Good customer service

15 11 2012

After our last toaster nearly blew up the house (!), I bought a Sunbeam 4-slice toaster (‘Toastum’ model 6410) about 14 months ago from Harvey Normans for about $70 (not the cheapest toaster, but not the most expensive either). Sunbeam has always been a reputable brand, in my eyes, but these days everything seems to be made in China or somewhere where labour is cheap so I’m not sure that brand reputation means all that much anymore.

I’ve only used the toaster maybe once a week, and my husband doesn’t use it at all — I’m the only one who’s ever used it. So perhaps it has toasted bread/naan bread maybe 50 or so times. I learnt early on that it had to be plugged into the power and the power turned on before the handle would go down and engage. Even then, sometimes the handle is tricky and I have to press it down hard a couple of times to get it to stay down (see someone else’s rant about this toaster’s handle here: https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/melb.general/LZMyj8pdXq4 and other reviews here: http://www.productreview.com.au/p/sunbeam-toastum-ta6210-ta6410.html).

Well, after about 50 uses, the handle snapped off the other day! That is, the plastic handle piece that goes over the metal lever. This handle piece is ‘painted’ the same as the stainless steel of the toaster, so I had assumed it was also metal, but no — it’s plastic! And it snapped right off. I now have a useless toaster.

I checked the warranty, and guess what? It’s only for 12 months, and this happened about 14 months after purchase. I figured I’d at least call the Sunbeam support line to see what I could do, and whether taking it back to Harvey Normans would be an option. Well, I got such a surprise!

I told the support guy what model toaster and that the handle had snapped off. And he immediately said he’d send me out a replacement and asked me for my postal address! No questions about how it happened, no discussion of the toaster being out of warranty, nothing.

So either this is a known issue for Sunbeam or else they are aware that social media and internet reviews can really damage their reputation. Whatever. I just know that I was impressed with the helpful and ‘no questions asked’ response I got from their customer support person. Well done, Sunbeam!

Would I buy another Sunbeam toaster? Maybe. And that decision would mostly be based on this interaction I just had with them as I think the toaster I have is average at best.

It’s always difficult with an appliance like this as you can’t test it out first. Toasters range from cheap $10 jobs to $250 or more, so you really don’t know whether you’ll like it until you get it home and actually use it. Reputation becomes quite important — we purchased a Fisher and Paykel washing machine purely based on the reputation and experience we’d had with all our other F&P appliances, including our previous 20-year-old washing machine. But I don’t think F&P make toasters 😉





Good customer service

23 08 2007

I received this on Wednesday, a few days after last week’s Skype outage:

As a goodwill gesture to all you faithful Skype Pro, Skype Unlimited, SkypeIn or Skype Voicemail customers, we’re adding an additional seven days to your current subscription, free of charge. And even if you didn’t miss out on using Skype last week – you can still have a week free on Skype, on the house!

They didn’t have to do that, but it’s nice that they did. An ex-colleague of mine once told me that it’s not the problem that causes customer anger so much as how you deal with the problem. Skype kept their users informed every few hours via their blog, and when the situation returned to normal, they ‘rewarded’ their customers with this extra.

Well done, Skype.





Non-existent customer service

23 07 2007

Yesterday we drove to Pemberton, some 60kms from here (see next post for details). One of the signs we saw coming in to town was for Jarrah Jacks Brewery and Woodsmoke Winery. Jarrah Jacks have won a few awards for their beer, so we decided to stop in on our way out of Pemberton. After negotiating the very pot-holed dirt road for a kilometre or so, we arrived at their magnificent building in a most beautiful location high on the top of a hill overlooking vineyards and a large dam.

