Behind the Scenes at Travelzoo

Behind the Scenes at Travelzoo: The Top 20 Video

Posted by Allen Stern, August 9, 2007

TravelzooMany of you know that I like travel deals and my favorite site is Travelzoo for finding good deals. One of the things Travelzoo
offers is a "weekly top 20" deals list. I never bother looking at it
because I only travel to specific locations but they claim 11 million
subscribers. I can only wonder what their scrubbing policy is because
they would see that I haven’t opened one in six months.

Today I received an email from the Zoo with the subject line, "Watch the Travelzoo documentary on YouTube". It’s embedded below. It’s always cool to see what happens behind the scenes at a company you like. This video
disappointed me. First, it’s like an infomercial and second I learned
that companies actually PAY to be part of the Top 20. They claim the
money doesn’t change their views but what they don’t explain is whether
deals make it in that haven’t paid. I have lowered my rating on
Travelzoo 2 notches due to un-noted payola.

Here are my timed notes from the video (where is Ron Popeil!):

  • 0:36 – Get buckled in folks, it all begins at Travelzoo HQ in NYC!
  • 0:42 – the Travelzoo top 20 list began in 1999
  • 0:44 – Publisher Jaime explains what the list is (I guess we can’t figure out what Top 20 means, damn that Kasey Kasem!)
  • 0:50 – Meet Jamie and Justin – they are busting their butts to find you deals and the music picks up the beat here to let you know! These two make the final
    selection for the newsletter – it’s a stressful job, 11 million people
    demand the best!
  • 1:00 – Travelzoo has 35 producers
    across the US trying to find the best deal for you and me – and they
    know that to get their deal on the Top 20, they will have to scrape,
    claw and potentially head bop the others!
  • 1:13 –
    Mary Ann explains that there are two ways she gets deals for us: she
    looks for deals herself online and the other way is that the companies
    call her!
  • 1:28 – narrator explains that it does cost money to get listed in the Top 20 – shame!
  • 1:37 – the boardroom video conferencing!
  • 1:46 – Jamie explains you best understand the travel market because if not – you about to get spanked up in here!
  • 1:59
    – Jamie further explains that your deal will get ripped into – so you
    best be ready – I see the one guy taking out some brass knucks (we
    don’t see if he uses them!)
  • 2:21 – actually from what I can tell, it’s audio camera work makes it look like video conferencing
  • 2:22
    – first deal up – $200 NY – Cologne (or as we Germans say Koln) – they
    all bow down to the man for bringing in this type of deal – this dude
    is HAPPY!
  • 2:52 – Aaron is bringing the mother load
    he believes – a 3* Manhattan hotel for $190! Then the group goes battle
    royal on his arse and he gets smacked down. Turns out you can get other
    places in the city for $159.
  • 3:34 – Poor Aaron got major thumbs down on this one – way to boost morale there team!
  • 3:38
    – Classic informercial spot – Aaron puts his head in his hand feeling
    very frustrated. Don’t worry Aaron, Expedia has openings.
  • 3:50 – Now it’s Wednesday morning people – 2 hours to go – you can feel the tension!
  • 4:00
    – up until the last minute they are still trying to find the best deals
    – no idea why they had that meeting then? This is a public company
  • 4:01 – Mary Ann calls the travel company
    back to let them know they are still in the running – "no, we aren’t in
    yet, but we are close" – then the camera pans out of her office – I
    wonder what came next? I won’t speculate :)
  • 4:10 –
    Crunch time for Jamie and Justin – which deals are in, which are out –
    all this panicking has made me want to go eat a donut or something!
  • 4:30 – Justin clicks "Publish" and then you can see him breathe a sigh of relief.
  • 4:32
    – Jamie notes that when that list goes it, it’s exciting for everyone!
    Naturally it is, because that’s when the cash registers be ca-chinging!
    Mo money mo money mo money!
  • 4:36 – Mary Ann feels such a sense of "accomplishment" when one of her deals makes it in.

really can’t tell if this is real or staged but it feels so staged.
Everyone was wearing the same clothing on both Monday and Wednesday
except for Jamie who looks like she put on a sweater for the final
decision time. Anyway, watch the video below and judge for yourself.  I
am still let down that the top 20 is paid with no notice.

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