28th August 2009 at 10:51 #459587
Anonymous28th August 2009 at 10:51 #459588
In which our correspondent admits to his fellow travellers that it’s time to seek help for his addiction…
Please excuse me for disturbing the peace of this business class lounge, such as it is, with that family in the corner, but I have to get something off my chest. I have to unburden myself, and to an audience who will understand; who, perhaps, will sympathise.
For the past couple of years I’ve been battling an addiction. My lifestyle hasn’t helped – the constant travelling, being away from home, rushing for flights then having time to kill in airport lounges like this one, waking in anonymous hotels and wondering where I am. I could blame the travel, yes – but if that’s the problem, why, each year, do I travel more? Partly for business, but if I’m honest, it is mainly to feed my addiction. So welcome to our first meeting, spontaneously organised as it is. And let me kick things off by standing here in front of you and declaring: “My name is Frequent Traveller, and I am a mileage junkie.”
For a long time I have been in denial. I changed credit cards frequently, building up points with the major hotel chains and taking advantage of the tier status and rewards. I took strange routings to destinations that had direct flights, or used hubs that added hours – on a couple of occasions, days – to my trip. I organised meetings and events in hotels, then found an excuse to pay for them on my credit card, simply to build up extra miles, and I have to travel with two wallets, so numerous are my flexible friends.
Recognise yourself? Yes, I see you nodding. And, like you, I told myself it was a harmless hobby, even when I knew I was checking my mileage statements more than my bank ones. But then came my own personal breaking point. As many of you will know, British Airways has an agreement with Tesco. Shop with your Tesco Clubcard and you can convert the vouchers to BA miles. But you can redeem them on lots of other things as well – like Legoland vouchers.
My young son loves Lego. And he knows about Legoland. All his friends have been. Whenever they play Lego together, they tell him about it, and he nods and thinks: “Soon, I will go.” Not long ago, my wife told him we would go because we could use the Tesco vouchers we had earned. I didn’t react. And a week later, I converted those vouchers to BA miles. The look of disappointment on his face when he found out was what broke me. I promised we would all go to Legoland at the first available date (I could always pay on one of the credit cards). But when the date came round, I was on a trip. I needed help.
I wasn’t the only one. A colleague spotted a deal in Tesco on baby lotion for double Clubcard points and no maximum purchase. He bought a shopping trolley of the stuff on his BA Amex platinum card, converted the points to BA Executive Club miles more cheaply than he could have purchased the miles direct from BA, and every time he came to our house for the next year, instead of a bottle of wine, we got baby lotion. I heard he was doing it to everyone. Even the ones without kids.
So I am proposing regular meetings and a website. I thought of mileage-anonymous.com, but let’s be frank, the name should be mileage-whore.com. Although I pride myself on being independent, a free spirit travelling the world in search of the next deal, I now know that for a few points my will is not my own, and for a raised tier level… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
And yet, what should we do with all these points, all of these billions of miles? Yes, we could give them to charity, many do – when I retire, I’ll do the same. But that doesn’t address the root problem. The only time I sense real passion among us is when at two o’clock in the morning, jet-lagged in our hotel rooms, we berate the loyalty houses for their blackout dates and stingy redemption allowances. How can I burn these miles, the cry goes up? But their value is transitory – tier levels are reset every year, and each year’s points are harder to retain and earn. We are hamsters running faster to stay still.
So I say, let’s travel, but not seek the reward. Refuse to give up that personal information just so you can be more effectively marketed to. Status is not something given by the travel industry, but by our peers, who are sitting among us in this lounge. Our potential members are everywhere. Look at that man sat across from you with five gold cards displayed proudly on the handle of his laptop bag. Those cards aren’t a boast, they are a cry for help. Talk to him, tell him about our meetings. Let me know how it goes. I’m away for the next couple of weeks – that’s my flight being called. But remember, the only alliance that counts is our buddy network. Thank you for listening.28th August 2009 at 12:23 #459589
Have you been to legoland yet?28th August 2009 at 13:24 #459590
Excellent, priceless and I’m in!28th August 2009 at 14:19 #459591
I too was that man. Collecting 5 top tier cards, and countless miles. A couple of years ago I tried to quit and am now down to 120k miles a year.
I have now turned to drink and joined a group called Anonymous Alchoholics. We all go down to the local bar and get rat-arsed, but never reveal our identities!11th October 2009 at 22:14 #459592
This article was actually published in the September BT UK magazine… Excellent piece!8th November 2009 at 23:06 #459593
Reminds me of the time 10 years ago (Sainsbury’s was BA’s partner then) when I bought £1,500 work of Bailey’s Irish Cream and the bonus points gave me enough for a First Class return ticket to Toronto (regular price £5,500). I still have some left believe or not!21st April 2010 at 00:29 #459594
Ah, there are many of us that understand your position. I found having kids (well, my wife did all the hard work) was a great leveller as well. My international travel turned into Fiji and New Zealand (holidays) and now all my work travel is domestic (Australian) and my 2-3 night stays away have become day trips or single/double night stays.
But the joy is getting home, giving them a bath and gettin them into bed, then sharing a red wine with my wife before we retire to bed(rather than an empty room and more work).
Fot the love of your son, take him to Leggoland. Feed both your additions 🙂
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