Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: December 14-18

As much as I would like to say this will be the last Weekly Wrap column of the year, in part to the upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays making for short work weeks, the fact remains that there was such a plethora of intriguing comments posted since I started this column back in June that A Yearly Wrap is certainly in the works. So, note to readers, you only have a few more days to share your wackiest, zaniest, and most profound statements here at if you want to make that list. Otherwise, you're just another target on a day-by-day basis. So let's wrap up this week.

Apparently, U.S. Beaches are Lame

In the spirit of Memorial Day weekend marking the symbolic start of summer, we published a story late last May about Dr. Beach's top 10 beaches for 2009. Now, almost seven months later, a reader named Murray chimes in about the list and the headlin that accompanied it, saying:

You don't think that "Top 10 US Beaches" would be a better title? I only want to know where the REAL Top Beaches are.

Murray has a point about the headline. Perhaps "Top U.S. Beaches" (note the periods) would have been more specific (and more effective for our Search Enginge Optimization). However, I would like to know, in Murray's opinion, what constitutes a "real" beach. While I was working for Dan's Papers and the Montauk Pioneer almost 10 years ago, I had the fortune to spend plenty of time at the third best beach in the list (Coopers Beach, Southampton, NY) as well as the sixth best (Main Beach, East Hampton, NY). These places seemed pretty real to me. Both have nearly-white sand and are popular among locals and visitors. Surfers and bodyboarders have their territory, swimmers have their space, and sun bathers have easy access to public bathrooms and an expansive parking lot. Also, the lifeguards were always kind enough to let you know the water temp and sea condidtions if you call them up. So Murray, and anyone else who wants to speak out on this, what is not real enough about these two, or any other beach?

In the interest of sharing other beaches that have made our lists, here's the list of the most dangerous beaches in the world, here's the list of the best city beaches in the world, and here's the list of the best dog-friendly beaches. Hopefully, some of these live up to Murray's high standards.

Another Cuba Comment

As you recall my citing last week, we received a fair amount of comments on Joe Pike's story on his visit to Cuba (available in our print edition next week!) and fortunately Joe picked up the baton for me to address the comments himself. One of the commenters Joe addressed was J August. Who has since returned to original story to post a direct response to a comment made by another reader. J August posted:

Hey Mark Mc, dunno where you've been getting your information but please quote your sources, what you describe is not the Cuba I have seen.

With his first comment, August nearly stole my heart with the use of the word "hooey." But now he/she is asking one reader to cite sources when he /she didn't cite any when sharing his/her opinion. What gives, J? Do you think the rules don't apply to you? Oh wait, there aren't really any rules on the Internet. Still, there's some hypocrisy in his demands. And, just for the record, here is what Marc Mc orginially wrote:

Learn about Cuba? What? This agent knows all I need to know about Cuba - enough to never recommend it to any of my clients. Could you recommend a destination where you are advised to bring your own toilet paper? Where you might not have electricity 24 hours a day? Where the only citizens you will see smiling are those whose raft is ready to set sail for the Keys? The only thing that is acurate about this story is that a five star "resort" in Cuba maybe equal to a three star in the US. That is a gross understatement. I don't need to know ANYTHING else about this country that I have not known thru history and current events. No thanks. This agent will not be recommending or booking Cuba.

How did Joe respond to these comments himself? Check it out here.

Home-Based Is NOT A Dirty Word

Last Friday, Michael Browne engaged our independent readers in a conversation with a column inquiring about how home-based agents feel about not working in an office or brick-and-mortar agency. Two agents shared their story to shed some light.

Karen Quinn wrote:
When I began my home-based agency in 1990, I didn't mention I was home based, as it was seen as unprofessional. I still do not advertise as such. However, I do have a lovely home office, and I do meet with clients in my home office. Most are quite impressed with the professionalism of my business. In fact, many express how ideal my set up is.

Rich Walton said:
Home-based may be seen by some as being unprofessional. I have operated a CruiseOne franchise out of my home for 15 years and meet with customers at my home office at their leisure. Most often I can take care of issues or questions over the phone, but I am always available to meet at any hour.
I am also a wedding photographer. I have met with customers out my home for 30 years in this business. In fact, it is accepted that most wedding photographers do work out of their home studios. Photography clients recognize the advantages of a home-based enterprise: low overhead saves them money, easy parking and a come-as-as-you-are mentality. There is no pressure in this setting. Folks can relax, ask questions and not be disurbed by people waiting in line to speak with an agent or by the noise of other conversations going on around them.
Mostly, I believe the modern customer wants good advice and a good price, without waiting. If the home office can provide this, the customer will buy!

In short, I believe that you should be proud of what you do if it brings something postive to others lives while benefiting your own. Although I'm no travel professional, I hope my word means something on that account.

Rebating IS A Dirty Word

When we posted a poll last week asking agents if they felt cruise rebating was getting better or worse or staying the same in 2009, we received more than 100 votes as well as a storm of comments. In fact, we received enough juicy comments (including ones comparing cruise rebating to being a thief or a prostitute) to create a web-exclusive story to showcase what has been said. With the exception of a few votes and only one comment defending cruise rebating, it appears the phrase is not looked at favorably in the industry. Just click through the links above to see for yourself, because listing them (again) would take up valuable space and time. But before you do that, there are three comments that were posted in the last 72 hours that are of interest.

One appears to be directly from a supplier. Noting our story in which we addressed the comments, Mimi Weisband of Crystal Cruises had this to share:

Crystal Cruises has a strict no-rebating policy.
We will apply stiff commission penalties to any agency found to be offering consumers any kind of cash rebate, discount, payment in kind or in any other manner, a Crystal cruise fare below Crystal Cruises’ published savings rate.
Under the new policy, agencies may continue to offer value-added, non-cash amenities including Crystal shipboard spending credits, provided that the total value of the amenities does not exceed 8 percent of the cruise revenue – the line’s lowest published fare less applicable Crystal discounts. Additionally, amenities offered or granted by a Group and a member agency of the Group must be combined so as not to exceed the 8 percent limit. Under the policy, gift cards or certificates having a cash value, such as a retail or credit gift card, are not permitted.
We want to provide travel agents the confidence to sell our product based on the value of the product and one's ability to sell.

It's always great to hear from suppliers. So thank you Mimi for joining the discussion for agents to get your line's perspective.

The other two comments on the matter were shared by agents.

Joy Feinstein posted:
The client who looks for rebates is not the client you want. Lookfor any available amenities to enhance their experiences, but maintain a level playing field. That's the honorable thing to do.

Kim Johnson wrote:
When you have 10-year clients who have found or affordable (selling Globus) that blatently rebate 10% and more --and the vendors do nothing about it-- you either have to match and work for 2-5% commsn or lose the clients forever. Even loyal past clients don't care what kind of svc you have given if they can save hundreds of dollars. The best you can do is tell your clients about the heavy rebaters who are now out of business/bankrupt. Even then, most clients only see $$$ and are willing to risk a ruined vacation. It's a shame vendors don't retract overrides from those who advertise rebated prices.

I'm going to be honest with you. This story has become as big as the lack of knowledge I have on the cruise industry that I cannot add much light here. So instead of wasting your time with my two cents, how about you share yours here in the weekly wrap, here in the original poll, here in the story about the comments and poll, or even here in a forum on AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel professionals. You can also hit us up on our Facebook page or on our Twitter page. Whatever is easiest for you is fine with us. We just want to hear from you. Talk to you soon, my friends.