Meant. Every. Word.

I have nothing to add to last week’s comments about travel agents.

My message, delivered on my personal website, on social media and in a speech to one of the largest annual conventions of travel agents, was simple and should have been uncontroversial: There are good agents and bad agents. Be a good agent.

I do, however, have something to say about the very mixed reaction my presentation received.

Many delegates thanked me personally for having the courage to tell the truth. While it was painful to hear the real cases of travel agent misconduct from my advocacy site, they said they were grateful that someone cared enough to speak up. They told me that bad travel advisors, card-mill agents and multi-level marketing schemes tarnish the entire travel industry and hurt consumers.

My response? You’re more than welcome. I believe the agents who embraced my common-sense message represent the future of this industry and I’m happy to recommend them to my audience.

I had to laugh at the haters. None of them had the courtesy to express their unhappiness in person. Instead, they hid behind emails and took cheap shots at me in private, agent-only Facebook groups.

The most hostile messages came from travel advisors who reacted before taking the time to hear what I had to say. A few didn’t even get past my headline, which asked if travel agents were worth the trouble. (The answer, of course, is usually “yes.”)

I’m not surprised by the controversy. I believe some travel agents should be nervous. Maybe when I shared the real travel agent cases I get from readers, they thought I was talking about them. Maybe they’ve hit their own customers with unconscionable fees or given them poor service.

And even if they haven’t, what do you make of that “read-fire-aim” response, which attacked the critic before even listening to the criticism? Do you want to work with a travel advisor who doesn’t pay attention to details?

Other audience members took a middle-of-the-road approach, suggesting that I follow up with a retraction or try to soften my message so that we could all get along.

No, not happening.

Meant. Every. Word.

If anything, I wish I had said more, cited more examples of incompetent agents and displayed the actual, shocking emails I’ve received from readers. But I was asked to play nice and pull my punches by the powers that be. I won’t make that mistake again.

I’m just getting started, my friends. I’m scheduled to speak at another travel agent meeting in a few days and another one in November. (Ya think they’ll uninvite me?) I’m also supposed to keynote at an airline conference next month.

Get ready for the fireworks.

Here are this week’s columns:

See you next week.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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