Thursday, February 14, 2008

Travel Pet Peeves

Start date: 2/14/08
Last updated: 2/18/08
Pet peeve (noun) - a minor annoyance that can instill extreme frustration in an individual.

During my trips, I encounter a lot of annoyances, obstacles and hassles. But to warrant a place on this list of pet peeves, that annoyance has to fulfill 2 criteria:
1. be utterly stupid.
2. be repetitive (i.e., if I've seen it only once - it won't be here).

I intend to keep this post open and add more peeves as I go. Feel free to drop comments with your peeves, and if they make the cut, I'll include them in the "master list" with your name.

So without further ado:
  1. Tucked in blankets - why, oh why, do they have to nail those blankets to the bed? Why do I have to struggle with my blanket, or else be rendered immobilized for the night?
    And in high-scale hotels, they actually offer "turn down service" - that's when a housekeeping girl comes in and pulls the blanket for you. Waste of time.

  2. Faucets - why is it that each hotel in the world has to have its own faucet configuration? Some have one knob, others 2. I've even seen configurations with 3 and 4. In the UK you get 2 taps in the sink - one cold, one hot (conceivably you should make your own mix until you like the temperature). All in all, you spend precious seconds trying to master the current configuration, while being scalded (or frozen).
    Can't they go with normal faucets, like the ones you can in 99% of homes around the world?

  3. "Courtesy" shuttles - let's put the rental facility 20 miles outside the airport, force people to spend 30 minutes on a bus, after being on a plane for 5 hours, and call it a "courtesy" shuttle. Where's the courtesy here, I ask you? They should pay us to ride this bus.

  4. Gratuity - a lot has been said on this oft-maligned subject. The fact that tip rates keep growing (waiters in NY sometimes expect 20%) and no one knows why, should be a subject of sociological/economical research papers.

    But let's say you agree that people that make minimum wage deserve a little something on the side (and if not, here's the wonderful piece from Reservoir Dogs to remind you why you're right). When you order a meal from room service, they stick a bunch of taxes on it ("tray service") and then automatically add 15% gratuity - regardless of whether you want to pay or not, AND THEN they leave an empty place for you to add gratuity.
    Why would someone want to add 15% more on top of the 15% and the tax???
    Took me a while to realize I was paying twice.

    (on the same issue, but not travel related: as a consultant, i help my customer solve problems that sometimes cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, I wasn't offered any gratuity ever. Why is that? If I'm being paid a flat daily rate, I can finish my work day without overly taxing myself. Yet I sometimes go above and beyond normal hours and effort. Following the same logic, don't I deserve a little somthin'-somethin'? cool)

  5. TSA - I have so much I can say about the Transportation Security Administration's methods, service and conduct - but I don't want to end up on a blacklist of people who get a full cavity search every time they get to an airport.
    So let me just say I appreciate the smart dedicated TSA workers and will continue to enjoy their service.

  6. Alarm clock "practical joke" - man, if I ever wake up again at 3:17am, because the person who had the hotel room before me was "kind" enough to set the alarm clock and I was foolish enough to not turn it off...
Added on 2/17/08

  1. Airport renovation projects - if you haven't seen a sign starting with "We appologize for the inconvenience...", then I guess you haven't been traveling in the US recently.
    It seems like every airport in the US, at any given point in time, is undergoing some renovation. This escalator doesn't work, that terminal is not open yet, you have to go outside in sub-zero temperatures and take a bus to the next terminal (Toronto's Pearson airport - always a fun one).

    And while they try to make it sound as if this is a temporary state, and the main goal is to give you, the passenger, a bigger/better/cleaner airport, they start a new project as soon as the old one's done.

    It wasn't until recently that a colleague pointed out that airport renovation is a very lucrative branch of the construction business, and a lot of people make money on keeping airports constantly "renovated". That explains it all - if there's money involved, the public's comfort be damned.

  2. Static electricity - unlike everything else on this list, I can't really blame anyone for this item. But every time I exit a car, touch a door handle, or collect my laptop from the X-ray machine's belt, I get zapped. Granted, this is not life-threatening, but it is extremely annoying. And painful. And although you grow to expect it, it's always unexpected.

  3. Larry Kellner - Larry is the CEO of Continental Airlines. And make no mistake, I have nothing personal against Larry, he seems like a nice guy. Every Continental flight starts with a short video ("Hi, I'm Larry Kellner..."), where Larry tells us about his great airline, the great people who work for it, and then says "we fly one of the youngest fleets in the US...". Hearing that, and then facing an old, crumbling 737, with center-aisle monitor with a greenish hue, that was young when my dad was still in school, is kinda... I don't know, disappointing.

    Larry, my man - less boasting, more doing. When every plane has a personal entertainment unit, in seat laptop power, and enough legroom for an adult - you'll be off my list.

    Read more about Larry here.
Added on 2/18/08
  1. 13 - "Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot" said Bruce Wayne, the night he decided to take the mantle of a bat and scare Gotham's criminals as Batman. But if you examine certain hotels and airlines, you'll find that not just criminals are superstitious and cowardly.

    I'm talking about the fact that several American hotels decided to omit the 13th floor due to a stupid superstition. Yep - look at the elevator buttons: 12th and 14th are there, the 13th is gone (probably in the Twilight Zone smile).

    Similarly, Continental has rows 12 and 14 on their planes (here's a 757 seatmap, for example).
    I have 2 things to say:
    a) some people (Chinese for example) consider 13 to be a lucky number.
    b) psst... people on the 14th floor... don't tell anyone, but you're actually on the 13th (if you count from the bottom)...

  2. Wireless internet (suggested by Ariel) - the technology is mature enough, but as always, people stand in the way of ease-of-use. Dozens of providers, methods of payment, various degrees of connectivity - all stand in the way of easily using the internet. Every hotel, airport, cafe has different providers and policies. Some are free and easy to connect to. Some will demand you sell a kidney to pay for a night of usage (most notorious: internet usage in London, at 19.95 GBP a night - that's right, over $40).

    Add to that the fact you usually get an inferior product, with limited download, and almost non-existent upload.

    Exception: the wi-fi in the Star Alliance lounge in Zurich airport - free, fast (1Gbps LAN, full 54Mbps for wi-fi!), and consistent.
Added on 3/19/08
  1. The bag may not inflate - by now we've all heard it (literally) hundreds of times: "In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop. Put them on your face (leaving your child to die of asphyxiation) and breath. The plastic bag may not inflate".

    Why, in heavens name, do I care about the bag? And why is it there, if it's not going to inflate? And does "may" means that sometimes it does inflate and sometimes doesn't?

    And what's the deal with the life jacket? Will it also "may not inflate"? They do demonstrate how to blow air into it using a small tube. Cool. As you're jumping into the cold Atlantic water off a drowning plane, you will find the time (and air) to blow down a tube.


Ariel Tetro said...

Don't forget the whole internet saga at hotels and airports -
you sometimes get it for free, most times pay for it; sometimes it's wireless and there are still some hotels that use wired internet

Anonymous said...

How about the hotels that refresh the courtesy coffee sachets in your room with decaf!

What's the point in that???