Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Airing It Out

August 15, 2013 Leave a comment


Let this funny airline complaint letter be a reminder of how customer service is the life blood of any business…


May I say how considerate it is of you to enable your passengers such an in-depth and thorough tour of the Caribbean. Most other airlines I have traveled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in a hurry. I was intrigued that we were allowed to stop at not a lowly one or two but a magnificent six airports yesterday. And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time? We got to change and refuel every step of the way!

I particularly enjoyed sampling the security scanners at each and every airport. I find it preposterous that people imagine them all to be the same. And as for being patted down by a variety of islanders, well, I feel as if I’ve been hugged by most of the Caribbean already. I also found it unique that this was all done on “island time,” because I do like to have time to absorb the atmosphere of the various departure lounges. As for our arrival, well, who wants to have to take a ferry at the end of all that flying anyway? I’m glad the boat was long gone by the time we arrived into Tortola last night — and that all those noisy bars and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, LIAT. I now truly understand why you are “The Caribbean Airline.”

P.S. Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.

NOTE TO ALL READERS: This blog is making a transition to a new home here By next month the transition will be complete and this blog will no longer be at the WordPress address. Thanks for your continued attention and support!



July 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Chinese sign

Leading up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, organizers promised to crack down on awkward, Chinese-inflected English, known as “Chinglish,” and asked the public to help police bad grammar and faulty sign translation. With 500,000 foreigners expected for the Olympics, taxi drivers who can’t speak English — or signs that mangle the language — it could be an embarrassment and distract from the $40 billion being poured into rebuilding the city for the games.

Throughout Beijing, examples abounded:
A store selling tobacco products advertises: “An Excellent Winding Smoke.”
On the floor at Beijing’s Capital Airport, a sign reads: “Careful Landslip Attention Security.”
On a billboard, this mysterious message: “Shangri-La is in you mind, but your Buffalo is not.”
In an elevator, parents are warned: “Please lead your child to tare the life.”

Despite the problems, a government official said one-third of Beijing’s 15 million residents speak some English, a claim that was challenged by a local reporter from China’s state-run CCTV. “I think 5 million is a big number,” the reporter told the official. The official stood by the figure, but conceded the vast majority of the English speakers fell into a category he labeled “low level.” “They can have very simply conversations, like: ‘Who am I? Where am I going?’”

Efforts continue today to improve signage in English around Beijing’s tourist attractions.

How to Recede in Business Without Really Trying

May 16, 2013 1 comment


Imagine for a moment you’re a contestant on a business game show version of Jeopardy. Here’s the answer(s):

Loss of potential customers;
Loss of management morale;
Loss of media outlet support

Question: What happens if a company’s Board of Directors refuses to honor an agreement made by management?

Such was the incredulous situation while planning an itinerary for a trip a few years ago. I initiated contact with a very elegant hotel property, via e-mail. The offer I made was to promote them in my publication called The Replenisher, in exchange for accommodations. Included in the e-mail text was a link to the web page showing our publication background and subscriber demographics.

Hotel management accepted the offer in writing (e-mail); in effect, a simple contractual agreement with all the pertinent details.

One week after the fact, an e-mail came from the hotel stating that the Board of Directors decided this was not a good demographic fit (actually, it was more the publication format they objected to), and they were retracting their abidance to the agreement. Let me add, there was no mention by management of this agreement being subject to Board approval.

I wrote a letter to one of the owners, asking them to reconsider: “An offer was made in writing, it was accepted in writing. That’s a contract…someone failed to review our web page before accepting the offer…I invite the hotel to consider a change of heart in this matter, and honor the agreement already made in good faith.”

There was no response.

Clearly, the hotel fumbled an opportunity for good will and positive publicity if they had admitted their negligence, and honored the agreement anyway. Needless to say, the hotel will not be invited back as a contestant on our “show” for any bonus rounds.

Freedom Rings Hollow in the U.S.

