Gaddafi’s kid on the hook for half million dollar Italian hotel bill

Have you ever stiffed the hotel on the bill? They might be able to slap it on your credit card while you’re making a getaway, but a few thousand dollars is easy to recover. When the tab starts creeping toward half a million dollars, though, courts start getting involved … especially in Italy and especially when your father is a Libyan dictator.

Saadi Gaddafi, whose dad is Muammar, dropped €392,000 for a 40-day stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, near Portofino. In fairness, he also had his entourage with him – personal trainer, bodyguards, secretaries … you know the drill. It takes a lot of people to keep a dictator’s son on the go. Instead of making things right at the front desk on his way out, Gaddafi left a black SUV in the parking lot. According to local media, it’s still there.

This may seem like irresponsible behavior for a world leader’s son, even if he is only from Libya. At the time, though, he was wrapping up his career as a soccer player in Italy, so he had to party in a manner appropriate to his profession. And he did have his fun. According to the Guardian:

After signing in 2003 for Serie A side Perugia, Gaddafi joined Udinese in 2005 and Sampdoria in 2006, playing in a total of two matches in Italy and failing a drugs test. When not in training, he made the Italian gossip columns when he reportedly crashed a yacht into a harbour wall in Sardinia. He is now reportedly forging a new career as a film mogul.

The hotel didn’t rush into court. Rather, it worked the usual channels with a country that has solid relations with Italy:

Corriere della Sera reported that prior to taking legal action, the Grand Hotel Excelsior contacted the Libyan embassy in Italy which had paid previous bills on behalf of Saadi Gaddafi, only to be told that it would not cover the cost of the stay until it was told to do so by the Libyan government. On Friday, an Italian judge ordered Gaddafi to €5,000 in legal expenses in addition to his bill.

Time to sell some more plutonium, I guess. I’m sure there’s someone out there with half a million dollars and a flux capacitor to feed.


[photo by StartAgain via Flickr]

Japanese sex clubs: Where flight attendant uniforms mean service

Where is a flight attendant uniform synonymous with high-touch service? Well, you may encounter JAL duds in a Japanese sex club. Your hostess may not keep it on long, but you’ll be happy to know that your safety is her first priority, whether you’re dressed or not. When JAL fell into bankruptcy, the risk that flight attendant uniforms would fall into the wrong hands skyrocketed.

It seems that people will pay big bucks to get serviced by a “flight attendant,” as long as it doesn’t happen on a plane. Thus, the uniforms can fetch thousands of dollars, a sale made easier by employees falling victim to mass layoffs. Flight attendant uniforms popping up on the Yahoo! Japan auction site were on the block for more than $3,000.

Of course, there’s more to this problem than the illusion of freaky FAs filling fetish fantasies for sex club patrons. The airline also says that there’s a security risk, as uniforms can make it easier to access restricted areas in airports. JAL also suggests that here’s brand risk, with an airline spokeswoman indicating, “We also do not want people misrepresenting the company or damaging our image in any way.”

I guess the impact on the airline’s image depends on the talent wearing the uniform …

Italy battles buffalo mozzarella fraud

There’s a cheese scandal brewing in Italy, and it involves buffalo mozzarella, one of the country’s most famous foods. Served on pizzas and pastas, with antipasti, in salads or just enjoyed by the handful (what? I’m the only person that does that?), the cheese is known for its quality and purity. But it seems that much of the cheese passed off as 100% from buffalo milk actually contains trace amounts of cow’s milk. In some cases, it was even as much as 30%.

So what’s the big deal? I’m not sure I could discern the taste difference between pure buffalo mozz and one with cow’s milk. The problem is that Italy’s authentic buffalo mozzarella is produced under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) seal, meaning that all products bearing that seal need to be produced using certain ingredients and procedures. According to LeaderPost.com, the concern is not about health issues or taste, but rather ” to protect the “Made in Italy” label.”

It seems the scandal even reaches to the highest levels. The president of the consortium of buffalo mozzarella was also found to have watered down his cheese. He was removed from his post by the Italian Minister for Agriculture and replaced with a temporary leadership group.

Until the problem has been solved, visitors to Italy may (unbeknownst to them) wind up eating cheese that isn’t 100% buffalo milk. Of course, it will probably be just as delicious anyways.

[via NPR]

OJ scandal! Has American Airlines lost their minds?

OJ on the rocksAmerican Airlines is in the throes of an OJ scandal — but it’s not about OJ Simpson. No. It’s about everyone’s favorite breakfast delight: Orange juice.

