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$100 credit instead of free stuff?

In another thread, Eileen posted the following:

"NEW FOR 2016 TOURS!!! This may not be for all tours, but the 2016 tours I've looked at NO LONGER give you the guidebooks, eye shades, ear plugs, money belt, etc. What you DO receive is a $100 Shopping Spree (per household) to use at the Rick Steves Travel Store."

Upon reflection, I think this is a great idea. Especially for those of us tour alums who have drawers full of money belts and an untold number of ear plugs. And backpacks. For a couple of trips, we also received a free backpack. Another advantage: if the credit is available immediately, you can get your guidebook well ahead of time.

Is this going to be policy from now on? If so, I'd better quit giving away money belts!

Posted by
6699 posts

If this is the new policy, it's a great idea. I've yet to receive freebies from anyone that actually represent some value to me (I see them only as marketing tschockes, like the free vendor bags and pens you receive at conferences). A credit that allows for purchases I might actually want is a big plus!

Posted by
1114 posts

I totally agree. I have more money belts and earplugs than I need. And I would rather buy my own guidebook way before the free one arrives in the mail. This is an awesome new development.

Posted by
865 posts

This is a good idea. But when did Rick give out eye shades?

The only thing I'll miss not receiving automatically is the tour patch. There was a thread about the patch a while back, so I know plenty of people think it's dumb. But I always look forward to seeing what's on this year's patch and then, after my tour is over, putting it with my all my little souvenirs from that trip.

I have money belts galore, several perfectly good suitcases, a couple of RS backpacks (not to mention multiple non-RS backpacks), and enough packing cubes to stretch from here to ... well, to the other end of my bedroom anyway. So I'm not sure what I'd do with $100 at the RS store. Guide book, new packet of those green plastic locks, and ... ?

Posted by
3460 posts

Not really sure how much value that gives to most of the RS customers. I know the pre tour packet is no where near $100 of stuff, but most travelers going on a RS tour probably have everything they need except for the book. I would have rather seen the tour price go down $50. I hope the patch continues to be available even though it is a fairly useless piece of clutter, but a nice souvenir.

And I have also never gotten an eye shade from RS for any of the tours I have taken. :-)

EDIT: Missed the part about the credit being per HOUSEHOLD. This doesn't sound right to me. If each person needs to buy the money belt, ear plugs, etc. $100 won't cover more than 2 people!

Posted by
524 posts

I agree, will be wonderful to get my guide book way ahead of tour date. I, too, have numerous ear plugs, money belts and backpacks. I know I will definitely have difficulty "spending" my $100. Would be nice if it could be credited toward tour payment. I hope RS never does away with tour alum discounts. By the way, I love my patches. I don't sew them to my backpack, but display them in a frame along with pictures and other tour mementos. I decided along time ago if something wasn't worth displaying, I might as well chuck it. When I am gone, I don't want family members to scratch heads wondering why I have a bag full/scrapbook full of ticket stubs and such. (They already suspect I am an oddball.) I am the only one interested in past/upcoming trips, with the exception of my husband and trip partner. This is just my opinion and every other person has theirs.

Posted by
902 posts

Great idea. Sounds like they listened to tour alum comments on this one. I agree with Mark, though, just give a credit or discount off the price of the tour. :)

Posted by
4360 posts

Some of you can use that $100 towards some eye masks ;-)

I can understand the per household restriction...kind of. Many people weren't really happy with the 'one guidebook per household' restriction (I believe it was the guidebook...). But for The Repeaters - you know who you are ;-) - you only need so many moneybelts.

I, too, would like the $100 credit to be applied towards the tour price!!!.

That's just $100 left on the table if I don't use it...because I've used it many times over already in the Travel Store!

I know this particular forum category is monitored...so how 'bout it? Give us credit for already having purchased our supplies.

Posted by
6321 posts

I know this is going to sound mercenary but a $100 credit on the tour price would lose RS more money than the $100 credit in the RS store. Not saying anything against that, it's just business.

Posted by
6699 posts

From Rick's perspective, a steer toward the travel store is genius - even if you don't need anything personally, RS goodies still make great gifts (for someone else) and who knows someone who has everything? Not me...

I think timing could get tricky if someone gets the credit, uses it, but later backs out of the tour for whatever reason..I'm sure it's a miniscule percentage, but happens. In that case, RS would compensated $400 (deposit) - $100 (credit) = $300.

Posted by
350 posts

I tend to agree that alumni have enough money belts, ear plugs, etc. to last them for a few years at least. As far as tour books go, I would love to see RS offer an electronic copy of any tour book purchased along with the physical book. It would save me having to rip apart the book, remove the sections relevant to my trip and staple those sections together. Also, if each household only gets one book, that makes it easier to share. Of course, they do have to consider piracy and that might hurt the tour book business a lot.

