For most Americans, the Thanksgiving holiday is synonymous with travel. And this year looks like one for the record books, with AAA projecting that more than 37 million Americans will hit the road.
For me, Thanksgiving means more than that. More than the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with cranberry sauce, someone carving the turkey, and the fight over who gets to pull the wishbone.
It means a lot of request for Joel's airline upgrade techniques.
I've been thinking a lot about this lately, especially given the holiday season. And I think the best tip I can offer this year is: give thanks.
I learned a long time ago that having an attitude of graciousness and respect is by far the most effective means of interacting with travel employees - especially in these somewhat difficult times.
Often overworked, underpaid, and stressed-out, we demand a lot of those who help us get home to family or on our way to a luxury vacation.
Do we ever stop to appreciate those who make our trips possible? Those unsung travel heroes who efficiently make reservations, provide brilliant service, and safely deliver us along the way.
Surprisingly, it takes very little to reward those toiling to assure our travel goodwill. A simple smile, thank you or your doing a great job travels far.
This simple technique of giving thanks pays off for you and others. When you give thanks you let the person know that their work is appreciated. This builds continuing incentive for them to treat future customers with courtesy.
Last week, I gave a friend an award ticket to visit her family and friends on the east coast. Unable to return in December, she packed all of her holiday gifts. While checking in her oversize and overweight luggage, the counter agent told my friend that she would have to pay a $45 surcharge.
Then the agent noticed that the ticket was associated with my record, and remembering the letter I wrote praising this agent's first-class service, they waived the added fee.
My first job after college was working for Tom Hopkins, an internationally recognized sales trainer. One day he pulled me aside and told me the most effective means of closing the sale is to write a handwritten thank-you note after your initial meeting. I have found this to be a valuable technique for rewarding travel service employees as well.
I tested this idea before completing the second edition of my book by going to 33 hotels in the San Diego area, ranging from the super-deluxe Aviara Four Seasons to the moderate Hyatt Islandia. I questioned service employees ranging from front-desk agents to concierges, bell staff, pool staff, reservation agents, and housekeeping personnel. Eighty-nine percent of the employees surveyed said they would prefer a written letter praising their quality of service over a tip. The only exception was within the concierge group, which preferred money by 67 percent.
The most common reasons for preferring a written letter over a monetary tip was that the letter goes into their personal file and helps them when it comes time for merit raises, promotions or job movement.
So when you're out there traveling this Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks. Whether it's a smile, a sincere thank you, or a gracious letter, it'll do more than pay a tribute to the dedicated individuals who are giving you their time and expertise.
It could also land you an upgrade.

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