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Franc’enstein: Swiss currency jumps 17% after central bank stops pegging to Euro

Reaction to the Swiss currency exchange rate

The Reaction to the Swiss currency exchange rate

For those of you traveling to Switzerland, you just woke up and found your money will buy you 17% less. In an announcement that completely surprised the financial markets and business community, the Swiss National Bank announced a “decision to abandon the franc’s cap against the euro, two days after an official reaffirmed it would remain a pillar of policy”. [Good to see that a banker’s word is his bond unless it is a few days later]

The franc appreciated 17 percent to 1.02569 per euro at 8:37 a.m. New York time after earlier jumping 41 percent to 85.17 centimes, the strongest since the euro’s 1999 debut. The Swiss currency gained 16 percent to 87.66 centimes per dollar, after touching 74.06 centimes, the strongest since August 2011.

This is an incredible move in an exchange rate where a 1% move in daily exchange rate is regarded as a big move.

The Euro was also impacted by this news where it dropped a further 1.8% on the news where it is ~1.16. Some financial pundits are predicting Euro will be parity with the dollar in 2015.

We say 2015 will be a good time for Americans to visit Europe. If you don’t mind the odd riot or two.

I haven’t the foggiest: why an Etihade airplane was kept on runaway for 12 hours

Due to Abu Dhabu airport being fogbound – apparently a rare event – Etihad Airlines Flight 183 was stuck on the tarmac for 12 hours. Since all other flights were delayed or cancelled, it meant there was no space for the plane to return to the terminal. When the passengers arrived in SFA, many complained to the media that they had been on board for 28 hours in total.

As it occured outside the US, DOT rules about limiting tarmac wait to 4 hours did not apply.

A commentator,Tom Yates,on CBS San Francisco adds the best insight into the situation.

Yeah, we were in that plane. We boarded then the fog was too thick to fly. They would not deplane us because the special security waiting area was full with people trying to board to go to NY. The real issue was off the plane. The special area after USA screening is small and did not have room for us to go back in. It is a result of US security demands. This was not an ordeal but rather an inconvenience caused by post 911 security.

We has some laughs and fun over it as we knew that we could do nothing. There was enough food. This issue was that some would have liked special treatment such as more food. Instead we received less and then most of the food spoiled. The flight crew also expired so we received more food at about the same time that the new flight crew showed up. The only real problem is that at the very end of the flight we ran out of water. all but one bathroom was closed. None of the had tissues but there were plenty of napkins and hand towels. So we used hand towels but were unable to wash our hands as the water was gone. The flight crew handled it well even though groups of men kept gathering around our seats (ROW 50), meeting and making demands. The crew was calm in dealing with them. One person from the original flight crew even made her personal mobile phone data plan available to defuse the anger of my new friend and seat mate.

So it sounds like there was not a lot Ethiad could do about it. Sometimes stuff in life happens.

Giving their regards to Broadway : Hotel fines guests for leaving ‘stinking hovel’ review on Yelp

Basil, Patron Saint of Hoteliers

Across the Atlantic to Blackpool in North England, where the Broadway Hotel has apparently charged £100 to the credit card of a  couple who left a terrible review on Yelp. [Telegraph].

What a way to get PR where they called it a ‘stinking hovel. Alas there are other reviewers on Yelp that are not to positive about their experiences. For example:

When we arrived at the hotel , you could see the dirt on the carpet all through the hotel, but I thought well I’m not sleeping on the floor so just ignored it, we went into the tiny room x unpacked our cases…… Went out x about, came back around 10pm x went for a sleep it had been a long day. Fire alarm went off so had to get up x see wat was going on, nothing, nobody to be seen, so went back to bed, first thing around 7. Ish, fire alarm again , went off x on again , 4. Times, I went to top of stairs to shout to reception that there was no hot water, the man told me the fire alarm was going off because of steam from shower..lol.. Had to laugh coz the hot water was not working, he said the boiler went out during the night… I will fix it he said…half a hour later,,, still no hot water, so no shower for me…

If this sounds similar, it is : see our post “Yelp me if you can, I’m feeling down” about a NY State B&B that tried this. Except previously the Yanks tried a $500 fine. Good to see competition and prices for bad reviews coming down.

 

Lyft leaves Houston / Uber stays for now

The Revolutionary Che'ring economy.

The Revolutionary Che’ring economy.

It’s been a while since I looked at taxi revolution / war of backseat independence but in Houston, there have been some changes recently.

