... Agents

Posted on Aug 5, 2003

We're arranging to go away on holiday to some place in the south of France. As in the past, we found a house to rent for a week through a combination of The Lady magazine and the web. This means that we are responsible for getting ourselves across the Channel and down through France. It's not particularly difficult - book the ferry online, find a cheap hotel somewhere half-way through France, ...

Whilst looking into different options it occurred to me that it might be interesting to put the car on a train between Calais and Tolouse and then drive the last few miles. This service used to be called Motorail, but the website is mostly useless.

Given that my Dad has travelled in Europe a lot, I called him up to ask if he remembered any more details about cars on trains through France. His memory was the same as mine - Motorail. When I told him that the website was useless he came up with a wild suggestion: ring a travel agent.

This had honestly never occurred to me.

For the past few years all of our holidays have been arranged in the way I described. The "agent" part of a travel agent has mostly been rendered irrelevant.

In a similar vein, I recently renewed my car insurance. For the last few years it's been with Zurich Insurance, but arranged through Swinton. They are a large insurance broker - an agent in other words.

When I came to renew Swinton claimed to have found "the lowest price". I tried Direct Line on the internet and it was about 200ukp cheaper. So much for the improved service I gained by using an agent.

Even more annoying, when I rang Swinton to tell them that I was moving, they offered to "try again" to find a cheaper quote. Of course, that's what they were supposed to be doing in the first place. To add insult to injury, I'm having to chase Swinton to get proof of my no claims bonus from Zurich to pass it on to Direct Line.

Should we just abandon all of these "agents"?