Monday, 26 September 2016

French Cheese anyone?

On a recent trip to the USA I had an amusing experience at a very fancy resort hotel. This was, it must be said, one of the very best resorts in the country and i was enjoying my stay there immensely.

I had arrived for breakfast, and instead of the usual very tasty American fare, I asked my lovely server for some cheese.

"Do you have any nice cheeses?" I asked in my politest voice.

"Sure Mr. Mossack" she replied, "Let me go check for you."

She returned a few moments later with some slices of processed burger cheese. Not quite what I had imagined she would return with.

"Thanks, but I was hoping for something a little more substantial, perhaps something European maybe?:"

She dutifully retreated to the kitchen and returned after some time....

"Well I found something French for you, it is called a Bry I think."

Not wanting to douse her enthusiasm with correct spellings or pronunciation, I got the gist and looked very happy.

"But I also found this one too. I am not sure where it comes from but it is called Cam and Bert."

It was at this point that I lost it.

I realise I should have used more restraint, but I couldn't help myself.

"Cam and Bert it is then."

I had mental images of French dairy farmers running for a ropes to hang themselves with.

God bless America.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Special Branch comes to my rescue

I had a genuine emergency last week at Gatwick airport. It was all there; shortness of breath, perspiration, panic, chest pain.
The works.
The cause of it?
I had left my electronic tablet in the main lounge at Gatwick.
Normally of course, this emergency could have been handled with calm efficient ease, reporting it to the relevant authorities etc. However, in this particular situation, time was very much against me.

I am not normally one of those people who arrive at the departure gate with hours to spare. I have always thought this is a total waste of human life hours and anyone who indulges in this practice should be given a severe talking to. However, last Monday before a flight to Madeira, I did just that. I thought to myself, I have nothing much else to do here, so I might as well saunter slowly along the three miles to gate 35 surely, the furthest gate in airport history.

Having finally arrived I reach for my tablet to watch a movie while I'm waiting, only to find it's not there and I must have left it on a seat in the main lounge. So much for sauntering. Now I am running all the way back to try and find it. Along the way, I bump in to Steve, wearing a smart suit and an earpiece. He looks like a security person I think to myself.

"Excuse me, are you security?"
"No sir, I am Sussex Please Special Branch."
"OK near enough" I say. " I have left my tablet in the lounge and I only have 30 minutes before my plane leaves."
"Right then" Says Steve "we need to find it pronto"
And just like that we are both on a mission.

We get to the scene of the crime and not a sign of my lost tablet. we interview potential witnesses, shop managers and restaurant staff but to no avail.

I'm out of time, so I leave my details with Steve who promises to check with Lost Property and hopefully "you might get lucky and pick it up when you return"

Of course, now I am late for the gate and run all the way back by which time my name is being called as all the passengers are on the plane.

As I get to the now empty gate my phone rings. "Andy, it's Steve. I've found it! I'm on my way to you now"

Amazing. Unfortunately the gate staff are having none of it. "You must board the plane now sir. It will not wait."

"You don't understand" I plead. "This is an emergency situation and I am waiting for a delivery"
As they shake their heads and threaten to boot me off the flight, Steve arrives like the cavalry waving my tablet triumphantly.

What a guy.

My eternal thanks go out to this gentleman who without doubt saved my day. Sussex Police, you are some team and I thanks you from the bottom of my heart!


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Low cost airlines to no longer surcharge credit cards?

With the news today that interchange fees are to be capped should be good news for consumers. Interchange fees are charges that retailers pay via their bank to the credit card company when their customers use a credit card to pay for goods, Up to now this has been unregulated and an almost dark secret to most of us, but thanks to a new EU ruling all fees are to be capped at 0.2% for debit cards and 0.3% for credit cards from December 9th 2015.
The British Retail Consortium estimates this new ruling could save British businesses nearly £500M.
So far so good then.
Retailers will save money from unfair charges.
So here's the thing. Does this mean our two main low cost airlines Ryan Air and easyJet will now no longer charge us a fee for using credit cards to book our flights?
If, as we are led to believe, the new shiny mark 2 passenger friendly Ryan Air is always going to put its passengers first, or easyJet is looking to further improve its rapidly growing brand,  then we should look forward to being able to use our credit cards for flights without incurring any surcharges.
Now I am sure we will no doubt hear that historically there have been no surcharges for using a debit card or some other obscure pre-paid card, or that there are many other hidden costs in processing credit card bookings, but now in all honesty, there are no excuses for penalising customers who want to use a credit card to buy a low cost flight.
As the Treasury points out in its consultation document "the government is clear that merchants are expected to pass these savings on to consumers in the form of lower prices."  So will this indeed happen? My guess is as good as yours, but we live in hope.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Are we all becoming Narcissists?

I read a very interesting stat last week. It seems that more people are killed each year through taking "selfies" than die from shark attacks..
I have witnessed this very phenomenon myself recently. I am not proud to say I narrowly avoided a nasty fatality last week while walking down London's Oxford Street. I was stupidly minding my own business when I failed to notice a group of Chinese tourists coming straight at me armed to the teeth with selfie sticks.
Imagine my horror when, lost in thought, I glanced up just in time to avoid a hideous death impaled on twenty selfie sticks.

This could so easily have been murder, simply because they wanted to show everyone they knew they were somewhere else. Look at me, I'm not in Tokyo, I'm in Oxford Street.

Does anyone really care?

More to the point, how many broken selfie sticks do we see discarded in roads and gutters.
Have we all become so obsessed with ourselves we have to constantly remind our family and "friends" where we are and what we're doing?

It seems we are.

