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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

AIRPORTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 25, 2019

BRYCE ON TRANSPORTATION

– Do you see anything “suspicious” there?

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

It has been awhile since I’ve talked about airports. In the past, I enjoyed air travel but now look for excuses not to go, thereby avoiding the headaches associated with it. Suffice it to say, I find travel to be more laborious than exciting. I think the novelty wore off when they introduced the security checkpoints back in the early 1980’s. Now we have to strip and be subject to cavity searches by people who flunked their proctology exams in a foreign country. You really have to hand it to the terrorists for creating a billion dollar industry and putting the homeless to work as security inspectors.

Over the public address system you routinely hear the message, “Please report any suspicious behavior.” Hell, the whole thing is suspicious. People are plugged in and tuned out. Those people talking on cell phones look delusional as they wander aimlessly through the airport seemingly talking to themselves. Most are dressed as if they are going on a camping trip or bombing run. Even the security people look like they speak a foreign language, certainly not English. Report “suspicious behavior”? To whom? Muhammed, the head of airport security?

I’ve also noticed airports are now much more handicap accessible than in years past, but perhaps they have gone overboard on some things. For example, when I went to the men’s room recently I noticed there was an infant changing table. Okay, fine, men change diapers now. No big deal. Over the table hung a sign denoting the changing table, but in addition to plain English on the sign I noticed a Braille version for the blind. This got me thinking how a blind person would ever find the spot and use it properly. I imagined a person groping around a strange airport and rest room until he finally arrived at the station only to miss the sign (as it was displayed a tad high and inset, making it easy to miss). He might even end up circling the rest room for hours to find the right spot to change diapers. God knows what he will use if he misses it.

Luggage carousels haven’t really changed over the years. The baggage handlers still send out the same 100 empty suitcases before any of the bags from your flight shows up. Actually, I think it’s a stalling tactic as they rip through your luggage to find the good stuff.

The Gestapo runs the ground transportation, for both pickup and drop-off, complete with bomb sniffing dogs, mirrors to look under your car, and tow trucks. Most do nothing but wave their arms incessantly, blow their whistle, and yell at you to move your car. I still haven’t developed the knack for picking up someone while the car is still moving. I guess I need more practice.

So, do I see anything “suspicious” at the airport? You tell me.

First published: November 18, 2008

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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Posted in humor, Transportation, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

BUSINESS TRAVEL & CUSTOMER ENTERTAINMENT

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 13, 2016

BRYCE ON TRAVEL

– How to make it a beneficial experience.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

My daughter recently called me from Seattle where she was attending a week long seminar for her company. I asked her how it was going, to which she lamented, “Wow. All of this late night entertainment with customers is getting old. It’s not like when I was in my twenties.”

I chuckled as nothing is like when we were in our twenties, when we had youthful energy and enthusiasm, and the sky seemed to be the limited. Over the last four decades I have done more than my fair share of customer entertainment, be it at home or abroad. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

First, recognize customer entertainment is an important part of sales and customer service. If you are trying to close a contract, a luncheon or dinner meeting may just be the ticket. However, this must be handled professionally and with finesse. Dress appropriately, not slovenly, and remember nobody is impressed by a drunken event, except for people in their twenties. If possible, invite and impress the spouse of your client who will help convince your contact what a great company you represent. If your waiter or waitress gave you good service, be sure to tip them generously. Now is not the time to appear as a skinflint.

In this day and age of political correctness, be careful to avoid sensitive subjects. Interestingly, when I travel overseas, people want to know about American politics and I normally oblige. I spent three weeks in Saudi Arabia years ago, and we frequently spoke about politics which my client found stimulating. We didn’t agree on everything, but we came to understand each other’s point of view and built trust.

When you are on the road, particularly overseas, it is easy to lose track of time and news. Make time. Keep abreast of current events so you appear knowledgeable and develop your conversation skills. Also, try to stay on your home time zone if possible, it will make the return trip easier for you.

Very important: Learn to pace yourself. No, you do not have to have a drink every night. If you do, the client may think you are nothing but a souse. There is nothing wrong with a soft drink or iced tea. Also, learn to substitute apple juice with whiskey as it looks the same, as does club soda and lime which looks like a gin/vodka tonic. And be sure to just sip it, do not gulp. If you do it properly, people will think you are a social drinker and can handle your liquor.

Adapt and acclimate to the local culture. In other words, roll with the punches. Try the local cuisine. Who knows, you might learn something new. You can always have a Big Mac when you get home. As for me, I always try the local Chinese food.

As a traveler, be organized and always think of a backup plan should something go awry, such as forgetting paperwork or your graphic presentation. Either keep such things on a flash drive or on the Internet where you can access it.

One last note, follow-up with the client immediately following the trip, such as a thank you note, writing a report, or whatever. Do not wait, get it done now, such as while you are traveling home on the airplane. Clients appreciate the personal touch.

