Job Tips for Campsite Couriers 10 : The Second Hungarian Uprising
Click on the link below for Part 1 of the series.
Tips for Campsite Couriers 10 : The Second Hungarian Uprising
I accept that mini-disasters might happen from time to time and I can accept them more easily when they're mine.
But when some incompetent fart makes a mess of things sitting in an office a thousand miles away and I have to suffer the consequence then that really gets my back up.
Such was the fate that us with two of our customers.
Unlike our normal guests these weren't booked directly through our company but through a time-share deal by another firm. Yep! I know what you're thinking, 'time-share', no surprises there as they're two words that shackled together have become notorious in the English language for fraudsters, tricksters, aggressive and coercive salesmen or just downtright shoddy service.
Tip: Expect to take the flak for other people's mistakes
I don't suspect for one minute that this company were shady in any way, just useless.
They're based in Ireland so perhaps the Irish should export their idiots too, just as Scotland did with me. Better to dispatch your half-wits abroad where they can wreak unnecessary havoc over there.
Imagine trying to clean gutters balancing a pillow on the end of a brush pole? I rest my case. But 'Bampot Exportation' would be a good exercise in damage limitation back home as the population could rest at ease in the comfortable knowledge that all us bungalow-brains are safely out of the way for the summer.
Tip: Prepare to test your customer service skills
An Italian lady and her elderly mother arrived through with the exact same deal. We had nothing to do with the processing as we just acted as an agency to welcome them and provide on-site customer-service.
Everything else was organised through the time-share company. So after the smiles, handshakes and 'buongiorno's', they were led away to their mobile home. But my colleague returned 15 minutes later with a worried look on her face.
"They were expecting an apartment" she said,
"Eh?" I replied,
"Yes, they thought they had booked an apartment, not a caravan"
"What gave them that impression?"
"It says it on their confirmation letter" she explained
Sure enough, on the letter, which was all in Italian, it said 'Appartamento' in the box with the description of the accomodation.
There was no confusion about the meaning of the word either as we even checked my large dictionary.
You never can tell with other languages.
Ssometimes the translation isn't always literal and a seemingly similar word to English can mean something entirely different.
You know what I mean, like the French word for fish is "poisson" of all things.
The Germans have a word "also" which actually means "then" I think and in Italian itself the word "semaforo" means "traffic light". That conjures images of an Italian traffic-warden waving red, amber and green flags all day at busy road junctions.
Very tiring work. I'm sure you'd need strong arms for that and perhaps a deathwish the way the Italians drive. You can't even have a quick prayer as your hands are full of flags and they'd probably have you standing on a chair.
Tip: If it happens once it can happen again
I was on reception duty that evening waiting on the arrival of a Hungarian family who were traveling from Hungary believe it or not. After the smiles, handshakes and 'buongiorno's' again, Mr Vona asked
"You take us to our appartment now?"
"Oh Shit!!!", I thought, "Not another one? You gotta be kiddin!"
His English was very good which helped me get the bad news over with quickly and effectively but he was not a happy chappy. He showed me his confirmation letter which was all in Hungarian.
So it could have been a recipe for ghoulash or the Bank Holiday arrangements for the Budapest subway system for all I knew. But coming after the Italian ladies I accepted that he hadn't made a mistake in the translation and he indeed had been promised an apartment too.
Tip: If you can do nothing then do something
The result was a very uncomfortable couple of days for us dealing with his complaint, apologising at every turn and making phone calls to headquarters but always returning with bad news or no news. Not that I'm criticising the guy because he was a gentlemen.
He was always assertive without being difficult and at the end of the day totally in the right to complain. We were on his side all the way with this problem but there was nothing we could do about it. So it was just a case of making it look like we were trying to help and keep blaming somebody else.
"I have driven a thousand kilometres" he explained after his long and tiring journey, "Maybe I should just turn around and go back"
"Take me with you mate" I thought "Cos I'm scunnered with the whole affair. In fact can you drive me to Ireland so I can strangle the eejit that booked your holiday?"
So not a nice experience dealing with unhappy customers and it put a dampener on things for a short while after all the hard work by us and the positive feedback from all our other guests.
Tip: Don't be scared about trying the local language
One nice outcome was that I managed a short conversation with the Italian woman when I was working next to her mobile. I had greeted her with "buongiorno" and she said "buongiorno" back. But then she asked me something that my untrained ears didn't understand;
"Scusi" I replied, "Mio italiano non buono"
She gave up and turned to go but I persevered because the one word I understood was "anadato" which means "I go" from the verb "andare". So I repeated the word "andato?" and pointed in the air as I realised she was asking directions to somewhere;
"Si" she said, "Andato á Garda, per favore?"
She was asking the way to the town of Garda . My Italian was less than perfect but I felt chuffed that I could give her directions in her own tongue;
"Uscita Campeggio, poi, a sinistra", meaning "left"
"Eh, poi el banco (Spanish) a sinistra"
"Sempre dritto on Verona Road " (English)
"Il ponte?" she said meaning "the bridge",
"Non, Il ponte a destro" (Gibberish)
"Grazie" she thanked me,
"Niente problema" (definitely Italian I think)
So I got by in my pigeon Italian, not perfect but it served a utilitarian purpose and hopefully she didn't end up in Turin or the Swiss border.
Tip: Radio is useful for learning the language
One night over there I came across a radio station with someone speaking quite slow.
So for about half-an-hour I listened in to hear what Italian I could pick up.
I could understand a lot of words but couldn't quite get the gist of what he was talking about.
A woman called "Maria" cropped up in the dialogue a lot.
Not until a musical interlude did I crack on what it was because they played a solemn hymn. It was a religious channel. Full of "Dio" this and "Cristo" that.
Adverts on the radio are helpful too. Although they speak very quickly they get repeated so often that you can pick up what they're saying eventually. Plus music of course and especially slow ballads.
So perhaps my ham-fisted directions mended some Anglo-Italian relations along the way. Also Mr Vona and his entourage accepted their fate eventually and seemed to relax and enjoy their holiday. On their last night they were all smiles when I went to say hello and I even got a drink of 'Palinka' from them.
Next day they left and said goodbye with smiles and handshakes all round. So things turned around eventually during the week and ended on a positive note.
Mind you there's a building site nearby so if we do have another crisis maybe we can convince the local brickies to run us up a nice 'appartamento' overnight. You've got to do your best for the customer even if it means nicking some building materials and hiring moonlighters. A case of 'Arriverdeci Pet'. The possibilities are endless.