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Readers Respond to "Don't Use a Travel Agent" ColumnApril 6, 2010 By: Ruthanne Terrero
Yesterday I wrote a response to a column I read on MSNBC.com, whose headline was “Don’t Use a Travel Agent, 4 Trips You Should Always Book Yourself.
In it, I stated that the article had some good points and some, not so much.
Here are several letters from our readers on the topic. Let me know what you think of these responses, and of the article by visiting any of the links above.
“Hello Ruthanne! I was reading the article, and just like you, my hair on the back of neck stood up... I was very interested in reading this, too.
I have a prime example of WHY a person should use a travel agent for 95 percent of their travel, to get HELP in an emergency situation! I had a client just this past weekend sail on a ship to Cozumel, and they did not make it back to the ship in time, due to some miscommunication (none of my doing, mind you). Hence, they missed their ship. So, turns out that six other people missed their ship, and one of the couples booked their own trip with the cruise line directly, zo they ended up not getting any personal attention. I was able to get my clients assistance, as well as in picking up their personal belongings at the port for them! The couple I met at the port this morning while picking up my client's belongings was super razzled, and I told them that in the future I would recommend they use a travel agent, they agreed. My clients were so happy they had a person to go to, especially since it was Easter weeke
I don't know where this person [Chris Elliott] gets the idea that travel agents are out to get the next fams, but have you been on a fam LATELY??? They are pricy, and never really available, ughh.. I wish this person would spend a few days with a travel agent to see what we really do on a day-to-day basis.” Sabine Harris, MCC
“Overall I felt the author was fair and on point. If I don't "take care of business" and take care of my clients they will, and should, take their business elsewhere. On rare occasions I have encountered a client who actually knows more about a destination than I do. They can be wonderful to work with because they know exactly what they want - they just prefer to deal with an agent for any numbers of reasons. Unfortunately, the universe has to balance things out so we encounter the client who just thinks they know more than we do. That's when it becomes hard to avoid be coming one of the agents cited in the article. I confess that I have been less than stellar in my response to some clients. I'm trying hard to behave, but I'm human (I think).”
“Bad agents living for the next FAM trip? You must be kidding! The real FAM trips are the ones we negotiate ourselves with the hotels that we use for our clients, and in my case, the hotels that I review on my radio show. This is a defamation of my character, and Christopher Elliot obviously has never dealt with a fabulous travel agent. For those of you out there to whom he might go to for advice? DON'T SEND HIM! This man knows nothing about the experience, travel, and hours that it takes to create a sensational itinerary...nor does he appreciate the fact that my services are free. No other service that I know of gives free advice and planning that transforms a journey the way my expertise does! Trips you know about yourself? Do you know the general managers at almost every hotel worth knowing about, who can do things for you, the way they do for MY clients? And trips you have TIME to book yourself? All the time in the world wouldn't get a traveler what my clients get from me.”
“We are taught in risk management that there are only three things that one can do to manage risk:
#1: Assign the risk; #2: Insure the risk. or #3 (and the least attractive option) absorb the risk.
By doing it yourself you absorb the risk. What's at stake? Money? That can be replaced. Experience? Not really. Time. Once spent it is gone forever. Travel agents are human and subject to all of the limitations that the rest of the world is but it's a guaranteee that they care about the customer and his satisfaction, the use and managemnent of his time. It's a resource well worth embracing by all travelers.” Bob Malmberg
“As with any profession, there are good and bad agents. I was disappointed that [Chris Elliott] didn't offer advice as to what to look for in a good agent, as a great agent can make or break your trip.”
“I've actually had clients that have tried to book on the web but then come to me and say, ‘help.’ Or, they have booked on the web and then find themselves ‘stranded’ in a sea of information they do not know what to do with. Christopher Elliott writes a decent article, and in the long run, is supportive of agents, but I wish he were a stronger advocate. A good agent does a great job and the outcome is happy and returning clients.”
Vacation Memories Travel Services
“I've had lots of clients who have made the wrong choice and then come to me for help or have gotten to a hotel and realized that the booking that they made online was not actually sent to the hotel. YIKES! I think that it's ALWAYS wise to contact a travel agent. Since I receive my commission from the tour companies, hotels, and cruise lines...it is NOT more expensive to book through me.”
Ronda Barnett Zeneri
“I think the article, and your comments regarding it are ‘spot on.’ Travel agents are no longer order takers, but professionals that you should use for their service and expertise, not for the cheapest rate. If your agent doesn't want your business, find one who does. There are a lot of truly educated, professional travel agents.”
Jean Geisinger Hopkins
“Most of his article deals with people who have the WRONG agent. No agent can know everything, and I'd recommend finding an agent who specializes in the trip you want to take. As for being more expensive, I've never found that... unless someone wants a simple flight, which as the article says, I have no interest in.”