Don’t get ripped off by taxi drivers – International travel tip

Here are three tips for avoiding getting ripped off by taxi drivers in foreign countries:

1.) Before getting in a taxi that doesn’t use a meter, make sure you agree on the fare with the driver so you won’t get a surprise at the end of the ride.

2.) To avoid misunderstandings, have the hotel staff write the addresses of your destination and the hotel in the local language so you can show it to the taxi driver. Also, carry a map with the locations circled to show the driver in case they are not in a popular area.

3.) Carry bills in small denominations and change to pay; drivers often don’t carry change for large bills… or say they don’t.

Five ways to spot awful customer service

When I think I might have problems with patience, my wife is always happy to confirm it for me. Since I hate to wait in line, expect employees to know what they are doing and always be having a good day (at least as far as I can see), my standards are sometimes ridiculously high – and my moods similarly foul. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to a bit of mercy. Sometimes, in a fit of sanity, I realize that I may be overreacting. When this happens, I usually give an inept service provider a pass.

So, how can you tell? You don’t want to be unreasonable with gate agents, concierges and taxi drivers, but you also shouldn’t have to be a pushover. When is it okay to leave a shitty tip? When should you stand up for yourself when a driver doesn’t arrive at your door on time? It can be harder than you think to navigate these areas of travel ethics. So, after the jump, take a look at 10 ways to spot genuinely awful customer service. Even if you are more patient than I am, these are of a caliber that will guarantee you’re not out of your mind for being pissed.

1. You are greeted with some variation of “not my fault”
This one is in the top spot for a reason. There is nothing worse than having a driver, flight attendant or any other travel industry employee use those three words. Why? There very utterance implies that there is a problem. Would someone give you a comp’ed spa treatment and say, “Not my fault?” Of course not! Further, the phrase actually puts you on the defensive. You’re mad because you didn’t get what you expected, and the service provider is telling you that what you feel is inappropriate.

Remember: when you pay for a service or item, you are entitled to what you paid for. There’s no way around this. If there is any deviation from that standard, the company you are paying should be singularly focused on making it right – even if the person who is stuck with that burden didn’t play a direct role in creating the problem.

I know that sometimes the person who receives your anger may not deserve it. In the case of my customer service disaster with Carmel Limo over the summer, the driver probably got screwed up by a dispatch department that wasn’t paying attention to detail. But, he needed to remember that he’s in the customer service business. If he had accepted my attitude and tried to make the experience better, Carmel would still have my business … and he would have had a fantastic tip. Instead, both lost.

2. You are told to be happy with what you get
When an airline “comforts” you over a delay by saying, “It could be worse,” or some form of that, you have every right to be angry. When a hotel employee tells you that you should be happy to have a room at all – even if it doesn’t meet your standards – because the hotel is booked or for any other reason, you should be alarmed about the service you’ll receive for the rest of your stay. And, when you are told to live with whatever problems you face in the service for which you have paid, you’re getting screwed.

Any deficiency should be met with a remedy. Ideally, this would entail fixing the problem (e.g., moving you to a room with hot water, to choose a particularly painful example). If that’s not possible, related measures to make your experience better in other ways (from free stuff to upgrades) should be brought to the table.

The more remote the remedy is from the problem, the bigger the incentive should be. I remember staying at a small mid-town Manhattan hotel back in 2003 (can’t remember the name – I stayed in close to 20 in a period of six months). I was only there for a night, and that morning, there was no hot water. None. And, I had to spend most of the day in meetings. Since I booked the room through Hotels.com, the manager said she couldn’t refund me. To make the situation right, all she would say is, “I’ll make it very ‘comfortable’ for you next time you stay.” Did she mean a lower rate? A free night? Two? I have no idea. After persevering 30 seconds in a cold shower before giving up, I didn’t care.

3. You’re not the only one to complain
If you complain to the service provider and hear, “Several of our guests have brought that to our attention, we’re working on it,” be patient. It may be a big problem that requires time and people to address. Yet, as time passes and the number of complainants increases, you’re dealing with a situation that’s unlikely to involve a swift resolution. The longer you wait, the greater the effort the provider should make to appease you. Also, they should do something to make you as comfortable as possible in the interim. If this isn’t happening, you’re getting shafted.

