Archive for the 'travel' Category

No Place Like Here: Marfa, Texas

I took my first trip to Marfa this past spring with a buddy or two… and really liked it. Want to take my wife and kids back, to entertain the idea of moving there someday.

Found this video today, and totally reminded me why I love Marfa:

No Place Like Here: Marfa, Texas from Etsy on Vimeo.

[via Swiss Miss]

Out of Office Autoresponder template

I’m going out of town soon, and will be out for 10 days, and have no idea if I’ll have access to email or voicemail, so I researched out of office away messages and leaned heavily on Tim Ferriss’s “Best and Worst of 2007” to come up with something that I think works for me:

Hey, it’s John here –

I’m traveling on vacation and will return on Thursday, November 18th.

http://meetwith.me/johnengler < --- That's my schedule All email I receive between now and 11/18 will be ignored until I return, so if you have an emergency, please contact one of the following people accordingly: Jessie Traffic Issues [email protected] (Contact Jessie for ....) Jack General Business Development Issues [email protected] (Jack can triage pretty much any situation and get you in touch with the right people inside the company if it's not traffic related) Shannon Accounting Issues [email protected] (if you have an AR or AP issues, email Shannon, and she'll take care of you) My goal is to make sure I'm not totally overwhelmed playing "catch-up" when I return, and I can hit the ground running and give you the immediate attention you deserve when I get back. Please note that I won't be answering the phone while I'm out either. I appreciate your courtesy in advance and look forward to our paths crossing again after November 18th. Best wishes, John

Hoping that template will work for everyone that emails me!

I also used this auto-responder for my more personal email addresses:

Hey, it’s John here –

I’m traveling on vacation and will return on Thursday, November 18th.

http://meetwith.me/johnengler < --- That's my schedule All email I receive between now and 11/18 will be ignored until I return, so please resend your email after 11/18, if it's important. My goal is to make sure I'm not totally overwhelmed playing "catch-up" when I return, and I can hit the ground running and give you the immediate attention you deserve when I get back. I appreciate your courtesy in advance and look forward to our paths crossing again after November 18th. Thanks, John

Quick Note: LUV vs. AA pricing

I got an email from Southwest Airlines today, touting a sale to Las Vegas this spring. 50% off. That’s good!

I have a trip planned for Las Vegas from January 11 – 13, so I clicked the link. Read that their fare sale starts on January 13th, so I knew I wouldn’t get their fare sale prices, so I just searched their site for pricing on regular tickets (Southwest has always had great prices, so I figured I’d check them out).

Their search engine showed me that my round trip would cost me $700 or so… which is pretty rediculous for a flight a) to Las Vegas from Austin, Texas, and b) for any flight on Southwest anywhere…

So, I went to AA.com, and check American Airlines‘ prices for a flight on the same day. The result: $150 round trip.

Sold. Flight booked.

See you in Vegas at Affiliate Summit West 2009, if you’re going (and if you’re not, you should think about it – it’s one of the best performance marketing shows out there, and it’s run by the two best people in trade shows today: Shawn Collins and Missy Ward).

Plans for AdTech San Francisco

This isn’t my whole schedule for AdTech, but it is my plan for the conference sponsored things:

http://adtech-sf08.sched.org/johnengler

I’ll also be working our booth on the trade show floor. Look for me, if you’re there.

Do you remember dial up speeds?

With today’s wireless availability and fast ethernet connections to the internet virtually available everywhere I have totally forgotten how painful the internet was with dialup access… but, right now, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco that of all things doesn’t have wifi (not even paid wifi) using by Verizon 3G wireless modem thingy, and the speeds on it are so painfully slow it’s taken me 5 minutes to load a web page in salesforce.com … ugh… I think I’m getting up to go find a Starbucks.

I’ll be at MacWorld this year

I’ll be at MacWorld this year on Tuesday for about an hour… maybe two…

I just happen to have a business trip to San Francisco to meet with a few potential clients on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the only flights we could get that weren’t ridiculously expensive was the 6 a.m. Nerd Bird from Austin to San Jose on Tuesday morning, and our first meeting isn’t until 3:00 (the prospect moved it back from 1:00) so… I now have a few hours to kill. What better way to do that than to stroll through the Moscone after the keynote?

(Oh, and I’m going to purposefully leave my personal credit cards at home for this trip).

I haven’t worked for MacNN since 2001, so it’s been at least 6 or 7 years since I’ve been to a MacWorld… looking forward to it, and not having to work it this time šŸ˜‰

And maybe, just maybe, one of my old contacts will hook me up with an invite to a party or two. Jason? Misha? Monish? anyone got an extra invite to the fun stuff on Tuesday night?

Annoying Customer Satisfaction Surveys

I travel a lot for work. A lot.

That means I stay at lots of hotels. And rent cars. And take lots of flights…

And I really hate getting customer service satisfaction surveys from these companies. You know why? Because I don’t get anything out of taking the survey. Ever.

Here’s an example:

From: [email protected]
Subject: Your recent stay at Doubletree
Date: May 22, 2007 3:10:29 AM CDT
To: John Engler

Dear John Engler,

We were delighted to serve you during your recent stay at Doubletree. We realize that you have a choice in hotel properties, and we appreciate your business.

As a valued HHonors member, your feedback is important to us. We invite you to take a few minutes to complete a survey about your stay at Doubletree Washington, where you checked out on May 18, 2007.

To view the survey, please click on the web address below. If that does not work, please copy and paste the entire web address into the address field of your browser.

http://doubletree.medallia.com/H.pl?b=1&ID=12345678&lopt=eng

Your comments are very valuable to us, and we look forward to hearing about your stay with us.

Sincerely,

Dave Horton
Senior Vice President
Doubletree

Gee, thanks Dave. Note very valuable to us. Emphasis is mine above. How valuable are they Dave?

I ask, because your stupid survey will take me 7-10 minutes to complete, according to your survey intro page:


Seven to ten minutes ?!?!?! Give me a break!

Do you know how busy I am? Can you compensate me for my time to take this survey? Give me some extra airline miles, or hotel points, or car rental credits? Maybe upgrade me to the next level of your loyalty program for my next stay at your hotel, or give me an upgrade if you’re an airline, or a car rental company?

I’m asking for this compensation because I’ve a) already paid you a lot for the hotel room that I stayed in from midnight (late flight) until 7 a.m. You already charged me $6 for the bottle of water I drank, and $4 for the snickers bar I ate (because there wasn’t a restaurant in the hotel), and b) 10 minutes of my time is worth a lot to me.

Make it worth it to me to fill out this survey and I’ll do it. Otherwise, if I had a problem at the hotel, I already dealt with it with the hotel manager on duty… and he probably got yelled at in the lobby in front of all your other guests.

