A Travelhost Travesty…

It appears that Travelhost has made a very clear statement about their business.

James Buerger has decided on the course of action for Travelhost’s future. And, sadly, it appears to be the same course of action he’s taken for the last forty years.

Hiding the truth.

See, instead of fixing his broken network, with his associate publishers suffering under the tyranny of his bad business model…James Buerger has decided to bury his head (and yours) in the sand…and continue his 43 year scam by “cloaking the Travelhost dagger.”

Instead of telling THE PUBLISHER’S ADVOCATE, or the rest of my readers, what in this blog that is “false,” he has decided to plaster page one of Google (searching “Travelhost”) with a bunch of useless stuff…in an attempt to hide the due diligence blog available to the general public.

Basically, Buerger’s plan is to attempt to again cloud the ability of prospective investors to see the real operation, so that they make an UNINFORMED decision about investing THOUSANDS of dollars on a Travelhost FRANCHISE

Excellent plan, Mr. Buerger…way to go!

This reminds me of an old story, told to me by Jim Buerger himself…those of you who know him, know he likes to tell stories. You may remember hearing this one yourself…

I may not have it word for word, but I think you’ll get the idea:

“On a table sits two bowls, one filled with vanilla ice cream, and one filled with shit. That’s right, shit.

If you take a spoonful of vanilla ice cream, and place it in the bowl of shit…no big deal. You are no better or worse off than you were before.


However, if you take just one tiny speck of shit, and place it in the bowl of vanilla ice cream….YOU RUIN THE WHOLE BOWL.”

Would you agree?

It makes sense, right?

Actually, it’s a good analogy when referring to keeping a PMA (positive mental attitude…JB’s a big fan of Napolean Hill too, go figure.)

The problem here is that Jim Buerger doesn’t practice what he preaches!

Instead of fixing the bad things in the Travelhost business model that are currently putting him and his associates out of business, he has decided to allow these SPECKS OF SHIT IN HIS BOWL OF VANILLA ICE CREAM HE CALLS TRAVELHOST.

He won’t remove them, he just wants to bury them in the bowl.

Nasty, right?

Who wants to find a speck of shit in the bowl, after eating some ice cream off the top?

I sure don’t.

But guess what, that’s the type of situation he’s created with Travelhost!

Most people don’t find the shit in their TRAVELHOST ice cream, until they dig (and eat) some of it first.

That’s why THE PUBLISHER’S ADVOCATE exists. To help investors find the shit, BEFORE they go and eat it!

BUERGER has created a big bowl of vanilla ice cream on page one of the Google search results for “travelhost,” and allowed the shit to remain!

Not only is that sneaky and malicious, but it’s got to prove one thing:

Travelhost and Mr. James Buerger have something to hide.

Why not fix the problems, Jim?

Why attempt to hide THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE, if what we have to say here has no merit?

Why not actually fix the problem, so the shit disappears?

It’s a sad state of affairs in Dallas, my friends.

Omitting information in a FRANCHISE situation is one thing…going OUT OF YOUR WAY to hide the information.

Well, that’s just one more bit of evidence that you’re a crook.


PS…By the way, thank you everyone for your private responses to my post on “The Two Year Club.” I will get back to each an every one of you soon. It won’t be hard to do this right, when the competition is doing it all wrong!

18 Responses to “A Travelhost Travesty…”

  1. Eli Mertens Says:


    I still don’t get you…

    You signed an agreement with TravelHost to distribute and publish a magazine. You took an existing market that had been in business for about 20 years and you quickly went out of business. You continue to want everyone to believe that TravelHost in Dallas and Jim Buerger is to blame for your failure.

    Running a TravelHost magazine isn’t easy and it’s definitely not for everyone. My success or my failure is up to me and my work ethic and my business smarts. TravelHost had failed twice in my market before I took it over. It is now the number one tourism publication in Central Kentucky. The difference is the person running the individual business not Jim Buerger or Dallas.

    If you spent the same energy and passion that you have for this hate filled blog in growing your business, you probably would have been very successful.

    Eli Mertens

    • bdhickey Says:

      Hi Eli,

      Thanks for responding, you bring up some very good questions and points:

      1. I’m actually one of the lucky ones, I lasted nearly 5 years. Most don’t.
      2. I signed an agreement, because it entitled me to WHOLESALE PRICES, which I found out years later I WAS NOT GETTING. Not even close!
      3. I agree with you, running a business is not easy. Especially when your FRANCHISOR puts you at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace with their pricing, illegally omits information they are required to tell you by law, and goes out of their way to hide from the rest of the world.

