Looking for Reader Input on ‘Blogger Junkets’

I recently had a conversation with a well-known writer about some of the things that are offered by travel providers and their PR firms and that get turned down.

From some well known brands that you would be surprised actually ask.

Things like paid product placement along with ongoing commissions based on customers driven to the product through the writing. Aside from the fact that this person would lose their job…

It made me realize that I’m pretty darned naïve. First, the fact that these offers are forthcoming suggests that it’s going on a whole lot more frequently than I realized. Even though I rarely read blog posts noting that the content was sponsored.

Lots of travel bloggers that I read get comped trips.

The Points Guy, who deserves much congratulations for leaving his job and going full-time as a blogger and points consultant, is launching that stage of his life with a trip to Tokyo that’s being sponsored by Delta and Hyatt. Serious congratulations on Brian, and he’s staying at one of my absolute favorite hotels in the world, the Park Hyatt Tokyo. And not just because it’s the setting for Bill Murray’s phenomenal Lost in Translation but because the place has an incredible feel to it like few other hotels I’ve been in. I’ve only had lunch there, and it’s not all that conveniently located, but I’d definitely still choose that property in a heartbeat. I’m jealous!

Lucky recently took a trip to Argentina sponsored by Hyatt and American Airlines. It sounded like a phenomenal time! I remember he also got in on an early British Airways all-business class London City flight, which was pretty cool to have tried out right after launch.

Last month Cranky Flier was included in the business class cabin of Lufthansa’s inaugural San Francisco A380 flight.

Of course, all of these gentlemen are up front, disclosing when something is given to them, and I’ve always found their evaluations to be candid regardless of who was paying for the stay.

Me, I’ve never taken one of these junkets. My first thought was, why aren’t they ever offered? Though I guess they are, I just don’t wind up getting offered the ones that others are writing about. Usually those sound so much cooler! Though that isn’t even true. I was invited out to Hong Kong by Cathay Pacific for the unveiling of their new business class seats (which looks a lot like US Airways’ new business class!). I couldn’t go because of a work commitment, though I suppose I probably would have.

I was also recently offered a private plane to do a bunch of sightseeing in the Northeastern U.S. by a company that is trying to sell tour packages by private jet, promoting how efficiently you can do stuff in the same day like Niagara Falls and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. I guess flying private is cool and all, but again I demurred because I didn’t see it as being up my alley and I had work travel constraints that precluded it anyway.

When I have been offered ‘stuff’ it’s usually been something that I’ve just given away. Sure, it would have been nice to have been a National Car Rental Executive Elite, but I told the National folks honestly that it would be better for me just to give that to my readers along with the free rental days and the Victorinox luggage. (Come to think of it, that Victorinox bag would have been really nice to have… and I don’t think the winner thanked me though I could be wrong, d’oh!).

Similarly, Hyatt had me give away Hyatt Place nights and personal assistant services, they offered me a similar package as I was giving away but just asked to give away that package as well.

I’ve given away Tom Bihn bags, Monster travel power strips, and plenty more. I do enjoy running these contests, and I hope that readers enjoy playing along and especially that the winners enjoy the prizes.

But I do wonder if I’m missing the boat here? Is there a gravy train and should I be hopping on it? Would I have more, better stories to report back to y’all, or would it compromise the trust folks place in my writings? I certainly don’t feel like Brian or Ben or Brett are compromised by taking a comped trip. I’ve never hopped onto a junket, ever, in the 9 years that I’ve been blogging. Should I?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary –

    I think that you’ve established your credibility to the point that taking a fully-disclosed junket isn’t an issue as long as you don’t feel any pressure (internal or external) to write differently because of it.

    The question always becomes how long do the invitations keep coming when the reviews are honest (and not always positive). :)

  2. Sounds like your day job keeps you pretty busy and private jets are fine if you like regional jets, although you do mostly avoid the unpleasantries at the airport.

    But I really liked Ben’s reports on his junkets with BA and Hyatt Masters and am actually considering both products for some future travel. So even though they were comped, it was perfectly reasonable and I learned something I would have otherwise not known about. And they are fairly obtainable. Those are the types of junkets I recommend you accept.

  3. This is a tough issue that many of us probably face in the professional world. Perhaps the main criterion becomes if you are making a living out of this “hobby” or not? With Ben and TPG now going at it full time it is likely justified in their own mind and to their readers. But, undoubtedly, their reviews will be biased from now on if they want another junket coming their way from those companies, whether they do their best (and they will) not to be influenced!

