There are at least five genuine secrets to almost any loyalty program that I know of – but would never ever “blog” about.
What should be shared, what shouldn’t, and are bloggers ruining too many secrets?
In 1998, before the internet was on your phone and long before there were croissant donuts on Instagram, a personal hero of mine started something called Flyertalk. His name is Randy Petersen. Even before lawyers got a hold of loyalty programs and bubble wrapped them in red tape, terms and conditions, they were still complicated, and Flyertalk was a chance for anyone with enough interest to make sense of it all, via person to person message boards.
For most people reading this, Flyertalk was the beginning of everything. It was the “a-ha” moment when you realized how valuable your points were, or how to earn a suite upgrade certificate to cash in on a family vacation. Basically, it blew peoples minds and created a *mostly* helpful community, with answers to virtually any travel question.
For more general travellers, it was private groups on Facebook, or tips from local guides about the best spots to eat, drink and see the sunset. Those are now everywhere, and when you get to one of those spots, people are too.
Flyertalk is the place where no one knows your name, but everybody shares a major interest. Be it a specific loyalty program, secret airfare deal or stories from the road, it’s where you ask a question and get a million answers. Often, the stuff that’s not written anywhere else. With more than 4 million users per month, it’s a place where those answers didn’t always stay quiet for long.
Now those “secrets” are on blogs, and the people running them are talking about great travel tips on mainstream television, not just nerdy internet chatrooms. To be fair, I’m one of those people.
Though a few blogs such as The Gate, View From The Wing and One Mile At A Time existed since the very early days, many including mine came along later. With more blogs competing, more information was being shared than ever, and as people like myself aimed to carve out long term careers in the biz, sharing tips with mainstream media became more prevalent than ever.
Every once in a while, someone has a go at me for “ruining a great secret”, and generally – my eyes roll.
If you take one thing away from this, it’s that like many things in life, only a select few choose to spoil the real gems. Most bloggers know the thin line between great tip and “this will ruin an incredible trick forever”. So let’s first look at things which are ridiculous to claim as secrets being ruined, like award charts.
As to restaurants, bars and hidden gem hotels – I believe there’s a natural order. Those things will always change, like fashion. You might as well blame the times equally with the bloggers when your favourite Brooklyn pizza joint gets overrun with people. Social media is changing travel more than any “one” blogger. When that place goes out of fashion, you’ll just need to come back and discover the next new gem,
People love to complain that bloggers share too many great points redemptions and it makes airlines or hotels take them away. There’s just one problem with that: the airlines and hotels printed this info on their own websites for all to see when they created and published their award charts.
Pretending that this stuff is in any way secret, or that someone needs to be credited with discovering a thing which is literally public knowledge and searchable by anyone with a phone, pulse, computer or internet connection is laughable. Award charts aren’t secrets and learning to read them isn’t exactly a proprietary gem.
This is almost always hypocritical too, since these same people clearly discovered this information via someone or something else, be it Flyertalk or another person. It’s not as info was predestined and preprogrammed into the fabric of their being. So why was it all ok when it was on Flyertalk and not ok when it’s on a blog? Probably because people genuinely begrudge bloggers like myself for making a living out of something they love. It’s bad enough that we have a a voice, let alone make money from it all.
But back to the content, and the secrets…
I, for one, can say that there are at least five genuine secrets to almost any loyalty program that I know of – but would never ever “blog” about. I chose to make this distinction because talking about it would genuinely have it shut down before anyone could happily make use of whatever the thing may be. These things are black and white, and revealing them would be wrong. If disclosing something would break trust with a source, or end an opportunity for all – I’d never write it.
Are there grey areas too? Sure. Like telling people to sign up for airline business programs, so they can earn extra points in addition to their personal frequent flyer miles. Running a household is technically a business if you look at things through one lens, but many might counter that by saying it’s not what these programs are intended for.
Rather than direct rage toward bloggers who are simply trying to help more people realize their travel dreams, people should spend more time voting with their feet with the actual brands being discussed in articles. Did your credit card company take away a great benefit, because blogs explained how to actually use it? Shame on the credit card company – not the blog.
People have kicked off for years about an article stating that 50,000 Asiana Club points can get you Lufthansa first class from Europe to the USA. Years later, that redemption is still in tact – so the anger is all vein. Yet other programs, which were never particular sweet continue to devalue at will whether we write about them or not.
Are we bloggers sharing too many secrets? The overall answer is just NO.
Everyone learns in different ways and generally, the blogs that explain things best stick around. Why should anyone be denied an opportunity you’ve been able to enjoy, just because you heard about it first? It’s not like we’re telling people how to reuse that one certificate…. yeah I’ll stop there.