We often get phone calls and emails from visitors who seem to want us to plan their entire trip, assuming that we have encyclopedic knowledge of local hotel availability, travel times... We always help were we can, as is appropriate, and I assume that other staff in other venues do the same. Some visitors just can't draw the line though, as this email I recieved shows:
Some of your 'agh!' type stories make me think you'll get this.
A bloke called me today who banged on about how much his wife wanted to come to our gallery, but he didn't, so he wanted to plan a day in their holiday for her to travel off alone with their daughter, and could I help.
He asked me to suggest travel for visiting us, he then asked me to check the times "because we're in the hotel and I don't have internet access". Then he asked me to book the tickets "because you've got that information in front of you now, so it seems a shame to mess about. I'm happy to read my credit card details to you."
I said I couldn't do that, because it's really not appropriate, or safe for him, but i could give him a phone number for the train people, or I could email the details to his hotel and he could ask the reception to help. He banged on some more about how much the exhibition means to his wife, and again I said I couldn't provide this service, so he offered to PAY me to do it. When I said no again, he offered to send the cash with his wife "so your work won't know".
I said that as a council staff member, I would loose my job if I used his credit card details, because of fraud, and they monitor computer use, so they would know I'd put his card details into a website, and I love my job, and it would be really hard to get another job like it. He apologised loads, said he didn't want to upset me, and gave me his phone number "in case they monitor calls and you're worried they've heard this."
The guy working next to me heard about a quarter of my side of the call, and then tried to calm me down because he thought I was really worried about my job!
It's a constant source of surprise, even though it happens so often, the confusion between museum/gallery/visitor centre staff and tourist information staff, and the persistence of some people even when the limitations of what is possible are explained, and alternatives are suggested. I've never been offered cash though, I wonder if I'm doing something wrong?... ;)
(The location of the gallery and type of exhibition were included in the message, I've removed these details though in case they help identify the venue, and the bewildered staff member.)
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