shame on the car rental companies

Upon my return to Portland, I checked in at the Hertz car counter.  The clerk noted that I had reserved an economy car and he began processing my order.  I inquired if I would be able to rent a hybrid vehicle (as I usually did).  Heck, its not only green, it keeps $ here at home instead of sending it to the Middle East.  Not that I don’t like folks from the Middle East, but trust me, they have enough of our money already.

The clerk then told me that it will be an ADDITIONAL $35 per day to rent a Prius.  Apparently, its in its own “class” of vehicles, just one below “luxury” but a step above “mid-sized.”

Oh, I get it.  We’re going to charge you $35 a day so that you can save two bucks in gas.  Wait.  How does that work?  It seems to me that the car rental companies are just plain profiting from the popularity of hybrid vehicles.  I just couldn’t believe it.  Here we are trying to go green and these jokers are trying to profit from it.  That’s just plain sad.

So, I did what a good consumer should do.  I walked away.  I went down the row at the airport checking the prices from each of the major companies, Avis, Hertz, Budget, Enterprise…  it was the same everywhere; huge markups for the hybrids.  Hmm… what happened to a free market?  Sounds like collusion to me.  Either way, shame on these guys.  They should price the car rental by the cost of the car, not by how much they can screw over the public…


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the TSA sucks

… written 20 February 2010, video shot on 13 February 2010…

I just cleared check-in at Beijing airport.  The security personnel (the equivalent of the TSA) were courteous, friendly, helpful, and they even spoke English!  They explained the procedure, helped me remove my computer from its case, helped load the x-ray machine, and then helped me to put my luggage back together.  Getting TSA officers to answer a straightforward question without sarcasm is close to impossible.

When I departed for this trip, I had the occasion to be “greeted” by TSA Officer Hamilton.  The guy was rude, he was a jerk, he was sarcastic.  Specifically, queuing travelers were only using one of two lines to clear the security check-in.  “Let’s go people, there are two lines!  It’s not that difficult!”  Really?  Is all that necessary?  TSA Officer Hamilton reminded me of a guy who had been trying to get into the Sheriff’s office for 12 years and couldn’t get in because he was a closet pedophile or had some other skeletons in his closet and now he’s very bitter.  He’s probably worked at the Portland Mall for the last 8 years fantasizing about being a cop dreaming of having some real power.  Well Hamilton, that day will never come, but instead, oh boy, does the Federal Government have a job for you!  Yes, you get to continue being a jerk and now you do have a “little” power.  No power in any real sense of the word, just enough to make everyone’s life a little more miserable as they travel.  And in this, you excel.

After each aircraft has departed, the entire staff of all Chinese airlines stand in front of you as the announcer broadcasts over the loudspeaker that the crew is here to serve you and to make this a pleasant flight.  Then (get this), the entire staff bows.  On my flight out of China in December with United, the stewardess refused to give me water (I was blocked in by an elderly man who was sleeping).  She said that I had to get up to get it myself or else wait for the drink service at the meal.  In total, the United Airlines crew came through with drinks once (aside from the meal service drinks).  In total, beverages were offered 4 times on the flight.  In contrast, two weeks ago my flight from Seattle to Seoul, S. Korea, Korean Airlines attendants offered drinks 14 times on a 13 hour flight.

 

 

Don’t even get me started about meals.  The last US carrier I flew charged for a bag, for a meal, and for a movie.  KAL took two bags (oversized), had streaming movies and video games, and a meal that actually filled you up.

The difference in service between American air carriers and ALL of our international competition could not be more different.  So long as foreign carriers are blocked from domestic flights in America this will never change.  For those of you that don’t travel internationally, take my word for it, American air carriers are lacking.

The Chinese and Indians are hungry for business.  So long as the ambassadors of America (our corporation’s employees) have a bad attitude, we will continue to lose market share.  We are going to get killed in business this next decade if we don’t change our attitude of arrogance and entitlement.

Update 21 February, 2010:

My flight from Seoul to Seattle was delayed about an hour due  heavy head winds resulting in me missing my 1230 flight to Portland.  As I entered the baggage claim area (you must receive and recheck bags after arriving on any international flight), I heard my name called.  As I approached the luggage area I saw a KAL rep holding a sign with my name on it.  When I approached, I was handed an envelope with a 1640 boarding pass, a standby pass for the 1430 flight, a meal voucher for $15, and the agent walked me to the map and gave me detailed directions on how to get to my next gate.  I was impressed.

If you have ever had a bad experience wtih the TSA, please post your story in the comments section.  Thanks!


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Cactus in Seoul

On the flight(s) back home, this one from Guilin to Beijing, I was seated next to a Chinese girl and her mother.  The Mum spoke English and told me that her daughter was very interested to know all about me and asked me 21 questions about work, family, hobbies, why I was travelling, where I had been,  where I was going and pretty much everything that a curious kid might want to know.  Mom even asked if she could take a photo of her daughter and I – I agreed and asked that she also take one with my camera so that I’d have one for the website.

The entire row in front of us was filled with the daughter and Mum’s family and in no time they were up and out of their seats and talking with me.  Some of the young men spoke great English and we chatted most of the flight.

There was a show on the tv during the flight.  While I don’t speak Chinese,  just by watching it I was able to make out that it was a documentary on the Chinese Army Special Forces.  The program seemed to be akin to the Discovery Channel or maybe the Military Channel.  The program showed the selection process as soldiers ran up and down flights of stairs, climbed obstacle courses, swam through mud, carried logs on their shoulders (below) and received close range gunfire and hand grenade drills.  The selectees seemed to be in quite good condition and performed all of these military drills (at least to my eye) quite effectively.

The family that I had met on the flight was quite helpful and they helped me to find my way to my hotel driver at the airport.  After a quick night in Beijing, I was out on another flight to Seoul early the next morning.

Arriving in Seoul, I was a bit surprised to find a desert landscape in the center of the airport.  I felt like I had landed in Mesa, Arizona!  It was a nice touch and made me feel a little at home in the Southwest United States.  Just across from the desert landscape was a Dunkin Donuts and I couldn’t resist a donut and a hot cup of coffee.

Nearby a flat screen tv had the Olympics playing and I sat with some Italian and Korean travelers and we blissfully munched on donuts, sipped coffee and watched the world’s athletes compete in good form.  As I sat there, I looked around at this beautiful airport, with all of its modern amenities and then thought about the run down state of Los Angeles International airport.  I thought how the United States has so much money to spend around the world but can’t even fix its own bridges, roads and to update its airports and air traffic control system.  I thought about the advances in economy that China is making and I wonder if my countrymen and women have any idea that soon we will be passed – easily within our lifetimes – and America will no longer be #1 in the world (so far as economies go).

Well, it was a nice airport after all…

And, the Global War on Terror marches on.  Like most places in the world, Korea was showing a high level of security.  I noticed these two soldiers making their rounds carrying Daewoo K-2 rifles.  I shot a few photos of them, but with the low light and their brisk pace, the photos turned out blurry.  I remembered a shooting technique that I read about in a photography magazine wherein you track the subject with your camera and click the shot while maintaining your point on your subject.  The result is a blurry background but the subject is supposed to be in focus.  I gave it a try and it seemed to work!


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Stories, posts, reports, photos, videos and all other content on this site is copyright protected © and is the property of Scott Traveler unless otherwise indicated, all rights reserved. Content on this site may not be reproduced without permission from Scott Traveler. My contact information can be found on the home page.

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