Unfulfilled Expectations: Whose Fault?

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Burt Jones & Maurine ShimlockWe recently hosted a dive trip where most of the guests departed the boat extremely unhappy.  This is very unusual, and very regrettable to us. It did make me think, however, about why this happened and if any of our customers’ dissatisfaction could have been prevented. No doubt the boat’s mechanical problems were the major factor. But, the guests were able to dive every day, just not every place they thought they might go.  The mechanical problems also made one of the most expensive cabins uninhabitable.  The guests assigned to that cabin were greatly inconvenienced, but they preferred to sleep in the salon rather than exchanging rooms with us.  These folks certainly did not get good value for their money.  We have been around this business for a long time and know that boats are boats, and if they can break down, they usually will. Stuff happens, even with the best of intentions and maintenance.  Together with the company, we are going to come up with realistic compensation for everyone.

What I don’t really get was the progressively worsening attitude of some guests as the trip proceeded. They were on the boat for the duration.  They were diving in a remote and exotic location.  They were seeing animals that they had never seen before. They had also paid a lot of money for the trip.  Why couldn’t they make the best of it and enjoy what they were experiencing instead of constantly looking for more reasons to be angry? With a few weeks of hindsight, I think the power of unfulfilled expectations caused most of their discontent.

These people had not really done their homework on the area.  They expected to dive in consistently clear water in a place not known for great visibility, they wanted drift dives, but refused to dive in currents, and they expected to see animals that don’t live in the region.  No wonder they were disappointed! Despite our best efforts at pre-trip education, they still compared where they were to what they had hoped it would be.  They did admit to not reading most of the information that was sent out or, for that matter, not reading anything else on the region except “hearing” it was supposed to be great.

As diving tourists you shoulder some of the responsibility for the satisfaction you derive from your trips. Yes, your level of preparedness ranks right up there with the travel agents, tour operators, dive guides, and weather gods. Your responsibility is to be informed.  Before you book, read everything about where you plan to go and decide not only if it’s right for your skill level, but also if the area will fulfill what you desire in a dive vacation. If you are a beginning diver with just a few logged open water dives, don’t push your limits by booking a trip to Galapagos. If you want to see schooling hammerheads, why book a trip to Boniare?  Likewise, if you don’t like diving in open ocean currents, why book a trip to Cocos?

We believe in striving for maximum value fulfillment in all aspects of life, whether it be personal relationships, work or even vacations.  But fulfilling expectations is a two way street.  Perhaps only in the movies can a person do the impossible and make a school of hammerheads pass by on command.  If I could I’d that I’d be in Hollywood instead of writing this blog.

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10 comments for “Unfulfilled Expectations: Whose Fault?

  1. February 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    You mean there are no schooling hammerheads on Boniare?
    Oh well…here goes another dive vacation.

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  2. Maria Chapman
    February 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you for a well written article on a touchy subject. As more and more divers travel to practice the sport and so much more information and photographs are freely available through the internet, it becomes harder to please guests. If there are mechanical or other problems at a resort or live aboard, most people would understand providing the operator is honest and true efforts to correct the problem are obvious to all. If this is not an option, still the attitude of the operator/host can make the difference between mildly inconvenienced or completely upset. Having said that, safety is the one issue where nobody should compromise or accept less than expected/advertised.

    It is still the responsibility of us, the travelers/divers, to conduct extensive research on location/boat, animal and plant life, weather patterns, safety, immigration requirements, food, culture, diving conditions, etc before committing to the monetary and time expenditure of any trip.

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  3. Tom Reese
    February 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I recall a trip to Fiji about twelve years back when a typhoon passing nearby caused conditions too rough for our great host, Dan Grenier to want to take the boat out to our favored outer reef sites. That was a great disapointment as we figured we were missing the great diving we were used to. After some discussion, he suggested diving around the protected inside of the inner reefs, right around the island we were on. I still remember that day diving in only 10-30 feet of water, much in coral rubble, seeing all sorts of new nudibranchs and critters that we never saw on the wonderful outer reefs with their sharks, mantas and soft corals.

