Oh. My. Gosh. Here’s the really bad news. The tour this weekend went, sadly, completely sideways. Although I have toured a few times and group ridden a ton, I haven’t had things go wrong very often. And, for my first commercial tour, this was literally a Murphy’s Law situation. Everything that could go wrong, did. I feel so, so sad. Sad for the clients. Sad for me. Sad for everything.
First off: one of the hotel rooms was dirty. I asked my clients if they wanted to switch rooms, but they said no. I offered them my room, which seemed to be clean (or cleaner). They declined. My client assured me that it was fine. I went down to talk to the manager to try and fix the issue. Bad hotel! As you recall, I had already had an issue with the hotel and their unwillingness to help us with parking. So, I wasn’t in love with this place to begin with. But, and this is where my inexperience comes into play, I let my client’s assurances convince me to go against my better judgement. I have no idea what people’s tolerances will be and I am counting on them to tell me directly if they want something done, as in, “move us the hell out of this hotel now” and not assure me that it’s alright and they can live with it. Yes, it would have wiser to march downstairs and demand that the hotel make it right immediately, regardless of the assurances of my client. But, I didn’t. Strike one.
Then, in one of the other hotel rooms, the air conditioner malfunctioned. The front of the unit was freezing-over so badly that it couldn’t cool the air properly. I went to talk to the front desk about it. The fairly rude manager said, and I quote that “it’s due to the high elevation here in Flagstaff and the fact that the customer is turning the unit on too high. They should turn off the unit for 30 minutes to melt the ice and not turn it up all the way.” Oh, really? Why was the air conditioner (on high) in my room acting just fine then? Again, I should have moved us immediately, but my brain was still stuck on “they paid to go to the Grand Canyon tomorrow; it’s on their bucket list; we are up here; I’m going to give them what they paid for.” Strike two.
Thirdly, on Friday and Saturday, the weather was awful. We had record-breaking rains, flash floods, high winds, thunder, and lightning. Yes, all that for a bike tour. I check and re-check the weather to make sure that we can get to our destination without any mishaps. But, this storm came out of nowhere. When it hit, we were out in the middle of Navajo lands near the Grand Canyon and boy, did it slam us. Northern AZ has not had any measurable rainfall in months. And, despite it being monsoon season, the typical weather pattern lately has been small, intense bouts of rainfall for 5-10 minutes and then clearing (followed by another bout or two and some clearing for the rest of the evening). What we encountered was evil. Strike Three. Game Over.
The clients had already ridden from NY across the country and been exposed to horrible weather elsewhere, the worst of which was 118 degree temps, sand storms, high winds, and some rain and hail. So, after a 2700 mile ride, they were in no mood for any mishap of any kind. Can’t blame them for that. In hindsight, however, it might have been better for them not to ride across the country to take a motorcycle tour. That’s highly ambitious for anyone, even an iron-butt rider.
So, from the get-go, the tour was at risk. I just didn’t know that. I was feeling positive and felt that we had formed an understanding, a friendship, if you will, and that no matter what came up, I would deal with it and do whatever it took to make them happy, which I then did. When the clients asked me to move the entire tour to Sedona instead of keeping it in Flagstaff (on Friday morning), I did so immediately; it took a bit of coordination and some phone calls to various lodging vendors with whom I have worked in the past, but I didn’t mind. The only thing is: this is summer time; everything gets booked in Sedona, and, well, we were not actually supposed to be down there. It was hard to find a place with any availability.
My friend finally suggested a decent motel in the Village of Oak Creek and thankfully, they had some rooms. I also alerted several restaurants with whom I have partnered in the past, to let them know that we would be/might be coming.
So, in Sedona on Saturday, I continued to jump through hoops. It was raining and raining and raining. They refused to ride in the rain even though, “technically”, if it’s not unsafe, we tour in the rain. Sigh. So, I arranged a shuttle van to take us for photo opps among the red rocks, the quintessential Sedona sights–Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Chapel of the Holy Cross, etc., and then on to uptown to the tourist spots that they asked to visit. We also went to the spiritual bookstore (which was part of the original itinerary and a very “Sedona activity”). I even arranged to have some friends come over to take them off-road for a photo opp at the famous Red Rock Crossing.
Then, I offered to extend the tour through Sunday afternoon and we would all ride to Jerome for lunch. Plus, instead of regular fare, I arranged high-priced gourmet meals, hoping that it would offset some of the disappointing rain. I did absolutely everything I could to keep them out of the weather (that they kept complaining about) and give them extra good food and excellent, prompt service. I was proud of myself. A problem arose, I fixed it. A bump in the road, I arranged something else. A hiccup, I dealt with it and kept all of the inner workings away from the clients like a good tour operator.
So, yesterday morning, Sunday, we had another awesome breakfast and a few (very minor minutes of rain), the sun came out; it would have been perfect for a ride to Jerome, but they all refused; they refused to ride if it meant even one drop of rain was going to fall on them. Sigh. Well, I couldn’t guarantee that, so, I paid for a Jeep tour to take them to Boyton Canyon, and that’s where we parted ways. Done. Nothing more I could do.
I thought that I had been making things better for them all along, but they let me know on Sunday am, before we parted ways, that they were unhappy with the whole experience. Wait! Whaaaa???! Hmmm…interesting.
Other than the complaint about the hotel, I thought we were having a pretty good time and that they were satisfied that I had been busting my hump to give them a good weekend. I got no kudos for jumping in and helping them with a bike break-down on their way over to Flagstaff earlier in the week, no props for any of the extra steps I took to keep them out of the weather and keep them entertained with my friends. No credit for arranging a stay at an awesome hotel on Airport Mesa that they then summarily turned around and wanted canceled so they could stay in the VOC instead. No credit for arranging another day’s stay at the current motel in the VOC. No appreciation for the outstanding meals of gourmet food that I arranged, nothing.
I understand that this wasn’t the weekend that they thought they were getting. Believe me, it wasn’t at all the weekend that I thought I would be providing to them. But, overall, I did a solid job of handling a very bad situation.
The take-away: I need more experience, stronger contingency plans, and to get better at reading people. I also need to realize that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t make some people happy.
I’m still excited about Biker Babe Tours and its potential. I want to do this. But, above all, I want to do this with kind people, people who can see how hard I’m working and can appreciate my gifts and efforts. I want to be around happy people. I’m not letting other people, no matter how caustic (or ill-mannered), stomp my dreams. Ever. I’m simply learning how to do this and need time to learn, that’s all. I’m a fighter. I will prevail despite this set back.