Walletpop’s Consumer Ally funny man Alonzo Bodden on airlines vs. consumers

Our friends at Walletpop.com have a special treat to share – a video by consumer/comedian Alonzo Bodden. Since he performs all around the country, Bodden travels a lot – and because he’s a funny guy, he’s able to express his frustration with the airlines much funnier than I’ve ever managed.

Bodden won season three of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and regularly contributes to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno – but most importantly, he’s now a member of Mitch Lipka’s Consumer Ally.

Check out his clip, and I’m sure you’ll find a couple of things you can agree on – whether it is overpriced food, or slow security lines, there is always something to annoy us when we travel.

In which countries are there 7-Elevens and how many are there?

In his recent Wallet Pop post on 7-Eleven’s move to provide more 7-Eleven private-brand products, Geoff Williams mentioned the U.S. and Canada as two 7-Eleven countries. There are more than that. There are so many that it can make your head spin. With so many companies struggling, here’s one that continues to make its mark. The company started up in Dallas, Texas in 1927, and as far as I know, is still going strong more than 80 years later.

I have never seen as many 7-Elevens in my life as I did when we lived in Taiwan. If you were in need of a 7-Eleven in Hsinchu where I lived, there was one just up the street or around the corner. At some 7-Elevens you could see another 7-Eleven just a block away–or across the street. The products were Taiwan products besides a mix of others. With the 7-Eleven brand coming onto the scene, it might be a hard choice to pick between the shrimp crackers or 7-Eleven potato chips.

7-Elevens can be found in 17 countries outside the U.S. Along with Taiwan and Canada, the other countries include: Japan, Australia, Mexico, Singapore, the Philippines, Sweden, Denmark, South Korea, Thailand, Norway, Malaysia , China, Macau, and Hong Kong. There are approximately 27,250 of them. [from 7-Eleven profile page] Of these, almost 4,500 (or more) are in Taiwan.

When 7-Eleven started in Dallas, it was the first convenience store ever. The first products were ice, milk, bread and eggs.

Three freebie treats on Election Day

After you head to the polls to vote on Tuesday, stop in a Krispe Kreme donut place, a Starbucks or a Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream for a free thanks for voting treat.

As blogger Beth Pinsker wrote on WalletPop, Krispe Kreme doesn’t care who you voted for, but that you voted. If you show up wearing your “I Voted” sticker you’ll get a special star-shaped donut with red, white and blue sprinkles. Some Krispe Kreme places may be handing out the traditional round donut, but with the patriotic sprinkles. This offer is only good on Tuesday, and only one donut per customer.

Starbucks is offering a thank you for voting cup of coffee. I found that out when I was looking up the John McCain/Sarah Palin, aka, Tina Fey video from Saturday Night Live. Here’s a link to the Starbucks ad that is using the election as a way to get people to make the world a better place. I guess coffee helps. It helps me. To get your free tall size cup, go to a Starbucks on the 4th and say you voted.

Ben and Jerry’s is giving out free scoops of ice-cream from 5 to 8 p.m. on the 4th. The free scoops, one scoop per customer are to celebrate democracy. From what I can tell, you don’t need to have voted.

Starbucks is offering a thank you for voting cup of coffee. I found that out when I was looking up the John McCain/Sarah Palin, aka, Tina Fey video from Saturday Night Live.

Here’s a link to the Starbucks ad that is using the election as a way to entice people to make the world a better place. I guess coffee helps. It helps me. To get your free tall size cup, go to a Starbucks on the 4th and say you voted.

On the 4th, Ben and Jerry’s is giving out free scoops of ice-cream from 5 to 8 p.m. The free scoops, one scoop per customer, are to celebrate democracy. From what I can tell, you don’t need to have voted in order to get a treat. Although, I’d vote just in case.

Columbus is number one on a best places list: 10 things to do within walking distance from downtown.

My friend over at Wallet Pop, Tom Barlow has outlined several reasons why Columbus is the number one spot on Forbes list of best places to retire. As he noted, that’s great news for those of us who already live here. It will save moving expenses later in the golden years.

Along with being a great place to retire, I have to say, Columbus is one of the best cities to visit if you are looking for variety whether its edgy or sedate, ethnic or traditional, outdoors or indoors.

Like Tom mentioned, having a car would make a visit easier because COTA, the public transportation system has issues, but even for backpackers, Columbus would be a good few days stop on a cross-country itinerary. There are many places within walking distance of the Greyhound bus station and the main arteries of the city bus.

With the person arriving by bus in mind, if I were heading to Columbus, here are places not to miss, all near the downtown and in a walkable distance. Although, the COTA buses that go along Broad St. and High Street would save time. The interest range covers the arts, history, famous people, science and nature. With the list I’ve given, you’ll be busy.