    I always respected you for not playing along with this. After reading Ben’s experience in Argentina, my first thought was that someone would be nuts to refuse such a trip! The ultimate respect gain would be to see a really really bad review of one of the sponsors come out of one of those trips . Now THAT would be the ultimate respect. And forget about getting another offer from them…well, that’s the idea, isn’t it? Or maybe they will try harder to “win” you over…Hmm, the plot thickens:-)

    So…it’s a conundrum…You and Ric at LT and Ingy have the highest respect in this blogosphere for being untainted/pure while TPG and Ben still hold respect of course AND have all the fun.

    In my business (financial advising) I made a commitment from day one NOT to ever recommend something that will produce income for me if it is purchased (see:commissions). Over the years I probably could have made a killing on free cruises and trips but that would require screwing over people royally but that would be so awful I could not see myself in the mirror. These are two completely different fields: financial advice where people trust you with their life savings and travel around the world in comfort.

    So…..after this long blah blah, I think it is probably going to be okay to have some fun, fully disclose it and do your best to provide an honest review.

    Finally, there is a trend forming…When will YOU quit your job to get in this full time? :-) All you guys should merge together, have Randy finance you and go public like Groupon:-)

    Thanks for your blog.


  4. Personally I think you are doing the right thing. It’s a slippery slope. Even sub-consciously if you are getting freebies from company XYZ, it improves your view of that company and detaches you from the reality that the “rest of us” experience, and that will eventually be reflected in the tone and direction of your blogging. I think your decision to give away suggested contributions to your readers is noble. Guess it is stuff like this that has me still thinking your blog is the best of a very good bunch

  5. I hear you Gary. I kind of felt like an idiot with the number of people at the U.S. Travel Association Pow Wow last week who told me they rarely pay for travel.

    A luxury hotel stay here, a cruise there, and plenty of comped activities.

    I think I will take that Mauiva Air Cruise if they offer it to me. Somehow I manage to do a good job at keeping the luxury travel suppliers away from my blog.

  6. While you may not realize it, I am quite confident you are getting travel benes as a result of your blog already. I have had several hotels tell me they have Googled me prior to arrival to make my stay better for me. I’m quite confident you’ve been Googled many times as well and likely got better treatment when they discovered your blog. That’s something you can’t change – hotels and airlines are going to Google you no matter what – but you should be aware your experience may be far different than the average customer’s.

    As for taking freebies, I find these always a waste to me as a reader. Take them if you like, disclose it, but it won’t be the experience other travelers are likely to get. We have a few travel agents on FlyerTalk who post about their stays at high-end new hotels. These tell me nothing. I read one for the same hotel I had recently stayed at. I had used every service/restaurant the hotel provided and can tell you the concierge, GM and main highly acclaimed restaurant were very poor. The hotel knew the travel agent was there and he only experienced a night in one of the suites. (I spent three nights in one of their best suites.) The suites are lovely, no doubt about it. The travel agent gave the hotel a glowing review, largely based on being impressed with the bellman, amenities and suite. He never tried everything else that makes up a hotel. His review was a disservice to his clients, IMO, as he named it the best hotel he’s ever stayed at.

    Finally, I was a newspaper reporter and we were forbidden to take anything free except for advance copies of books and concert tickets. The concert tickets were within the front few rows. I have no doubt at all my free tickets in the best seats made for a much better review than the person sitting in the back who paid $50 a ticket would have written.

    If you want to take freebies, more power to you, but don’t think your experience will be helpful your readers in any way.

  7. Gary I have trouble reading “The Points Guy” because he blogs super-often about Amex. So much so, that it makes reading his blogs feel like you’re reading a never ending ad for American Express. Please – don’t become like him! I don’t know if they pay him per-mention, but it dramatically lowers the value of his blog.

  8. @l’etoile that’s really great perspective. For what it’s worth, and that may not be a lot, I’ve never sensed that any hotel ‘knew about me’ until AFTER my stay, I have heard from hotels on multiple occasions AFTER I’ve written about them, whether good or bad (presumably because of a google alert). But I can’t recall getting any sort of ‘surprise’ upgrade to a room better than I was expecting based on what I had booked or ‘the usual’ based on status. A subsequent stay at the property I suppose may be influenced, e.g. I do wonder if I’ve had better suite allocation (using Hyatt Diamond confirmed upgrades) at the Andaz 5th Avenue that I might have gotten otherwise. But either I’m oblivious (possible) or it hasn’t been my sense that I’ve been treated better as a result of the blog. Either I’m not important enough (most likely) or the hotels aren’t researching me, and I don’t write them ahead of time with “hey I’m a blogger and I’m going to review you” … :)

