First I would like to say, to those who have been my client and to those who may be my future clients, I thank you.
Now Woman's Day has posted an article originally named 10 things a travel agent will not tell you. Because of the uproar from agents and agencies they have removed one of the points but still left 9 erroneous and misleading facts up.
To summarize the points the article makes about travel agents.
1) We make commission and will push you to get things you don't want to make more money or get big bonuses.
2) We cannot book all airlines and some we can only book as a package
3) We lie about our experiences to close a sale and tell a client that we have been somewhere we have not.
4) We lie and mislead you to only book your trip during certain days so we can get more commission.
5) We force travel insurance when it isn't necessary.
6) Travel agents are only good (sometimes) for big trips. (Oh and it is going to cost you big)
7) TA's will lie about refunding from online booking systems to get you to book through us instead.
8) A travel Agent may not find you the best price
9) Get a travel rewards card. Your agent doesn't like those and don't want you to use them.
Click here for the Woman's Day article
Ok Now to argue the points. (In general all of WD's points are based on Agents drive for commission and airfare)
1) A lot of agents anymore are home based and are not in this to get rich. It is a side job or something they do because they like to help others explore. Are there bonuses? Yes. But they are not easily attained and most of your home based agents will not see these bonuses or may only qualify for a few of them. So we are not driven by them.
2) Ok this one is a bit of a mash. Can we book airlines? Yes, but most of the time we are not doing anything different than you would do, as most airlines do not pay commission anymore so there is not a booking engine for us to work through. Not to mention you will usually get a better deal booking it directly with the airline anyways. Whether you book it or we book it the price will generally be the same unless an agent adds a fee for their time. Some agents will book air for you and they will receive nothing for it.
Also, sites like Expedia and Travelocity don't always have all airlines listed. If you do a search you will notice that Southwest, American Airlines, and Frontier are not listed. Those can be great airlines to fly and I know for a fact Southwest runs some awesome promos from time to time.
3) I know that I have not been everywhere. I wish I had, as I would be able to give you the full details on every resort. But time and cost are just two things that prevent this from being attainable. So like most agents if we are unfamiliar with something we will do one of a few things. We will research places. Look up reviews, contact other agents or clients that have been there and get their opinions and give you the best choices we find out of the places we have found that seem to fit your preferences the best. The other option is to guide you to an agent that has more experience in the destination you are looking for.
4) All agents that I know of will look at what you are looking for; dates you want to go and will let you know if there is a cheaper day to go if they find something. In general the only thing that will change as far as moving your vacation a day or three will be the cost of air. Usually resort fees have broader fee schedules and usually unless you move your dates by weeks you will not see a price difference or if you do it will be a small one.
5) We do not force travel insurance. In fact it has become law that we do not automatically give you insurance. We must have your approval in order to add insurance. If we add it and you didn't agree to it we can get into major trouble. In the end it is your choice. Whether you want it or not, the decision is up to you. Now I will say this. While there may be times where your own insurances will cover all of your possible issues there are some things your insurances may not cover and the insurances we offer will usually be built specifically for traveling. We can't force you into it. But for around $100 to have a guarantee that if your bags are lost or a hurricane comes or you need emergency evacuation you have that piece of mind knowing you will have the help you need not only from the travel insurance but usually the travel agent will be there to help also.
6) Travel agents can be a help to you whether it is just a hotel reservation or a 2 week safari in Africa. If you book with an agent, they are there to help you through any issues you may have. Now I am not saying we will be able to fix everything 100% every time. But if you have been working with an agent, they know you. You are comfortable talking with them and they can contact the hotel/resort/destination for you and I can guarantee that they will try their hardest and will do everything they can to resolve whatever the issue may have been. I had one client who was on their family vacation. In the process of getting to their resort they got lost and they couldn't get their GPS to work. They contacted me at almost 10pm at night. I helped figure out where they were and got them to where they needed to be. I wasn't mad about it. It is what I do and why I am here for you.
