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I recently hired a tour guide to show me Bushmen art in South Africa. The guide was very knowledgeable and easy to get along with. After about 7 km of hiking, I fainted from a combination of heat-exhaustion and dehydration. I believe I was "out" for about a minute or so, before being "woken" by the guide. I simply couldn't continue with the hike, due to severe light-headiness, and I couldn't walk for any significant distance.

A decision was made between the two of us to initiate evacuation. Eventually a helicopter arrived. Other options (like a vehicle or a horse) were not possible due to the terrain.

The tour guide was calm and professional during the whole accident. He had connections to the rescue organizations, and knew what he was doing. He found a landing spot and waited there with toilet tissue acting as a wind-sock, while I continued to recover.

The question is this: When I review this tour operator, do I mention my medical emergency? - Please advise and justify your response.

I'm an introvert: my personality is not people-oriented. I don't want to make a mistake which unjustly hurts his business. In this past year, I have made a few horrible ethical blunders, hence I'm crowd-sourcing advice.

[The paramedic and his pilot met me in a standing position; they saw I wasn't in danger, and took in the sights of the rock-art. They did a detailed assessment of my condition and gave me an IV with fluids and salts. A decision was made to fly me to the nearest airfield. (The alternative would have been a hospital over 100km away.) There I was handed over to a waiting ground paramedic who took me to my accommodation. I have recovered fully from my accident, and am busy reviewing my trip from home.]

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    Medical emergencies are not the core of their business so I would review primarily the tour itself but add "I became very unwell on the tour and they handled the situation calmly and professionally" – user16259 Dec 20 '17 at 14:07
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    I would give that tour guide 10 stars if I could. (Possibly) helping save your life is worth a lot more than visiting a tourist site. – JonathanReez Dec 20 '17 at 14:19
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    Yep, I would be recommending this guide to everyone as loudly as I can. Praise him highly, very liberally. He did possibly save your life. And emphasize clearly that the cause of distress wasn't any action (or even inaction) on behalf of the guide. I do disagree with @user16259. Not explicitly maybe, but at least implicitly, customer safety, customer service, and being able to handle emergencies and unexpected accidents in a calm and professional manner should always be the top priority for such a business. – Fixed Point Dec 20 '17 at 17:28
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    Are you somehow required to give a review? If you're not comfortable giving a review for a partial tour, or don't want to mention the medical emergency or feel weird about leaving that out, can't you just not leave a review? – JPhi1618 Dec 20 '17 at 21:52
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    You went to Africa and returned alive. 5 stars – Lemuel Gulliver Dec 21 '17 at 16:55
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Give them a 5 star review. It sounds like the guide handled this tricky situation very well. If you are not comfortable disclosing any details just write something like "we encountered an unexpected and potentially dangerous situation and the guide handled it very professionally and calmly and kept me safe at all times"

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    I would point that the potentially dangerous situation was not directly caused for the trip, or readers may understand that the trip is dangerous. – Pere Dec 20 '17 at 17:10
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    +1 @Pere Well, the trip is kind of dangerous in the sense that the tourists need to take the precaution of staying well-hydrated and cool. – Fixed Point Dec 20 '17 at 17:31
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    Yes, but just make the review in a way it doesn't seem to be dangerous in the sense that tourists risk of being eaten by lions or killed by local guerrillas. – Pere Dec 20 '17 at 17:57
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    Nice answer, but I'd remove 'unexpected'. It's quite expected to get a heat stroke for a person not used to heat, and many tourists are not. – Danubian Sailor Dec 20 '17 at 18:20
  • The ability to, with aplomb, handle an extreme situation, certainly is a strong asset for the tour guide. If he was also excellent as a tour guide per se, why would you not mention his full range of skills? The question is slightly more complicated in a situation where the tour guide was, let's say, insufficient in that capacity; a presented though, tour guide deserves a raise, not just a 5 star review. – MichaelChirico Dec 23 '17 at 13:26
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As a tourist myself who goes on adventures in potentially dangerous areas, knowing how a tour company handles a life-threatening emergency is super important to me, the more details the better.

That information may dissuade some unprepared tourists to take the hike. Or it may cause some unprepared tourists to take better precautions, or to wait until they're in better shape, but either way, it is very valuable information to have.

Having that kind of information in the review under the tour company/tour guide name lets me know that the review is probably authentic as well, since a tour company is unlikely to add fake reviews reminding people that they might get hurt (even if those are 5-star reviews).

And at the same time, seeing such a review would certainly sell me on the tour itself. I've never been to South Africa, but I've been to Death Valley in the US and I am aware that heat strokes are going to be inevitable given the high temperatures and the harsh demands of the environment.

