Last year I did a podcast with the folks at Berkshire Hathaway Travel and one of the questions that came up was, “This hobby sounds terrific! So are people in this community really accepting and helpful towards newbies?” It pained me to say this, but I had to answer honestly: “Not really.” In fact, the level of vitriol aimed at newbies in this hobby can be downright disturbing. Anytime I see a newbie posting a question on the Flyertalk forums or elsewhere, I can practically see the eye-rolling preceding the response. A lot of people are rude at best and proactively mean at worst.
Some of the worst culprits are bloggers. Not in the comment section or via email, but in-person. I’ve seen some of the biggest bloggers talk down to newbies and treat them like nuisances. I’ve heard snarky comments and condescending responses to “basic” questions. A lot of the impatience towards newbies seems to be “Why are you asking questions? Go find out for yourself!” or “this is not the place to ask these newbie questions.” Really? A forum for frequent travelers isn’t where people are supposed to ask travel questions? A conference where bloggers speak about points and miles isn’t the appropriate place to ask newbie questions? Some people in this hobby act like they were born with all the answers and never had to consult with a blogger or strangers on a forum about something that everyone else deems “basic.”
When a manufactured spending deal goes bust, the finger-pointing often goes to bloggers and then gravitates to Newbies. No one ever considers the fact that it’s some of the “old timers” who often abuse deals. Who clear out the gift card racks and pick fights with their local Walmart cashiers until their sense of entitlement is satisfied. Not the timid newbies who still don’t know how to liquidate tens of thousands of dollars worth of gift cards so they can take their families to Hawaii just once.
Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating here. I’m sure there are newbies who are irresponsible jerks and seasoned vets who are good stewards. My point is, the vitriol aimed at newbies is unnecessary and unjustified. Are they really responsible for this hobby going down the drain? Or is it all those folks who’ve been heavily churning credit cards and gift cards for years until Amex and Chase decided they had enough? We’re all polluting the river to an extent. But let’s focus on our own behavior and see how that is contributing to the demise of this hobby rather than scapegoating newbies.
So remember those days when you were still wandering the interwebs, trying to find an answer to your question. Think of those people who helped you or nudged you in the right direction. Be the nudger, not the guy purposefully sending the poor tourist in the wrong direction. As our mothers used to tell us, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Do you agree/disagree? Comment below.