Saturday, September 25, 2021

Through Agencies vs. Direct Hotel Booking


It was already 7 pm and heavily snowing when our airplane landed.  Living 200 kilometers away from Halifax, I had booked a room next to the airport.  Thank goodness, as the regular bus to our town left the airport only once a day - in the morning at 11 am.  To call friends to pick me up was not in my mind, at least I did not want to ask them on this snow day to drive 400 kilometers round trip.

It took about half an hour until the hotel shuttle bus arrived to pick up a group of seven travelers. However, the shuttle drove to a huge parking area where all others had their cars parked. One couple did not find their car and the driver patiently cruised around and around until these folks recognized their vehicle under a snow cover.  Finally, almost two hours after landing, I checked in and got a room twenty meters from the reception. 

Thin walls allowed me to be entertained beyond midnight by listening to arriving guests or phone calls of the receptionist… The short night ended at 4 am when calls by the receptionist (this time another one) woke me up.  I tried without success to continue sleeping.  At 6 am I got up and walked over to their desk and asked for the manager. He would arrive around 9 am I was told.  “OK, then, when and where is breakfast?”  “Sorry, but due to the pandemic, we cannot offer breakfast”.  “What? Where can I get a cup of coffee and something to eat?”  “The next place is a coffee shop at the airport”.  At least I could catch the shuttle bus to be driven to and from the airport back to the hotel.

There I opened my laptop to use the time until the manager would arrive.  But no luck, the Internet did not work.  I packed my suitcase and got ready for departure, hoping that the Internet at the airport would work.  In the meantime, the manager (or his junior assistant) arrived at his office, and I complained about my not-so-clean room, about the missing breakfast (that was included in the hotel fee), and about the loud noise that kept me from sleeping.  I demanded a discount.  The manager told me that he could only talk about it if I would have booked directly at their hotel (chain) - but not when booked through a third party.  I would have to go through Booking, Priceline, Expedia, or wherever I paid for my hotel room.  I was furious, but couldn’t do anything other than writing a one-star review for this hotel on Google.  And I swore myself to never, ever book through an agency for flights, trains, rental cars, or hotel rooms.

As I am almost a full-time traveler, my resolutions, however, melted in the sun… 

In Spring I traveled near Algonquin Park and in the late afternoon, I discovered an attractive hotel in a small town.  I went in and inquired at the reception about a room and its price.  A bit shocked about the answer, I gambled and offered a lower price “that I had seen on the Internet”.  

The receptionist explained to me that I would have to order it online to get a price like this. “So, you mean I can pull out my laptop and order it online in front of you and get a lower price?  Even though the agencies deduct you another 15-20%?  Why don’t you just give me a lower price?” “No, that’s not possible” she explained, “due to directions she got from her manager”. 

“OK, then please give me your password, and I’ll order online”.  “No password needed, you can go directly to the Internet.”  So I sat down and checked the agency's hotel prices.  To my surprise, it was just ten dollar lower.  But at the same time, I saw a bed & breakfast with lots of favorable reviews - and I booked a room there - without an agency.  Thanks to the friendly but firm receptionist (or her managers) - which lost a customer…

Weeks later I prepared for another trip to Europe and to avoid traveling in trains or busses during the pandemic, I booked a rental car.  Despite having paid in full for three weeks through the agencies' website, I was forced to leave a  deposit of 2,000 euros.  When I returned the car I demanded my credit card payment back.  No, they cannot give me the credit as I had booked over an agency.  But I had given my credit card for the deposit in person at the Salzburg, Austria, rental company, and wanted my deposit back from them.  They assured me I would have the credit returned within 3 days by the agency. 

Four months later I still did not have the money back on my credit card, despite dozens of emails, calls, even a registered letter.  I was bounced forth and back from the rental place to the agent and vice versa.  I then went to the Internet and posted the case to several consumer sites, to the tourism office, and the city of Salzburg, as well as to authorities in Munich where the agency is located.  I even sent the case to several daily papers in both cities.  I am not sure who influenced the agency or the rental office, but finally five months after the incident, I got my money back.

On another occasion, during a busy, long travel weekend, I even drove from hotel to hotel in person, but every room in the area was booked.  Until my laptop showed me a hotel through where one room was available.  I drove to the place and when checking in, I showed them my loyalty member card of their hotel chain. To my dismay, I learned that loyalty cards are not recognized once a guest book through Expedia, Priceline, or  Most hotel brand loyalty rewards programs don’t offer points on stays booked through third-party sites, I learned through my research.  On top of this, when I checked the hotel’s website, I saw that a direct booking with the hotel would have saved me sixteen dollars.