    Sometimes, what at first glance appears to be a big letdown, shows you a whole new world you were missing. Diving always involves the unexpected with uncontrolable variables, but we can always make the best of it.

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  4. February 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Burt&Maurine,
    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said they “had not done their homework on the area”. Try as hard as all of us dive travel agents/group leaders do, I also find that a good percentage of my guests and clients DO NOT read the information I provide them prior to the trip! It’s frustrating to all of us to not be able to provide our guests with “perfect” experiences but it’s also my opinion that the journey itself is part of the experience! Cudoes to both of you for all that you do to help us educate ourselves/our clients on destinations like Raja Ampat and beyond so we can get them to places that match their desires and their skill levels!

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  5. Clem
    February 23, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Don’t cry and whine if the chicken dies, make chicken salad!

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  6. Bob Halem
    February 26, 2013 at 2:18 am

    This message applies to all travel, not just dive vacations. I have seen similar reactions on Caribbean cruises when people were expecting to see something that doesn’t live in the Caribbean.

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  7. DeepSeaDan
    March 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I empathize with the authors – that must have been a long, long trip!
    Your article is a cautionary tale not just for diving, but for living. Folks need to be grounded in the reality that life is a gift, so don’t waste a second of it! If you get tangled up – tango on! I learned this most valuable of life’s lessons early on, & it has seen me through some times that could have been a total wash, had I allowed it.

    Take a big breath, enjoy the sky, & pray to live another day I say!

    Regards,
    DSD

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  8. Jonathan Segal
    March 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I was not on the trip that the authors describe, but knowing their history, I infer that they are talking about the Raja Ampat or Triton Bay areas. I was on a liveaboard trip to RA a year ago and HAD done my homework–so I knew in advance that relatively low viz and strong currents are the norm there–and yet if I’m honest, I have to admit that even with foreknowledge, these factors still DID detract slightly from the diving aspect of the trip. Overall the trip was fantastic, exotic, and not-to-be-missed, and I accepted the realities of the conditions, as one must, and maintained a good attitude, even while silently acknowledging to myself that conditions were not ideal. Nature is not a zoo, and I’ve learned via years of adventure travel that you just have to accept that, and marvel at what you see, not complain about what you don’t see –whiners are never welcome, as they can poison the atmosphere and ruin a trip for all the rest of us.

    JS

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  9. HC
    September 3, 2013 at 2:50 am

    As I understand it from the blog post, the boat had mechanical problems severe enough that the promised dive sites were not visited. Also, the folks with one of the most expensive cabins were forced out of their cabin into the salon. I assume that as a result the rest of the guests had somewhat limited use of the salon area. I am guessing that guest complaints were met with the attitude that everyone should relax and make the best of the situation. It also appears that the owners did not address compensation issues during the trip (or at the time the blog was written).

    These seem like reasonable reasons to be aggravated. The guests were not “comparing where they were to what they they hoped it would be”, I’m guessing they were comparing it to the dive sites mentioned in the “pre-dive education”.

    As noted, the guests paid a lot of money for the trip, I expect they only wanted what was promised them. Given the problems described in the blog post, it takes chutzpah to blame the guests for having too high expectations

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  10. llamamama
    November 21, 2013 at 12:10 am

    This story is similar to an experience we had a while back in the same part of the world. Instead of leaving with a frown and a feeling of being ripped off I remember it as one of the most fun liveaboards I had ever been on. Due to mechanical problems we never left the harbor, but the diving in the harbor was great, many tiny critters living in the muck that I had never seen before. The food was good, the staff fabulous, the other passengers congenial and the cruise director, although having probably with worst week imaginable was a blast. After realizing the boat would be nonfunctional for long time we were treated to the rest of the trip at a very nice resort where we were the only divers. And now in about a week we are off to do a trip with the same company with air etc all prepaid by the owners. Can’t get any better than that, thanks to Alberto.

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