For RS alumni: what does the "no grumps" policy on tours mean?

I'm killing time watching a Rick Steve's lecture, and I heard three times mention of a "no grumps policy". I read about it here on Helpline as well. What does that mean, in practical terms, when you go on a RS tour? Does it actually work?

Posted by George
Canada
815 posts

I wonder if you have to go to the back of the bus until you find a smile?

Posted by David
Sacramento, CA, USA
205 posts

NO reality but a msg...lets people thinking of taking an RS tour know what to expect...like the warnings about being "in shape" and carrying your own bag. I've done 1 RS tour and we were grumpless...everyone got along fineit is just the type of crowd he generally attracts. In comparison-about 10 yrs ago I did an organized tour of Tuscany-used one hotel for day trips to the various small villages. The main hotel was NOT a cookie cutter hotel; all the rooms were different. There was one "great" roomnormally not given to tour members but a young couple was with the group (graduate students taking the honeymoon before the wedding caused by a date screw up with the wedding locale)...so the hotel owner gave them the nice roomlarger, fire place, nice painted fresco...Everyone was very happy for them save one....one woman just made a total scene and "stink" about it demanding that a lottery or contest be used to see who gets the best room...that type of individual would generally not be welcomed on an RS tour. As for the lottery room requestthe idea totally rejected and very vocally by the group. Now back to the main point. Go to the RS Tours page..look for the review section and read some...most are great. If there are problems they are mentionedmost complaints (very few) usually center around those who ignore the RS warnings about the level of physical activity... grumps seem to be few in number. RS guides seem to work hard (my experience) to make sure everyone is included and that practice seems to drive out any grumpiness that may have escaped the States on the flight over.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3296 posts

I think that David lays it out very well. Rick describes his tours extremely accurately. You know that you will carry your own luggage. You know that you will be staying in smaller hotels. You know that there will be walking. If you've ever used his guidebooks you'll know that they are the same. You may not agree that the hotels that he has in his books are right for you, but you will find them accurately described. So, people who go on the tours have accurate expectations for the tour. That is why they don't have grumps. And, David is also right, in that if there is a problem the tour leaders step right in to address it. I always remember when we were on a walking tour of Vienna on a very hot later afternoon. The local guide was taking us all over and all of sudden Christof disappeared. A few minutes later he was back with bottled water for everyone. Pam PS It was so really, really, really, really hot that a couple of us created a hot song. :)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17728 posts

Andre, My perception of the "no grumps rule" is that people who are grouchy, hard to get along with and who may disrupt the tour making it unpleasant for the other members are NOT welcome on a RS tour! They make it clear that individuals like that may be ejected from the tour if they cause problems, and there will be no refunds! The rule seems to work well for the most part, as the majority of people I've travelled with on seven RS tours have been a happy group. RS tours seem to attract people with similar travel philosophies and attitudes, and everyone seems to get along well. On a few of the tours I've taken, some of the participants became good friends, and a few tears were shed at the final farewell dinners. Some have continued to travel together by booking other RS tours together on subsequent years. Cheers!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

I have only taken one RS Tour the Europe in 14 days Family Tour.. it was great and everyone on our tour was great too... No grumps meant,, carry your own stuff and don't complain about it.. enjoy your small unique hotel room( and in one case my child and I were asked to share a bed as they were out of twin bedded rooms and we were one of the child and mother groups that were same sex, in other words the 14 yr old boy was not asked to share bed with his mom, lol ) Walk without whining.
Don't be a prima donna.. no one cares if thats not how you do at home, we don't care if you need eggs for breakfast , eat the croissant, etc Our group of 26 were seriously the best group.. and best part was with 14 kids on our tour. not once did I see a single kid be a brat, they didn't cry or complain.. nothing. .. I mean it,, they all got along, aged from 8-17.. and they were all great.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7671 posts

"They make it clear that individuals like that may be ejected from the tour if they cause problems, and there will be no refunds!" I'm curious to know if such a thing has ever actually happened on a RS tour.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9094 posts

Having never taken any kind of group tour, let me ask this. Has anyone found themselves in a tour (RS or otherwise) with such a "grump"? Did it detract from the overall experience? How did the tour organizers handle this grump? Were the complaints legitimate or just nit-picky?

