Travel Agents? Kiss my Patootie!

Cruise ships are progressing from the sublime to the completely ridiculous "floating resorts" we now see.

The Oasis of the Sea, one of the most modern and largest in these days
The Oasis of the Sea, one of the most modern and largest in these days | Source
The first cruise ship, Prinzess Victoria Luise...
The first cruise ship, Prinzess Victoria Luise... | Source

Do your research and keep you guard up!

Travel Agents? Kiss my Patootie!

In my frequent traveler days, travel agents were a pleasure to deal with. They lacked the plethora of destinations available today and often had a good idea of what your preferred holiday dream might consist of. They had reps on the ground in the more popular places and rarely sent customers to resorts only half built, or sited in the middle of air strips, war zones or refugee camps. They really cared and this was really surprising when you knew their good offices were free to the tourists.

Free, because back in these wondrous days, the airlines, shipping companies and the rest were billed by the agents, or deducted at source, for 15% of the fare costs. This was standard throughout the industry, at least, where I happily resided in those halcyon days, the good ‘ol US of…

I was prompted to address this situation when I bought my usual Saturday newspaper, the ‘Mail, from Tesco in Hertfordshire where I now live.

Fully one third of the rag - where the real estate section and sports could once be found - was now crammed full of travel advertisements. Could so many people really have the bread and wanted to get out of the UK this summer? One look out of the window explained the latter thought - an east wind moaned by and it was sleeting, well, it was only two months into Spring! May 15th. (“Ne’er cast a clout ‘till May is out” advises the old but accurate adage). “If there’s then sun in June,” I intoned to myself, “That’s quite a boon,” adding, “It’s soon Wimbledon again, means two weeks of rain!” Poetry can soothe a savage breast.

And as there are holidays to suit everyone’s pocket - a fortnight in the Seychelles for a year of my income, to a weekend’s camping by a bitter, wind-swept coast in Wales for twenty quid a night and damp sheep as company, (No, I didn’t mean that!), an answer to the first part of my musings were revealed to me.

But few of the announcements were by the venues themselves - except for Butlins, which is like going to join the Persian refugees in their tents for a week - all had been acquired by an agent, which seemed to have taken the price the airline or hotel might have charged and multiplied it by two or more. No petty 15% for these acquisitive entrepreneurs these days. They were taken over by that philosophy so vividly described by Michael Douglas in that movie about Wall Street, “Greed has now become legal.”

There are sooo many complaints about these agencies and, ipso facto, the ‘resorts” and cruise ships that are the end result of people’s “dreams,” often becoming their nightmare in fact.

As usual, it seems the upmarket agencies seem to do a fair job if you can afford the Caribbean Islands, the South of France or Monte Carlo, say. You then go to the 5-star hotels and may even fly first-class where you are entertained by the groans, suffering and occasional cardiac arrest of those flying tourist class back there somewhere. “It’s awful, Harry, they should be gagged!”

(You can’t even get a staff member on long haul jumbo flights now in the cheap seats, they have built a hidey-hole for them, accessed by a tiny elevator (lift) where they go and sleep for several hours!). This is sadly true, and they emerge, looking tousled but relaxed to serve breakfast to the lucky tourists who haven’t expired from deep-vein thrombosis - or their neighbor’s halitosis.

So many holidays have gone wrong that many agencies have taken a stand and refused to refund or compensate unhappy customers. This, by the way, is an attitude spreading to many industries in the service sector: banks are refusing to refund wrongly removed fines, etc., insurance companies are using every dodge in the book and many they invent daily to refuse to honor claims. It is becoming a “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s war between customers and the institutions they have to (often by law) do business with. I mean, is there a greater criminal conspiracy anywhere than that between government and vehicle insurers to separate you from as much money as possible?

(The travel insurers amuse me…they charge steep rates to insure for loss and theft then limit their liability to maximum 300 quid per claim! Try getting another Piaget or even a top mobile device for that!)