The first being that Houston council announced rules about regulating drivers that involve potential drivers presenting their vehicle for inspection and submitting a warrant check and personal information to the city and undergo drug screening. [Houston chronicle 10/29/14]

Both Lyft and Uber say they already take many of these steps, but their procedures differ. Although they use online background checks, City of Houston will require applicants to use the Texas’ fingerprint-based background check company. Lyft have balked at this and claimed “We have found a more efficient way to do these things” according to said David Mack, Lyft’s director of public affairs. Lyft further add that the procedures are onerous especially for people who wish to do this as a hobby job and the drug tests and permits would be expensive. The cost for this would be $62.

The kicker is that Lyft have threatened to exit from the Houston market unless the rules get relaxed or as they describe it, “pause operations”.

The second is that Houston is going to allow ride sharing at the airports where they will be allowed to get an airport permit. [Houston chronicle 11/12/14].  I am not sure how that will work in practice especially if Uber (sole survivor) then charged surge pricing.

So, is this the next stage ie/a counter revolution where other cities follow Houston’s lead and define higher driver and automobile standards if they wish to do business in that city? If so, it will not be the ‘laissez-faire’ environment that Lyft and Uber want.

Ah, C’est la guerre. (Look at moi: I’m showing off my french tonight ! )

Total Recall

An event bigger than the GM ignition issue is occurring with faulty deployment of airbags. From Bloomberg:

Toyota is advising U.S. owners to keep passengers out of front seats until defective Takata Corp. air bag parts are replaced, four months after following the same procedure in Japan. Takata faces investigations into whether exploding shrapnel from its flawed parts are to blame for at least four deaths involving vehicles made by Honda, including a Florida crash that was initially investigated as a homicide because of deep gashes to the victim’s neck.

The growing number of air-bag recalls also raise doubts about whether carmakers have learned to address defects quickly and comprehensively after General Motors Co.’s bungled ignition switch recalls and Toyota’s failures in 2009 and 2010 involving unintended acceleration. Honda is under separate probes over whether it under reported fatalities and injuries in the U.S.

This is interesting part. Continue reading..

Tickets to Ride : Police of a Notorious Speed trap city gets disbanded

In a follow up to our post  “Ghosts of Waldo” where the Waldo Police Department was disbanded, AAA is reconsidering the need for a billboard to warn motorists about Waldo being a speed trap. [Source Daily Mail though the Mail does mess up the road. It is 301 not 310].

However, one commentator “grneyedmnstr, Tampa, United States” to this article said:

I drove through Waldo Thursday night and again on Sunday afternoon coming back from my trip. Both times there were lights and sirens every few blocks with people pulled over–mostly tourists. The whole town is about 3 miles long and you crawl along at 30 miles an hour. Lawtey is just as bad. Nothing has changed.

Meet the new boss.

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

The Ghost of Waldo

“Glad tidings we bring, to you and your Kin”. No, it’s not Christmas time but an early present: Waldo City Council, Florida has voted 4-1 to dissolve it’s police force.

To recap, Waldo is one of the two cities in America labelled by “AAA” as  “traffic traps”. These are cities that go out of their way to raise revenues from ticketing drivers passing through where their overzealous speed system, trips up users – see our previous article “Where’s Waldo? In Jail hopefully”.

The Waldo Police officers blew the whistle on their Chief  at a public meeting, for giving them ticket quotas to meet. This was illegal under Florida law.

There is now one less public menace to the motorist but their sister city, Lawtey, still exists. Drivers on Florida US301 beware.

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..

Pigs will fly : The Case against flag flying airlines

Sabina : A ghost of National Airlines passed

Sabina : A ghost of National Airlines passed

Malaysia Airlines is cutting 30% of it’s staff in an attempt to be viable business. It is getting a $2B bailout from the Malaysian Government and will de-list itself from the stock exchange. It will focus on becoming a regional routes which sounds like a smart business move: There is no need to fly everywhere and travelers accept changing at hubs.

The two disasaters were a factor in that it led to reduced number of passengers booking on them.

Khazanah [the investment arm of the Malaysian government]said there would be “significant changes to leadership” at Malaysia Airlines and that it would consider “global aviation industry executives” in its search for new talent. The current chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, will remain as chief until July.

The government said it would carry out the restructuring by creating a new company with a “right-sized work force and work practices and contracts.” Malaysia Airlines has been burdened in recent years by contracts with politically connected suppliers.

The burden — and the risk — of the restructuring plan appears to fall heavily on the airline’s creditors. They will be offered a swap of the airline’s debt for shares of the new company, according to the plan. Among the airline’s largest bondholders is the government employee pension fund, known as Kumpulan Wang Persaraan, which, according to Friday’s announcement, agreed to swap 750 million ringgit, or about $240 million, for ordinary shares. The move is likely to be controversial because investors have long assumed that the debts of the state-controlled airline were guaranteed by the government.

Continue reading..