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Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Upselling is an art lost to Croatia

By  Mark Thomas Oct 04, 2017

“I am going scuba diving for wine in Dubrovnik,” had me poking my finger in my ear to make sure I had heard her correctly. “Yes, that’s the message on my answer phone back in Canada – going diving for wine in Dubrovnik,” she smiled.

I was sitting on a flight back to Dubrovnik from London and the passenger next to me used that as her opening introduction line. Well it makes a refreshing difference from “Hello!” And indeed she was telling the truth. She was on a two-day break in Dubrovnik to go diving for wine in amphora off the Pelješac coastline. “Yes, that is rather a unique message to leave on an answer phone,” I agreed with her.

It turned out that this young Canadian lawyer quite enjoyed a tipple or two of the Bacchus juice. The conversation flowed from politics to current affairs and back to Game of Thrones (of which she wasn’t a fan) to social issues and history. “So what do people do in Dubrovnik if they don’t work in tourism?” she concluded. “Move somewhere else,” was the best answer I could think of. She smiled. “In a town where 40,000 people live and 2 million tourists visit everybody works directly or indirectly in tourism whether they want to or not,” I expanded. “So up-selling is a key factor in your economy,” was her first response.

Now that phrase “up-selling” got me thinking. I had just spent a week in the UK where at every, and I mean every, opportunity someone was trying to up-sell to me, but does this happen in Dubrovnik...well no.

For those of you who don’t know the tactic of up-selling is basically trying to persuade a customer to buy something additional or more expensive. I rolled my mind back through the last seven days. At the cafe bar – “Would you like a cake or biscuit with your coffee?” At the restaurant – “Can I interest you in a fresh salad with your meal?” At the hotel – “Would your wife be interested in a massage after her swim?” At the jewellery shop – “Would you like a special gift wrapping for only 5 pounds?” At the bakery (yes seriously at the bakery) – “Can I interest you in a homemade cookie with your bread this morning?” At the supermarket – “If you buy another bottle of ketchup you get the third one for free.”

Basically everyone is trying to sell something/anything to you to increase the size of your bill. But it isn’t done in an annoying or obtrusive manner, far from it. It always comes with a free smile.

And I have to be honest the tactic worked more than once, especially with my wife who had assumed that the cookie with her coffee in Starbucks was free. And then the finale was when we arrived at Gatwick Airport for the flight home and was met by a smiling face at the check in who offered an upgrade to a seat with more leg room. “We have a special two for the price of one offer today on extra sized seats to Dubrovnik,” she beamed. That isn’t a sentence you hear every day. Even on the plane the air hostesses were banging the up-sell drum. “Can I just get a white coffee,” I asked. “Of course sir, but can I just inform you if you take a sandwich as well you would get a Twix or Mars for free,” came the up-sell answer.

This constant stream of selling soon disappeared when we touched down. The very first coffee I ordered was met with “OK” and only “OK.” No mention of any other products, cookies, cakes or bars of chocolate...just “OK.” Are we missing something? Could we be earning more from tourists who are quite used to the up-sell tactic? Almost certainly. It is estimated that up-selling accounts from around 20 percent of a company’s business in the UK. So at a rough estimate we can safely say that we are around 20 percent worse off because we don’t up-sell. If you own a cafe bar or restaurant in Dubrovnik try telling your waiters to change “OK” to “would you like a cookie or cake” and see how that goes. If it works, and there is no reason to suggest it won’t, then I will gladly accept a small commission.

I dug deep through my memory banks and couldn’t think of one occasion that I had even been sold anything extra on top of what I had already bought. As Yoda from Star Wars would say “much to learn we have.”