WHY DON'T YOU BOOK WITH A TRAVEL AGENT

Dec 7th, 2001, 04:17 PM
  #21  
Penny
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Linda,

I am so sorry that you had trouble on your visit to China. Please remember, just because the people of another country can speak English, doesn't mean they understand it or our thought processes. I am not trying to be ugly. It is simply a fact.

As for car rentals and hotel rooms, you must understand that they, just like the airlines will "OVERBOOK" in trying to second guess how many will actually show up. I book my clients thru my computer almost 100% of the time, if I cancel their car or hotel, I print out the cancellation number (it is time and date stamped via CRS), if I must do it by phone, I will take a red felt tip pen and write the name of the person, where they are located, the time/date called, the cancellation number down on my clients worksheet. Then if they get charged for a no show fee, I can get the charges reversed on their credit card. You must realize however that this doesn't only happen to our clients. It happens to us too, case in point, last August I went to my youngest daughters graduation from "Boot Camp", I reserved a car thru Budget. I get there, and NO CAR, they had overbooked, so they wound up having to give me a luxury car for the price of the compact I had a confirmed reservation for. ALWAYS CARRY THE ITINERRARY YOUR TRAVEL AGENT PROVIDES. It contains the confirmation numbers, the price guaranteed, and even the cancellation policy for hotels (ours does anyway), and when booking future travel, remember, Just because we are travel consultants, does not mean we know about every single destination in the world. WE LEARN JUST LIKE OUR CLIENTS, IT IS A PARTNERSHIP OF SORTS, and research like that can not be done in a matter of minutes and if done right will take several days. But we do not and can not work for free (although from your post you don't mind the service fee's). In traveling internationally realize you are going to a different country, with different customs, and little understanding of us and our ways. If you make an initial reservations such as with the Chinese tour guide/driver, try not to make any more than ONE CHANGE AFTER THE INITIAL RESERVATION. Try to have your flights, itinerrary etc....all ironed out prior to confirming with them. Like I said, they are easily confused by the American way...Please keep in mind too, that to get to a comfort zone with a client takes a good several months and with some a year, which I don't mind at all, and the fact that you move alot can be a factor in finding and keeping a "good TA". I have clients scattered all over the U.S., Europe, and Asia. They like me, and I value them. Isn't it a hassel you ask, no more so than the local clients that want to tie me up for hours looking for the same thing they have called 12 other agency's for, CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP fares. Our profession is under fire, why I do not know, but we are, and it is important to remember not to judge ALL OF US BY THE ACTIONS OF A FEW who probably are "travel agent's in a box" or Card mill holders. Keep trying Linda, you will find that "perfect agent for you", just as my clients have found me.
 
Dec 7th, 2001, 04:20 PM
  #22  
Penny
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Linda,

I am sorry. But in my last post I forgot to let you know that my clients that are scattered to the 4 winds are a joy to me. I love working for and with them. The cheap ($9.00) cruise for 7 days type are the one's that I dislike. They want the world for nothing. I just wanted to clarify that with you and anyone else reading this.
 
Dec 12th, 2001, 02:02 PM
  #23  
Joyce
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Linda,
If you once had an agent you liked, why didn't you keep using them.
I have numerous clients who have moved and they still use me.
I once booked a vacation for an e-mail customer from Hong Kong. With E-mails,e-ticket and etc. it is not neccessary for you agent to be in your area.
 
Dec 14th, 2001, 01:11 PM
  #24  
Mark
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The internet Fallicy