 I have seen people balancing perilously on one leg above the Grand Canyon or atop Sydney Harbour Bridge just to snap a selfie.

I am so really not interested to see endless pictures of faces around a table of wine glasses or half finished food.

Yes we all have to eat and drink so get over it.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Is iceberg water really the ultimate con?

Hearing the news of a restaurant charging its customers £24 per bottle for 'iceberg water' I am thinking the world has finally gone bonkers. Who is kidding who here. Are there really people out there who are so terribly desperate to impress they are happy to be royally ripped off by anyone claiming to offer the latest elixir of life.

Whether iceberg water really does contain exceptional properties or not isn't really the issue. I mean, putting to one side for a minute the question of whether this is morally correct anyway because I am not happy with the thought of somebody actively chipping away at a natural iceberg simply to harvest the water for a posh meal.

No, for me the real issue is working out who is the con artist and who is the mark in all this. Who starts the ball running.  Is it the media, the harvester, the vendor or the end user. I get the commercial part, obviously. If anyone can see there is a healthy profit to be made by peddling something legal that there is a market for, then good luck to them.

It's a dog eat dog world.

I can list many things that fit this bracket - fashion victims for a start. Think about it. Paying top dollar for ripped jeans (sorry stressed jeans), baseball caps with 'genuine' stickers on them, two piece swim suits that don't match. The list is endless. These are all created by manufacturers who simply have a lot of surplus stock to move. And we all fall for it.

Water is the new black clearly. It is true overseas people drink bottled water all the time, simply because in most cases their over chlorinated tap water tastes awful. But here in the UK tap water is no different to any other water nutritionally. Yes, mineral water by definition contains minerals so what. The water table of our planet has not changed since it was created, it just gets dispersed in different ways. We are in effect drinking the same water Abraham drunk or the dinosaurs for that matter.

Let us please get back on track. Forgo the latest drinking fad and just stick to tap water. You know it makes sense.

By the way, I have a crate of Asteroid Moisture to sell. Just £300 a bottle. It's out of this world.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Driving Licence changes brings car hire hell

Let me paint a picture for you.

Just landed at Glasgow airport ahead of a much anticipated road trip along the west coast and I made way to the Hertz counter to collect my pre-ordered rental car.
Nothing strange so far then.
A warm friendly greeting and a smile. I smile and hand over my pre-ordered rental coupon.
Another smile. A few keys tapped. Car in the system. Good to go.
Err, not quite.
"Sorry sir, you are a little early, your car is still getting washed. Can you grab a coffee and come back and see me in half an hour?"
These things happen, and I did land early, so a coffee calls.
Suitably caffeined I return as re quested and receive yet another smile.
Keys tapped. Phone call made.
" Nearly ready sir" I'm told. "Shall we do the paperwork while we're waiting?"
I smile back.
"Can I have your driving licence please."
I am armed and ready with my plastic licence and hand it over.
The smile waivers a tad.
"And your code from the DVLA please?"
"err. Code? I booked the car online and printed out the coupon."
"Yes Mr Mossack, that's for the car, you now need a code from the DVLA as the paper part of your licence is no longer needed. This only came into effect today."
A looming dread slowly approaches my calm exterior. Thoughts of my pleasant drive along Scotland's rugged west coast are evaporating.
I come clean. "I don't have one of those sorry."
The smile has been replaced with pity.
"Yes it is a little confusing. This hasn't been handled very well. All our customers have had the same problem today."
Great. I have other miserable companions.
I try a smile. The one usually reserved for my room upgrade requests at hotel check ins.
"Is there a way around this, after all there was nothing on your website to warn me about this."
Her smile returns triumphantly.
"Yes sir, we can call the DVLA for you."
"Excellent, let's do that then"
"There will however be an additional charge for that sir."
And there it is.
A small change in admin from the DVLA and a new revenue stream is suddenly created.
We have dispensed with a stupid paper version of a licence that got torn and lost to another piece of paper that will get torn and lost. Or alternatively,  providing car hire companies with a revenue stream which hereto was not an option.
Now where is the sense in all this.
I applaud the demise of the paper version of our driving licence. Good riddance. But please let us have a better solution for car hire. Printing out codes? I'd rather print out a smile.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Why Are USA Business Class Lounges So Poor?

I have been on a few trips to the USA recently, and the experience prompted me to flag up the stupendously average quality of US business class lounges.
They are always busy, I'll grant you that; and there is no shortage of customers desperately trying to gain access through one type of card or another only to be triumphantly turned away by smug receptionists.
My issue is simply that compared to the rest of the world, US business lounges are way down the pecking order when it comes to food and amenities.
And my question is why?
America has always been the home of customer service (albeit shameless and shallow) so why are the airport business lounges so bad.
They are in the main, soulless places, with practically no form of human interaction.
Servers tend to be disinterested, bored or both and there is precious little in the way of food, generally just processed snacks of cheese (red or yellow), crackers and jars of chemically infused nibbles washed down with stale coffee from flasks.
So, apart from admittedly well stocked bars, free internet and some peace and quiet, there ain't a lot to shout about.
Compare this with the Far East, or Europe and the difference is marked.  In many cases there are either a la carte menus or a number of freshly produced dishes, perhaps showers or massage or even (drum roll) a hairdressing service and nail spa. The environments tend to welcoming and positive with attentive staff who try at least to make your short stay pleasurable. Unless as was the case during a recent visit to Istanbul when a Siberian snow storm put the airport in lock down and I was stranded there for over 14 hours, but that as they say is quite another story.
Come on USA pull your finger out and provide much better business lounge facilities for your tired and stressed executive passengers. Or, perhaps its all a plot to make the plane experience feel a lot better than it really is?