Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some Perspective on Commissions: My Article in The Yacht Report

Reflecting on my post of yesterday concerning the conflict between Regent Seven Seas Cruises doing what I unquestionably think is the right thing by effectively eliminating Non-Commissionable Fees (NCF's) and its clearly expressed motivation for doing so (paying off travel agents so they shift business to Regent not based upon the quality of the product, but the additional money that will line the travel agents' pockets), I felt it important to expand on the subject.

It is important, to my mind, because (a) it baffles me why someone would so blatantly admit the improper motive; and, (b) it is a pervasive tactic that invades all commissionable businesses and as such, consumers need to not only be aware of the practice, but protect themselves from any possible adverse effect of same. 

In April 2008 I wrote an article in The Yacht Report (the leading magazine of the luxury yacht industry) about the ethics associated with commissions in the superyacht industry.  I thought it might give those that think I am picking on Regent's philosophy something to think about:

Along those lines, I make it substantively known to all of my clients - and to all my readers - what my opinions and factual findings are as to each and every cruise line.  And if I can do better, or get more, from Line A I am going to let you know that and provide you with better pricing, suites, etc. as a result...But I always leave it up to my clients to make the final decision.  In other words, a travel agent must be accurate and allow the client to make an informed decision; not skew them for a few extra bucks.

For example, one client chose Regent over my recommendation of a similar Seabourn cruise.  Upon her return she said that the cruise exceeded her expectations...but only because I gave her an accurate description of the differences from Seabourn, so she was not faced with disappointment or frustration; only "Yes, that is what Eric said.".  Her next cruise:  Seabourn.

All the cruise lines should drop or limited the NCF's, but they should do it for the right reason.  If that is not the motivation, don't encourage it to be for the wrong one.