December 29, 2012 Leave a comment

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – James Madison

What is it that I value most in life? Freedom ranks in the top three. It is the primary reason generations of immigrants have flocked to America to pursue their dreams with minimal encroachment. It is sad to witness the slow yet steady erosion of those freedoms. A recent report confirms the decline…

The 2012 Economic Freedom of the World report was just released by the Cato Institute and Canada’s Fraser Institute. In just a few years, the U.S. has fallen from No. 3 in 2000 (behind the city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore) to No. 8 in 2005 and now has plummeted to 18th place, trailing such countries as Estonia, Taiwan, and Qatar. Finland, Denmark and Canada now also have freer economies than the United States.

Most Americans will ignore this report, at their peril; this is not something cobbled together by academic, ivory tower wonks. The initiator of the Economic Freedom of the World report was the late Milton Friedman, who suggested its need as a measure of liberty.

The extensive index covers the size of government (taxing and spending), legal systems, property rights, sound money, free international trade and regulation (including credit markets, labor and business regulations).

According to the report, in 2005 the U.S. ranked 45th in overall size of government among 144 nations surveyed. Today, government has ballooned in size and the U.S. rank has fallen to 61st place. Other areas of freedom lost include a spike in stifling regulations, labor-market restrictions, and barriers to trade. The U.S. standing fell in all those categories, and there was also a long-term deterioration in ranking on property rights as well. No doubt these disastrous developments, along with reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve, serve as roadblocks to sustainable recovery from the ongoing recession that began in 2008.

Cato Institute’s Richard Rahn noted: “Worse yet, the U.S. decline continues and in next year’s ranking it is almost certain to be lower.” If ever there was a bedrock solid compilation of facts urging Americans to at least have an exit strategy in place you can find it in the pages of the above mentioned report.

There is no reason to limit ourselves by artificial, politically-induced borders. Exercise your freedom to explore other places, and other opportunities. Even if you choose to stay in the U.S., your life will be enriched by the adventure!

Airing Out Unrewarded Loyalty

October 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Is it any wonder that in a recent survey, four of the ten most disliked companies in America are airlines (Business Insider, 6/22/12)? The endless nicking, pecking and yes, gouging, of customers with miscellaneous fees grows tiresome to those of us who reward airlines with frequent travel. Unless you are up there in the stratosphere with the million mile club, the price for our loyalty keeps going up, as if we were no different than a first time flier.

A salient example is change fees, in my opinion the most corrupt practice in the industry. Charging such exorbitant fees for a five minute stroke on the computer, or less than $2 per labor hour prorated, hardly justifies a fee ranging from a couple hundred to $2000 (if done within a couple days of your original itinerary). What other industry can you think of that charges more than a nominal change fee? Amtrak does not charge a ticket change fee. Hotels don’t charge a fee if I change dates on my reservation. It is a short sighted policy – yes, they generate revenue initially, but how many labor hours do they spend on the ever expanding number of customer complaints? I would bet this expense dwarfs the fees collected, not to mention loss of customer loyalty, the lifeblood of any business.

Airlines don’t appear to “get it” about nurturing relationships with their loyal card holding clients. I pay a $395 annual fee for one of my airline credit cards; yet, a courtesy waiver of even a one-time change fee is “against policy”.
The conclusion I draw is that airlines do their utmost to alienate the most loyal customers by adhering to counterproductive rules.

Adapting to Local Customs

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I know a man whose terrific Mexican vacation was almost spoiled by an indifferent customs officer. While in Mexico City, he met a beautiful Mexican woman. She toured him around the city the night before his flight was to leave. The next day at the airport, she surprised him by showing up at the airport to give him a bouquet of flowers as a send-off.

After she left, he went through customs and was stopped because he didn’t have a tourist card. They ushered him into the office where a customs official refused to let him go. My friend was desperate to make his flight, but no matter what he said or how much he pleaded, the shiftless customs man wouldn’t budge. Frustrated, my friend dropped the flowers on his desk, which provoked a wide-eyed unexpected response: “Para mi?” (For me?) Noting the change in the man’s demeanor, my friend replied, “Si, claro.” (Sure). The customs official smiled and declared, “You can go now!”

Putting the flowers on the desk inadvertently created a pattern breaker that altered the officer’s usual way of being. It allowed for a new opportunity to occur. Who would have thought that a bouquet of flowers could become an exit visa?

Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”