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Just not sure how to play good news

January 16, 2009 | Airlines,Journalism,Media,MSM

Have you heard about the “miracle on the Hudson” yet? It’s the plane that went down in the Hudson River yesterday. Everyone on board survived.

It’s nice to have good news, right? Sure, but our media seem somewhat uncomfortable with the whole idea.

I heard about the crash on Facebook, and I didn’t see anything about it on television until later.

I watched Larry King interview two doctors who treated people from the flight. One was in the studio. The other stood outside, probably getting dangerously close to this hypothermia he kept talking about. His nose was red, and his words got more slurred each time they went back to him.

Anyway, at some point, someone told King that everyone survived.

“Hunh,” King said, followed by a weird little silence.

This morning, I watched part of the news conference with the mayor and the rescuers. Some of the questions couldn’t quite get the whole “good news” idea.

“How cold was the water and how long would it take for someone to DIE in it?”

“How does this mission compare with others you have been on?” (You know, others where people DIED?)

The news conference was so relaxed that it even made time for a Spanish-speaking rescuer to take a question from a Spanish-speaking reporter … in Spanish … which CNN, of course, immediately started chattering over, recapping the unbelievable story in which nobody DIED.

Posted by Becky @ 11:25 am | 3 Comments  

Auto executives plan to carpool to D.C.

November 24, 2008 | Airlines,D.C.,Dignitary visits,Economics,Iraq,Politics,Traveling

You know what that means.

Road trip!

Think they’ll blog about it? And take pictures of the Kum & Go? And pick up other execs along the way?

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., was the one who asked the executives if they flew commercial to Washington, D.C. None had.

I suppose Sherman had a decent question. So when will he get his D.C. colleagues to start road-trippin’ in and out of the city? Or maybe he’ll convince them to hitchhike when they go on their PR junkets to Iraq.

Posted by Becky @ 7:23 pm | 2 Comments  

Smart ways to travel?

May 27, 2008 | Airlines,Traveling

I read about some tips for traveling this summer, including this:

Package shippers like FedEx Corp. or United Parcel Service Inc. or luggage shippers like Luggage Forward Inc. or Sports Express LLC may now be an attractive alternative. With FedEx, you can ship three bags — two 40-pounders and one 60-pound bag, from Dallas to Boston and back for about $250 if you use the three-business-day service, and the price might be a lot less if you have access to a corporate account with discounts at FedEx. Put the bags in shipping boxes or just use tags that shippers now have for luggage. Package shippers can track the bags, too — something airlines don’t do. On United, those same three bags would cost you $450 round trip if traveling alone.

So … when will the package shippers start putting “people boxes” on their planes? How bad could it be?

(Well, unless you’re Chuck Noland … )

Posted by Becky @ 11:07 pm | 3 Comments  

Life takes Visa … unless we’re talking about MY life

March 14, 2008 | Airlines,Customer service,Visa

Dear Visa,

Thanks for giving it the old college try. You could have just ignored me, which is about what I’ve come to expect. But, hey, you tried. Right?

You didn’t do anything, though, because your “research indicated” that I “voluntarily purchased another set of tickets” to get out of Norway.

Yeah. About that word … voluntarily? Well, here’s the deal.

If someone held a gun to my head and demanded all my money? It’s a pretty safe bet I would voluntarily hand over everything I had in my purse. Especially if I had my three children with me. Heck, I’d even voluntarily hand over my whole purse, which, you know, is where I keep my Visa card. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want it all back when the jerk was arrested. And I bet your ears would perk up about the whole Visa-card part of the deal.

But, whatever. I’ve gotten about $3,000 back from the airline all on my own, thankyouverymuch. Guess I’ll have to get the rest of it on my own too.

Your lowly customer-bot,


Posted by Becky @ 12:56 pm | 1 Comment  

Privacy? We don’t need no stinkin’ privacy!

January 29, 2008 | Airlines,Customer service,Privacy


So the Privacy Act of 1974 requires my senator to get my written consent before he can legally act on my behalf. You know. So he doesn’t look like he’s Tricky Dick or something. (Don’t turn off SafeSearch when you’re searching for Tricky Dick. Trust me.) But he needs my Social Security number. To, you know, act on my behalf.

OK. Can he get my $6,000 back? All-righty. Here’s my Social Security number. My mailing address. My property-tax records. My telephone number. My cell number. My income-tax records. My credit-card and bank-account numbers. My e-mail passwords. Anything else? My health records. DNA and blood samples. A satellite photograph of me standing in front of my house. Really. See? There I am.

Will that do? Call me, OK? You’ve got my number now.

Posted by Becky @ 9:28 pm | Comments  

But the emporer has nothing on at all!

January 23, 2008 | Advertising,Airlines,Customer service,Economics,Ethics,No clothes!,Norway,PR


I was discussing the Gates of Hell chapter of the Nightmare in Norway with someone the other night.

