How many of us use prepaid services? Our family uses prepaid gift cards and even prepaid cell phone services. According to our recent survey MANY of you use prepaid gift cards and cell phone services as well. But how many of us would pre-pay a service…and then not use it? Nobody…right?! Would we prepay a Landscaper…and then mow our own yard? Would we prepay our Tax Professional…only to prepare our own taxes every year? Would you prepay your Housekeeper…so that they could watch TV while you clean your own house? Of course not!!!! And yet every year MILLIONS of people unknowingly prepay for a service that they never even use.
How many of us have spent hours online researching our Dream Vacation…and when we finally found it…we booked it online. It’s okay to admit it. I have done it myself. I’ve spent days…even weeks looking for the perfect Vacay. I had seen so many itineraries and resorts that they all seemed to blur together. The infinite options literally made my head want to split wide open. My family was unsure if it was safe to speak to me. My husband would tell the kids, “Code Red…do NOT engage”. Searching for the “perfect” vacation can literally be Life Consuming. And yet we do it every single year (sometimes more than once).
So here is the secret that I want to share with you. Did you know that each and every…single…solitary time that you have booked a cruise or a resort vacation online…that you PREPAID for the services of a Travel Professional? Each and every time!? GULP! Mind Blown? You name it…Carnival, Norwegian, Disney, Sandals…the list goes on! The cost of using of a qualified Travel Professional is already added into YOUR online booking. WHAAAAATTTTT??!!!! Oh yeah, it’s true. You paid for the use of a Travel Agent…and then did all of the work…only to have all of that money go to a nameless..faceless…Corporate Abyss. You paid for it…and never even got the chance to use it.
“But I am so savvy with booking online...why would I use a travel agent”? For one...because you have already paid to use one. And two, because when you call to talk to someone about your reservation you want to be able to speak with the same human being each and every time. Someone who is already familiar with your travel plans. Someone who isn't going to say, “you had better book now, because there is only one spot left.” Someone you can send a text message to and say, “Can you make my final payment for me? I know its due today, but I'm at my son's baseball game and I don't think I can get home in time to make it”. Someone who REALLY wants to know how your vacation went and wants to genuinely find out how much fun you had when you return.
A travel agent is all of these things and more. They are a friend, the wife of someone your spouse works with, someone you go to the gym with, or the parent of your child's best friend. Travel agents are a part of your community...people who buy insurance from you, buy cars from you, dine at the same local restaurants as you, and use the same local services as you do. My personal conviction is that I do business with people that do business with me. The person who does my taxes is my client. My dentist is my client. My insurance agent is my client. Reciprocity...Karma...call it what you want and it is still universal that the service you provide to others comes back to you. In an era where we are trying to keep more revenue in our local communities and ask people to “Buy Local”, “Support Your Local Small Businesses”, or even to “Buy American”, wouldn't you agree that the right thing to do is to become a customer of your friend...your neighbor...your local travel agent? Because why? Because, you are going to pay for their service anyway...so why not support someone you know...someone you are friends with...and someone who will care about you and your family? And besides, how cool is it to be sitting beside your friends at the local Sushi Restaurant when you get the opportunity to say, “Psst, there is my Travel Agent who just booked my Oceanfront Penthouse in Belize. They have such a beautiful family.” That has just a bit more prestige to it than, “I booked my vacation to Belize online”. Doesn't it? PS...if you had used a travel agent they would probably have warned you about the Manchineel Trees (Google it).
What is boils down to is that most of the time the offers that you find online are the exact same offers that your local Travel Agent can get for you. But you have to give them the opportunity. And guess what? It won't cost you any more than you were already going to spend online. Social Media and technology has helped to create a society where we are becoming more technologically adept...while we become more socially INEPT. Our kids are so sucked into their cell phones and tablet pcs that they can't even look a waiter in the eye to make their order at a restaurant. So I challenge YOU to set the example for them...to get out and REALLY be social. Go and meet your insurance agent. Sit down and meet your tax professional. And even find that perfect vacation online if you choose to...but call your friend...your neighbor...your fellow gym rat...and say, “Hey my husband was just telling me that you were just in his Veterinary Office for your dogs follow up visit. Well, I was looking at vacations online, and then the thought hit me that this is what you do for a living. I think I am ready to book. Would you mind taking care of it for me? You would?! Great! Hey would your kids like to come over this weekend? I'm having a birthday party for my son, he's turning 11 years old.” And if you happen to see me out and about somewhere, don't be afraid to take a second and say, "Hello".