      (they lied to you, too, Eli…in case you were wondering.)

      Eli…I commend you for a job well done in your market. You’re one of just a few in the world who is doing well, despite the “Travelhost Tax” Mr. Buerger places on each AP in the network.

      As an Advisory Board member, I’m sure you can tell us all this:

      What is the success rate of a new AP signing on with Travelhost?

      I look forward to your reply.

      Thank you!



      PS…you mention that you still don’t “get me.”

      The Publishers Advocate exists solely for due diligence purposes. I’m providing the information that Travelhost doesn’t, so that people can make an informed decision regarding the business “opportunity.”

      I’ve got nothing to hide. It’s all here on my blog and site.

      Why does Travelhost have something to hide? So much that they have to go out of their way to attempt to make this information unavailable to the general public?

      And, if it’s FALSE, why is it that NO ONE has ever been able to tell me what is FALSE…despite my repeated requests?

      I think you know the answer, Eli.

      We all do…perhaps thats why you take the time out to read this blog?

      You can either reply with the success rate, or you can chose to ignore the request. It’s up to you.

      However, I suggest you justify your position, instead of complaining about mine. David Portner couldn’t do it…maybe you can?

  2. Eli Mertens Says:


    1.According to a study by the U.S. Small Business Association, only 2/3 of all small business start-ups survive the first two years and less than half make it to four years.

    2.The very first words you state “I signed an agreement” ends any conversation or debate you have over pricing. You signed the agreement as I signed my agreement. The pricing for the printing was stated in the contract and you agreed to it. If you didn’t do your due diligence prior to signing the agreement that is your fault. I did my homework and I knew I was paying more for printing, but I felt then, as I still feel today that the value I receive with a national brand and the support of Dallas is worth the extra premium.

    3.I’m not sure what competitive disadvantage you are talking about? I knew everything I needed to know before I decided to take on this business opportunity.

    4.I have not always agreed with everything that Dallas does, but I will tell you I have never been lied too since I started with my TravelHost business.

    I’m making a great living as an Associate Publisher of TravelHost, as many others are too. I don’t appreciate you trying to disparage the brand I and many others are working hard to build in our communities. I don’t know what the failure rate of TravelHost is and I really don’t care. It is up to each business owner to make their business profitable and viable. You took an existing business (20 years) and failed after five years, how is that TravelHost’s fault?

    I hope you bury your hatchet soon – this is getting old and you are running out of material.

    Wishing you the best,

    Eli Mertens
    Lexington, KY

    • bdhickey Says:

      Eli, glad to have you with us! I’m happy to respond to your comments:

      1. If 66% of INDEPENDENT businesses last two years, why do less than 1% of TRAVELHOST businesses last 2 years? Especially when you PAY 60K for the FRANCHISE? Sounds like you have a FAR better chance going it on your own, no? Why SELL a business model that has a far less chance than average of success?

      2. The AGREEMENT I signed stated I get WHOLESALE pricing, not “DOUBLE RETAIL.” There’s a difference. I can explain it further if necessary, if need be? It’s not a SMALL difference either.

      3. The competitive disadvantage has mostly to do with paying twice what your competition pays for printing and production. Then there’s the lack of control over your overhead, which your competition has. See, when times get rough, they go and print less pages or less copies. Can’t do that with Travelhost. They’d rather you GO OUT OF BUSINESS than cut a few pages and survive. Just ask the scores of AP’s who have gone out in the last few years.

      4. Eli, you’ve been lied to repeatedly. You seem to choose to bury your head in the sand. You’ll figure it out soon enough. Don’t forget, in a FRANCHISE situation, omissions are lies, and so are active concealments. Eli, why do you think Federal and State franchise authorities require disclosure of 3 years of failure rates and litigation?

      It serves two functions: It allows investors to sort through the rotten apples! Those franchises like Travelhost, that use high pressure sales schemes to swindle investors over and over again. (You know, when you go to Dallas and they give you 10 minutes to decide whether to take the $30K AP agreement that lets you sell those “extremely profitable National ads”…(NOT)… and get “wholesale pricing?”