No, we cannot stay in our twenties forever, but with a little common sense, we can make business travel and customer entertainment less of a hassle, and more of a beneficial experience.

Also published with News Talk Florida.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS – Much ado about nothing.

LAST TIME:  MEGA FOOD STORES  – What ever happened to the corner grocery store?

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific); and WWBA-AM (News Talk Florida 820). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Business, Management, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ANGERS AWEIGH; CUSTOMER SERVICE AT SEA

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 27, 2016

BRYCE ON CUSTOMER SERVICE

– Losing your cool at sea is not conducive for relaxation.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

We went on another ocean cruise over the holidays. It has become somewhat of a family tradition with us. This time we tried a Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) ship, “The Spirit,” out of Port Canaveral, Florida for a week long tour of the Eastern Caribbean, a favorite of ours. Unfortunately, this turned into a bad experience and I will never recommend NCL to any of my friends. I have been on many different ships and cruise lines, but this, to me, was the worst I ever experienced. The stops along the way were fine, the room a tad smaller than normal, but we could live with it, and the food can be described as mediocre at best. The real problem was customer service or the lack thereof. This went way beyond just bad service, it was gross incompetence. The only person who seemed to know what he was doing was our cabin steward. However, the bartenders, waiters, and the maitre d’s turned this into a horrible experience, and frankly gave the appearance they couldn’t care less. Let me give you some examples:

First, prior to the cruise, I had ordered and paid for a couple of bottles of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries for our cabins as part of our “bon voyage.” Unfortunately, they were never delivered by the staff, even though I called room service twice to check on the order. Perturbed, the next day I went to the front desk and asked for a credit to my account. The clerk, a young woman from Croatia, looked at me as if I had three eyes. She said the items were still to be delivered. I told her she obviously didn’t understand what a “bon voyage” gift meant, and demanded my money be refunded. I was informed it would take two weeks to issue the credit which I thought was rather unusual; NCL was quick to take my money to make the purchase, but slow to issue a refund. Interestingly, on the third day of the cruise, room service knocked on our cabin door with the champagne and strawberries. They obviously missed the memo and we told them to get lost.

The next incident was staged at one of the ship’s many bars, a small one with about ten stools, of which my son and I sat along with an Englishman we met. Two bartenders were actively taking orders and serving customers, except us, and we sat directly across from them. I leaned over to my son and the Englishman and said, “Let’s see how long they neglect us; let’s wait fifteen minutes and see what happens.” Again, the bartenders were directly across the bar from us. Fifteen minutes came and went with no service whatsoever, and my Scottish blood began to boil. I then got up, slapped my hand on the bar and loudly said, “What in the world is the matter with you two; are you stupid? We’ve been waiting here for fifteen minutes and you don’t even look up at us to ask for our order? Are you stupid?”

They both jumped back surprised and said, “Oh sir, you should make a sign to request service.”

“You want a sign? Well here it is,” and I took off my hat and waved it in their faces, “Here, we want service!” And they finally got our drinks. I have to admit I was explosively angry causing a stir in the bar, but the Englishman commented I was justified in my outburst.

When I turned 60, I made a pledge to myself there would be “No more games,” meaning I would no longer tolerate incompetence. Whereas over the years I was taught to be patient, courteous and wait my turn, I learned people charged with customer service will abuse such people and take them for granted. In other words, patience and manners comes at the cost of being treated badly. If you wait your turn, you will likely lose it to another obnoxious lout. So, I decided to fight fire with fire, thereby employing the axiom, “The Squeaky wheel gets the oil.” However, on an ocean cruise, the intention is to have passengers relax, not erupt into anger and upsetting everyone concerned, particularly the disgruntled passenger.

Part of the problem is the NCL adopted a policy of automatically including an 18% gratuity into every cocktail or item you buy on board. The ship’s crew takes this for granted thereby becoming apathetic towards the passengers. In other words, the passengers are automatically tipping the servers for both good service and bad.

There were many other problems along the way, such as having our luggage delivered to our cabin very late, meaning we couldn’t clean up before dinner, elevators were constantly dirty, as were tables in the casino and bars. Half empty glasses, ashtrays and debris were everywhere and nobody seemed interested in cleaning them up.

When I happened to mention this to some of the other passengers, they too were in agreement the service was rotten. Some claimed to have cruised on other NCL ships and experienced satisfactory service, totally unlike what they found on “The Spirit.”

This cruise had an adverse affect on me causing me to redefine an Ocean Cruise as “a journey at sea with incompetent service, unsanitary conditions, mediocre food, and traveling with people you would normally not be seen with.” All because of incompetent customer service.

So, why does NCL allow this ship to get into such a condition? Blame should obviously be pinned on management where the officers accept inferior workmanship, and have allowed the crew members to take passengers for granted, probably because of their policy of including gratuity into every bill, large of small. Beyond this, I believe society has been trained to accept incompetence as a natural part of our existence. Instead of complaining, we tend to roll with the punches and accept whatever the vendor is willing to give us, good or bad. To me, this is indicative of a decay in our culture where we used to work harder to please customers knowing this would result in references and repetitive business. A little customer service would have gone a long way to alleviate the problem. Evidently, NCL no longer cares.

