Things to know before engaging an Agent
Thank you to Timothy Woods for this enlightening article
This is written with the clever and thrifty pet owner in mind. Even if you are Mr/Mrs. Rich and don’t mind spending a premium to ensure your pet gets the best care, it’s always best to know you are getting the value you are paying for.
The 1st Rule: Be patient and do not just ask for a quote.
The 2nd Rule: Do your homework before deciding.
The 3rd Rule: The cost of convenience is high. Be Patient
Never assume an agent is going to sit down to understand your needs to give you the best quotation. It’s an early bird that gets the worm world and agents understand that you’d much rather have a quote to your question than having to answer additional questions. So, in order not to lose out on your business, agents will try to quickly give you a quotation as soon as possible. Unless you are a personal assistant (who really isn’t that invested in the move) and a figure is all you need, hopefully the following will convince you that a little patience goes a long way.
Why are some of the quotations you receive from agents so very different? There are 2 general reasons:
1. The number of 3rd party subcontractors involved?
a. Did you contact a West based agent to handle a East based export?
b. Did you contact an agent in the destination country to provide a quotation where
most of the work is being done in the origin country?
2. The extent of services provided?
a. With more services required, such as with bringing your pet to the vet on your
behalf, this will bring up the cost.
Most agents do not have offices globally; the market is much too small for that. Rather, most agents partner with others in other locales to provide a full door to door service. In those cases, if the agent you contacted is not able to provide the services fully or directly to you, then they will do so via a 3rd party and would potentially add a margin on top of those services.
For example, the USA is large: If you require veterinary services in Florida, then a Seattle agent is either not going to be able to provide that service or will look for an agent in Florida to do that for you under their “brand”. When you are eager to get a quotation, they will logically set a higher price that will cover whatever it will cost them by the 3rd party. You cannot expect them to reduce the cost later when they actually have the quote from the 3rd party. The only scenario when you can expect prices to be comparable would be if you were to do every physical work yourself - including sending your pet to the airport. In that case, then what you will get is a consult/professional/service charge and the cost of the flight ticket.
When asking for a quotation, do provide as much clear information about what are the services you require. When information isn’t available, or if you are not willing to provide it when asked, agents have to make assumptions about what services you require. To protect themselves, they must ensure that eventually, they won’t make a loss. In order to do that, they will assume certain services are required and if necessary, add a margin to cover unexpected costs. This will result in a very big quotation.
On the other hand, anticipating that you are doing a price comparison, agents could make their quotation look competitive by going for minimum values, increasing them one way or another after you have engaged them. Therefore, if you were to base your decision on the cheapest of the quotation, you will very likely face the situation whereby it may turn up to be more expensive eventually and a nightmare for one who budgets. A constant example is in the assumption of travel crate sizing - this is a potential USD200-1000 price difference. Another would be assuming you will/won’t be at the destination to receive your pet - potential 500-1000 clearance fee/service.
So what are these details?
1. Origin and destination specific to the airport or even postal code - the more specific the better: e.g. if you want someone to pick up your pet; or letting them know you are willing to drive down to which airports etc.
2. The breed and size of your pet. Most agents will provide some way to measure your pet. The layman rule is that the crate must be large enough that your pet will not have to scrape the sides when sitting, standing or turning around. Smaller crates run the risk of being denied from flying. Oversized crates means very very high costs.
When comparing quotes, always check that the agents are quoting you based on similar crate measurements. It would be silly to think an agent is cheaper because he/she gave you a quotation based on a smaller crate. Likewise, be careful of quotations where the crate size is not mentioned at all. NEVER tell an agent unmeasurable terms such as “medium” or “small”. They will over or underquote you, both of which are bad. Imagine if they responded with “the quote is “not very expensive”, or “more expensive than before””. That’s frustrating.
Regardless of how tempting it is to get a quick quotation to do a price comparison amongst agents, skipping the details and demanding a quote will result in poor value for your money and more hassle down the road.
Do your Homework
Yes, you’ve likely encountered inconsistent information online that has pushed you to seek out an agent for answers. But here is what you should know:
● The most reliable information belongs on the government websites / but some do not exist or are in another language
● Emailing these government departments usually yield very helpful information / but not on export requirements or flight arrangements.
● Facebook help groups exist and you will meet very helpful people / but do realize that the people sharing their information are not responsible for what they say and that they can only share what they have experienced before - which may now be obsolete and subjective.
● Agent Websites do provide some information / but are also the reason for inconsistencies because they are catered to pets being exported from the country that agent is based in. You must understand that what your pet needs to travel is specific to the originating country and destination country.
One way or the other, any information you find helps you develop questions for your agent to answer/clarify. It will also help you realize you might not be limited to the option provided by your agent. E.g. Why did my agent select this flight? It seems rather costly? Often, as mentioned above, the quote provided by your agent is based on assumptions of things that you did not mention.
At very least, you might be able to spot some mistakes your agent (who is only human) might have committed.
The Cost of Convenience
Pet relocation is almost always do-able yourself. The use of an agent is necessary at times only when it comes to flight booking (and only if it’s via manifest cargo/freight). Do note that even then, sometimes, and for certain airlines it’s possible to book for your pet’s flight yourself. The use of an agent is for the sake of convenience and know-how. There are in general 2 types of agents - depending on how large their organization is. I will call one “corporation”, and the other “Spiderman” (like friendly-neighbourhood’).
The Corporation is one that will provide a quote, put you on their schedule to travel, and will run things smoothly after the initial consultation without further interaction with you.
How to spot the Corporation:
A very long initial email detailing many items and further communication with different people. You need to be patient later when trying to get updates from them.
Who would benefit the most from working with the Corporation:
People who like this corporate style service with a clear understanding of responsibilities and posts (and refund policies etc); who have little worries about their pet’s move and have uncomplicated situations; who would prefer the bulk of the work handed to the agent.
The Spiderman will take a while to access the situation but will be available whenever you need him. You need to be patient in the beginning whilst he accesses the situation to see how to best “save” you.
How to spot Spiderman:
By how quickly he responds and by how convenient it will be to reach him.
Who would benefit the most from working with Spiderman:
If you are a worry bee and if your situation warrants discussion and some creativity. There is no right or wrong here but either one will rub you the right or wrong way depending on what sort of service you are looking for. It’s a little like comparing fine-dining and a family-style restaurant. In any case, be patient and do some homework first before you speak to an agent.
Any agents/pet owner who want to update/correct/contribute information to this article can contact Timothy Woods (https://www.facebook.com/timothy.woods.94651/ )
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