It is such a shame when you see things like this. It really makes me mad that this industry has allowed people like this to operate. You can read the article and see the video on the Houston Click 2 Website:
HOUSTON -- As planes flew over the Houston sky, Ruby Bell and Josephine Alix thought about where they should have been -- on a spring break getaway with 100 or more fellow HISD bus drivers. But they never made their trip. "I'd never been to Vegas," said Bell. For Bell, it was a supposed to be special. She planned on taking her mother to celebrate her 65th birthday. "So she could say her daughter done taken her on a nice trip, once in her life," said Bell. Instead of hitting the slots, she and her colleagues were still in Houston on Friday, out a lot of money. "I lost $658.37," said Bell. "$374," said Alix. They said they booked the trip through a travel agent named Tonya Covington, who claimed she worked through XXXXXXX. They received some flight confirmations, but became suspicious when booking took too long. "When I called the airport, they said I had a one-way ticket, no hotel reservation, just a one-way flight," said Alix. "I done text-messaged her nicely, left messages, but still no response from this woman," said Bell. KPRC Local 2 tried to find her, with no luck. The station only got her voicemail, still advertising the travel agency. "So what's the most disappointing thing about it?" asked KPRC reporter Elizabeth Scarborough. "I wasn't able to show my mother how much I love her," said Bell. The bus drivers said they are now working with attorneys to try to get their money back in court.
The accompanying video is even more compelling as the group seems to be out about $37,000. Anyone care to venture a guess as to the agency? Want a hint?
And before anyone jumps on the bandwagon about rogue traditional travel agents, I do fully realize that there are bad apples in every bunch. However, you need to understand that YTB recruited 131,000 people last year which is effectively doubling the number of "travel agents" in the nation--if not more. Add to this that these same 131,000 people are untrained and not really equipped to service a client's needs. And the third, and most volatile, ingredient in this recipe for disaster is that the vast majority of these 131,000 people are not making any money, when they likely were promised riches--unless they attended Proud To Be YTB's Seminars. I Can see where it would be very tempting to just take the money and run. Why is YTB any more susceptible to do this than a TTA? Well, in the TTA world, they are making an income. Remember in 2007, the average RTA earned $102 and the average Rep earned $265. This is the tip of the iceberg.
And I do need to shout a loud "WTF?" to the bus drivers. Apparently paying her in cash, and responding to a "hand written" solicitation. Apparently she missed the Marketing 101 class at YTBU!
PS: After watching the video, one wonders why YTB seems to have a policy of not returning calls to the media. Perhaps they are only willing to talk about the good things! It is the same MO that happened in Baltimore.