      Secondly, it forces the FRANCHISOR..AKA (Travelhost) to fix a broken and failing system. If Travelhost had to disclose that in the last 3 years the failure rate has been in excess of 100% and has to give you the names of the past APs, don’t you think Buerger might be forced to fix the problem? Don’t you think Buerger’s practice of profiting from AP turnover and simply collecting another $60K might be less profitable to him if he had to tell prospects that this was happening? (30-40 people start and fail each year and TH pockets $1.8 million to $2.4 million on this turnover each year?)

      Eli, I already told you you’re doing a great job at your business, and I commend you for it. Why do you continue to read this blog, if you don’t agree with what I have to say? I have HUNDREDS of readers of this blog, and they all seem to agree with me.

      You, and a couple other people at TRAVELHOST are the only ones that disagree. And, I appreciate that. I’d disagree too, if I were you.

      However, I’m not trying to attack the brand, or hurt your business in any way. I’m trying to save the rest of the entrepreneurs out there from making an UNINFORMED decision.

      I’ll bury my hatchet when TRAVELHOST stops ripping people off, and makes good with the HUNDREDS of entrepreneurs they’ve screwed over the years. AND, when Travelhost does right by who’s left in their network of AP’s…and that, my friend, even includes you too!

      Wishing you continued success,

      Brian Hickey

      PS…Eli, if what I’m saying here is baseless and unsubstantiated…why hasn’t anyone proven me wrong?

      Can you provide evidence that what I’m saying is false?

  3. J.J. Says:

    Brian, DO NOT GIVE UP. Mertens is drunk on the TH koolaid and it is not being truthful.That is why he sits on that stupid board and defends Travelhost. Get this to court and it all comes tumbling down. Remember, there is honor among thieves.

  4. Former Employee Says:

    When I first red Mr. Mertens posts I thought, now here’s a guy who’s on the Board. It’s pure Travelhost Speak, loud and clear.

    We’re all thrilled that Mr. Mertens has found success with TH, no doubt about that. But what distrubed me about his reply was that he said he didn’t care about the failure rate — and that he didn’t even know what it is! This coming from a member of the Board! I KNEW WHAT THE FAILURE RATE WAS AND I WORKED IN PRODUCTION!! Should this not be a source of conversation at each Board meeting? The failure rate determines the success of the entire network, I would think. Makes me wonder if the failure rate is really a problem at all. It comes back to selling each franchise for $60,000 over and over and over.

    Keep up the good work, Brian. You’re making a difference.

  5. Eli Mertens Says:


    I find it interesting how you continue to state baseless facts and have made yourself the “expert” on all things TravelHost, but couldn’t keep your own TravelHost magazine in business.

    You repeatedly state that the high failure rate at TravelHost as being rooted in all the things bad at TravelHost and Jim Buerger. How is it that the TravelHost magazine you purchased had been publishing for 20 years before you ran it into the ground?

    I also find it interesting that your blog followers that you are so proud of, can slander my name and reputation, while hiding their own identity.

    We served on the TravelHost Advisory Board during the same time. I never once heard you speak up when you had the perfect opportunity to address Jim Buerger and all your concerns.

    In your noble quest to make sure that everyone is aware of the fraud you believe is going on at TravelHost, you have never once written anything or stated a fact that wasn’t spelled out in the TravelHost contract you signed and agreed to.

    Why don’t you finally answer a few questions, instead of stating baseless and deceiving information?

    1. Did you sign the TravelHost Agreement?
    2. Did you read the TravelHost agreement before you signed it?
    3. If you believed you were being “pressured” why did you sign the agreement?
    4. By signing the TravelHost contract did you not agree to the printing rates stated in the agreement?
    5. TravelHost has two rate structures they call Whole Sale and Retail. The rates are spelled out in detail in the agreement. Those printing rates are not compared to other commercial printing rates. Why do you continue the irrelevant argument that cheaper printing can be found elsewhere?
    6. If printing can be found cheaper somewhere else why did you sign the contract with TravelHost?
    8. How did TravelHost in any way not honor their end of the agreement you signed?
    7. If you have been so deceived and wronged by TravelHost why haven’t you and your blogging “no names” taken TravelHost to court?

    I do understand now why TravelHost in Dallas doesn’t respond to your blog…You can’t reason with someone that doesn’t deal in facts, the truth and continuous innuendo.


    • bdhickey Says:


      Now that you seem to be on Buerger’s payroll, you’ve got the Travelhost strategy down pat!