Posted by
55 posts

Hi guys! A quick note here from RS HQ: all tour members will still be receiving tour patches! You'll get them all automatically with your confirmation letters. Yee haw!

Posted by
4572 posts

Glad to hear about the tour patches. We always enjoy them.

Posted by
73 posts

I like the $100 shopping credit idea, but not sure why the items are called "freebies". I think my $3000+ tour cost more than paid for a guide book and ear plugs. :)

Posted by
8203 posts

Well, I do think of them as freebies since the other tour company I travel with had a similar daily rate when I compared itinerary to itinerary and I didn't get a guide book/money belt/ear plugs with them.

I'm delighted with the new option. This year I called the office and asked them just to send the guide books for the tours I'm going on as I've got several unopened money belts already. I can ~always~ find something in the store!

Posted by
1928 posts

Hi, Kate. I'm confirmed on a late March 2016 tour. Received my invoice, confirmation, mention of he $100 for store expenditures and trip insurance info but no patch. I, too, enjoy collecting them. What's up with that?

Posted by
1928 posts

Follow up to my previous post. I just received a personal phone call from Emily in the RS tour department who assured me my patch would be in Monday's mail. Talk about a responsive business! Thank you, Emily!

Posted by
4360 posts

There are problems with this $100 per household.

Under the former arrangement, everyone got the same items included with their tours (whether you wanted or needed them). Then, it went to one guidebook per household; some liked that, others really didn't. Really, really didn't.

Now it's $100 per household. So...if I book a $3000 solo tour, I get $100 to spend. If I book a family tour and pay for 5 people ($15,000), I get $100 to spend. I apparently can't even get around that by booking the 5 separately; it's per household. Gee, I guess we could all share the same suitcase...

I know this crazily obvious disparity simply had to have come up when this idea was being tossed around. I just can't imagine how everyone ended up deciding this was a fabulous idea.

What am I missing here? It must just be me (not!) because this is really bad customer service. And don't tell me it's nice for RSE to 'give' me any gift at all; that cat's already been out of the bag for several years now (FWIW, the retail cost of the previous 'gifts' - that were built into the tour price, of course - were around $90-100). Under this new scheme, some get waaaay more 'gifts' than others, and if you choose not to accept this very generous gift then I'd like the option to take some portion of that as a discount off of everyone's tour price. Some people get to take $50 off for each tour taken; what about those who have already spent well into the $100s - perhaps even $1000 or more - at the Travel Store ? I suppose we can all take advantage of the $100 Shopping Spree, then open an eBay account... ;-) OR...I just load up my cart with $100 in guidebooks or travel videos and gift my local library. Maybe buy a bunch of backpacks to give to needy students. Oh, but not a bunch of backpacks - I forgot; my husband and I will have to share that $100 Shopping 'Spree'...

I realize that the old scheme of 'giving' everybody a swag bag - whether they wanted any or all of it - wasn't perfect, either, but at least it was (for the most part) the same for each tour member.

Guess how many couples and families will enroll using every family and work address they can come up with?

I think a 20% (or more) discount on Travel Store purchases would have been more appropriate.

(Psst...come closer...Those of you who've given away your swag and now need a moneybelt, I've got one to sell you......well, as soon as I go shopping...)

Posted by
6321 posts

I'd have to agree with Eileen on this one. I understand the old freebies (that were items) just accumulating uselessly for couples and frequent tour takers and doing away with that makes sense. However when switching to a credit or discount type of perk instead, it should be offered to every tour participant that pays full price for the tour. Why should two people (unrelated) traveling together on a tour get two credits but a married couple traveling together only get one? Seems you're being penalized for being a 'couple', when usually it's the solo traveler who gets penalized. How about nobody being penalized. One paid tour = one credit (or discount, or whatever).

Sure hope this grousing doesn't cause them to do away with the perks altogether.

Posted by
815 posts

I am also signed up already for late April 2016 tour. I heard that you get a $100 store credit. This will be my second RS tour. I am a planner and want my book now!! :) I need to figure out how many day before and after the tour I want to stay and where to go and start reviewing the lodging!!. I only have received my docusign paperwork, nothing else so far.
Kim

Posted by
16849 posts

Eileen and readers, if you sign up for a tour with 5 people in your household, then please just talk to the tour sales staff to see what they can do for you. No need to establish false households. This new offer addresses a request that tour members have made repeatedly and it provides a necessary efficiency across several departments here. We hope to take 20,000 people to Europe on our 2016 tours and to equip each with the latest books and info for their trips.

