BMW Sweet and Metropolitan Life/Tourvest Travel Services Sour Service Award

Marinda du Plessis of BMW deserves a Sweet Service Award this week, for helping Whale Cottage Franschhoek to receive payment for a large booking from the company for a launch of a new vehicle, which event BMW is hosting in Franschhoek.   The company has very strict payment procedures, and Marinda made it possible for all payment hurdles to be smoothed over.  She even went as far as depositing a cheque for payment at the bank on a Saturday morning, her day-off, as BMW does not pay by bank transfer.

The Sour Service Award goes to Tourvest Travel Services and Metroplitan Life.  A PA of the  insurance company made a booking for a single guest for one night at Whale Cottage Franschhoek, but demanded completion of an 8-page document to be registered as a vendor on the company’s financial system two days before the guest’s arrival, when payment had long been due.   The document states the company’s “business rules”, governing its relationship with its vendors, requests an authorisation from the vendor that it can receive payment by electronic funds transfer, has a difficult questionnaire probing the relationship between the vendor’s staff and Metropolitan, and ends with an indemnity against Metroplitan being held liable for taxes by SARS as a result of the vendor doing business with Metroplitan.   This is the most unusually onerous document ever seen in the hospitality industry, and therefore Whale Cottage Franschhoek declined the booking.  The response from the Metropolitan Life staff member was unkind, probably because they would not find another accommodation establishment willing to go through such a bureaucratic booking and payment procedure long after payment was due already.   Metropolitan has an in-house travel agency, American Express Travel, and they were informed by the insurance company of the booking cancellation, even though they were not involved in the booking at all.   

The Team Leader Natasha Wolfaardt and General Manager: Business Development, Harvey Lines, of Tourvest Travel Services, the corporate entity owning American Express Travel and other related travel agencies, took great exception to Metropolitan being awarded the Sour Award, and sent an e-mail of verbal abuse to Whale Cottage, threatening to communicate to its agency companies and fellow members of the hospitality industry that Whale Cottage had declined a booking!   “On behalf of Tourvest Travel Services, being American Express Travel Services, Seekers, Indojet & Maties, please be advised that our national network of offices will be instructed not to sell your property with immediate effect. Furthermore, I will make sure that our considerable corporate client base, our fellow members at ASATA and all of our other peers within the travel & tourism sector in SA are made aware of our experiences dealing with you. I have been in travel & tourism for over 22 years based throughout the world and have never come across anything as short-sighted as your attitude before. I lie, you remind me of Basil Fawlty.   Clearly your business is immune to the economic crisis that is affecting most people on this planet, which I guess is worthy of some type of accolade so congratulations on that, though it doesn’t quite beat the Sour Service award that you have kindly bestowed upon us.    I notice from you email that “wir sprechen deutsch”. Shame you don’t know how to speak to potential customers in English!” wrote Mr Lines.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at