Thursday, June 25, 2009

Best Chef in Seattle?

Arguably - and newly, given his move from Woodenville to Capitol Hill - its Jerry Traunfeld of Poppy. He starred at the Herb Farm for many years and has written several cook books. Poppy gets RAVE reviews! On our Famous Seattle tour we go right by there (Harvard and Broadway) and should be pointing it out.

One of these days, we'll have a Happy Hour confluence: a delicious introduction to this star chef and his cuisine. Stay tuned.

And the BEST VACATIONER goes to ...

Loren Young visits exotic places, has the greatest times, and comes back with great tales. Here's his Facebook entry for today. 20,000 people at a midnight beach party in Puerto Rico! Who needs 200 naked bicyclists? As a recovering Catholic, I like the sound of that remedy for the alleviation of sins.

Be a Rockstar; serve a Rockstar

The Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon is occurring on Saturday and therefore we'll have warnings on the boards about places and times to avoid on your tours that day. (As we will on Sunday for the Pride Parade.)

We have offered a half price Famous Seattle tour to anyone who has the Rockstar pass. Honor this, of course, but also allude to the discount and market our Famous Seattle tour when you have Rockstar visitors on your other tours.

Ad Hoc Marketing

We had several great examples this week of ad hoc Marketing by guides while doing their pickups for tours at hotels. If you are appropriately conspicuous in the lobby, people will approach you and ask you about tours offered. Terry Jennings talked to two such groups at the Holiday Inn Express on Tuesday while he waited for his guests for the 10 AM tour; both groups called soon thereafter and made reservations on the afternoon tours.

Here's how you can enhance such encounters:

1. Wear the new Tours Northwest color! The cotton shirts have become a big hit among the guides (see Boy Toys below) and they do work for the purpose designed: they make you stand out so people can find you. Flaunt it. Mention it to the concierge. Point to the logo. Tell people to look for us all over town. We want this shirt to be a. noticable b. approachable and c. a brand of excellence. Do you have enough? (Only $10 for another) Returning school bus drivers ... make a special trip to say Hi and pick up your shirt(s).

2. Use your business cards. Pass these out to everyone and anyone. This is your opportunity to make a name for yourself, as well as the company. Urge guests to show it when they go to restaurants and stores. Elliott Bay Caf (ebc) will give guests a free cup of coffee when they have lunch if they show the card. Steelhead Diner and Elliott's will bring a free appetizer to their table. You won't always have brochures with you, but you should always have your business cards. Encourage guests to call us even if they just have a question about the city during their stay. GRATITUDE generates alot of business.

3. Take several brochures into hotels with you when you go to pick up guests. Be appropriately conspicuous, hold up the brochures (trying to find a "match" among the masses) and offer anyone a brochure if they appear at all interested. Emphasize our door to door service, large windows, several different tours, daily consistency and (obvious by your on-time presence) TIMELINESS!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Six Things Not to Say in Seattle

We all should know about how to be "proper" in Seattle so we can instruct our guests in the fine art of fitting in. Here are six statements one should NEVER utter in Seattle.

1. “Recycling is a hassle.”

2. “Bellevue’s pretty cool.”

3. “Would you like to come over for dinner?”

4. “I like driving better than biking.”

5. “Your dog just sh*t on my shoe.”

6. “I’m a Republican.”

Read the full article by Knute Berger for the funny details! And a sequel article as well.

The First Flying Saucer!

52 years ago today private pilot Kenneth Arnold saw what he described as a "flying saucer" over the Cascades near Mt. Rainier. Fittingly, there were lenticular clouds at the summit this morning. Keep your eyes open; tell your guests to be on the lookout!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The State of Fremont

Fremont will be celebrating the Solstice this weekend, so we will make the following modifications to our tours:

1. Famous Tour. Theo Chocolate is closed on Sat. and Sun. Therefore: After the Sleepless floating home, do not go into Fremont, just continue to the Sea Star. We will be providing guides with Theo Chocolate bars that you can give to your guests with an explanation of the company whenever you see fit.

2. 3 Hr. Premier City Tour. To avoid the heavy traffic and potential conflict with the parade on Sat. avoid Fremont. Go up to the 45th Ave. exit off of Aurora Ave. and take a left at the light. If you are running early, consider stopping at the Rose Garden at the Woodland Park zoo; otherwise just continue west to 15th Ave. W. in Ballard, go left to the Ballard Bridge, Fisherman's terminal and the Locks.

Boy Toys

Monday, June 15, 2009

OC Tour - R.I.P.

We have decided to cancel the Outlet-Casino Tours. Our numbers were very erratic and it became difficult scheduling drivers to do this run. We will consider taking groups there as charter work.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Convention Center, parts 2 and 3

Do you refer people to the Convention Center even if they aren't here for a Convention? This beautiful structure always has great art (e.g., this mural made of postage stamps) on the second floor, and of course the Seattle Visitor Center's concierge desk offers full services.