7) This one I can't say much about other than we don't lie about it. There is no reason for us to. In the past getting refunds for cancellation or getting changes were not easy to do with online booking engines. Those processes may have changed but I still hear a lot of complaints about online booking engines when assistance is needed. Call a number, hope to get a person you can understand and get your issue resolved. If you book through an agent, your agent is there to help you. They will be the one you call and we will take it from there. They are the one doing the leg work to assist you and to help make everything goes smooth and easy. If you are not happy about something your agent will not be happy. As said before, we are not here for just commissions. We are here to help. We want you to have a good trip. We enjoy hearing of the great time our clients had about the things they experienced. If you have a bad trip that reflects on us so our goal is to keep you happy. That can't be said so much for someone who is working for an online call service. If you don't like their service it isn't much to them. You will hang up and they will move on; they don't get to know you and your family like an agent will.
8) This one I will be honest with. I may not find you the best deal or cheapest room rate. No agent will know every deal that every hotel, supplier or vendor may offer. We have a good idea on most but will never be able to keep track of them all. So yes, you may find a better deal or a cheaper room. But if you do find a deal and you contact your agent they will work with you to get that deal.
Now for an example: Say you work with an agent and book a trip to Walt Disney World©. Now, say an offer comes out for this vacation you booked months ago. That agent will be on the phone trying to apply that offer to save you money. And I can attest to this because when these offers come out, it is not uncommon to be on hold for several hours just to apply one discount. The last discount came out I was on hold for roughly 3 hours and 30 minutes. There were other agents that were on hold for 4 - 5+ hours. Why? To ensure their clients got a better price. And yes it does cut our commissions down but as said before, that isn't the only reason we do this and that example shows it right there.
9) I don't know what the point is to this point they were trying to make. If you have a rewards card we should be able to use it. Disney© has a rewards Visa and points earned can be used for your Disney vacation and any agent will assist you with this. Again, this one I believe is in reference mostly to airfare as that is what most rewards points are good for. Some can be used for hotels (the Disney rewards Visa) but most often they are for air. But since we don't get commission on most airfare this doesn't affect us. So if you have one, don't be afraid to mention it to your agent. They will look into it and apply them when applicable. (Unless you have points for air and book yourself)
So if you read their article and then referenced my points against theirs, you can see that their article is full of misinformation and untruths. Then if you look through the replies from all of the agents about the article you will just see more validation to the points I made here.
Now some have looked into this article and those whom have been quoted in it.
Here is what was found:
Donna Cambridge, owner of Chesterfield Cruise & Travel is out of business.
After searching for Wendy Stone, Home Based Agent we were unable to find any reference at all of her whereabouts or if she is still in business.
Author - Anne Rodreique-Jones now works for XO Group Media. However, she worked for an online travel agency prior to that. Her information in this article would be deemed as biased.
Here is their lame apology.
"Thank you to all the hard-working travel agents who provided feedback on this story. The goal of this article was to inform consumers on how they can get the best prices on travel. Helping readers find value is Woman’s Day’s main objective, and we recognize that travel agents provide valuable services that help women’s vacation dreams come true. We’re very sorry if that didn’t come through with this article. We’re happy to say we will be highlighting these services in the October issue of Woman’s Day magazine and in a story in December on WomansDay.com. We’ve thoroughly reviewed this article and have removed point 9 (about airline commission) based on information you provided. We thank you again for sharing your expertise and doing the great work that you do. We’re looking forward to working with some of you closely on our December online feature story."
Now as was said, WD has looked over the article and removed one of the points and offered the above lame apology. But for me that isn't good enough. A lot of people read WD and this misinformation does us agents no justice. I ask that this article be removed completely. And if you agree please let them know. If you receive a subscription from them I ask you to cancel it. From what I am gathering we are not the first group that they have written an article about like this and if that is their practice then none of their articles do anyone any good.