Archive for the ‘Some Unanswered Travelhost Questions’ Category

An Interesting Character Comparison: Two American Icons – Both Named Jimmy.

August 31, 2011

What single character trait best describes these two American icons: Jimmy Buerger of Travelhost Magazine and Jimmy Swaggart?

American Icon

Jim Buerger, American Icon

Jim Swaggart, American Icon

No it’s not the hair…but you have a point there.

They both like the ladies…yes, but not the point.

They both made a lot of money from “suckers.”

Close, but not the point.

The compelling similarity: They both epitomize hypocrisy to extremes rarely witnessed in the “annals” of American history!


Jimmy Swaggart chased anything wearing a skirt, and shouted from his bully pulpit the evils of adultery for decades.  He was the charismatic maestro of high-energy salvation. In the course of each sermon, the fired-up preacher would: rant, weep, thrust his Bible high in the air and strut the stage this way and that, whipping his followers and himself to a devotional frenzy!

An acute businessman as well as a spellbinding performer, he built an electronic empire with hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide and an income from contributions of $150 million a year.

I think we all know how and why his career ended…

Jimmy Buerger has spent 4 decades telling potential investors that the only obstacle to potential success and riches with Travelhost is their own ineptitude or laziness…all the while he cynically witnessed serial failures of hundreds of “Associate Publishers” over 4 decades because of the vast obstacles he put between the investors and their success.

These obstacles included: gross over-charges to his “Associates,” inferior inflexible magazine quality, and inflexible mandates that insured huge profits (MILLIONS) for Travelhost and James Buerger, while bleeding out hundreds of unsuspecting new investors every year.  Most ending up BROKE.

James Buerger has also been running a FRANCHISE for decades, without following FTC guidelines put in place to PROTECT people from business scams like his.  This has cost unsuspecting investors hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not MILLIONS, because Travelhost MISLEADS these people.

Travelhost convinces potential investors they have an EXCELLENT CHANCE OF SUCCESS, when in fact the FAILURE RATE IS 98%+

Two different Jimmys, same technique, similar downfalls???  It wont be much longer until we find out…the gig is up!

THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE

PS> Here’s the link to file a complaint on the FTC website. It costs you nothing, and you can file a report anonymously.  If we get a few more complaints filed, perhaps the FTC will take action:

www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

Why Doesn’t Travelhost Magazine Have Any More Associate Publishers? Did They All Leave For A Better Business Opportunity?

August 24, 2011

ATTENTION READER:

THIS BLOG CONTAINS OVER 200 PAGES OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE TRAVELHOST MAGAZINE “BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY.”  FOR ALL NEW PUBLISHING INDUSTRY PRACTICES BLOG VISITORS, CLICK HERE TO BRING YOU TO THE BEGINNING OF THIS BLOG, SO THAT YOU MAY HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE INFORMATION AVAILABLE HERE.  YOU CAN ALSO SEARCH OLDER POSTINGS ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THIS BLOG UNDER “AREAS OF DUE DILIGENCE FOR TRAVELHOST.”  USE THE DROP DOWN MENU TO PICK A MONTH.  THE EARLIER POSTS FROM NOVEMBERJANUARY OF 2009 EXPLAIN THE BASICS, AND DETAILS ARE REVEALED IN THE LATER POSTS.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Evidently Travelhost doesn’t have ONE SINGLE Associate Publisher left.

Take a look:

http://love.travelhost.com/love/associate-publishers/

To quote, directly from the Travelhost Magazine website:

“Our independent business representatives, formally known as Associate Publishers, yet better known as Travel Hosts, are entrepreneurs who are the experts in their local communities on travel and tourism. They LOVE what they do and that is to introduce travelers to those businesses that they would recommend to their family and friends.”

Independent business representatives?  Travel “Hosts?”

Not Associate Publishers????

Why the change, after 43 years?

I wonder if the 40 or so “Travel Hosts” that Travelhost has left know about this change?

Better yet, I wonder when a new “Travel Host Independent Business Representative” agreement is coming down the pipeline?

I guess the old “associate publisher” agreement is so riddled with (less than helpful) language, that they just don’t feel like their hands are clean without restructuring the “business opportunity” to read better…better for Travelhost Magazine and Jim Buerger?

(Hardly what one would call an opportunity, with a 98% failure rate, by the way.)

I’d be worried, if I were a “Travel Host Independent Business Representative” right about now, especially if I saw a new agreement in my in-box.

I hear that people are looking closely at the old agreement…people like judges, the FTC, and even Associate Publishers and their legal councils.

Travelhost is on the brink of a whole heap of trouble…

And they know it.

~THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE~

PS> Has anyone out there ever heard of “Hidden Values” Magazine?  If not, take a look…it’s another interesting business opportunity.  It’s also run by a guy named Jim, out of Dallas:

http://www.hiddenvalues.com/become-a-publisher/

Funny how they have a similar record in the Dallas court system…

http://www.justia.com/search.py?cx=001017683474852908061%3Aoct7h3tcday&q=hidden+values&cof=FORID%3A11

I wonder if both “Jims” meet at the local Rotary Club to discuss their business model?

PPS…I know another similar “Jim.”

I’ll talk about him in my next post?

Where Is The “Travelhost Love,” And Will The Lies Ever End?

March 21, 2011

Last week, I received a “comment” on THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE website (www.publishersadvocate.info), and I have to admit that I’m a bit confused:

Comments:

“You are an idiot. Did you do your due diligence when you bought the market? If not you confirm my point. If you did and still bought the market, stop whining and get over it. I have spoken to my attorney and due to your actions you have caused irreparable harm to my business with your vengeful attacks against the publisher. I hope you can prove your damage because it is going to cost you $$1.5 million for the damage you have cost me.”