If you really want my feedback, make it worth it for me to give it to you.

(And yes, I got this same survey form from Avis for this most recent trip, and the same comments apply to them too, and to every other hotel that’s ever asked me for my comments).

If you really want my feedback, compensate me for my time somehow.

Airport Wireless Guide

Airport Wireless Guide – Great guide to airport wireless access. I’ve been looking for this for a long time.

(0)

good morning

Ugh. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sitting in an airport at 6:05 am, after getting up at 5, so you can get on a plane at 7. I didn’t have any problems going through security this morning with my laptop, digital SLR or iPod, but I don’t have any deodorant or hair gel anymore.

You know, some enterprising entreprenuer should offer deodorant and hair product and makeup inside the security zone of airports. Call the store: “the stuff you want but can’t hav” or “Contraband”. I bet they’d make a killing.

I love Rocketboom

After spending greater than 5 hours on a plane today, I gotta say this:

I LOVE ROCKETBOOM!

Yes. I do.

I started watching Rocketboom very infrequently about a year ago, then I bought an iPod Video (after losing my iPod nano) and that made it easy to watch videos when I was on the road traveling.

Right now, I’ve got a good 30 episodes of Rocketboom in iTunes that hadn’t been watched as of this morning… but I’ve watched 10 or so of them on my flights… love it, love it, love it. (I really only watch Rocketboom, or listen to podcasts in general for that matter, when I’m on a flight or in the car for longer than 5 minutes – no I don’t drive and watch Rocketboom on my iPod at the same time)

Thanks Amanda and Peter. Keep it up!

Oh, and I loved the TRM advertisements you made… very cool and fun. Think they’d sell me one? Who do I call? I need an ATM for the kitchen… I’ll put it right next to the microwave.

Love it when you use the word “verily” makes me think of Emily Bronte.

Lots of States


create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

10 Tips for Flickr

Thomas Hawk’s Top 10 Tips for Getting Attention on Flickr – and to take one of his pieces of advice… You can see some of my photos from our recent cruise in my Flickr photostream.

(0)

A few tech notes from the cruise

A few technical notes from the middle of nowhere on our cruise:

  • I need a new laptop for the powerbook. Seriously. 50 minutes from charge to dead is unacceptable.
  • I should carry a small firewire drive with me all the time. The 30 GB iPod doesn’t count (it’s full of shit anyways)
  • I need a faster set of CF cards for my Canon D60.
  • I need a better batter charger for the laptop and accessories.
  • Bring a power strip with you on a cruise. You’ll need it. Your room will probably only have one 3-prong 110 volt outlet.
  • Next time, take a cell phone with internet access that can talk to my powerbook via bluetooth … wireless is expensive on board

More later. We’re having fun. Should be home by Sunday.

Guanajuato, Mexico

I went to Guanajuato, Mexico this summer to attend a wedding, and I fell in love with the city.

Because I had to much fun there this year, I bought the domain ExpoloreGuanajuato.com, fully intending to build it out into a full-service information site about GTO… but I haven’t had the time, so, I’m finally adding some spares information as I find it.

In case you’re wondering, Guanajuato, Mexico is a great place to visit… a little rough in parts (unlike Cancun or Cabo) but still very romantic at times and lots of fun. It’s the state capital of the state of Guanajuato, full of Catholic cathedrals, and a fun place to spend a week, if you’re into the “off the beaten path” trips.

Look for more information from ExploreGuanajuato.com in the future.

If you go there now, you’ll find a quick guide to GTO, and some great photos we took while there…

Forget your cell phone charger in Vegas?

I flew to Vegas the night before last (I had an appointment with a potential client this morning)… I was staying at the Flamingo Casino. Woohoo! Casino!

I got to my hotel around 4:00 p.m. Pacific, checked in, changed, and headed to the casino floor. After walking around a bit, and eating at Caesar’s Palace, I headed back to the Flamingo. (I’ve been sick recently, as has the 10 month old, so I was tired). I pulled out $20, sat down at a roulette wheel, and proceeded to order a scotch on the rocks. I then lost my $20 in the time it took for the waitress to bring me a drink.

I took my $20 scotch to the bar, and decided to buy my drinks outright for the rest of the night… it was cheaper: only $4.50 a drink.

Anyways, I turned in relatively early, got up this morning, went to my appointment (which went well) and headed back to the casino to make a conference call with some folks on the east coast. At this point, I realized that my cell phone was almost dead.

So, I looked in my little iGo bag, to find the cell phone charger part of it, and realized I’d left it at home.

I fretted… I was going to have to drop out of the conference call (not good when you’re discussing legal terms with a client). Then I thought about asking some of the folks working the front desk, in case one of them had a Nokia cell phone… Angel, the girl that helped me check-in the day before said “yes, we have lots of chargers” and she then produced a box full of cell phone chargers and computer cables and chargers…

Duh.

I didn’t think about their lost and found. They had about 200 odd chargers in that lost and found box. The first one we pulled out fit my phone, and I made my conference call… it lasted one hour and twenty minutes…

So, if you forget your cell phone charger, check with the lost and found at the nearest hotel’s front desk… I bet they’ll have one that’ll work with your phone. At least they will in Vegas.

Two in One Day?

Delta and Northwest file for bankruptcy. Two in one day? This won’t be good for the markets tomorrow…

Cannot import vCalendar file.

WTF?

I downloaded a vCalendar file from the Hilton website onto my Powerbook, after booking a hotel room.

I then emailed the vCal file to my WindowsXP machine. I saved the file to my desktop, then doubleclicked it to open it in Outlook and save it. I got this error message:

Cannot import vCalendar file errort message

Here’s the transcript of the discussion I had with my WindowsXP box:

self: Hmmm…
self: So, I can’t import the file. Okay.
WindowsXP: “… recurring Lunar appointment …”
self: What is that?
WindowsXP: “To avoid this error, set the appointment option to Gregorian instead of Lunar.”
self: Ok, I’ll do that (why am I wasting my time with this crap?) Let’s click the “More information…” link to see if we can find a way to do that in Windows.

So, I click the link.

And after about 2 minutes, I get this error:

Can't find watson.microsoft.com.

WTF?

Why can’t a Windows error message contain a link that works?

So, I go to Hilton.com, check my reservation and download the vCalendar file again straight into Outlook from there. I don’t have time to troubleshoot this crap.

That’s the anti-thesis of the Macintosh “It just works” mantra.

Birraporetti’s

Just taking the opportunity to point out one of my favorite italian restaurants in Houston, Texas (I’m going to eat lunch there next week) to the good folks out there on the internet.

Birraporetti’s used to be a place my dad took my kid brother and I when we were really young to have Shirley Temple and Roy Roger’s drinks… it was always a treat, and lots of fun.

