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Letters to the Editor

Internet impact

April 9, 2011

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To the editor:

After reading your recent article on the closing of the Bay Leaf store in downtown Lawrence I had to write. The owner stated that “the Internet is what’s killing us.” I hear their pain. I am a local travel agent trying to survive in this economy because I love what I do. I live here, I work here, I spent my hard-earned money here. The Internet has completely changed the way we, as travel professionals, do business.

We work tirelessly for our clients to help them get the best value for their vacation dollar, spending hours on research and cost comparison for no pay. We are only compensated when our efforts result in a sale. Imagine how frustrating it is when we finalize a quote that is exactly what the client wants, and they take the information and book it themselves online to save $15.

We are professionals with years of training and experience. Would you expect your doctor, lawyer, dentist or accountant to work for free? Our services are at no cost to our clients although some agents are now charging an upfront service fee because of what the Internet is doing. So please, remember, whether it’s a downtown store or a professional service, keep your dollars local. We will all benefit.

Comments

Liberty_One 3 years, 8 months ago

This is why capitalism works: the customer is ultimately in charge. One website can replace hundreds of travel agents, saving customers money. Travel agents must find ways to cut costs, offer something else to customers or they have to find a new career. Prices fall thus improving the purchasing power of everyone and improving everyone's lives.

scott3460 3 years, 8 months ago

And this is why capitalism is flawed - those with power buy the influence needed to tilt the rules in their favor. Internet sales merchants benefit massively from government services and shirk their obligation to pay their debt for services provided. Taxing internet sales would restore some fairness to the equation described above.

tomatogrower 3 years, 8 months ago

Not to mention that the government funded the start up research for the internet. The capitalist don't like risking their own money, so they get the government to do the research then take over. Look at the drug companies who say they have to charge a lot of R and D, when much of their R and D happens in research universities. That's what happened with that drug that is suppose to prevent miscarriage.

Kirk Larson 3 years, 8 months ago

"You know, capitalism--that building that's round and shiny, like the Washington monument!" I think you mean Capitolism.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

What she describes isn't capitalism-- it's theft of services, although, sadly, that is a major component of what makes "capitalism work."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

I bet you did the rough draft on that with crayons.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

It is theft of services.

But, she and other agents could prevent that by charging for those services up front, which she says some agents do.

lisahatz 3 years, 8 months ago

It sounds like you've never worked with a travel agent. Travel agents are not in charge of how much the cruise lines, airlines, resorts, etc. charge. Believe me we wish we could cut costs. It is our job to make sure that travelers get the best VALUE for their hard-earned dollars. Replacing travel agents in no way saves customers money. Next time you book a reservation online and find out that when you get to your destination the reservation has been cancelled, or you've forgotten your vouchers, or the hotel/cruise line tells you that what you thought you reserved isn't actually what you are getting - give your on-line booking reservations number a call. Good luck.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 8 months ago

"Liberty", There's no need to insult someone who knows far more about her business than you do. To call her unable to change and lacking innovation is just a plain insult based on your ideological fantasies and has nothing to do with the realities of her profession. The travel profession, like so many other ones, has gone through breakneck innovation based on the need to survive, and your blind faith in this leading to some kind of spartan utopian capitalist paradise is very tiresome for the rest of us to read, since there is ample evidence that it is leading us down a very different path.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

"I'm sorry. You are one of those ignorant people that thinks we live in a capitalist country, aren't you?"

So, since the Soviet Union wasn't a truly socialist country, is that proof that socialism, if done in its pure, but as yet wholly imagined, form, is perfect and beyond reproach, as you so often profess about capitalism?

gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 8 months ago

So... you hate Jews and you love the Soviet Union. Awesome.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 8 months ago

You once again insulted her by saying that by her struggling to stay in business that she must have done something wrong. That's where you need to know more about her business, and by saying that you agree you don't know much about her business but still jump to the conclusion that she must have done something wrong, you are speaking from your ideology. Calling me a socialist only reinforces the fact that you are not checking in with reality nearly often enough to stay out of trouble. I suggest you take a walk downtown or somewhere in our community and strike up some conversations with real people about real things.