I’m confused, because this individual has claimed that THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE has damaged him in some way.  Since THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE is not here to damage anyone, but here to HELP people, I had to look into the matter further.

It turns out that this individual, who identified himself as Chris Savoca, is an Associate Publisher in the Travelhost Magazine network (the guy all the way to the right in this picture).  Lets take a look:

http://www.travelhost.com/travel-host/love/marketplace

Just in case the link doesn’t work, here it is in PDF format:

TRAVELHOST Love

AND

http://www.travelhost.com/travel-host/love/marketplace3

PDF:

TRAVELHOST Love-savoca 2

On this Travelhost Magazine web page, it is said that Mr. Savoca’s magazine was so well received that he is increasing his distribution and getting calls from people wanting to buy advertising!

This is where I’m confused…why does Chris Savoca boast such success on the Travelhost website, and then email me privately to accuse me of damaging is business to the tune of ONE AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS?

What’s going on here?

I believe this is yet another example of an unfortunate investor that not only got duped by The Travelhost franchise system, but continues the “dupe” through blind self-denial!

Is Mr. Chris Savoca no longer “feeling the love.”

So here’s a question for Mr. Chris Savoca, associate publisher of Travelhost of Southern Louisiana:

Which one is it, Chris?

Are you doing well with your Travelhost Magazine franchise? (as you state publicly on the Travelhost website)

OR

Are you going BROKE like the rest of us Associate Publishers did? (as you complain about privately in your email to me)

Please explain your position, Chris, if you will?

Regards,

THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE

P.S.

Chris, read your distributorship agreement with Travelhost Magazine, and show it to your lawyer. It gives you  rights to “wholesale” printing/publishing prices, not double retail.”

In case you missed that posting (November of 2009) during your due diligence, heres a link to it. It’s right here in the blog:

https://publishersadvocate.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/the-price-term-of-the-travelhost-asscociate-publisher-contract/

Like you Chris, I did due diligence when I bought into Travelhost (there wasn’t a whole lot available, until now). Part of that due diligence was reading the price term of the contract, and rightfully assuming that Travelhost Magazine would comply with it.

Not to mention that Travelhost told me they weren’t a FRANCHISE, yet the FTC had already told them that they were back in 1989. Travelhost’s lack of following FTC guidelines as a FRANCHISE violates my consumer rights, and yours. Information about that can also be found in this blog here:

https://publishersadvocate.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/warning-if-it-looks-like-a-duck-and-walks-like-a-duck/

So Mr. Savoca, before you sue the pants off of an already BROKE Travelhost victim, why don’t you actually read my blog first?

You’ll get your answers, including some better ways to spend your lawyer dollars…like maybe going after the guy that stole your 60K in the first place?

(HINT: he’s the guy with all of our money, in the big black Cadillac.)

~THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE~

Does The “Travelhost Magazine” Business Opportunity Scam Deserve National Media Coverage?

March 16, 2011

A national news story describing the Travelhost Magazine “Business Opportunity” scam is ripe, now that Travelhost is attempting to crush “rebels that couldn’t take it any more” from another 40+ year brutal dictator Mr. James Buerger.

(At least Khadafy is an ‘honest thug’)

While the court room is an appropriate and welcome venue, this scam needs to get exposed by the light of truth in the national press.

I know the Wall Street Journal was interested in doing a story, and I would welcome a contact number for the reporter that said she ‘needed something more current’ to do an article.

A lawsuit by the dictator (Mr. James Buerger) against former Travelhost Associate Publishers is ‘current,’ if you ask me.

By the way suits have been filed against those AP’s who escaped the wrath, take a look:

http://dockets.justia.com/search?query=travelhost&court=txndce

I’d also welcome leads to other national publications and online news sources, especially Dallas, Texas reporters.

Let’s expose this 4 decade old scam, and steer people away from the trap!

Once we do that, James Buerger and Travelhost Magazine will shrivel up like a vicious slug that has been appropriately salted.

Contact me privately by clicking the Uncle Sam icon to the right of the screen.

OR

Click here:

THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE

P.S.

With the help of the hundreds of readers that read this blog, I bet we can get national exposure to this wonderful business opportunity that boasts a: 95%+ failure rate, crippling printing fees (franchise fees?), and now even more excruciating pain of being sued when trying to leave a franchise system that drives most franchisees into bankruptcy.

Please, lets stop this from happening to more unsuspecting entrepreneurs.

Some Interesting Travelhost Observations…

July 24, 2010

Hello everyone, thanks for your continued support and for all the emails. I’ve been working on a few things lately, and have quite a few irons in the fire…and have also tried to spend some time enjoying the summer here in NY.

It’s now been nine months since I’ve figured out the (four-decade old) Travelhost swindle, and have been providing the due diligence needed to investors before they commit to becoming an AP. I’ve made some observations along the way, and thought now would be a good time to share them with my readers. These observations are random, and in no special order, and will be posted here and there over the next week or so as I have time to post them.

1. Travelhost has gone through great lengths to hide this blog from potential investors.

I’ve counted over a dozen made-up websites and blogs bearing the Travelhost name, all created so that a PAID Google Adwords campaign could be designed for each one! All of them have no real substance, redirecting people all over the map, just to divert potential investors attention away from this blog.

Why?

It must be cheaper to pay some SEO company to occupy some of the empty desks down there at Travelhost HQ than it is to actually FIX the problems with their business…or is it??