We got there around 3:15pm, so there were few tables of people on the veranda still enjoying what remained of their Sunday lunch, or just having a lazy Sunday afternoon in a beautiful spot. When we fronted the bar/serving counter are there was just one other person in front of us – a guy paying his bill. There were four people behind the bar doing all sorts of things. We waited. We waited some more. Another couple came in, and one of the ‘busy’ staff decided to serve them. We waited a bit longer. The staff member serving the man in front of us said “Be with you in a minute.” Then promptly ignored us to tell another newcomer to the serving area about their snacks. The other three staff remained ‘busy’ but not with customers. We left.

We had waited at least 5 minutes for service that never came. It’s not that we weren’t noticed – at 6′ 3″ my husband is not unnoticeable. It’s not that they were busy with other customers – they weren’t. It’s not like it was closing time – they close at 6pm on a Sunday. We were ignored, plain and simple. Maybe each staff member in the serving area thought someone else was serving us. But I think that’s giving them too much of the benefit of the doubt. Personally, I think that the staff were too intent on their ‘chores’ to bother with paying customers. Bad mistake. We won’t be back.





Customer service

26 02 2007

I’ve talked about customer service before, and about how for me it’s often not what the issue is as much how it’s resolved. [Example 1, example 2, and example 3.]

Today I read two great articles on customer service: one was from Kathy Sierra’s “Creating Passionate Users” blog, a blog I read every time she writes a new entry – this one was titled: “What tail is wagging the ‘user happiness’ dog?“; the other was on “Seven Steps to Remarkable Customer Service” on Joel Spolsky’s site (referred to by Kathy). I read “Joel On Software” every so often, and invariably he – like Kathy – have messages that resonate with me.

If you have a spare few minutes, go ahead and read them both – they’re worth it!





Customer service? Not!

4 01 2007

One of the tedious tasks when moving house (and boy, had I forgotten just how tedious!) is informing respective utilities and providers of your change of address. In the case of utilities, this also entails making sure that final readings are done for water, gas, electricity, etc.

So today I thought I’d start on a couple of easy ones that don’t rely on the ‘unconditionality’ of the “offer to purchase”. Like Optus… to check what happens to the long-distance arrangement we have with them on our Telstra phone; the redirection of water bills to us instead of the property manager for the house down south; and arrangements for the transfer of the electricity into our name at the house too.

I figured Optus would be the easiest. Right in theory – wrong in practice! First you’re taken through this 20 questions thing with a recorded voice and have to reply to it (it’d be quite clever if it worked as I expected it to). Then you get put on hold and finally a ‘customer service’ person comes on the line. But despite you answering the 20 questions to the recorded voice, they have no clue who you are and you have to repeat yourself all over again. I did this FOUR times! Twice I was cut off (once immediately after getting to a real person; the other time I got lost in the ether somewhere), then I was routed to the wrong division and “no, they couldn’t transfer me – I’d have to call another number”. Ummm… Hello! Optus is a TELECOMMUNICATIONS/PHONE company – and they can’t transfer me??? Give me a break… Finally I got a real person who was helpful and dealt with my enquiry in about 1 minute – after I’d repeated myself to the recorded voice answering the 20 questions, and being on hold for a few more minutes, then verifying my date of birth etc. with the real person.

“Service”? Optus don’t know the meaning of the word!

I girded myself for the next ones – Synergy (the power company) and the Water Corporation. Both experiences were great. I got through quickly to a real person who was helpful and answered my questions and got the transfers done in a matter of a few minutes. Thank you Lorraine (Synergy) and Rachel (Water Corp) for ‘serving’ the customer.

The last call was to my ISP (iinet) to ask about transferring the phone, switching my broadband plan from ADSL2 to ADSL1, what were the charges with VOIP, etc. Well, now there’s a shock! I had a helpful sales person (Lester), but the news is not good. Not only will I be on a MUCH slower connection (1500 thingies compared to 24000 thingies), but they’ll charge me MORE! About another $30 a month more for the ‘privilege’ of going slower, and that’s not including VOIP at another $10 a month. Hello??? Lester said it was because it was cheaper for them to provide ADSL2, than ADSL1. Well, that’s all well and good, but in the country YOU DON’T HAVE A CHOICE! ADSL2 is NOT an option; no providers have ADSL2 to regional areas – only ADSL1. So where does iinet get off penalising a 10+ year customer with extra charges for LESS service? I’ll be investigating other ISPs, even though I didn’t want to change initially as, with all the other changes associated with moving, changing ISPs was not something I wanted to do consider now.