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17728 posts

@Nancy, The official wording in the "grumps" clause is: "Although we want everyone to have a good time, it sometimes happens that someone participating in a tour can misbehave or do things that are incompatible with the safety, comfort or convenience of other members of the tour. In those circumstances we have the exclusive right and discretion, to expel someone (even you) from a tour at any time, without any claims or complaints by you against us." I have no idea whether that's ever happened, and I doubt there's any way to we could find that information. @Tom, There were one or two people on one of my past tours that were constantly whining and complaining. Fortunately the Guide seemed to be able to placate them and they didn't have to be expelled from the tour.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
645 posts

Then there are the grumps who a.) can't believe that what is described is really true, and/or b.) deep down know that those rules don't apply to them, and/or c.) think they deserve better than what they signed up and paid for, and/or d.) are glass half empty whiners no matter what situation they are in.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
960 posts

Lo, good one - the perfect description of a travel 'grump'. Nothing will ever satisfy them, even if they got a 4* room for a 2* price or first row seats at a show or concert, they would still find something to complain about.

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
434 posts

I've seen posts from people who've booked an RS tour and yet sound as if they have no idea about who Rick is or his travel philosophy. I wonder how they can get to the booking stage without checking thoroughly into whatever company they are using. Even if you do have to sign something stating you understand, in my experience people hear and read whatever they are expecting to hear and read.

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
434 posts

Yes Tom, I did a 22-day tour of China. There were 31 of us and 30 of us got along wonderfully and couldn't stand the 31st. She was so offensive. She continually told our (Chinese) guides how much she hated Asians. We stayed at a hotel that even the most wealthy tour participants said was one of the nicest they've ever stayed at and she demanded a new room five times the first night. The food was served on platters on a lazy susan and she took three to four times her share, especially when it was particularly delicious. She never stopped complaining about the heat and always demanded the best seats at the show/dinner/on the plane/in the bus because she was tall (never mind the men who were taller). I could go on. Our tour leader told us she was the most difficult he'd had to deal with.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2855 posts

I was once on a non-RS tour with a woman who persisted at being angry with the leader the whole trip. Mostly we all ignored her, but I was her roommate.... I've been on 8 RS tours now. There has never been anyone who disrupted the tour with demands and complaints. Everyone was a "trouper" about dealing with their own luggage and seeing to their own needs. I was always sure that the RS tour guide was equipped to handle any bad behavior. (One yelled at me for trying to cross the street in Rome without her!) There are personalities that are more compatible than others. Sometimes one tour member is late due to being lost or disoriented. We never left anyone behind. All tour members pitched in to help with these situations. A man on one of these tours spent most of the trip with blisters on both feet. He was cheerful throughout. One of the women helped him tend to his feet. We all looked after him a little.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1519 posts

I guess the grumps read that clause and either don't book the tour, or tone down their behavior. So, they recognize that they don't always behave well. In which case, why don't they behave better the rest of the time? Everyone has bad days, but some people are bullies, and try to control others by acting badly. It sounds like the guides for RS are well trained and have the authority to deal with small problems before they become big ones. However, if a group doesn't have that one person to hate, are they really a cohesive unit? ;)

Posted by Donna
Cleveland, OH
280 posts

Andre, I've been on 4 RS tours and the last 2 included a few "grumps"... They created some problems for the group and complained about carrying their own luggage, walking, the hotels, the weather, etc. Every traveler has to sign a statement saying they understand the tour experience and what they will be expected to do/not do. I guess that some of them didn't read what they were signing...

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7671 posts

"...misbehave or do things that are incompatible with the safety, comfort or convenience of other members..." There is a big difference between the above and just being a "grump", or unpleasant to be around. I sincerely doubt that they could make a case for sending someone home who was not, say, drunk all the time, committing a crime, or dangerous in some way, not just an attitude problem.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

I think the literature/websites etc for the RS tours is pretty good at being blunt ... carry your own stuff.. hotels may not have elevators or a/c and the itineraries do specify how much walking each day , ie easy to strenuous ..etc .. this likely eliminates alot of those prima donna types,, but the problem is , every once in a while they get people who simply do not bother to read much about the tour.. so.. grumpy, lazy and stupid basically,, what a combo to walk thru life with. lol

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Lo,, there is a type of person, ( strange but true) that puts almost no effort into researching where they are going, how they are getting there, what it will be like( customs and culture) what to see there, etc.. Literally "I am going to Paris next week,, what is there to do ?"... I have a friend somewhat like this.. she lets her hubby do all the planning, ( and he no genius at that either, but at least he trys) .. when she returned from her first visit to Paris I asked her if she liked the Louvre.. her husband told me they had gone there,, and she said she didn't know if they went there... she said they went to four museums in ONE day and she doesn't remember which ones they were..
I have another friend who didn't know what Versailles even was.. who lived there, nothing,, absolutely nothing about it.. it really could have been Donald Trumps summer house for all she thought about it.. lol Some people just take their money and plonk it on the line at the suggestion or advice of friends, family or travel agents,, not checking to be sure its what they will enjoy. RS tours are not the cheapest ones around, so I can only assume those who go on them and are surprised about the walking etc put their money down without doing much homework at all. ( or as said, think the rules or expectations apply to them cause they are perfect , lol )

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

We have never been on a tour and probably never will be so if we run into a grump we can be sarcastic, we can be smart a**, or we can leave. Usually we put some distance between ourselves and objectionable people.

