At your service but you better do-it-yourself!

I was looking for a local travel agent to get my visa done for an upcoming overseas trip. Didn’t waste time scouring through all the available options. Instead, I just focused on the best one (highest rating with the highest number of reviews) and gave this person a call. He didn’t pick up.

An hour passed by and still no response. So, I called back. Thankfully, this time he picked up. I shared details of my trip and asked him about the process. His response was classic: “Can’t help with this specific country. The appointments are hard to get by so we’re not doing it. Schedule something with them and call back.”

I was stunned! What the hell am I going to do? I’ve booked the tickets well in advance and now I won’t get a visa? I asked him, “What do I do now? Is there anything you can do to help?” He said, “I can’t sir. Please schedule an appointment with the embassy and then contact me.” He hung up.

I couldn’t help but stare at the phone’s screen. What the heck just happened? I thought I had called a service provider and it sounded anything but service. As if he’s doing me a favour!

Helplessly, I called another agency I’ve relied upon previously. The person picking up the phone didn’t know whom I was calling for. He noted down the details and assured that someone will call back in a bit. It’s been 3 hours already and nobody has. And I’m pretty sure nobody will. It’s close to 9pm now. I’m super anxious about the whole thing now but one way or another I am going to get this done.

But that’s not the point. This is — small businesses exist to provide value to their customers by saving them time and/or making it convenient for them to get things done. Yes, they should (sometimes) turn away business from customers who’re high maintenance. But denying a business opportunity just because it’s not convenient or way too hard (compared to the fee they charge) doesn’t cut it. And if that’s the case, they probably shouldn’t exist.

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