I have been reading this post this afternoon and it startles me that so many people have not found a good travel agent. I have had the good fortune of finding 3 DIFFERENT EXCELLENT agent in different cities over the course of my 39 years on this earth (no I did not use agents before my 18th birthday, my parents said I would go blind) I spent over 5 years travelling as a consultant every week. Other people that worked for our firm (less than 10%) had difficulties with our travel agent but the main reason was because they were not CLEAR in telling the travel agent what their needs were. They often miscommunicated and therefore suffered the consequences. BTW they usually didn't last too long as a consultant either. I have booked airfare over the internet but ONLY as a last resort and when time and potential inconvenience didn't matter. The travel agent I currently use has been indespensible. I remember the time that there was bad weather in Boston and I did not know that many of the flights were being cancelled. while on my way to the airport my agent called me to tell me that my flight had been cancelled and that she had booked me on another flight with another carrier, gave me the gate number thus I was one of the few people to get into Boston that evening. Or the time that the airlines overbooked a flight and she called the area rep and had me transferred to another airline while everyone else was screaming at the gate attendants to get onto other flights for that airline. If you purchased your ticket on the internet or booked the travel yourself directly with the airline ther is NO WAY ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH that you could have avoided these potential perils. I could go on and on, but let me sum up:

To all of the GOOD and PROFESSIONAL travel agents out there THANK YOU VERY MUCH for putting up with the demands we "customers" make of you. we could not be succesful if not for you. Also treat you travel professional good and they will take care of you. On my larger trips my agent provides limo service to/from the airport, I have been given upgrades, free drink vouchers, champagne, wine, gift baskets etc. as a good and valued client. That's it....I'm all pooped out now.
 
Dec 14th, 2001, 08:22 PM
  #25  
joyce
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Mark,
For every Good Agent out there I THANK YOU.
One of the Heros on UA 93 was a client of mine for several years before he moved to California. I know he felt we did him the same service you Laud your agent for.
A good agent knows her clients needs and goes out of their way to satisfly them.
It is very unfortunate that most people on this board have not found a good caring agent, but then again many of them sound like they are Bad Clients.
After all, a Relationship is a two way street.
 
Dec 15th, 2001, 07:19 AM
  #26  
Not for profit
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Penny: I don't book with travel agents because they are not -- or at least haven't been for many years -- interested in my business. When they find out I am neither traveling for business nor after a cruise or resort, they can hardly bear to spend a moment with me.

I have been booking myself now on line for almost everything and find I do a better job with the help of Fodorites' advice and a little homework in the travel guides plus a little word of mouth.

When it was time for us to actually go on a 2+ week trip to Europe, I went to an agent thinking at least this time, he/she might actually be willing to spend some time with us, esp. if we indicated we might do repeat travel in the future. The first agent asked us to write a check for $25. up front before he'd even talk to us, and when he found out we didn't want a package tour, he got very snide about not being "in the bracket" that needed a travel agent's help.

We tried another, and all she did was throw a couple of package-tour brochures at us, refusing to do anything other than book with these services. She wasn't ungracious but it was clear she felt doing any other research or individual booking with individual hotels in our price range ($120-170/night) was a complete waste of her time. She tried very hard to get out of helping us deal with European rail schedules and ticketing, as well and implied she had been enormously generous to write us out a voucher. The only time she brightened up was when we said we wanted to buy trip insurance. THAT made her very happy.

All that was before the economic down-turn. I've now taught myself a lot about booking travel, so why should I -- not a business traveller nor a year-round cruise- or tour-taker -- go back to these people who had so little time for me before? I DO travel quite a bit now, but like the Little Red Hen, I can do it myself. And if the travel agent profession "lived" by business travel and package tours/cruises before, they can "die" by them now, for all I care.
 
Dec 15th, 2001, 08:50 AM
  #27  
joyce
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Not for profit,
I am very sorry you have had problems with travel agents. I must tell you the reason however. Unless booking with a Wholesaler, hotels in Europe very rarely ever pay the commissions they owe us. If they do, it takes months of faxing or calling them.
This work is also very time consuming for the amount of money made. There are some very good agents that specialize in this type of travel, but they usually charge an upfront fee, because of the time involved and the difficulty in collecting their commissions.
Also, many people like yourself will contact us, we spend our time and then they book on their own.
I have not problem doing a lot of research and work for my clients, but I want to be respected. I definately would have had no problem at all with the train travel or car. If I could book the hotels through a US Wholesaler such as Funjet Vacations or GoGo Worldwide Vacations or many others no problem.
For many cities in Europe $120-$170 per night is difficult to find, at least at centrally located hotels with the amenities expected by most Americans.
If you enjoy researching your own travel that is great. Do so. The clients who do use the services of a Professional, Caring Travel Agent, with whom they have taken the time to form a relationship.
 