Posted by
4360 posts

SUPER!!!

Now I won't have to look up all of those 3rd cousins, once-removed, to get their addresses ;-)

I completely understand The Repeaters :-) not wanting yet another money belt, but I wish there was another way to phrase the '$100 shopping spree per household' offer if you truly do mean 'unless you bug us; then we'll give you a little something extra...' (which frankly I hope is another $100 shopping spree...) I have no problem being a squeaky wheel here, but many others won't be so forward about their displeasure. Or perhaps they will - I imagine I won't be the only one to notice this (frankly, strange and crappy) nugget in the tour info pages.

BTW, I'm going to guess that this $100 will not be applied towards S&H? Of course, if you make all of your purchases at once (over $50, I believe), there won't be S&H. And will that be a requirement - that the tour participant make ONE purchase from the Travel Store? Not $100 to spend, but up to $100 on RSE to spend on a single shopping spree?!?

So many questions... ;-)

Posted by
14267 posts

Most tour participants are couples - who would get 2 money belts, 1 guide book and 1 phrase book. That's close to $100 of merchandise. For them, it's great. They can choose to get the money belts and books or, if they don't need them, get other stuff instead.

For singles, and there seem to be lots of them too, it's a boon. You can get the stuff you would have received anyway plus something else. Or forgo the stuff and buy something else.

From reading the forums and the alumni scrapbooks, families, especially those with more than 1 kid, are the smallest demographic, and many of them are on the "family" tours which (I'm guessing here) don't attract many couples or singles. Maybe RS could offer a larger credit for these tours. For a family looking for a tour, that might also give them a hint that they could ask for it on another tour as well. Or maybe when a family books a tour, RS could simply give them a larger credit based on the size of the family.

It seems to me that by switching from "swag" to a credit, you're still getting more than you used to.

Posted by
6392 posts

I've never taken, nor will I, a Rick Steves tour, but I agree that it's really unfair to only give $100 per household - if someone is spending more, they should get more back. If I were someone purchasing a tour for multiple family members (and multiple includes two), I would really be peeved to be getting the same benefit that someone who just bought one tour was getting.

And no you shouldn't have to call the office and "negotiate" something which is almost certainly going to be less than the $100. That's annoying.

Posted by
12403 posts

Why should two people (unrelated) traveling together on a tour get two
credits but a married couple traveling together only get one? Seems
you're being penalized for being a 'couple', when usually it's the
solo traveler who gets penalized.

Because the solo traveler is already paying proportionately more for their trip (single supplement) than 1/2 a couple? The $50 difference isn't a lot when you look at it that way?

Posted by
6321 posts

"Because the solo traveler is already paying proportionately more for their trip (single supplement) than 1/2 a couple? The $50 difference isn't a lot when you look at it that way?"

So, what you're saying is it's not a single supplement, that singles are paying the full price and couples are getting a discount? Really, I never saw it that way.

Posted by
14267 posts

Well, Nancy, do you travel as a couple? I travel single most of the time, so maybe I look at it differently.

About the only big travel item that doesn't cost me "more" is transportation (though miles add up a lot faster for couples and mine usually expire before I can use them). Even in a restaurant, couples often split an appetizer or a dessert or a bottle of wine. They can order two entrees and share them.

A couple shares a room and bathroom, which they do all the time. I have to either adapt to sharing with a friend - and both of us are more used to not sharing - or worse, a complete stranger. Or I have to pay for a double room that I don't need or I get the tiny space and the tiny bed, not the balcony or the view. And that room still costs a lot more than 1/2 of a double room. I pay hundreds of dollars more for a tour than 1/2 of a couple does. On the tours I've been on, most of the couples have double incomes . . . The only thing I get that a couple doesn't get is the nice room.

If I do choose to travel with a friend, we are not a couple living in the same house, able to use the same guide book before the tour and probably not during the tour either. Unlike a couple, we are two individuals who are put into very close quarters for a couple of weeks and both of us will probably want to wander in different directions at various times during the tour.

I'm not complaining, I feel very fortunate to have the resources (financial and emotional) to travel independently. I'm just stating some things that other people may not think about.

Posted by
6321 posts

"Well, Nancy, do you travel as a couple?"

