What travel agents don’t want you to know?

Travel Agent Scams

Travel Agent Scams

THEY may smile and seem like they are sharing the holiday joy with you, but from preying on those in grief to lying about cheap trips, travel agents can be just as cut-throat as the meanest in any industry that works on commission.

Mark and Brian (names changed to protect identity), both Australian-based travel agents, dish the dirt on the business and tell you how to avoid falling for their tricks.

Charging you extra is a game for us

Mark: “All travel agents get paid commission from hotels and airlines, but this can be as low as one per cent so we have to make our money somewhere.

“Recently we played a game in the office of how much we mark up tickets to Sydney for. The tickets were about $89 one way but I sold them for $265 – some guy had to get to Sydney for a work meeting. I bet he was a bit shocked when he got on the plane and it wasn’t chock-a-block like I told him. But that’s a mark-up of $176, so I won that round.”

You have a death in the family, we party

Brian: “Times of need such as death, illness or other urgent trips are where agents see the big bucks. Airlines don’t charge any more for late bookings, but the agent sure will.”

Mark: “I remember a time when I marked an airfare up $600 over what you could get it for on the internet or with the airline direct.

“A family member had passed away in the US and they wanted to leave the following day. I felt a bit guilty, but it paid for a big weekend of partying.”

Your ticket is NOT non-refundable

Mark: “Whilst most airlines will charge a small fee for making changes, there is not one airfare out at the moment that is non-refundable.

“We will normally tell you the ticket is non-refundable when we sense there is the slightest chance you may cancel, especially if it’s a big booking – we need to protect our commission and it’s like a form of punishment for cancelling your trip.”

“I made close to $3000 commission recently on a romantic trip for two to Tahiti, (after) they cancelled due to family problems. We charged them $3500 in cancellation fees – what they didn’t know was the actual cancellation fees were just $365 for the two airfares and the hotels were cancelled free of charge.”

Appearances definitely count

Brian: “You need to be careful what you look like and how you act because that will influence how much you will get charged. Naive and clueless people are the best sources of cash, and those from more affluent suburbs pay so much more than those from working class suburbs.”

Mark: “You need to be confident and know what you want. Some agents are like dogs, as soon as they smell fear, they pounce, and you end up staying at the Ritz instead of a backpackers with 15 tours of a place you’ve never heard of.”

The internet is our enemy

Mark: “We really hate the internet. Ninety-nine per cent of the time booking on the internet is cheaper. Why would a hotel pay a travel agent upwards of 25 per cent commission, when they can just sell it direct and make more money themselves?”

Brian: “Always check the internet. Expedia is one of the best websites, we have a 25 per cent mark up, where they work off a margin around five per cent. The same goes for the airlines.”

We’ll rip you off with travel insurance

Mark: “Travel insurance is our bread and butter. Ever wondered why it is so expensive? It’s because we get paid 40 per cent commission on policies we sell.

“Always ask for a discount on the insurance, anything less than a 20 per cent discount and you’re getting ripped off.”

We use cheap holidays as bait

Mark: “Travel advertising is like a fishing trip. We put the bait out of a holiday to Fiji for $669, which might be available some time over the next year staying at a resort we probably wouldn’t send our own mother-in-laws to.

“We then we get a nibble which is you walking into the store and sitting down and that’s when we tell you it’s not available and then we sell you a much more expensive package to a resort that pays top commission. That’s when you know you have landed a good catch.”

Don’t be too loyal or we’ll take advantage

Brian: “Shop around. If you don’t it’s at your own peril. If you have your favourite agent that you always use, chances are you pay too much, even when you think they are looking after you.”

Mark: “We know when you come in that you’re going to book with us, you always do, so that package you want that is $1400pp it just became $1500pp and my girlfriend just got a big bunch of flowers and a bottle of champagne.”

When push comes to shove

Mark: “Have you ever heard a travel agent say ‘the airline is withdrawing the airfare so we need to get your payment in as soon as possible’? Whilst this occasionally happens, chances are that your travel agent is falling short of their sales targets and needs your money to help them so they don’t get into trouble from the powers that be.

“All my big bookings are generally due the month I’m on holiday, just so that my commission pay doesn’t drop whilst I’m away. Don’t fall for it.”

Beware of the over-excited travel agent

Brian: “If you sense the agent is getting excited it’s because they can see the dollars about to roll in. They generally can’t tell when they are doing it, so if you notice it you need to be asking yourself what’s going on and where you are being fleeced.”

New employees will give you a better deal

Mark: “The travel industry has one of the biggest staff turnover rates, so we always have new kids in the store.

“They don’t have the confidence to rip you off, so you’re generally going to get the best available price with them, whereas the older more experienced agents know all the tricks and will squeeze every dollar out of you.”

Don’t fall for the tours trap

Mark: “Tours and day trips are another place where agents beef up their bookings with more money and more commission. Without a doubt it is going to be cheaper to buy your tours and day trips at your destination, that way you avoid all commissions and pay the operator direct.

“One of my friends who works at a huge travel agency just told me about a incentive they have running called ‘pimp that file’ where they are encouraged to put every little tour, transfer, show and everything you don’t need just so that they can increase the cost of the package and in turn increase their take home pay.”

Price beating is crucial

Brian: “If you’re unsure, ask the agent to explain the charges, then ring the hotel or airline direct to check their cancellation policy. Get prices from everywhere and then take it to a travel agent who offers to beat any quote by a certain amount.

“Don’t tell them you’re going to price beat them until after they have done all the work, just before you’re about to pay, just watch their attitude change towards you. If I know someone is price beating me, I try to get them in and out as quick as I can because I’m not going to make any money out of them.”

Top five top tips when dealing with a travel agent.

1. Price beat, price beat, price beat
2. Shop around, and let the agent know you’re shopping around. They are more likely to give you a better price.
3. You don’t really need all the tours, buy them when you get there.
4. Get a price breakdown, know exactly what you’re paying for. Never accept a total price, that way you can check prices.
5. Ask for an explanation, and keep asking until you understand.

 

Josh Boorman

Editor-in-chief

Backpacking Addictz

admin@backpackingaddictz.com

Facebook.com/backpackaddictz

Twitter: @backpackaddictz

Backpacking Addictz is a website set up by backpackers for the use of backpackers. On this site you will find a lot of very valuable and fun information in relation to different destinations around the world, tips & advice on budget travel and backpacking. You will also find an enthusiastic and insightful backpacking blog which is regularly updated with new posts and article.

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Joshua Boorman

Joshua Boorman

Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
Joshua Boorman
About The Author

Joshua Boorman

Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.

7 Comments

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    February 22, 2010

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  • Harriet Wendelson

    April 17, 2010

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    April 18, 2010

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  • Josh

    Josh

    April 20, 2010

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    May 1, 2010

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  • Alex271

    May 6, 2010

    Thank you for sharing these tips. I was aware of the fact that there are tricks in travel agencies but I didn’t realize there are so many. I had some problems with tickets last year when I worked for custom writing services companies.

  • Josh

    Josh

    May 6, 2010

    Yes some travel

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