Posted by Ron
Alma, AR, USA
20 posts

Andre, My wife and I have been on 4 RS tours and yes the "no grumps policy" works. The members of each of our tours understood from the first meeting that travel does not always go exactly as scheduled for various reasons. They understood that everyone can't have the first floor rooms or room with a view at every stop. But if we had to carry our bags up 3 flights of stairs at the last hotel, we would have the lower floor at the next hotel. If the tour guide wanted us on the bus no later than 8AM it was because we would reach a magnificent site and be by ourselves for 90 min before the first of 30 tour buses from the big city doing day trips showed up! If weather was a factor, our excellent guides had a plan B and a plan C if necessary, so there is not a need to complain.
We talked with each of our guides about the "no grumps" and they all had dealt with tour members in the past (rarely by their assessment) who were disrupting the experience for other members. Their one-on-one discussion was enough to correct the situation. None had ever "kicked out" a tour member but voiced that they had the authority to do so.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3296 posts

I think that ETBD needs the clause so that they can legally expel someone who is truly disruptive--maybe teetering close to law breaking? I think that as others have mentioned when there is someone who is a grump, the RS guides are really good at the one on one chats. Rick's Guides go through a lot of training before they lead a tour including being an assistant guide before they go solo.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

I find the online info about RS tours rather blunt about walking, so they don't try to conceal strenuous walking or the possible lack of amenities on certain hotels. This is very good policy. Something I don't understand, though, is why can't people find the exact names of hotels tours stay in, so that they can read reviews about such hotels on TripAdvisor or Booking or other sites, look for pictures online etc., and know exactly what they are getting themselves into (for the the good and for the challenging parts of their travel experience).

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Well you are told the name of the end of tour and beginning of tour hotels ahead of time , so you can choose to arrive early or stay later after tour in same hotels. I think you find out about two months ahead,, maybe it was more , I can't remember. All our hotels were good,, not luxury hotels, but exactly the type I enjoy, small, clean, well run, comfy, well located, and some character ( I never stay in modern styled hotels or chain hotels if I can avoid it) .. some of the hotels were pretty special .. amazing views from windows,, lobbies furnished with antiques, fluffy down duvets.. all kinds of treats.. I think anyone who complained about them did zero research on what a RS tour is all about.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17728 posts

Andre, "Something I don't understand, though, is why can't people find the exact names of hotels tours stay in, so that they can read reviews about such hotels on TripAdvisor or Booking or other sites, look for pictures online etc., and know exactly what they are getting themselves into" As pat mentioned, tour members are given the names of the first and last hotels on the tour very shortly after booking. That allows those who may want to arrive a few days early or stay longer at the end of the tour to book rooms on their own. About a month prior to the start of the tour, a list of ALL hotels is provided, along with a tour roster and other information. From what I've seen, it would be virtually impossible for them to provide the full hotel list at the time of booking, as hotels can vary from one tour to the next. As RS tours tends to use smaller local hotels with a limited number of rooms, some hotels can be booked by other travellers which means the hotels used on one particular tour may not be available for the next group on the same tour Itinerary. In some cases, groups are split between two hotels. Hotel availability can also vary at some times of the year due to local events, which was the case with the hotel we used in Amsterdam. There was some kind of convention or something in town, so the tour had to use an alternate property (which was very nice and in a great location). Cheers!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9094 posts

Judging on this helpline how some people panic when their RS-recommended-hotel-of-choice is booked, it's probably a good business policy then not to publish the list of hotels far in advanced.

Posted by Kelly
St Petersburg Florida
948 posts

Yeah but do "grumpy" or difficult people know that they are what they are or how they are? I have known some people who are just plain awful and I really think that they think they are fine and normal. My aunt ordered extra lemons with her iced tea and the server brought out 2 slices. She looks at them and says "did you not hear that I ordered 'extra' lemon?". Waiter says, "yes, thats why I brought out 2, ordinarily you get just one". My aunt goes on that she has always been in the service industry and when someone orders extra anything, you bring them out a large extra, just to be sure that you are accomodating to the guest. When the server walked away, I told my aunt that she was acting like an idiot. She told me she deserves extra lemon and if she asks for extra, they should do as they are told. I asked her if she was settled talking to people that way and she told me there was nothing wrong with her request. I would be afraid of that person being on my vacation that I paid lots of money for. I would have to slap that person very hard and risk getting arrested.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