Perhaps if they put as much effort into their actual website, instead of the “phony” blogs and sites, they’d have a website that might “serve the traveler.”

Until then, I guess “Where” will serve the traveler, and Travelhost will serve Jim Buerger.

2. Associate publishers have been walking away from the Travelhost business model…even markets that have actually made money in the past.

I guess some people finally had enough. They finally took a look at what commercial printers and production houses were charging, saw the difference, and threw in the Travelhost towel!

In case you haven’t seen the prices, take my numbers as an example. With Travelhost, I printed 15,000 copies of a 48 page magazine with a .70lb cover and .60lb stock:

Travelhost price: $15,754 plus $750 delivery.

Other competitive printing prices averaged $5,500 for printing and offered free delivery. Graphic designer would set me back another $2500 or so, bringing my total to about $8000.

FYI…if I were to produce and print my magazine on my own, I’d have saved $8000 per magazine!

3. FTC complaints are PILING UP against Travelhost…

Many of my readers have filed FTC complaints, and rightfully so. I have gotten a few requests to re-post the link to the FTC site where you can easily file a complaint online:

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

Do it, but only if you believe Travelhost has operated as a franchise, and has violated your rights as a result of their violations. Remember, if Travelhost has given you marketing advice, provided use of its brand name at a cost to you, and did not disclose pertinent information (like failure rates and AP info) before you invested….then you may have a legitimate gripe!

4. Many lawyers from around the country have opined that Travelhost’s famous “non-compete” agreement may not be worth the paper that it’s written on.

This section of the agreement has held many AP’s back from going independent in the past, but may no longer be an issue?

More on that in the next post!

Also, if you’d like me to post the actual estimates (or would like to see competitive estimates) just click the link on the right to email me.

THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE

Some Comments From The Author, A Reader, And An Ex-Employee Of Travelhost Magazine…

February 12, 2010

First, a note from the author:

Dear Readers Of The Publishers Advocate,

Thank you for your attention, and for reading my blog. I want to thank each and every one who checks and reads this blog, especially those who comment on what’s going on. I very much appreciate it! We now have hundreds of followers to the blog, and new contributors popping up from everywhere imaginable. I’m very thankful that many people have chosen to do the right thing, and report what they’ve seen and heard…and not just stand around and watch the crimes occur.

It’s not the easiest thing to stand up for what you believe in, I know, but it’s the right thing to do…we’ve helped so many people already! Keep the momentum going.

We’ve had some good comments at The Publishers Advocate Blog in the last couple of weeks, and I’d like to share them with everyone. They’re on the blog, but comments seem to get buried under the postings, and the conversation is important enough to have it’s own post.

The posts are from “An A.P. Teetering,” and an “Ex-Employee” of Travelhost. I have not interjected into the conversation, yet they seem to see things the way I do. In fact, there are quite a few people who see things this way…they just haven’t said so publically. Yet.

In due time, Travelhost will come to understand that there are many more people in support of change than they might think. Some people from within Travelhost, some AP’s, and just about EVERYONE with a Travelhost past…the support is astounding!

Note: Travelhost, this problem is not going away until you do something about it!

Now, on with the comments (un-edited.) To Join the conversation, just click below…we’d love to hear from you!

Dear Travelhost,

It’s time to take a hard look at your business model and ask yourself, Mr. Buerger, “Is it REALLY working?” Given that you’ve invested OUR hard-earned dollars in this internet project, have you given consideration to the fact that no one will care to use it if there isn’t enough “market” information to make it worth looking at in the first place. Consider this, Joe wants to plan a trip to Los Angeles. He’ll give that Travelhost site a try. Joe goes to the site and discovers there is no information for Los Angeles. Or New York City, or Chicago or Houston, the four largest cities in the country. Joe decides it’s mediocre (or crap) and never returns and certainly doesn’t recommend it to his friends or family. So much for that grand experiment. You missed your opportunity to make a great first impression. It’s not enough for the website to look pretty it has to deliver the goods to the end-user.

Consider this business scenario. Travelhost decides it better serves its investors, the APs, and outsources the printing function. In fact, Travelhost is able to negotiate even lower rates because of the volume of publications. There’s a reduction in corporate overhead and associated costs. Sorry to the production folks in Dallas but maybe the printer could hire you because of the increase in workload. Ahh, capitalism! Now the APs are finally on a level playing field with their local competitors. In fact, the AP’s association with the Travelhost brand is now admired and desired! I can be more profitable as part of the TravelHost network! I will seek out a market and prosper! APs will be happy to share a portion of their revenues with Travelhost because corporate has indeed enhanced the value of their local business, the national brand shines and market growth booms!

More APs in more markets – do the math! – this is the key to the internet project’s success. Based on what we know now, you need someone on the ground in that market to ensure (1) information about the market is loaded and accurately maintained and (2) the major cities and tourist destinations are represented to a potential trip planner online. Do you follow? Or maybe you don’t, which only fuels other speculations.

You don’t need a big staff in Dallas and, granted, I know you’ve let people go recently. And I must say your timing was priceless. You don’t need to run a print shop, you need a strong IT staff who can keep up with the times in cyberspace. You need to have robust content to keep users coming back for more. I’m afraid you’re still frightfully behind the competition and they’re moving forward faster than you. We are all being left behind. Did you hear the collective sigh?

Let the local markets determine how to best represent their markets. Some markets will be sophisticated cities, some markets with a slower pace of life. There are different levels of expectations and we suffer on the sophistication end of the spectrum by using a cookie-cutter layout. Publishing a magazine is a creative process coupled with a business process. Let us create the best magazine we can for our market!

