How could I have been so stupid?
Ratings: Imagine – 2; Tour partners – 7; Overall Impression – 3
They are not on Trip Adviser, but I found them afterwards on Trustpilot. The reviews (including mine) are there for all to see.
They reply to all negative reviews with a standard spiel of obfuscation and invitation to contact them individually. But it is virtually impossible to speak to anybody on the phone or get a timely response by email.
There are good reviews too – mainly referring to the easy booking experience.
They have small print in their “door-to-door” contract. They have few overheads as they operate through various “tour partners,” whose people on the ground strive hard to achieve the tightest of schedules but love their work. As tourists, we were determined to enjoy what we could and make the best of it. Life is too short to dwell on our mistakes.
It looks like a win/win situation. The financial winners of course are the perpetrators at the top. But the victims (tourists, and the “Tour partner” drivers and guides) can also be winners. I am a seasoned traveller. Now an octogenarian, I tend to let others do the work – and pay for the consequences…
Day 1. Sat 6th August 2022
After a year of frequent changes of schedule, we eventually chose the shortest of three alternatives and left Perth on a Qantus evening flight to Adelaide on 5/8/22. Contrary to contract, we were required to pay for our four-hour stay at the airport hotel and caught the 6am flight to Alice Springs. A wonderful wash of crimson sunrise splashed the horizon behind the plane’s dramatic wingtip riding over a rippled sea of soft clouds. But my photo didn’t come out. Bright crimson sun crinkled the skyline, rising quickly to glare at us through the windows. Breakfast was a tasteless frittata, but the Lindors choc made up for it.
We touched down smoothly at 8.15am and then our troubles started… We bypassed the stragglers at the luggage carousel to look for a guy with an “Imagine” placard. Nothing. Nobody outside on the road either. An enormous coach with its back to us sporting the name KINGS in large letters had an open door, but no placard. It couldn’t be ours. One or two passengers were boarding. A shuttle bus hovered by the pavement. $18 each for the ride. The coach left. We tried phoning the Imagine office – closed. The place was deserted. We called our hotel – they did not do transfers. There was nothing for it but to fork out the money and hope for an eventual refund. Our spirits drooped and we were tired.
The rooms weren’t ready – they wouldn’t be free until the rest of our tour group arrived at 10.30am and we could check in together. We lodged our bags behind the counter and drooped uncomfortably onto the seats in the lounge area.
Other people slowly joined us – all too tired to talk, eyelids drooping. Long walks to the loos locked behind the doors of a members’ only gym. We walked to the restaurant and picked out the cheapest refreshment on a pricey menu. A lady spoke to us, attractively dressed. We discovered she was on our tour, and she told us we were to be at Reception at 4.30pm for our BBQ outback experience. Why hadn’t we been informed?
We learned that six people from our flight were met with a placard, and they had boarded that gigantic coach which departed just after we saw it. We simmered, determined to accost the tour guide when we met him finally.
It was nearly noon. In frustration I went back to the desk.
“How much longer do we have to wait?” I whined.
“What’s your name?” I gave her my friend’s name as the “lead” person. Despite a written request, the Company had not dealt directly with me through the previous 12 months of changes and re-changes of schedule. The girl shuffled through a pile of envelopes.
“Is this yours?”
“Your room is 2118 – ground floor, section 2. Here’s a map.”
My blood boiled. How long had those envelopes been waiting for us? What incompetency – what bad communication. They could see us in the lounge. A couple who’d been sitting near us stood up – then another… were these Imagine customers too? I couldn’t believe what was happening. Fuming, we entered our room and I flopped onto the bed, closing my eyes for three hours.
It could only get better … Episode 2 next week!