Archive for the ‘Consumer rants’ Category

LXR lodgings’ bottled water is all wet

July 11, 2008

Not to be crude, but I about spit out my unfiltered tap water from Durham, North Carolina, USA, when I read a press release about a cushy lodging group’s “super-premium water” offering. (Full disclosure: I usually filter my tap water in a Brita pitcher, but absolutely not always.)

Being on the receiving end of the hospitality industry’s publicity machines, let me tell you that there’s a lot of green-washing out there. Usually I let it, well, wash over me, because I can do only so much. But for some reason, I decided to wade into this one.

From the Susan Magrino Agency in NYC:
“Good Afternoon, I wanted to make sure that you received the news about LXR Luxury Resorts & Hotels becoming the first hotel collection to offer Icelandic Glacial, a super-premium bottled water with a net-zero carbon footprint.”

Um, didn’t LXR hear the news that bottled water is baaaaad for the environment? I guess not, because the release states: “LXR’s partnership with Icelandic Glacial is yet another example of the hotel collection’s ongoing campaign to become an industry leader for ecologically-sensitive operation.”

While Icelandic Glacial *may* be “greener” than some other bottled water companies, NOT using bottled water is the only environmentally sensivite option. But wait, there’s more.

Iceland Glacial, which indeed ships water aaaalllllll the way from Iceland, is 20 percent owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is why you’ll find this fancy wet stuff not only at luxury lodgings, but also at such swanky spots as SeaWorld (owned by Busch).

And here’s a little excerpt from this Aug. 13, 2007, Business Week article by Ben Elgin. The headline is: “How ‘Green’ Is That Water? A close look at one company’s claims of “carbon neutrality” points to problems for the industry”:

“Icelandic can point to a carbon-neutral certification it obtained from a paid consulting firm, but BusinessWeek’s examination of Icelandic’s environmental reports reveals that the company has not zeroed out all of its emissions.”

After citing specific examples, the article then goes on to say, “More broadly, the reports indicate just how difficult it would be for the bottled water industry, which has soared to $11 billion in U.S. sales, to address consumer anxiety about its role in global warming.”

Like I said and like you’ve no doubt heard from a wellspring of sources, no matter how you pour it, bottled water is not “environmentally sensitive.” If you agree, you can let LXR know by emailing feedback@luxuryresorts.com. Now, let me get back to my tall, cool glass o’ tap. Ahhhhhhhh…

Oh, in case you’re curious, here are LXR properties offering Icelandic Glacial bottled water: The London West Hollywood and the Carmel Valley Ranch, both in California; The Peaks Resort & Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.; The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree, Ariz.; South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island, Fla.; the Inns of Sanibel in Sanibel, Fla; Naples Grande Beach Resort and Edgewater Beach Hotel, both in Naples, Fla.; Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel & Yacht Club, Bahia Mar Beach Resort & Yachting Center and Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Resort & Spa, all in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida; Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; Miami Beach Resort in Florida; Casa Marina Resort & Beach Club and The Reach Resort both in Key West, Fla.; Key Largo Grande, A Hilton Resort, in Florida; The Saratoga Hilton in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and The London NYC in New York City.

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Your time is up at Air France

May 29, 2008

Mon Dieu! It’s bad enough that airlines keep us on hold interminably. But I’d rather be on hold than not be able to speak with anyone. Air France has a new policy this year that if the agents’ telephone queue is of a certain length, a caller is disconnected after holding for 30 minutes! (Yes, they warn you.)

Over the course of several days I tested the Air France reservations line about five times. Once I got through quickly, twice I got a recording saying the wait time would be four minutes (I didn’t stay on to check) and twice I held for 30 minutes before the call was disconnected. (Of course I was multitasking.)

Customer Service, not our priorityThis is what you could call ANTI-customer service. I asked Air France media relations rep Karen Gillo about the policy. Her answer: “I’m pretty sure we don’t have a policy that says people will be cut off.” Mais oui, I countered, which she later confirmed. I asked how many operators the airline uses and when do they turn on that blasted disconnect message, and of course she said, “we don’t answer proprietary questions.”

This issue came up when I tried to reserve seats for an Air France flight from Oslo to Paris. Had I been paying better attention instead of multitasking, I would have heard the *one* recording in the beginning that in-Europe flights can’t get seat assignments until check-in. (Dangit, I’d known that for years and forgotten.) While I was holding for 30 minutes the message was never repeated.

I know what you’re thinking: go online, you idgit. Well, guess what? I did, and there was absolutely no place that said “make a seat assignment.”

Poor Karen spent two days trying to figure out why that option was missing, passing along all sorts of misinformation before concluding it was because the seat-assignment option was blocked, it being impossible to make one from Oslo to Paris.

So why didn’t the website just say that, I asked? That would have saved, like, an hour of my time. (Not counting writing this.)

“That’s an issue with the software,” she said. “I sent a suggestion to the web people about that.” Karen said she’d let me know if they fix it. (My eyes are rolling.) Feel free to help Karen along by making your own suggestion using Air France’s online form. That is only for comments about their online service. I can’t find a general customer-relations email. If any of you can, I’ll post it here.

As I kept telling Karen, this is not about me (well, a little), but about all the other Air France customers going through the same thing. No computer option; no phone option. What’s a customer to do? Choose a different airline.

When the heck is Southwest going to start flying overseas anyway?

When Delta dozes (and Wessel doesn’t)

May 8, 2008

Delta sent Wessel and me information via email (they called him also, but not me!) about a change in our flight schedules from Durham, NC, to Oslo, Norway next month.

“We have bolded the affected flights,” it read. Only one flight was in bold, from Atlanta to Newark, and it was only a 10-minute change. We’d booked this trip months in advance, and these kind of changes are quite typical. No biggie. I noted it and went back to work.

Unfortunately, Delta and yours truly were dozing on the job, but wide-eyed Wessel caught another, much bigger change that was not highlighted but should have been.

On the final leg of our journey home in late June, instead of our original flight leaving at 4:50 p.m. from Cincinnati to Durham it was now scheduled to depart at 3 p.m. And guess what time we were arriving into Cincinnati from Paris? At 3 p.m. Argh….

I called Delta for the low-down. Turned out the 4:50 p.m. flight had been scrubbed.

The representative, who then put us on a later flight, was not the least bit apologetic.

Me: “How did this happen?”

Delta: “The automated system put you on it.”

Me: “Well it doesn’t have very good software, then. Isn’t a human being ever involved?”

Delta: “Yes, they manually put it in a queue for review.”

Me: “So the reviewer dropped the ball?”

Delta: “Yes, I guess.”

Me: “And why wasn’t that big change highlighted on our email?”

Delta: “It was just an oversight.”

Me: “A pretty big one, I’d say.”

Delta: (nada)

So …. I guess I should have just come out and said: Can you please just apologize so I’ll feel better? But I didn’t, and she didn’t, and I just don’t get that.

The flip side to that is when I called Verizon or maybe it was American Express recently about a minor issue and they apologized so many times that I finally said, “please stop apologizing, it’s OK.” Of course their response came out of Customer Service Interaction No. 5.247 on page 184 of the manual.

Note to Big Business: We consumers don’t need a string of rehearsed apologies; we just need one or two that are heartfelt.

Meanwhile, I have a message in to Air France media relations about some of their disappointing customer-service policies. More on that coming up.