Dec 15th, 2001, 08:59 AM
  #28  
joyce
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Sorry, that last thought is very important. You need to interview the Travel Agent and they interview you.
You need to tell the agent what you are looking for. If they are unresponsibe, keep looking. There are some very good Professional Agents, there are some very bad uncaring ones.
I find agents from many large MEGA agencies tend to be less responsive to clients than agents working independantly, but this is not always the case. MEGA's have good agents also and some added amenities some of us smaller agents do not have.
Ask how long they have been in the business and what their specialities are. Just like Doctor's are now often specialists, so are agents. It is likely someone like myself with 30+ years of experience is just more knowledgable than someone with 1 Year. But again, I know many long time agents who know nothing.
 
Dec 15th, 2001, 09:26 AM
  #29  
Penny
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Not For Profit,

I sounds to me as if you have had TERRIBLE LUCK IN YOUR AREA SECURING A TRUE PROFESSIONAL. Whether you book your trips in "package componet" or not makes no difference in our agency. All clients are equal, their needs are equal, and no request is to mundane or small. I am so sorry for your horrible experience.

I frequently book independent tours in Europe for my clients, seperate air (unless they are using FF miles or vouchers), seperate hotels (your price range wasn't unreasonable for Europe), and Rail services. On independent trips I really push the rail service's of Europe as driving can be really dangerous for tourist unfamilar with the country and laws.

Yes I charge a fee, but, then I provide much more than "card mill agents, I have no pressure on me to produce by my agency (which permits me to have the time required to address needs of clients), and I have been an agent going into my 11th year come Janurary 2002.

The fee should not be the issue with the consumer, what they get for that fee should be the issue. They say if you fall off a horse to get right back on, or forfeit the ability to overcome the fear of being thrown again. That is how I would approach the next agent you might attempt to use. Use care and caution. If they throw brochures at you and state this is ALL WE DO, don't walk, RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN OUT OF THE DOOR, If they steer clear/or away or avoid knowledge of a particular subject (without acknowledging they are not familar with it, but willing to become so for your trip), do not walk, RUN OUT OF THE DOOR.

And realize that it takes time and careful planning to put a dream trip together. You can not walk into an agents office and expect to have that trip booked in 30 minutes. Careful research and planning are an absolute must. I take anywhere's from 3 to 7 days to plan out trips you have described. I know other agents that can do it faster, but, usually wind up with a glich after travel has started, and it is way harder to correct, after departure. SO allow the time to be spent in the planning and coordination of the componets of your trip. There are by far more professional agents out there than the few bad ones I have seen described on this forum. We take our jobs seriously, and we spend your money as if it were our own. I am not a rich person, and will not become rich in this profession, but I can make a decent living, as long as I keep producing what my clients expect and ask for.
Does it excuse the treatment you have received by some either very unprofessional agents, or agents that were green?? In no way, the behavior described here would be unacceptable in any work enviroment. In my early years, I would very honestly tell clients, I am not qualified to help you with this (ususally European booking), please allow me to have a Senior agent consult with you. So please to all reading here, don't give up on ALL OF US, and don't allow the few bad apples to cause the whole barrel to be thrown away....we need people just like you, good, bad, indifferent clients, you come as a packaged deal for us
 
Dec 15th, 2001, 12:39 PM
  #30  
DS
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Laura: "Message: I really don't understand the hostility toward travel agents on this website. "


. . . Well, I don't understand all of the hostility towards those who have responded to explain why they DON'T use travel agents!!!

Penny asked a simple question, and those who have responded have been attacked by nasty, surly travel agents.

But in the spirit of civility, Penny, I'll answer why I ( and I think many others) don't use travel agents.

