NEW OPPS: With the limo-bus charter business still sluggish, California operator Jim Luff sells a wine tour on Facebook.
I read the article posted below about the sluggish sales in the Central California region. NLA director Deena Papagni dished on the slump of the region and about her recent downsizing. Papagni is a personal friend, a fellow GCLA member, and an affiliate so I was saddened to read about her troubles in the city of Madera in the Fresno region. Madera is about two hours north of my city. In the same article, I read about Gerald Smith from the town of Visalia and his similar woes. Smith is also an affiliate and colleague. An hour south of Visalia and here we are in my neck of the woods with me suffering the same battle.
I used to run wine tours every weekend but that got sporadic as the economy tanked. Why? Are people not drinking wine? No, it is because I served mostly corporate accounts doing employee retreats and out-of-country visitors touring the region as guests of corporate accounts. The wine tours were profitable to me. They paid the payments on the bus. I knew that I had to do something. You can’t just sit around and mope about how it used to be. I had to find a way to fill those seats up and get those buses rolling again. I needed to do it immediately.
Another wrinkle in a bad economy is that your advertising budget shrinks. When your sales are off, you need to advertise but usually have no money to advertise because your sales are down. It is a vicious merry-go-round effect. I had to figure out some other way to connect and get those buses filled without spending any money.
All of a sudden, it hit me! If no individual or company is going to charter the bus, I will charter the bus myself as an individual and I will invite all my Facebook friends. I will take the normal retail cost of the wine tour, divide it by the number of seats available, add a box lunch and tasting fees, and set the price. Since we have always had two permits from the Public Utilities Commission with one of them for sightseeing, it was time for us to start using that permit.
I posted the information on my personal Facebook page along with your company’s Facebook page. I asked all my friends and employees to re-post it on their Facebook pages. It took off like wildfire. I asked for a deposit of $25 to guarantee a spot and make it very affordable to reserve. I asked that the balance be paid one week before the date of departure, and that there would be absolutely no refunds. We met at a local restaurant so everyone could have breakfast before a day of wine tasting and for a brief orientation. When we returned home after the tour, people on the bus already wanted to sign up for the next one. We have already booked the date. Several people that rode on the bus have now booked their own wine tours in the future, and will use the same concept of charging a per person fee and hosting their own tours.
— Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor
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