ASTA on Monday blasted an article on CheatSheet.com, calling the story -- which plagiarized a years-old article from The Daily Telegraph and incorrectly attributed information to Travel Weekly -- an "error-ridden" article embarrassing to Cheat Sheet.

The article, "This Is the No. 1 Secret to Cheap Travel That Your Travel Agent Won't Tell You" by Barri Segal, was posted on Monday, March 19. It offers a 16-point list, with entries like "they might take advantage of you if you're a loyal customer," "new agents will give you a better deal" and "they'll rip you off with travel insurance."

Many quotes throughout the article are incorrectly attributed to Travel Weekly when, in reality, they seem to have come from a February 2010 article posted on News.com.au and the Daily Telegraph in Australia, "What Travel Agents Don't Want You to Know" by Kate Schneider.

Travel Weekly has contacted Cheat Sheet regarding the multiple incorrect attributions.

In a response to the article, ASTA said, "Before publishing 'articles' like this, do some solid research about the facts. Cheat Sheet has embarrassed itself here, but it didn't have to."

The Society released its own 16-point list, responding to the assertions in the Cheat Sheet article.

For instance, the third point in the Cheat Sheet story is that agents "make the most money if someone dies."

Its author, Segal, writes, "This is perfectly awful, but unfortunately, travel agents make the most money when they have to make last-minute reservations, such as flights for unexpected funerals. 'Times of need such as death, illness or other urgent trips are where agents see the big bucks. Airlines don't charge any more for late bookings, but the agent sure will,' a travel agent told Travel Weekly. Don't use a travel agent if you have an emergency trip come up -- book your trip yourself.'"

The entry continues, "And another said, 'I remember a time when I marked an airfare up $600 over what you could get it for on the internet or with the airline direct. A family member had passed away in the U.S. and they wanted to leave the following day. I felt a bit guilty, but it paid for a big weekend of partying.'"

ASTA called this "as false as it is insulting. Exactly what is the source of knowledge of agents' business practices on which these claims are based? ... Suggesting that a travel agent would charge a grieving customer more for an emergency trip is a blanket false statement. Many travel agents arrange travel for their clients with NO FEE at all!"

Another assertion from the Cheat Sheet story is that "new agents will give you a better deal." The story incorrectly cites an agent source telling Travel Weekly that new agents "don't have the confidence to rip you off."

ASTA said the statement "is false on so many levels" because an agent's value comes from their expertise and affiliations, not how long they have been in business.

In a message to Cheat Sheet, Arnie Weissmann, editor in chief of Travel Weekly, pointed to eight instances of quotes falsely attributed to Travel Weekly in the article. He also pointed out a link to a Travel Weekly column included early in the story, which he called "misleading."

Under Segal's first point, asserting agents "can't book or price all airline carriers," she wrote that "Believe it or not, travel agents can't book -- or get prices from -- all airline carriers, according to Travel Weekly. Agents cannot book Southwest when they're putting together wholesale packages that include air, hotel, and transfers. Because they can't use Southwest for these types of packages, you might end up spending more than you have to. Southwest often offers the lowest prices across the board for flights."

The Cheat Sheet article linked to an April 2015 Travel Weekly column by Richard Turen, "10 Things Your Agents Won't Tell You, Revisited," discussing a 2013 article in Woman's Day that caused an uproar in the industry. In his column, Turen wrote that sometimes, agents cannot choose Southwest when booking some wholesale packages.

Regarding the Cheat Sheet article, Weissmann said, "This paragraph, with its provocative lead, is misleading at best, as the Travel Weekly writer is referring to a specific subset of packaged vacations."

"Assuming the person who reads this is a journalist, you know what you must do," Weissmann said. "If this was brought to my attention, I would take the article down immediately, discipline the writer, evaluate whether the article has enough service to readers to see if it was worth cleaning up and republish with a correction and statement of regret and then say a prayer that I won't get sued by the Daily Telegraph."

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