The last time I used a travel agent was to book a hotel for a long weekend in Miami. The agent, who worked for a large, nationally-known travel agency, recommended a hotel with a "reputable," international hotel chain. But when I arrived, I discovered that it was a run-down rest home masquerading as a "hotel." I had to spend the rest of that day trying to get the agent to do something, only to be told that since it was a Saturday, the hotel's reservation office was closed, and there was nothing they could do. I had to take matters into my own hands and simply move to another hotel and vow to myself to fight any charges that were incurred in this fiasco.

Since then, I have done my own homework and made my own reservations with no problems. And, if people do just a little homework, they can find out what their rights are in case there are any problems. Also, I have relied upon my credit card company (American Express) to assist me with any problems in the past, again, with great success.

I actually have great respect and empathy for travel agents, or any other people who work in the service field. I worked for years in the service field myself. But in looking at the responses here, when people say why they don't use a travel agent, the typical agent response has been something to the effect of " . . . well, yes, you're right, but what can we do?" Well, then why are you asking why people don't use travel agents?!?

Perhaps with the advent of the Internet and other new tools, the travel agency business could be going the way of the carriage makers. I am sure that there used to be many fine carriage makers. But with the advent of the automobile, they simply couldn't adapt to the new reality and slowly died off. Mabye agents need to re-tool and adapt to these new changes if they want to survive? I would think that business travelers and inexperienced travelers would be more likely to use your services than people who are more experienced travelers. Ditto for those who like to go on cruises or complete package vacations. But as one poster pointed out, when he went in to do a simple booking, the agency treated him like a pariah. This has also happened to me. . .

So mabye you agents should stop trying to be everything to everyone, and focus on those markets that are still in demand of your services? Perhaps all of you small, independent agents could band together and demand better treatment from airlines, cruise lines, etc.?

Just remember, Penny asked a simple question. DON'T KILL THE MESSENGER!!!
 
Dec 15th, 2001, 04:49 PM
  #31  
Penny
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Message to : The Messenger

While I have read each and every response, your's was the only one that caused a light bulb to go off/on.

Adapt is just what we have done. When the internet came, I knew, that I must keep up on all the lastest technology that is out here today. My leased/contracted reservation system, just wasn't going to be enough anymore, nor my extensive research library containing tours and article's on almost every city/country tourist want to visit outside the USA, video library, or personal-photo library. The information was going to be out there for everybody. So I and many others have adapted. I have learned this tool, just as well as the CRC system I must have. There have been so many times that I am able to do better, than even foderites have been able to find. Why, because I do have the CRS, and the company I contract thru is a leader in this type of industry. They are committed to keeping me abreast of all the gazillion , bazillion fares that are out here. I have access to company's you don't even know exist. I just offered in the last 24 hours a o/w fare from dfw to london, last minute notice. That fare is not a CRS fare, nor is it an internet fare. Such as to my o/w client, on the internet, the fare was $1200.00, the lowest I could offer him from my crs was $781.00. I was quite surprised though the fare was lower than I was able to find on-line, even utilizing the sights recommended here on this forum, and priceline.
The fare I did find from the numerous companies I utilize was $391.00 and that included my service charge of $75.00 plus the $25.00, Saturday Fed-X delivery required because he leaves on Monday. Yes the fare was $291.00. Did I deserve the $75.00 fee. He certainly felt so.

But, I am not the only professional out here, and you and all others that judge us by your "bad experience" will never know the joy of having the extra money in your pocket that my clients do, and the other's that are just like me.

No, I am not attacking anyone here. I am merely pointing out the value that I and many others bring into this profession. And I do appreciate all the response's here. This is exactly the reason, so I could contiue to adapt and provide that extra, special, caring service that we do.
 