And, then, of course, it brings us to the covers. Another collective sigh? Let’s be clear, Travelhost is the brand, not the cover artwork. Artwork changes, brands don’t. Covers are the first impression, covers make you want to open the magazine to learn more. Sadly, a cover of a pear, a mask and boa, or a man’s tie begs no questions. They’re BORING!

Advisory board, hear our (diminishing) voices, make our wishes known, don’t let our struggling network be ignored, don’t let us down. Or better yet, refuse to be on the board because, quite frankly, its seems to be a waste of your time.

Mr. Buerger, you have some very smart people in your network, try listening for a change and you might, just might, learn you don’t know everything, maybe there’s a better way, you can still learn, too.

I think I hear Travelhost calling, “shut up and sell!”

Another day, another nickel.

(A Teetering A.P)

Confirming AP teetering’s claim of “You just need to sell more.” In a meeting many years ago one of us voiced a concern from an AP that the national pages, which they received very little if any revenue from, cost them a small fortune in shipping. A good concern, we thought. The response was shocking! The lady questioned exploded! “You just tell so-and-so to get out there and start selling more ads! They shouldn’t be spending all their time worry about things like this!” That ended the questioning, as it was designed to do. I was observing this whole thing and my confused look got her attention but I decided to leave it alone. I knew many years before that that I was dealing with a well-oiled machine and the machine would not be tampered with. That question never came up again from any of us. Case closed.

And why do you pay more to print with Travelhost? It’s simple. Headquarters believes that you are paying premium because you’re paying a publishing price and not a printing price. (I will almost bet that your price quote for $8000 does not include typesetting/layout/proofing — etc., all the things that go into getting to plates. I’m not sure it would double your price, though, but it might add to it a bit.) You’re also, according to HQ, paying to be a part of the Nation’s Number One Travel Publication. It’s like selling a hamburger vs. selling a McDonald’s hamburger — name recognition, high value, national exposure — the whole package that comes with the distributorship. While this may be true in theory the question is: Does the Travelhost name bring good value? In some parts of the country, it absolutely does, and in others, it does not. It is up to the AP to decide if it brings good value to them and if it is worth paying for.

So sorry to hear another AP is teetering. Very sad, really. This is really like watching a building crumble and fall. I hope the best for you.

(Former Employee)

Thank you, Former Employee, for your perspective. It’s quite sad to hear this “well-oiled machine” has been handling the one group of people who are responsible for TravelHost’s existence with such disrespect. The associate publishers have invested their hard-earned dollars to associate themselves with a national brand with a positive perception. As it seems, the national perception and reputation is being tarnished, barring a few select markets. If corporate actions devalue the brand name, do the APs have any recourse? Quite frankly, I don’t think advertisers really care what name is on the cover – they care about the distribution and if the publication looks appealing. (and that’s a topic for another time!)

As for the “publishing” discussion, I would argue TravelHost does not “publish” at all, just pre-press and printing. Having been in the newspaper business previously, publishing typically includes gathering content, selling space to advertisers, printing and distributing. TravelHost does not collect content for any of the local markets, nor does it sell advertising for local markets. And their distribution is limited to putting the magazines on a truck. The APs distribute. So I think they are a printer. Printers have pre-press departments that can provide proofs, make corrections, etc. I would also venture to guess that many/most associate publishers do not rely on TravelHost designers to design any of their ads. While a very likeable group, their talents are in production and not creative graphic design. Another argument for “printer”. I would bet there are a few APs who use their own designer to lay out their publications and submit final packages to TravelHost for printing. So where is their discount for not using corporate for these services?

And, one step beyond, TravelHost recently announced that some APs have started using Publication Builder. No layout, no typesetting needed by TravelHost, the self-proclaimed “Publisher”. Did those APs get a discount? It seems TravelHost’s “publishing” days are drawing to a clear end, only to be left as a mere “printer”. What then…

(A Teetering AP)

AP Teetering, you are absolutely right. In my previous post I was writing what I was told at Travelhost, that the AP’s pay a publishing price not a printing price. The absence from actual publishing at TH was disappointing to many of us. The majority of work there is production. TH does provide the cover art (which I never actually cared for, as it rarely said anything about travel), the basic format (which is all right, I guess, but hardly cutting edge) but other than that the work printed is what has been sent in. Actually there is one market that I know of that does their own layout (which I won’t mention who in case that’s a no-no, and I would hate to cause any problems) and they actually tweek it from time to time and it comes out looking a bit better than the regular format. Many APs send in various pages from time to time, and a majority of ads are already done through ad agencies and the like, and ready to place on the page. As for a discount for them? You would think there should be one but I couldn’t tell you that as I don’t know.

Publication Builder sounds interesting but that must have been installed after I left. It’s a good idea for them, as they can save a bundle on expensive staff salaries and benefits, but it does take away from the publishing, as you said.

I have never doubted that the folks at TH HQ have great respect for the APs, and I’m sure have great appreciation for you and your work. I have heard those high up many times say that the production staff need to continually strive to produce a excellent product as the AP’s work very hard to sell each ad and keep their businesses going. I had tremendous respect for each AP I knew, and must confess was even a bit envious in their professional freedom. This is why the response to the comment about selling more ads that I mentioned in the previous post was disappointing to me, as I thought such a concern deserved a good answer, and perhaps even a simple solution. This cold response we received in the meeting that I mentioned was disrespectful to that AP but I don’t want to give the impression that this was the norm. When it came to the day to day dealings with APs everyone from the top down strived to help and assist quickly and timely to nearly every concern.

