A Book Review of ‘The Sett’ by Ranulph Fiennes. Published 1996 by William Heinemann. London.This incredible biography leaves the reader thinking ‘could this really be true?’ This mild mannered, archetypal man called Alex Goodman, (not his real name), should surely be the hero of the next action packed blockbuster. An Accountant by profession, his life is irrevocably changed on the afternoon of 29th July, 1984, whilst walking in the woods with his wife and daughter. After witnessing a horrendous badger killing, he is savagely beaten and none the wiser when he awakes in a Birmingham hospital, suffering from traumatic amnesia. In the following year, his memory gradually returns and what unfolds are riveting ‘cat and nine lives’ type scenarios, whilst he seeks revenge for the callous murders of his wife and daughter. The search for his family’s killers eventually takes nine years.Since regaining his memory, Alex Goodman is thrust into the world of the now defunct, but notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (B.C.C.I.), C.I.A. and the White House He faces drug runners, the illegal traders in human organs, repugnant badger baiters, as well as murderers, using torture and extreme violence as a way of life. Could these events really happen to a quiet, family orientated white collar worker, whom after reading ‘The Feather Men’, approached the author in the hope of having his own story told? Alex Goodman knew he was dying. He wanted his story published. His resolute motivation to avenge the deaths of his family is commendable. After being taken in and accepted by a criminal drug and manufacturing gang who called themselves ‘The Family’, he was approached by American government agents to infiltrate the B.C.C.I., as an employee to gain access to the information needed to bring the Bank down.Alex Goodman uncovered corruption on a massive scale involving the C.I.A., the White House, the kidnapping and systematic murder of South American children to obtain human organs for sale on the black market and the workings of ethnic gangs within the United States and Britain. Readers of this book will be intrigued by the detailed recounting of the events which take place. Throughout the book, the events, names and places has been meticulously researched and backed with authentic documentation. This attention to detail is a hallmark of Fiennes’ writing and the reader will not be disappointed.Goodman does find love again, but the union is short-lived. He befriends a prostitute, who, after some time feels empathy for this strange man who has appeared in her life, and he learns to love again. She bears him a child, but Goodman’s tragedy is compounded when both are killed as he hunts the assassin of his first family. Again and again Goodman has escaped from the revenge of the killers he hunts, only to discover that the friends and acquaintances he has made on this incredible quest are themselves killed.’The Sett’ is undoubtedly, amongst one of the best books I have read. This ‘tour de force’ story conjures up many emotions. The cruelty involved in the badger killings was almost unreadable. Many a time I thought I could not continue, but the compelling story drew me back each time. All animal lovers and animal liberationists will find these chapters difficult to digest and come to terms with. The combination of violence, killing and the ‘edge of your seat’ scenarios make this book impossible to put down. Some readers may challenge the veracity of this book, and indeed this story does leave you wondering, how can a normal common man be caught up in the whirlwind of violence and intrigue that descended on Alex Goodman? As they say “You wouldn’t read about it!”Sir Ranulph Fiennes is not only an accomplished author, he has also received the ‘Order of the British Empire’ from Her Majesty the Queen in 1993 for his efforts in raising 14 million pounds for charity. He was named ‘Best Sportsman’ in the 2007 ITV Great Britain Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest British citizen to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest. These accolades pale into insignificance when viewed in the light of the trials and tribulations of Alex Goodman, a simple common man who only sought justice for the wrongs perpetrated against him by the evil men that lurk in the world’s shadows.