  9. @Dfyant There’s a lot you can do with Amex points, I write about those bonuses and leveragable opportunities myself. I don’t have any idea if he has any kind of deal with Amex. Though a separate issue that I didn’t mention is referral commissions. You rarely see referral links on my blog, I don’t get them from the credit card companies, a bunch of folks were getting referral commissions for instance on the BA Visa deal while I was not. Probably missed out on real income as a result. Not saying I’ve never benefited from a conga or referral, I generally disclose it, and I’ve never recommended something I wouldn’t have otherwise-recommended. E.g. when I’ve written about BankDirect, where I’ve been a customer since July 2003, I note that anyone getting referred by an existing member gets an extra 1000 miles and the referrer gets 1000 miles, and I’m an existing customer who can refer. Readers are under no obligation to have me be their referrer of course! And I’ve gotten no special treatment from the bank, but they’ve been my primary checking account for 8 years. :)

  10. Gary…. As a reader, I would not have a problem with you taking freebies if:

    1. It represented less than 10% of your posts. Volume would matter.

    2. It was not CASH or other inducement to write puff pieces. In other words, a free trip to Hong Kong to sample a biz seat sounds just fine. It’s similar to getting a book for free to review, except on a larger scale. Especially if you are clearly detailing the pros and cons of said seat. But a “reward” for writing about something, that’s not to my liking.

    3. You are very upfront and honest about the freebie.

  11. As others have said……As long as you can keep your reviews honest and as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work or personal time…..I say go for it on occasion!

  12. @Gary – As a a marketer, I personally know just how important the endorsement of “Key Opinion Leaders” (KOLs)like yourself are to brands and company. gpapadop, says it best when he says that you and Loyalty Traveler have a lot of respect for NOT taking junkets.

    It is hard to be objective (despite many profusions to the same) once you are benefiting from someone else’s largesse. Sam Walton would FIRE employees who even accepted a pen from suppliers, because that would compromise their objectivity. Research has shown that Sam’s hunch was true! (Phil raises the same point above!)

    By refusing to accept junkets and giving freebies to readers, you only burnish your reputation. And you have enough travels of your own to keep us entertained :)

    That being said, I did enjoy reading Ben’s visit to Argentina!

  13. do you think there should have been direct disclosure in a post like this?


    The disclosure is there if you follow the link and read the fiull review, but to me there was a problem because he included a summary with glowing words like “fantastic stay” and “absolute bargain” without any disclosure whatsover that the trip was sponsored. So people that read that and don’t bother to follow his link to the full review have no idea that the trip was sponsored.

    There you have the beginning of a long slippery slope, IMHO.


  14. Gary,

    Just wanted to throw my two cents and tell you how much you are respected in the travel blogging community. If you tell me that you are in on a deal and that it will work, I get out my credit card — no independent verification needed!

    I can’t say that about any other blogger, even the ones I’m friends with. Make sure you have fun, but don’t do anything to tarnish the credibility you’ve built.

  15. Compared to several other blogs out there, your blog reads far less as a commercial for an airline, hotel chain, or credit card/bank than many others out there. You may say other bloggers retain objectivity, but reading some other blogs one can’t help but get a feeling of paid product placement (airlines, hotels and credit card). They don’t talk about the experience, they talk about the products. Criticism always feels superficial.

    Once you lose objectivity you won’t get it back, so think carefully before you take the plunge.

  16. I’m happy that you’re taking the high road on this Gary. The other bloggers definitely downplay their compensation from suppliers directly or from affiliate marketing links. The fact that the space has become so saturated lately has to be due to some kind of compensation being taken.

    And I don’t have a problem with anyone making a living from it, as long as it’s disclosed in the reviews. Where you get into trouble with it is when it’s not. Like when certain influential FT moderators are given Concierge Key membership and suddenly become AA fanboys.

  17. I should also add this this isn’t really any different than what print travel writers do. They definitely take free trips to ‘evaluate’ various travel products and services. Only a handful of them are forbidden to take freebies.

  18. I read your blog because I see you doing things that I could do in a similar fashion. I did not care to read about Ben’s junket to Argentina since it is not an experience that I would be in a position to participate in unless I found a way into a media job.

    I would prefer to see posts about points and miles, not some world class trip that I can not earn through creative use of miles points.