      Attack the AP, not Travelhost’s scam. Ignore the facts…and for heaven sakes don’t address the issues that have been carefully addressed, by category in numerous posts here on this blog.

      See, the answers to all of your questions, are clearly stated within this blog. I don’t believe you’ve actually read the blog, I believe that you just scanned it. I also believe that you’ve been put to the task by Buerger himself. Perhaps the conversation went something like this:

      (Buerger to Eli):

      “Get on Brian’s blog, and give him hell….Ignore the contract language, failure rates, the AP survey taken last spring by the Advisory Board that indicated the network was highly dissatisfied and in dire straits, the franchise law criminal violation, and our wholesale rates that equal double retail. Eli, as my new Chief Marketing Officer, you must focus on the trumped up failings of the AP. You must characterize the AP as a unique failure. Eli, ignore the fact that 90% of the major markets in the USA went down in the last 24 months because of our ridiculous printing costs. Eli, you must bring the focus on Brian and make him look like the exception, rather than the overwhelming rule…”

      Am I close, Eli?

      Also, I’d like to reiterate to you, my readers, (and Travelhost) that I spent a lot of time on the Travelhost business model, trying to make it better…especially with regard to “national ad selling.” I spent countless hours with Jeff Loudon and David Portener, only to be completely shot down by Buerger.


      Why is Buerger not interested in a business model that makes EVERYONE money? (I can post these files if you’re interested.)

      Eli, I don’t believe I “ran my 25 year old business into the ground,” despite what Travelhost might be telling you. I believe Travelhost put me at such a competitive disadvantage in my marketplace, that I had no other choice but to fold my tent…or lose my shirt completely.

      There’s a difference.

      (Why Jim Buerger choses to save some markets, and not others, I don’t know. If you know the criteria for “saving a market,” please tell us, Eli…we’d all love to hear it.)

      And, lastly, Eli…

      Dallas doesn’t respond to this blog, because they know what they’re doing…and so do you. Which, by the way, may make you liable when the shit hits the fan. I’d check into it if I were you.

      My suggestion…follow your own path, Eli. Don’t get yourself mixed up with Buerger and his ongoing scam.

  6. a past AP, and happy now! Says:

    Oh Eli,

    Come now. You’re starting to throw a tantrum. As a former AP, I know that I am responsible for the lack of success in my market but I also know I operated in a very competitive market and the prices I had to pay Travelhost in a very tough economic environment did not help my outcome. All businesses have made adjustments during this recession and Travelhost did not. Hence the loss of nearly half their markets and the inability to sell new markets. I hear through the grapevine there’s only been one sale in 2010. Ouch! Doesn’t it bother you that potential investors are told they should invest in the second contract so they can sell national ads? There is no viable national market to sell as there are no major cities that are served by Travelhost, only medium and minor cities. This should disturb you greatly as you are now a voice for Travelhost. Now you are perpetuating the same deception.

    And seriously, Eli, can you help us all understand why it has taken over three years for Travelhost to build a website. Really? Three years? And it’s still not functional with all the bells and whistles that were promised for so long? Doesn’t that bother you just a little? And the mobile application… Now there’s a real stunner. It’s not even truly mobile. If you don’t have the magazine in your hand to give you the codes, it’s absolutely USELESS! Who’s the brainiac who came up with that idea??

    To all the potential investors out there, spend your money elsewhere! There are certainly better businesses that warrant your second look, Travelhost does not.

    Good luck to all!

    a past AP

  7. JJ Says:

    Brian, the hook is in and Mertens doesn’t know it yet! Just keep reeling these guys in with your facts and, in the process, you’ll continue helping others out there. It’s somewhat amusing to see the indefensible attempting to be defended.

    I thought Mertens was smarter than to do Buerger’s bidding but guess not. It must be getting hot down in Dallas. Wonder who Buerger has wiping the sweat off his brow?

    This WILL get to court and when it does, “hot” will be an understatement. Be careful what you say Mertens and what you wish for. One would think that the publisher of such an “esteemed” magazine serving Lexington would know better.

    • bdhickey Says:

      Thank you, JJ…

      I’m sure Eli is receiving some sort of compensation for his involvement in this blog discussion. I just can’t believe he’d use such poor judgement…I wonder if Eli is making it on his own? Or, do you think he has some help from a slick deal with Buerger?

      And, I wonder if he cares if his advertisers get a return on their investment…or does he just take their money and run too?

      Thanks for your support, JJ.