Airlines are the most egregious violators of this rule – and usually combine it with the first point, above. They will tell you that you’re not alone, do nothing to make the experience more comfortable for you and then claim it isn’t their fault. Of course, these companies will tell you that they’d love to help, but airline economics are such that they just can’t afford to. What does this mean? Well, read between the lines: it is a conscious commitment to lousy customer service.

4. You get attitude
Regardless of how big an asshole you may become, there is no reason for a hotel, airline or other travel employee to get visibly irritated or angry with you unless you go too far – which includes physical threats, excessive use of profanity or a voice loud enough to imply a physical threat. If you are in a bad mood, ask firm questions and demand straight answers, you aren’t doing anything wrong. The only appropriate demeanor on the other side of the counter should be to smile and be helpful.

Now, the travel industry folks will claim that the rest of us don’t know how hard it can be. But, I’m pretty sure that the average accountant, attorney, consultant or investment banker – along with many, many other professions – has had to cope with an upset client. The abuse that these guys receive can be incredible, and they sit down, shut up and take it … because of the fees involved, probably. I’ve been there, and most of the people I worked with in my consulting days have been there. When you have an upset (or irate) client, you have to assume that the situation is your fault – even when it isn’t. If your travel-related service provider doesn’t share this belief, you’re right to get angry.

5. Excuses, excuses
When you are given reasons for a particular turn of events but no remedy, you are certain not to be satisfied. Shit happens, as we all know, and it’s incumbent upon every human being to find a way to life with it. Yet, when a situation does go south, the provider should start to find ways to fix the situation. A problem with a reason but no resolution is an excuse. A problem with a reason and a remedy – or at least a way to minimize the pain – builds customer loyalty for a lifetime.

Hyatt’s problems increase as chain is boycotted

The Hyatt hotel chain is facing more trouble after firing nearly 100 housekeepers and replacing them with contract workers. Though a rep for Hyatt has denied that the fired workers were “tricked” into training their replacements and were not given severance, it seems the public isn’t buying it.

Union officials at the Boston Taxi Drivers Association have said that the 1700 drivers in the union will boycott Hyatt Boston locations, refusing to pick-up or drop-off fares there, unless the housekeepers are reinstated. The Massachusetts Governor has even gotten in on the action, saying that unless Hyatt rehires the fired workers, he’ll direct all state employees to stay at other hotels.

In a letter he sent to the CEO of Hyatt, the Governor said that while he understood that tough economic times meant making tough decisions, he thought that the manner in which the staff was let go was “so inconsistent with the expressed values of the Hyatt organization and basic fairness” that he did not think that “any other remedy other than full reinstatement” was appropriate. He also said he didn’t wish to instate a boycott but that the workers were treated so unfairly that he had no choice but to do so.

Of course, Hyatt fired back, saying “We do not understand why the Governor is putting more Massachusetts jobs at risk instead of working with us to find jobs for employees affected by the realities of these unprecedented economic challenges.” Looks like neither side will be backing down, and the only people who’ll suffer will be the workers.

%Gallery-73517%

Follow us on Twitter!

%Gallery-67351%

Be our fan on Facebook!

%Gallery-65115%

Taxi Drivers in Minneapolis Say No Trip If You Sip…

Taxi CabHeads are butting in Minneapolis between Muslim cab drivers and passengers trying to get a ride. USA Today has a story on the situation saying many Muslim drivers are refusing service to passengers carrying wine, spirits, or any type of booze what-so-ever. Many of the cab drivers in the Minneapolis area are Somali Muslim and have stated that driving passengers with alcohol is against their faith and Islamic law. Additionally, they’ve also told dispatchers not to call them to pick up passengers heading to liquor stores and bars. Not all Muslims agree that Muslim cab drivers are not allowed to transport alcohol – the main ban is against drinking. Passengers have complained that they’ve been turned away by up to four cabs before finding a ride home from the airport. Bummer. Sounds like a major clash in cultures and hopefully they’ll be able to make some middle ground. In the end I’m sure the taxi drivers will lose out (perhaps not in faith), but in deals that pay bills. Someone will come along and fill the void for passengers that just want to go to Italy and come back with their fine wines in peace. Read the full story at USA Today.