You see, many, many professions are being racked by rapid-fire changes that are squeezing the small person out of business in spite of all the changes and innovations that they can muster. The travel industry is not being "rationalized" by pure market forces at all; the playing field, like so many other areas of our economy, is being tilted to favor the few at the expense of many, so that the independent businessperson has a harder and harder row to hoe.

The internet is providing many new opportunities for new service delivery models, but it is also providing the opportunity for multinationals new and old to penetrate local markets at a pace that staggers the local economy. Not only are the paychecks leaving the community but so are the taxes and sense of community that is bolstered and sustained by having a good base of local businesses. These issues are not served well by discussing them in terms of capitalism, socialism, libertarianism or any other -ism that comes to mind. Businesses are being taken out through no fault of their own and it's time to look at this as a community and start talking with our neighbors to figure out how we can retain and improve on what is left.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 8 months ago

"Typically??" "you people???" There you go labeling folks again.

Oh, by the way, the only person caught in your "trap" was yourself: you're the one who started the entire comments section talking about a blindered version of capitalism that I then characterized as leading to some kind of spartan capitalist paradise. Maybe you'd better see that the stones were not coming from me, rather they were bouncing off those ideological glass walls you've surrounded yourself with. Time to put down the rocks and walk through that door is my advice to you.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Except that she did neither of those things.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Shopping online can put people out of work face it. Losing the central business district to online shopping makes no sense at all. Putting people out of work means more tax dollar revenue will need to be covered by the rest of us.

Will we shop online? If we cannot find what we're looking for in Lawrence.

In the meantime let's not forget Weaver's has a decent housewares department. Offering that USA made Fiestaware for instance.

Scott Morgan 3 years, 8 months ago

Being successful in business essentially is keeping up with the changing market place. Not a fan of Applebee's, but you have to admire the pick up service for instance.

How do we stay in business, how do we increase our sales and profit?

The best example are the Love Stores in Oklahoma. Need fuel? Need anything? Need a Vegan meal? This franchise offers everything a traveler could wish for, and serves the local market too.

My family perhaps like most others shops, and looks for value. Value does not mean cheap.

Value also doesn't mean settling for something else due to a limited line, or the item not offered locally. Lawrence offers fairly good shopping, but does lack in choices. Or maybe a better term, lack in amount of stocked product.

Merrill, we do agree on something. Weavers.

Katara 3 years, 8 months ago

My doctor, lawyer, accountant or dentist does not work on commission, which is what her pay is based on. It is a bad comparison.

lisahatz 3 years, 8 months ago

So they have the joy of coming home!!!

jogger 3 years, 8 months ago

As beloved as the Bayleaf was, retail offers a very different experience from online shopping and many who have moved on would have continued to buy from the Bayleaf online if they had grown in the context of business in the last two decades. A retail outlet is most likely to thrive if they also offer online sales and remain unique and competitive.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

In the meantime shop Weavers housewares in downtown Lawrence,Kansas

"And yet you advocate for putting the local recycling business people out of work. Which is it, Richard?"

Never said that anywhere. In fact that isn't true. Here's where I stand:

Pay-As-You-Throw

In communities with pay-as-you-throw programs (also known as unit pricing or variable-rate pricing), residents are charged for the collection of municipal solid waste—ordinary household trash—based on the amount they throw away. This creates a direct economic incentive to recycle more and to generate less waste.

Traditionally, residents pay for waste collection through property taxes or a fixed fee, regardless of how much—or how little—trash they generate. Pay-As-You-throw (PAYT) breaks with tradition by treating trash services just like electricity, gas, and other utilities. Households pay a variable rate depending on the amount of service they use. Environment/Equity/Economy

Most communities with PAYT charge residents a fee for each bag or can of waste they generate. In a small number of communities, residents are billed based on the weight of their trash. Either way, these programs are simple and fair. The less individuals throw away, the less they pay.

EPA supports this new approach to solid waste management because it encompasses three interrelated components that are key to successful community programs:

http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/tools/payt/index.htm

I'm all for local recyclers absolutely ....... which is who we hire.