As for me, I did not like having to create an ugly scene, it was unsettling. Shortly after returning home, one of my friends observed I looked more agitated than relaxed. It was obvious the cruise did not agree with me. This is why I will not cruise with NCL again. It was such a toxic experience, I may give up cruising completely, regardless of the line.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2016 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE NEED FOR CONCEALED WEAPONS CLASSES – Why it should be considered mandatory to attend such classes.

LAST TIME:  UNDERSTANDING THE TRUMP PERSONALITY  – People simply do not understand the “Type A” personality.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Business, Transportation, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

OUR FASCINATION WITH TRAINS

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 13, 2015

BRYCE ON TRAINS

– How we perceive our trains is how we perceive America.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Many years ago when I was a lad, my friends and I would put pennies on railroad tracks. We would hide and wait for a massive freight train to flatten them into a shiny, paper-thin strips of copper with Lincoln’s face still visible. We would then have a lucky token or something to exchange, such as for baseball cards or candy. Thus began my love affair with trains.

During the early 1960’s, my father commuted by train from Connecticut to Manhattan. If we wanted to go into the city, the New Haven Railroad was the sensible alternative to driving. This was my first train ride which I found fascinating as do most children on their first trip. I remember it was comfortable and very scenic. We moved away from Connecticut in 1965, and the New Haven RR filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter.

Since then, I have traveled on a wide variety of trains of different makes and models. In Chicago, the North Western RR was a commuter service to and from downtown. It would stop at Arlington Park, a well known horse track, where executives could catch the last few races of the day and have dinner. We would also take the North Western to Wisconsin for skiing trips. It played an important role in the lives of the residents of Chicago. After we moved from Chicago, the North Western also was shut down and replaced by the Union Pacific.

I have also had the pleasure to ride on Japan’s Shinkansen or “Bullet Train” which reached speeds over 100 mph as I traveled between Tokyo and Osaka. It was clean, comfortable, and an enjoyable way to see the Japanese countryside. A few years ago, we took Alaska’s Denali Star Line from Denali State Park to Fairbanks, an enjoyable ride inside double-deck dome cars, which made for a picturesque viewing of the Alaskan wilderness. I have also been on many subways, including the London Underground (also known as the “Tube”), as well as in Japan, New York, Philadelphia, and the “L” trains in Chicago. I have also had the pleasure of riding the legendary San Francisco Trolley Cars which are not trains in the strictest sense, but an enjoyable ride nonetheless.

Trains used to define America. They criss-crossed the nation as the primary form of transportation for many years. During times of war, troop trains moved soldiers throughout the country and was symbolic of the greatness of our country and its unity. Trains bore proud names like The Zephyr, The Hiawatha, The Chief, and The Comet, all before political correctness caught on. Sleeper cars were comfortable and clean, if not a little cramped. Dining cars served good food and drinks. Massive train stations became the busy hubs of cities, all designed as architectural wonders. went to the station not just to travel, but to eat, drink, talk business, and pickup the latest newspaper. However, this all began to fade away with the rise of automobiles and airplanes after World War II.

Since 1971, the country has relied on Amtrak, a publicly funded passenger service managed as a for-profit business. The American taxpayer has been funding Amtrak on an average of $1.4 billion per year. In other words, it cannot stand on its own feet. When you compare it to domestic airlines and bus services, Amtrak earns twice the amount of revenue per passenger mile, and consumes much less energy to operate. Only the airlines have a better safety record. Regardless, it cannot survive without the support of the taxpayer.

I have never traveled on Amtrak personally, but several friends have told me of their experiences, which weren’t exactly glowing. Nonetheless, Amtrak continues to modernize in order to compete by including such things as free Wi-Fi on board, e-ticketing to compete with the airlines, and powerful new GE locomotives. Despite all this, Amtrak suffers from an image problem. If you are interested in traveling around the USA, your first inclination is to consider the airlines, then the Interstate Highway System, and finally Amtrak. Service, reliability, on-time performance, safety and price is what Americans consider when it comes to transportation, not to mention a financially sound operation.

In Florida, we recently shelved the idea of creating a passenger train system which would unite the major cities. Frankly, the people liked the idea in theory, but realized it would be cost prohibitive to implement with little in return on investment. Other states have also considered such massive projects. I believe people are attracted to such endeavors not so much for practicality, but as a fond reminder of a bygone era and our love affair with the train.

I believe our fascination with the train is because we perceive it as this massive and powerful locomotive, followed by several cars for passengers or freight, a complicated piece of equipment consisting of millions of parts, making it a marvel of engineering and transportation. Yet, to me, despite its strength and complexity, it is a thing of beauty, sleek and elegant, a real athlete. It reminds me of a thoroughbred race horse like the late great Secretariat, an animal you were simply in awe of. I believe this is how a lot of us look at trains, making each journey an interesting ride.