I’ve rediscovered Birraporetti’s again in the past 6 months, and I have to tell you that I still love it… it still reminds me of those old days, and serves great food and drinks.

If you’re in Houston looking for a good place to eat in downtown Houston, stop by Birraporetti’s .

Thank you for the coffee

I got up this morning at 5:15 (at least 15 minutes later than I should have gotten up) and started getting ready to get on a plane. My flight was scheduled for 6:30 a.m. and I needed to leave the house by 5:30. I was running slow this morning…

I didn’t leave the house until 5:45. I got to the airport and parked at 6:03. I got inside to the ticket counter and told the clerk that I needed to get on my 6:30 flight. She didn’t look happy.

She said “I don’t think I can get you on the flight” and then picked up her little walkie-talkie to ask the guy at the gate if I could still board. He didn’t answer her… not good.

So, I asked her to just give me a ticket for the plane, and I’d run all the way there. She said she’d try.

Ticket in hand, I rushed to the security check-point. Bad news: There were at least 30 people in front of me. It was 6:21. I decided to get to the front of the line quickly, so I started asking each person in line if I could cut, so I could catch my 6:30 flight. Thankfully, each person let me cut, so that I was at the front of the line within a minute.

I started unpacking my laptop and the entire flight crew for another United plane started cutting in front of me. I let two of them by, then I told the third one (there were 6 total) that I needed to catch a plane, and that I’d appreciate it if they didn’t cut in front of me. She aquiesced, and I got to go through security pretty quickly.

I then ran to the last gate in the terminal (United has crappy gates in Austin). Huffing and puffing, I was berated by the gate attendant, and I took the beating quite humbly. The gate attendant told me that I was only getting on the plane because the 1st Officer decided to get a cup of coffee. I smiled and asked him if I could by the 1st Officer his coffee. He told me to take it up with him… which was funny, because the 1st Officer was just walking up. I took out $2 and gave it to the 1st Officer. He got a kick out of that, and we boarded the plane.

I took my seat after cramming my bag into the overhead bin, and we got underway. I have never been so thankful to get on a plane as I was this morning.

Ding!

Ding! is dangerous. Very Dangerous.

Ding! is Southwest Airlines latest push into the consumer’s life. It’s a desktop application that alerts you to Southwest’s latests travel deals, and it’s wonderful marketing.

This is user invited desktop travel advertising at it’s best folks. I trust Southwest because I’ve never had a bad experience with them. Ever. I downloaded the application because I trust Southwest. I bought 2 tickets on Southwest based on today’s “Ding! deal” that I probably wouldn’t have bought other-wise (we’d have driven) within 20 minutes of downloading the application.

Do not download it, if you like to travel, but don’t like to spend money.

Great job Southwest.

Ding!

I’m a geek

I can now define myself as a geek, all thanks to Kasia:

” • Instead of sitting and eating in an airport, like the rest of the population, you walk around until you can spot a power socket.”

Last night at Chicago Midway while waiting 2 hours for my flight, I walked around the terminal looking for a power outlet. There were two in the vicinty of the four gates I was close to. Two power outlets in the whole damned place… why? And they were on the wall, no chairs in sight. So, I stole a chair from behind an unoccupied gate desk, and proceeded to juice up my laptop while checking email.

Yes, I’m a geek.

Are you a geek? If you meet one of the criterian on the rest of her “You know you’re a geek when…” list, then you are.

Airlines are Stupid

Since ATA filed for bankruptcy today [more], I figured this was a timely post.

Yesterday, I booked an appointment with a client in Moline, Iowa. I did so yesterday because the airplane tickets were anywhere from $600 – $700 to a direct flight to and from Austin to Chicago, and I can drive to Moline easily. I booked the appointment yesterday and didn’t think about booking the plane tickets until today when I confirmed the appointment (who buys refundable tickets today anyways).

Well, this morning I logged onto AA.com and low and behold, the tickets were $1,200… more than double what they were yeterday. So, I logged onto Orbitz: same thing. Expedia: same thing. United.com didn’t have any better prices and Southwest Airlines doesn’t get to Chicago early enough for my appointment. Rather than check all of the other airline’s websites I called my friendly local travel agent.

The travel agent took the time to listen to what I needed, understood I was willing to spend up to around $700 for the tickets if she could get that for me, and understood when I needed to get there and when I wanted to get home.

She called me back in 30 minutes with a few options in the $700 range, and we finally booked an itinerary that’ll work. Now here’s where the “Airlines are Stupid” part comes in:

Preface: Realize that the airfare-only part is now ‘valued’ at $1,200 from the airlines at this point (according to their websites).

So, my itinerary now looks like this:

1. Last Minute Travel Deal: Austin to Chicago
   a. Departing Austin on 10/28 at 6:00, arriving in Chicago at 8:30 (when I need to be there).
   b. Departing Chicago on 10/31 at who cares what time…
   c. Includes a rental car (that I won’t be using)
   d. Price: $350 or so

2. ATA flight from Chicago to DFW (no ATA’s bankruptcy filing doesn’t scare me for a flight I’m taking in a couple of days)
   a. One way ticket on the day I need to fly back, when I need to fly back
   b. Price: $150 or so

3. Southwest flight from Love Field to Austin
   a. One way ticket on 10/29 back home at 7:00 in the morning… won’t miss any work
   b. Price: $150 or so.

So, by not using over half of this stupid last minute deal (see item #1 above) I can get the early direct flight that I need from Austin to Chicago, and then combine it with an over-night layover in Dallas (which works because I have family there that I’d love to see) and I’m happy paying $700 for the trip. Now, realize that they have to pay the rental car company for that rental car I’m getting in 1.c. above. This is why the airlines are stupid. I was happy to give them $600 or $700 all for them, but no, by making the price of the trip $1200, they forced me to find a way around their pricing.

And I did.

And in the process, they lost money.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll point out that if I could guarantee I could make it back to the airport in Chicago by 5:00 or so, I could have flown home direct on Thursday, instead of spending the night in Dallas, but since I have family there, and I’d rather spend the night there than miss the flight out of Chicago, I’m more than happy to make that accomodation.

Airlines are stupid.

iGo Juice from Mobility Electronics is busted

I just sent this email to the customer service folks at Mobility Electronics:

TO: [email protected]
FROM: [email protected]
SUBJECT: Juice Problems
DATE: October 21, 2004

I bought a Juice product through Amazon.com about a year and a half ago, and lately I’ve noticed that it hasn’t been charging my laptop very reliably… then, today I plugged in my cellphone to it, and noticed that it wasn’t charging the cell phone, but that the cell phone was getting charged for a few seconds, then not, then was, then not, ad infinutum. So, I looked at the connections and the power brick piece, and the blue LED that indicates that the power brick is plugged in was blinking.

