I do feel for poor Paul, who writes the Mile Nerd blog. He is famously laconic in his posts, but his latest one is unusually verbose and he vents his frustration with helping beginners.
Of the time I spend talking about loyalty programmes, I reckon I spend around three-quarters persuading the uninformed or helping novices. I do feel a sense of pride, like any teacher would, when the light bulb switches on inside the student's head and they ‘get it'.
I distinctly remember chatting with one of the lecturers from my former university about his experiences teaching undergraduates. His belief was that you only bothered putting effort for the middle 80% of students. The top 10% would ace any exam without bothering to show up to classes, and the bottom 10% could study endlessly and get nowhere.
So back to Paul. He says the three qualities that a points hoarder must have are:
- Not lazy
I'll start with number 3 first. If you don't pay off your credit card bills, don't keep a good record of your journeys or points, then you will not succeed. In fact, it will cost you more money than you save.
Number 2…don't be lazy. Well, there's no excuses for laziness. I firmly believe those who put in the effort should the ones who get rewarded. I still do get emails asking the most basic questions where a 2 second Google search can solve it, but I do like to show some patience. Getting into points and air miles is a very bewildering thing at first, and I also think a lot of posters on Flyertalk could tone down their unwillingness to help novices. That said, a lot of people could do better than to be asked to be spoon-fed every item of knowledge. I leave this point open for debate.
So we come to being courageous. I remember back in my previous job I was derided for my fascination with air miles. Granted it's a very unusual hobby by layman's standards. However, I see it as black and white as a hobby that saves money rather than spends it on expensive things like sports equipment or collectable items. No matter how much I stood my ground, my reasons for pursuing this hobby were never accepted by others, not even by close friends.
The turning/breaking point was when I did a mileage run from London to Los Angeles in one weekend for the American Airlines Platinum Challenge a few years ago. Against everyone's expectations I had decided to scale up my operations and committed a few hundred pounds to a journey to the other side of America. My defence was simple. I had done my maths and I had seen the value proposition of doing it. Who could argue against it? Well apparently everyone.
But there came a point where I simply said “I don't care what you think” to everyone else. That's as far as my courage went at that moment. In hindsight I should have said that much earlier as now I realise I cannot be bothered to argue against those who don't ‘get it' or show zero interest.
So rather than the frustrated tone of Paul's post, and calling it “SO. FREAKING. SIMPLE”, I want to put things differently. Being interested in points is one thing, but actively participating is another. It's not for everyone, for whatever reasons, but you will never know if it suits you unless you make a genuine effort.
A final word, if you're a beginner and have an appetite and motivation to learn, that's great…welcome aboard! The world could do with more people like you! I'm always here to answer questions or difficulties, but please don't be disappointed if I don't know the answer, if I point you to somewhere else to find the answer, or take a while to answer.