Got A Complaint About An Airline? Buy a Promoted Tweet.

Pete, Flickr

Social media, in particular Twitter, has completely changed how airlines do customer service. Whereas once you would have to type an official complaint letter and send it to corporate headquarters, or give call the customer service hotline, nowadays you can simply post your feelings to the wide world of the internet, in the hopes that the company will pay attention. But while applications like Twitter may have been effective early on when fewer people were using them, today the platforms are saturated, and to be heard, you have to make some noise. Which is exactly what British Airways passenger Hasan Syed did.

In response to his father’s lost luggage, Syed (who uses the Twitter handle @HSVN) did more than just tweet his frustration, he purchased a promoted tweet in the New York and UK markets on Monday night, hoping that it would catch the attention of the airline. The tweet was simple, yet inflammatory: “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”What followed was an explanation of the lack of customer service in regards to his father’s lost luggage, as well as complaining about the lack in response time. Because of the promoted status, in the first six hours, the tweet itself got 25,000 impressions, but that of course excludes the coverage that the story got thanks to the news and blog world. As of this writing, British Airways has yet to respond to the tweet.

But while some may commend Syed for being an empowered citizen, it does beg some questions: In the day and age of social media, do we expect too quick of a turnaround for customer service? While big airlines certainly have many people employed around the clock to deal with customer service complaints, how efficiently can they really do so? Are we empowered travelers who can expect better customer service, or are we just making more noise?

Even if British Airways does end up responding, what change, if any, will it make internally for the company? There are likely just as many people with good customer service experiences with a certain airline as with a bad one, and although one negative complaint can be the “tweet heard round the world” it may not make any difference.

Ultimately, the only way to get better customer service is to demand it, and social media is yet another channel that allows us to do so. Will Syed’s promoted tweet work? That remains to be seen.

Archaeologists Looking At Stonehenge In A New Light

StonehengeStonehenge is the world’s most iconic prehistoric monument. Scientists have argued about its significance for generations, but few have been allowed to excavate there. Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson is one of those lucky few, and he’s documented his finds in a new book.

Stonehenge: A New Understanding chronicles a seven-year excavation of Stonehenge and the surrounding countryside.

Pearson and his team took an innovative approach and came up with some innovative interpretations. Instead of looking at Stonehenge as an isolated monument, they studied the landscape and other prehistoric monuments around it. This led them to determine that Stonehenge was part of a ritualistic network of monuments and natural features.

But what was it all for? Pearson believes that despite the astronomical alignments and the regular meetings of people at Stonehenge, it was not a monument to nature or the seasons or fertility as many archaeologists have concluded, but rather a monument to the dead, similar to other enclosed cremations burial grounds in the British Isles. Other constructions nearby were symbols of life and were intimately connected to Stonehenge just as the concepts of life and death are intimately connected with each other.

The main connection is with a site called Durrington Walls, two miles away from Stonehenge. Both had avenues leading to a nearby river. Durrington Walls, however, had a settlement while Stonehenge only had burials. Natural features in the landscape aligned with important astronomical events, making the location of Stonehenge perfect for any monument concerned with the heavens.

Weighing in at 350 dense pages, this is not for the casually interested reader. Luckily Pearson has a clear writing style, avoids getting overly technical, and the book is richly illustrated with maps and photographs that help the reader follow the text. I would suggest this to anyone with a serious interest in archaeology and science.

I had the good fortune to hear Dr. Pearson talk a few years ago to a packed auditorium at Oxford University. Once he was done, Oxford professors gathered around in their self-important way to talk with this leading scientist. Before they could start posturing, a twelve-year-old girl came up to him and chirped, “I want to be an archaeologist!”

Dr. Pearson could have patted her on the head, replied, “That’s nice darling” and gone on to speak with the professors, but he didn’t. Instead he sat her down and spoke with her for a good five minutes about what she needed to do to become an archaeologist and all the fun she could have in that career.

The professors looked ruffled and impatient. The girl left glowing with enthusiasm.

That’s my kind of scientist.

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Gummy Bear Art Car Takes Grand Tour

gummy bear car in New York
Courtesy of Alex Leuchte

Sometimes an “only in New York” moment has a more global story. On a rainy afternoon this week in Manhattan, my friend visiting from Germany was excited to spot a Mercedes with Munich plates. The car had a distinctive pattern covering its exterior, we debated whether it was metal, fabric or beads, but the actual decoration is much sweeter: gummy bears.

The back window detailed the “grand tour” of this visionary art, starting in Munich, traveling to Paris and London, and finally New York. The project is the third installment of artist Guenther Siraky‘s Mercedes Trilogy, which also took him and the car through Europe in 2007. The plan was to take the gummy bear car to each of the city’s major art museums, including the Louvre, Tate and Guggenheim, exhibiting the work of art in front of each museum. Over a million people have seen the car, and reactions range from disbelief and amazement to tears of joy. NYPD officers have even allowed him to park in forbidden places to display his work. While the car should be covered in rain and extreme heat, the slightly melted gummy bears just add to the vehicle’s charm. Siraky intended to sell the vehicle once he completed his tour last month, but he has extended his time in New York, and can be found driving it all over the five boroughs through the end of September.

See a slideshow of the gummy bear car in NYC below, and check in with the art car’s adventures through the artist’s Facebook page.

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Tourists Driven Cuckoo By Chiming Clock

Bishop's Castle UK
Shirokazan, Flickr

A tourist destination in the U.K. has brought new meaning to the term “wake up call” with fears the constant chiming of the local clock tower is driving visitors away.

While thousands of tourists descend upon the small English town of Bishop’s Castle each year, many apparently vow never to return after spending sleepless nights listening to the chime of the city’s clock.

The bells in the clock tower chime not just on the hour, but every 15 minutes — regardless of whether it’s day or night.Debate has erupted recently over whether to quiet the clock for the sake of tourists. For the uninitiated, the constant jingling from the clock is maddening, according to the owner of a local hotel. He says many of his guests love the town but refuse to return because of the incessant chiming. Although the clock has been chiming every 15 minutes since the 18th century, he’s pushing for it to be silenced at night.

However to locals, the musical clock is part of the town’s character and many say they’re lulled to sleep by the reassuring chimes. “I always sleep better when I can hear it. It is definitely part of the town and it would be a real shame to see it go,” argued one resident.

Would a chiming clock drive you bonkers when traveling, or is preserving the character of the destination more important?

Ostrich Egg Globe Has Oldest Depiction Of The Americas

ostrich egg globe
Used with permission of The Portolan, copyright Washington Map Society

A depiction of the world engraved on an ostrich egg in 1504 may be the oldest depiction of the Americas, the Washington Post reports. The globe, which was purchased by an anonymous collector at the 2012 London Map Fair, shows the rough outline of South America, along with bits of the Caribbean and North America as small islands.

Created just twelve years after Columbus’ first voyage and in the early days of Europe’s Age of Discovery, it shows many parts of the world that had only recently been visited by Europeans, such as Japan. These regions are rather vague, while areas closer to home such as Europe and North Africa are fairly accurate.

A detailed study of the globe has been published in The Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society. One thing that emerged from the study was that the ostrich egg globe was used as the mold for a copper globe dated to 1510. The Hunt-Lenox globe is kept in the New York Public Library and was the previous record holder for the earliest depiction of the New World.

Actually the globe is made from two ostrich eggs. Discover Magazine notes that the rounded bottom halves of two eggs were used to make a more globular globe, but it’s still a bit too elliptical. The globe’s history is unclear but stylistic clues hint at an Italian origin. It may have been created for an Italian noble family by an artist associated with Leonardo da Vinci.