On Circles & Arrows, Helping People and Regretting It

Have you ever helped a newbie with this hobby and then regretted it? That seems like a strange question, considering helping newbies get started is the exact purpose of this blog. I’ve been doing this for five years and it’s not the affiliate revenue that keeps me going. Hearing from people who’ve benefited from reading this blog is the most rewarding part for me. That being said, there are people who’ve benefited from my expertise that I regret helping. People who are selfish, dishonest, and undeserving of all the perks that come with knowing how to play this game. They don’t become wiser from traveling the world and they definitely don’t become kinder or more grounded. Having access to “free travel” is yet another way they indulge their selfish nature. It bothers me when my advice helps perpetuate this.

I am at the point now where I’m reflecting back on some of the people I’ve helped and going, “They didn’t deserve my help.” People who I spent hours explaining award booking and gift card churning to, who then went around telling others that they “learned this stuff on [their] own.” Not even a courtesy mention of my blog or a word of thanks.

A few people had me planning their travel with the understanding that it would get charged to my credit card. Then I’d find out via social media that they were already at their destination, having paid for it with their own mile-earning credit cards. Some people not only took my help for granted, but were totally ungrateful and inconsiderate of my time. Call them consumers, parasites, whatever – they’re interested in taking but not giving back. I’m done helping people like that.

Every once in a while, I’ll get a friend or family member asking me to explain this hobby to them. It’s nothing personal when I simply direct them to the Beginner’s Guide (yes, I know it needs to be updated). My days of spoon-feeding information to people who can’t be bothered to learn it is over. There was a time when I subscribed to the “Circles and Arrows” method of blogging. I don’t think that’s healthy anymore. People who just look at information on the surface and refuse to do their own research can do a lot of damage to themselves and the hobby as a whole.

We’ve all got to be willing to push up our sleeves and do some heavy lifting. Everyone in this hobby has to pay their dues at some point. Making an effort to learn through your own research is an important part of that. Because it has to work both ways: You can’t just consume, you have to learn and contribute to the community somehow. Ultimately, it’s people who know their stuff and are able to come up with creative solutions who will survive the big devaluations and dead deals.

Does that mean I’m done blogging or helping readers individually? Of course not. I’m always happy to respond to email inquiries (though I may be slow to do it). But if someone sends me an inquiry about how to buy money orders, it kind of bugs me because it means they haven’t done any surface level research. After all, this is probably the most-linked content on the blog and a question that is easily answered via a quick internal search.

Maybe this is the wrong time of year to bring up not wanting to help people (or more precisely, not wanting to help the wrong people, in the most unproductive way). But I always like to reflect back on my actions and consider how I can do things differently going forward. There were times this year when I thought my efforts to help certain people got them things they didn’t deserve and me thrown under the bus. You live and learn, right? This makes the next big downfall bittersweet. Just kidding. 🙂

None of this is directed towards any of you. I’m happy to keep helping people who reach out asking for advice. I just think we all need to be good stewards of this hobby and that includes collaborating rather than just consuming.

I’d love to get your thoughts about this in the comment section.

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  1. Very sad, but astute, observations. The greatest problem I have is that these are people who see travel only as another means to self-publicize and not self-better. Travel is a luxury commodity to them, no different from an SUV or a tacky McMansion; the only value it provides are the Likes. Good topic and well-articulated.

  2. Your so right. The amount of people that take advantage of people is becoming overwhelming. Too much me today not we.

  3. 100% agree from the get-go. To be honest I always thought you (and 90% of other the blogs) circled and arrowed too much on your blog. You are much better off giving hints and point people in the right direction so they can learn themselves. If they don’t feel the need to put in the work and effort to learn how to do it on their own, they really aren’t deserving of the rewards of the hobby.

    • I think so too. Again, I’m happy to help folks but there’s a certain amount of work everyone should do on their own. Like if I explain money orders to someone and they go off and buy the wrong gift cards because they didn’t research this outside of my brief email, then that can have serious repercussions for them.