I want to be careful in my postings that I share accurately what I witnessed at TH, both the good and the questionable. I respect Mr. Hickey’s efforts on this blog to bring out the truth so some may avoid an investment that will not work for them, and I will chime in from time to time, but what I hope for is that all of this makes Travelhost better, not destroy it. I’m just hoping that it’s not too late.

(A Former Employee)

End of “back and forth” comments.

P.S.


As you can see, the things I talk about in this blog, are the same things that go through the minds of not only other AP’s…but EMPLOYEES of Travelhost too!

Speaking of employees, I have to wonder how guys like:Mr. Smith, Mr. Slabaugh and Mr. Thrailkill can all sleep at night, knowing they spend each and every waking day misleading hard-working entrepreneurs…taking their money, without disclosing the relevant information needed to make the right business decision?

Come-on gentleman, what are you thinking here? Is the money THAT GOOD?

Don’t they have a conscience? Don’t they know that as the ” market expansion team,” that they’re the main cogs in Jim Buerger’s “well oiled machine” that misleads FRANCHISE investors all over the country?

Don’t they know they may be PERSONALLY liable for the very sales process they use every day, which seems to violate EVERY FRANCHISE LAW known to man-kind??

Well, they know now. Gentleman, check with your attorneys! Don’t take my word for it.

I’m curious, how many AP’s out there have been told that they can easily make 300-400,000 dollars per year as a Travelhost AP?

And, how many actually are?

I’d love to hear from some people…Click below to email me, names will be withheld to protect everyone from Travelhost retaliation.

EMAIL THE PUBLISHER’S ADVOCATE

Dear Travelhost Associate Publishers…What’s YOUR Number?

December 30, 2009

I’m pretty sure I used to be a “number 1.” That was somewhere around the time I was asked to sit on Travelhost’s Advisory Board.

Now…well, now I’m most definitely a “number 3.”

There’s a good chance, if you’re a regular reader here on my blog, that you’re probably at least a “number 2.” It may depend on how many “red flag” words you’ve used in recent communications with Travelhost in Dallas.

What’s all this mean, Brian? What are you mumbling, something about numbers?

Well it seems that our friends down in Dallas at Travelhost Headquarters are very “organized” at covering their asses, and assessing us AP’s for our “Travelhost Friendliness.”

Yes, that’s right, assessing us. See, it’s been brought to my attention recently, that Travelhost assigns all of us AP’s a number, according to how “risky” the relationship is. If you’re a low-risk, happy with Travelhost, and not concerned (or aware) of the fraud…then you’re a “number 1.”

If you’ve raised some concerns over their (lack of) business ethics, overcharging for printing/production, or just plain called them out on their corporate bullying…then you’re probably a “number 2.”  (Call yourself an “investor” or a “franchisee,” that ought to get you on “the number 2 list.”)

And, if you’re like me, and you’ve just plain had enough…enough to publicly call them out on their actions, and demand they do something about it…well then I’m probably a “number 3.”  (meaning high-risk, keep an eye on him!)

Why would Travelhost assign every AP a “risk number?”

Well, when you’re used to having to covering your ass, everywhere you turn…I suppose it’s a great tool for measuring your “temperature” on a weekly basis.

Yes…weekly.

Did I mention, that Travelhost also has weekly meetings, every Tuesday morning…to assess markets “under watch,” and assign “damage control?”

For the poor folks going broke every month (around 3 on average), there’s a meeting to ensure all bases are covered…and to talk about who might be a problem from a legal standpoint, etc…when it’s time to sign the “pots right” agreements. (meaning, they hope you’re so broke, that you sign away your ability to go after them…for a lousy concession.)  (watch your emails with Travelhost, it appears they copy and paste each one for your file, in case they need it later.)

It’s all part of the grand-scam.  They cover their ass, so when you go broke, which you inevitably will…they’re covered.

One last question for the day…

Why does a (relatively) small company like Travelhost have a corporate lawyer on staff anyway?

Any company that operates ethically, within common business practices, would most likely utilize a local law firm…when they need them.

I suppose Travelhost relys on legal council every day of the week, with their track-record…eh?

How Many Associate Publishers In The Travelhost Network Are “Serving The Traveler?”

December 28, 2009

And, are they really put here by Travelhost to “Serve the traveler?”

There has been some speculation lately, as the number of AP’s seem to be dropping quite rapidly…let’s take a look:

A recent effort was made, and reported that Travelhost may have lost over 40 associate publishers in 2009 already!

No one really knows the exact number, except for the folks down in Dallas, who are keeping the “files” close to their vests. And those files are closely guarded, you can rest assured! (psst..Travelhost, don’t show those numbers to new investors (prospective franchisees) or they’ll run for the hills!)

I’ve received quite a few emails lately asking this question, and since I don’t actually know the real number of AP’s left (afloat, and not broke), I can only shrug my shoulders and say “your guess is as good as mine.” Well, some people have been doing research, and the numbers ain’t so good…

I did notice, however, that the new media kit doesn’t say anything about 125 markets anymore…which is good, because I believe there are less than half of that left at this point. And, we all know that trying to sell national advertising by inflating the number of markets is basically FRAUD. (as is misrepresenting the number of markets to prospective AP’s) Hopefully all the AP’s have scrapped the old media kit, and are now selling “regional and national” ad space using the new (and quite vague) Travelhost Media Kit. It’ll be a tough sell, when they ask “how many markets are you in?” Not knowing won’t help, but not misrepresenting…well it’s a good place to start!