Harrumpph! It’s not been a good day…





Awesome service gets a customer for life

23 01 2014

aeron

I’ve just been on the receiving end of some AWESOME customer service from Living Edge/Herman Miller.

Back in 2007, I bought 2x Herman Miller Aeron chairs as I was now working from home full time.

Recently, the gas lift in one of them started to fail, and I’d slowly sink to the floor.

I calling Living Edge in Perth (who I bought them from) and got a callback almost immediately from the Sydney office, who look after maintenance and warranty issues. I was told that the spare part would be free AND that they would fit at home for me, even though I live 160 km (100 miles) from the nearest store! All I had to do was take photos of the product/serial number label on the bottom of the chairs and send them to the Sydney office.

The guy from Living Edge arrived today and fixed my chair AND replaced the same part in my DH’s chair as it was purchased at the same time. And cleaned/serviced/regreased our chairs too. ALL under warranty, including the travel/callout/labour time. ALL for free.

It’s nice to see that a big company like Herman Miller stand by their products so well. They were expensive chairs, and although they have a 12-year warranty, I was surprised that something like the gas lift was covered under warranty AND that there was no labour charge. FTW!!

Would I buy another one of their chairs? Very likely, just based on that awesome customer service. They’re good chairs too 😉

See also:

 

 





Quilting Services

21 03 2013

Do you have finished quilt tops languishing in some dark corner of your sewing room, just waiting for the day that you learn how to do free motion quilting? Or perhaps you just like making tops, but don’t have any interest in quilting them. Or maybe you want something more than stitch-in-the-ditch.

Let me give life back to those tops by quilting them for you! Then all you’ll have to do is add the binding and a label and hand them over to the recipient.

A bit about my quilting

You can scroll through all the quilts I’ve quilted for the Community Quilts program  to get some idea of the sort of quilting I do: https://rhondabracey.com/tag/community-quilts/

I quilt on a Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen sit-down machine, not a long-arm, so I don’t use computerised patterns or pantographs – all my quilting is me pushing the quilt under the needle; as a result, your quilt will be uniquely stitched.

I’m a true ‘free motion’ quilter, which means I rarely mark the designs I stitch – I just sew them where my fingers and brain take me. At this stage, I only use rulers for straight line stitching, though I intend to add ruler work as I learn more. My stitches are as even as I can make them, but I don’t use a stitch regulator.

I don’t do ‘heirloom’ quilting, which is the very intricate and perfect quilting you see on traditional quilts in quilt competitions. So if you want the very precise and competition-level work that you see in juried quilt shows, I’m not the quilter for your quilt.

While it’s in my possession, your quilt will be well looked after. No-one in our house smokes and we have no pets, children, or grandchildren, so it will NOT come back to you with pet hair or cigarette smoke clinging to it, or crayon marks from over enthusiastic kids.

I live near Bunbury, Western Australia. Unless you live close by, you will have to post your quilts to me to quilt.

Prices

All prices are in Australian dollars. Minimum charge for any size quilt: $100.

These prices include preparing the quilt (ironing the top and backing fabric, and pin basting the quilt sandwich ready for quilting) and then quilting it.

