Your Guests Aren’t Cattle
I remember getting a frantic call in the middle of the night from a lady a few years ago who needed help right away. She said she had contracted a local competitor to move her folks in and out of a private residence here in Richmond. The private way was not large enough for a bus to safely travel in and out. On the way in, the driver had cracked three windows, but on the way out he had put a large branch right through two windows on the opposite side injuring a couple of the guests. The passengers were terrified and she needed us to come out and rescue the group. We did, but the cost for her and the other company was far more than they had planned. Not to mention, it was probably the one thing the guests remembered about the event.
One of the most important things to know before booking your venue is the ability to get large vehicles in and out safely. So many new venues have materialized over the past few years that it is hard to keep up. Everybody and their mother think their large house is perfect make money as a venue. When we haven’t done work there before or we cannot tell from overhead, a site inspection is required. Since there is a cost involved in the inspection, most folks will have the venue owner call us to try and explain over the phone that buses can get in and out. If I had a nickel for every time a venue owner told me, “we have trucks in here all the time”, I would be a rich man. I only wish just one time I could say, “great, let’s load all the guests in a truck like cattle and send them in!”
Seriously, so many times a venue looks perfect until the client finds out there is no way to move large groups of people in and out safely. The best thing to do is get with your transportation company and have them help you do the research up front to make sure you can do what needs to be done. Don’t be that person who doesn’t account for it up front and make for a nightmare your guests will never forget. Contract with a company who thinks about those things and can avoid turning your event into an experience they will wish they could forget!
Gratuities are a personal thing.
One of the most common questions we receive from our customers is “how much should we tip the driver?” That is a difficult question to answer for several reasons, but here goes…
If you simply want to be in line with what others typically give the driver, 10% is the average and is a good rule of thumb, but a gratuity is a reward for going above and beyond what is expected. Here lately, gratuities are expected for nothing extra. I see gratuity jars at cash registers which are supposed to reward the cashier for actually ringing up my purchase. Panera Bread encourages me to pay a gratuity with my purchase and they also expect me to clear my own table, sort my trash and dishes into the proper bins before I leave…really? The best way you can express your group’s appreciation for the service our drivers provide is to extend a gratuity. While a gratuity is “customary, but not obligatory” we do encourage our customers to tip our drivers if they are pleased with the service.
Some groups “pass the hat” and give it to the driver at the end of the trip. Other groups set the money aside before the trip and present it to the driver personally. And still others take advantage of our prepayment option and include a gratuity with the cost of the trip. All of these are perfectly acceptable.
Our drivers never expect a gratuity, but they love getting them. They don’t expect gratuities from school children on field trips. They don’t expect it from shuttle type work where the passengers are not paying for the service directly or indirectly and they certainly don’t expect it from anyone who cannot afford it. You should give what you want to give, not what you feel compelled to give. You should get a good feeling from giving it and you should get a grateful reaction and a thank you for the gift.
It’s a personal thing.
Lean On Your Transportation Company
And Let The Professionals Do The Work
It generally happens before you know it- the moment you realize that your transportation plan is deteriorating quickly. The things that can happen are usually simple and varied. One thing that is always a constant- unless you are a trained professional, it is never a good idea to attempt to put your own plan together– no matter how simple or straightforward the plan seems to you.
Let’s start with the following scenario: Your wedding is approaching and you need to get 100 guests from the hotel to the wedding site. It seems simple enough. So you charter a 55 passenger bus to move 100 guests departing the hotel at 5:00PM and making two trips to a 6:00PM wedding close by. You also want to make it easy on guests and so you also incorporate hourly shuttles from the wedding beginning at 8:00PM and running until the last departure at Midnight to get all the guests back. Two trips over and four trips back, easy! But here is what can happen…
Your first set of guests is scheduled to depart at 5:00PM, but who are they? Were the guests assigned a time for departure? Probably not, so 10 guests show up to get over to the wedding site early and the bus departs on time with them. When the bus returns, there are 90 people anxious to board a 55 passenger bus and there simply isn’t enough room. It will require two more trips to get them over and the wedding must start late. At least that part is over and it’s all downhill from here. Not so fast…
On the returns there are four trips built in, but guests don’t tell you what time they are leaving because they don’t know until that evening. The first three early shuttles move 5-6 people with upset children or have the handful of elderly folks who simply don’t want to stay out until midnight, but most of your crowd will stay with you until the end when your venue must be cleared. Again, you have 80 guests trying to get onto one 55 passenger bus because the doors are locking behind them. Not only will it again take two trips to get those folks back, they are left standing outside in the humidity or cold because your venue has a strict “shut down” time.
These things cause you embarrassment and will no doubt also cost you more money. If you think it doesn’t happen, think again. Ultimately we do whatever the client wants us to do (as long as it is physically possible). We can only advise you, but it is good advice. It comes from decades of seeing others make the same mistakes over and over.
Many people are shocked by how fast a poorly thought out transportation plan can go south until it happens right in front of them. Not all poor plans are created equal- but it’s nearly impossible to gauge the impact until the event is over. On top of realizing what a bad idea that was to put together your own plan, you have to wonder how much more this is going to cost and how many times you will have to hear others talk about it over the next several years. Something as simple as using the wrong type of vehicle could be disastrous- costing you a lot more emotional pain and money than you had anticipated.
Extra buses to save your special day will not drop from the heavens.
There are many companies who will gladly charter you the equipment you will need, but will they step through your day with you and identify each potential pitfall? Not likely. After all, if they do exactly as you tell them to do, then they are off the hook. The fact that transportation was a disaster will be chalked up to YOUR poor planning.
The bottom line is, if you have an event that is important to you, lean on a company that will walk you through a plan. They are the professionals. The best part about trusting your plan to the professionals at WINN is that we offer free diagnostics to everyone, no matter what. What you do with that information is completely up to you. Don’t make twice the work for yourself by playing weekend logistics professional.