What should I do? Is the power brick busted? Can I buy a new one, or fix the old one?

I’m not looking for a total freebie here, though I didn’t expect a $120 power solution to break in a year, but I am looking for some guidance.

Thanks,
John

I’ll post an update when I hear back from them, but if you own a Juice power adapter, or buy an iGo, treat it gingerly… mine’s busted after a year and a half or so…

Funny thing is, I was just telling a buddy of mine at work how cool they are, and how useful they are for travel purposes… Just my luck it dies after I started evangelizing it.

Cheap Airfare to the Caribbean

American Airlines is offering some really cheap flights to the Caribbean. A couple of good deals for Texas travelers:

Some of the flights out of Miami, Tampa, D.C., Newark, and New York are really cheap too.

Make sure you check the restrictions on these flights, if you’re booking one:

  • Fares are round-trip for Economy Class travel and are nonrefundable.
  • Tickets must be purchased at least 7 days prior to departure or 1 day after reservation is made, which ever comes first, but no later than 11:59 pm (CT), March 24, 2004.
  • Fares are valid for departure April 1 through June 12, 2004. (Other travel dates may be available at different fares.)
  • Off-peak fares shown are valid for travel outbound Monday through Thursday and return Tuesday through Friday except for Central America.
  • A 3 day minimum stay is required.
  • For all travel, up to $18 USD per round-trip in local airport charges may be collected in addition to the advertised price.
  • Fares do not include a federal excise tax of up to $3.10 USD per each U.S. domestic flight segment of your itinerary. A flight segment is defined as one takeoff and landing.
  • Fares do not include September 11th Security Fee of $2.50 for each enplanement that originates at a U.S. airport, up to a maximum of $5 per one way or $10 per round trip.
  • Government taxes and fees of up to $125 USD, varying by destination, are not included, and may vary slightly depending on currency exchange rates at the time of purchase.

Thanks to Megnut for pointing this airfare sale out.

Planning a trip to Guanajuato, Mexico

The wife and I, along with several friends, are planning a trip to Guanajuato, Mexico soon.

We’re planning this trip for two reasons: 1) We need a vacation and 2) We’re seriously thinking of moving to Mexico in the coming years. I’ll not go into too much detail about reason #2, but will say only this: The ‘rat-race’ is getting tiring, and in Mexico they may be poor, but they’re generally happy.

We’re looking at Guanajuato as a place to get away to at the least because it’s a great old college town in the central part of Mexico. I’ve heard it referred to as one of those ‘un-discovered gems’.

Some of this pages I’ve found on the net are useful, but others are horrible at actually telling me anything about the town/region. And finding a page about the hotels in the city is just about impossible with Google… I ended up using Frommer’s to find most of the hotel information I could find, but even Frommer’s is horrible at giving more than cursory information. Heck, maybe I’ll start an internet tourism site just for Guanajuato some-day…

Anyways, here’s a few pieces I’d recommend people read if they’re looking to visit Guanajuato. Feel free to add your links in the comments:

Hotel Posada Santa Fe
Guanajuato Real Estate – useful in case reason #2 becomes a reality.
Official Government site
Photos from McNolo
Weather Underground Guanajuato Forcast
A good page on geocities about Guanajuato.
Google Guanajuato State Directory page
Map of Guanajuato from Frommers

A few more links:

VisitMexico.com (great informational site run by the Mexican Tourism Board)

The Cultured Traveler: Guanajuato: One of Mexico’s Colonial Gems
FoodandWine.com: Mexico’s Heartland | Guanajuato

Mexico Connect
TourbyMexico.com

Headed to San Diego

I’m heading to San Diego for the first time this week… NAA is hosting their Connections Conference there this year. Looking forward to meeting lots of folks and learning as much as I can.

Posting might be light this week.

Quick Links: 6 June

For the past week I’ve been pretty busy… here are a few things I’ve read recently and needed to blogmark:

MT Medic [via Pat Berry]

Interesting graph on SARS

Let’s Make a Cell-Phone Deal – I’ve done this. It works. More from ArsTechnica.

Working with Forms in PHP, Part 1 and Part 2. Great information on PHP and forms handling.

Great tutorial on Cookies and PHP.

Famous Fonts [via angiemckaig.com]

Upsell More [from XPlane]

Closing the Sale [from XPlane]

Increasing Customer Loyalty [from Xplane]

The Anatomy of a Style Sheet (brought to you at 37,000 feet courtesy of Net News Wire Pro’s caching of RDF feeds – Thanks Brent) Looks like a great start to a useful CSS tutorial… and something I can really use the help on learning.

Automating iPhoto 2 with AppleScript

Power Keys in Jaguar

Common Style Mistakes, Part 1

Papers written by Googlers

So Much for Economic Principle :: Apple Computer’s persistence defies the law of increasing returns.

A article on software development and the business side of it: Risky Business part 1, and part 2

home finally + Pictures of St. Maarten/St. Martin

We flew into Dallas late last night… Drove home to Austin this morning. Our vacation was fantastic.

I uploaded some photos from our trip here

I’ll post the 7 days of writing from our trip tonight. (posted the past 7 days of writing as if I posted them when they were written — see below — pretty boring reading, unless you’re planning on taking a trip to St. Maarten, but they’re at least posted)

Day Seven in St. Martin — Orient Beach and Phillipsburg

Monday was our last full day on the island, so we got up early and headed out to catch the ferry over to Pinel Island, since we hadn’t done that yet. We found the ferry to Pinel around 8:45 (this was a chore, since there aren’t any signs at the ferry telling you that you’ve found it… we ended up driving around the town of Cul de Sac before finally asking a postal worker, who told us where it was — we’d already been there and thought we were in the wrong place). We asked the men at the dock when the ferry was leaving for Pinel and the ferry man said “Well, it’s gonna be a slow day, so maybe not ’till 9:30, maybe later.”

The wife and I looked at each other and decided to head to Orient Beach. We spent the better part of the morning at Orient Beach, enjoying the sun and the surf. The term ‘clothing optional beach’ is true. We saw a few topless women, and a few fully nude women… most of them were semi-attractive, but the majority of them weren’t at all attractive. The fun part of the day was watching the wife react to the completely naked men walking down the beach… I got a kick out of her reaction… most of the time it was “ewe!”

You see, just because people can get naked on a beach doesn’t mean you want them to. Who wants to see 250 pound, 5’8″ men naked? And how about 55 year old European women who really don’t shave any part of their body anymore and have had gravity and poorly built bras working against them their whole life?