“I would have said, ‘I want to speak to your boss, and your boss’s boss and your boss’s boss’s boss, NOW’ … you know … go up the chain of command,” he said.

Chain of command. Yeah, the military does that to a person, I guess. Maybe that works in that world.

But, really, how much latitude does a customer-bot (we’re not human beings anymore) have in an airport before going from concerned about service to a security threat? I mean, how many times could I have told Haris, “I want to speak to your boss,” before he felt “threatened” by me and sent me spiraling into the Circles of Hell to, you know … stun guns, shackles, detention, jail … that sorta thing? I mean … really?

Besides, who’s to say Haris the employee-bot (they’re not human beings anymore either) wouldn’t have just said, “No.”

Then what?

It’s happened before. I called a “customer service” line to ask for, well, customer service. (Oh, silly me.) When I got nowhere with the employee-bot, I asked to speak to his supervisor. He put me on hold. He came back and told me his supervisor refused to speak to me.

Refused to speak to me.

I asked for the name of the president of the company. He said he didn’t know. “Well, could you check?” I asked. He put me on hold again. He came back and said, “It’s against company policy to give you that information.”

It was against company policy to tell me who runs the company.

He was right. I couldn’t find the president’s name anywhere on the company Web site. In fact, three companies were involved, and none of their contact information was available through any of the companies. I had to look them up by other means. But, hey, I found them. (I need to write a love letter to the Internet.) I sent an e-mail to all of them and the customer-service department. To their credit, they actually resolved my problem. Very satisfactorily, even.

Apparently, though, it’s become standard operating procedure that employee-bots (and their CEOs) do not work for customer-bots — even if they are in the service industry. Hell, employee-bots don’t even work for their CEOs anymore. They work for the computer screens in front of them. They can only do what their computers tell them to do, which — when it comes to customer-bots — usually isn’t much.

I suppose PR bullshit goes way back, and none of this is new. Am I the only one who can remember things like “the customer is always right” … or was that just PR bullshit too? I couldn’t help thinking about The Emporer’s New Clothes, which I recently grabbed off the shelf for my son. (I got the Virginia Lee Burton pictures from a 1968 version of the book by Scholastic Book Services.)

You call your employees co-workers and expect them (and us) to believe it?

No clothes!


You say you “work hard to earn my business every time I fly”?

No clothes!


You say, “They’ll hold the plane for you”?

No clothes!


You say, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do”?

No clothes!


It’s not like I’ve never gotten good customer service. I got incredible service yesterday, in fact. More than once. (I’ll write about it one of these days.) But when I get excellent or good or, heck, even fair-to-middling customer service, isn’t it a shame that it makes me want to weep with joy? Why should it be the exception and not the rule?

I ran across a few examples of suckass non-service just skimming through my feeder this morning. Matthew at Childs Play x2 warns his readers not to shop at Home Decorators. Planet Nomad writes about inexplicable weirdness at Starbucks. CrankMama has a few choice words to say about Verizon. Updated: I just found this priceless exchange on Hotfessional. Updated2: Wow. They just keep coming. Karen at A Deaf Mom Shares Her World was denied service at Steak ‘n Shake.

What’s your suckiest non-service experience? Who deserves the “No clothes!” seal of disapproval?

Posted by Becky @ 7:54 pm | 3 Comments  

A day late and a (few thousand) dollar(s) short

January 11, 2008 | Airlines,Blogging,Norway,Traveling,Vacation


But, hey, I’m back! (And, yeah, that’s what it looked like up there. A lot.)

First off, thank you, thank you, thank you to all the incredible guest bloggers for keeping the blogfires burning while I was gone!

I have a ton of photographs to go through, bags to unpack and boxes of Christmas gifts yet to open. I also have massive blog updates to do. In the meantime, here’s an update.

