Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments July 27-31

Alas, we enter the eighth month with 42 percent of 2009 to go. I don't know about you, but the year for me has been long yet gone by quickly— an interesting paradox. But now August approaches, bringing New York's hazy-hot-and-humid days with it, and I think the heat is getting to a lot us. Just look at the comments that readers have been posting online, and you'll see what I mean.

Lost In Translation

Before we get into the nitty gritty of some things that were said on, I'd prefer to start on a more refreshing note. When Jena Tesse Fox wrote a brief on the Turkish Culture & Tourist Office launching an official YouTube channel to promote travel to Turkey, a reader posted two words on our message board that I've never seen or heard before. Jessan Dunn Otis wrote:
Cok guzel!

At first, I figured it was a spammer or perhaps some poor spelling. Either a spyware bot was bothering us or Jessan suggesting we grab a can of Coke and guzzle it down on a hot summer day. After a brief perusing of translations and pages out there on the Internets, I discovered that "Cok guzel," in Turkish, means "Turkey is beautiful!"

I've never been to Turkey, but after watching the video below, I agree with Jessan:

The place where Europe, Asia and the Middle East converge must be fascinating.

Messing With Miss Texas

Beauty queens make for some great news stories, don't they? In 2006, Donald Trump and  Rosie O'Donnell went to war over the airwaves after Trump allowed Miss USA Tara Conner to keep her title after reports that she had been drinking underage, tested positive for cocaine, and kissed Miss Teen USA Katie Blair. Earlier this year, Carrie Prejean answered a question from Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr. (aka Perez Hilton) about gay marriage and immediately became a champion of the right wing and target of the left wing.

Now, we have an exclusive report by a reader about the behavior of Miss Texas USA Brooke Daniels. The pageant queen recently visited Cancun in Mexico to assist in the Miss Spain Pageant, which had been moved to Mexico due to the economic strain of production. "Everyone has been very nice," Daniels said. She must not have run into Lisa Iewis Ishman, who does not have nice things to say about the Texan, commenting:
I was staying at this beautiful resort when Miss Texas was here and must say that she did not conduct herself as a representative of the Lone Star State. She and her sister always had a drink in their hands and spent hours upon hours posing by them selves in provocative poses as their grandmother/chaperone clicked away. Certainly not like the Miss Universe of the '70's that was my cousin. These girls reminded me of that Paris Hilton. Very sad indeed.

That's a shame to hear, but shouldn't be that surprising, should it? Young Americans plus travel to Cancun rarely result in the most admirable or professional of behavior (Spring Break anyone?). Although rumor has it that type of wildness is abating just a bit. Still, as much as Miss Texas may not have been on her best behavior, she could have embarrassed herself and her state in much worse ways. Remember Miss South Carolina in the Miss Teen USA Pageant in 2007?

See what I mean?

More On United Airlines

Whether it's the proposed policy change on credit card cost transfers, or a country singer crooning about how his guitars broke, we've been covering many stories on United Airlines as of late. For awhile, most readers commented on how agents and agencies should unite in opposition to the airline and stop selling tickets for the carrier.

But there's now a tangent opinion being shared by one Alan Fiermonte who, we should note, has cited poor financial performance at ASTA, started a campaign for ASTA's national director election, been disqualified from running, and has recently resigned from the ASTA. Commenting on George Dooley's piece titled "ASTA Urges Agents to Fight United, Contact Congress," Fiermonte wrote:
Take a look at ASTA PAC 2008 contributions to Arcuri and Velazquez and you'll see why Arcuri is out front on this. Due to his slight victory in the last election, he has a RNC targeted campaign in upstate NY and very little money. And ASTA PAC's latest FEC report on 7/15/09 shows more money flowing to Arcuri.

If I were well-versed in the the operations of ASTA, United, and campaigns, I would share my two cents here. But I'm not. Therefore, I leave it open to you, readers. Take a look at the site and help me out. Does Fiermonte's citation raise legitimate questions? Does his recent history of criticism and campaigning skew his view?