    If you go the junket route you are becoming old media…

  19. I found luckys trip report rather dull and just skipped over most of it. International F or nice hotels I could see myself getting and enjoying via the usual FT routes, but I can’t imagine I would ever be interested enough to fly down for a food and wine event. For that matter I doubt he would of used his own miles to get there.

  20. I personally have no problems with junkets that are fully disclosed. The ones that are on CrankyFlier are actually quite informative, as he is able to interview some of the executives and get a behind the scenes perspective and preview of anything upcoming with the product being offered. In moderation (maybe 2 a year) I can view them as fine.

    Luggage reviews are quite useful, for your own use, but also for anybody who is in the market for luggage. As good luggage tends to be expensive, I can easily deal with a writer being given a free evaluation piece in order to be able to write about it.

    Ben’s writing about his Argentina trip, everything was obtainable through normal means, and the event gave him a reason to attend. Since they are not often, he can review honestly and not compromise the integrity of the blog completely.

    Now, it may seem like I am encouraging you to take the junkets, but at the same time, I completely understand the hesitation. If you feel comfortable taking them, then do. They may lead to interesting experiences, but do not take them if you have any reservations at all.

  21. In my opinion the respect you have is more important than a few fleeting bennies. You will forget about a comped trip pretty soon. But you will be respected long after you stop blogging.

  22. This obviously is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years and now I’m at the point where I’m comfortable with the policy I have. That’s why I’ve created my full ethics page that lists everything I’ve been offered by a company that I might write about. (I don’t bother with non-airline offers because I just don’t write about that in general.)

    I only consider flight-related offers, and then I only consider it if it’s for a work purpose. In other words, if someone says, “hey, how about we fly you to Hawai’i so you can experience our flights and go on vacation,” I wouldn’t take it.

    In general, that means accepting transportation to media days or special events. Other times, like with the Lufthansa A380 trip, the flight is the special event itself but it provides access to execs and allows me to get additional information that I wouldn’t otherwise get.

    So while the flights themselves might not always create opportunities to write about things that are relevant to everyone, I just about always get good information from the visit that is interesting to a broader audience. That’s how I decide whether or not to go . . . if I think it will be interesting for my readers. (And I turn down a lot of stuff.)

    It may sound funny, but that Lufthansa trip wasn’t nearly as much fun as people might imagine. It was grueling, especially since I can’t sleep on airplanes very well. I was on the ground for less than 24 hours and they ran us around until late at night. I seriously considered not going, but I thought it would be good for the blog to be able to write about what I learned there. I’m glad I went.

    I also make sure to limit myself to companies that understand how the blog works. I was critical of Lufthansa’s business class seat in my rundown, and Lufthansa never tried to pressure me to say otherwise. They’re smart about how they interact with bloggers.

    Companies like Lufthansa, BA, Air New Zealand, Delta, Southwest, and US Airways have all provided transportation or trips to me at one point or another and they all fully understood that there was no guarantee of a good review. Instead, they provide great access to execs and really work to establish relationships.

    Sorry for going on and on, but I thought it might be interesting to add some of my perspective.

  23. You are by far most straight-shooting out of yours and those three blogs you mentioned, IMO (I love all of them though!).

    When you go on a trip by using your own miles/cash and show us how amazing some of these airlines/hotel properties are, you are advertising for them for free! Take a cool trip if it’s comped! Just be up front about it, and still be honest in your report like you mentioned.

  24. How would you feel if your doctor accepted a junket from a drug company?

    Or if your congressman went on a boondoggle to the Park Hyatt Tokyo?

    To those that say they have no problem with junkets that are fully disclosed:

    Would it be ok if your doctor handed you a prescription and said, “This drug company sent me on a junket, but I promise, this is a really good drug!”

    Is that different than saying, “I went on a junket to Argentina, but I promise, the Park Hyatt Mendoza is amazing!”

  25. This is just my personal opinion, but I consider blogging something of a hobby, rather than something one can make one’s carrier out of it. Also, the moment you make it a career and others start comping your trips, you are undoubtedly forced to become biased about what you report no matter how you try your best to keep it unbiased. Someone already mentioned something about AMEX ‘promotion’ and the points guy. While his posts about AMEX was made before he officially declared to be a full time blogger, some other readers were already getting the ‘false’ impression that AMEX was sponsoring the points guy.

    At any rate, unless you are at the stage where you feel like there needs to be a career change, your job no longer fascinates you, you are having a mid-life crisis (:D), I’d think keeping your amateur status will continue to bring both admiration/respect AND the added benefits of being a well-known blogger (your post about poor LH F service to India got LH’s attention, didn’t it?).

