The Customer Isn't Always Right

I got an e-mail today from a traveler who was livid about his recent cruise experience. He took a cruise on a small ship and the results were what he termed “disastrous”. In all fairness to the cruise line, they didn’t even claim to have any accessible cabins on this particular vessel. That should have been a big clue.

In any case, this man uses a wheelchair for distance and he said he really didn’t have any problems with the standard cabin and the other physical barriers on the ship. As he said, “When I was aboard the ship I could always find somebody to help me.” So what was his complaint? He was upset because this cruise line refused to assign an employee to push his wheelchair and assist him when he went ashore.

“I travel alone,” he said. “I can walk short distances but I can’t push my wheelchair myself. I can’t believe they would not provide an employee to do this for me. This is blatant discrimination because I was denied the right to go ashore like the other passengers. I feel I deserve a refund.”

OK, it’s not that I’m unsympathetic with this man’s plight, however I don’t believe the cruise line is to blame in this case. In fact there were several things the passenger could have done to avoid this unfortunate situation.

First off, as previously mentioned, I think it showed very little forethought to actually book a cruise on a ship that had no accessible cabins. Even if he could get by without an accessible cabin, the lack of those accommodations should have sent up a red flag and given him a hint that this particular ship would not be very welcoming to wheelchair-users.

Second, since he knew he couldn’t push his wheelchair by himself, he should have made advance arrangements to ensure his mobility and independence on the cruise. He should not have expected cruise line employees to be his dedicated aides. Granted, in most cases they are happy to lend a hand on board, but I know of no cruise line (or any other hospitality business) that provides 24-hour personal assistance to their guests.

He apparently knew his limitations, so she should have made arrangements to travel with another person or to rent a scooter or power wheelchair. It’s unfair to blame the cruise line for his lack of access in this case.

No it wasn’t discrimination by the cruise line — it was just poor planning by the traveler.

As I said, I’m not unsympathetic; in fact, we could all learn a lesson from this incident. In order to avoid being in the same boat as our unhappy traveler, plan ahead and take personal responsibility for your own well being, mobility and independence while away from home.

Remember, the customer is not always right. In fact in this case he is blatantly wrong.