The printed press and social media are full of headlines such as:” 9 Things Your Travel Agent Will Not Tell You,” “Useless Jobs,” “Travel Do it Yourself” or “How to be a Travel Hacker.” Furthermore, if you search the definition of a Travel Agency you will find information that says:”With general public access to the Internet, many airlines and other travel companies began to sell directly to passengers. As a consequence, airlines no longer needed to pay the commissions to travel agents on each ticket sold. Since 1997, travel agencies have gradually been disintermediated”(Cutting the middle man).Misconceptions including the belief that using a Travel Agency will cost clients more, or the infamous question, “Do travel agents still exist?” need to be addressed. Our labor of love has never been put to the test more than now, but was it always like this? Were Travel Agents always under-appreciated? Why? How is it that our 127-year-old industry is being placed in this modern-day situation?Here’s an interesting fact: The oldest known travel agency in the United States is Brownell Travel, founded on July 4, 1887. Mr. Walter T. Brownell led ten travelers on a European tour, setting sail from New York on the SS Devonia. Originally, travel catered only for upper class customers, but the post-war boom opened travel to the mass market, allowing everyone to look for convenient ways to go back to Europe for “the holidays.”I commend Mr. Brownell and his legacy, taking those early travel pioneers to the old continent. I also commend and congratulate the new owners for continuing their services today.Changes of the perception of Travel Agents, are clear shown in the contrast of messages, of 2 of our Presidents, we were particularly praised by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and nowadays are considered irrelevant, even according to President Obama in a 2011 speech.Here is a transcript of their messages;In President John F. Kennedy’s own words:”It gives me great pleasure to extend my greetings to the American Society of travel agents on the occasion of its annual Congress. Your contributions to the furthering of peace and international understanding through the promotion and stimulation of worldwide travel are most heartening.The economic impact of your work has been beneficial for countries large and small. Your organization has been a vital instrument of expansion for the economies of countries undergoing post-war recovery and newly emerging nations.In our own country, it has provided one of the three main sources of income for 20 of our States, and, last but not least, through its efforts to encourage more people to visit the United States, it has positively and efficiently aided us in the amelioration of our balance of payments situation.The consistent increase in the number of visitors from overseas in the past two years reflects the efforts of your members in developing travel facilities at home and abroad for those who wish to visit the United States.Your continued service can be of invaluable assistance to our country in a future in which travel will play an increasingly crucial role.”Powerful words that make any Travel Agent feel proud to serve their country.In contrast, President Barack Obama’s own words in 2011:”One of the challenges in terms of rebuilding our economy is businesses have gotten so efficient that-when was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online? A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated.”Strong words that could make any Travel Agent feel devastated and feel purposeless in serving our country.The industry went through many changes, from the 60′s until now and the Travel agent, Professional Advisor, stand still loyal to their customers, regardless of the adversities, they continue being loyal to their clients, creating memories of a Lifetime.
There are some instances where travel agents can travel for free, but for the most part they do come out of their pocket. Below are three instances where travel agents can rack up extra savings and put money back into their pockets.I will share my savings experience as a home-based agent, which has caused me to save hundreds of dollars!Get Paid on Retail or Sale PricingWhen I travel as an insider, I get paid when I book travel for myself (and of course I get paid when I do it for others). The price I pay could be the same as any one that is not part of the industry, the difference would be I get a check and you don’t! Commissions are already built-into the price of what you see online or what your travel agent quote you already has the commissions built-in. (they are never in addition to price quoted, if you are told extra fees need to be added to cover commission… run)Travel at Net or Wholesale PricingNow, if I decide that I want to travel at a lower cost and forgo my commission, I still have to pay the net cost, I just would not get paid for the trip. You can get travel at great bargains if you travel this way!But, I must add that various agencies may have ‘special’ discounted trips that agents can take for themselves or sell to their clients and STILL get a commission! I love these because your getting paid AND the rates can be even better than net rate PLUS you have a great deal you can offer to your clients. Only downside is that there may be a limit on how many can travel and restricted to specific dates.Travel on the Industries DimeWhat about those really dirt cheap trips? Yes, dirt cheap destinations do exist and are exclusive for travel agents and are typically known as FAM trips or Familiarization trips. These trips are more educational for travel agents and teach agents about the property or destination experience they are visiting.Vendors invite agents on these ‘FAM’ trips so they can get more in-depth knowledge to share with their clientele. The goal is to promote to get more bookings for those properties or destinations. Prices for these trips are such a steal that they might as well be free!Just to recap, travel agents pay for their trips in four ways:1. Travel at retail pricing & get paid the already built-in commission2. Travel at retail minus already built-in pricing (therefore no commissions are paid)3. Travel at wholesale plus get a commission (vary per agency and limits dates & quantity)4. Travel on a FAM trip – steeply discounted trips (exclusive to travel agents