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 The Brancatelli File

joe VOICES FROM THE FRONT

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

October 10, 2002 -- This is an indisputable truth: No one writes with as much wit and conviction about life on the road as you do.

One of the absolute joys of writing this column is that you honor me by responding with E-mails filled with hilarious, frustrating, infuriating, astonishing--and always brilliantly written--tales about life on the road. Your observations are devastating in their clarity and witty beyond my feeble palette of words.

So this week I'll shut my yap and let you write. Here are your voices from the front lines of business travel. And I end with a note I received from a business traveler about two years ago. I consider it the frequent traveler's Desiderata.

GUARANTEED FRUSTRATION #1    "Hotels demand I 'guarantee' a room for late arrival by giving them my credit-card number. If I don't show, they charge me. But when I arrive at the hotel and try to check in for my 'guaranteed' room, they're sold out! So even though they would charge me for the room if I didn't show, they've sold my room out from under me. If someone sold a house twice, they'd be in jail."

BEST OF THE WORST    "When the airlines do one of their random surveys, why do the questions always start with, 'Compared to other airlines…' Isn't that a lot like saying, 'We know the whole airline industry is horrible, we're not striving to meet your expectations, we're only interested in being the best of the worst.' "

NOTHING FROM NOTHING    "I receive mail highlighting new airline alliance services and benefits only to get to the airport and find that no one knows anything about them. Airlines have to keep the promises they make and train their partners. I don't think I am asking them for anything except to do what they told me they would do."

THEY ALL LAUGHED    "On a recent trip, a flight attendant came back to coach to offer a first-class seat to a flight attendant who was traveling with her family. She declined. I asked for it and showed my Platinum credentials. The flight attendant just laughed and walked away."

GUARANTEED FRUSTRATION #2    "I reserve a rental car with a credit car that will be charged if I don't arrive and receive a confirmation number. Then I get shuttled away from the airport, see no cars on the lot and am told I can take a cab to the hotel and then back to the rental lot the next day. If it isn't a confirmed reservation, why call it that? Why can they charge me if I don't show, but I have no recourse if they don't fulfill their end of the bargain?"

MOUSE IN THE HOUSE    "I stayed at a hotel recently and was graciously kept company by two mice making a breakfast of my Tastykake donuts. They didn't even wait for me to make coffee. Of course, the front desk and hotel staff acted like it was no big deal. They didn't become concerned until I walked into the lobby with one of the creatures, still alive in my donut box, and stated my problem loudly enough for other guests to hear. That's when an assistant manager got around to offering to take my little friend to cozier surroundings. He could have at least offered to pay for my donuts."

TALES FROM THE SHOWER    "It irritates me that the little bottles of shampoo and such in the hotel bathrooms have such tiny print that I can't read it without my glasses. I step into the shower and can't figure out which bottle is the shampoo, which is the conditioner, and which is the mouthwash."

LIVING WITH LIES    "I was arriving late for a connection and I raced to the gate to find the flight had not departed even though it was past departure time. I could also see there was no airplane at the gate. I asked the agent how long it would be. He said, 'We will depart on time.' I lost my cool and said: 'You damned fool! You don't even have an airplane there. How will we depart on time?' What on earth is wrong with either telling the truth or having the agent admit, 'I don't know.' "

BLAME CANADA    "You know what frustrates me? Flying first class to Toronto and being told that the first-class lounge is only for first-class international passengers. What do they think Canada is? Another zip code?"

ATTENTION, KMART FLYERS!    "I excuse poor service at Kmart because they are charging low prices. But it is a little harder to accept bad service when you have paid big bucks for an airline seat that keeps getting more expensive all the time."

ATTENTION, WAL-MART SHOPPERS!    "Why can't I get a break on the cost of soft drinks in hotels? Why do you think you see me coming in with Wal-Mart bags? I have a $40-a-day meal allowance. I can't pay $1.50 for a soft drink from a hotel vending machine."

HAWAIIAN WEDDING SONG AND DANCE    "I recently went to Hawaii with my wife for our wedding. I asked the attendant if we could put the wedding dress in the front compartment. She said it would depend 'on weight and balance.' Apparently, I'm smart enough to earn two free tickets from Boston to Maui, but so stupid that I'll believe a wedding dress will affect the weight and balance of a 747."

TALES FROM THE SHOWER II    "I hate it when the hotel clears away my once-used bar of soap and gives me a pretty, wrapped package. Such a trivial thing, but I hate having to unwrap those things early in the morning after I've stepped in the shower. I'm sure it's 'proper' from the hotel's view to replace the soap each day, but it's annoying from the sleepy consumer's point of view."

THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW    "I think there should be a law that if you pay full-fare coach and can't get upgraded, you should not be forced to sit in a middle seat."

FREDDIE AND THE DREAMERS    "I'm old enough to remember when the 'major' airlines rapped Laker and PeoplExpress and called them 'cattle cars.' The airlines today are all worse than Freddie Laker ever envisioned."

UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED    "I despise those little, overcrowded shuttle buses that take you out to your commuter flight. They are crammed with luggage and people, many standing. This is incredibly dangerous. I wear a seat belt when I drive to the grocery store, but I am expected to stand in this little bus while it scoots across the tarmac dodging jets, fuel trucks and other little, overcrowded shuttle buses."

ON THE ROAD AGAIN    "I no longer fly if I can drive to my destination in eight hours or less. I don't care how many frequent-flyer miles they would give me."

THE ZEN OF BUSINESS TRAVEL    "I survive because I use the Zen approach. I look at business travel as a test of survival. It's not fun, it's not glamorous, it's not for the faint of heart. Assume s**t is going to happen along the way. If things go well, you feel good, you made it. If things go bad, you've started from a mental place where you expected it all along."

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com

Copyright © 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.