If you only read a single post from me all year, be sure to read this one all the way to the end.

I recently returned from a trip to Colombia, South America where I visited El Peñól de Guatapé.

It turns out that the most challenging part of this excursion was NOT walking up the 710 steps to the top.

Despite understanding Spanish (and traveling with a wife and son who are completely fluent), the most challenging part was trying to book the tour that took us there.

In order to book a tour, you had to visit the website for the tour company. The website was pretty standard with all the basic information about what you would see, the cost, and what was included. But there wasn’t a shopping cart.

In order to book a tour, you had to send a message to a number on WhatsApp.

I ended up sending or receiving a total of 56 messages to get the tour booked. You read that correctly. FIFTY SIX!

Since the website said the tour was in both Spanish and English, I started out texting them via the WhatsApp number in English, as I was interested in an English tour. I simply indicated that I would like to make a reservation on Thursday for 3 people.

The response was “Do you want to do it groupal or private?” So I asked what the prices were.

“Private 650,000 cop, grupal 94.000 cop per person.”

Followed by another message about 10 minutes later:

“Sorry 750.000 private”

So I indicated that I wanted to do a group tour and that we were staying in El Poblato neighborhood in Medellin. I asked about the central pickup place (as I had heard that if you got picked up at your hotel, there were many more stops). I also asked if they took credit cards.

“Yep One of the meeting point is el Parque del Poblado.”

“You can do the reservation by credit card.”

“But the Rest of the cost you have to Pay it by cash.”

(Note: the typos and capitalization are left the way I received the messages to retain authenticity).

Then there were a slew of messages about what was included and not included. Lunch was included, but not breakfast or the boat ride.

“So, for the booking I will need yours ids, full names, date of birth, and the reservation money”

I’m not sure if they wanted to send me a birthday present by having booked a tour with them, but I complied.

“It is 22.000 cop per person”

“If you want to maje the reservation i can give the link for the credit car payment”

I said yes please as I wanted to make sure we had a reservation. So they sent a link to a page that was a 3rd party payment collection site called bold (not associated with the tour company).

I also asked them about walking up the steps to the top of the rock, and if that was included or if it was extra and how much.

“It is extra, it is 20.000 more per person”

“But you pay there to the people who manage that”

I tried paying using the link to the bold website, but it wouldn’t accept my passport number. So I asked what ID number I needed. How can I complete this field if I am from the United States? (This was a required field). I also inquired if this was the cost per person or for all 3 of us.

“Ok, it is because you have to leave it blank”

“Dont put there any number”

“In the id”

“Yes, that is the cost + 6% for the bank movement”

I finally got the payment made and told them that I had made the reservation. What time on Thursday should I show up at the park? (this information was never provided). Nor was there a receipt or confirmation page that I could print.

“please send me proof of payment”

Seriously??? I was now starting to get annoyed. A good friend had recommended this tour to us, so it had to be good, right?!

“And This Information”

“Para el tour GUATAPEVoy a necesitar:

  • Numero de identificaion
  • Nombres completos”

Mind you I had already given them our names and paid online for the reservation. But I sent them a screen capture of my credit card payment from the American Express website. Also photos of all 3 of our passports.

“send me the data in this way, please”

(There was no specific format indicated.)

“send me the receipt or a photo of the payment from bold”

A day later, an email arrived in my junk folder, so I was finally able to comply. My wife was beside herself and thought we should just hire a private driver at this point.

We went to the park a day early at the time they had provided in order to see what the procedure would be the following day. There were multiple tour buses, each with the names of different tour companies on the side, so I sent another message asking what the name of the bus was that I should be looking for.

“we need your names and ids”

“for the reservation”

You’ve got to be kidding me! So (in Spanish), I sent them 3 separate messages, each stating the name of person 1,2,3 and our passport numbers (they already had photos), birth date, where we were getting picked up (in the Poblado Park), and the amount paid of the deposit per person. I’m now communicating with them in Spanish as they clearly didn’t understand English. Que mas necessita?

“No necesitas eso. A los buses ni siquiera le tenemos nombre” (“You don’t need that. We don’t even have a name for the buses”)

“Te acercas al bus, das tu datos y listo” (“You go to the bus, give your data and that’s it”)

At 9:00pm the night before we are supposed to go on the tour, I get another WhatsApp message from a different number:

“Buenas noches
Como estan?
Soy Jessica Sanchez
La guia que los estara acompanando el dia de manana hacia Guatape
Favor confirmar su asistencia al tour”

(“Goodnight How are you? I’m Jessica Sanchez The guide that will be accompanying you tomorrow to Guatape Please confirm your attendance to the tour”)

Fortunately, my Spanish-speaking wife went around talking to people to find out who Jessica Sanchez was.

It turns out that Jessica was a wonderful tour guide who spoke perfect English. The tour bus was modern and comfortable with a great driver. And breakfast and the boat ride WERE included! It was an incredible day and we tipped her well.

But let me ask you some questions:

  • Would you have jumped through that many hoops to make a purchase?
  • Are you making it difficult for customers to do business with you and your website?
  • Can you see why it is so important to provide more information rather than less when it comes to product descriptions?
  • Do you see why reviews and influencer recommendations are so important?

Be honest. Hire someone to be a “mystery shopper” and perform customer experience testing and report their findings back to you. Not everyone is as persistent as I was, and abandoned carts are one of the biggest challenges facing online businesses.