A Former Travelhost Employee Speaks…

Again, name withheld from fear of retaliation from Travelhost Inc., a former employee of Travelhost wrote in response to one of my blog postings.  I never asked this person their name, and assured them I wouldn’t use it in the  post.  You can read this exchange on this blog, but it’s buried…and I thought it was worth highlighting in a separate post, because it shows what it’s really like down there in Dallas, working for Buerger and crew…

The point of this copy and paste, is to show that: I’m not crazy, I’m not a crook, and OTHER people have seen what Travelhost has done over the years.  This time, proof from an ex-employee.  Which, by the way, is only one of many who have contacted me over the last couple of months.

Start of exchange:

I’m saying former employee because I cannot have my name published. I don’t care if you publish this anyway, I just want you to know this. Thank you.

I’m finding this information, along with other websites of other dissatisfied APs quite interesting. I do not know anything about the numbering system or their Tuesday meetings as they may have started this after I left, but it sounds completely possible.

When people first began saying Travelhost is a fraud I dismissed it as sour grapes by APs who just didn’t know how to sell, as was commonly said. But over the years since I have left and joined another successful publishing house I began to see it plain as day. They are in business to sell distributorships and print, that’s it. They have no concern, nor any staff, to accommodate a real magazine. Their Managing Editor is not technically a managing editor in the true sense of the word. They edit nothing. It’s title only to impress readers and future APs. What’s printed is what is submitted and never goes through a trained proofreader or trained copy editor — only people who check for accuracy against submitted copy. Once in awhile you get a proofreader who knows their stuff but that does not say much.

As for APs, those who sell more are appreciate more. I can understand that, but one BIG mistake you’re making is calling this a franchise. NEVER use that word. It is a distributorship. If it were a franchise things would be different. It’s laughable but I was once told that if it were a franchise Jim Buerger would have to control everything in each office, down to the unforms and the color paint. And he doesn’t want that kind of control. How stupid did they think we were!! They didn’t call it a franchise because they did not want to disclose information, as has been said. I hate being played a fool. Just hate it.

Yes, you are probably on the shit list, no doubt. You’re questioning the authority and the structure. NOBODY does that! Just wait until the awards ceremony. You won’t even be thought of. The awards will go to Denver and Ft. Lauderdale and Branson — you know, the big issues and those who have made money and kept their mouths shut.

Oh the stories I could tell! Then you would know why I’m no longer there! I wish you luck on your issue, really I do. I just wish that you started you own with your own title. Travelhost has absolutely no market value and very little name recognition. Believe me, I know.”

Former Employee

My response to this person:

* bdhickey Says:

Hello, and thank you for your response. Much like the AP’s in this Travelhost network, the employees at HQ are treated with little respect either. Since Jim Buerger likes to control the business like a Nazi dictator, I can’t imagine how much fun it must be to work there. I’m assuming you weren’t aware of this system, because they only let the “higher level execs” who are part of the scheme in on this info. It’s a shame, really…because this business could be so much more, if they utilized the tremendous talent of their employees and associate publishers.

Travelhost is most definitely a franchise, when you consider the criteria. And, the threshold is actually quite low, so they’re fooling themselves if they think it’s not, in my opinion (and the opinion of many others who are a hell of a lot smarter than me.) You and everyone that worked down there at TH HQ were trained from day one, not to use certain words or phrases that might point to this. I’m sure you, in whatever capacity you worked there, were largely unaware of the fraud taking place every day…but you may have had an idea. Just no one talked about it.

Well, I’m talking about it…and no one seems to be arguing with me.

I have yet to receive ONE drop of evidence from ANYONE, including TH HQ, that anything in my blog or website is FALSE.

Good luck in your new venture, and in your career. I’m sure you’ll go a lot farther, and be a lot happier, now that you’re working for a REAL publisher!

Brian

AKA “The Publisher’s Advocate”

Former Employee Says:

Thank you for your response.

My job at Travelhost included work in production and working with APs and future APs. I knew many of them personally after the years and was always struck with their sincerety and desire just to make it — for the most part. I helped to prepare for conventions and attended them, taught TIPS class, sat in on endless meetings in both middle management, sales and many with Jim Buerger himself. Strangely, after ten years of employment I was still not aware of the fraud. I heard bits and pieces about it by “disgruntled former APs” but marked it up as sour grapes.

Yes, Buerger does run the office like a Nazi dictator, and is proud of it. It’s miserable working there for the most part. The older employees rush around from desk to desk and he nears the production end of the plant saying “Mr. Buerger is coming! Mr. Buerger is coming” which sets off a flurry of activity of cleaning off one’s desk, hiding drinks and sitting up straight. One former employee who worked there well over twenty years, now retired, would actually run to her desk and apply her lipstick and brush her hair and end of gushing over the man. It was pathetic.