Ugh… or should I say Ugly…

After spending 3 hours baking in the sun (yes, my legs were quite burnt… should’ve put sun screen on the legs) we ate lunch at Kakao’s again, and then headed to Phillipsburg to shop…

We shopped for the rest of the day, trying to stay out of the sun, and picking up souveniers and gifts for friends back home.

Around 5:00 we retired to our villa to rest and clean up, and then we went to dinner at a place close to our villa on Pelican Key. The meal was so-so, but the service was horrible. Our waitress didn’t know what the specials were, and took a good long while between her visits to our table to check on us. We left as quickly as we could and walked back to our villa. (A little too much wine and rum punch).

We went to bed early, and savorerd the last night of sleep on the island.

Day Six in St. Martin — Relaxing at the Villa and Maho

On Sunday the 25th, we just sat around our villa and relaxed. We’d had enough of driving around the island, and wanted a little quite time to ourselves.

Around 9:00 p.m., we headed to the Maho Beach area, as it’s generally the night life part of the island. At first we headed to Bliss, then to Bamboo Bernies, but one was closed and the other wanted a $20 cover charge, so we went to the Sandy Beach Bar (right next to the airport landing strip). It was more of a meat market than a bar, and we didn’t want to hang out in a truly single’s club, so we walked up the hill to the more commercial part of Maho.

We walked the strip before being drawn into eating at Cheri’s Cafe. Cheri’s had live entertainment, which consisted of a local band. The band was really one guy playing two synthesizer keyboards, and 4 guys covering many different songs, but all with a regae flavor. It was a fun place with a fun atmosphere. When we were seated we were handed plastic little hand clappers so we could clap along with the beat, or applaud the artists.

After Cheri’s we walked though the Casino Royale, and decided to hang on to what little cash we had left (total out of pocket costs of the trip were in the $3,000 range at this point I think) and we went home for the night…

We stayed up late, watching the waves break on our beach, and drank rum and sprite on the porch…

Day Five in St. Martin — Anguilla and Marigot

We finally slept in a bit, or at least got a late start on the 24th.

We were planning on heading to Anguilla for the day, but didn’t arrive in Marigot (where one boards the ferry) until 10:00. It took us so long to get there because we sent postcards today to our loved ones back home, so, I spent the morning writing 10 postcards and addressing them… then it took us a good 20 minutes to buy stamps at the french post office because we got in the wrong line on accident.

After putting the cards in the mail, we realized we would be late for the ferry we were trying to get on, so we walked through downtown Marigot. There was a marketplace area set up, so we strolled through. (I was looking for a hat to replace the one I lost in the surf on Friday). The wife found a cute little outfit for $20.

We went to the ferry dock, and paid our $2.50 embarkation tax and signed up for the next ferry. We had 30 minutes until it left, so we toured the Mall of the West Indies… a very upscale mall built in 2000 in Marigot. The shops were quite charming… very French and very upscale. The prices weren’t outrageous though.

At 10:50 we boarded the ferry for Anguilla. The ride was fun, if a little bumpy. It took 18 minutes, and the seas were slightly choppy with swells in the 6-10 feet range.

Our ferry pulled into Blowing Point and we went through Anguilla’s immigration office (Anguilla is a British Island).

We we instantly accosted by the local taxi drivers, asking us if we needed a taxi. We, of course, needed one, as we had no car, and there were no rental agencies around… besides, we were told to just get a cab, because the driver would stick with us all day, and take good care of us. Our cab driver’s name was John Lake, and he drove an old Toyota mini-van with vinyl seats and doors on both sides of the van.

As we drove, Mr. Lake gave us the nickel tour of Anguilla, and told us a bit of the history of the island.

He dropped us off at Dolphin Fantaseas (near West End) on the west end of the island around 11:50 am. We checked in, paid our fee for swimming with the dolphins, and went to Corals, the restaurant next door for lunch.

Let me say this: The beaches in Anguilla are just breathtaking.

Corals overlooks a beach on the west end of Anguilla. We had a lunch consisting of pan-fried Grouper for myself and a Chicken Pita for the wife, on a terrace adjoining the dolphin ponds, overlooking a beautiful beach. The breeze was wonderful and the scenery was truly breathtaking.

After lunch, we went back to the Dolphin Fantaseas and changed in preparation for our little ‘swiming with the dolphins excusion’. I think we paid way too much to swim with the dolphins, but it was a lot of fun. We were treated to being able to swim with two fully grown dolphins, as well as a 5 month old baby dolphin that was born in captivity on December 26, 2002. He is the first dolphin born in captivity in Anguilla. It was pretty cool. The dolphin trainers tell us that many dolphin trainers don’t ever get the chance to swim with a baby dolphin. I honestly think it’s cruel that the dolphins are even in captivity in the first place.

After the dolphin experience, we were treated to an hour drive with Mr. Lake to Shoal Bay, which our local villa rental office personell had told us was the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean. The drive was quite educational. Mr. Lake is in his 60s, or so, and has live on Anguilla his whole life, so he knew the history of pretty much everything. It was neat learning from him, and well worth the price of the taxi service for the day. During the course of the trip we learned, for example, that the really old houses on the island are the two or three made of wood in the central city of the island. Those wooden houses were very rare because of the way a hurricane can wipe out just about everything on the island when it hits. He said that anyone on Anguilla that owns a wooden house has ‘plenty of money’.

We arrived at Shoal Bay around 3:30 pm, and were amazed by its beauty. Imagine clear crystal blue water streching as far as the eye can see, as well as bright white coral and shell beaches running to your left and right as far as you can see. Then add the impression of a small breaking wave about 100 feet out in the ocean due to a shallow corral reef, so that by the time the waves hit the beach, they’re quite pleasant, and not rough at all.

Then imagine beautiful bodies glistening in the sun in small pockets to your left and right, all soaking up the suns rays from a slightly cloudy sky.

You’re close to seeing Shoal Bay in your head.

Shoal Beach is the most beautiful beach in all the Caribbean.

We stayed at Shoal Beach until roughly 5 pm, and headed back to the ferry at Blowing Point, stoping once on the way to get some cash out of an ATM to pay for our cab ride and ferry ride back to St. Martin.

After returning to St. Marin, we went to Le Gaïac, which, we both agreed is the best restaurant we’ve visited on the island. The service staff was wonderful. The appetizers and entreés were deliecable, and the setting was quite “St. Martin”. Le Gaïac is a french restaurant in downtown Marigot, set on the Terrace of the West Indies Mall, which is on the north side of the Marigot Bay/Harbor. We watched the sun set behind a cloudy horizon while we dined on tasty dishes and sipped house wine (which rivaled most $20 bottles we’ve had at home). The dishes were the kind of dishes that you eat each bite, and chew as long as you can, because each time you chew, you bring out a different flavor that you don’t want to go away, but at the same time can’t wait for the next flavor to exude from the bite.