  • Ohio Statehouse. Because Columbus is the state capital of Ohio, the capitol building has a prominent place downtown. There are free daily tours. The tour is an interesting way to find out about the history of the state and learn about the architecture of the times. Plus, it really is a gorgeous building. The statehouse lawn is used for concerts, art exhibits, rallies and Civil War reenactments.
  • Across from the Statehouse is the Verne Riffe Center where the Ohio Arts’ Council’s, Riffe Center Gallery and the Studios in the Riffe Center Theatre Complex are located. The gallery offers creative and unusual exhibits on a rotating basis and the theatre complex offers a variety of performances ranging from modern dance to children’s’ theater to experimental type plays.
  • Columbus Museum of Art. This museum has exhibits that change regularly. The most recent is Objects of Wonder from the Ohio State University. Of the permanent collection, artwork is consistently rotated. (Eat lunch here.)
  • Franklin Park Conservatory. An elegant greenhouse that adds lush greenery and vibrant color to life any time of the year. The houses around the conservatory are grand, although a couple of blocks off you’re in territory that shows what happens when people with money head for the suburbs. The gift shop is superb. Each night, the glass Palm House is illuminated by a light show installation by artist James Terrell.
  • King Arts Complex offers exhibits and performances that highlight African American contributions to the arts. There is an important mural called Middle Passage that was created to evoke the feeling of being on a slave ship. The mural was painted in a connecting passage between two sections of the center.
  • Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre and Southern Theatre, offer a theatre trifecta of historic gorgeous buildings built during the time period when ornamentation and rich fabrics were key. Between them, you can see the top notch performances. In this past year, I’ve seen The Lion King, Avenue Q, the Columbus Symphony, the Nutcracker Ballet, David Sedaris, John Prine, Ralph Stanely and the Stanely Brothers, and Promusica, among others. Each theatre and others can be accessed through CAPA,Columbus.
  • Topiary Garden in back of the Main Library (Columbus’s library system is number 1 in the U.S. as well.) In addition to the lovely flower beds, bushes are trimmed to represent Seraut’s painting “In the Park.” Stop in the Main Library for coffee and a cookie at the snack bar. The library is a gorgeous, stately building–one of my favorites.
  • James Thurber’s house. James Thurber, the humorist who penned “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” grew up in Columbus. Now his house is a museum as well as a literary center that hosts several author readings year round.
  • Kelton House. Another house museum. This Victorian house was inhabited by members of the same family for 125 years and was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
  • BOMA (Bar of Modern Art) Here’s a place to finish of the evening. Originally a statuesque Methodist church, the original stained glass windows and building details have been adapted for dancing, music, art and fine food.

One place you might stay if you have some cool cash, is the Westin Great Southern Hotel. Connected to the Southern Theatre, this is where Thurber hung out in the bar.

For extensive information about other parts of Columbus and more things to do, head to Experience Columbus, the city’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Of course, there’s more to do. I haven’t even touched on places away from downtown except for Franklin Park Conservatory.

The first photo at the beginning of this post by Nutsy Fagan was taken from COSI, the science museum, another worthwhile stop. While you’re walking here, check out the replica of the Santa Maria, Columbus’s ship–Columbus the explorer–where Columbus got its name. How? Why? Not sure.

Remember, these are downtown, I didn’t cover German Village, the Short North, the Brewery District or the Arena District. Those are also close to downtown and within walking distance if you have a good pair of shoes, or hop on COTA.

Salt mine tours for health and fun

Tom Barlow over at Wallet Pop and I started talking about salt mines a few days ago. He mentioned a post he wrote about the health benefits of salt mines and places one can go to see them. An impressive one that neither of us have been to, but agreed that we should is the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow in Poland. It’s a World Heritage site, and part of it has been carved into a salt cathedral. Our talk reminded me of my own salt mine tour in Germany.

Touring the salt mine in Berchtesgaden was a totally funky, touristy thing to do, but one I have remembered over the years as a high point. Perhaps, it doesn’t take much for me to be amused.

We donned mining outfits (over their clothes), put cloth mining hats on our head and gathered with the other English speakers at various points along the way to listen to recorded messages about the history of the mine and how it works. The guides spoke in German. Part of the tour involved sitting, one of us in front of the other, astride two wooden chutes which we slid down to get to a lower section. One of the reasons for the mining outfits was to protect our clothing from the salt. Plus, it was a chance to play dress up and add some ambiance to the experience.

Berchtesgaden may sound familiar. It is also where Hitler hung out at Eagle’s Nest. This area in the German Alps is gorgeous.

Other salt mines to tour:

Also in Poland, there is the Bochnia Salt Mine which is older than Wieliczka, and from the comments people have written about it, sounds like it’s worth a visit.

There are three mines near Salzburg, Austria. Here’s the link that leads to info on all three of them: Salzwelten Salzburg, Hallstaat and Altaussee. There are discount tickets for family travelers. Rick Steves has recommended Hallstaat, according to what I’ve read.

The Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas. The museum is housed inside a working salt mine where you can learn about salt mining first hand.