Using hotel agencies, you will lose not only your points from hotel chains 

but also all discounts for seniors, AARP, military, and membership points 

from the AAA (US) or CAA (Canada).

Enough is enough!  I am done with these agencies and will avoid any of them, and book hotel rooms, rental cars, etc. directly - even if I pay a couple dollars more.  Some of the hotels are fed up with agencies and try to lure customers back with price-matching and other perks, such as a free breakfast.  Other places are not so smart and lose not only money by paying agency fees, but also by losing some customers who avoid places where customer service is bounced to a far away agency. 

The travel website Frommer’s stated in an article: “To get the best deal, you should always surf the Web for the best hotel price, right?  Well, no, not anymore.  Hotels are increasingly trying to sweeten the pot if you agree to book a room directly with them.  To get the best deal, you should always surf the Web for the best hotel price, right?  Well, no, not anymore.  Hotels are increasingly trying to sweeten the pot and are fighting back with special rate discounts—so long as guests book directly with the hotel.”

“Hyatt hotels Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which includes Holiday Inn, Kimpton, Hotel Indigo began offering "Your Rate by IHG Rewards Club" discounts for its loyalty members as well.  Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott also have similar 'Best Rate Guarantee' policies in place.”


Facit: When the reservation relationship is between the guest and the hotel only, it's clean and easy because there are only two parties involved: the customer and the business.  When a third party (booking site) gets involved is when things can get messy. 

Read more about direct booking vs booking agencies:

"Hotels were shelling out more for commissions, on top of reimbursing affiliated loyalty programs for points accrued by members during stays, causing a noticeable hit to profit earnings.  Recognizing the need to minimize overhead expenses, hotels took various steps to control how customers make reservations.  In addition to gradually cutting OTA commissions, hotels rolled out exclusive member rates and status perks to entice travelers to book directly. There were entire marketing campaigns launched around direct bookings. Likewise, hotel programs largely stopped awarding points for OTA bookings. After all, points aren’t free, but they’re often cheaper to award than paying an OTA a large commission. As a result of all of this, you’re still usually unable to earn hotel points when you book a hotel through an OTA."




Friday, September 17, 2021

Former Restaurant Server Lori Fox: Serve Yourself!


The pandemic left the restaurant industry reeling, with up to two-thirds of food service workers losing their jobs during the shutdown.  Now that things are opening back up, restaurants find themselves in desperate need of workers – and baffled that they can’t seem to find them.

I was a server for 15 years.  When the pandemic struck a year-and-a-half ago, I was one of the millions of food service workers – cooks, bussers, hosts, and servers – who were furloughed as the world shut down.  I’m also among those who chose not to return to the industry when things began to open back up. I’m one of your missing service workers.

Let me shed some light on the “mystery” of this labour shortage: With an abysmally low rate of pay, bad (often erratic) hours, no sick days and near-constant sexual sexism - working in service sucks!

Read the whole story here: 




Tuesday, September 7, 2021

September Newsletter for Successful Publishing

Tips for Successful Publishing - Newsletter September 2021 

by 111Publishing and SavvyBookWriters

Content of this September Newsletter:



I hope you enjoyed a relaxing long Labor Day weekend, full of good books. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year is celebrated this month, so ‘Shana Tova’, meaning a Good Year to all of you.  Can you imagine, summer is almost over and for others, Christmas and New Year’s is only three months away?  Why not start to prepare your marketing for the season right now? Learn which freelance writing opportunities are out there, about writing contests and even what writer’s relief grants are offered. 



Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Residency
Offering four residencies in this national park.  Offers housing, events, publicity, and tours of the park and a stipend of $2,000.  Park includes two legendary volcanoes, rainforests, and lava flows.  A dramatic environment for artistic endeavors. Open to singles, couples, groups, or families.  Deadline September 10


Oregon Literary Fellowships 

They are intended to help Oregon writers at all stages of their career initiate, develop, or complete literary projects in poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, drama, and young readers’ literature.  Fellowships range from $3,500 to $10,000.  Fellowships are also awarded to support Oregon’s independent publishers and small presses that demonstrate a commitment to literary publishing.  Deadline September 17

Pittsburgh Creative Development Grants
Professional artists in any discipline/media and at any career stage may apply directly for grants of up to $20,000 to further artistic and career goals. An applicant must be a professional artist, have a significant body of original works of art, be at least 21 years of age, and be an eligible southwestern Pennsylvania county resident.  Deadline September 22


Cullman Center Fellowship

The Cullman Center’s Selection Committee awards up to 15 fellowships a year to outstanding scholars and writers—academics, independent scholars, journalists, and creative writers.  Foreign nationals conversant in English are welcome to apply.  Award: A stipend of up to $70,000, an office, a computer, and full access to the Library's physical and electronic resources.  Deadline: Sept 24

