FIRST-HAND: 'My first day as a tour rep was a nightmare'

With the holiday season upon us, Tara Jendoubi recalls the pitfalls of a working life in paradise
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I WAS 22 when I started repping, and I suppose when I originally applied for the job I didn't know what was involved. I was sent on an introductory 14-day training course in Majorca, but you don't really find out what the job is about until you are actually up to your neck in it.

The first place I went was Corsica, where I spent all my summers, moving to Lanzarote and Madeira in the winters. I would spend six months doing the summer season and three months doing the winter season, with three months signing on back home in between.

My very first day on the job I had a terrible experience. I was sitting having a drink at about 2am thinking "Thank goodness the first day's over," when one of the guests arrived, saying, "Come quickly, Tara, the hotel is trying to throw one of the guests out." An Englishman had hit his wife over the head with a shoe and split her head open, there was blood all over the place. I was having to mediate in French with the hotelier, who was saying she didn't want him there, and the woman, who needed a doctor, was refusing to see one. All the hotelier would say was "I don't want him here, get the police," so I had to call the police to get them to lock him up.

The police wouldn't take him without identification, so I had to go into their room, where I found the passports in among about 20 bottles of whisky. The next day I had to try to get him released, because the wife didn't want to press charges. It was absolutely dreadful ... talk about being landed in the deep end.

They had warned us during the training course that things like this could happen, but I wasn't expecting it quite so soon. During my last season, a forest fire came down the mountain during the night and surrounded the hotel. The hotel evacuated the guests, but didn't tell us where we could find them. We were wandering about the town looking for them; eventually we found them collected on the beach.

In Corsica and Madeira you get a more refined kind of person, but Lanzarote could be a bit hairy. You would get yobbos throwing furniture out of the window and refusing to leave the hotel. When that happened I'd have to try to persuade the guests that they couldn't carry on behaving like that.

Every day was different. Usually there was an airport visit each day. The planes would arrive at any time, 3am or whatever, and I would have to meet the guests and give them a welcome get-together. They would be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and I'd often be absolutely knackered. Then I'd visit the guests in their hotels, sort out their problems, then during the afternoon go off on a tour, more visits, and finish off with a cabaret, karaoke night, or welcoming dinner in the evening. You're expected to participate in everything, so it's certainly not for anyone who's married or who wants a life outside their job. I was supposed to get one day off a week, but that didn't always happen.

If you're selling holidays, in many ways you're selling a dream, and people do get disappointed and can end up screaming at the reps. Usually they start by complaining about everything, the beach, the bar, the fact that there's no kettle - I would try to calm them down and mostly people were reasonable in the end.

A lot of reps give up after one season; there are very few who carry on for years, but I enjoyed my three years. I liked the climate, and work, and being able to say when I came home that I worked abroad. On my first trip to Corsica I met a waiter, and in my last summer I married him. The staff wouldn't give me any time off, so I had to marry him on my day off. But the guests were very nice and gave us presents and cheered us as we came out of the town hall. I would rep again if I wasn't married; the good times made up for the bad.

lInterview by Katie Sampson

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