And now SVC encompasses the MIC, the Market Information Center at the entry to the Pike Place Market. Show them your Love (probably not a honk, but a wave would be good) and encourage the guests to go there!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Best Practices ... overheard

Mark McCormick explained the other day how he avoids those awkward moments at payment time at the Locks regarding tour prices. "I was told by the concierge it was $43.") During his standup he simply adds a line about the cost of the tour. If someone then bawks, it can be addressed and choices made. Old Brochure? Sorry, we have new brochures and prices as of May 1st.

It is also yet another habit to have so that we insure that people do not get on the wrong tour (never a good thing, though, Liz pulled it off fabulously once on MR!) Failsafe habits (like counting heads before leaving remote areas or starting your tour) work! It is (and has been several times this year) a thing of beauty when a horrendous potential problem is solved before it even occurs with a simple, conspicuous HEAD COUNT.

"Dispatch, I'm ready to start my tour with 17 wonderful guests." "Ok, have fun (without the stress of missing someone you should have picked up.)"

Stopping at the Troll ... and other places

Several questions came up over the past two weeks about rules/etiquette/habits of "how we should park" at various locations. The correct answer is relative to the busy-ness of the day. Here are the thoughts of the management team:

1. At the Troll. You should not let your guests off when it is busy with pedestrians, traffic or when you may be ahead of another of our coaches on a tour. The problem is one of delay and holding up other vehicles. Guests are understanding of "No Parking/Busy Traffic" explanations.

You can let people take photos out the open door, and you can even let them out if its a quiet day and no other vehicles are competing for the space (and, of course, you are on time.)

2. At Pioneer Square. You should move ahead as far as possible. It is allowable to drop people off or pick them up mid-block UNLESS you are impeding vehicles behind you ... in that case, move ahead!

3. West Seattle overview. Move ahead if there is one of our vehicles behind you in the tour. If not, then you can park at the good viewpoint.


All of these situations can involve several of our buses, and/or other tour companies (or shuttles), and/or members of the public. You can engage, communicate, inform or nudge. You should NOT berate, provoke, harass, confront or advocate in the extreme. Be polite and diplomatic. Deflect jerks and show your guests that you are calm, cool and collected. If you have a continuing issue with another company, report it to us and we will handle it if we see fit.

As Patrick Swayze explained in Roadhouse: Be Nice.

Saving money; Spot Times

One area that everyone can keep an eye on in order to reduce company expenses are Spot Times. They are set forth on the board (and this blog) and should be adhered to. Please do not come in more than ten minutes before your shift is to begin unless you have a specific business reason to do so. You may NOT work on your coach without being checked in. While it may be helpful to get coaches ready to go and leisurely get out of the yard way ahead of schedule, we have determined that any benefit is not worth the extra cost. Of course, it is better to be early than late, but coming in a half hour or more before your shift begins often takes away from our focus as a company.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Facts for the Week

1. Mt. Rainier: 14,410 feet high. We all know that! Are you able to tell your international guests that it is 4392 meters high?

2. Did you watch the first night of NBC's coverage of the Obama White House. Did you catch the gifts they give visitors? Fran's Chocolates! If your routing takes you by First and Union, crow about Fran's fame as the Obama's favorite chocolates (apparently, salted carmel). Also, encourage people to visit there to see the 5 by 7 portrait of Fran's granddaughter on the north wall; its a pointillist, made up of truffles.

3. Where did Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain eat (and drink) after their appearance at the Paramount on May 30th? Cafe Presse! (If you have foodies on your Famous Seattle tour, point that out! It's known for its cheap great food and super hours: 7 AM to 2 AM.)

4. One hundred and twenty years ago this week, on June 6, 1889 a Seattle cabinetmaker accidentally overheated a pot of glue and ignited his shop at 1st Avenue and Madison Street. Fanned by a hot, dry breeze, the flames quickly spread through the wood-framed downtown. Volunteers struggled to douse them, but the town's privately owned water system delivered only a trickle. By that night, 64 acres of central Seattle had been reduced to rubble.

PC Luggage Bonus

Effective May 1st, we will be paying a $5 bonus for each fully paid Pre- and Post- Cruise guest you have on your tour. This is to compensate you for luggage handling, but, of course, there are many variations of how things work out in the PC world. Here are the basic rules.

1. The bonus is for the driver of the tour if he/she handles luggage during pickup of the guests and/or drop off of the guests. If they only minimally handle the luggage, then the bonus will go to another.

2. If a shuttle driver picks up the guests and keeps the luggage and drops the guests off with the luggage, they will be entitled to the bonus.

3. A shuttle driver who helps pick up the guests or helps drop off the guests is not entitled to the bonus. This, of course, should in no way affect their attitude or willingness to provide necessary assistance.

The calculations are made from a combination of the accounting sheets and notations on the tour spreadsheets (re shuttle help, etc.) Except for obvious and egregious errors, please accept our judgment and do not nitpick about the fairness of each variation on the PC theme. Bonuses will not be "split" by us; that is an option for guides, but helpers should in no way expect it or suggest it. This is a true fairness "bonus" to compensate for the extra labor needed on the PC tours; we will apply it in that spirit, and we hope you appreciate this change in policy.