  8. Former Employee Says:

    No slander from me, Mr. Mertens. I simply cannot understand how a member of the Board can see so many good people lose their shirt and not be at least a little concerned. It just does not make any sense.

    • bdhickey Says:

      Dear Former Employee…I believe Eli said it best, and I quote…”I don’t know what the failure rate of TravelHost is and I really don’t care.”

      For a guy on the board of directors of a FRANCHISOR to say this?


  9. JJ Says:

    Yes Brian, my guess is that you are correct. As for the assertion Mertens makes about slander, the only real slander in this matter comes from the mouths of the folks at Travelhost. I’ve HEARD it first hand and can recite it if necessary. There’s no slander in any of these blog postings that I see. If Mertens is made uncomfortable by the phrase “there is honor among thieves”, then maybe his discomfort should be an indicator to himself that he should do some gut checking.

    I’m guessing Mertens realizes he swatted a bee’s nest with his all-too-TH-like rants and is in full retreat. Or just maybe he and those for whom he is speaking are beginning to realize lives have been destroyed and that the time for it to end is now.

    And one other thing, when someone has to tell you how great they are, how much money they make, what a great business person they are or just how “great” their magazine is as in the Lexington market, such is usually not the case.

    Karma does not have a statute of limitations.

    • bdhickey Says:

      Frankly, I thought Eli was smarter than this. No one has said anything negative about him. I even praise him for his success in this challenging business!

      I suppose you’re right, karma has no statute of limitations. I guess Eli will learn that.

      Do you think Eli believes that all of the people who ran these markets below “ran their businesses into the ground?”

      Dead markets for 2009:

      Evansville, IN

      Monterey, CA.

      Baton Rouge, LA.

      San Luis Obispo, CA.

      Cincinnati, OH.

      Charlottesville, VA.

      Gainesville, FL.

      Rockford, IL.

      South Bend, IN.

      Lafayette, IN.

      New Hampshire

      Ann Arbor, MI.

      Charlotte, NC.

      Knoxville, TN.

      Rochester, MN.

      Waco, TX.

      Westchester, NY.

      Orange County, CA.

      Houston, TX.

      Minneapolis, MN.

      Bloomington, IN.

      Santa Barbara, CA.

      Long Beach, CA.

      Modesto, CA.

      Boston, MA.


      Atlanta, GA.

      Puerto Rico


      Ogden, UT.

      Kansas City, MO.

      Bend, OR.

      Ruidoso, NM.

      San Diego North, CA.

      Sioux Falls, SD.

      Stockton, CA.

      Toronto, Canada.

      Chicago, IL.

      Just wondering…how many new markets started up this year at Travelhost, Eli?

      Thank you for your continued support JJ…much appreciated by all.

      Also, thought you should know that hits to this blog have SKYROCKETED during this conversation…so there are plenty of people listening in.

  10. Cynthia Says:

    After reading this string of posts, I have a few questions myself:

    Why are magazines that no longer publish, which are many, still included on the Travelhost website?

    Isn’t the information, both news copy and from advertisers, way outdated?

    Why are some just eight or 10 pages and some with many more pages?

    Is Travelhost out to fool not only prospective publishers, but also the public? What about advertisers?

    I am confused to say the least and more flabbergasted at this to say the most. 1% success rate? OMG. That is awful and must be crushing to the other 99%. This is NOT about the failure of those who attempt to publish and be successful at it. It is about the failure of a company (Travelhost) to have a model that gives success for the franchisees a real chance.

    Someone at Travelhost needs to find ethics, morals and redemption. And it sounds like all three characteristics should start with the guy who thinks he’s a king: Jim Buerger.


    • bdhickey Says:

      Thank you for your comments…it’s a sad state of affairs.

      I believe JJ said it best in one of his comments: “There’s no statute of limitations on karma.”

      I also hope Buerger and Co. realize that everyone is on to their scam, and we’re not going to let go. Too many people have been hurt by their bad business model, and they’re going to hear from us until they change.

      They may try and block this blog from prospective AP’s, but they’re going to find out one way or another. And, finding out after they’ve already signed on with Travelhost is going to make them even more upset, knowing they’ve been duped!

      Thank you for writing in, and for your support.


  11. 2010 in review: The Publisher’s Advocate Blog…The Travelhost Magazine Opportunity Exposed. « Publishing Industry Practices Says:

    […] A Travelhost Travesty… May 2010 17 comments […]

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