  4. Debbie Fulmer

    Being new to the blog, I appreciate your insights to the pros and cons of MSing. Your honesty all along the way is refreshing. Thank you.

  5. I for one appreciate very, very much all you have done and written for this hobby. Not only has your advice been spot on, but your blogs are the most well written of any. I also appreciate how you help out not only people here, but people in places most of us would never go. This is a hobby where one gets something for a perceived value of something for nothing. Just by that, I think you would see a side of folks that will try and get points, or intellectual value (you), for nothing. Just the belly side of this hobby I am afraid.

  6. Beach Miles

    I’ve been in this hobby for 10 years, and I am learning from your blog all the time. I agree with you. Keep up the good work.

  7. I am so sorry to hear about people abusing your help 🙁 Please know that I appreciate so much all the help and information you have provided !! I agree with not spoon feeding and let people investigate what works in their area. Thank you, thank you, thank you for you and your blog !!!!!!!!

  8. Being new to MSing, (but not to travel) I appreciate the links, even in this post! I totally agree with you. There’s work to do when you’re a newbie. It’s a privilege to get help and hints along the way.

    • Thanks Catherine! Yeah I just think working for it a little bit helps people appreciate it more. And it’s important to be self-sufficient – you really can’t rely on other people for information 100% of the time.

  9. Kimberly Busch

    Just wanted to say how much I have used and appreciated your blog and your help over the last 2-3 years. I enjoyed the webinar you hosted and was very grateful to get actual replies to email questions! Not even vendors of equipment I buy always do that! It is sad that we as a society no longer seem to cultivate as much sharing, politeness, kindness, or consideration for others. I’m afraid we are on a poor trajectory at this point! That being said, I thought requesting a donation from your attendees to a charity for entry into the webinar was an ultra class move, and more along the trajectory that I chose to follow myself. Let those of us who are teachable be taught! Thank you!

    • Thank you Kim! Just trying to get people thinking about giving back instead of taking all the time. We’ve got a lot to be grateful for around here. Btw your comment made me laugh: “not even vendors of equipment always do that.” 🙂

  10. Love you!! Totally on point as always. #preach

  11. Please don’t be discouraged. It’s clear from all the comments that your blog and help are greatly appreciated by most! Even though I do credit cards and lots of travel, I have yet to dip my toe into the MS waters. But I still appreciate reading everything you write!

    • Thanks Sunnie! Did not expect such an overwhelmingly positive responsive. It definitely makes this venture worthwhile to know I’m helping people. I was more referring to people in my life who’ve taken by help for granted.

  12. Jeanine Sorrentino

    It’s unfortunate that people are abusing your time. However, that’s an occupational hazard when you operate a blog like this, which nets you significant financial benefits. Its normal for folks to want to learn from you, and really why force people to reinvent the wheel? I have noticed that the bad will also flows in the opposite direction, meaning that once people reach a certain level of expertise, many are unwilling to assist noobs. The attitude often seems to be, once you get into the club its time to close that club to everyone else.

    • It really doesn’t net me “financial benefits.” I don’t have credit card affiliate links, so I’m not raking in the big bucks like some other bloggers are. I’ve observed the same attitude though – I’ve seen bloggers hit it big and practically run from readers at points and miles events. #notcool

    • I have to agree with Jeanine. I’m not afraid of work, or digging in to find the content. So many bloggers are no longer loyal to their readers. Much of the information is for only those in the “closed club”. Unfortunately this only furthers the attitude you were speaking of Ariana. I teach, therefore, I spend many hours preparing, teaching and grading papers. I enjoy reading and researching this hobby, but struggle to have the time to dig for hours and try different avenues. You are one of the only bloggers that doesn’t worry they are giving too much away. I appreciate your blog, and you have helped me MANY times. I just wanted to say Thank you….and say how much I disagree with the one poster that called you selfish. That is totally ridiculous. He is indeed the one that was being selfish.