  • All-over simple design from edge-to-edge (e.g. stipple, ‘open headbands’ [https://rhondabracey.com/?s=open+headband], winding hearts/leaves/flowers, large circles/pebbles etc.; covers entire quilt top, including borders): from $0.055 to $0.075 per square inch (for those who calculate better in square feet, that’s $7.92 to $10.80 per square foot)
  • Custom quilting (e.g. different quilting design in the border from the main top, stitch in the ditch, quilting according to the pattern of the quilt blocks, feathers, ruler work etc.): from $0.075 to $0.10 per square inch (for those who calculate better in square feet, that’s $10.80 to $14.40 per square foot)

The ‘from’ prices are only a guide – until I see a photo of the top, and discuss with you how you want it quilted, I can’t be more precise than that at this stage. The prices above don’t include any of the ‘extras’ listed below.

Alternative: To make it easier, I can also charge per hour — that way you don’t have to work out all the calculations below. My rate is $50 per hour for quilting. I recently did some custom quilting and based on the calculations below it would have cost over $300, but as it took me only 5 hours to do, the per hour rate ended up being cheaper ($250) for the customer.

Extras

All extras are included on the ‘Request for Quote‘ form; this section explains what each section on that form is about and how it will be charged. (Note: If you’re using Firefox v19 as your browser, you won’t be able to fill in the form automatically; instead you’ll get a message at the top of the screen that looks like this: pdf_form. Click Open with Different Viewer and either select Adobe Reader or save it to your computer and then open it from there.)

  • Extra preparation (e.g. trimming all threads; stabilising the edge seams; joining batting pieces, if necessary; joining backing pieces, if necessary etc.): $30 per hour, charged in 15-minute blocks (you can save a lot of money by making sure all threads are trimmed and none poke out on the top; that the edges/edge seams of the top are made stable with holding stitches – no waves, wobbles, wonky edges, separation of the seams etc.; that the batting is all in one smooth piece; and that the backing is all in one smooth piece). If I find that any of this work has to be done and I wasn’t expecting it, I will contact you to discuss this extra fee.
  • Batting: If you want me to provide batting, it will be at cost from the retailer plus a $10 handling fee; I will provide you with a receipt from the retailer to show how much I paid for the batting. Be aware that Australian prices (as at March 2013) for batting range from $15 to $35 a metre (39″), depending on width and what it’s made from.
  • Backing: If you want me to provide backing fabric, it will be at cost from the retailer plus a $20 handling fee (which includes pre-washing the fabric); I will provide you with a receipt from the retailer to show how much I paid for the backing. For large quilts, I will use wide-back fabrics wherever possible. Australian prices for wide-back fabrics range from $20 to $35 a metre; for standard 42″ width fabric, they range from $20 to $30 a metre. If I purchase standard width fabrics for your backing, they will likely have to be joined — this will be charged at $30 per hour, and calculated in 15-minute blocks.
  • Thread: One solid or variegated thread colour is included in the price, along with a bobbin thread to match the backing fabric (typically); additional top and/or bobbin thread colours are $5 per colour
  • Optional: Final squaring up of the quilt, ready for binding: $30 per hour, charged in 15-minute blocks (I leave the quilt ready for your binding; if you want me to bind the quilt, that would be a separate charge depending on the sort of binding you want done and we would have to negotiate that)
  • Postage to return your quilt to you: budget for at least $25+ within Australia; $60+ for outside Australia (postage will be ‘at cost’ and will be based on the weight and size of the folded quilt, the packaging required, and if insurance or tracking is required). All items will be sent through Australia Post (Australia Post charges within Australia: http://auspost.com.au/apps/domestic-parcel.html; international charges:  http://auspost.com.au/apps/international-parcel.html). As a guide, a large quilt may weigh more than 3 kg; smaller quilts (e.g. lap quilts, single bed quilts) typically weigh less than 3 kg.