Our fondness for trains is so great that toy trains are still a favorite, especially during Christmas time. Kids love them, even to this day. I still have our Lionel train set from the 1950’s. Whenever I set it up around the Christmas tree, I vividly remember how much I played with it as a child, not just because it was a toy, but because it was a train, a symbol of strength and beauty. The train set still works as well as it did 60 years ago, maybe because I keep it safely wrapped up in its original packing. It may not be as glitzy or combative as a computer game, but it is a gentle reminder of the greatness of trains and our love affair with them.

Although trains have experienced a decline in this country, I cannot imagine America without them. The sound of its horn, the rhythm of the tracks, the comfort and service of the cars, and the majesty of the beast itself is how I perceive trains, and an iconic reflection of our country.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  DRIVING CIRCLES AROUND DISNEY – How a seemingly easy drive turned into a nightmare.

LAST TIME:  CHINESE FOOD SAMPLER  – Chinese food says a lot about the local area.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Transportation, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

THE MOST STRESSFUL PLACE TO LIVE?

Posted by Tim Bryce on October 23, 2013

BRYCE ON TAMPA BAY

– Is the Tampa Bay area as bad as it is being labeled?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

The Tampa Bay area was recently distinguished as “the most stressful place to live in America” by Bert Sperling’s “Best Places” of Portland, Oregon. The company compiles and analyzes data on people and places which is quoted in magazines and used to assist people in finding a suitable place to live. When I recently mentioned our ranking in a local Internet discussion group, several people became offended and jumped to the defense of our area. So much so, I began to examine how Sperling calculated the rankings. Actually, there were several factors considered, all based on data derived from 2012:

Divorce Rate – according to Sperling, at 12.3% we are second to Las Vegas. I know we have a ton of divorce lawyers in our area, but I never realized it was such a big problem.

Commute Time – how much time we spend in traffic can definitely add to stress, particularly if people are texting as opposed to driving. Sperling reports 28.3 minutes for TB; Index Muni reports 23 minutes in Pinellas, 25.6 in Hillsborough. The real problem here is not distance but rather our traffic lights which were programmed by some clod in the Department of Transportation. They’re so long, most people fall asleep while waiting for them to change.

Unemployment Rate – Sperling lists us at 11.2% for 2012, but both Pinellas and Hillsborough were no higher than 9.5% last year and is currently at 6.5%

Violent crime rate – In checking FBI Violent Crime stats, the Tampa Bay area committed 3,148 violent offenses which pales in comparison to Orange County (Orlando) at 5,325, and Miami-Dade at 6,913.

Property crime rate – FBI stats show Pinellas/Hillsborough with 26,506 offenses which is less than Orange County at 27,348, and Miami-Dade at 44,395. Interestingly, the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas were listed below Tampa Bay in the FBI reports, but not Los Angeles.

The Sperling report also claimed to take into consideration:

Suicide rate – In 2012 suicide was the 8th leading cause of death for Floridians (whereas it is 10th in the USA) – source: FSPC.

Mental health (days per month with poor mental health, from an annual CDC survey) – 3.5 days for Floridians; however, many other states were higher: AL, AR, AZ, IN, LA, MI, MO, MS, OK, WV.

Poor rest (days per month without adequate restful sleep, CDC survey) – Florida ranges from 13-19% who do not sleep well, which is high.

Alcohol use (drinks per month, CDC survey) – couldn’t verify.

Cloudy days annually – according to Weather Today, Tampa averages 121 cloudy days (101 days of sunshine), compared to Buffalo with 208 cloudy days, 132 for New York City, and 176 for Chicago. By comparison, we do not look too bad.

Of the 50 major metropolitan areas in the study, Florida had six entries which all rated highly:

1 – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater
3 – Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall
4 – Jacksonville
6 – Orlando-Kissimmee
10 – West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach
11 – Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield

Interestingly, the big cities all ranked below Florida:

14 – Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale
16 – Chicago-Naperville-Joliet
23 – Philadelphia
27 – New York-White Plains-Wayne

It’s disturbing I couldn’t verify Sperling’s sources and the weighting factors used in its calculation. Tampa Bay is certainly not perfect but I hardly believe it to be the most stressful city in the country, as well as the other Florida metro areas mentioned in the report.

At the bottom of the list, and thereby being recognized as the “least stressful,” was the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area, a fine place which I have visited. Their forte is winter sports. Ours is great restaurants, year-round golf, beaches and parks, boating, fishing and water sports, but I guess Sperling has no interest in these variables. Maybe this is what chaffed the people in my discussion group and caused them to growl at the study. Then again, maybe they were just stressed out.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE FOUR DAY WORK WEEK – Is working at home a viable alternative to the office or just another perk?