But the most important thing is that the truth come out in the business plan, and that new APs coming in are aware of it. Yes, there is money to be made if done correctly, as many APs do, but the devil is certainly in the details here and are worth pointing out.

Their corporate attorney, John Price, is on staff to be sure every i is dotted and every t crossed, and I’m sure he keeps up with every posting you have. I do find it interesting that they never challenge what you’ve written. The truth is never slanderous, as they say.

Former Employee

You are absolutely right on the money in everything I’ve read, and I have gone through every entry of your blog. It’s funny because I was talking about this with a friend of mine earlier today who was familiar with my experience with TH and I said I’m glad an AP finally has the balls to finally stand up to Buerger! It’s refreshing. Too many people around Buerger are nothing by sycophants and he tolerates nothing but yes-men (and women). He has an enormous ego as many people do, but unfortunately it has clouded his judgment.

As for them making money on the selling of markets over and over, it’s very true. In fact I once asked one of the salesmen, about the fact that the markets just don’t get off the ground, especially in smaller cities, and he just simply shrugged and said, “I’ll just sell it again!” I could imagine he wanted it to fail, as this was his bread and butter. That was my very first tip that something was amiss.

The APs are really in a very sensitive position. They buy in on all the good reports of Ft. Lauderdale, Denver, Branson, Key West, and so on, hand over their life savings, in many cases, then suddenly realize what they’ve got.. I can only imagine the near-terror in their mind once they realize they’ve purchased an inferior “franchise” (and I can now use that word) and then realize how much money they must sink into this month after month. I remember one lady in particular from, I believe, the Hill Country around Austin. She was a wonderful lady; young and full of ambition and connections. I talked to her and she told me she had, full of fear, handed over her only savings and was so excited to put this issue together. She had a very hard time selling and I believe put out a few issues but if I remember correctly, did not last. Indeed, she should have done her homework, but back then there was no real information on the internet and no way I could warn her, even secretly. I did feel bad for her because I knew her chances were slim..

Now I do remember in one board meeting, one AP made the comment to Buerger that she wanted to somehow tell new incoming APs about the expenses that were above and beyond the token $40,000 they paid up front. I heard this from another employee, and she said Buerger shut her down flat. That idea would not fly…This AP is a tough bird, I’ll tell you; I know her personally, and it’s a difficult thing to shut her down. But he was having none of that. Why? You and I know that no AP would buy into this plan if they knew every detail of what was ahead. Now I understand this instance is hear- say, but this employee was noted for talking and giving details. I believe the story is true.

Forgive me for going on and on, but I think of things you may want to know. I do remember also, sometime in the earlier 2000s (or zero years) that from one point of time to that same point of time a year later every new market they had achieved they had lost. Every single one. Buerger then changed things by coming up with bi-monthly issues. We pushed the APs to create theme pages which really did help quite a few of them get a better grasp on their editions. Detroit for one. That AP, a genuinely wonderful lady, had been publishing a very thin issue up until then until we designed theme pages and she went to town. It was nice, because for once Buerger realized he had to do something to make the magazines in the system successful enough to keep the presses running. They had plenty of turnover in the new markets, but suddenly the established editions were starting to fall. He even improved the paper and insisted that each issue be in full color from some that were black and white. I’ll give Buerger that one. But I couldn’t help think as I sat in meeting after damned meeting about this “Why the hell didn’t you think of this before now? I did!” But I didn’t say anything. Now I don’t know how well this has helped markets since but for a time it did boost the bottom line of these APs and they were able to print bigger magazine with “plop factor” as Buerger called it.

You are correct, Dallas has its own publisher. For some time Dallas did not have an edition at all. Sherry Buerger-Carr, Buerger’s daughter and VP, I’m sure you’ve met her, took it over and various people in the plant created a rather nice looking edition. Buerger was embarrassed that his own city did not have a presence. But they built it up to sell it, which they did and it’s still quite nice looking but smaller than what it was. Dallas has a lot of competition and with what the current AP has I think she’s doing pretty good.

Please use any information I pass along as you like. I appreciate your willingness not to include my own personal information. There were several people over the years that tried to stir up the network with the truth and Buerger and HQ were quite successful in making them look like crooks. Once such incident was someone published a publication called GhostPost, which took its name from the internal publication they used to do called HostPost. The people who published it did make some headway but they soon gave up. Now you have something much more powerful with the internet, and I’m happy to see it. Please know that if I can be of further assistance please let me know.

End of “former employee” exchange

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