Here is your opportunity to help define the industry: Come up with the best new catchphrases for out-of-date industry definitions, and I will send you something that I cannot define.

Though I may not be able to define it, I can describe it: It is from east Asia, it has two colorful, wooden feet spring-mounted on a board, and each foot is covered with small, raised, wooden nodules. To hazard a guess, I would say it is a foot massager of some kind, but I really couldnt say.

To obtain one of these items, you must help update industry jargon that has fallen behind the times. If I think your submission is better than the current terminology in usage, Ill send you one of these thingamajigs.

Youre welcome to come up with your own categories, but Ill start you out with three that I think are overdue for renaming.

First: How should one describe a travel agency that has a physical and public retail location? Brick-and-mortar is in common usage, but its incomplete -- most of these agencies have an online presence that accounts for an increasing percentage of sales each year.

Likewise, traditional travel agency doesnt work well for this group, for much the same reason. Anyone who truly works like a traditional travel agent could be more appropriately be described as a former travel agent.

And, given the way airlines are labeled, I dont know of any agencies with a physical retail location that would embrace the term legacy travel agencies.

I should note that Ive tried in vain to come up with a good descriptive phrase. My first inclination was to turn to the art world, which must reinvent and relabel itself every few years. Looking at that model, for instance, one could say that GDS green screens, at the time, brought travel agents into what was then the modern world. Are current agents, with graphic interfaces on their desktops, post-modern? Or, to look at their business models, post-cap? These might be accurate labels but lack, shall we say, sizzle.

The corollary to the search for an accurate descriptor for agents with a public, retail, physical location is to try to define a travel seller whose primary marketing is through the Internet. These are generally called online agencies, but many -- Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz come quickly to mind -- also book a surprisingly large percentage of their business over the phone, through call centers staffed by travel agents.

And just to complicate matters, Expedia and Travelocity also have physical, public retail locations in major tourist areas (Las Vegas for Travelocity and Hawaii for Expedia), with more locations likely to come.

How could this group be better described?

A third category has an accurate label, but I think, from a marketing perspective, it stinks. Home agents need a new moniker. The phrase is certainly better than cottage agents, but not by much -home anything requires one to first separate oneself from cottage industries, Avon ladies, Tupperware party hosts and Amway distributors. Not to mention card mill graduates who are more than happy to elevate themselves by saying they are home agents.

Home agents may be well served to sacrifice a bit of technical correctness for a better marketing position. Used cars were accurately named, but the description was perhaps too literal. The auto industry seems to believe that even a nonsense phase -- pre-owned cars -- is better than a literal, but dull, label.

In each category above, extra points will be given for creative compounds that are instructive, accurate and bring a smile. My favorite new piece of jargon to enter the industry in recent years is wholetailing, to define retailers who package and sell wholesale products. In other words, extra points for anything that smacks of edutainment.

TW readers could win a thingamajig & or is it a whatchamacallit?As it turns out, now that I check my inventory, I have only two whatchamacallits to give away. (I have a third, but it is pre-owned.) So the third winner will instead get something else undefineable thats manufactured by the same company. On this one, instead of having feet, its nodules are planted alongside a representation of a spine.

And Im pretty sure I can get more of those in case anyone feels the urge to rename some other industry descriptor in need of updating.

TW readers, this is your defining moment.


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