Le Gaïac truly is one of the best restaurant’s on the island. Be prepared to spend $200 for dinner though… it’ll be easy there.

After dinner, we retired to our villa for a quiet after dinner drink.

Oh, and I finished The Bretheren by Grisham today.

Fourth Day in St. Martin — Again, the Beach

We got up early on Friday the 23rd (our five year anniversary) and actually got ready quite quickly. We were on the road to Orient Beach around 9:00. Traffic at 9am is pretty bad, so, I’d recommend to anyone coming to St. Martin island to do your driving before 9am, or after 10am.

We took a new road (to us at least) to Orient Beach, pretty much driving cross country instead of following the main road around the island. It was very pretty driving down off a large hill into the Quarter D’Orleans as we headed north.

When we finally arrived at Orient Beach, we parked near the Kakao restaurant (one of the “5 Stars of Orient Beach”) which is in the middle of the beach. Orient Beach is a clothing optional beach, and the further south you get, the less clothing you’ll see, so we figured right in the middle is where we should start, and we could walk up and down it looking for the right part of the beach for our comfort level with naked bodies.

We ended up walking north a while, then back south to our car, and staying in front of Kakao. Not because it was took naked further south, but mainly because it was quite windy, and we figured we should stay near our car, just in case we wanted to leave.

We paid $15 to use some beach chairs and an umbrella (I’m still quite sunburned). We had a few drinks and stayed on the beach until around noon. It was just barely raining, and at noon it kicked up quite a bit. We decided it was time to eat.

Lunch at Kakao was pretty good. I had a fried sampler plate. The wife had a Salmon salad. Lunch cost $45.

We decided to go to Anse Marcel for the rest of the day, due to the fact that Orient Beach was sort of a let down, primarily due to the weather. (We’ll go back on Sunday or Monday, I’m sure).

So, we drove to Anse Marcel after lunch. Anse Marcel is quite beautiful. It’s a small beach, nestled into a cove protected by two large hills to the sides, and the back of the beach. There is an all-inclusive resort at this beach that you have to walk through to get to the beach. It’s wonderful.

When we finaly left the groomed and finely manicured grounds of the resort, the beach was fantastic. We met a little Frenchman named Damian who was manning the cocktail hut at the beach and had a few drinks. Damian was full of energy. I have a feeling we were his only customers that day.

We sat on the beach at Anse Marcel until almost 4:30, and I wore sunscreen all day, so I dind’t get more burned (which was nice for a change) though we didn’t get quite a bit of sun.

After Anse Marcel, we headed into Marigot, to quickly walk though the shops. Marigot is a lot less touristy than Phillipsburg. The shops are more functional, and at the same time there are plenty of good jewelry, clothing, and curio type shops.

We didn’t buy anything in Marigot other than a couple of Haagen-Daas ice cream cones. The ice cream cones cost $2.50 each, and when you ask for ‘one scoop’ that’s all you’ll get. One scoop. I suppose they give you less ice cream than you’d get in the states for a few reasons: 1) Americans are generally fat, and a large part of that is because everything we buy now is ‘super-sized’ to give you more value, and 2) it’s probably pretty expensive to get the ice cream to St. Martin in the first place, as well as 3) it may just be the french culture to eat lighter than Americans are used to. I did noticed that most of the people living on the island were in much better shape than most Americans I’ve met.

After Marigot, we drove back to our villa and showered and changed in preparation for our anniversary dinner. Based on the little ‘guide’ magazines we’d selected Captain’s Cove, a restaurant near us, for dinner. Frommer’s had written about this restaurant, so we figured it’d be great.

It sucked. Or at least didn’t live up to our expectations. They advertised live music for dinner dancing in their ads, which turned out to be a local guy with a Karaoke machine trying to sing songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler, and he just didn’t have the vocal range to pull it off.

Our meal was quite good though. I had prime rib, she had a lean meat dish (think filet mingon without any fat) that came from a local animal. It was actually quite good and the prime rib was fantastic. We drank a bottle of Bougelais red wine with dinner, and the restaurant gave us a piece of cheescake to go.

We returned to the villa to turn in for the night. The wife gave me my anniversary present, which I was pleasantly surprised to open.

Third Day in St. Martin — The Beach

The wife and I awoke to a sunny breeze and a clear sky on Thursday, May 22nd.

We drove to the north western corner of the island, and drove through Terra Basses (the Low Lands) where there are many large mansions (probably owned by rich celebrities from the U.S. Some of the homes are quite beautiful. On our way there, we drove through the golf course in Mullet Bay, which is still pretty much a dump. The golf course was beat up pretty badly in the Hurricane that ravashed the island back in ’95. It’s too bad the course is so run down, because it looks like a wonderful setting to play golf, if it didn’t looks so scary.

We found a parking spot for Long Beach (Baie Longue) and walked out to the beach. It was beautiful, but there were rocks in the beach (sort of like the beach right outside our villa, so we just walked the beach for an hour or so.

Around 11:00 we headed to Marigot, and had some wonderful crepes for a late breakfast at a little french bistrot.

Then we walked around the town before getting suckered into a timeshare presentation (around noon). We spent 3 hours listening to a timeshare pitch that we ended up not buying (even though it sounds like a good deal) mainly because the accomodation, while nice, weren’t very kept up on the outside. We were close to buying, but we didn’t.

After the timeshare experience, we headed out on a quest to find a good relaxing place to sit on the beach. We found Rouge Beach (Baie Rouge) on the French side, just east of Terra Basses.

We spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening there, and watched the sut set. It was beautiful and quite an experience. I finished The Eaters of the Dead today.

To end the day, we drove to Grand Case for dinner and had a wonderful meal at the Rainbow Cafe. We ate duck and lamb downstairs before retiring to the second story deck for desert. It was truly a beautiful place to eat dinner. The owner was very kind, and treated us to a shot of banana Rum on the way out.

When we got home, I gave the wife her sapphire bracelet, because I just couldn’t wait to give it to her one more day.

Second Day in St. Martin — shopping in Phillipsburg

We woke up this morning, to a beautiful day. The beach sounds and the constant breeze were a wonderful thing to wake up to.

After taking showers, we headed down to the beach and pool to lay out in the sun. I continued reading The Eaters of the Dead, and she was reading Bridget Jones’s Diary. We sat in the sun until noon or so…

The we headed to Phillipsburg, which is the capitol of the Dutch side of St. Maarten (that’s the Dutch spelling).

We parked the car near the police station (free parking) and walked to First Street. We visited many shops, mainly jewelry stores and curio shops. We bought gifts for our close friends and family. (My brother will get a hat from the Jimmy Buffet store in Phillipsburg, which by the way isn’t cheap. The rest of our friends will get Rum and assorted gifts from the Guavaberry Emporium).

