Most of you will have by now read Travel Weekly’s assessment of May 25, 2009 entitled YTB: What’s true and what isn’t. The “National Newspaper of the Travel Industry” published this piece in advance of their upcoming 2009 Power List. Get ready YTB recruiters: my guess is that you are about to be handed another piece of marketing that will again be worth millions. The unverified numbers reported by YTB’s home office to Travel Weekly’s team of crack accountants, auditors and fact checkers even now are being scrutinized for inclusion on the 2009 Power List.
But the May 25th TW article is in need of a few points of clarification. Read the rest of this entry »
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio famously stated that pornography was hard to define but that “I know it when I see it.” Likewise, I think I know a card mill when I see one. It is not in the least bit surprising that these companies now indicate their business methodologies are legitimate based on the fact that there is no generally accepted definition of “travel agent”.
This column has argued on more than one occasion that the lack of an industry standard definition would ensure that card mills and MLMs would continue to adapt to changes in the public relations and legal environments in order to survive.
So what is a card mill? Card mills are business entities that derive some portion of their revenue stream from recruiting people to be “travel agents” by promising discounted travel. The pitch is that since travel agents get to see the world for free or at highly discounted rates, the smart thing to do is to become a travel agent. Moreover, since no definition of “travel agent” exists, anyone can pay to become one. Upon convincing a consumer to part with an under-$500 investment (the $500 limit keeps these companies from being subject to more strict regulatory scrutiny), they wave a wand and deem the consumer a “travel agent.” An additional compensation is typically offered to recruit others to the program. Read the rest of this entry »