  • The good: The travel to our destination went surprisingly well.
  • The bad: That’s the last thing to go “surprisingly well.”
  • The ugly: Puking (and other unmentionables) started the day after we arrived and ended, oh, about two weeks later after three trips to the on-call doctor and one overnight stay at the hospital for IV fluids and attacking every, single one of us and then some.
  • The travel from our destination? FUBAR.
    • Missed the overseas flight — even though we called ahead to the airline (which rhymes with Rocksuckernental) to tell them our first flight was delayed and sprinted the entire length of the airport — by literally five minutes.
    • The plane was still there. They just wouldn’t let us board. So we watched it leave with 12 empty seats, five of which were ours, paid in full.
    • Haris the Gatekeeper said our only option was to show up the next morning and wait on “standby.” Or we could buy new tickets, even though that wouldn’t guarantee our seats. Or we could check out other options with other airlines. And, oh yeah, if that didn’t work out, he would be “happy” to see us again the next morning. (I didn’t tell him where I would be “happy” to see him … you know, burning and gnashing teeth and all.)
    • We spent the next several hours checking our nonexistent options. I will never go to Vegas. (I may be unlucky, but I’m not brain-dead.) Here’s what happened.
      • New tickets with no guarantees — $6,000
      • Hotel room with one bed, one crib and five bodies — $300
      • Three hot dogs, an order of fries, some yogurt and juice from the airport kiosk — $50 (instead of $175 for five burgers and no drinks at the hotel)
      • Less than an hour on the Internet to check in and print boarding passes (without which I am certain we’d still be wandering the Oslo airport) — $30
      • 1 child with a fever, 3 weeks in Winter Wonderland with no snow and Haris telling us the next morning that we “probably would have been fine on standby” (meaning we gambled away the equivalent of, oh, about two months of his annual salary) and the fact that I let him walk away from me and continue breathing — priceless
  • How long before I do this again? Infinity. As we said from the security of our seats in the air, “Buh-bye, Oslo. See ya NEVER!”
Posted by Becky @ 6:14 pm | 15 Comments  

Icelandair might want to watch the news

December 13, 2007 | Advertising,Airlines,Iceland,PR


A 33-year-old woman from Iceland, Erla Ósk Arnardóttir, blogged about being detained by U.S. security when arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York recently. Alda at The Iceland Weather Report tells the story. The gist is that the woman overstayed her welcome in the United States in 1995. Even though she had traveled to the United States since then with no problems, this time, she was detained, shackled and driven to a prison cell in New Jersey, interrogated and finally — after 14 23 hours — put on a flight back home.

Update: Thanks to a link from Iceland Review in my comments, here is an article in English. Iceland Review also has an update to the story, saying that Iceland’s Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir met with U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Carol van Voorst and demanded an apology from U.S. authorities.

Other coverage

About the only thing about Iceland in the news here is the story of a teen-ager who posed as Iceland’s president and almost got put through to a telephone meeting with President George W. Bush. Police in Iceland intervened, though, and took him in for questioning. It makes me wonder if the two stories are related. Was U.S. security on “high alert” for anything out of Iceland because of the teen-ager’s prank? That doesn’t explain or justify anything … I just wonder.

Anyway. Morgunblaðið has a video with interviews from a government official and the woman who was detained. Go watch it. Maybe you won’t understand the news report, but keep an eye on the advertisements before and after the clip.

Memo to Icelandair PR department: Dude. Drop everything and check your online ads. Travel to New York? Really?

Update: The Wall Street Journal published an article, Land of the Spree, Dec. 15, 2007.

How do you say ‘Victoria’s Secret’ in Icelandic? With the dollar having hit new lows against currencies around the globe, America is becoming the world’s discount store.

The reporter spoke with two women from Iceland.

Josefina and Carolina Hallström flew to New York for a few days of shopping on Icelandair from Stockholm. The pair, ages 21 and 25, were on the lookout for a Victoria’s Secret store. “We go for the lotions and perfumes,” said Carolina, as she lugged a shopping bag with eight pairs of shoes in it (she’d already pitched the boxes). The underwear retailer’s annual fashion show airs in Sweden, even though there aren’t any stores there, she says. Plus, “shampoo is also much cheaper here.”

The article even mentioned Iceland again with shoppers arriving at the Mall of America in Minnesota on direct flights from Iceland.

But not a word about anyone from Iceland getting detained in New York. Hmm.

Posted by Becky @ 3:11 pm | 2 Comments  

What are they smoking at Northwest Airlines?

July 9, 2007 | Airlines

I dropped my mother at the airport at noon today, almost a whole day early. We discovered this morning while doing her online check-in that one of her flights was canceled, which would have left her stranded in Detroit. Then I saw they put her on a direct flight to Minneapolis, which would have gotten her almost home. Yay. Then I noticed it was for today. Boo. Then I saw the rest of her itinerary. WTF?

It included a flight from Detroit to Chicago, Chicago to Minneapolis and the flight out of Minneapolis that would get her home at 10 p.m. tomorrow. Why the first two flights were listed, I have no idea. I called to see if that last leg was available today, but I kept getting disconnected after hearing a message about high call volume and the inability to handle my call. Yeah, I bet. If they cancel flights without warning as an “operating strategy,” it’s no surprise that they have a high call volume.

After Mom checked her luggage, got through security and arrived at her gate, the agent there kept asking her, “You’re going to Chicago, right?” It’s as if he’d never heard of Minneapolis. You know, the one in Minnesota. That was disconcerting (but, hey, at least he didn’t just walk off, and I wondered all afternoon where she would end up until she called me from Minneapolis. At least someone was there to pick her up at the airport and drive her home.

Posted by Becky @ 11:40 pm | 2 Comments  


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