Dec 17th, 2001, 04:31 AM
  #32  
Not for profit
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The replies are thoughtful and I appreciate that. And I must tell you that if the industry were set up so that clients paid agents a set fee, perhaps a base $25 plus a certain amount per day of travel -- or even a per hour rate, but I think that leaves space for considerable abuse -- rather than having agents be paid by suppliers, I would be delighted to avail myself of the service. My objection to the agent who asked for $25 before even talking to me was the contemptuous "make it worth my while" attitude and the knowledge that there would still be commissions down the road for that jerk.

The problem will always be that those who pay the agent call the tune, so Penny and others have an incentive to treat suppliers better than they do clients.

It's not unlike using a real estate agent to buy a house: no matter how earnest and helpful an agent is to a prospective buyer, ultimately the agent has an incentive to get a house sold (with or without warts revealed) AND to get top dollar for it. That means the agent is, at the bottom line, working for the seller, even if a smart agent will remember that word-of-mouth and repeat business is worth courting.

I may have been unlucky with travel agents -- just as I have largely been lucky with realtors -- but it makes perfect, if dismaying, sense that no agent really wants the business of a traveller who is not after travel that entails commissions to the agent or will not result in frequent or luxury-level repeat business. The sad thing is that the mid-level or even budget-level traveller may well be the one who most needs the extra bit of research.

I've always wondered what would happen if someone opened a cottage-industry shop based entirely on counseling and fax assistance and with a flat schedule of up-front fees. Of course, I have no idea how you would convince suppliers to give up the commission system but a commission system favors the big-chain suppliers (hotels, resorts, etc.) because they have the money and PR to feed into the system.

I guess that means that for those of us who try to avoid Sandals, Disney, Renaissance cruises (bye), etc. in favor of small, unique hotels, etc. being able to use resources like this forum is a godsend. Q. E. D.
 
Dec 17th, 2001, 10:00 AM
  #33  
Penny
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Not For Profit,

You DID NOT READ my post. I distinctly made reference to the fact, ALL CLIENTS ARE EQUAL....That would include you. Not all agents/agency's are that way, it is up to you to be tenacious enough to find us. We all advertise, and there are many more just like me out there. It would be next to impossible to make a set fee for clients. Perhaps a minimum fee, but not a set fee. If I have a cient that needs an a/l ticket and it takes me 3 to 5 minutes to handle, is it fair to charge them $75.00, the same fee I charge for days of research???? No it is not. I would encourage you to find an agent such as myself, that will treat your money, as they do their own. Very carefully, getting the best value for the dollar being spent, and discriminating. I never sell one vendor over the other because I get a higher commission. I want people to come back, and if I did that (sell only high commission vendors), you would not be getting the best "deal" out there and you would not come back. So think what you will, but do not lump me into a group, and discriminate against me because you were treated snobbishly, I do not condone that type of treatment from anyone in this profession. We are supposed to be professional's and to turn our nose's up at anyone is a NO NO.

The example I used was a real situtation. And you and other's like you that don't want to trust us, are just losing out. To obtain a fare o/w with no advance notice for $291.00 is unheard of. It is better than any on-line fare (including foderites favorite haunts on the net), priceline, my CRS, or the a/l's reservations/on-line sites. And it is because I am in the profession, and these type's of companies won't do business direct with the public, therefore you don't/can't even know they exist. I have been doing this job 24/7 for going into 11 years. That makes me very valuable to those clients who find their way to me. And they remain loyal. Once in a blue moon they find something they book on the net, and that's ok, because they alway's come back to me at some point, and more times than not sooner than later.
 
Dec 17th, 2001, 10:08 AM
  #34  
Penny
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Not for Profit,

The other thing is, I do not treat my supplier's better than my clients. That too, would be obvious to my clients, and there fore is tabu. There are so many vendor's out there, that I do choose the ones, that I know have good performance, offer impecable customer service, and are going to listen and try to correct problems that may arise. Vendor's that are going to acknowledge that my clients are human, that my clients may get sick, may have emergencies arise unexpectedly, and have insurance programs in place that will protect my clients investment.