No Chani, about 95% of the time I travel solo, sometimes with a tour but mostly independently. And perhaps my comment was misunderstood, I was being facetious about the couples getting a discount rather than the single paying a supplement because I was responding to Kathy's comment on my first response. If you read my first response you'll see that I feel that singles are usually punished (money-wise, ie: single supplement) for traveling solo. And no, I don't think couples are getting a discount for traveling as a couple. They are each paying full price for the tour since the tour price is $xxxx per/person (based on double occupancy) and a single pays an add'l amount to have their own room, and thus the couple is paying two full-price amounts and should get two perks/freebies (whatever they are). And it shouldn't matter whether the 'couple' is a family with a single residence or two singles traveling together to avoid the supplement. The fact that a single is paying more (supplement) should not be relevant to the perk situation. One full price tour payment should equal one perk/freebie.

And just for clarity, I've never been on a RS tour (couldn't afford it) so I've never gotten the freebies in question. I'm just giving my opinion about the single vs. couple situation with the freebies.

Posted by
6 posts

I've taken seven RS tours and have one coming up in a few weeks. Most were solo, but now traveling with my live-in BF. We have multiples of money belts and ear plugs but sometimes tussle over the books. Also don't like the "household" limit.

A few ideas:

1) $100 Shopping Spree for the first person and $50 for each additional person.

2) Able to exchange the Shopping Spree for tour discount at 1/2 value. So, $100 Shopping Spree or $50 tour discount.

3) Offer electronic copies of the books that require a key to open and maybe even have an expiration date. Easier to share one book at home but on the road it would be so much easier to have electronic copy. Info could be given out the first day of the tour.

Posted by
40 posts

For you guys complaining about the $100 shopping spree... how do other tour companies handle this kind of thing? Do they give every individual going on the tour some amount of money to spend, versus the entire household, or whatever? Or the shopping spree that can also be applied to the cost of the tour? What kinds of free stuff do other companies offer and how do they go about doing it? I've never taken a tour other than Rick Steves, so I'm curious.

I wonder if a comparison as to how other tour companies handle their cash or "stuff" inclusions for their tour members might help the folks at RS...

Posted by
5899 posts

Just my guess, but I think the reason RS tours provided the "free stuff" to begin with, was because they wanted tour participants to have the things that RS had always recommended to travelers - a money belt, phrase book, guide book with maps & walking tour information, etc. So that tour participants could not complain that they were unprepared. Maybe they realized that people were not bringing or using these things, or already had them prior to signing up (many as repeat customers), so they were being wasted.

Posted by
1 posts

Glad I'm not the only one who thinks the $100 credit per household is unfair to couples / roommates traveling together. I went on my 1st RS tour earlier this year with a girlfriend - she'd been before & loves the RS experience, and I now feel the same. So it was easy to convince my husband to do a trip and we're confirmed for next spring. So the "girlfriend & me" vs "husband & me" comparison was an obvious one, and as I told the CSR - no corporate spin will convince me that the policy is fair, since my friend & I would each get a $100 credit, and my husband & I get only one $100 credit. But the total tour price paid in each instance is the same. In line with others' suggestions, how about RS gives same $ credit to each traveler, maybe with an alternative of some % of the credit as a discount instead off tour price.

Posted by
5636 posts

In response to allora's question about what other companies do -- I have only been on two other tours and both gave ... NOTHING! Luggage tags and markers to keep all our bags together, yes, Itinerary, of course. But no goodies.
Not going on any 2016 tours, but if we were I would seriously consider signing up my travel companion (husband ) using a daughter's address. If there ARE goodies, I want two helpings!

Posted by
40 posts

Oh! No one else offers free stuff like this, much less a $100 credit to use however you want in their travel store? OK now I'm really confused. Why are people complaining about an extremely generous thing that Rick Steves is doing, that no other company does? And maybe there are reasons that $100 isn't applied to the cost of the tours? Like, there seems to already be LOTS of opportunities to get discounts on the tours... early booking or waiting for a sale, for example. Why would they just automatically give everyone $100 off their tour? That would be really bad for business, and ridiculous to even set a price for what they're set at now.

I get that people are mad (I guess?) that it's not $100 per person, but you guys... not one other tour company is doing this. Why are you all getting so mad about a free $100 to spend on whatever you want in their Travel Store? I think that's pretty generous, myself, no matter how many people it's applied to. ESPECIALLY since no other tour company offers this kind of thing.

Beggars can't be choosers. And I think maybe the correct response is more in line with "THANK YOU" than "GIMME MORE," don't you?

Off my soap box now, but absolutely signing up for a tour next year.

Posted by
5636 posts

Allora, please note that all I could speak on were the TWO tour companies that I had used, not the entire industry. I have seen carry-on bags, luggage straps and other items emblazoned with travel agency and cruise names -- just noting that not every tour company provides stuff, not that NO other company does.

Posted by
672 posts

Allora,
I don't think anyone is complaining about getting free stuff, but rather that it's not being given equally to everyone.