Make sure you know who you farm orders to.
A couple of weeks ago, we ran into a big problem when something went wrong on a simple brake job on one of our buses. We had a pickup to make it in the morning from a cruise ship. It became apparent about 9 p.m. the night before that we could not complete the needed repairs.
I began calling my usual farm-out companies in the Los Angeles area without success. I remembered that during the month of December, one of our dispatchers had farmed a job out to VIP Tours of California. They didn’t go through the normal procedures of becoming an affiliate because we were in a rush and I was on vacation. However, it seemed that all had gone well and I took a long shot and called to see if they had a party bus to pick my group up in the morning. They said yes!
During the process of giving them all the information, red flags were popping up everywhere. However, I was desperate and wanted to believe they could help me. They wanted a copy of my credit card and my signature. I told them I would send them a PDF in a few minutes. They said, “No, fax only.” Say what? Who uses a fax anymore? But, they did say they would handle the job. I was instructed by Mike to call Henry in the morning and fax over the required documents. I faxed as instructed in the morning. I called to make sure Henry got it. Guess what? Henry wasn’t even scheduled to work that day!
I wanted to confirm that my paperwork was received and that my group would be picked up. I was assured all would be fine. All was not fine.
I soon received a call from my client. She was as angry as a hornet. She said the bus wasn’t anything at all like a party bus. She said the driver had no paperwork, had no idea where he was going, and was very confused. When she continued questioning the driver, he finally produced paperwork showing the price that I was charged by VIP. Anyone in this business knows that on a Farm-Out/Farm-In you never, ever, ever, under any circumstances share that information. The driver then told her that I requested the cheapest bus available. Now, anyone that know me and reads my magazine columns or weekly blog would know that statement would never come out of my mouth.
The clients had to place their luggage in the center aisle of the bus. This would create a serious safety problem if they had to evacuate the bus in a hurry. The client continued to call me to express her disgust and dissatisfaction. There was nothing I could do. Ultimately, I ended up refunding her money and taking it the shorts to preserve our good name.
To add insult to injury, I called on Monday to speak to a manager about the overall experience. He took my name and phone number and promised to get back to me with a resolution. I’ve never heard from him again and he won’t hear from me again. I thought I would share my story to remind you not to farm-out to people you don’t know and specially ones you know engage in poor practices.
― Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor
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