  13. I have faithfully followed your blog for about 2 years now…honestly I forget about a lot of the others ,but always check in to see if you have posted anything new…why? Because I enjoy your writing, your honesty, and yes, your advice! Thank you for what you do & don’t let those users ruffle your feathers; they will have to dig deep & research just like everyone else if they want to continue to reap the benefits! And that’s the way it should be!

  14. By reading your blogs and several others, then going out and trying different methods and finding what works for me and what does not. It allowed me and my husband to go to destinations we never thought would be possible. I then turned around and helped my parents and other family members book their dream vacations. I also helped friends utilize credit cards effectively and using the points earned for memorable honeymoons, anniversaries, and other special celebrations. Thank you so so very much for all your help! Happy holidays!

  15. I love love love your blog and your transparency. Keep up the good work, and call out the jerks as/when you see ’em.

  16. I don’t think I’d have been able to get anywhere without your help from your blog! But I understand. Some people will always be selfish.

  17. You do a Really good job educating people and helping them. I always look forward to reading your blog. Thank you very much. Hang in there when some days get tough and know that many people greatly appreciate your help.

  18. Ariana, travel in general and the info you share is more helpful to the world in helping travelers be able to meet new people, experience new ideas and cultures that they would never had been exposed to before. We all run up against people who are afraid of taking the leap and you can’t fault people for being overly cautious with something that seem too good to be true.

  19. I subscribed 6 different blogs, yours and DoC are my favorite ones. I feel sad reading your complaints about coaching others and feeling unworthy. All the comments above show that you are well-loved and appreciated. Your blogs are easy to read, follow, and personal, unlike some are too technical and impersonal. Keep up the good work and remember those who love and appreciate you!
    All that said, I share similar feeling when I offer tips to friends, they look at me funny and some think I am doing something illegal and some think I share because I would benefit financial gains. So I move on.

  20. I am new to all of this, so thank you for preparing something to follow. However, I went thru the guide step by step. #4 link does not work, it opens #3 again. There were a number of other things that were discontinued as well. I think it would be helpful to update the information in the post.

  21. Ariana, you are doing a great job and your blog is wonderful! Please don’t let the jerks in this world get to you. There will always be jerks, but there will also always be wonderful, helpful people like you to offset them. Remember, one act of kindness offsets ten acts of selfishness, meanness, etc. You are one of the good ones!

  22. I had one couple on the island that I taught ms to that spread the word around to family and friends when I asked them to keep it to themselves. Two weeks later, no vanilla reloads left on the island.

  23. I feel the same way when explaining this hobby, how to remove credit report inquiries, red light ticket letters and using 0% balance transfers to get wealthy. I am going to start charging again.

  24. Love being pointed in the right direction with your webinars. May you be blessed with more 5x

  25. Buddy McGee

    There is some irony in saying you don’t want to spoon feed people when your “Beginner guide” (hilariously linked to right above this posting), does exactly that. So I guess it’s spoon feeding by link and words is okay but not by email?

    You also, hilariously, have an article pinned on your twitter handle that does everything just shy of literally holding people’s hands while drawing circles and arrows.

    What you unfortunately don’t touch on above is that the more people are in this hobby the worse it becomes. The more “how to” and “everything you need to know” posts are out there the worse it is.

    • Yeah, that’s fair criticism. I don’t want to play the “let’s huddle and keep people out so they don’t ruin it for us.” A lot of newbies actually don’t abuse it, while plenty of old-timers do. What I want to steer away from is spending time explaining this to people who don’t want to bother learning anything on their own or MS’ing responsibly.

  26. I believe that you have one of the best blogs out there and I very much appreciate reading it. I am sorry that people have taken advantage of the information.

  27. I am greatly appreciative!!!!

  28. Hi Ariana, I always enjoy reading your blog, and appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions. Please believe in good karma, and somehow or some way, it would come back to you in the end. Whenever you are in downtown, I would be happy to invite you to lunch. Thanks.

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