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On occasion, a small- to medium-size operator may be called upon to arrange service in another country. There are many ways to handle such calls. One option is to simply walk away and let the caller know you only handle domestic trips.
But if you choose to take the order, you need to realize that a yen and a peso don’t make dollars and cents. You must be very careful you don’t end up losing money simply because you were not aware you had to buy the chauffeur’s lunch according to local laws of the land or that your credit card provider is going to charge you a handling fee for using your card in another country. There are many such pitfalls that can end up costing you big money.
Finding an Operator
Finding a reputable service operator is the first step. There are many ways to go about this. When selecting an operator, remember that you must maintain the quality and integrity of your service. Don’t get so focused on finding any operator that you don’t perform due diligence and learn about the company you are choosing to represent you.
One of the best and most reliable methods of locating a vendor in another country is by using the NLA Directory of Members. The NLA has members in 56 nations. [See sidebar]. These companies desire to do business with U.S. transportation providers and invest in membership dues to make that connection and agree to uphold the standards of the NLA. Many of them also attend the International LCT Show in Las Vegas each year to meet American companies seeking to do business in their country.
Speaking of the International LCT Show, this is a great place to collect business cards and categorize by country. If you do this, you are not starting from scratch when a call for service in another country comes up. If you are an affiliate of a global network such as Carey, Valera, BostonCoach or EmpireCLS, you might just want to farm it into their network pipeline since they deal with this every day. You might not make as much money on the job but it will get done, and if you’re not trying to make a career out of International bookings, let someone with experience handle it. They can give you a total price in U.S. dollars you can confidently quote to your client.
Making the Connection
Once you have decided who you would like to contact, you must call or email them your request. International phone calls can be costly and complicated to dial (see sidebar on International Calls). If you can communicate by email or have a VoIP phone service such as Vonage, you can save money. Written correspondence is a better way to communicate for clarity and provides a written record. Foreign accents can complicate transactions. Either way, don’t use lingo or abbreviations such as “W&R” or “A/D.” Write it out as “wait and return to original pickup location,” or “as directed by passenger,” so there is nothing lost in translation. Another country might not know that AW means Authorized Wait.
While the U.S. dollar is recognized in nearly every country, you must be sure when you receive a quote that it is expressed in U.S. dollars instead of the foreign currency used in the country you are calling. For instance, if a company quotes you a price of E500 Euros, that about equals $684 U.S. If you repeat the price to your client of “500 Euros” or perhaps even 550 thinking you are making 50 Euros, you actually would end up losing $134! Check the foreign exchange rate with your bank or an exchange conversion website such as www.GoCurrency.com.
Next, you must pay for your services using a credit card such as Visa. You can choose to pay the operator in their currency to make it simple for them or convert the rate to U.S dollars. Either way, you may pay a fee. The fee can range from a 3% to 7% currency-conversion charge to U.S dollars. Or if you go the other way and pay the local currency rate, your credit card issuer may charge you a foreign-transaction fee to convert the sale into U.S. dollars. These fees range from 2% to 3% of the sale. You should call the issuer of the card you plan to use and ask what fees might be imposed, and then do the math to see what method is best for you. These fees must be considered and factored in when providing your client the final quote.