Guide who made Spain a real pain
A friend has just returned from a badly needed holiday in Spain with a tour operator that shall remain nameless.
When I asked how it went, she turned a weary shade of pale and said: "Let's just say, I won't be going back."
As we went through the nitty gritty of why the trip went pear-shaped, it became clear that the problem wasn't so much with the package or the place, but the people running it.
Take Maria José (not her real name), the intolerant tour guide who seemed to have the worries of the world on her shoulders and thought she had the right to take them out on her guests.
Her finest hour came one day at the beginning of a morning's touring. In an outburst that left her charges mortified, she took to her mic at the front of on the bus and chastised the group for failing to tip the coach driver the previous day.
Then there was banana-gate. At breakfast, a staff member tackled a guest who had the audacity to grab a piece of fruit from the buffet to eat later.
"Stop!" a breathless Manuel screeched at my friend one day as she was dashing for the coach, banana in hand, having missed breakfast.
It was duly confiscated.
Another morning, a female guest was chased down the corridor by restaurant staff demanding back a piece of fruit she had slipped into her hand.
Rip-off Spain reared its ugly head on several occasions, too.
One day, during a stop-off, the group was sent in the direction of overpriced souvenir shops, only to find the same tat for sale around the corner at a quarter of the price.
At the hotel pool, the rules were so strict that guests weren't even allowed to wear their own shower caps in the sauna and had to buy them at the desk.
My friend has spoken to the operator and they've promised to examine the issues raised, but hinted to her that none of the other Irish holidaymakers on the trip had complained.
Why not, I wonder? Surely more than ever, we need to stand up to rubbish service and try to stamp it out.
As a nation, complaining has never been our forte. We might gripe to our friends or anonymously on TripAdvisor about a grumpy receptionist or a dodgy hotel room, but we rarely follow it up with management to ensure the person coming after us doesn't get the same treatment.
So when we get slovenly service, we've only got ourselves to blame.
Any business that wants to survive these dire economic times must put customer care at the top of their priorities. Otherwise, they deserve to fail and rude staff deserve to lose their jobs.
Harsh times warrant harsh measures.
But if we demand the best every time we hand over a cent of our ever-tumbling income, you never know, we might just start to get it.