Terms

  • Complete the ‘Request for Quotation‘ form, save it, then send the saved copy and one or more photos of the quilt to my email address: quilting@rhondabracey.com (NOTE: the email address on the form is mine and will still get to me)
  • On receipt of the completed Request for Quotation form and photo(s), I will calculate the approximate cost and reply via email. If necessary (and if time zones allow), we will talk on the phone.
  • 50% of the estimated cost is to be paid by you upon my acceptance of the job and your acceptance of my quote (the 50% is only an estimate as the final cost will include postage, which won’t be known until the job is done).
  • The  balance is to be paid on completion when I send a photo of the completed quilt to you and have calculated the postage based on the size and weight of the quilt, the packaging required, and where you live.
  • I will only post the quilt back to you once I have received full payment from you.
  • Payment is to be made via PayPal or, if you are in Australia, via electronic banking – EFT details will be provided once you accept my quote.

Other information

  • If you provide your own batting, it must be at least 4″ wider all round than the quilt top. I also need to know what sort of batting you intend to provide. If your batting isn’t suitable or it’s too expensive to post, I can get batting for you ‘at cost’ plus a $10 handling fee (my closest retailer is a 40 to 50 km round trip from where I live, which accounts for the ‘handling fee’).
  • If you provide your own backing, it must be at least 6″ wider all round than the quilt top. If you’ve pre-washed the fabrics in the top, then please make sure you also pre-wash the backing fabric. Again, I can get backing for you ‘at cost’ plus a $20 handling fee (which includes pre-washing), but you will have to trust my choice in selecting this fabric. I will not choose backing fabric for you until I receive the quilt top as photos aren’t always correct as far as colour is concerned.
  • There are to be no embellishments (e.g. beads, buttons, zips, etc.) or leftover pins etc. on the quilt top.
  • Before I can give you a quote, I’ll need to see a photo of the quilt top. Please email the photo to quilting@rhondabracey.com
  • I’d like to know what types of fabrics you’ve used in the top – all quilting cottons? batiks? various (e.g. silk, cotton, polyester, T-shirt fabric etc.). This will help me determine the price per square inch as some fabrics are more difficult to work with than others.
  • If you have a preferred thread colour for the top, I’d like to know that too; otherwise, I’ll use my experience to pick a suitably coloured thread.
  • I also need to know how the quilt is intended to be used – this will affect the type of top thread (e.g. cotton, trilobal polyester, rayon, silk, etc.) and bobbin thread (e.g. Invisifil, Bobbinfil, Deco-Bob) I choose. A quilt for a child’s bed will likely get more wear and laundering than one in a spare bedroom or on a wall, so the thread has to stand up to the likely wear and tear it will get.
  • Have you measured the quilt top yourself, or have you taken the measurements from the pattern you made it from? Please measure it yourself, by taking and recording these measurements: full length of left edge, full length of right edge, full length of vertical centre, full length of top edge, full length of bottom edge, full length of horizontal centre. Are the measurements of the edges within an inch of the vertical and horizontal centre measurements? Please make sure you include all these measurements on the ‘Request for Quote‘ form. The square inches will be automatically calculated from these measurements.
  • Do you have a preferred quilting motif/design? If it’s one you’ve seen on one of the Community Quilts I’ve done, then email me the web address of that page. Otherwise, I’ll choose a design based on what I believe will enhance your quilt top.
  • Do you want your large offcuts of batting and backing returned to you (e.g. you may want to use backing offcuts for the binding)? If so, let me know. If not, I will either keep these offcuts for other projects, or donate them to individuals/organisations that make quilts for charitable purposes or to other craft/community organisations who will use them. I won’t just throw them out.
  • Finally, I need to know what date you want the finished quilt by. I have a day job three days a week, so there are days I can’t do any quilting. Ultimately, the date it can be completed by will depend on when I get it as well as how much available time I have to work on it.

Scenario

Let’s work on a scenario for a large 60″ x 80″ (i.e. 4800 square inches) quilt top that I will assume is made from quilting cottons or batiks:

  • Preparation (ironing and pin basting): included
  • One thread colour: included
  • Edge-to-edge quilting using an open headband motif 4800 square inches x $0.055: $264
  • Squaring up ready for binding (15 mins): $7.50

Which brings the total to $271.50 plus whatever postage will apply. Naturally, extra services, actual time taken for those extra services etc. will change that price up or down.