The television companies have eagerly seized on this suffering and have begun programs such as “Watch Dog,” etc., etc., where the injustices are aired and little is done to correct the situation, (delinquents are even telling the press to get stuffed, knowing the broadcasting moguls won’t spend the money to litigate on the behalf of some sad soul who found cockroaches in his salad at Butlins (it was a staff member, sir, sorry). Occasionally, a major airline or one of the large travel agents will make a “magnanimous” gesture on air and send out a refund check with an apology. You can just hear the firm’s legal eagles whispering, “Do it, do it, Richard, just think of the positive imagery on BBC,” you’ll get back a million from a few quid compensating these sad sacks”

I gradually became weaned off the travel agents as time went by and conditions worsened. I know it’s different if you have the family with you and it’s tough to arrange your holiday for one and all online, going straight to the source. (LOTS of crooks here!). For me, I find the best (read cheapest) air flight to where I want to go - usually Mexico, Spain or the Canaries, As I am fluent in Spanish, I then find a friendly taxi driver and ask him about reasonable, inexpensive and family accommodation…in Mexico, I already have the information or course. Same for eateries and whore-houses, (back a bit!). This way, I am not subject to the vagaries and vulgarities of agents and the internet (except for airline tickets which is usually OK); I don’t arrive in a resort I wouldn’t take my mini Schnauzer to: if I screw-up, then it’s down to me and that’s easier to handle than loosing sleep over some crook chortling as he stuffs his outrageous fees into the bank and then refuses to talk to me if I have a legitimate complaint.

In all ways and walks of life, you need keep your guard up these days, from using your ATM machine, to buying foreign health insurance (won’t be honored in many cases just as you threw your back out trying to get that cockroach from under the bed).

Have a nice dream vacation this year, won’t you?

Afterthought. Sooo many cruises available on dozens of new ships…why are NONE built in the UK shipyards? Mr Cameron???

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Comments 21 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

Well, I've never been outside the U.S. Have no desire to go anywhere I can't drive or walk, and here is an article full of more reasons to continue with that attitude.

Wondered where you have been. No glimpse of you on here for a long time. Hope all is well . . . xx

Bill Yovino profile image

Bill Yovino 3 years ago

@Au fait - goining nowhere and proud to death about it. So sad.

Moonfroth 3 years ago

Good article my friend. And doubly good to hear from YOU again!

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

About as ambitious as your spelling, Billy...


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Clark. Thanks - I don't bother much with HP all comes to an end, doesn't it.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hello Au fait...I have never known why North Americans don't stay home...I would.


brownella profile image

brownella 3 years ago from New England

Interesting hub. I travel pretty frequently but have never gone through a travel agent (now probably never will). I usually book my flights through expedia and find my own hotels and sites to see through So far it's worked out great :)

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

I have used Expedia, too; find Trip Advisor too commercial for my tastes, they use too much subterfuge in getting you to open their pages. This hub was really meant to amuse more than instruct!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Great food for thought, Bob. The last time we went overseas, Travel Agents were still very good. We are working on another excursion, so I will keep this in mind.

Do you know of a good pub? Maybe we can have a pint together!

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 3 years ago from California

Haven't used a travel agent in years. Still try now and then, but they cost so much more than doing it yourself. They do a fairly decent job of insurance. When I went to Africa I thought it wise to have insurance for medical evacuation. Didn't need it, but knowing I had it was comforting.

Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 3 years ago from Isle of Man

I love the way you write. You take any subject and make it fun and interesting to read.

I think you nailed it with "“Greed has now become legal.” I live 5 mins on foot from the beach and that is where I will be spending my holidays! Thank you for the very interesting read.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks 'Spirit. That's the secret if you can have it all within reach, travel has become impossible air and road.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Will: London is carpeted with good pubs but the beer ain't cheap any more at around 5 bucks a pint.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi 'Tireless. Never got around to Africa and have always regretted the omission.


Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

Interesting hub and I also liked your witty writing style. You raised some good points about travel agencies recent practices. Nice read.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks Elias and for following me...I haven't returned the compliment because I am withdrawing from HP after 4 years


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

As always Bob your sense of humor hails throughout! ...compensating sad sacks...greed has now become legal...I find the best, read the cheapest...hidden deep within though Bob you not only speak the truth but your ridicule of the industry is spot on!

Love reading your hubs. Are you REALLY withdrawing from HP? That is so sad. You were one of my first mutual followers and I will miss you.

Voted up, useful, funny, and interesting.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Tilly: The bad penny always turns up not you! I just did a small hub you may find funny (latest)

I expect I will try to do something small now and again. I haven't seen your stuff lately, I will make sure I am still being notified.

Thanks for kind words

Bob x

Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 3 years ago

Very interesting hub. You are a very talented writer!

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 3 years ago from Scotland

Great rant on the perils of travel agencies. And a new word for me 'patootie' I like it. Also using 'sleeting' as a verb, I've never heard that before.

What an education :-)

Great Hub, voted up.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks SK. And for forgiving me some literary license!


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