Lowcostholidays scores a social media coup, while Thomas Cook scrambles to respond
Last November, a young man named Thomas Cook posted a comment on the travel agency Thomas Cook UK’s Facebook page that said the following:
Seeing as I share the exact same name as your huge company, and because of this I have been ridiculed for as long as I can remember. I think it’s only fair that you help compensate for this by giving me one of your lovely holidays.
But Lowcostholidays spokesperson Nicole Walsh confirms to Tnooz what happened next.
Five days later, a representative from Lowcostholidays saw the message and decided to have a bit of fun.
A marketer at the company, Charlotte Hunt, used her personal page to send the young man a message:
Here at lowcostholidays.com we completely sympathise with your suffering and if your name was “lowcostholidays.com” we would certainly have accepted your request to be sent away on a weekend in Paris. … So how about we send you on that weekend in Paris?
It took nearly a year for the trip to actually happen, and today Thomas Cook posted an image of him happy in Paris that got up-voted to the number one most-read item on social news site Reddit within a few hours and was also a viral sensation on Twitter.
Lowcostholidays has been inundated with positive messages on its Facebook page.
Thomas Cook UK’s Facebook page, by contrast, has been getting hit with many negative comments, such as “You guys totally blew your chances in there…”
Their PR department appears to be panicking several hours into this social media storm. Its first response was to delete comments.
Then a company representative posted this at hour four into the storm:
“It is our company policy to keep the wall free for questions, comments and discussion with customers. Please note, any commercial messages, personal advertisements, links to external sites or other Facebook pages and other forms of spam to redirect traffic are not welcome and will be deleted. –Paul”
An attempt to reach a spokesperson failed.
Lowcostholidays spokesperson Walsh said that the young man was his own self-publishing machine.
“We haven’t put out a press release or publicised this in any way. It was just a bit of fun. Our team has always been very active in social media, compared to other online travel agencies in the UK, and we had been looking to have a little bit of fun.”
At little cost, the company won a trip to the front page of Reddit, a US-based site that had 42.9 million unique visitors in August.
The initiative last November came just a few weeks after Lowcostholidays was forced to withdraw an online ad campaign that invited consumers to say if they had ever been “Thomas Crooked”.
Thomas Cook threatened legal action at the time, and ABTA, the association of UK travel agents and tour operators, scolded Lowcostholidays for sullying the reputation of a fellow member.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for Thomas Cook has directed us to a statement the company has made on its Facebook page.
Just a quick one from the TC team to say we’re genuinely pleased our namesake Thomas Cook looks like he’s had a great time in Paris courtesy of LowCostHolidays.co.uk! http://imgur.com/a/Lyo8S#InPdq
Whilst we admire Mr Cook’s plucky approach, we value all of our customers equally so we don’t give free holidays to all of the Thomas or Thomasina Cooks who email us! (or even our colleagues who are called Thomas Cook too!)
But we do have a cause that WE believe is truly worthwhile which we’ve extended an invitation to Mr Cook to join us with. For the 10th year running we’ll be taking hundreds of sick and disadvantaged children on a ‘Flight of Dreams’ to meet Father Christmas on board our own planes, and we wondered whether he’d like to join us and be part of the Thomas Cook volunteer team! Find out more at www.thomascookchildrenscharity.com
Furthermore, if you happen to be one the world’s Thomas (or Thomasina!) Cooks – write to us with your birthday and wait and see what happens next…
Within a day, the company’s comment had more than 200 likes. But it also had some negative comments, such as “I’d much rather a Paris trip than a guit trip” and “Nothing against the charity, but trying to use it to cover up a huge PR mistake may actually be worse than the first offense.”
Such is the Wild West of social media.
Sean O’Neill is a New Jersey-based reporter for Tnooz. He is also a daily contributor of consumer news to LonelyPlanet.com.
He used to work for BBC Travel, BudgetTravel.com, and Kiplinger's, and used to live in London, New York City, and Washington, DC.