Next steps

If you have any other questions, email me at quilting@rhondabracey.com

If you are interested in getting a full quote (not inclusive of postage), please complete the ‘Request for Quote‘ form, save it, then email the saved copy to me along with at least one photo of your quilt top – I cannot give you a quote without that information.





Qantas bag drop and Q Tags

7 10 2019

If you fly with Qantas, you may already know this but it caught me out this morning… If you’re travelling with bag tags on your luggage put on by the check-in counter people (maybe kiosk check-in too?) AND you have a Q Tag on your luggage, the bag drop machine for transfer from international to domestic may not accept your bag. Instead the kiosk comes back with a cryptic message that you have too many luggage tags and to remove some.

Well, the only tags I had (that I was aware of) were the ones put on at AKL this morning. But it seems the bag drop reads that AND the Q Tag and gets itself confused. I had to go to the customer assistance counter to find out why my bag wasn’t accepted, and she told me to remove the Q Tag and try again (that worked). But it would’ve been very useful to have that info on the kiosk screen at the point where I was told I had too many tags! (yes, I’ve sent in feedback to Qantas about this and discussed it with a customer service rep.)

One other thing another friend shared — if you have a spare Q Tag for perhaps an extra bag you didn’t end up purchasing, don’t leave it in your suitcase as it can confuse the machine too. Instead, put it in your carry-on bag.





Getting to Vermont: July 2017

17 07 2017
  • PER to SYD Thursday, overnight at SYD airport
  • SYD-DFW Friday – flight delayed nearly 2 hours, but only 30 mins late into DFW. First Class upgrade on points, didn’t sleep; First Class only half full (only 6 people of a possible 14)
  • DFW- DCA (Ronald Reagan Airport, Washington DC) – delayed leaving for 40 mins as bad weather in DC area meant air traffic issues. Had a 2-hour window to next flight, reduced to 1 hour after the delay leaving DFW. Asked on arrival about next gate, only to be told flight to Burlington VT was cancelled! So after 35 hours of little to no sleep, my final 90-minute flight (due to depart at 10:20pm) was cancelled because of air traffic issues resulting from earlier bad weather in Washington DC area. No flight until 3pm following day, so had to find a hotel nearby and wait it out. Suitcase tagged from SYD to BTV, so it remained in the bowels of Ronald Reagan Airport — I was assured (by Sheena, AA Customer Service counter in Terminal C, 14 July 2017 ~10:30pm – yes it took an hour and a half to get to the front of the Customer Service line) that my bag will be retagged and will join me on my new flight on the 15th. Here’s hoping!!!
  • 3pm flight to Burlington the next day was 40 mins late leaving. The Admirals Club lounge AA agent told me my suitcase had been sent on the 10:20am flight and was already in Burlington, and the AA app confirmed this. The agent told me to go straight to the baggage claim people to get the bag as it would be behind the counter/out the back. On arrival at Burlington, that’s what I did, but the agent there said she didn’t have the bag and she ‘knew all the bags out the back’. She checked her system and said it was on the baggage carousel for my flight. But after waiting for all bags to come through, it obviously wasn’t there. So back to baggage claim where another agent said, ‘Oh yes, it’s out the back — I remember the name’. And I was reunited with my suitcase after wasting nearly an extra hour at the airport trying to get it. The incompetence of American Airlines has really been on show this trip!

 

**************

From my Facebook post about this trip and the delays:

Well, it’s midnight on the east coast of the US and I should be landing at Burlington airport in Vermont about now. Instead, I’m in a hotel room in Crystal City, Virginia (no, I have no idea where that is either, but it’s close to Reagan Airport in Washington DC). It’s a long story, but after 35 hours awake (cat napping only on the long flight, as usual), I’m about done and ready for bed. Short version — weather at DC delayed my flight to DC from Dallas by 40 mins. All good, as I had a 2-hour window. Got in with an hour to spare to find that AA had cancelled the 10:20pm Burlington flight! The next flight is 10:20am tomorrow, but it’s fully booked, so I’m on the next one after that — 3pm tomorrow getting in to Burlington at 4:30pm. My 8 days in Vermont is suddenly 7.