Following Spratty's excellent answer, I'm incorporating some of it into my own answer:

I do also believe that the tour guide is responsible to make sure that the group he leads hydrates frequently enough. However, I'm not sure the entire blame can be placed on the tour guide himself. Nor do I believe that this judgment needs to be necessarily made for your review to be useful to others.

In your review, just describe what happened. How did you feel before the hike even got started? How old were you? How much experience did you have hiking? How good of a shape were you in? What did you eat? How much water did you carry on you? Were you wearing a hat? If you were tired because of a very long plane ride the day before, or because of a sunburn, or because you partied too much, or because you had the flu a couple of days before, be sure to mention that in your review. The same goes if you feel you didn't have time to acclimate to the altitude yet.

Some of those things, the guide should have known, but some of those things he couldn't necessarily have known. Whatever may be the case, just describe the facts. And if you're not sure how to interpret those facts, you can just let the readers of your review make up their own minds. Also, how many people were in your group, or were you alone? How fast was the pace? And tell the reader if the guide reminded you to hydrate frequently. Etc.

Ultimately, I do realize how tricky writing such a review is. On one hand, the guide ended up saving your life, and you should be super grateful, and super grateful for all the trouble he went through, but on the other hand, it was partially his responsibility (in addition to your own) to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen in the first place.

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    Great second point regarding the fake reviews! – Connor Gurney Dec 21 '17 at 8:20
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I seem to be going against the general flow here, but I'm going to offer a contrary opinion. I've been in that sort of environment in South Africa as well as Zambia and Botswana and I would not give any kind of positive review to a tour guide who didn't pretty much force me to keep well hydrated and take things easily. In places like that (and this is especially true at altitude) it is possible to catastrophically dehydrate without even noticing you are sweating, the air can be that dry.

I would personally consider your collapse as a failing on the part of the guide who I would expect to be perfectly aware of the hazards of the trip. If you had failed to disclose a pre-existing medical condition that's one thing, but to let someone in their care dehydrate and collapse from heat-stroke is quite another.

I would review the whole situation and let the reader make up their mind. Post the positives (the calm and professional handling of the situation, the quite incredible rescue service, of which I have never heard the equal) and the negatives (he took you out into a hostile environment and didn't keep you hydrated).

If I've read this incorrectly I apologise but I do feel he let you down.

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    People have different sensitivities. And some can faint even in perfectly fine conditions. – TRiG Dec 21 '17 at 13:07
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    @TRiG - That is perfectly true but with no mention of a pre-existing medical condition in the OP I would certainly expect a competent, professional tour guide in such conditions to ensure that anyone in their charge remained well hydrated and not in discomfort from the heat. I've been to these places and always had guides who would practically force me and my family to drink water frequently. It should be obvious when someone is in distress, before they collapse at your feet. Unless something is not being disclosed I can only assume a failing on the guide's part. – Spratty Dec 21 '17 at 16:14
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    Your thesis is that if person X has a problem, it must therefore have been person Y's job to intervene. That it is others' job to protect us from ourselves. This smacks of disclaimerism/nanny-statism. As such, your answer needs at least 5 warning labels. – Harper Dec 21 '17 at 21:02
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    @Harper no, his thesis is that it is the job of the guide to protect the client from the environment, which.....is probably a guide's most important job. – ajd Dec 22 '17 at 6:56
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    The heat in South Africa is unusual compared to what many tourists would be used to. Moreover, a good guide for a strenuous trip should be able to judge their client's physical condition/limitations/experience and be able to adapt accordingly. It may not be their "job" to babysit the client's water intake, but if they don't realize the client is dehydrated until they faint from heat exhaustion, then then to me shows a pretty serious lack of awareness on the guide's part. – ajd Dec 23 '17 at 7:08
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What is the purpose of a review? The purpose is to help others evaluate the worthiness of this particular tour guide (versus others or other activities). It is not a travelogue or tell-your-story soapbox; Blogspot gives those away for free.

Most customers will not have a medical emergency. So on one hand, your description of your trouble is totally useless to them. But on the other hand, it does give a rare behind-the-curtain look at the guy's performance under pressure and with the unanticipated, and is useful on that basis. So I think discussing it is constructive to the extent it informs the next booker but no more really.

As far as paragraphs and paragraphs of setting up the story and giving context, I for one find that irksome and tedious - you know the feeling... You pick up an alt-weekly paper, eager to read their music or theater review, and you find yourself in a long-format "piece" which gasses on for 3/4 of the page before saying boo about the event itself. That. Don't do that in reviews.

One of the best things I ever learned is "Ideas used to be a dime a dozen. Now, they're a nickel a bushel." -- Don Lancaster. The conceptual output of a person's brain has far, far, far less value than that brain would like to believe, and only certain very particular things create value.

  • @StephanBranczyk you probably meant to post this under the other answer where we're discussing that. This answer doesn't address it at all. – Harper Dec 23 '17 at 20:24

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