I have been in the travel industry for over a decade. I have owned retail agencies and online agencies and have spent countless hours working with clients helping to plan that perfect trip.
My recent column on “Become an Instant Travel Agent!” schemes brought out the fury of the multi-level marketing (MLM) crowd, who claim that most Internet-savvy consumers do not need the hand-holding and personal advice of a professional travel agent. I beg to differ. Below is a small sample of the many obtuse comments clients have made to me and my colleagues over the years. Certainly these folks should not be allowed to roam the Internet clicking at will.
David Letterman has his "Stupid Pet Tricks." I offer my version: 25 "Stupid Traveler Comments" (along with the bemused agents' unspoken responses).
- How can I leave Baltimore at 8:30 a.m. and get to Chicago at 8:35 a.m. when the flight takes an hour? (The plane flies really, really fast.)
- Do I need to carry on my carry-on bags or can I check them? (Why not check yourself and let the bags have the seat?)
- When am I going to receive my paper copy of the electronic ticket? (Uhm, what part of the word "electronic" has escaped you?)
- Well, how will they know who I am if all I have is my photo ID? (Uhm ... ma'am, you forget we have the TSA manning security now.)
- How much is a train to Jamaica? (We are sold out, but if you call Amtrak, they have space. Be sure to ask for a seat on the left side of the train so you don't miss the Lost City of Atlantis on the way down.)
- What language do they speak in England? (Swahili. Would you like to purchase our "Learn Swahili in 10 Easy Steps" manual?)
- The water is murky. I did not come to Jamaica to swim in murky water. (As I recall, a Category 4 hurricane just pelted the island and yet you insisted that you had to go. Right?)
- The hotel would have been fine but all the employees were speaking Spanish. (The next time you are in Mexico, we will order some French-speaking Mexicans for your convenience.)
- Does the water go all the way around this island? (Not on Tuesdays.)
- Is Canada still the largest state? (They seem to think so.)
- Is this a wide-body plane? (Yes.) Good, because my mother has a big butt. (I imagine this was followed by a swift upper cut.)
- Don't they take American Express? (No, in China they take only French francs, but we still need to get you a visa.)
- Why do I need to change clothes in Chicago? (Planes, ma'am. Planes. You change planes in Chicago.)
- Do these stairs go up? (Not this set, sir. The up stairs are on the lower level.)
- How do they get power to the ship? (Very long extension cords.)
- Do you know what time the midnight buffet starts? (They are cutting costs, so now it is offered between 4:30 a.m. and 4:35 a.m.)
- Does it rain in the rain forest? (Does a bear shi ... oh, never mind.)
- Will the 24-hour café be open if I need to get a bite at 6 a.m.? (Ask the woman in line for the midnight buffet.)
- Where is the best spot to watch the fireworks in London on the Fourth of July? (Come on, Yank. Just think about this for a nanosecond.)
- My friend told me about a great hotel in Italy and it begins with a "B." (I know exactly which one it is. Can I have your credit card please?)
- I am a vegetarian. Do they have vegetables in Kenya? (It is a strange thing in Africa, countries with two vowels in their names are vegetableless. It is just like some dry counties here in the United States.)
- I am an advanced beginner rider. (Would that be "beginning to be advanced," or "advanced for beginning"?)
- Please send a quote for a weeklong Costa Rica package with adventure in the jungle. (One helicopter drop coming up.)
- Do I need a passport to go to Hawaii? (No, just a clue.)
- If I convert $1,000 to the local currency, how much is it in U.S. dollars? (Sir, the Wharton School is on the line for you. They have an opening.)
A special thank you to my clients, my colleagues in the Tripso Forums, my favorite Royal Caribbean cruise director and Brenda Elwell of Maxim Tours for making my column an easy one to write.