LAST TIME:  IT’S ALL ABOUT TRANSACTIONS – Everything we do in systems and software involves the processing of transactions.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays, 6:00-10:00am Mountain), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Lance Tormey & Brian Teegarden (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Posted in Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

DO NOT USE TRAVELOCITY!

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 28, 2013

BRYCE ON TRAVEL

– Of course, if you can live without refunds and don’t mind talking to India…

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Not long ago I wrote about the perils of Travel Planning (July 14, 2013) where I described my displeasure with being forced to become a travel agent. I also described the problems with on-line discount travel agencies. Unfortunately, it took a turn for the worse recently.

A few months ago I booked a business trip to western New York through Tavelocity, complete with rental car and hotel room. When the trip fell through, I naturally contacted Travelocity to cancel my reservations. I had no problem cancelling the hotel and rental car via the Internet, but hit a brick wall when trying to cancel my airline reservation which, of course, was the most expensive part of the trip. I cannot remember the exact wording, but the web page indicated there was a problem with the cancellation. Naturally, I wanted to know why and called their toll free number. I was put on hold and waited my turn to talk to a customer service agent which I discovered was in India.

I do not have anything against the Indians offhand, but I experienced difficulty trying to understand the English dialect of “Apu”, and I suspect he had trouble understanding me as I had to repeat myself several times. I even called back a second time as I was unsure whether the first Apu understood my problem. Unfortunately, Apu2 was even worse than Apu1. The best I could understand from their yammerings was they were unable to issue a credit to my credit card. Instead, I had a credit against my Travelocity account whereby I would have to book another flight through them within one year. If I didn’t use it, I would lose the credit. I told Apu2 this was unacceptable and I would seek some other way to reclaim my money. Frankly, he was unapologetic, but I think he plain and simply didn’t understand my displeasure (or anything else I was telling him).

Since I didn’t receive satisfaction, I decided to write about it, so other consumers do not experience the same snafu I faced. It’s bad enough you cannot get your money back from Travelocity following a cancellation, but to make the consumer talk to customer service representatives who do not have a command of the English language adds insult to injury.

This was a horrible experience for me. I feel truly scammed by the company. Perhaps my only way out is to convince others not to use Travelocity. I may never get my money back, but hopefully I can convince others not to use them as well. Hopefully this will have an adverse effect on the Indian gnomes they use.

One thing is for sure, it will be a cold day in Hell before I use Travelocity again, and I will certainly think twice about using any other similar on-line discount travel agency. They all lost a lot of credibility with me on this one.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  MAKING YOUR PROBLEMS MINE – Where should the buck stop?

LAST TIME:  PRICE VERSUS VALUE – Are we really comparing apples to apples, or apples to oranges?

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays, 6:00-10:00am Mountain), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Lance Tormey & Brian Teegarden (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch, The Gentlemen’s Association, and throughout the Internet.

Posted in Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

PERSONAL PECCADILLOES

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 14, 2013

BRYCE ON FAMILY & TRAVEL

– Why we behave the way we do under close quarters.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas typically bring members of the family together, as does family vacations and anniversaries. Inevitably, family members open their homes and share quarters with loved ones traveling from out of town. Perhaps you’ll go home to see your parents and stay in your old room or stay with one of your siblings. Such close quarters are certainly appreciated, but they also have a tendency to drive people crazy, both the host and the guest, regardless how much we love our family.

As creatures of habit, we all have our own unique set of nuances we like to live by, particularly at home. Such habits may seem insignificant, but we begin to feel inhibited when we try to live in close quarters with someone else. In other words, we have to be on our best behavior and cannot truly relax as we normally would. To illustrate:

* Meal time can be awkward as people have different eating customs. For example, some people will eat a hearty breakfast, others something simple, and some not at all. Some like coffee, others want tea or just some juice of some kind. It all makes for some awkward moments for people in the kitchen. Some people like to eat strange snacks and consume beverages during off hours. What is normal to one person appears strange to others. The time at which we eat can also become an issue, as well as the types of food and restaurants we like. Trying to plan an evening dinner to accommodate everyone’s tastes and timetables can become as complicated as planning D-Day.

* In terms of bathroom decorum we have to observe different customs of using the shower, the “facilities,” towels and trash, and general cleanliness. Some people are slobs, others are neat freaks, neither of which are compatible.

* Even the act of washing clothes can become awkward. Some people like to wash small loads, others large. Then there is the matter of the water temperature and the amount of detergent to use. I realize it sounds rather petty, but such nuances drive some people crazy.

* Then there is the matter of what clothes to wear for certain occasions. Regardless of how old you are, your mother will inevitably comment, “You’re not going out dressed like that are you?” Even the comfortable clothes you want to wear around the house comes under scrutiny.

