I adore living overseas – so please take everything I say with that in mind. Our home away from America-home is breathtakingly beautiful, the people are fantastic, and I’m not lying when I say that the food is the best food I’ve eaten anywhere in the world. EVER. FULL STOP.
But I also love going home to visit America. It’s awesome – have you ever toured a Target after 18 months of shopping in various African markets? I mean, Woolworths is fantastic – my favorite store overseas (and also Marks and Spencer, whose chicken and stuffing sandwiches make my year, no lie), but there is something about having seventy-six types of salsa to choose from, as well as fourteen aisles of sugary delight cereal and milk available by the gallon that just makes it easy to relax with fast internet and the largest Netflix offering in the world. SO MUCH NETFLIX, OMG. How does anyone in America get anything done with so much Netflix available?
But there is one thing I dread about visiting America. One thing that I can say, without a doubt, is a level of horrid that I encounter in no other developed countries.
And it has. Rather than just going away, people are now more willing to listen to others’ complaints about customer service and strong-arm tactics. Airlines have their defenders, yes, but even those defenses often just serve to fuel anger. Is there a valid reason for enforcing a no-one standing while the plane is in line for take-off rule? One hundred percent yes. But what happens if you just can’t hold it? And what happens if you have to go, but the line to the hopelessly overextended bathroom area which services 75 other passengers stretches down the aisle and turbulence happens? I noticed, to my horror, upon disembarking a flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg that one of the adult passengers had actually wet himself. That should *never* happen. But it does. And many people are afraid it might end up being them. Fear, dread, and total loss of control – combined with a multi-hour uncomfortable smoosh-fest with gross food – does not lend itself to happy and easygoing passengers.
If anything good comes of this, it will be that US-based carriers up their game and remember that customers are paying them for a service, they are not doing customers a favor by taking their money and abusing them. And airlines are making the right noises about change; whether they follow through or not remains to be seen.
I love Trip Advisor – I do. I really, really do. And I never make a hotel booking without first checking what Trip Advisor contributors have to say about that hotel. There are always the odd reviews out where people have an ax to grind, but if you read the reviews with a practiced eye, you will get a very good idea of what to expect.
So there I am, at the bottom of The Peak Tram in Hong Kong. I’m soaking wet. I’ve managed to wrench my back somehow and am in the sort of pain only someone whose back lived through a pregnancy resulting in a nearly twelve pound baby can be. It’s raining. And worst of all – the won ton soup I had ordered at the top of The Peak had smelled like someone took the shrimp for a sun-filled vacation in a rotting sewer. It was sent back, of course. And I got no won ton soup.
Sometimes you have these days when you travel. “But!” I told myself. “Hey! I’m in Hong Kong! That’s awesome! And we’ll just take a cab back to the hotel, chill and dry, then get some won ton soup somewhere else! Really, I’m totally ahead on this!”
I’m sure you can understand why, as of the middle of September, I was rather reluctant to use reservations we made using United mileage points way back in April. Maybe you can’t. But you *could* if I told you that those reservations were made on a route that would be using Accra, Ghana as a transit point to get from one place in Africa to Marrakech, Morocco in December.
Okay, maybe you’re still a little confused. Let me illustrate:
I love travel. I love exposing my kids to travel. I love that my family is absolutely insufferable when watching the movie European Vacation. I know that sounds snotty, and I don’t mean it to. I put a job’s worth of time into getting the most out of our travel, because goodness knows that we’re not at an income level to be able to just throw down the Visa card whenever a place strikes our fancy (case in point – Australia and New Zealand. My kids are DYING to visit those two and we have not been able to find a way to swing it as of yet. But, you know, goals are good).
Because we are not independently wealthy, we pay close attention to sales, promotions and airline points. It is those airline points which are today causing the ridiculous headache, and I have vowed they WILL! NOT! WIN!