On the Value of (Travel) Agents…

a·gent  [ /ˈājənt/]

Noun:  A person who acts on behalf of another.
Here at Fortress Insurance we’re insurance agents. And that means that most of the time, we think about insurance.  But the other day, we heard a story that made us think a little bit about what it means to be “an agent.”
Recently one of our office mates returned from a trip, and he had a few horror stories to tell.  The winter weather had been pretty awful, and our friend found his return trip delayed multiple times. 
Being (and we hope he won’t read this) something of a cheapskate, our friend had made his reservations directly through the airline, without using a travel agent.  He saved a few bucks on his ticket, no doubt, but that hardly seemed worth it when the phone calls started.
The day before his scheduled return, he got a recorded message from his airline, telling him that his flight had been cancelled.
A few minutes later, he got a message that it had been reinstated.
A few minutes after THAT, he got another message saying that it had been cancelled again.
He and his mother decided to take in an afternoon movie. When they got out, our friend had SIX more messages on his phone from the airline…each one contradicting the previous message.
Deciding to get the bottom of this, he called the airline…where it took an automated system fifteen very long minutes to decide that it couldn’t help him.  “I’m transferring you to a live operator,” said the computer.
By this time, our friend, who was sitting in the passenger seat of his mother’s car, was using language that he had certainly never used in front of her before his twenty-first birthday.  On the airline’s phone system, a second computer played unhelpful music, which it periodically interrupted to explain what a GREAT airline he was dealing with.   His language took a turn for the worse, and his mother, who had raised him better, pursed her lips and began to drive.
The airline computer interrupted the music again to tell our friend that his approximate on-hold time would be about forty minutes.  Our friend’s mother kept driving and humming a little tune to block out the sound of our friend’s swearing.
Finally, she pulled the car into the parking lot of her travel agent.  “Let’s see if Carol can help us,” she said.
By this time, the idea of doing business with somebody who had an actual first name and who didn’t communicate by use of a keypad was looking pretty good to him.  Because he had already waited this long, he put his phone on speaker mode, and stuck it in his pocket.  Then, he and his mother went into to see Carol, the travel agent.
Carol greeted them warmly, calling our friend’s mother by name, and, even though she owed our friend NOTHING (he hadn’t made his reservation through her, after all) sat down at the computer and began to type.
Within moments, Carol had confirmed that our friend’s flight had been cancelled, but she was able to book him in the first flight out the following morning.  She even helped him choose better seats.
Meanwhile, the on-hold message told him that there were still thirty people between him and the live operator.   Carol smiled, printed out some boarding passes and sent our friend and his mother on their way. 
Our friend hung up his phone, cutting off the on-hold message which was STILL droning on in the background.
And that, our friend told us when he got back is the difference between having an AGENT (someone who helps) and doing it by yourself.  When the chips are down, life is a LOT easier when you have somebody in your corner.
We’re not in the travel business, but we are AGENTS and, we have to say, that story made us pretty proud of what we do.
Staff Writer