Cullman Center Fellowships
The Cullman Center’s Selection Committee awards 15 Fellowships a year to outstanding scholars and writers—academics, independent scholars, journalists, creative writers (novelists, playwrights, poets), translators, and visual artists. A Cullman Center Fellow receives a stipend of up to $75,000, the use of an office with a computer, and full access to the Library’s physical and electronic resources. Fellows work at the Center for the duration of the Fellowship term, which runs from September through May.  Deadline September 24


Storyknife Writers Retreat Residency for Women

Writing residencies for two- and four-week periods.  Each accepted woman writer will have her own cabin where she can write and reflect, sleep and dream.  The chef manager will bring a nutritious lunch to each cabin, and in the evening, the writers will gather at the main house for a shared meal.  Each woman will establish her own writing schedule and projects, and together, they will be able to form the kind of supportive writing friendships that last a lifetime.  Located in Homer, Alaska.  Deadline Sept 30

Free Legal Assistance for Indiana Artists
Pro Bono Indiana's ( Lawyers for the Arts project provides legal assistance at no cost to artists and small arts organizations in the state of Indiana. To obtain help, please call 812.402.6303 (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to 11:00 am CT).


NYC Women's Fund
The NYC Women's Fund for Media, Music, and Theatre, administered by NYFA in partnership with the City of New York Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), provides grants to encourage and support the creation of content that reflects the voices and perspectives of all who identify as women. Films, theatre (live and online), music, and web productions are eligible for finishing funds in the following categories: Fiction Feature, Fiction Short, Fiction Webisode/Web Series, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short, Documentary, Classical/Experimental/Jazz/New Music, Music General, and Theatre Production.  Deadline Nov 1



Not sure where to find work as a freelance writer? 

Check out these offers and a list of 15 magazines accepting freelance submissions - online and in print.

Top 33 Ultimate List of Get Paid to Blog Sites 2021 [Ultimate Hand-Picked List] 

From Articles about Social Media, IT, Travel, Writing, to Finances 

9 Places to Find a Paid Blogging Job

8 Popular Blog Niches That Drive Traffic and Make Money (That Aren’t About Blogging Tips) 

Our Editorial stream covers all aspects of health that are non-clinical in nature in relation to women's health. This includes social and political factors, identity, culture, discrimination, gender, lifestyle, and sharing particular experiences.  This content is usually issue and experience-led and does not require clinical knowledge or expertise to investigate.  Features are for telling reported stories in more depth and cover a broad range of women’s health-related topics.  All pieces are generally around 700-900 words.  For features, our current rate of pay is £150.  For personal essays (no additional reporting or research required), the rate is £100.
Chicken Soup - Grieving, Loss, and Healing
What helped you the most when you were grieving? Who were the people who helped you with your loss, and what did they do? What lessons can you share with someone starting on their own journey through grief and loss? When did you know that you had finally "turned the corner" and were on the road to healing? This book is going to be about the grieving, loss, and healing process. Submit up to 1,200 words in the first person. Winners receive $200 and ten copies of the book. 
Deadline September 30.

Looking for pitches from journalists of color. Topics include sports & entertainment, criminal justice reform, health & wellness, fashion, and more. Reporting only. Pay starts at 60 cents per word.

Email - Justin Michael Jerome, Assistant Managing Editor of CBS News.
Commercial Observer
Open for pitches about real estate (housing, cities, sustainability), transit, infrastructure, and related things in NYC, South Florida, Washington DC, and California. Pays 50 cents per word. 

Contact Chava Gourarie, Editor, email .
Utah Business
Contact Elle Griffin, Editor in Chief with pitches from writers who can cover innovative business startups in Utah. Pays 20-40 cents per word.


Greenpeace UK is inviting article pitches from freelance writers and journalists, and we offer competitive rates for contributors. We’re looking for writers who can tell environmental stories with flair and conviction; to help people see familiar things in a whole new way and reimagine what it means to be an environmentalist. We’re open to a range of formats, from features to personal essays, profiles, case studies, or even quizzes. Our base rate is £350 for a standard article (800-1,200 words; one to two interviews). We welcome international stories, but if you can find a UK angle, all the better.



Michael Marks Awards for Poetry

Restrictions: Only pamphlets published in the United Kingdom are eligible. Genre: Poetry pamphlet. 

