Travel agents in the U.S. who think the commission cuts have hit
them hard should consider the plight of their confreres in New
Industry consultant Bruce Tepper, who
recently returned from New Zealand after giving a series of
seminars, said agents there have suffered much more from pay cuts.
For several years, they have lived with domestic commissions at 5%.
But the big blow came last fall when the major airlines serving the
"trans-Tasman" route between New Zealand and Australia cut their
commissions from 9% to 5%. Tepper said the average New Zealand
agent derives half of his or her sales from trans-Tasman airline
Then, this spring, the low-cost Air New Zealand subsidiary
Freedom Air decided to stop paying commission entirely. The carrier
said it favored agents' charging fees for their service. (Freedom
Air also said travelers will have to start paying for snacks on
Tepper said service fees in New Zealand are not an option but a
necessity -- hence his invitation there, along with his partner,
Robert Joselyn, the "service fee guru" of the trade in the U.S.
Mouse and sqvir'rel
Fox's morning show "Good Day New York" has been giving away
trips to Universal Studios Escape in Florida. To enter the drawing,
viewers had to send in a postcard.
One day earlier this month, a winner was pulled out of the
"barrel": someone named Larry, from Queens. His postcard was from
This item rated PG-13
Insider spotted the first Candom
at the swim-up bar. (No, it's not a misspelling.) The second was
wrapped around a Red Stripe beer on a lounge chair at the beach.
The third appeared during Happy Hour at the piano bar. We tracked
the item to the resort's gift shop, where a neon-lettered sign
above a stand-up display shrieked the suggestion "When Drinking at
Random, Use a Candom!"
The sign worked. We pulled one of the colorful shrink-wrapped
items from the rack. A Candom is a can cooler that rolls up, fits
in a pocket but can be slipped on any soda or beer container to
contain the droplets of moisture that inevitably mar a table
surface or drip on clothing. Its slogan says it all: "Practice Safe
Sips, Use a Candom."
The Austin, Texas-produced doodad is selling like ... well, like
the real thing at couples-only resorts, according to gift shop
managers. Unlike the real thing, a Candom can be reused. And one
size fits all. ... We'll stop right here.
It had not occurred to us, prior to seeing Jim Glab's news item
in a recent issue of Travel Weekly ("German firm plans airship
jaunts"), that the recent tendency on the part of companies to run
multiple proper names together -- witness PricewaterhouseCoopers,
for example -- has really frightening implications when it comes to
the German language.
Among European tongues, German is unrivaled in its insistence on
stringing together long words in seemingly unpronounceable
compounds. The 42-letter mouthful in the news story turns out to be
straightforwardly descriptive: Transatlantische
Luftschiffahrt-gesellschaft actually means Transatlantic Airship
This calls to mind Mark Twain's comment on the daunting length
of German words and sentences: "When the literary German dives into
a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he
emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his
Forget the Alamo
our group of six on a tour of Pancho Villa's house in Chihuahua
City, our guide, Armando, favored Insider with some choice moments
from past sessions with norteamericano tourists.
"When we get to the photograph of Villa sitting next to Emiliano
Zapata at a conference, someone usually remarks that Zapata 'looks
nothing like Marlon Brando,' " Armando reported with a smile,
alluding to the 1952 film "Viva Zapata!"
"And one lady, a schoolteacher from Florida, said Zapata must be
a very popular figure here because she noticed so many shoe stores
were named after him." (Zapateria means "shoe store.")
Armando remarked that our group was doing pretty well in the
"smart question" category, but he spoke too soon.
In time, we came to the interior courtyard of Villa's hacienda,
which houses one of the more gruesome museum exhibits in recent
memory: the bullet-riddled Model-A Ford Villa was riding in when he
was assassinated, in 1923. One of our group, a physician from
California, stared at the car with a plainly perplexed look on his
face. In time, he said to Armando, "Now, what role, exactly, did
Villa play at the Alamo?"
Armando gently informed the doctor that the siege of the Alamo
took place in 1836, some 40 years before Villa was born. "That
explains it, then," the doctor said. "I didn't think there were any
cars at the Alamo."