I know a few of those people too, and frankly they really do not see themselves as rude...they think they deserve more than everyone else. Kind of like the idiot who cuts in front of you in line. Most of them just think you're stupid to not take advantage at every opportunity, and often complaining gives them results, so most of the whiners see nothing wrong with it....they just think they are smarter than the rest of us.
Agree Kelly... I would like to hit them too, but it wouldn't do any good:)))

Posted by Michelle
Valrico, FL, USA
120 posts

Kelly your aunt and people like that are idiots.. My kids work in food service here in FLORIDA. It is not smart to mess with anyone that handles your food.. Think about it, and try not to vomit at the possibilities. michelle

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Michelle I agree people have to be nice, but I hate the threat you just wrote about,, I would be disgusted with my kids if I ever found out they would find it amusing to do anything to anyones food spitting etc no matter how rude customer is.. My kid works at McDonalds and gets treated like crap ALOT,, deals with rude people, drunk people, pushy old folks ( god one guy screamed at her over ONE penny,, which he was not getting back in change as Canada has discontinued the pennny and there was no penny to hand over to him) .. but she knows it would be despicable to alter anyones food. I hope you have taught your kids that they are supposed to learn to deal with difficult clients in a more mature way.. since pranks and revengeful acts are immature and won't get you far in the real world. ( or not the world I want my kids to be in). Ps While waitress was cheap bringing jus t 2 slices of lemon, maybe boss gets on them about that sort of thing,and your aunt was not very nice about it, , personally I would have brought more myself, and would not have argued with your aunt,, stupid of waitress do so,, should have said, "oh sorry, thats not enough, my boss doesn't like us to give out too much but I will grab you some more right now" thats how to get a good tip.Young folks are a bit dense.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

Michelle, I thought I read elsewhere here that you took offence when you thought you were being called an idiot. You weren't and that was explained. So why is it suddenly alright if you go around calling people that?

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

As someone who has worked the other side, as a tour director, I find this thread interesting. All tour companies have the right, and it's usually somewhere in small print, to put off any passengers who disrupts the tour or breaks the law. Usually, if there is a problem passenger, the tour company is notified quickly. Then, it if gets worse, it will be a decision between the company and the guide. I've never had to put someone off but a friend of mine did. The passenger got a phone call from the tour company saying they were off the tour and a ticket has been arranged to get the passenger home. I've had my share of grumpy passengers. There are lots of reasons for it that are usually temporaryheat, jet lag, tiredness, lack of sleep, constant travel, etc. Only once did I have a passenger so bad that she warranted a separate tour summary page just about her. (The story is too long to write here.)In most cases, a small chat or friendly smile, I've also had people come on my tours without having a clue where we were going. Oh, they knew the start and finish cities but as for everything else, no idea. Contrary to what RS thinks, these were the hardest passengers to deal with because they wouldn't constantly ask what there was to do. On the flip side, any passenger that had done their research and knew what they wanted to see or do on their free time was a delight. I would help to point them in the right direction and knew they'd come back with a story to tell. Room assignments were always a touchy subject. From day one i would tell my passengers that I had no control or say on room assignments. That was done by the hotel.

Posted by Gretchen
Andover, MA, USA
288 posts

Okay Frank II, that's just a little too tantalizing....you have to give us a FEW details at least, both for your crazy passenger and the friend who had someone removed from the tour.... C'mon give us a little info, just for fun..... ;)

Posted by Paula
Arlington, TX, USA
278 posts

In 2010 I was on a tour with a popular company that specializes in adventure travel. One of our travel mates broke every rule but the worst an embarrassing exchange with our host at a home hosted meal. The following day, our guide took a VOTE. None of us liked the woman but at the same time we didn't want to "vote her off". We endured the rest of the trip with her but didn't let her spoil our fun. I would
bet she is now on that tour company's do not fly list.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
468 posts

Well, I enjoyed reading this thread a couple of days ago, but last night I was laughing! I'm in London and just met up with my Road Scholar (ElderHostel) group. The intro meeting last night left the experienced tour leader with a bit of a deer in the headlights look. She mistakenly asked about food allergies in the group and that started an onslaught! From I cant possibly eat fish to no ice cream!! What! Who would say I can eat dairy but no ice cream? In any event, I had noted plant strong on my registration, but I went up after and said don't even worry about my food preferences I'll eat what I can and buy supplemental food as needed. I suspect Road Scholar needs a no grumps clause as well.