We enjoyed walking down Old Street, which is truly a great place to shop.

I bought the wife a 2.5 carat Tanzanite pendant for $750 at a store on Front Street, and a really nice saphire and diamond bracelet (that she doesn’t know about yet) as well. It’s our five year anniversary, so I planned on buying her something nice, and the opportunity presented itself.

Shopping in Phillipsburg was a great way to spend a day. It’s too bad I didn’t realize how sunburnt I was from the morning’s laying out until 3:30 or so…

Advice: wear sunscreen in St. Martin… the sun’s out way too much, and the wind blowing will keep you cool, so you won’t notice how burnt you’re getting.

First Day in St. Martin — maybe a retirement place

After arriving in St. Martin today, the wife and I drove around the island, stopping to eat a late lunch, before continuing to circle the island. We took a few photos of the villa we’re staying at, before and after our quick trip around the island.

At dinner time, we talked about having kids, not having kids, and the effect that would have on our personal futures…

I brought of the notion of how much fun it would be to just not have kids, and the retire early to an island in the Carribean like St. Martin. I’ll tell you now, from the current vantage point of my life, there’d be nothing like retiring at the age of 45 to a country/island like St. Maarten.

I could easily work at/run a business via the internet on an island, as long as I had some sort of broadband internet connection (there are plenty of little DishNetwork type dishes here, so I’m assuming one could get satellite broadband) and a few good consulting gigs…

Who knows… maybe one day.

Anyways, it’s not 8:15 pm local time (same as Eastern) and the wife and I are exhausted… we’ll be sleeping very soon.

Honda Fit

I just wanted to take a moment to say that after driving (we rented one in St. Maarten) a Honda Fit (sold in Europe and Asia) that I think the car would do quite well in America. It’s a Ford Focus type of car, but with Honda design written all over it… problem is, it might compete too closely with the Civic, which is one of the US’s best selling small cars… too bad we don’t have them in the US though… I might consider buying one in all honesty.

In Search of Food (the best restaurant in Sint Maarten — so far)

The wife and I arrived in St. Maarten around 1:30 local time on a Tuesday. We deboarded the plane, went through ‘immigration’ and then grabbed our bags prior to meeting our rental car agent and the villa agent. After picking up our very cute Honda Fit rental, we drove out to Pelican Key to our villa (Puesta Del Sol, Apt. G).

Our villa agent got us settled in a beautiful 3 bedroom villa over looking the ocean, with a porch that has see-thru plantation shutters and sliding glass doors that we kept open all the time.

The view from our villa was fantastic, but we were really quite hungry…

So, we set off in search of food. We headed north on the main road of the island, driving through Marigot, headed towards Grand Case (which is the gourmet are of the island, or so we’re told). It was about 3:00 local time, and to our surprise… nothing was open. All of the restaurants aren’t open for lunch, expect for one that we found to be delightful: California.

California is a french restaurant that’s open all day, breakfast lunch and dinner, in Grand Case, St. Martin (the French spelling). It’s quite an amazing little restaurant. The waiter/bar tender was a great little frenchman, accent and all. I started lunch/dinner with French Onion Dip Soup (best I’ve ever had), and the wife Creamy Asparagus with Lobster Soup. I ordered a Carib beer (brewed in Trinidad) and she had a pina colada (which was made completely from scratch — meaning with real coconut milk).

Our main courses were Pork Tenderloin with Mango Sauce (for her) and Monkfish in Curry sauce (for me). They were truly delicious.

The neat thing about the cuisine and feel of this restaurant is that our waiter didn’t rush us at all. He waited until we were done with our soups to bring us our main course (in fact, we’d been done for a while) allowing us to really enjoy the food and the ambiance (the restaurant is on the beach in Grand Case with a lovely view of the Anguilles Islands to the north). It was late afternoon, and while we were the only people in the restaurant for the better part of an hour, we truly felt like we were ‘the only people there’. The waiter took excellent care of us. After dinner, when I asked for the check, the waiter (in his quite french accent) said “No, I’m not finished with you…” and trotted away. We were both quite amused by that notion, and awaited his return.

He promptly brought back two shot glasses, which he filled with “homemade rum” which we ‘shot’ — toasting our “one week on St. Martin, let it be our first of many trips”.

The homemade orange rum was terrific also… quite applaudable as an after dinner drink.

So, there you have it.

The best restaurant we’ve eaten at thus far is Californian in Grand Case, but… there are 6 more nights, and we plan on eating at many places, so there’s likely a few that’ll top this particular establishment… but you can’t beat it for a late lunch when nothing else is open šŸ˜‰

Over the Gulf

I’m writing this entry from the exit row of an American Airlines 757 headed from Miami to St. Maarten:

We got up earlier than sin this morning to get to the DFW airport. Our flight left at 6:15 a.m., bound for Miami where we were to catching a connection to St. Maarten.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been on the Atkins diet and have successfully lost 10 pounds for our vacation. As of this morning, I’m off the diet for a week. We watched Catch Me If You Can this morning on the flight into Miami, and I also started one of the Chrichton books I bought for the trip: Eaters of the Dead.

Catch Me If You Can is a cute movie, though I was disappointed that Jennifer Garner wasn’t in more than 5 minutes of the film.

Eaters of the Dead is a decent book so far, but it doesn’t have any of the pizazz that most of Crichton’s other books have yet. It’s fairly dry through page 70.

Offline driving Online

lickableI arrived this morning in Atlanta after a quick flight from Austin on Delta. I enjoyed the quick walk through the Atlanta airport on my way to a cab. The cab driver was very friendly and got me to my destination right on time.

I spent the majority of the day meeting people, discussing ideas about ‘local’ advertising and how a traditional sales force can work with a non-traditional advertising sales force. After wrapping up my last meeting, I walked over to the Wyndham in downtown.

Check in was quick and efficient, and the staff was very pleasant. I went up to my room and debated going out to dinner for a minute before opening the TV cabinet, sitting down with the computer and getting to work on the Wayport high-speed access line in the room. I called the wife and let her know how the day went as I mindlessy flipped through the channels on the TV.

I ordered room service (Capellini al Pomodoro, a salad, and a glass of wine) and started surfing the web a bit. I caught up on the past 24 hours worth of email and read a few sites online like marketingfix and E&P just to stay on top of the day’s news.

After dinner, while surfing the web, I got a knock on the door from room service again. I thought that was odd, until I saw what was delivered. The Wyndham room service staff member brought me a box of crackers, round of gouda as well as a few raspberries on a platter with a Coke and bottled water with a hand addresses ‘welcome’ card from the “Wyndham By Request Team.”

