Buying paint from a hardware store ...
Customer: Hi. How much is your paint?
Clerk: We have regular quality for $12 a gallon and premium for
$18. How many gallons would you like?
Customer: Five gallons of regular quality, please.
Clerk: Great. That will be $60 plus tax.
... From an airline
Customer: Hi, how much is your paint?
Clerk: Well, sir, that all depends.
Customer: Depends on what?
Clerk: Actually, a lot of things.
Customer: How about giving me an average price?
Clerk: Wow, that's too hard a question. The lowest price is $9 a
gallon, and we have 150 different prices up to $200 a gallon.
Customer: What's the difference in the paint?
Clerk: Oh, there isn't any difference; it's all the same
Customer: Well, then, I'd like some of that $9 paint.
Clerk: Well, first I need to ask you a few questions. When do
you intend to use it?
Customer: I want to paint tomorrow, on my day off.
Clerk: Sir, the paint for tomorrow is the $200 paint.
Customer: What? When would I have to paint in order to get the
Clerk: That would be in three weeks, but you will also have to
agree to start painting before Friday of that week and continue
painting until at least Sunday.
Customer: You've got to be kidding!
Clerk: Sir, we don't kid around here. Of course, I'll have to
check to see if we have any of that paint available before I can
sell it to you.
Customer: What do you mean check to see if you can sell it to
me? You have shelves full of that stuff; I can see it right
Clerk: Just because you can see it doesn't mean that we have it.
It may be the same paint, but we sell only a certain number of
gallons on any given weekend. Oh, and by the way, the price just
went to $12.
Customer: You mean the price went up while we were talking!
Clerk: Yes, sir. You see, we change prices and rules thousands
of times a day, and since you haven't actually walked out of the
store with your paint yet, we just decided to change. Unless you
want the same thing to happen again, I would suggest that you get
on with your purchase. How many gallons do you want?
Customer: I don't know exactly. Maybe five gallons. Maybe I
should buy six gallons just to make sure I have enough.
Clerk: Oh, no, sir, you can't do that. If you buy the paint and
then don't use it, you will be liable for penalties and possible
confiscation of the paint you already have.
Clerk: That's right. We can sell you enough paint to do your
kitchen, bathroom, hall and north bedroom, but if you stop painting
before you do the bedroom, you will be in violation of our
Customer: But what does it matter to you whether I use all the
paint? I already paid you for it!
Clerk: Sir, there's no point in getting upset; that's just the
way it is. We make plans based upon the idea that you will use all
the paint, and when you don't, it just causes us all sorts of
Customer: This is crazy! I suppose something terrible will
happen if I don't keep painting until after Saturday night!
Clerk: Yes, sir, it will.
Customer: Well, that does it! I'm going somewhere else to buy my
Clerk: That won't do you any good, sir. We all have the same
rules. Thanks for flying--I mean painting--with our airline.
Agency owner is satirist, too
What made Al Hess write "If airlines sold paint," the
airline-skewering piece above?
"Every once in a while I have a satirical idea that I'll use to
make a humorous point," he said. "One night I was in bed and the
whole absurdity of the way airlines operated just struck me. I
think I actually got up and wrote it in the middle of the
Hess, owner of American International Travel/American Express in
Bountiful, Utah, said he's used the piece in informal presentations
with corporate clients to show them "why things are so weird in the
Still, he noted, "It's actually funnier to people in the
business, who know just how strong airline rules are. If you're in
the industry, you realize that the airlines do what they do for
yield management purposes, but it creates some odd situations. When
you put [these rules] in the context of another product, then you
see how weird they really are."
Hess recently shared the piece with his fellow members of the
agency group Travel Agency Management Services. "It's not going to
change anything, but at least we're going to laugh a little bit.
Sometimes humor makes a point that can't be made otherwise."
In honor of the ASTA congress, we'll highlight the Society's
site. If you're listed here, you'll make it easier for consumers
interested in your areas of specialty to find you. In addition to
free company listings in ASTA's on-line member directory, ASTA
agents can pick specialty keywords describing niche or destination
specialties. The first two keywords are free. Additional ones are
$25 a year. www.astanet.com
There is visa information here, including an application form
that you can print out for your clients. The site--recommended by
J.J. Lasne, an agent at Sundance Travel in San Francisco--is still
under construction but already has a good piece on golf. www.vietnamonline.com
Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey. Send suggestions to [email protected]
The adventure of learning
The fifth year of the Adventure & Exotic Travel Educational
Seminars will begin with a new, full-day extended program for
agents interested in this booming segment of the business. Led by
industry educator Helen Nodland, the seminar carries the theme
"Judging by the Companies You Keep." This year, Nodland will
analyze various adventure tour operators to help agents discover
how to match clients to companies. Another topic will be co-op
partnering with tour operators.
The schedule is as follows:
Oct. 20, the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Mich.; Nov. 11, the
Hyatt Tech Center, Denver; Dec. 1, the Doubletree Hotel, Palm Beach
Gardens, Fla; Dec. 11, the Inn on Fifth, Naples, Fla. January
seminars will be held in Los Angeles and San Diego; March seminars
in Phoenix, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, and April seminars
in San Francisco and Seattle. A price of $65 includes materials and
lunch. For information, the number is (800) 554-3514.
Straighten up and fly smart
Clients who are relatively
new to, or somewhat nervous about, flying might benefit from "The
Flying Smart Handbook." Written by a retired airline pilot, Denis
Horgan, the book provides a detailed look at the flight experience,
along with insider tips on how to handle such irritants as flight
For example, Horgan advises fearful flyers who may be "concerned
for their safety" when an on-board flight delay is announced to
"feel free to ask the pilot for an explanation." The chapter on
what to expect during "unusual events" such as loss of cabin
pressure is also helpful. The book is extremely agent-friendly,
with a first chapter advising readers to "always call your travel
agent" to book an airline. The book costs $12.95 and is published
by Key West, Fla.-based FSH Publishing. Call (877) FLYING-1 to