  26. Timely post…I was just wondering about this topic myself as I read about Ben’s junket and how TPG’s getting comped on his trip to Tokyo. My opinion is rather straightforward: if you get a freebie and then review same freebie, you will be biased to some extent, regardless of how much you disclose. It’s just human nature. That said, I respect all the bloggers mentioned here more than other travel writers by a lot…for now. If the influence any one of them has grows very large, and they are accepting freebies and writing about them, well, then all bets are off. Good post Gary – thanks for highlighting this issue.

  27. No harm accepting anything if you can take it. Also letting readers know beforehand just reinforces the openness relationship. Any body who will be going through the blog for certain period of time will able to distinguish whether person is biased or not. Also no body forces anybody to follow any blog , you just take leap of faith .

    I always feel that my verdict or advise to somebody will be something which I will do too.
    Like somebody said Yours and Ric’s are kind of more professional level blogs.
    But at the same time if you are offered freebies , you can take it as long as you feel yourself your review won’t be biased but at the END OF THE DAY. IT’S YOUR BLOG.

  28. IF…..you don’t accept freebies, you will be able to say that you have never taken freebies or been subsidized in your travels and THUS, hopefully your reviews and opinions will be worth following and trustworthy.
    This entire travel blog bubble will burst and one of the reasons will be oversaturation by individuals who have used the process to become part of the problem instead of the answer.

  29. Gary, I have no issue with a travel blogger receiving comped benefits from a company(free airline ticket or hotel stay), as long as it does NOT influence one’s reviews and analysis of that company and its products, and the person should offer a full disclosure as well.

  30. Before Ben’s free trip to Argentina he was just a well known blogger, but AFTER his trip, he is getting Tweets from AAADVANTAGE saying, “nice mileage run” and “welcome to executive platinum” so it does mak a difference.

    Also, as evidenced by his recent foibles at CDG, when everything is comped, you don’t ge list trying to navigate the Chatelet RER and that does affect and compromise you blog.

    The Points’ Guys blog from JPN is reading different that it is comped. No mention of the dump that is HND or bad arrival times or difficulties navigating into Toyko or the long walk from metro to park hyatt etc etc

  31. After reading your post I composed in my mind my response, but when I came to post a comment I found that l’etoile beat me to it. I share her sentiment almost word for word. Namely, unlike some of the commenters I’m less worried about you being biased because you get something for free; rather, I worry that (a) the experience you’re provided will by atypical or (b) it just won’t be that interesting.

    Cranky sums up my thoughts on (b) pretty well: I enjoy his posts because they’re informative, and they provide me a perspective I wouldn’t otherwise get. I’m an avid reader of Ben’s blog, but like a few others I mostly skipped over the Argentina report. It just wasn’t that interesting to me, in large part because I have little confidence I’d get the same experience he did, even if I tried to. I appreciate Ben’s transparency (and Cranky’s policy is excellent), so it’s not a matter of not trusting Ben–I do, and I think he’s always frank in his write-ups. But there’s something that’s just inherently unappealing about reading a report on a trip someone fed the blogger on a spoon.

    In some ways, I think the best policy for you would be to take the comped trips and then *not* write about them. You get the fun experience, and we get to keep reading “the good stuff.” That said, I’m sure the companies wouldn’t be excited about that particular arrangement.

    Since you asked our opinion, personally I’d love for you to keep eschewing these benefits, as I agree with many others when they say that you have immense credibility and an incredibly valuable blog. That’s a very rare commodity these days. But it’s easy for me to say you shouldn’t take the free stuff, and I don’t think it would compromise your credibility (much) if you did. I just might skip a few more posts than I do currently. :)

  32. I think it is not wise to accept free anything and then rate it. It will take a supper human not to bias the review — I and many trust Consumers Report magazine because they “pay” for what they report on and test things that the general public buy.

    I did business with WAL-MART buyers for 20 years and many other retailers , they were the only company I could not buy even a cup of coffee for , because management knew what it could LEAD TO…. BE SMART… STAY CLEAN -do not change

  33. I do believe it is very difficult to stay “clean” once you get a freebie. Or even once you are well known.

    I agree with Stan that Consumer Reports is a trusted source because they never let the seller/provider influence their report. And the best restaurant reviews out there are from Michelin because the reviewers are never known.

  34. @Ed Michelin certainly has its problems, such as the claim that they have had only about 10% of the reviewers that they claim to, and that some restaurants go years between reviews or that they favor certain chefs regardless of quality… and they’ve even included restaurants that had not yet opened based on ‘agreements’…!

