The Era of “It Was All Too Good to be True” is Over

Did any of us really believe that Airborne eased the effects, even prevented, the common cold? I giggled when I heard on the news that the company that produces it had agreed to discontinue those claims and pay out $7 million in settlements for misleading advertising. What was funny was that since I was little, I’ve always heard that there is no cure for the common cold and yet, somewhere along the way a pill came out, over the counter no less, that attacked the common cold issue head on. Who’d have thought?

What else was too good to be true in 2008? That people could buy a house for no money down and get a mortgage valued at four or five times their income. I won’t dwell on that one.

Gen Y as a growing luxury travel audience, had me skeptical even prior to 2008. Having 25-year-olds walk into a travel agent’s office claiming money was no object, that only the top suite in the best hotel would work for them, was too good to be true. I know that while some of these kids could truly pay for their luxury trips, I always suspected that many of them were just racking up the expenses on their credit cards and now they’re paying for it. Hey, it was good while it lasted, though.

It would be very easy for me to say that the investors in Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities—they’re the ones who have suffered from the alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme—should have known that the firm’s investment strategy was too good to be true, but that one is really none of my business. To quote one of my colleagues, who this morning read about all of Madoff’s friends in Palm Beach who have endured untold losses: “Wow, I never thought I would feel so sorry for very rich people, but I do.”

My point is that when it comes to throwing your money (or your good name, or the trust of your friends and family) around, you shouldn’t believe that magic really does exist. We all want to be a part of the next new best thing, but if that new thing isn’t based on the fundamental values we all grew up with, it shouldn’t be trusted.

Now more than ever, this is true of the suppliers you work with. Even though times are tough, the travel industry will always remain a fertile ground for new “operators” who will dangle the dream of high profits for you and a fantasy vacation for your client. In fact, when times get tough, vultures tend to descend more frequently, since road kill is their favorite food. This is not the time to hook up with enterprises you don’t know much about. Keep your investments in the tried-and-true suppliers who saw you through the good times. They need your business now and they’ll remember your loyalty when times get better.

Along those same lines, it’s important you pay attention to the deals that are out there now, and there are a lot of them. Be sure to read the small print. Make sure that “free night” that comes with a four-night stay can be enjoyed during the same trip and not on a future vacation. If it’s a rebate for your client or a bonus commission for you, take heed as to when it will be paid (now or in six months?) or you’ll waste your time chasing it down.

In summary, now is the time to keep your eyes open for scams that will impact your business. Use the same cynicism to peruse “special” offers with the same eye you use to review those “lose 20 pounds in one week” or “earn $1 million selling travel from home” offers. Bottom line? It isn’t going to happen.

Hey, the upside to this “learn-by-burn” era we’ve just wrapped up is that we all enter the new year a heck of a lot smarter than we were last year—and who would have thought that would be possible? Here’s to sticking to the basics in 2009, using patience, skills, hard work and natural intelligence in our businesses. Now that’s magic!

Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for your support in 2008. I hope to meet more of you in 2009. It’s always a joy.

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