* Maintaining the bedroom can also become a problem. Some people like to live in pigpens, others are more tidy. Believe me, the differences between hosts and guests are considerable. Some hosts insist on sacrificing their own bedrooms to allow their guests maximum comfort. Inevitably, guests cannot relax in fear they may do something wrong in the inner sanctum, and hosts toss and turn uncomfortably on sleep sofas with metal bars sticking in their spines. It’s a no-win scenario no matter what you do.

* There are many other idiosyncrasies observed, such as talking too much or too little or at the wrong time, smoking, imbibing a drink, eating too much or too little, what you eat versus what you don’t, how you exercise (or not), how the coffee is made, what vitamins and medication you are taking, what you watch on television, what time you rise in the morning and retire at night, even how you drive your own car.

We all have unique peculiarities we like to live by and when we get together with family members we try to bite our tongues for the sake of harmony. However, I’ve observed some people are more accommodating than others. If you are the guest, you have to respect the wishes of your hosts, and; if you are the hosts, you have to tolerate the nuances of your guests. Compromise is the order of the day in such situations. You do not want to become an intruding pest regardless of the role you are playing.

In the end, we are all greatly relieved when the family disperses and everyone returns home. Guests are delighted to return to the routine of their own domain, and hosts are relieved to see their households return to normal.

We don’t really want to become pests to other people, but because of our peculiarities we cannot help it. Perhaps the worst thing though is to overstay your welcome and get under the skin of your family. If you are going to be in close quarters for an extended period of time, let me suggest you do it on neutral ground, such as in a hotel in another city, or on a cruise ship, where someone else will be charged with looking after your foibles. Otherwise, it is not uncommon for family members to start bickering among themselves, gossiping, and animosity inevitably grows into rage. This is why we should avoid “family” restaurants; there’s a fight at every table. Such is the price of our personal peccadilloes.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  MORE GOBBLEDYGOOK – I hear America talking.

LAST TIME:  BOXES OF RULES – Too many leads to a bureaucratic nightmare.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays, 6:00-10:00am Mountain), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Lance Tormey & Brian Teegarden (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch, The Gentlemen’s Association, and throughout the Internet.

Posted in Family, Social Issues, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

TRAVEL PLANNING

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 15, 2013

BRYCE ON TRAVEL

– I resent being turned into a travel agent.

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As we all know, travel has become a big headache. What was once considered an enjoyable part of business life is now looked upon with disdain. Today, travel planning is maybe just as difficult as the actual trip itself. In the old days, you would call either an in-house group or an independent travel agency to make arrangements. Actually, it was a rather painless process, but thanks to the Internet, we have all been turned into travel agents, and for some reason I liked it better the other way around.

I’ve booked reservations on the airlines, cruise lines, and hotels in the past with little difficulty, but it was only recently that I tried the on-line discount travel agencies (such as Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) but I cannot say I was pleased with the results. To illustrate, I was planning a trip up to New York City with my family; I had no problem picking an airline and hotel separately, but trying to find a combined discounted package presented me no end of grief. True, I could find some great rates, but I had trouble trying to find a flight that could accommodate my schedule or a room to suit my requirements. The combinations were simply overwhelming and difficult to wade through.

Wanting to know more about one package combination, I telephoned one of the agencies and spoke to a young person who could competently describe how to process orders on their site, but couldn’t answer my travel questions effectively. I came to the conclusion that trying to call the agencies was a colossal waste of time as they most likely want us to deal with a machine as opposed to a human being. I got the feeling there was only one guy working at the agency who was responsible for the care and feeding of the computers, dusting, and to occasionally answer the phone (I think the owners are located on an island somewhere in the South Pacific).

What we have here is another example of how technology complicates our life as opposed to helping it. What was once a relatively painless task has become laborious, particularly for those who do not know how to use a computer or the Internet.

Next up, finding tickets for a Broadway show on the Internet. Oh God, does it ever end?

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  GROCERY SHOPPING IS CHANGING – Another instance of how technology is altering our lives.

LAST TIME:  HEATED POLITICAL DEBATES – If you think political fighting is bad now, you don’t know your history.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays, 6:00-10:00am Mountain), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Lance Tormey & Brian Teegarden (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch, The Gentlemen’s Association, and throughout the Internet.

Posted in Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

EXPLAINING THE “QUEEN CITY”

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 31, 2012

BRYCE ON OUR CHANGING WORLD

– On the banks of the Ohio River: Cincinnati, the “Queen.”

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Prior to moving to the Tampa Bay area of Florida, I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for 17 years. During this period, I went to high school, graduated from college, and we started our business which we subsequently moved to Florida. Quite often I am asked to describe what life is like in the “Queen City,” representing the city’s nickname (“Queen City to the West” to be precise). I have lived in quite a few locations throughout the country, not to mention visiting many more, but Cincinnati was a unique experience that is difficult to describe; instead, you have an intuitive feeling that is difficult to articulate. Such is Cincinnati. There is just something “different” about it. It is certainly not like Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Akron, or any other city in Ohio. It is unique. For example, most cities have their airport near the downtown area; Cincinnati’s is across the river in Kentucky, not Ohio. The airport designation “CVG” doesn’t mean “Cincinnati Vicinity G???”, but “Covington” instead (Kentucky) thereby representing an interesting political chapter in Cincinnati’s history.

