Monday, September 1, 2014

Websites Listed in My Bathroom Book (Part 1)

I have a lot of Australian books. Some are in my office. Some are downstairs in Tim and Jack's office. Some are stuck in drawers at the lake house. And a few are in my bathroom.

My main bathroom book is called Catriona's Australia: my favourite Aussie locations.

In the book, Catriona Rowntree describes various lovely locations in Australia, along with suggestions of things to do and businesses to visit.

For each location, Rowntree lists some websites. I've never taken the time to visit the sites, and was thinking it might be fun to look at them.

At first I was thinking I would just stick to the places I have mentally listed in my very premature travel plans. But then I figured, since our travel plans are definitely not written in stone, that would be silly.

What happens sometimes with my premature planning is I start obsessing over certain places, and then as the time gets closer to actually visit the place, I'm tired of it. And I no longer want to go there.

Anyway,  the first website I'm going to look at is Auburn Tours. The business is located in the Barossa Valley in South Australia.

Right now the Barossa Valley isn't on my premature trip plans, but that could definitely change.

Okay, so on the website they have photos of fancy old-fashioned cars. You take the tours in these instead of the regular bus, van, or SUV.

I wouldn't mind being in a car like that. But it wouldn't excite me enough to want to pay extra for it. And since cars are small, it's going to be a private tour. And private tours cost more money than the big group tours.

This is probably not a thing that would be in our budget.

The main page of the website has a little ticker going across saying Auburn Tours won a tourism award in 2008 for service excellence.

I'm trying to find the award and am not having any luck.

I looked at the Australian Tourism Awards website. You can download winners for each year. I don't see Auburn Tours listed in the 2008 awards. So maybe the award came from another organization?

Hopefully as I dig further into the Auburn Tours website, I'll find more information about the award.

On this page, they list the various tours available. Not all of them are in the fancy old automobile.  Three are in a 4WD and one is split between the fancy old automobile and the 4WD.

You know what. The prices aren't as high as I expected. They're confusing, though. At least to me. Or maybe it's that there are so many tours, and I don't really understand the difference between them.

Maybe I'll just look at the most affordable option.

Tour 3 is the most affordable. For $120 per person you get a 4 hour tour in an SUV.  The itinerary is flexible. I think that's cool. Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought that was about the price you pay for a bus tour.

Well, I'm just going to look at one site to compare: Viator.com has a bus tour and that costs $133. It does include lunch, morning tea, and the wine tasting. Tour 3 of Auburn Tours doesn't list any inclusions like this. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I haven't been on many bus tours, but with the few I've been on...I don't think we stopped at any spectacular restaurants.  It might be better to just pay for lunch separately and have the opportunity to go to restaurants you choose. Of if you're on a budget, you can pack your lunch.

Here's the cancellation rules for Auburn Tours. They make me nervous.  Maybe this is standard, though?

When you make the reservations, you have to put down a 50% deposit.  If you cancel 28 days ahead of time, you lose $20. If you cancel 14-28 days, you lose your deposit or 25% of the total booking fee. Whichever is less. I don't get that.

If you cancel 14 days ahead of time, you lose all the money. I think that's a bit unfair. I think maybe 7 days or less is more reasonable.

It would also depend on your reasons for canceling. If you found something better or you decide you're just not in the mood for an Auburn Tours adventure, that's one thing. But what if you end up in the hospital? Or your aunt has died and you had to cancel your trip to attend her funeral? Would Auburn Tours listen and consider there might be a chance you're not lying?  Or would they have the attitude no refunds! no exceptions.

Here's the history page of Auburn Tours.

It takes about the owner/tour operator in third person. I personally think it would be better if it was written in first person.  More welcoming perhaps?

The name of the tour operator is Trevor Wehr. His grandfather bought the fancy old fashioned tour car in 1935. He drove the car until the 1950's.  At that time he was nearly 90 and blind in one eye. Would it be ageism for me to wonder if that's safe?

Yeah. You know. It probably is.

No, maybe it's not.

Well, maybe it's ageism, but I think it's fair.

It would be wrong to say a 90-year-old definitely shouldn't drive. But I think it's fair to question whether a 90-year-old is suited to driving.  We do often lose abilities as we get that high up there in age. Of course there are exceptions. And I'm guessing a lot of 90-year-olds would be better than me at driving.

Back to the grandson....

Trevor Wehr was born in Freeling. Isn't that where McLeod's Daughters is filmed? Or it has some connection to the show.

Okay. Yeah. I'm right. Lord Wiki says Freeling has been used for some of the show locations.

There's a picture of Trevor Wehr on the history page, and the caption says, Photograph of Trevor provided courtesy of Hugh Hartshorne, formerly of Adelaide, now living and working in New York City. 

It's kind of sweet that they provide a little biographical information about the photographer. I was curious and searched for Hartshorne's website.  It says he's now living in both Australia and New York.

His website is a bit annoying. For the portfolio part, the choices are written sideways. I have to tilt my head to read them.  Why make visitors to your site do that?

And now I'm looking at the photos, and it's making me dizzy.

Back to the Auburn Tours site. This page has some photographs. They're lovely, but nothing is really calling out to me.

The Auburn Tours website is sort of shared (or combined?) with a bed and breakfast. I'm wondering if Wehr owns this too, or if he made a deal with someone where they'd support each other's business.

Well, I just looked at the mobile numbers for both businesses. They're the same.

So...if I'm understanding things right, you can stay with Mr. Wehr and his wife; plus they'll drive you around the town.

Now I'm looking at reviews of Auburn Tours. There are three reviews on Trip Advisor.  All of them are five stars.

PerthGirl31 says, Trevor is a sensational guide and I would highly recommend this experience. He is pleasant, polite and exceptionally knowledgeable.

Is it easier to have faith in a company that has a small number of very good reviews or a large number of mixed reviews?

I sort of think it's easier to trust the latter, but then sometimes the really bad reviews freak me out.

I'm gaining a lot of insight about reviews with my involvement in the self-publishing business

A) You never know if reviews are full of dishonest compliments. They could be written by friends who are pressured to write the review. Or they could be informal or formal trades—I'll give you a good review if you give me a good review.

B) Having a low number of reviews doesn't mean the product or business isn't wonderful. It could just mean it hasn't been discovered by a lot of people yet.  Or there are a lot of people who love the product or business, but they're not the type to write a review.

Basically, I think reviews are kind of worthless. I think you just have to look at the business for yourself and decide if it looks decent or not. Then maybe just make sure there's not a huge percentage of bad reviews.  If the business has several bad reviews, and the reviewers are saying the same thing, it might be wise to pay heed to the warnings.

Maybe I should end these types of posts with a summary of my feelings about the business.

I think it sounds good, but not for me in particular. I think it would be better for people who are into cars...awesome for them, really. And since I don't drink wine, I'm not sure I'd be overly excited about visiting vineyards. Tim drinks some wine, though, and by the time we return to Australia, Jack will probably be old enough to drink. It might be something that interests the two of them.  I might join them for the scenery.  Or to save money, I might stay behind and do something else.