Three weeks ago, I wrote a column asking for readers help in updating out-of-date industry terminology. In particular, I felt there was no adequate phrase for agencies that have a retail storefront and a significant Web presence; do most of their business on the Web but employ a phone bank of agents; and work out of the home (the term home agents may be accurate but is bland).
To those who came up with the best names or phrases, I promised to send prizes that I couldnt define beyond the terms whatchamacallit and thingamajig.
Well, I got a good response -- strung together, the proposed industry terms fill more than 11 virtual pages in my computer.
Four readers submitted a right-on-the-money phrase for the brick-and-mortar retail agencies that have active Web sites: bricks and clicks (or, in variance, clicks and bricks or click-and-mortar). The only problem is I recall first coming across those labels in the 1990s. While I appreciate the reminder, in this instance the nominator cant win a whatchamacallit unless she or he can somehow document earliest usage.
A number of responses I received reflected a bit of attitude in the choice of adjectives and nouns. Theresa Foran-Stoll of the Vacation Superstore in Omaha, Neb., reveals her opinion of home agents when she suggests they be dubbed domestic/international travel divas.Patti Fraas of American Express One in Oxnard, Calif., proposes that Web agencies be called nonpersonal service agencies.
A few readers said the term home agents should be broken down further. Noting that the labels outside sales, independent contractor and satellite agent are all in common usage, Kathy Moroney of Distinctive Destinations in Sacramento, Calif., wonders if confusion ensues when surveys ask agents to describe themselves and to mark all that apply. Then, she writes, Im counted five or six times.
Patricia Greenwald likes dotBAM for online agencies that house agents in a building somewhere (BAM is her acronym for brick and mortar) and BAMdot for their primarily retail counterparts who do significant Web business.
Brandy Ford makes a good case for calling agencies whose business is predominantly online self-service agencies. (Her clients who patronize these types of agencies, she asserts, are the same type of individuals who check out their own groceries.)
Teresa Adler, a Valencia, Calif., agent with All-Travel, mentions a category of agent who doesnt fit into any of the definitions were looking for, but for whom she offers a definition. She works out of her home, but she, and all of All-Travels agents, share the same phone system. When the phone rings, it rings all phones -- all over the country.
For the agents in her company, Adler proposes the term global travel agents, and not just because of the wide geographic networking within her company. I have clients from all over the world who found me on the Internet, she said. We communicate via phone and e-mail and, occasionally, snail mail.
Finally, we have a proposal for a system of nomenclature that requires a bit of memorization, but would, if it were adopted at Travel Weekly, reduce our spending on newsprint.
You gotta keep it simple, writes Mike Weingart of Carlson Wagonlit Travel/World Travel Agency in Houston. Everything referring to outside or home businesses is A, as in agent. Everything with a brick-and-mortar component is B, as in building. Everything that is online or utilizes extensive automation is C, as in computer. You can be an A & C. Or a B & C.
Though I dont promise to adopt any of these for use in Travel Weekly, I do want to hand out whatchamacallits to Mike Weingart (the ABC system) and Brandy Ford (self-service agencies), and thingamajigs to Patricia dotBAM Greenwald and Teresa Global Travel Agent Adler.