The city rests on the northern shores of the Ohio River in the Southwest corner of Ohio, adjoining Kentucky and Indiana making up the “Tri-State” area. It was settled in the late 1700’s, and it was a frontier town that made good. So good, it quickly became the crossroads of America, where settlers traveled through on their way to the western frontier. The city prospered so much in the early days, the federal government seriously considered moving the capitol there after the British burned Washington during the War of 1812, thereby eliminating the potential of attack by the sea. This, of course, never transpired but Cincinnati continued to grow nevertheless. By 1870 it represented the mean center of U.S. population. Today, the Queen City is strategically located within a 700 mile radius of two-thirds of the industrial wealth of Canada and the United States, making it an ideal locale for conducting business.

The city has a strong German heritage based on immigrants settling there and setting up shop. Breweries grew, shipping and manufacturing proliferated, and for a long time was called “Porkopolis” because of the pork processing plants there. Even to this day, Cincinnati’s strong work ethic, food, and general attitudes can be attributed to its German roots.

Seven hills surround the city making up a valley that traps pollutants and humidity, and explains why it has evolved into a “Sinus Gulch” where the inhabitants suffer from an annoying nasal “Sniff” heard throughout the day. During the summer, the weather can be stifling; in the winter, the valley can retain the cold. Spring and Autumn are perhaps the two most scenic and enjoyable seasons.

Cincinnati has a unique sight, sound, smell, and even taste to it. From an architecture perspective, the city has everything from massive mansions made of brick and hidden away in country settings, to simple turn-of-the century wooden structures with steep roofs and front porches that dominate the neighborhoods. Television is rather unique, or at least was a few years ago. Considerable television innovations originated from the Queen City and, for a long time, local talent dominated the channels with homespun humor and a blend of bluegrass and midwest music. Natives fondly remember people like Bob Braun, Paul Dixon, Bob Shreve, Glenn Ryle, and “The Cool Ghoul.” However, celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Jerry Springer, Doris Day, Roy Rogers, and the Clooney family all started here as well. Alas, the locals eventually gave way to national programming and the Cincinnati character faded from television screens. Fortunately, local radio stations still feature homegrown personalities.

Over the years Cincinnati has had many breweries due to its German heritage. One by one, they were all pushed aside by national brewers. Names like Burger, Hudepohl, Schoenling, and Wiedemannn slowly faded away. In terms of food, Cincinnatians enjoy their restaurants. Since there are no real glamor places to relax locally, particularly in winter, there isn’t much to do but tuck away the groceries. In addition to having some of the finest restaurants in the country, the fare is based on its “Porkopolis” past, featuring a variety of sausages, ribs, and a breakfast meat called “Goetta” which is similar to Philadelphia Scrapple, but made with pinhead oats instead. Cincinnati chili is also unique. Do not expect a bowl of hot spicy meat. Instead, it is served on a bed of spaghetti, with a layer of onions, a layer of kidney beans, and topped with a bed of grated American cheese.

Even driving around town is strangely different in Cincinnati. Instead of a cut-throat rush hour in the morning, Cincinnatians seem to just quietly go about their business in the morning and possess an intuitive understanding of every twist, turn, and back alley to be navigated in the city. It is also common to see motorists stop to give aid to other motorists in trouble.

What this all adds up to is a strong sense of neighborhood in Cincinnati which took me a long time to figure out. At first it seems elitist in nature. The citizens genuinely love their hometown, particularly their sports teams (e.g, the Reds and Bengals), local celebrities, and hometown boys and girls that make good on the national stage. It’s no small wonder many people grow up and never leave Cincinnati, nor understand why people want to leave. It’s very introverted in this regard. Should you move to the area, as we did many years ago, you must adapt to the culture for it will certainly not adapt to you.

Not surprising, Cincinnati is conservative in both its thinking and politics. They simply do not like to change. This has hurt them on more than one occasion, particularly the downtown area which has lost considerable business over the years to Northern Kentucky. When I return to my old neighborhood there, it is like time has stood still; nothing of substance has changed. I know where everything is and all of the names of the families. Although I’ve been gone for over a quarter of a century now, it is like I never left. Although it may take an act of God to implement a change to Cincinnati, such as a new building, road or restaurant, the citizens remarkably embrace it. On the one hand, Cincinnatians give the appearance of being “stick in the muds,” but on the other they are some rather creative innovators and inventors. In addition to television and radio, Cincinnati is home to massive jet engines, consumer products, machine tools, banks and insurance companies, and some rather impressive computer technology. Their strong and determined work ethic, coupled with a competitive imagination, and strategic location in the country to conduct business, makes Cincinnati a stable work environment.