They were inviting me to join the Wyndham By Request program and pointed me to www.wyndham.com as the place to join. Since there is a high-speed internet account in my hotel room, I joined tonight.

Great use of offline to drive online in a personal way.

Online Service Charges — Why?

car ride anyone?Scott’s pissed that online travel agencies (Expedia is the one in this example) are now charging for providing a service. I just left the travel business, so I know a little more from the inside that Scott does. What Scott doesn’t admit is that most online travel agency websites were built to make a profit on the standard commissions that airlines used to pay to any travel agent. As these online agencies grew in popularity (which was their goal) they naturally put little guys out of business and helped build the online travel e-commerce category into the largest online producer of cash to date. But, that all came at a price… the local travel agency.

But, the thing is, that the local travel agencie’s demise wasn’t the true ‘fault’ of folks like Microsoft. It was the fault of consumers. Consumers made Expedia a success. They looked for a better product, at a cheaper price, just like we now go to Walmart to buy more stuff than any local mom and pop ever made ever thought about earning. Simple economics there, really…

Then, last year, the airline’s started crumbling… Their large empire’s were trounced by the marketplace. Please didn’t want to fly anymore and the airline’s started suffering hugely. So, the airlines cut their distribution costs in various channels, meaning that they cut commissions to travel agents, they also laid off a lot of their own employees and most of them focused on cheaper distributions channels like their own websites.

As travel agents’ annual contract’s with individual airlines come to an end this year, I’m sure that they’re seeing less discounts and less revenue potential, they have to find a way to make money. This means charging service fees for booking tickets.

It’s all about the bottom line, not about Greed, as Scott points out, in my opinion. It’s about running a business that makes money.

If people want to support local business, they can vote with the pocket books… that’s the loudest voice of them all in business.

National Airlines is gone

Sucks to hear that National Airlines is shutting down. For those that don’t know, I just quit a job at a travel related website, and one of my reasons for leaving is that the airlines out there are pretty much fucked. All of them are having a hard time, but I honestly don’t think it’s because of 9/11, I think the majority of the problems in the airline industry are related to bad business practices among the big carriers.

I honestly just hope that America West Airlines holds on through Thanksgiving, as I have tickets to Las Vegas from Dallas for that week (time to take a small vacation, and who really wants to spend time with their huge extended family’s on Thanksgiving? really?)

Airlines’ business models are still screwed

Pearl of wisdom spotted over at Franks:

“Somebody once pointed out to me that one of the many problems with the airlines’ business model is that they charge their best customers the most for their service. If you’re a senior making your one trip a year to see your kids, you book 6 weeks in advance and get a great fare. If you’re a salesman following up a hot lead collected at last week’s trade show, tough biscuits.”

So true… too true in fact.

cracking the travel nut (round 2)

On Sunday, I wrote about Dave’s experience with CheapTickets. Today Doc reports his most recent experience with Hotwire. Sad, indeed.

Here’s a guy that’s pretty much embedded in the inner workings of the uber-geek, and Hotwire manages to piss him off. That’s just plain stupid.

So, now I can’t use CheapTickets.com, cause I can’t trust them. I can’t use Hotwire.com cause I can’t trust them to get it right, or at least right in a timely manner. Who can I trust?

(BTW, I’ve recently booked a vacation package for the family to go to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving through America West Vacations, but I haven’t tried to alter my tickets yet, or anything spectacular. I’ll let you know the results if I do).

cracking the travel nut

Travel is the largest e-commerce category on the net, and yet it’s still the toughest nut to crack, and at the same time, the one with the most potential, in my opinion.

Reading about Nate’s most recent experience, I’m reminded of how hard it is to do something that’s traditionally been a completely hands-on experience in the past (you used to have to buy airplane tickets in person), in a new an completely hands-off manner (from the vendor’s perspective).

The air travel industry was regulated heavily for a long time, and is still quite regulated, regardless of what the industry wants to say. So, that being said, vendors can get away with things like not answering the phones, and a lot of that comes from the large political forces involved, but that doesn’t make it okay.

CheapTickets.com (who I refuse to actually link to) has the worst consumer experience out there, in my opinion. It’s a great service when it works, but when it doesn’t you’re pretty much fucked, as Nate is learning (by the way Nate, I’ll try to send you a phone number that’ll work tomorrow). Something that you may not know, is that fully 60% of CheapTickets reservations are still placed via phone. Why? Because people are still scared to spend a lot of money on the internet on something they can’t hold or touch. It’s fact… trust me. The vast majority of people ’shopping for airfare online’ aren’t buying it online… they’re just shopping.

Why is that?

I think it’s because of two things: 1) horror stories like Nate’s and 2) large companies that are trying to eke out every penny from every transaction they can. They don’t want to invest any more money in loosing operations (like large call centers to answer questions) and don’t want to invest in perfect human interfaces that are totally online. I see it everyday. Trust me on that one.

The online travel marketplace is huge, and isn’t going away, but it’s also just barely getting better on a weekly/monthly basis. Until there is some major investment in customer service across the board, and one really big player gets it right (none of them have yet) and they drag their partners kicking and screaming into that right place (think expedia gets it right, and drags Avis into that right place) it’ll suck for consumers. And that means that the airlines are going to have to be the ones to get it right first, and the big ones are too big to get anything done right. It’s going to take someone like Southwest to get it right, I think. We’ll see, but that’s my prediction (oh, btw, I think they’re pretty close, but aren’t in enough markets to make a big impact yet).

Sorry you bought your tickets through cheaptickets Nate. I’ll try to help out though.

Hooters Air?

Where the hell have I been for the past couple of weeks?

Since Vanguard declared bankruptcy and closed its doors, Hooters has formed Hooters Air LLC and is seriously considering launching an airline in Vanguard’s place.

Wow!

Now this would be a great marketing gig, though, I have a feeling that it’ll only work for two markets. 1) Kansas City (what else are you going to fly?) and 2) the male business person that isn’t embarassed to admit they flew on Hooters Air.

I mean really? Would you admit that you were a ‘frequent flyer’ on Hooters Air? Or would that be a new boast that males exchange while at the bar’s men’s room in some distant city?

“Yeah, flew in last night on Hooters Air. Love that Airline… Joined their ‘frequent flyers program’ too … (wink, wink)”

I can see it now. Divorce rates in this country will skyrocket. Women will protest. Men will do something stupid in mid-flight and we’ll major issues with sexual harrassment from this airline… or perhaps they’ll add that to their Carriage Contract (when’s the last time you read one of those before you got on a plane, or bought a ticket?)

Hooters Air. Sounds cool, but also a stupid business idea. Running an airline profittably is so far from the resteraunt business. You can’t just throw some good looking women on a plane, and hope men will flock to it. (excuse the pun).

Great marketing idea though. Sex does sell.