep. I regret my entire experience with your company.
I have found the replies to my previous concerns to be superficial and insufficient. You have not provided any details on why yesterday we sat on a bus, not moving in a parking lot for half an hour only to go and sit along a road for half an hour without anything to do. You have just said all times are approximate. I consider your replies therefore disingenuous when it comes to customer service.
As for today’s anticipated THREE HOUR DELAY in returning to Tel Aviv, your company has completely sabotaged my plans for this trip. I guess it’s my fault for thinking there was any faith in your ability to run a tour even CLOSE to the timetable you publicized.
Maybe you will say this is my own fault. I paid you money to be treated this way twice. I should have known better, you’ll say, as times are approximate.
Still upon my return to the United States I will be writing a formal letter of complaint to the Ministry of Tourism as I feel you have misrepresented what this tour might be. I do NOT think a three hour difference in return to Tel Aviv is an acceptable differential in approximated times.
I am beyond angry, beyond disappointed.
AND TIME STAMPED: 7:12 PM on 2/22/2018
I’ve responded to your colleague.
It has gotten worse today. We are sitting at a petrol station waiting for a bus to take somebody. We are still an hour plus from Jerusalem and then according to my traffic app a good hour or hour and a half from Tel Aviv.
I am running their marathon tomorrow morning. Whilst I appreciate your times are approximate, j do NOT think more than three hours late on returning to Tel Aviv is an acceptable deviation from your approximation.
And as we sit here, the delay in returning to Tel Aviv gets longer and longer.
I feel I’ve been mislead by your company and mistreated. I will be notifying the ministry of tourism when I return home to the United States. This has been a terrible experience.
A quick google search the other day during the sitting around a parking lot with nothing to do when we COULD have been in the Dead Sea… or touring Jerusalem… or any number of things… I found this website:
So this is not me just lashing out without recourse. When I get back to the US, I will be collating these emails (heck, I should just send The Ministry a link to these blog entries) and will be filing a formal complaint.
The bottom line, something I realized while I was running the Tel Aviv Marathon today (more on that in another post), is that the two days I spent with Tourist Israel left me with a much more negative impression of Israel and made me far less likely to recommend visiting this nation. Basically, Tourist Israel through their widely inaccurate timetables and borderline misleading representation of a tour offering, combined with poor communication before, during, and after the tour has produced what I would consider the exact opposite outcome the Ministry of Tourism for Israel would want. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the boilerplate “times are approximate” which I mockingly pointed out in my previous blog posts, serves as a get-out-of-responsibility card. But my argument would be there is a limit to deviations from approximate times.
In full disclosure, they eventually figured out how to separate us into additional vehicles and while the driver was gracious enough to drop people off at their hotels on the way back to the pickup spot, my AirBNB was the opposite direction, thus I was the LAST person on the bus. Because of the creeping clock we were able to miss I guess some of the reported traffic and accident delays so instead of a 3-hour delay that GoogleMaps was quoted, I wound up only being 2 hours late. So is a 20% overage still considered acceptable as a deviation from the approximate timetable? I say not.
If I told you to bake a cake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees and you baked it for 48 minutes, maybe it would turn out okay. Or maybe it would be a burnt cinder and inedible. I guess it depends on how you like your cake. Maybe the black crusted top and bottom and sides is your cup of tea. It is not mine.
Ugh. I just wrote a cake analogy. Using a cake analogy is typically grounds for immediate loss of argument, right? I knew I shouldn’t have written this piece in a café.