Good news — all the precautions I take when flying (like spare undies, basic toiletries, t-shirt and leggings, basic chargers and at least one US power adaptor) came to good use this evening ‘cos my luggage isn’t with me (it was checked from SYD all the way through to Burlington). AA assures me my suitcase will be on my next flight with me, and that it will be held with a rerouting sticker on it in the bowels of Reagan Airport, not floating around on a baggage carousel all by itself. I’m sort of second guessing that decision to leave it, but assuming everything is OK I just have to go through TSA Precheck with my carry-on as I already have my boarding pass for tomorrow’s flight.

And yes, that’s the SHORT story! I’m knackered and am going to bed. Let me know if there’s anything important I missed while I was incommunicado.

***************

While this was all going on, I received several emails from AA, but they ALL had incorrect information! I checked with both Qantas (in Sydney Airport) and AA agents and got them to confirm that I was still listed on the correct flights etc. The emails had:

  • incorrect dates (checked at SYD – all OK; assumed clerical error in the emails)
  • incorrect info (leave DCA 2:59pm, arrive 11:51 pm!! when actual time of arrival was scheduled to be 4:30pm; another clerical error)
  • rebooking details when my flights were was still showing as OK at Admirals Club in DFW (likely incorrect info on the system that the agent’s could see even though the auto emails may have been correct)
I was NEVER travelling on AA on 13 July -- my booking was always for the 14th. I got this email while at SYD airport on 14 July and the Qantas agent called AA to confirm I was still booked on the 14th. We assume it was a 'clerical error'

I was NEVER travelling on AA on 13 July — my booking was always for the 14th. I got this email while at SYD airport on 14 July and the Qantas agent called AA to confirm I was still booked on the 14th. We assume it was a ‘clerical error’

My next email from AA also had 13 July not 14th! TWO 'clerical errors'? or just gross incompetence?

My next email from AA also had 13 July not 14th! TWO ‘clerical errors’? or just gross incompetence?

 

When I'm at Dallas, I get this cryptic message. I went to the Admirals Club AA agent and she checked -- everything was fine, and I was told to ignore it. More AA incompetence? or just the systems not talking to each other?

When I’m at Dallas, I get this cryptic message. I went to the Admirals Club AA agent and she checked — everything was fine, and I was told to ignore it. More AA incompetence? or just the systems not talking to each other?

Finally I get alerted to my rebooked 90-minute flight, but instead of it arriving at 4:30pm, it's listed as arriving at 11:51pm (the arrival time for the 10:20pm flight). Back to the AA people again to check, and they got it wrong on the alert. Message to AA customers: 'Don't trust the alerts!'

Finally I get alerted to my rebooked 90-minute flight, but instead of it arriving at 4:30pm, it’s listed as arriving at 11:51pm (the arrival time for the 10:20pm flight). Back to the AA people again to check, and they got it wrong on the alert. Message to AA customers: ‘Don’t trust the alerts!’

Other observations:

  • DFW — AA gate in Terminal A had CNN on the TV (no captions that I could tell) and were piping the talking head commentary through the ceiling speakers. Why??? It wasn’t a crisis, just political heads over-analysing every little thing. It was super distracting and annoying.
  • Movies watched on the Qantas flights: Going in Style (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin), Hidden Figures (LOVED it!!)
  • Admirals Club International First Class Dining Room at DFW — special invitation etc. What a joke! Get more food and a greater variety at the Qantas domestic lounges in Australia.
  • Admirals Club at DCA was one of the nicest and well-equipped I’ve ever been in — highly recommend.
  • Also AA’s ‘First’ class is a joke (see post on Qantas food and https://rhondabracey.com/2016/10/14/comparing-qantas-and-american-airlines/ for comparison)




Book US car rental via UK to get insurance included

22 07 2014

This is a very convoluted process, but it saved me a bundle of money!

