More than 24 years ago and long before her bank travel career, Sandy Green was a single, devoted mother to her little girl, Shana. She had little interest in dating and even vowed not to ever marry anyone with children.
But a blind date on a Saturday night that evidently blinded this determined mom to all her past promises changed all that. “Don, father of three sons, was the nicest person I’d ever met. We were married in four months,” said Green, vice president and Pineapple Gold Club director at Franklin Synergy Bank in Franklin, Tennessee, with a sigh.
Don held the key not only to Green’s heart but perhaps also to her future in travel. A handsome computer geek back in the day when computer geeks, handsome or otherwise, were rare, Don sold a systems program to a worldwide weight-loss company. The windfall took this adventurous couple around the world to train employees of the company on the systems program and this newfangled machine called a computer.
“It was almost like a fairy tale. It certainly gave me a taste for travel,” said Green.
Relationships that abound with loyalty
Fast-forward 10 years, when Green was offered a bank travel director position for a fairly new club. “I really wasn’t interested in a job that required I leave my family, but they gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” she said. “That was 14 years ago, and I have followed our president, Richard Herrington, to travel club positions at three different banks.
“He’s asked me to come with him on every move, and there is no way I would turn down this wonderful man who is not only the bank president but the chief cheerleader of bank travel,” Green said.
Herrington has probably honed his cheerleading skills over his years with Green, because it seems that while she followed him to different banks, the customers followed Green.
“I know Richard appreciates my instincts but, perhaps more importantly, the loyalty that customers have with a good travel club,” she said. “While we don’t require travelers to be a bank customer, several people who have traveled with us — many who warned me up front they would never open an account with us — came home and deposited money in our bank.
“Let me add that these successful experiences are not only because of our fun travels, but also because these travelers sometimes meet Richard, carrying luggage, pushing wheelchairs and over dinner, on the trips. I can’t emphasize the positive impression people get when they see our bank president so committed to his customers,” Green said.
Green also didn’t have to make the choice between leaving her husband and traveling. Don jumps aboard on every overnight trip, much to his wife’s delight.
“The customers are also happy to see him handling luggage and helping women up steep stairs. Women swoon, ‘Oh, he’s the sweetest man,’” Green said with a laugh.
Ensuring a good time
With a membership of around 350, the Pineapple Gold Club has taken a Mediterranean cruise, a Seine River cruise and an Alaska excursion in recent years.
“We spent 17 days in the Mediterranean, and thanks to spectacular sights, a Celebrity ship that wasn’t so huge and the fact we didn’t have to pack and unpack over that long period of time, it was the best,” she said. “We were on the Seine River and in Normandy on the 60th anniversary of D-Day, and it was a poignant and emotional experience, especially with our World War II vets.
“And Alaska? I recommend that no one miss an Alaskan experience. Other than a heart attack and a broken leg, I think this was one of our group’s favorite trips,” said Green.
Although Green was serious about the club’s love of the place nicknamed the Last Frontier, she also appreciated that after more than $200,000 worth of medical bills in Alaska, everything was paid for thanks to a good insurance program.
“We don’t go anywhere without it, and for all of our travelers, it’s not an option. They have to take it to travel with us,” she said.
Grilled grouper and weekly jalapeño fests
Green, who admitted that the best feeling is when very happy campers are off the motorcoach and on their way home, also said she has a pet peeve that will resonate with her colleagues in the bank travel world.
“So many people say to me, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky. All you do is go on vacation.’ I’d like to respond, ‘I haven’t been on a vacation in months.’
“When our group returns home, I may not be able to tell you anything we’ve seen, but I can tell you every crisis. I feel such a responsibility to make sure everyone enjoys themselves, and I never want customers to know there is a problem.
“This is such a rewarding job, but it is often a hard job.”
Green also admitted that her favorite activity is travel, but that means personal leisure travel with her favorite companion: Don. They take every opportunity to return to their favorite vacation spot, Destin, Florida, where the most stressful decision of the day is picking a restaurant for seafood that night.
When at home, there is no such stress when it comes to one weekly dining ritual. “Don and I have dinner every Wednesday night with his sons and the grandkids at a Mexican restaurant. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner every week without the pressure,” she said.
Green counts her blessings with her leadership of the Pineapple Gold Club, an extraordinary boss, and a husband and family she adores. She never forgets those blessings and, accordingly, tries to give back.
“We’re soon taking a trip I call ‘Springtime on the Gulf Coast,’” she said. “It will offer time in Mobile [Alabama] at Bellingrath Gardens, a Blue Angels Show in Pensacola [Florida], a little gambling at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi [Mississippi], but most importantly, a weekend in New Orleans.
“Let those folks in New Orleans know that Katrina hasn’t deterred us one bit from enjoying their great city. We’re looking forward to seeing them soon.”
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