Let’s take one last look at Jeff Loudon’s posting, from his “Travelheist Investors Blog” that was up and online, before he mysteriously disappeared some time around the second quarter of 2009: (apparently his silence was bought, at a hefty price, cause HE’S STILL PUBLISHING WHAT APPEARS TO BE  3 ISSUES OF TRAVELHOST PER YEAR IN YAKIMA, WASHINGTON, SOMETHING I NOTICED A COUPLE OF OTHER AP’S SEEM TO BE DOING AS WELL)
“135 Associate Publishers” and Growing: Fraud? Breach of Contract?

Perhaps a smart lawyer might mirror my thoughts, perhaps not. I do not claim to be a licensed lawyer…some drivel from a “layman.”

It dawned on me this morning in the shower that the claim of 135 APs perennially by Travelhost in its sales pitches, sales materials, Careerbuilder.com and website has considerably more import than just to highlight just how bad the success rate for franchisees has been.(Note: I made copies of Careerbuilder and the website in case TH “ceases and desists” this misrepresentation in the dark of night)

The size and growth rate of the network strikes right at the heart of being induced to be a franchise by TH and in the nature of what is being bought for “AP status.” Travelhost induced me to become an AP because it touted itself as a growing 135 region, national publication. My guess is that the same representation has been made to everyone subsequently, to this date, and perhaps before mid-2006.

Based on my guess in reviewing the TH website, there are now only 88 markets running. So in the first instance, recent APs have arguably been induced to the Travelhost umbrella by a misrepresentation of the size of the network. This might be characterized as a “misrepresentation” or “fraud.” Either of these things, if proven, give rise to significant remedies to APs. Furthermore, the “pot’s right” (waiver agreement in Travelhost parlance) that TH mandates most APs sign on departure to avoid even more grief might not apply if fraud is proven. (Note, watch out you get a bill for an additional printing if you don’t notify TH 90 days in advance)

It gets a bit more interesting when you analyze the benefits conferred under the AP agreement: Having been told that TH is “national” and in 135 markets…and growing you fork over $30,000 for 2 free pages of National ads to sell and pocket the proceeds, supposedly $72,000 worth. You are promised a 40% commission on the revenues of national ads the AP sells thereafter as well, something that has been accomplished extremely rarely. (You also get “wholesale pricing” which as previously posted, is untrue in my opinion)

Once you happily go out in the street as a new AP and try to sell the national ads, you find out that TH hides the data on existing market quantities and components…ie how many and where. It also has hidden the fact that there are far fewer than 135 markets operational, for which the AP is trying to pocket $36,000/month/page on an ad sale. The net result is that virtually nobody successfully sells the free 2 pages of Natl. ads or other national or regional ads.

(A strange aside to this: If an AP did successfully sell these ads through a claim of 135 markets nationally, the AP could be sued for misrepresenting 135 markets to the advertiser…yikes!)

Bottom Line: The AP pays $30,000 extra for the right to sell national and regional ads for a 40% commission to “135 markets.”…not. The AP gets 2 free ad pages (worth $72,000) published in 135 markets…not. The AP gets “wholesale pricing” for the $30K…not. (The AP gets Exhibit XXX pricing that is the same as non-APs’ pricing… appx.triple retail

What’s left for your $30K: The marvelous website (subject to massive fees) A free regional ad based on circulation, that rarely garners any revenue.

You’ve heard enough layman talk…talk to a lawyer if this stuff is interesting, before or after you invest. Stay tuned, we get into the “Franchise Laws–a Layman’s Perspective” and were are going to have some nice posts from former APs forthwith!

SO, HOW MANY DO WE HAVE NOW?

Now, when Jeff Loudon wrote this back in March of 2009, nine short months ago…his research led him to believe there were 88 markets.

How many could there be now? Seems like the numbers just don’t add up to much, doesn’t it?

I mean, if we lost 40 markets this year, then around 3.3 were lost each month. So, by March we had already lost 10 (3.3X3)…and by now we must have lost another 30? (3.3X9) So, is it possible that the Travelhost network is operating on only 58 markets now? Is that possible?

I’m sure the steady income from the Florida markets, and some of the key destination places in America like Branson and Palm Springs will keep Travelhost going…but what about the rest of us?

What’s in store for the smaller markets that Travelhost “serves?”

And, why does Travelhost continue to try and “serve” these markets, if all they do is go broke time after time after time again?

Does anyone have a solution for any of this?

Does anyone have any information as to how many markets are currently being “served” by Travelhost?

If so, please send the information to my attention: EMAIL THE PUBLISHERS ADVOCATE!

Does Travelhost really exist to “Serve The Traveler” when their markets go belly-up all the time?

How do the travelers benefit from Travelhost, when the magazines fail in so many markets every year?

So, is it really Travelhost’s goal to “SERVE THE TRAVELER?”

OR IS IT JUST ANOTHER BULLSHIT EXCUSE TO HYPE UP ADVERTISERS AND ASSOCIATE PUBLISHERS?

I’D HARDLY CALL 58 MARKETS “SERVING THE TRAVELER,” PERHAPS TRAVELHOST SHOULD COME UP WITH A NEW CATCH-PHRASE?

HOW ABOUT: “SERVING THE PRINTER.”

Questions Submitted By An Associate Publisher In The Travelhost Network:

December 10, 2009

Hello Everyone,

Today I’m just copying and pasting questions I received from an Associate Publisher yesterday. They are good questions, and though they may repeat some of the things I’ve said before, they reflect someone else’s point of view. Someone who has also spent some time in this network that Travelhost has assembled. (A network, I’d like to point out, of VERY smart, VERY driven, VERY capable ENTREPRENEURS!)