I usually book my US car rental via an aggregation website like http://www.priceline.com and that was the case for my car reservation for later this year. Back in April, I got a good deal with Budget using Priceline’s bidding process, and was offered full insurance cover for $11/day for the booking, which I was happy to take based on previous experiences.

Unfortunately, after lots of attempts to buy this insurance via Priceline’s website, phone calls (via Skype, thank goodness) to Priceline in the US, to my bank, and eventually to the car insurance brokers in the US, I found out from the brokers that the reason my insurance request likely wouldn’t go through was because I was using an Australian credit card and address, despite Priceline having ‘Australia’ as one of the drop-down locations for this insurance. (I’ve bought car insurance from Priceline before, but they must’ve tightened up some of their processes as I couldn’t get it this time. It’s a pity their website doesn’t tell you why you’ve been rejected, and it’s a pity they haven’t told their customer service reps too, as I would have avoided lots of time on the phone to the US! The Priceline customer rep even told me it was my bank’s problem, so I called them just to make sure, but the bank couldn’t even see the attempted transactions let alone see if/why they had been rejected, so the transaction was being rejected at the US end.)

I could’ve purchased insurance at the counter on collecting the car, but a quick look at the Budget website in the US for that location showed that I’d be paying more than US$40/day EXTRA to have insurance coverage if I purchased it at the counter — that would be an extra US$320+ on top of a US$250 rental!!

So off to the internet of all things, looking for an insurance service that offered rental car insurance for US car rentals by Australians. I found some interesting discussions on the Australian tech forum site, Whirlpool (I find lots of [mostly] good stuff on Whirlpool!), some of which referred me to two rental agencies that included insurance with the car rental (www.rentalcars.com, which includes Collision Damage Waiver [CDW or LDW] only, and http://www.arguscarhire.com, which includes 3rd party liability protection, CDW and others, for a similar overall price for that charged by Priceline just for the car). I may well use these some other time, but the Whirlpool post that caught my eye was for Budget (who I’d already booked with via Priceline), The person who posted said that if Australians purchase via the UK Budget website (www.budget.co.uk), you get the car rental at a good price AND the price includes insurances. I checked the UK website and the price was very similar to Priceline’s but WITH all the insurances included.

Before booking via the UK site, I thought I’d better check the Australian Budget site; however, as soon as I said the rental was for the US, the Australian site took me straight to the Budget US website, where the price was almost double the Priceline and Budget UK price, although because I said I was Australian, that price did include LDW.

So I called Budget in the UK to see if I (an Australian) could book a US car rental via their UK site. I got straight through to a customer service rep (Tom) who said I sure could and he could do the booking for me right then! Tom also confirmed that the rental included CDW/LDW and liability protection with no excess. Within 5 minutes, I was all booked and it cost me less than my Priceline booking with no insurance included. I don’t have to pay until I get to the counter, just like with Priceline. After getting my confirmation, I cancelled my reservation via Priceline, a simple and painless process.

Bottom line: It pays to look for alternatives! Here’s what I found (8-day period, same pick-up/drop-off location and times/dates, same car category [mid-size]):

  • Priceline bid price in April 2014: US$250 (AU$266 at today’s rates) with no insurance (insurance via Priceline — if you can get it — is an extra US$11/day)
  • Australian Budget website redirected to the US site (checking the option for Australian citizen): US$494 (AU$525) (includes LDW insurance only)
  • UK Budget website: GBP144 (AU$254 at today’s rates), which includes LDW and liability insurances and no excess
  • US Budget website (saying I’m a US citizen): US$352 (AU$374) for no insurances; US$764 (AU$813) if I add liability and LDW insurances!

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