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Things that go bump in the night

United’s new hand carry policy – Hand carrying paying passengers off the plane.

Normally we give a “Feed them to the Lions” verdict after we have carefully weighed up the evidence of a situation brought to our attention but in this case, we are declaring it upfront with United and their involuntary bumping policy or as they call it, “involuntary boarding denial”.

Involuntary boarding’, my imperial arse.

This Sunday evening a Doctor was dragged off a Louisville plane after not enough passengers had volunteered to accept their offer of a few hundred dollars, hotel and guaranteed flight the next day. (3 pm ! – what use is that if you work). The Doctor was selected to be involuntary boarded by United and after he refused, security was called in to remove him. Someone took a video of the bloodied Doctor and it has gone around the interwebs. The Doctor apparently needed to be in Louisville to attend patients.

United are saying the flight was was oversold.  The devil in the detail is that the seats were needed for their employees to make a “downline connection” as they call it which really means, flight crew for the day after.  Oversold my arse. Continue reading..

Mind the Gap

Car dealers eh? Wikipedia commons licence

With 127k miles on the clock, my 2010 runabout was courting some major repairs. I’ve been topping up the AC more frequently now as there is a slow leak happening and with summer rapidly coming up, I needed to do something about it.  Besides, the poor old thing is looking a bit battered having survived a deer hit, a wild pig hit and a few other scrapes.  Being a realist, I decided it was time for a new car.

The problem with buying a car is that I detest the car dealers and their sales gimmicks.

To prepare myself, I wanted to go in knowing roughly what I wanted, what I was prepared to pay and how I was going to pay for it. I researched different options online, I read reviews, I checked out what prices were going at in different sales channels and looked at what inventory was out there. I’d even pre-arranged an auto loan with my credit union where I surprised to find no difference in rates given for new vs used (They used to be slightly better for new.) Continue reading..

Washing and rinsing at Camp Clinton

American Camping Accociation : Enriching politicians through charities

American Camping Association : Enriching political friends through speech donations

We at Roam love camping, so was surprised to see American Camping Association (ACA) on the list of organizations that paid  to hear speeches from Hilary Clinton. In fact, theirs was the last one before she declared as a Presidential candidate.

Now curious,  I decided to take a deeper look into the ACA. From their website:

“The mission of the American Camp Association is enriching the lives of children, youth and adults through the camp experience”

Sounds great like a great mission doesn’t it. So why does ACA,  a  not for profit organization, spend 1/10th of it’s budget on a speech by a previous Secretary of a State ? Their annual report calls it out but isn’t much help – see excerpt.

2015 report from ACA calling out HRC's talk. Apparently Camp is very powerful.

The Washington Post back in 2015 wrote about the ACA event.  It mentioned some attendees questioning it’s value for money:

Still, with Clinton’s candidacy on the horizon, the price of Clinton’s speech caused chatter in the halls. Several counselors wondered if their group had paid Clinton’s usual fee of $200,000 or more, which would represent about 10 percent of the group’s annual budget.

Clinton, 67, has been giving regular paid speeches ever since she finished her tenure as secretary of state in 2013. In recent weeks, she has given speeches at the headquarters of eBay in San Jose, Calif., at an Emily’s List gala and at a conference for women working in Silicon Valley.

Nick Merrill, a Clinton adviser, declined to discuss compensation for Thursday’s speech. Jess Michaels, a spokesperson for the American Camp Association, referred questions to Clinton’s speaking agency, which did not respond to inquiries.

One interesting point about this is the Q&A from ‘camp owner and director Jay Jacobs’ from the report. Well it turns out Jay Jacobs is Democratic chairman of Nassau County, New York. He is also a member of the Democratic National Committee. At last but not least, he has involvement  with the Clinton Foundation. So being close to Mrs Clinton, ACA obviously got a reduction in HRC’s usual speaking fees. Far from it : They ACA paid $260,000.

This stinks.

So are there any other reason ACA may depart from their usual keynote speakers of child development or camp issues? The left leaning Daily Kos suggests it may have been to influence the State Department J-1 visa. The J-1 is an exchange visa where ACA uses this to staff their summer camps where in 2011, they had 25,000 Student Work Travel (SWJs). While promising a chance to visit America, the Students work the camps and get pocket money in return.