  35. @Gary, so would you trust a Michelin review or a tripadvisor review? Neither system is perfect, but I go with Michelin and, if there are scandals like those you mention, well…that’s the French for you! 😉

  36. @Ed I’d use them differently. TripAdvisor is crowdsourcing, I don’t buy any particular review, but I look for consistent themes (peeling wallpaper, bugs, bad a/c) mentioned across reviews. And I look at the photos.

  37. Gary, my suggestion for compensation offered by vendors would be to standardize using the example of your recent National rental gig. You give away the SWAG. Accept the Wine Trip to the South of France or First Class air/hotel vacation — but give it away to a reader in a contest. Then have the winner co-write the blog evaluation report. IMHO.

  38. Yeah I don’t think Ben can give objective Hyatt reviews anymore, at least not as we would experience it.

  39. @Nick why? Other than the Argentina trip, as far as I know, his Hyatt stays have all been either paid or award redemptions. Has there been a Hyatt review he’s offered that’s seemed off-base?

  40. For the most part, I think the fellows who blog these subjects are as objective as one can possibly be withe subjective material. I must agree that full disclose is essential and the rest is up to the reader. In other words, if the disclosure is made, it becomes a non-issue. -C.

  41. I have to side with the camp that says the free junkets likely won’t provide me the same experience that the blogger got.

    When it comes down to premium travel, I can’t pay the asking prices. (Well, maybe in SE Asia. But I can’t pay the asking price to get there in J or F.) If I’m sitting there in J or F, I worked some sort of deal, or found some sort of promotion. And if that’s the case, I’m in the most affordable seat I can find, period. (IOW, the crappiest J beats the best Y, and I’ll take crappy J if its what I can afford.)

  42. @Cedarglen, I completely agree that full disclosure is necessary if we want to continue to respect the writer. But the funny thing is, if I see that disclosure, the first think I think is “Okay, I will read what he wrote, but he might not be completely honest about this”. It tends to put me “on guard”. Same for you?

    @Gary, recent experiences with tripadvisor have turned me off to them. I now have hotels actively soliciting reviews from me. One hotel even offered my a gift if I wrote a positive review–I reported them to tripadvisor and tripadvisor did not take action satisfactorily, IMO. Hotels have definitely figured out how to “work” the yelp/tripadvisor/etc. angle with their marketing departments.

  43. I find that the whole trend toward professionalizing travel blogs makes them less appealing. The great thing about this blog is that it is essentially someone in a position similar to most people who travel frequently for work and allows you to ride his research coattails. Lucky’s blog and FTG were similar, though for different demographics. As both Lucky and FTG have moved to being more revenue-generating, I’ve found them to be less useful. For Lucky, it’s a small sample size, but he has recently started posting all the time, for obvious reasons. Most of his posts now have very little useful content, making each visit to his blog a little less valuable to me than in the past. (Contrast that with this blog, where nearly every post is useful.) FTG has gotten very commercialized, to the point that I don’t really trust many of his recommendations anymore. He seems like a good guy, but he’s always pushing these credit card deals that (I think) he gets a kickback for offering. It’s even worse with the credit score monitoring firms he’s always talking about. I understand that both of them just want to make some money doing this, but to me, the bloggers who are just doing it because they enjoy it are preferable, since I trust their opinions a little more and their situations are more similar to mine than people who travel solely for the purpose of blogging about it.

  44. Yes, ED is an embarrassing problem we now have to hear about on TV all the time, whereas Ed is just embarrassing…

  45. @Gary I think Ben’s reviews are fair, balanced and impartial, I just think the treatment that he receives from Hyatt could be construed as being above the average diamond member. In other words he may now be on their “radar”. The follow on question I guess is as a blogger do you want this, I guess it depends on your motives.

  46. @Nick My sense isn’t that Ben is being treated better than the median Diamond *at the properties he chooses to stay at*, he’s going to many of the better ones. For what it’s worth my understanding is that Hyatt’s systems aren’t so good overall to be able to ‘flag’ someone for better treatment.. there’s Diamond and Courtesy Card and beyond that they could call a property about a sepcific stay but nothing so automatic.

  47. One more fact to consider:

    Taking a free trip will likely DQ you from ever working for the mainstream media (i.e. NYT, CNN, Conde Nast) in the future, either as a columnist or freelancer.

    Selfishly, I hope you don’t take the free trips (to keep your commentary as objective as possible), although I certainly understand the temptation to do so.

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