In the meantime shop Weavers housewares in downtown Lawrence,Kansas

rtwngr 3 years, 8 months ago

The EPA is a bureaucratic nightmare run amok. It has too much individual power and miniscule oversight.

rtwngr 3 years, 8 months ago

Geez, I hate it when I agree with Merrill. PAYT is equitable (like the "Fair Tax") and encourages recycling. However this has nothing to do with the letter to the editor.

The dynamics of the market place changes as innovation evolves. Government intervention into the internet would be difficult to regulate and enforce. Protectionism for the sake of saving small businesses is not the answer nor will it ever be. Frankly, maybe the "Travel Agent" has outlived their usefulness in the market place.

The last company manufacturing buggy whips probably made the best darned buggy whip ever.

obamasocks 3 years, 8 months ago

These sort of articles are ridiculous. Can the internet destroy a small local business? absolutely. HOWEVER, it can also completely save a small local business. The problem is too many small businesses drag there feet when it comes to marketing via the internet. Why not setup an ebay store, an Amazon reseller store, or some other online venture? Any one of these can help a business stay "afloat", competitive, and actually increase revenue. Locally. Small businesses need to be investing more in online marketing if they expect to succeed.

Moral of the story: don't blame the internet, its just the modern evolution of business...if you aren't willing to get on board, then close shop. Its the similar situation to what has happened with the adaptation of credit cards over the past 20 years. 20 years ago only a few grocery stores and no fast food restaurants accepted credit cards. Now, if you don't accept credit cards you are guaranteed to lose a ton of business.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

The point was that customers use their services without paying for them, and then simply book the vacation themselves.

You see this sort of thing in high-end audio as well - dealers provide equipment that you can listen to and rooms that you can listen in. Some customers do that, allowing them to do a lot of free research, and then go online and buy the equipment for the lowest price they can find.

It's understandable that these business owners feel that they're being taken advantage of, because they are.

The easiest solution is for them to charge for their services upfront.

Katara 3 years, 8 months ago

What she is complaining about is comparison shopping. It is not theft of services. Her "client" has not signed any contract binding them to use her services. If she chooses to do all the work and then expects to be paid without a firm commitment, it is on her not the consumer.

The consumer has no obligation to provide her business and that is what is bothering me about the recent spate of "the internet is killing local business" cries. The attitude of these letters are that somehow people that live in this area owe these businesses or have an obligation to make sure they turn a profit. That is an arrogant attitude. I don't owe anyone my patronage.

If not being paid for what she feels is the value of her services is her issue, she can remedy that by charging up front or requesting a non-refundable deposit. Instead, she wants to blame the internet. Which, BTW, is probably is tool she utilizes a lot when providing her valuable services.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Did you read my last sentence?

However, it is not just "comparison shopping" if I go to an audio dealer and spend hours listening to their products in order to make a decision, then buy them over the internet.

I have used their resources without compensating them.

Similarly, with a travel agent - if they do the work for you without being compensated, that's not right, in my view. If you don't want to compensate them, you can easily do your own research online.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Bay Leaf was online I believe.

In fact many local/downtown business establishments are online for shopping..... to include Free State Brewery.

Katara 3 years, 8 months ago

Then the shopping on the internet isn't what is killing their business.

obamasocks 3 years, 8 months ago

Exactly my point. Its big business that's killing them; its extremely difficult to stay competitive when you can't compete with prices, or you can't out-advertise the big dogs. The internet is only one medium in use, a modern-day billboard.

mlinemgmt 3 years, 8 months ago

Well, I think the point was missed from the letter. Anytime prospective clients ask the service provider to do all the work for them, provide the itineray they want, at the price they want, and then take that information and either use it themselves or turn it over to another service provider, that is in bad form. In may instances, in my experience, those folks will embark on their journey to find out what they thought they had booked was not quite the reality.....that is what the Travel Agent is responsible for. Is it worth the extra $15 to $50 bucks on a $3,000 trip for a week to find out your "sea view" cabin or hotel room actually looks at a fuel tank form...can't answer that for others but in my experience, if things aren't as they are supposed to be, my travel agent fixed it and I either got a refund or the agenda was corrected based on my documents.....good luck on doing that yourself.

mr_right_wing 3 years, 8 months ago

Wal-Mart is evil... Shopping on the internet is evil...

(cue 'imperial march') What does that make 'www.walmart.com'???

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