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A large number of firms provide safe and efficient transport/escort service. Some of the larger firms are forming a marketing group Association of Mediation and Transport Services (AMATS) .  They appear to be trying to present themselves as professional association representing the entire transport / escort profession, or even as an accrediting agency.   It takes some  chutzpah for alliance of six booking agencies to purport to represent a profession made up of scores of providers. 

We see the introduction of AMATS as a very mixed development.  On the one hand we think they have contributed to higher standards for their own member  companies – a development we think was long overdue.  However their suggestion that they represent the industry or the profession as a whole or that the standards they claim for themselves are standards of the profession, has no basis in fact. We have doubts that as an association they possess the means to be sure that member groups adhere to their own standards.

They have created a structure that makes joining impractical for the small single team providers who really define the highest quality standards in the profession.  Their claim to regulate the standards of the industry is presumptuous at best and potentially misleading.  We see AMATS as a marketing group of booking agents disguised as professional organization or an accrediting agency of transporters. 

Acknowledging that there are larger organizations that provide consistently high quality service, among the best providers of this service are the stand-alone escort teams that are not associated with a larger company. To the best of our knowledge, none of these organizations have chosen to join AMATS. These stand-alone groups have the advantage that the person you make arrangements with is the person who does the job. 

AMATS makes a point putting the identity of the company out front as the primary relationship to be formed by a client in booking a transport or escort team.  That is like saying your relationship with your travel agent is a more important relationship than the cruise operator when you book a cruise.  This paradigm that is advocated if not required by AMATS  is contrary to our guidelines.  One reason why we prefer the one-team operators is that the qualifications of the team that actually does the job is out front and the family interviews them prior to making their choice of escort teams. 

Despite their claims about all agents being employees (not contractors) with significant experience, we believe it would enhance quality if the big companies limited themselves to acting as agents connecting families to escort teams, providing the families with full background information about the team, and providing them with the opportunity to interview the team or at least the lead agent on the team.  If the escort teams they work with happened to work with more than one booking agent, so be it. Does it bother anyone that Princess Cruise Lines books through more than one travel agent? 

We would welcome the stated intention claimed by AMATS of setting minimum standards for the profession if a consensus of the profession were to emerge and there would be a way to verify that transport teams are adhering to it. However, we have inquired of AMATS’ executive director about how their minimum standards are enforced – especially the then stated minimum experience requirement.  We did not get a satisfactory response.  We notice that the then stated requirement that the lead transport agent would have at least one year of transport experience.  We are now (November 30, 2008) unable to find such a requirement on the  AMATS web site.  We would prefer that the booking agent at each of the large companies would provide the inquiring family or referral person with a full resume for a proposed agent that documents experience and even provides references for that agent.  We see no problem if the individual agent is accessed by more than one organization.  The primary concern of any parent or referral person is the quality of the individual, not the booking agent.  We are concerned that AMATS claims standards that it cannot know whether or not they are met and advocates and perhaps requires what we believe is an inferior paradigm of service delivery.

We are also concerned about some claims AMATS offers in support of its members.  On November 29, 2008, we downloaded the following from http://www.amats.org/resources.html : 

          Q?: How long have you been in business?

A: Younger companies are not necessarily lesser companies, but this is a good starting point. It is also good to know the personal experience of the Director/Owner.

We are frankly less concerned about the personal experience of the Director/Owner of the company (read: supervisor of the booking agent) than about the personal experience of the members of the escort team.  We want specific experience and background of that team and opportunity for the potential client or referral person to interview that team prior to engaging them.

Q?: How much and what type of professional insurance coverage does your company carry?

A: The industry standard is $1M this is also the AMATS requirement as well as that it be written specifically for the intervention and transport of at-risk youth and young adults. It's not a bad idea to ask for a copy of a company's proof of insurance binder with broker contact information. If a company or individual is not willing to invest in the correct professional insurance coverage for themselves and their clients why would you want to entrust a loved one with them. This is probably the single biggest distinguishing factor between people and companies who are committed to providing a professional and lasting quality of service and those who are willing to cut corners.

We believe that this is outright deception.  First, there is no industry standard and AMATS has no right to claim that its owned claimed "standard" is an “industry standard.”  This claim simply is not true. It is our understanding that the insurance policy that AMATS tells us they require is only a liability policy and is solely for the protection of the booking agency and the escort team.  The fact that the booking agent holds this kind of insurance policy has two possible minor advantages to the client: (1) it shows that the booking company is insurable and (2) if a tragedy occurs and the client sues the booking agent, there will be money to pay a claim.  However with this kind of policy, if a problem occurs, the responsibility of the insurance company is to oppose the interest of the client.  The final sentence of the response is simply a gratuitous slur against the completion, much of which is superior in quality compared to AMATS members and, in our experience, less likely to cut corners.

The vagueness of some entries and the triviality of some other entries in this Q and A series, we believe speaks for itself.  We see nothing here that is truly  persusive that AMATS members offeri better quality service than the independent teams.  Ultimately, AMATS is a marketing consortium of booking agents, not a valid representative of an industry or a profession. 

In our opinion, among the best of escort/transport services are some of the single team (mom'n'pop) services where the person who takes your phone call is one of two people who does the job. We have had extensive experience with Eddie and Tyna Curry at First Step Adolescent Service, and believe they generally offer superior services compared with services of AMATS members.  Another excellent independent team is  Vision Adolescent Service, operated by John Haywood. We also have had positive experience with teams sponsored by two of the AMATS members, as well as some other stand-alone escort teams that have not joined AMATS. However we feel that their participation in AMATS  as it has advertised itself has damaged the credibility of even those organizations that have served us well in the past.

We hope that AMATS or an organization similar to what AMATS claims to be will  at some point validate itself as a true representative of a profession by becoming an organization that the highest quality stand-alone teams will choose to join, and that it will embrace a paradigm of putting the primary emphasis on the relationship between clients and the individual escort team, lowering the profile of the booking agent. 

Feedback is invited. We will publish selected feedback.  Email:  FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.

Last updated December 1, 2008

 
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