The SWT program grew dramatically – from 20,000 participants in the early 1990s to a peak of 153,000 workers in 2008. It is currently capped at 109,000 workers after public outrage over widespread abuses of working conditions, accommodation, compensation and a non-existent cultural component.

Participants pay significant fees to the sponsoring agencies ($1100 to $2000) in the hope they will experience America and make some money while they are here. In reality, the experience is often far removed from the exciting marketing materials on sponsor web sites. Sixty to eighty-hour weeks of making beds, flipping burgers, working the night shift and sleeping four, six or eight to a room in poor accommodations for minimum wage are all too common.

Employers in such resort towns as Ocean City, Maryland, employ thousands of these SWT workers for a variety of reasons divorced from any notion of cultural exchange. For starters, they save 8 per cent over the cost of employing domestic workers because they don’t have to contribute to Social Security, Medicare or Federal Unemployment Insurance.

The Camp Counselor program which the ACA fully embraces, offers similar advantages to employers. State Department rule changes in 2012 sought to draw a clearer distinction between counselors and SWT staff roles but tremendous ambiguity and virtually non-existent enforcement remain.

Those sponsoring agencies that do present an accurate picture of the job explain that counselors work 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week during a nine-week camp placement. Sponsoring agencies describe compensation as a stipend and an ACA 2013 FAQ as “pocket money”. Even using the high end of the stipend range ($1800), you get abysmal compensation: $1800 for nine 72-hour weeks, works out to $2.77 an hour.

Now we see it.

And to think ACA want donatations to sponsor children. Well ACA, take a hike if this is how you spend your money. You don’t deserve your 503 status. As as for HRC and her speeches as a front for donations – fighting for us indeed..this better represents you.

The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees..

The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees..

Our verdict: Feed the ACA and HRC to the lions.

French air strike strands Easter get aways

A futile attempt against French air traffic controller strikes?

A futile attempt against French air traffic controller strikes?

And what a week it has been. The Brussels bombing was awful news but we will talk about this elsewhere.

However, some things are European business as usual such as air traffic control in France going on strike around a holiday. AGAIN. For those new to Roads-2-Roam, this is all too familiar pattern and covered our prior posts ‘FRANCE STRIKES. AGAIN’ and before that ‘FRANCE : A LAND OF STRIKING BEAUTY. A LAND OF STRIKING WORKERS.’

Of course, this has the usual consequences of stranding thousands of passengers whose flights needs to pass through French airspace. The passengers of budget airlines, EasyJet and Rynair, are particularly put out by these event. They are also getting an eye opener in what limited support such airlines offer – you’ll get a rescheduled flight back but not necessarily when you need it. You are probably on the hook for your unexpected accommodation unless you want to sleep at the airport.

From the Daily Mirror:

Tessa Hargrove, 35, was left in limbo in Marrakech after she and her 67-year-old mum, Helen Stephenson, were told their flights were cancelled by text at 10.30pm on Sunday night.

Tessa said: “Ryanair needs to give us more information, a text on the night before when there’s no other information is not good enough, they said they would send us an email but that didn’t come until 2.11pm, four hours after we were meant to get on a flight.”

Tessa and her mum were forced to queue for hours to find out what was going on.

She said: “The Ryanair people at check in were just crossing you off so they could send you to a hotel and the other desk was about an hour and a half queue to find out your options.

“You can get a free flight back to the UK but the first one we were offered by the time we got to the front was one on Thursday to Luton or on Friday to Stansted where we were meant to be flying to. “My mum and I were dashing from queue to the next so we didn’t lose our places. There weren’t enough people for you to actually speak to. Someone else spent ages queuing on the phone to try and speak to them.”

Tessa needed to get back for her work with a company which sells scientific equipment to research labs so booked to fly back on Wednesday online with easyJet costing £500.

She is now worried she will not be able to get on the flight because staff at the easyJet desk in Marrakesh told her that flight was already fully booked on their systems.

According to Ryanair this is the 41st such strike since 2009. Robin Kiely, head of communications at Ryanair said “It’s grossly unfair that thousands of ordinary European consumers have their travel and holiday plans disrupted by the actions of a selfish few. We also encourage any affected customers to sign our online petition, Keep Europe’s Skies Open.”.