War Of Words

Saving the best for last, it's time to talk about YTB (yet again). The controversial company held its annual convention this week, and George Dooley interviewed one of the attendees, and staunch supporter of YTB, Doug Bauknight, to get a different perspective on the company. Needless to say, it didn't take long for several comments to come flying off the handle. See for yourself:

Lou Sthul wrote:
It looks like some of the rats haven't jumped the sinking ship - YET.

Rabbi Pedro Goldstein said:
The convention is drawing 1/3 of the people who showed up last year which was 1/2 of the people who attended the year before that. MAN THE LIFE BOATS ! !

Suraj Zutshi is looking for an even keel, commenting:
I have no idea why the conversations got so vitriolic from both sides. As a CTC and CTIE, I do resent just anyone being able to sell travel and there is consulting, advising and professional counseling. To the good RTA's lots of luck, you will probably make it but please take pride in what you do and act as professionals. Stickers on the car saying 'travel like a travel agent' is an insult to anyone in our exciting industry. When you approach the bartender, bus driver and mailman to sell a website, is NOT selling travel. That is pure hustling and that is what experienced Travel Professionals do not like. Good Luck.

bety defended:
Noone makes money without hard work. If YTB isn't for you stop complaining about it.  Seems like they must be showing success if there is so much talk and concern about it.  It works for me and many of my friends so worry about your own business and leave mine alone.

jay shared:
Whether you like what YTB does, or hate what they do, much to much time is wasted talking about it. If people spent as much time sharpening thier skills, and working hard, vs bashing a business model they dont understand or wouldnt survive in, they would flourish despite hard times. Stop crying, get selling!

Attack and defense of YTB even made its way into last week's weekly wrapup, where I playfully corrected one Charles Riggins for his confusing John McCain with George W. Bush and the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Much to his credit, Charles responded to my column, saying:
Thank you Kirk for Correcting My Mistake. It was John McCain that I was thinking of. However the message remains the same as Proven by James P. If you are on TOP, someone will always take shots at you to try and improve their position. Those that do will one day realize that you don't have to kick others or call them Names to feel good about yourself. In Life we all have choices and are free to choose as we wish. I choose YTB, you chose something else and I wish you well. Either way, in business if you don't do anything you won't make anything. Before you pass judgment, Get The Facts. If you can't see the opportunity then it’s not for you. For the facts, Email me at [email protected] Thanks Charles.

And who is this James P of which Charles speaks? He's a reader of course, who posted a comment before Charles, stating:
Kirk, don't reluctantly call Charles out. His actions alone demonstrate the lack of professionalism and education YTB agents have. He brags and brags (the unprofessional part) and then clearly gets the 2008 election wrong (the uneducated part). TRUE agents should not feel bad to call out amateurs with a website.

James, you should know that I am not a travel agent but a web journalist, and I'm not sure if I felt bad pointing out a minor error. And Charles, thanks for coming back to read up on what was shared and for being a good sport. Part of my goal in sharing comments from the weeks and adding my take on them is to get the readers to engage each other in some constructive dialogue that doesn't require organized meetings or scheduled face-to-face time. I'm glad that readers (whether they are against YTB or for it) are speaking their minds here at, and not butting heads live at the convention. Otherwise, it would look like a South Korean parliament meeting (you'll see what I mean in the clip below).

Speaking of dialogue in real time while online, don't forget to sign up or log in to AgentNation, the only online social community for all types of travel agents. Some may not like the fact that there is a YTB group on the site, but we believe it may serve as a means for those who are a part of to engage with those who are apart from on important issues. If we were covering political news and had a social media site for political junkies, we wouldn't include one party while shunning the other. So as we cover travel industry news and seeing that YTB is clearly an ongoing issue for those within the industry, we are not throwing our support behind YTB nor are we condemning it. We providing platforms for the issue to be addressed among agents, readers and others.

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