I point this out, because it’s Travelhost’s position that everyone who fails (90+%?) at this business is at fault, not Travelhost. I say that’s BS! They’ve hand-picked VERY good people, it’s TRAVELHOST’S BUSINESS MODEL THAT IS FAILING IT’S PEOPLE.

ANOTHER VETERAN ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER WRITES (unedited):

Here are some additional KEY questions, at least from my standpoint that should be added to
the blog.

1. Why does Travelhost mislead all AP’S by claiming that “By paying a premium price to
become a full fledged DISTRIBUTOR that in return Travelhost will offer “Wholesale Prices”
on the printing of their magazines?” This is an outright LIE! By definition alone, the term
Wholesale Pricing which is interrupted by most every living person already means HUGE
SAVINGS over traditional costs, however, the prices actually charged by Travelhost to
“print” a magazine can be as much as 50% HIGHER than most any other “Printer” in America
would charge…And to add insult to injury, most every other printer will also deliver a FAR
SUPERIOR product than what is produced by Travelhost? Even though Travelhost could
improve any market magazine, they DON’T want to spend the money…less profits for them.
These actions place many of the AP’s in a significant market disadvantage (can’t compete
equally) and directly impacts their ability to make more money and to grow their business.

2. That raises the next big question…At NO time during the pre-interview process or BEFORE
any potential AP investor ever signs up to become a TRAVELHOST AP (and issues the
franchisee fee to Travelhost), does Travelhost ever COMMUNICATE or DISCLOSE to any
potential investor AP the following information. Despite being told by Travelhost executive
that Travelhost will work with every AP in whatever manner is required to build the market,
assist you in growing your market, produce the best possible magazine for your market,
(they never out this in writing…just say it) it’s all another LIE! Travelhost AP’s are
governed entirely by the stringent corporate policies in place by Travelhost and are
mandated by the Existing RULES and REGULATIONS as imposed by Travelhost, which some
(but not all) are ultimately disclosed to each AP at the future TIPS CLASS. This ONLY takes
place after all franchisee-market AP docs have been signed, and the franchisee fee checks
from the AP have been delivered, and they have also CLEARED Travelhost’s corporate
account.

3. Here’s another BIGGIE. Why does Travelhost market, advertise and promote their company
as a “40 year Publisher” and not the “40 Year Printer” which they actually are? First and
foremost, Travelhost does not publish any Travelhost editions, so how can they describe or
market themselves as a Publisher? By industry definition a Publisher is an entity/organization
that derives there revenues from selling advertising. In all likelihood, 90% of Travelhost’s
annual revenues are generated from printing (minus new AP franchisee fees)which makes
them a Printer NOT a Publisher, RIGHT?. So this now establishes Travelhost as both a
Franchisor and a Printer, NOT a Publisher.

4. From a sheer ethical standpoint, when AP turnover (that also financially destroys these
AP’s and their families) are 2-3 times greater than current, successful, full-time AP’s, is it
not the ethical, (if not a fiduciary duty of the owners-principles and senior management of
Travelhost) to also take AT LEAST the same amount of time as they do SELLING you on
this great “life opportunity” to also FULLY DISCLOSE the HIGH RISK nature of doing business
with Travelhost? The only reason for NOT DOING SO would be to knowingly participate in
unethical business practices by CONCEALING this information from potential franchise
investors. Such actions can only confirm that they are in fact a significant part of
Travelhost’s 40-year marketing plan for generating its annual revenues. It could easily
be alleged that Travelhost (knowing the millions to be earned from “regularly churning
AP’s) knowingly made this a key element of the original business plan. A component that
one could allege was a clever tool with the full intention for DECEIVING unsuspecting
new franchise investors. No matter what Travelhost may contend, this has been an
constant pattern, a regulate routine of their daily business for years. Legal implications
aside, is their no responsibility to honor or integrity on behalf of Jim Buerger Travel
founder and Chairman. The ability fro him to know RIGHT over WRONG, or even a code of
ethics that he feels are professional requirements for corporate behavior and conducting
business?

5. Why does Travel mislead every new AP by implying that their Legendary TIPS CLASS
(a “Mandatory Seminar” and one which the company implies is provided to assist AP’s in
becoming successful) is actually nothing more than the companies forum, a 2-3 “Boot
Camp” which is entirely focused (outlined in a 3 pound binder that must be 250 plus pages)
on EXACTLY how Travel demands and stipulates (exactly like a franchisee) every AP will
adhere too the current policies dictating how each AP will design, create the look and feel,
the color format,design format, the font size, the required layout, the content requirements
and how each issues creative materials will be submitted and delivered to Travel. These
stipulations also come with imposed financial penalties which Travelhost, at their
desecration can charge to any AP for any failure to NOT meet these criteria. Unless ALL of
these requirements are adhered too for every magazine submitted during your reign as an
AP, Travelhost has the right NOT to PRINT your magazine? So there is NO confusion, unless
EVERY ONE of the hundreds of listed policies as outlined in the TIPS Class “AP Manual”
are adhered too 100%…Travelhost WILL NOT print an AP magazine.

6. Could someone explain to me why Travelhost forces every AP to sign a waiver-disclaimer-
indemnity document anytime an AP may request any change for whatever the reason.
Changes that could relate to terms, a credit for a Travelhost created production error,
adjustment in production levels (copies printed) a printing schedule change or any other
bizarre situation, but with every such change, Travelhost DEMANDS a document be signed
by each AP which HOLDS THEM HARMLESS for any past actions-dealings-policy changes
or communications ever held between Travelhost and that AP, including the one that may
have just happened 30 seconds earlier. Seems to me that not only is this practice
predatory and I allege to be an illegal act, because only a company with LOTS to hide
would ever consider abiding by such an outrageous method of dealing with people…let
alone franchisees. It’s nothing short of blackmail and is designed to force the AP into
signing something they might otherwise not do. It has even been reported that Travelhost
has threatened to REFUSE shipment of an AP’s magazine into that market unless such
a document has been signed.