Ryanair has said it plans to present it to the EU Commission and the EU parliament once it has attracted 1m signatures.

“As a member of Airlines for Europe ( ), we are working with other airlines including Air France KLM, Finnair, International Airlines Group (IAG), Lufthansa Group, Norwegian and Ryanair, to call on governments and the EU to develop an action plan to minimise the impact of ATC strikes on passengers.”

Here is the link to their petition : keepeuropesskiesopen.com .  I remain skeptical about Brussel’s willingness to act of it.

Our message to the French Air traffic controllers..

The Roaman anti-greeting.

Those damned French Air traffic controllers: Feed them to the Lions. Again.


 

Some links for further information of A4E

Not responsible for broken windshields? Oh yes you are..

Sneak warning sign to avoid liabilities

Signs of things to come..

Driving home from work, I noted a truck ahead of me which had a warning sign on it. Being curious I came up close to read what it said

Big letters WARNING. Smaller letters “STAY BACK 200 FT” with “NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BROKEN WINDSHIELDS”.

However, the stupidity is that you’d need to be closer  that 200 FT away to read the flaming thing.

This had me thinking about the legality of such a sign especially as you need to be close up to read it and you never entered into any agreement with them. Researching around, I found this reddit discussion. My take away from reading it all : Continue reading..

Volkwagen : smoking guns

copyright vectis.co.uk

Roads-2-Roam was waiting for VW’s side of the scandal to make a call but some recent internal news leaks are very compelling against Volkswagen.

Two separate German ‘serious’ newspapers have identified sources that say VW knew about this many years ago but did nothing. They held out until they were busted recently.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (What a name !) suggests that some VW technicians tried to blow the whistle in 2011.

The other newpaper, Bild am Sonntag, goes back even further with a letter from the supplier of the engine controller unit – Bosch – that warned VW back in 2007 not to use their software illegally.

Citing unidentified sources, Bild said Bosch had warned Volkswagen as early as 2007 that its software should only be used in company tests and not for normal driving.

Das Auto. Was ist passiert?

I’m afraid Volkswagen corporate management (Not sure we will feed the unrelated part of VW AG), it is time to feed you to the lions.

He ain’t nothing but a hound dog

Don't buy anything from Ahmed Mohammed's  hot dog stand

Don’t buy anything from Ahmed Mohammed’s hot dog stand : Copyright NBC New York

Some people deserve to get named and shamed. Ahmed Mohammed is one such shyster.

NBC run a story with video clip of his overcharging tourist for hot dogs – up to $30 in some cases – and short changing others. To make it worse, he is doing this outside the World Trade Center. For starters, NYC ordinance says prices need to be published.

Hope the bad publicity and NYC puts this rotten bastard out of business.

Jessica Lappin of the Alliance for Downtown New York said “it gives New York a bad name.”

Is that even possible?

Anyhowy our verdict: Feed him to the Lions.

France : A Land of Striking Beauty. A Land of Striking Workers.

Beware of French Unions : it may impact your travel

Il est avril en France, Le soleil brille / It is April in France and the sun shines brightly.

The flowers are blooming, lovers are walking hand in hand. What a better way to take in Paris, than go up in the Eiffel Tower.

Except you can’t.

Why you ask, because the workers of the Eiffel Tower have gone out on sympathy strike. That’s why.

Oui, mes amis, L’Eiffel workers are showing their fraternity with the Air traffic controls who have shut down French Air Space.

And what are the ATC striking over? The answer is delaying retirement from 57 years to 59 years and restructuring.

Of course this causes chaos for the airlines and passengers but the Trade Unionists don’t care as they face no financial penalties for the problems it causes.

Not only that but this is not the first time France ATC have gone on strike. Just look at this – see a pattern?

This gets old.

Is the European Union doing anything about the enforcement of the Freedom of good and services? No, they are too cowardly.

Anyone planning on going to or through France needs to consider the probability of some strike disrupting your plans or at worst, leaving you stranded. Latest we heard is that they are threatening a 4 day strike over the May bank holiday.

Maybe Bobby Jindahl was right afterall, about Paris being a “No go” Zone but for a different reason.

