Budget and Avis ban smoking in rental cars

First you couldn’t smoke on planes. Then trains banned smoking. Now, you can’t smoke in rental cars, at least, not if you rent from Avis or Budget. As of October 1, all cars in both rental companies’ fleets will be non-smoking.

Avis and Budget say the policy came about in response to the needs of renters, citing a non-smoking car as the most-popular rental request. Cars that have been smoked in also require additional cleaning and are out of service longer, costing the companies more money. A spokesman for the Avis Budget Group says they expect some smokers to be upset with the new rules and to take their business elsewhere, but that they think overall the new plan will attract more customers than it will lose.

Avis and Budget will be the first major rental car companies to ban smoking entirely (others offer “non-smoking” cars but many don’t guarantee them), though they are only instituting the ban among their North American fleet, not worldwide. Each car will undergo an inspection upon return and renters who have smoked in the vehicle will be charged a cleaning fee of up to $250.


SkyMall Monday: Towel-Matic

I love to cook. Whether it’s pizza, hot dogs or well-seasoned steaks, I kick up quite a storm in the SkyMall Monday kitchen. But you can’t even begin to imagine the mess that I make. Most of my kitchen adventures result in me being covered in mayonnaise and bleeding profusely. With my hands full of salamis and Rocky Mountain oysters, I have a hard time tearing off sheets of paper towel. The roll ends up coming undone and that breaks my heart. There is nothing more devastating than a paper towel roll unfurled. That’s why SkyMall Monday is so pleased to add the Towel-Matic to the kitchen arsenal!

Thank heavens there is now a device that automatically dispenses paper towels for you! With just a wave of your hand in front of the sensor, the Towel-Matic will present you with one or two sheets. In fact, it can even dispense a half-sheet if you’re one of those people that buys rolls with half-sheet perforations because you’re that anal-retentive about paper towel comsumption.

Why would you need to spend $60 on a device that dispenses paper towel for you? I’m offended by your question but my editors require that I answer it. So, I’ll lean on my dear friends at the SkyMall catalog to explain it:

It never unravels. Built-in optical sensor automatically identifies the perforations on the towel and stops right at the line every time. One-handed operation guarantees perfect tearing and helps prevent the spread of germs.

It identifies perforations! Now you won’t waste valuable nanoseconds of your life finding the perforations on the paper towel with your own eyes.

Think how much easier your life will be now that you don’t have to worry about your paper towel roll looking mildly unsightly. Today is the first day of the rest of your life and you can be certain that you can wipe all that mayonnaise off your forehead.

United Airlines working harder to clean up your mess

United Airlines has always been the airline with the dirty planes, at least as long as I can remember. I’ve often taken flights with sticky armrests, seat pockets filled with crumbs and the general stench of uncleanliness.

The airline had recently been ranked last in class in a JD Powers customer satisfaction survey. A combination of sloppy passengers, increasing delays and decreasing budgets had forced the airline to put cleaning their planes on a low priority.

That survey forced the airline to start paying more attention to its planes, especially in this economic climate, you don’t want to be listed last on any kind or survey.

One of the big changes United made was in the way it tackled how aircraft are cleaned – a new process was implemented, and is making its way to all United Airlines destination cities. The first change was to clean the interior more often. In the past, the airline found it perfectly acceptable to wait 18 months for each “heavy cleaning”, when 30 days is the industry norm. The new schedule calls for a major cleaning every 30 days on domestic aircraft, and 15 days on long haul planes.

The changes are starting to pay off – 40% fewer customers now complain about dirty planes.

In an in-depth article posted by the Chicago Tribune, the reporter was allowed to get up close and personal with the cleaning crew tackling a United 747 that arrived from Hong Kong.

The photos show the kind of damage passengers make when they are stuck inside a metal tube for 16 hours; magazines and other junk is thrown all over the place, apparently passengers feel it is perfectly acceptable to be a bit of a pig when someone else has to clean up their mess. The article also has a gallery of photos showing just how much work is involved in getting a plane ready for a new load of passengers.

Confessions of a hotel maid – read if you dare!

I’m pretty sure I won’t have to tell any of you just how unsanitary many hotel rooms are.

We’ve all heard about the exposés on TV where someone would shine a CSI style ultraviolet lamp around the bed, lighting up the kind of stains you really wish you had not known about.

MSNBC has posted an article from a former hotel housekeeping staff member – and the story may make you think twice about drinking out of the bathroom cup.

For starters, after several weeks on the job, she decided that using the vacuum was just too much work, and simply picked the worst of the crumbs off the floor by hand.

Once she learned the in’s and out’s of how the room inspector worked, she even stopped cleaning sinks and simply wiped them dry to make them appear clean. Sometimes she was not in a “scrub the tub” kind of mood, and simply did a quick spray and wipe.

Thankfully she informs us that she never skipped changing the sheets – apparently even a hotel maid has her limits as to how low she will go.

Of course, things are not just bad for the guests. The housekeeper describes an incident where someone had soiled their bed linens so badly that all the sheets had to be disposed of in a biohazard bag. Sleep well!

I wonder if the housekeeping is more attentive in any of these ultra-weird hotels:

Czech Christmas, Part VI: Obsessive cleaning disorder

I am not sure how it is in other countries, but Czech women (those over 40, at least) have this idea that Christmas would be “completely ruined” if their house was not completely spotless. They literally spend the weeks leading up to Christmas by cleaning obsessively, washing all windows, cleaning the carpets, taking collections of crystal from the shelves and dusting them…

I have nothing against cleaning in principle, but doing all of this before Christmas–which is already one of the most stressful times of the year–seems counter-productive.

Last time I asked people why it is so important to clean before Christmas, I didn’t get the answers I was hoping to get. It had nothing to do with cleansing thy soul, so to speak. It was either A) other women were doing it and she would look bad if she didn’t or B) it wouldn’t be Christmas if everything weren’t clean. Nothing like good circular logic to get the holiday spirit flowing!