Brian…these should augment the current listings for your blog.

So, it appears that I’m not the only one in the network that sees these issues as serious ones. In fact, there are MANY people that have reached out to me, but there’s a problem: Most Associate Publishers are not questioning TH on these problems.

Until now. One by one we’ll solve these problems, folks.

Travelhost, can we please have some answers on these questions? Please?

Back In The Saddle: Helping Potential Publishers With Their Due Diligence On TRAVELHOST

December 9, 2009

Hello Everyone, and thanks for all of your help and ideas, it really helped us get back on track!

The Publisher’s Advocate received another email today from the blog…what a fantastic way to find out that we now have new traffic back to the blog! It really makes me feel like I’m helping, and that I’m not just spinning my wheels here.

I have been making progress here at The Publisher’s Advocate, and have been in touch with so many people that have agreed to help us bring our information to new investors. However, we can always use more help! If you’re interested in helping, please email me at Brian@nytravelhost.com.

Without further ado, today’s post will just be answers to a few questions I got via email recently. Then, maybe tomorrow we’ll dive into a more serious scenario.

Q: Is Travelhost a printer or the publisher of our magazines?

A: Well, if you consider the fact that the “associate publisher” sells the ads, collects and writes content, lays out the magazine, and submits it to Travelhost for production and printing…TRAVELHOST is the PRINTER. Since most of their money is made from PRINTING, and not ADVERTISING…and ALL OF OUR MONEY IS MADE FROM ADVERTISING, I’d consider the “associate publishers” the actual publishers of their local editions.

(BY THE WAY, THIS IS HOW JOHN BARTON BEAT HIS NON-COMPETE LAWSUIT WITH TRAVELHOST)

Q: Has Travelhost provided proof that any of the things discussed in this blog are false?

A: No, not to this date. Such proof doesn’t exist, in my opinion.

Q: Has Travelhost made any efforts to stop me from continuing my blog?

A: No, not to this date. This information is vital to new investors, and is taken directly from my experiences as an Associate Publisher at Travelhost, and my experience on their Advisory Board. And, it’s my constitutional right to express these concerns.

Q: Am I still publishing Travelhost in Westchester, New York?

A: I just distributed my last issue of Travelhost for the Winter of 2010. Travelhost Magazine has forced me out of business, by putting me at a competitive disadvantage in my marketplace. Paying twice what other publishers in my market are paying for printing and production have left me with no other choice than to cancel my agreement with Travelhost. Paying 16K for a 7K print job just doesn’t work  ANY economy!

Q: Did Travelhost offer me any deals on printing?

A: Yes, and no. Travelhost seems to offer “one-off deals” to people who can no longer afford to pay the obnoxiously high publishing prices. (meaning, you don’t get a deal unless you ASK.)  However, they will only discount your printing until you can afford to pay the full 200% again. They will “help” you with your business, in order to “help” you continue to pay double. This means planning and sales help. Not overhead help, which is what we all need. My sales were still OK, it was my PRINTING that was outrageous, and drove me out of business. Since I was overpaying by about 8k per quarter, I’d still be in business had I started my own magazine. Since I NEVER want to pay double what I should be paying, no deal here…

OR

Travelhost may offer to discount your printing until you are able to scam some other poor SUCKER into buying your business. This is just a continuation of the fraud, and they make you the front man for the scam…all while signing away your rights to ever tell anyone what you’re doing! Since I’m not ready to commit FRAUD, no deal here either!

Q: Do I think that everyone who works at Travelhost knows they commit fraud just about every day of the week?

A: Yes, I think most employees have a clue. And, since they all let it go on every day, and don’t do anything about it, they are just as guilty as the great master himself. If they only knew that they could be held liable for it one day, perhaps they’d change thier minds?

Q: Last, but not least, where IS Jeff Loudon?

A: Jeff Loudon is not missing, lol, and he’s just fine. I only used that line to make a point. (remember, where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?) Anyway, Jeff Loudon is “looking forward to a long and happy career with Travelhost Magazine.” What does this mean? Well, my translation is “I’ve been paid off by Travelhost Magazine to keep my mouth shut, and erase my blog.” For a guy who was just dying to raise hell over the same issues I’m raising now, especially our printing prices, he seems quite happy to be PAYING THEM NOW? I think not, my friends. Perhaps someone should call Travelhost Headquarters (1-800-527-1782) and ASK them what they gave Jeff Loudon to shut up? I, personally, think they gave him some hush money and a sweet deal to keep his mouth closed. Nah, nothing wrong going on here, eh? (For the rest of you AP’s, just shut up and pay the full boat, and don’t ask about Jeff Loudon, OK?)

Get my drift?

That’s all for now, folks. Tomorrow is another day. If you’re new to this blog, please be sure to read the posts below, as they contain valuable information that you will need to decide whether Travelhost is the “right” decision for your new publishing business.

And again, TRAVELHOST, if you have proof that anything contained in this blog is FALSE, please let us know and I’ll change it. I do not want to mis-represent this “opportunity” in any way.

P.S.> If you are a past or present AP, and have any information you’d like to share with us, please email me at Brian@NYTravelhost.com. We could use your stories on our new website, which is under construction. Thank you.