The Roaman Emperor’s verdict on French Unions: “FEED THEM TO THE LIONS” and since a picture paint a thousand words, this is our message to them:

The Roaman anti-greeting

Hope you like Jamming too: Marriott gets fined for blocking public WiFi

Not content with the emotional blackmailing to get you to tip you room cleaner, Marriott have been fined $600,000 by the FAA for jamming user’s WiFi in order to get you to use their WiFi network at highly inflated prices.

The villain is this case is Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, who blocked users mobile “hotspots” and required consumers, small businesses and exhibitors as much as $1,000 per device to access Marriott’s Wi-Fi.

From Bloomberg article dated 3rd October:

“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in the statement.

Under a consent decree with the FCC, Marriott must stop using Wi-Fi blocking technology and file compliance and usage reports every three months for three years, the FCC said. Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott, the world’s second-largest publicly traded hotel chain, also will pay a civil penalty of $600,000.

In some cases, Marriott employees at the hotel’s conference center used technology to disrupt customer Wi-Fi transmissions and block Internet access. Marriott charged conference exhibitors and other attendees $250 to $1,000 per device to use the Gaylord Wi-Fi service in the conference facilities.

And Marriott’s response..

Marriott says it did nothing wrong and it’s the FCC’s policies that need changing.

Unbelievable.

Out of curiosity, we took a look at this resort. While the Gaylord resort looks nice, many people complain about the additional fees. One reviewer on tripadvisor – Scott from St.Louis – captures what I would think of this:

Maybe this was in the small print somewhere but on check-in, the very nice guys says “there is a $18 resort fee for the two bottles of water in your room and the wifi… “… I was like “what?”… this better be some good water! No, it was sam’s club $.15/bottle water. OK….

The wifi? It was about 1MB (couldn’t stream netflix) but you could pay more to get better bandwidth. That’s really nice.

Now I’m angry. I would like to give them perhaps 3 stars at this point (and be rated with the muckity mucks in the middle reviewers) but no… it gets better.

Parking is $21. you use your room key to park – ok, that must be part of the $240… nope.

Another reviewer on Hotels.com “Kathy M” reports somethings similar:

NOT very happy with price of this hotel. They have added charges that are simply silly. There is an $18 +tax daily for two bottle of warm cheap waters, Wi-Fi (which is supposed to be free),discounts at hotel amenities, transportation to airport, and mall around the corner but all other routes are at a cost. They then also charge for parking $21+tax a day on top of the $18, really, I don’t understand why they charge for parking with the other fee. There is nothing around them, no where near down town and every thing around them offers free parking for their facilities. If they are going to do a daily charge like the $18 one it should include your parking not be in addition to!

The verdict on Gaylord Opryland Resport: FEED THEM TO THE LIONS

A customer Complaint from TripAdvisor

A customer Complaint from TripAdvisor

Complaints on Hotels.com

Complaints on Hotels.com

Where’s Waldo? In jail hopefully. : Waldo Police ticket racket is busted

US301-Legalized Highway robbery with two towns singled out by AA as "Traffic Traps".

US301-Legalized Highway robbery with two towns singled out by AAA as “Traffic Traps”.


Highway 301  runs through Florida just South East of Jacksonville. From Baldwin to Hawthorne, it is notorious for it’s issuing of speeding tickets. Two towns in particular – Lawtey and Waldo – are infamous for their overzealous ticketing, so much so that AAA officially declared them “Traffic Traps” : The only two cities in the United States to have such a declaration.


Per AAA site:

“Traffic Trap” – AAA condemns traffic enforcement measures and practices which are designed to raise revenue rather than prevent crashes or where there is evidence that enforcement is not justified by sound engineering principles. AAA particularly condemns the use of traffic traps which involve unfair, unethical or illegal law enforcement tactics or traffic control devices, as well as the use of speed measurement devices on roads with speed limits appreciably less than warranted by sound engineering principles.

Under “Traffic Traps” AAA says about Lawtey and Waldo:

“These two small Florida communities are located on U.S. Highway 301 situated about halfway between Jacksonville and Gainesville and still depend on revenue generated by traffic tickets to help meet their annual budget”

AAA is so outraged, it even paid for billboards to warn motorists traveling down 301 to beware that they are approaching these towns. Continue reading..