As an aside, it is relatively easy to recognize a person from the Queen City. They will say “Please?” instead of “I beg your pardon?” or “Huh?” I haven’t heard this specific idiom used anywhere else in this context. Also, true native Cincinnatians tend to say “CincinnatAH” as opposed to “CincinnatEE.” It’s a dead giveaway as to their roots. “Sniff”.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
WASTING YOUR WRITE-IN VOTE – Now is not the time to be foolish with your vote.


Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays).

Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch and throughout the Internet.

Posted in Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

FLY FISHING IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 24, 2012

BRYCE ON OUR CHANGING WORLD

– Beware of hatchery fed trout.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I have been fortunate over the years to fish in a variety of locations throughout the country. You may remember me discussing my passion in “Fly Fishing at St. Timothy’s.” The last few years though I have primarily been concentrating on the streams in the picturesque mountains of western North Carolina or as it is better known down south as the “Florida Riviera.” While northern tourists come to Florida during the winter, Floridians tend to gravitate to the Carolinas and Tennessee for their getaways.

Unlike Florida which is an extremely flat state, North Carolinians build their homes in mountainous terrain that only a billy goat can navigate. Instead of placing their houses on level terra firma, the locals have a propensity for building them in the most awkward places possible. Driveways have steep inclines with twists and turns that would probably stump Harry Houdini. Despite this, during the summer months the foliage is in full bloom, a variety of butterflies start their mating ritual, soft breezes blow through wooden front porches, and the melodic sound of nearby mountain streams can be heard just about everywhere.

The streams themselves are shaded with cool, clear mountain water providing refuge for our adversary, the rainbow trout. In a way, they remind me of the streams in Connecticut where I grew up and would swim, fish, and make rock dams in the streams. The water was crystal clear and the cool waters felt delicious on a hot day. The rocks in the stream can be treacherous, so you are always mindful of wearing appropriate boots or water shoes to avoid slipping. In my case, I have some old mountain boots I like to wear with wool socks to keep me warm. They have served me well over the past twenty years, but this time I found they tended to weigh me down as I trudged in and out of streams. Frankly, I felt like I was wearing ten pound wingtips. I think it’s finally time to trade up to something lighter and more comfortable.

Some fly fishermen consider the sport an art form. As for me, I am there to fish, not to paint. True, I love to be out in the wild with my rod and reel, a good cigar, and no phones, but I tend to be more pragmatic about it. Fly fishing requires you to become a traveling salesman. If the customer doesn’t like your product, you have to either keep moving along and knock on another door or change the product on display. In less than sixty seconds I can determine if the fishing spot holds any potential. If it doesn’t, I move along or change my fly. Others can take what seems like an eternity to make up their mind; they may be persistent but rarely are they rewarded.

Although I have had success in the mountains in the past, on a recent visit I came up empty. So much so, I started to believe the North Carolina fish hatcheries had somehow trained the fish to ignore flies and, in a way, I was right. My friends and I heard the state hatcheries department had released some trout upstream from us and we eventually stumbled upon a half dozen of them in the clear waters. We then set about catching them as quietly as possible. One by one, we gently floated our flies just a few inches above their heads. They evidently were not impressed and ignored our advances. We then tried a variety of different flies, but to no avail. Becoming desperate, we started to try other methods to catch them, including spinners, plugs, a hook and worm, even a piece of beef jerky. Time and again, the result was the same: Nada. I would have even tried a small piece of Spam had it been available but I am certain it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, they just let it pass indifferently under their noses.

Later that evening, we came upon a native whom we explained our dilemma to. He was not surprised by our failure and even seemed to relish in our frustration. He then went on to explain how the state feeds the hatchlings which consisted of small pellets containing a tiny white grub or worm that emerges upon hitting the water. Frankly, we didn’t stand a chance. It was like stalking our prey with filet mignon when they had been weaned on Captain Crunch. Fortunately, we changed tactics and moved elsewhere, but it took us awhile to improve our disposition.

For three days, I clomped around the streams of western North Carolina, wearing clunky footwear and a fishing vest loaded with enough gear to equip a small RV. I am my own worst enemy in this regard. Between the slippery rocks in the stream, heavy equipment, and a growing case of arthritis, I discovered I was no longer as spry as I once was. Now and then, I would just stop and enjoy the calming and therapeutic effect of the cool waters which refreshed me. It was only on the last day of my trip did I shed myself of the gear, the ancient boots, and began to enjoy fishing again. “Simplify” was my mantra for the day which produced beneficial results. Instead of worrying about hatchery-fed fish, I concentrated on the basics. Like Willy Loman, I just knocked on a lot of doors and kept moving along enjoying the great outdoors.

North Carolina is a wonderful place to fish, you just have to be a little smarter than your adversary.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
PROVOCATION & THE OWS TAMPA – Tampa welcomes Occupy Wall Street to the RNC.


Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch and throughout the Internet.

Posted in Life, Sports, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

 
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