Prize: £5,000.  Deadline: September 17

Love to Write

Open to writers from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds, including, but not limited to, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Mixed-Race. Prize: £1,500.  Entrants should be previously un-agented and haven’t had a fiction book published before. Based in the UK or Ireland. Genre: Romance novel. Deadline: Sept 19

The Forge Literary Magazine Competition
We hold flash fiction and flash nonfiction competitions annually. We strongly believe in removing barriers to submission so, as with everything we do, there will be no entry fee. The first-place winners will be awarded $500 and publication. Submissions open with the free submission window closing on September 14 or when we receive 300 entries per category. Send one piece up to 1,000 words.  No Entry fee.  Deadline Sept 14


Hektoen International Grand Prix Essay Competition

Original essay that relates medicine to the humanities. Topics might include art, history, literature, education, etc. as they relate to medicine.1,500 words max. Prize: $5,000 for the winner and $2,500 for the runner-up.  Deadline: Sept 15


RSL Giles St Aubyn Award for Non-Fiction

The writer must be a resident of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland or have been a resident in the UK or ROI for the past three years. Genre: Nonfiction book. Prize: Two awards – one of £10,000, one of £5,000 – are offered to support writers to complete their first commissioned works of non-fiction.  Deadline: Sept 17

L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest

The Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment of at least six cents per word, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits.  Short stories or novelettes of science fiction or fantasy. Prizes: $1,000, $750, $500, Annual Grand Prize: $5,000.  Deadline: September 30

Tony Lothian Prize
The £2,000 Tony Lothian Prize is for an un-commissioned proposal by a first-time biographer. Proposals of no more than 20 pages (unbound), including synopsis, 10-page sample chapter, CV, and notes on the market for the book and competing literature. 
£15 Entry Fee. Deadline September 30


Juniper Prize for Poetry
The Juniper Prize for Poetry is awarded annually to two original manuscripts of poems: one first book prize for a previously unpublished author and one prize for a previously published author. The University of Massachusetts Press publishes the winning manuscripts and the authors receive a $1,000 award upon publication. The competition is open to all writers in English, whether or not they are U.S. residents. Manuscript files must be between 50 and 70 pages. 
$30 Entry fee.  Deadline Sept 30


VI Edition of the International Short Tales Contest

An overall first prize of 20,000 dollars is awarded for the best story in any of the languages authorized in the contest.  Three prizes of $2,000 each will be awarded for the best stories in each of the other remaining languages admitted in the contest, which are not winners of the main prize. The stories cannot exceed 100 words.  No Entry Fee.  Deadline September 30


Zoetrope Short Story Prize
All genres of literary fiction. Entries must be unpublished at the time of submission; strictly 5,000 words or fewer.  First prize: $1,000.  Second prize: $500.  Third prize: $250. 
$30 Entry fee. Deadline October 1


The Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize - UK

It awards £2,500 to the judges’ choice of the best first biography published each year. The author must be a resident of the UK. Books must have a publication date between January 1, 2021, and December 31.  
Entry fee £25.  Deadline October 31

Wow Women on Writing Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest
Seeking creative nonfiction essays on any topic (200-1,000 words) and in any style, from personal essay and memoir to lyric essay and hybrid, and more! The mission of this contest is to reward bravery in real-life storytelling and create an understanding of our world through thoughtful, engaging narratives. Open internationally. Limit 300 entries.
$12 Entry fee. Deadline Oct 31


Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize
Open to writers of, from, or in the US writing in English with at least three books of fiction published. Submissions may include a collection of short stories, one or more novellas, or a novel of any length. There is no length requirement. The prize includes $15,000 and publication by FC2, an imprint of the University of Alabama Press.  $25 Entry fee.  Deadline Nov 1
Malahat Review Open Season Awards
Categories are poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. The winner in each category will receive a prize of CAD $2,000. The contest is open to Canadian and international writers anywhere in the world. Poetry: up to three poems only per entry, no individual poem more than 100 lines long. Short fiction and creative nonfiction: one story only per entry, no more than 2,500 words in length.  Entry Fee CAD $35.  Deadline Nov 1
Pen/Robert J. Day Short Story Prize
Recognizes 12 emerging writers each year for their debut short story published in a literary magazine, journal, or cultural website, and aims to support the launch of their careers as fiction writers. Stories must be submitted by editors of literary magazines, journals, or cultural websites and published in the English language. Stories may not exceed 12,000 words in length.  No Entry Fee.  Deadline November 15


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Make it a September to remember…

As the ninth month of the year, September marks the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere (and the start of spring in the southern). And also a new chapter in marketing your writings and books - and how you will promote it for the upcoming Christmas season. “Focus in the month of September on finishing those uncompleted tasks, rectifying and improving your current situation. Search deep within, have a good look at who you are now and where you stand and what you can accomplish.”