March 25, 2014

Call me old school. I still use local travel agency folks to help with arranging flights and hotels.

Why not just go to the Internet and do it myself on any number of well-known or upstart travel sites? Loyalty to local businesses has long been my explanation. Add in strong customer service, too. The local travel agent knows what I want and can be reached on a cellphone to fix a problem.

But it turns out this fidelity to our Carroll-area travel agents, real people, is real smart. So says Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News, in a Fortune magazine piece.

One section of his commentary issues a strong warning: "Don't trust the Internet."

If you search online yourself, you may create an electronic record of your interest in, say, a flight from Omaha, Neb., to Atlanta during a particular time frame.

"If you don't buy that fare the first time around and then go back online a few hours later, the fare may have magically gone up," Greenberg writes.

Data-tracking devices in your computer's browser are responsible for this.

This is why some wisecrackers have taken to calling the Internet the "enter net," because once you are in it, you are often caught in unexpected situations, usually not to your benefit.

And then there's this: Want to fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii, but the Internet says every flight is booked or overpriced?

The "all-knowing" Internet, according to Greenberg, often won't tell you about connecting-flight options - like going from Los Angeles through Phoenix or Las Vegas to get to Hawaii.

Travel and airline-reservations agents will, Greenberg points out.

He bottom-lines it.

"If you are like most folks, you book online," Greenberg said. "That can be a huge and costly no-no. Why? Because you mistakenly believe that all the available inventory is displayed online. Not even close."

So doing the right thing for our local businesses by patronizing them and eschewing the Internet is actually doing the right thing for yourself.