In many instances when you are an independent sales rep or channel “partner” (Travel Agent, Retailer, Manufacturers Rep) for a product line you are getting wined and dined. There are lunch and learns, there is the factory rep visit, there is sales meetings, etc.. Generally the food is good and the drinks flow. Showing independent reps a good time is way more cost effective than having a large directly employed sales force. It’s also a great carrot in getting people to come here your latest sales pitch or product roll out. Usually this type of experience in the travel world is a lunch and learn at Maggiano’s. You hear the pitch, get a free meal, and get some face time with the company rep who is only in your area a few times a year.
In part one I talked about how I started a small travel agency. I’m still very much on the radar of some vendors. Specifically there is one All-Inclusive resort chain that was having a series of large promotional events. Generally I would stay away these events as it’s not worth my time anymore to hear about the latest and greatest wiz-bang feature on the latest cruise ship or resort. But I was thinking about ways I could leverage this blog to generate some revenue and I thought my experience in the travel world may be something to explore. I was also getting inundated with daily emails by the new company rep. (Whenever a new rep comes on board there is always a flurry of activity and engagement.. which eventually peters off when they learn i’m not one of the people they need to spend time engaging). So I decided to go. Worse case scenario, i’d get a good meal.
I was right about one thing, the food was very good. Grilled Chicken, Grilled Shrimp, non-stop wine and Red Velvet Cake for dessert I somehow had the ability to say no thank you to . What was most interesting was the woman who sat down next to me. She was a well dressed, very well spoken African American woman. We chatted for a few minutes and I told her that I was mostly out of the travel agent game and I was just there trying to decide if I wanted to engage this one particular vendor again. I told her now that I am a full time employee of a community college and that I felt this could be a way to potentially earn a little income on the side for one of my other projects (this blog). She then confided in me that she was also a full time community college employee who worked for the community college one service area over from mine. She was a teacher and she was also in the travel agent game on the side. We discussed our options for growth at the community college and I explained that I considered getting a doctorate but I didn’t see the ROI on the $30,000 in debt I’d have if I went through with the doctoral program. Her response was something akin to “Like Me”. I went on to confirm she does have a doctorate.
Now, I don’t know if she has exactly $30,000 in student loan debts from a PhD program, or an EdD program or whatever her needs are, but she was clearly there for the financial opportunity, not for the shrimp, not for the chicken, and not even for the red velvet cake. She was there for the green and I don’t mean the salad. I do know it’s common for individuals in the community college system to be encouraged to get advanced degrees. I was actually told once “It doesn’t matter what your degree is in but you need to get one if you want to climb up the ladder” which, TBH as the kids say, is true. I’ve also personally witnessed individuals in pursuit of their degrees getting caught in less than scholastically honest activities, yet still be able to remain in the program. I doubt Dr. Bacardi did anything other than high quality above board work in her program (you kinda get a feel for these things when you talk to someone).
But I was struck with the concept.. Here I have a college professor, who has gone tens of thousands of dollars in debt to get an advanced degree that’s not needed her job for anything other than perception and chance that she may be promoted if an opportunity presents itself and the stars align. To help pay off that debt she have to learn about what premium spirits are offered by a travel vendor who is going to work her to death and squeeze every single penny out of her they can with only a small chance of success. So she’s borrowed lots of money to work hard, then she has to work hard to possibly leverage the money she’s paid for potential opportunity in her day job, then she has to work hard to maybe earn enough to pay off the money she borrowed in the first place to work hard.
I needed a drink after coming to that conclusion.