Have you ever been charged with DUI?

Canada dui

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“Have you ever had a DUI?”

Wow! Asking someone if they’ve ever been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol is a pretty nervy thing for a travel agent to do. After all, is this the sort of thing that one person asks another — out of a clear blue sky — in polite society? It’s pretty personal after all.

And yet …

Canada and DUI

Consider this (true) story. A husband and wife of mature years booked a “leaf peeper” cruise up the New England coast and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Booked without a travel agent, I might add. They flew from their home in California to pick up the cruise out of New York and spent a day or two seeing the “Big Apple.”

So far, so good. But when the ship docked at the first Canadian port of call, the husband discovered, much to his amazement, that the Canadian border authorities would not let him disembark.

Why? He had been charged, but not convicted, with a DUI (or DWI) offense decades earlier. As far as Canada was concerned, that made him persona non grata.

Because his wife was in declining health, she wasn’t comfortable taking the shore excursion without him. Needless to say, their vacation was ruined.

The first question you might have is “How did Canada know about his DUI record?” Canada and the United States share the information in their vast depository of arrest records. If you’ve done something naughty in the United States, Canada knows about it.

Moreover, Canada has decided that it doesn’t want anyone with a DUI in their history — convicted or not — to set foot on their soil, even if they will only be walking. That is Canada’s right as a sovereign nation and they’re sticking to it.

When teetotaler George W. Bush was president, he needed a special dispensation from Canada’s parliament to make a state visit because, in his misspent youth, he’d been arrested for drunk driving in Maine! That’s how strict they are.

And it’s not just DUI. A Canadian law firm that specializes in this area listed a number of other reasons Americans were denied entry to Canada.

  • Negligent driving in Washington State (easily the most common reason that an individual is denied entry);
  • Fishing off limits in Alaska;
  • Trespassing in Nevada;
  • Reckless driving in Wisconsin;
  • Possession of cocaine in Oregon;
  • and the list goes on and on.

The next question is “Why didn’t his travel agent warn him about Canada’s strict DUI rule?”

As it happens, this couple did not use a travel agent, and obviously the cruise line never brought up the issue.

But if he had used a travel agent, would the agent have thought to ask? I’m not so sure.

And yet it’s a duty we owe our clients and potential clients. I know about this policy because I send a fair number of people to Canada and I make it my business to know about this sort of thing. Now you know it, too.

[As an aside, I might mention that this is another good reason for travel agents to specialize. That way you are almost forced to develop in-depth knowledge about destinations.]

Asking folks headed to Canada about DUI

So how do you ask a client or prospect interested in a trip to Canada if they have a DUI on their record?

Very delicately.

To a large extent, how you handle this depends on how well you know the client and the level of mutual trust that has developed between you. But make no mistake, if you are sending someone to Canada, you must ask. For your protection as well as the client’s.

A good way is to include a warning statement in an email to a client or prospect considering a Canadian vacation or a cruise that calls at Canadian ports. For example:

NOTICE: Canada has very strict laws on traffic infractions, particularly drunk driving. Canada and the United States share arrest records, so if you or a member of your party has any DUI-related offense on record, even if there was no conviction, Canada’s border officials will deny that person entry, even if they have no plans to drive in Canada.

If you are stopped for speeding in Canada, you may very well be barred from visiting again.

Please exercise discretion.

This spares you (and the client) the discomfort of coming right out and asking. Presumably, the person who receives this will decide against going to Canada if they have a DUI in their history. And you will have a record of having informed them of the policy.

But if you have no alternative, you still must ask. According to one source, 17% of licensed U.S. drivers have a DUI/DWI on their record. Some of these people may be your clients!

Again, this is for your protection. If you want to be extra cautious, you can ask Canada bound clients to sign a disclaimer to the effect that they have been informed of Canada’s DUI policy.

And the moral to the story is … ?

The ancient Greeks counseled “Know thyself.” My advice to travel agents is “Know thy client.”

It’s called “qualifying” by professional salespeople. And make no mistake, as a travel agent you are a professional salesperson.

Fortunately, in most cases, qualifying your clients does not mean grilling them about their criminal history — unless (as in the case of Canada-bound travelers) there is a good reason to do so.

But qualifying does mean that you should know things like your clients’ preferences in hotels, cruise lines, and so forth. You should have a pretty good idea of a client’s comfort zone when it comes to the budget for a two-week trip. You should know what your clients like to do when they travel. Golf or tennis? Museums or lavish floor shows? Active adventure or quiet relaxation.

It can and should be a relaxed, easy-going, and fun process, one that is on-going throughout what will ideally be a long-term relationship.

I cover the whole process in depth in the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course.

‘Qualifying’ Module 3, Ch. 4

Qualifying is the salesperson’s term for getting to know your clients.
Module 3 of the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course is a complete
course on the art of selling. The Qualifying chapter contains a detailed
Client Profile Form for you to use with every prospect you meet.

Click here to access your course.

Don’t have the course? Click here.

[If you’re curious about other countries’ rules on who they will and will not allow to enter, click here.]

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Have you ever been charged with DUI? was last modified: June 6th, 2017 by Kelly Monaghan