But to treat a supplier better than a client, that is laughable. The suppliers are the one's who try to wine/dine the agents, and I do not dance to that tune. Show me the advantage my clients get in booking with you, is bottom line for me. Show me pricing that isn't going to bankrupt my clients, is another requirement. Show me that you will fix a problem should it arise. And in return, I will price your product and see if it meets the other supplier's pricing. If not, then I will not offer it to my clients.
 
Dec 17th, 2001, 05:05 PM
  #35  
Not for profit
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OK, Penny, you can have the last word if you want it. But you just haven't convinced me, nor a number of others, that travel agents as a rule are "caring," knowledgeable, and in business to serve everyone no matter what their budget, as you apparently consider yourself to be. Guess I'd be lucky to get you, but I recommend sometime you walk into an agency or two away from your home territory and present yourself as needing the sort of help people who have posted here needed -- yes, with Europe, yes, with a preference against packaged tours. You might get your eyes opened.
 
Dec 17th, 2001, 07:07 PM
  #36  
at-at
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Many of you may find my background interesting...

My mother owned a travel agency for 15 years, so I can sympathize with their point of view.

I am now in corporate managment of a major airline, and can sympathize with that point of view as well.

Unfortunately for the profession that helped my mom and dad put me through private school, the travel agents have what amounts to a very weak arguement in their claim that airlines monopolize their own sales channels.

Airlines are responsible to their customers and their employees in their relatively futile effort to increase their shareholders value. They have no responsibility to travel agents except to the extent that offering incentives to travel agents increases their sales.

It is fair to say that at best, the public is indifferent to whether an agent helps them or not. Obviously, if more of the public relied on travel agents, then the airlines would be competing for their business by offering higher commissions.

...but the public would just as well use the internet...

The bottom line:
Instead of blaming the airlines, savvy agents should be re-inventing themselves in an effort to find a way to offer tangible benefits to their customers versus the other channels available.

If they dont, the profession will probably disappear altogether.
 
Dec 18th, 2001, 12:33 PM
  #37  
Penny
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at-at,

Your point of view is EXACTLY WHY THE AIRLINES ARE IN SUCH DESPERATE STRAITS, why they are crying to the taxpayer's for handouts to save their business's. NOT ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE MEANS TO BOOK with or on the internet, ON AIRLINE MONOPOLIZED SITES.....ASK THE OIL INDUSTRY ABOUT MONOPOLIES. THEY TRIED TO PLAY THE SAME ONE-WAY GAME BACK IN THE OIL BOOMING DAYS....Until the airlines, take a giant step back and recognize the industry that I work for, and the many thousands of others that do as well, they will continue to struggle. We were the lowest cost marketing plan they ever had. We did not run to check with our union stewards everytime a cry for help came about. Your stewardess's stranded 1000's one thanksgiving didn't they??? Yes they went on strike. High union labor is killing your employer, as is vacation pay, sick pay, 401k matches, etc.., etc...,etc... I hardly think that our piddly 10% ever put your employer in jeopardy, just your employer's incredible bad business manuevers. The airlines would be better served to try and heal themselves in any means they can....and the best means right now, and in the future would be to re-evaluate their relationship with travel agents. Most tickets do not run that much, so 10% would be a tremendous saving's to them in the long run, but then they have never been known to look beyond the end of their nose's or their HUGE paychecks. I hope your enjoying the education you so proudly daunt, it was earned off the sweat of travel agents.
 
Dec 18th, 2001, 04:52 PM
  #38  
H
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Interesting thread - especially the part where one of the travel agents analogized the specialized training they have to that of an orthopedic surgeon. Sounds like a few of you have an inferiority complex and a chip on your shoulder.
 
Dec 19th, 2001, 08:20 AM
  #39  
The Truth
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Great, now this lunatic is a BUSINESS EXPERT too. Penny, could you please devote a FEW PARAGRAPHS to telling us how we could have LASTING PEACE in the MIDDLE EAST?
 
Dec 19th, 2001, 02:07 PM
  #40  
Penny
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To the previous to posters, you do not deserve a reply. Why don't you grow up and move away from home.
 

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