Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: March 8-12

There were several instances last year when I take every opportunity possible to reference sci-fi flicks that were coming out in 2009. The whole human travel agent versus online travel agents was too easy to use in reference humans against machines in Terminator Salvation and Transformers 2.

But this week's a little different. You see, an Australian trave insurance firm named iTrek has started a contest titled "The Travel Agent is Dead." Obviously, several readers took offense to the idea. But before we take a look at what they said, just watch this clip. You're not dead, or perhaps you're not quite dead yet.

Now that we've all had a good laugh, let's take a look at what agens are saying. There's no laughing matter here, especially considering that the organization allegedly behind iTrek is one that is not so popular with the masses for some time. On top of that, one agent even seems to aggree with iTrek.

Tony Lopes wrote:

I agree that in the long run the TA is dead.
On the other side of the coin, if the traveller has to deal with a error making computer, that is not programmed to allow you to bitch for sympathy real or imanagery the traveller has a problem. i am recommending my clients to book on line for their airline tickets!! and book the land portion with me.

That comment did not sit well with CPatchell, who posted:

Speaking as a professional TA, I sincerely hope that "Tony" will exit this profession as soon as possible since he sees no future ahead of him and leave his poor clients to someone else! My total clientele has risen and existing customers have increased my involvement in their travel plans over the last two years precisely because they want a professional looking out for them, ensuring they can avoid the pitfalls and no-win situations awaiting the novice booking via the internet. More than ever before, the axiom "you get what you pay for" is true. I see a professional when I need services outside my areas of expertise. Why wouldn't people committing serious resources of time and money to travel want a professional utilizing their training and experience on their behalf? iTrek certainly isn't going to be the advocate for a customer when something goes amiss, ie no reservation record when you arrive at midnight on the other side of the world.


Linda had a lighter take on the subject, asking:

I assume the winners will be booking their own trips to Australia?

As much as some may be ready to pile on Tony or iTrek, J. Cobb points out a company behind the curtain that agents should target, writing:

ITrek couldn't do this without the support of their insurance company, in this case Chartis. Chartis owns Travel Guard and Travel Guard provides the assistance services to ITrek. Now we know what Travel Guard thinks about travel agents! By the way, Chartis is owned by AIG and AIG is owned by us ---the American taxpayer. Address complaints to your local congressman and senator.

It didn't take long for the anti-AIG rush to come.

rk group travel shared:

I have started notifying my clients exactly what AIG is doing and why. I have told them I sell travel insurance for their benefit and that I have checked coverages and prices of three different companies for their travel. I now check only two and suggest they seriously consider any other AIG products and services that they may be using. It is time for this company to come to the realization that they are not "to big to fail".  The American consumer is not as naive as this company thinks.

Trudy Richardson wrote:

To AIG I have only one thing to say. Travel Agents are part of the taxpaying public that saved your ass..Now your thank you is to stab us in the back. You have made your stand now we will make ours. We are a valuable asset to you and any seller of travel because we try to teach people the right way to travel. We are stronger than you think and I (an I think many others will follow) will do everything possible to see that sales of AIG related insurance grind to a stop. Sell to the have already proved you are you not have sense enough to know we are the ones who have been educating that public as to why they should spend extra money for travel insurance. Fools, the average American think they are steel plated and nothing will ever happen to them and if it does they can take care of it..they have not a clue unless they have been educated. Go ahead jump out of the frying pan into the fire..I will be the first one there to turn up the heat.

Sarah posted:

I refused to sell AIG Travel Guard when they tried to "buy" my business. It irritated me to no end that they were offering exorbitant commissions to agents when they and more specifically their underwriter were bailed out by the taxpayers. I know they have nice people working with them, but I'll never, ever deal with an underhanded company like that. My clients are too important to me.

This issue is obviously not going away anytime soon. I'm glad I don't live in Connecticut anymore if the outrage against AIG seems to be rebuilding.

Usual Suspects Watch

Not only is YTB back, but so are JJ and John Frenaye. Last week, I mentioned my appreciation of JJ, and he/she has returned with more. Commenting on YTB's new legal challenges, JJ brings the rage again, saying:

I have issues with Traverus and Rovia. Rovia actually tried to recruit not only myself but a major supplier rep I know. Talk about ballsy. Same MO, different name. However, YTB is the most obnoxious and arrogant. They have called TTA's old hens, dinasours and told us they were taking over the travel industry. They conned the gullible and those that could least afford it into their program. I know for a fact they were recruiting individuals who were mentally challenged and working as baggers at grocery stores. This is unconsionable. I have been to their recruiting meetings. They are surreal--more like a cult meeting than anything else.

JJ's not alone, as John Frenaye returns to address comments that were apparently directed at him. Regarding the piece on YTB's legal challenges, where JJ posted the comment above, Frenaye wrote

Not sure how many times it will take to get it through your heads, but my beef IS with MLM and Travel--period. I am sorry if you feel the vendetta is against YTB--it is not.
However, YTB is THE ONLY publicly traded travel MLM and they are also the largest and most arrogant. Their records (to a degree) are public record. Yes, I use them to make the point.
If YTB were private, and Traverus was public, the name Traverus would appear more often on the blog.
Sorry, your own management brought this upon themselves.
I also find it amusing that me, a single small lone voice in the huge 8 trillion dollar a year travel industry is able to get your panties all in a wad! Hmmm, maybe I am doing something right? Maybe I struck a nerve?

John, I think the "panties in a wad" comment will definitely strike a nerve if you haven't already. But anyway, let's take a look at what Frenaye wrote regarding the resignation of YTB's CFO:

@Drew... I think you are wrong. So there! But seriously, you bring up a good point. I might just take some time and go back over the blog and see what was opined and compare it to actuality and come up with a score. I bet it is over 80%!
And did you hear they changed the rules of your 10K Challenge yet again. No longer do you need to distribute and follow up, now your prospects must go and fill out a survey and attest that they watched the video!
Nothing like dangling the carrot in front of your face and then changing the rules.
And, how do you address the need to sell the HQ building, Coach's half million dollar tax lien from the IRA, and his eviction?


As usual, I'm staying out of this. Of course, I encourage you all to join in. It makes my job much more fun.

Ending With a "What The?"

We indeed get some bizarre comments here at Travel Agent. But one this week was so out there I am convinced it must be a joke. You see, we covered a recent report by Skyscanner about foreign tourists that will be visiting the United States in the wake of the recent signing of the Travel Promotion Act. The title of the article is "U.S. Set for Foreign Tourist Invasion," and someone's either having some fun with us or taking the words to literally.

JerryJo wrote:

Protect your home from these guys with a free ADT home security system.

This isn't 1812 JerryJo. I know there are people out there on edge during this ongoing war/whatever on terrorism, but if you read the article again it's about how foreign visitors will hopefully bring a boost to our economy, not upgrade their own by finding your house on Google Maps, renting a car to drive to your neighborhood then stealing your belongings and your wife. I can only assume your an ADT salesman trying to get some leads. And I must say you did a poor job. But thanks for the laugh!

As always, the conversation does not end here. Post a comment below or at the respective articles I linked to above. Of course, you can always write us a note on our Facebook page and send us a tweet on our Twitter page. Even better, discuss things in real-time (and without my poor attempts at snarkiness) at AgentNation.