LOS ANGELES, CA – Business traveler Mark Ryland recently confessed to fabricating reasons to still travel, despite the post-pandemic era that keeps many former business travelers on Zoom calls all day.
Mark Ryland is a road warrior. On a slow year, he’s traveling around 35 weeks. Or at least he was. Once COVID hit his monthly travel plummeted. Like many business travelers, he was quarantined for a few months before settling into the “zoom life.” Now, on a good month, he’s getting out on the road maybe once, twice if the’s lucky.
And it’s driving him crazy.
Ryland now spends most of his days on Zoom calls, usually in shorts and a polo shirt. Lately, he admitted, he’s been inventing reasons to get back on the road.
“As a sales guy, I need to get out and press the flesh with my customers,” Ryland noted. The only way to build trust, according to Ryland is over dinner, or in person. “Sometimes they won’t even see me because they have relocated to some other city and are working from home themselves. So, I just make up a fake reason when booking my travel so I don’t get flagged by HR. Sometimes I will even buy two meals so my expense reports line up.”
Ryland isn’t alone. Several grinders in the company, including Ryland’s boss, all readily admit to inventing reasons to still travel. One even admitted that when he’s not traveling he actually has to work. Pre-pandemic he’d spend almost two days each week just traveling around, and another 4 hours doing expense reports.
Many, including Ryland, don’t want to lose their frequent traveler statuses – especially as the rollover statuses are starting to wind down. “Staying Premier 1K on United Airlines is kind of a big deal to me, Ryland said. “With credit card spending from booking late flights to ’emergency’ meetings with customers I can increase the number of PQPs I hit which gets me closer to maintaining my status for next year.”
And it’s not just status that matters. Many business travelers had established an entire life rhythm around traveling for work. Now, some view their new work-from-home life as a major disruption that has forced them to deal with longstanding marital issues or even get to know their kids.
“Listen, my wife and I literally hate each other,” Ryland later told TTN reporters, “The only reason we are still together is that I travel for work. If I don’t stay on the road, it’s going to be a fast track to divorce court.”
Thus far, Ryland’s scheme had been successful, however, a recent audit of expense reports from him and another traveler who were allegedly visiting the same customer was found to be fraudulent when the accounting department realized the tickets were booked to two different cities.