Thursday, August 02, 2007

Booking local services - good and bad

Three ladies from Australia are coming to the cottage for a week. They've been to the area before and love it. We can all understand that, can't we?

They'd like to go on the Harry Potter train to Mallaig, the Calmac dinner cruise from Oban to Tiree, and the Glencoe Land Rover Safari trip, and please could I book them?

Love to. Actually I thought I'd use it as an exercise to test out the booking services.

Here are the conclusions. The general accessibility was poor for all of them. Goodness knows how everyday visitors get on when they try and get through. You've got to be persistent. They'd give up, half of them.

Once you are through, though, the staff are nice and helpful. No probs. Can't tell about the Visitors Centre, Glencoe. Haven't been able to speak to anyone at all to-day.

The Jacobite train web links are pretty poor - if you get Scot Rail, you'll find it easier to book a journey to Paris than the famous Fort William line. "Where exactly is Fort William?" But I got the local number - from our web site actually, says he brushing his nails on his shirt. They were too busy dealing with face to face customers the first time I rang when they did not answer, understandable. But once I'd got through it was brilliance all the way. An e-mail confirmation, credit card and see the guard on the train. No probs. 3 minutes

Now I don't usually have anything good to say about Calmac. (MacBraynes was always ok for me, what is all this Calmac stuff?) Their Gourock office was useless as usual.
Along the lines of "Where is Oban exactly?" - not quite, but nearly. Even gave me the wrong number for their Tour office. The management is real rubbish - the people are nice but they do not have the information except for straight ahead ferries. I got the local Tour Office number - from guess where again? - and they were very good.

We do not even have to book, let alone pay for the Calmac trip in advance. Just turn up and you'll get on. It is a regular ferry, this trip, that is why. Calmac have always been far more concerned about cars and their length than people.

Only one thing wrong. They don't serve a meal on board - oh yes, you can get one, but it is self service. Actually we know this service and it is pretty good, the meals are good, and the prices are fair, so I'm not marking them down for this.

Only the blinking Glencoe Visitors Centre, run by the Scottish National Trust was awful. You can't get an answer on the phone. Left three messages to call me back, no one picked them up. They do give you a duty managers number, but why don't they just transfer the calls? Will have to do it all again to-morrow. Will have to ring the manager I suppose.

Real pain, this lark. Best to use the tips in our web site, events page.

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  • John

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