On December 6th, a man in first class asked a flight attendant for a glass of orange juice and got a temper tantrum. David Koss, a fellow passenger, witnessed the debacle and wrote a lengthy and well-reasoned letter to The Consumerist, who published it alongside an old magazine ad with an AA stewardess curled in a chair next to the words: “Think of her as your mother.”

Your mother would probably tell you to get your own dang orange juice, right?

Well, the flight attendant, Helen (according to Koss), took it further than that. She allegedly began with “This must be your first time in first class” (totally inappropriate), and he responded that he was actually a ten year Executive Platinum flier. Then she blew up on him — and actually woke David Koss, who tells the first part of the story second-hand — and stormed up to the front of the plane. Soon after, she got testy with the passengers talking about the explosion. “We were actually nervous to be in the presence of such an unstable individual,” comments Koss.

Then, taking it still further, Helen came back to the OJ man …

“with a written warning she said was from the captain. It stated that he may be in violation of Federal Law for ‘Threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a crewmember (section 91.11).’ She said, ‘I didn’t want to have to do this in front of every one, but here you go.’ According to the document, he could be put in prison for asking for his orange juice.”

After descending, Koss and his fellow passengers were met at the gate by an airline representative who informed them that “the Feds would probably have to investigate due to this warning being issued;” apparently those slips are a “big deal.”

Normally we’d say that this was obviously the result of a single individual coming undone (Koss notes that she was clearly “already having a very bad day”) and not really a reflection on the airline (every office has a screw loose now and again), but Koss concludes his letter with:

“This woman’s behavior is completely unacceptable and is a perfect example of what I’ve been seeing in AA flight attendants for years now. They don’t want to be there, make up their own rules that don’t reflect the company, and have huge disdain for the people paying their salary … the customers.”

What do you think? Do you find the flight attendants on American Airlines different from other airlines? Do you feel disdained? Discuss.

UPDATE: Learn what Heather Poole, Gadling’s resident flight attendant, thinks about this!

UPDATE 2: The man who ordered the OJ responds.

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American Airlines fires web designer over response to rant

In an era where communication is fast and easy, sometimes it’s easy to forget about boundaries. American Airlines fired a web design employee because of this. The employee responded to a blog post from a “disgruntled user,” but the airline felt he went too far, saying that he released sensitive information about American. This was a violation of his non-disclosure agreement with the company.

So far, the employee is being called “Mr. X” — an original moniker, right? Well, he saw a pretty brutal post from Dustin Curtis, an unhappy passenger. He basically wrote an open letter to the airline after having “had the horrific displeasure of booking a flight on your website.” It was so bad, he wrote, “that I vowed never to fly your airline again.” He then offered some suggestions, drawing on his background as a user interface designer and closed with the sentiment: “Imagine what you could do with a full, totally competent design team.”

According to Curtis, it only took American an hour to fire “Mr. X” after he addressed to the employee’s response. Yep, a decade of experience as a user interface designer and a portfolio that Curtis wrote, has “some great work,” went down the tubes. In an e-mail to Curtis, Mr. X explains the internal situation at American’s AA.com group in considerable detail. He provides insights into which groups handle specific functions and is kind enough to point out that there are some enhancements coming in the next 12 to 18 months (so, keep an eye out for them).

And, he defended himself and his company. Mr. X got pretty blunt:

“But-and I guess here’s the thing I most wanted to get across-simply doing a home page redesign is a piece of cake. You want a redesign? I’ve got six of them in my archives. It only takes a few hours to put together a really good-looking one, as you demonstrated in your post. But doing the design isn’t the hard part, and I think that’s what a lot of outsiders don’t really get, probably because many of them actually do belong to small, just-get-it-done organizations. But those of us who work in enterprise-level situations realize the momentum even a simple redesign must overcome, and not many, I’ll bet, are jumping on this same bandwagon. They know what it’s like.”

Curtis, of course, is “horrified” at what happened to Mr. X (and pointed out that he republished the letter with the author’s permission).

For American, this wasn’t an issue of public criticism. After all, Curtis, as a professional, is in the business of promoting his capabilities, and it’s possible to interpret his initial critique as a pitch — to any potential client, not just American. The airline was upset to see such detailed and sensitive information about its operation sent out into the public domain.

Curtis disagrees. His latest statement says, “When I first learned about this, I was horrified. Mr. X is actually a good UX designer, and his email had me thinking there was hope for American Airlines.” He continues that Mr. X “clearly cared about his work and about the user experience at the company as a whole. But AA fired Mr. X because he cared.”

Yet, while Curtis says American fired the designer because “he cared enough to reach out to a dissatisfied customer and help clear the company’s name in the best way he could,” he opened the door to all kinds of information that I wouldn’t want to show up on Gadling.