Category Archives: Road Woes

Life on the road isn’t always easy even for the most experienced road warrior.

Is Technology Making us More or Less Efficient?

A day on the road without technology gave me the answer.

For the past 24 hours, I did not have text, email or internet access on my phone. My BlackBerry (yes, I know, it’s ancient!) did a recent software update which eliminated all of the “smart” out of my smartphone and left me with the sole capability of making and receiving phone calls. I couldn’t even see my call log, so if I missed a call and they didn’t leave a voicemail, I would have no clue anyone called me.

Normally while I’m on the road, I text and email clients and use the mobile hotspot on my account to access and input data from my CRM.  Today however was a very different story.  Even 13 years ago when I first started out in sales, I recall driving around “trolling for wifi” as I called it in order to check my emails and had offline access to my CRM which apparently doesn’t exist these days.  I would text my clients and coworkers throughout the day. Typically, I never could gain enough email access to accomplish my work tasks during the day and would have to attend to all of my emails before and after I hit the road and would average 15 hour days.

Today, I went back 20 years in time.  Initially, I thought that I would go and get a new phone ASAP before embarking on my calls, but instead I decided to take on the day as a sort of “experiment” and see how I could manage.

I committed to doing all of my calls and had an amazing experience!

This is what happened:

  1. I realized that I reach to check my phone almost every 2-5 minutes.

This sounds ridiculous but I’m certain I am not alone.  How bad is that? How neurotic is that making me? How is this impacting my overall stress level? Is this really making me a better salesperson?

 

 

2. I conducted a personal record number of cold calls (in person).

Without any means to access background info (aside from what I printed out the night before in advance to prep for the day), or input data into my CRM, or dick around on the internet, I was completely unhinged.  My only task at hand was to call on as many clinics as possible in my target area to invite them to a corporate event and/or book an official meeting with them and I achieved it.  I called on 31 clinics in 8 hours.  Mind you I really didn’t take any breaks at all and I meticulously planned out my route in advance with the help of old fashioned maps.

3. I was living in real life and interacting 100% with real human beings

I spent more time interacting with human beings face-to-face than I have in a really long time (aside from tradeshows that is).

 

 

 

4. My clients were concerned about me.

I received calls from my clients who were concerned that I didn’t answer their emails and text messages and decided to call me to see if I was OK.  I thought that was really sweet but I also look at that and note that I must be so neurotic and obsessive about responding to emails and texts that if I don’t within a matter of minutes or hours, that is a concern. I have always been focused on providing the best possible customer service that I can, but this set me back a little and made me think that perhaps I am being a little too overzealous in my approach.  Do I need to chill out a little or do I need to keep up my game in order to remain competitive?

So what were my stats?

At the end of the day, I got valuable face-to-face time with 31 clients with a maximum of 1 hour “homework” to log those calls. Surely I didn’t get to spend all the time in the world with each of those clients, but look at these stats:

3/31- Turned into a timely lead.  The clients were looking for a solution that I provided right at the time I walked in.

5/31- Reserved a space to a dinner meeting I invited them to (one of the purposes of my visit).

20/31- Booked a follow-up face-to-face meeting to discuss my products in more depth.

4/31-Got to see the decision maker and do a regular sales call.

If I would have spread out all of these meetings to log my calls in a “timely” manner (immediately after) versus logging them later, I’m certain I would have run out of time given that regular business hours are between 8-6pm. On the other hand, if I would have done these calls by phone, I most certainly wouldn’t have had the same level of penetration that I did in person. Meeting and talking to people face-to-face is far more impressionable than a strange voice over the phone.

So, back to my initial question: Technology has always been key to being functional as a sales rep on the road, much like it is to pretty much any other profession, but is it making us more or less effective?

Not necessarily. In the old days when we would have to do our homework pre and post calls, it lengthened our days. Now we can do emails, texts and calls while en route.   It all depends on the individual and how prone one is to distraction.  If you commit do only doing work during business hours and restricting social contact to outside of business hours, then yes, you will be more effective.  If not, then you will be working (and socializing and killing time on the internet) from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep and in that case, you are not more effective.

If you are in outside sales,  would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Please share.

 

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My Top 10 Airline Travel Fails

woman_embarassedTravelling isn’t easy.  Even if you are a frequent traveller like myself, it is almost inevitable that at some point you will experience some sort of hiccup along the way.  It may be a delayed, a cancelled flight or something else totally ridiculous entirely.

Below is a list of my top “fails” when travelling by air.

10. First Time “Priority” Status, Last One to Board Plane

aircanadapriorityboardingThe first time I was granted priority status, I was so excited.  I would get on the plane first and relax knowing I wouldn’t have to struggle to find overhead space for my carry-on baggage, however that isn’t what happened at all.  I was flying to Toronto from Orlando and what I clearly didn’t consider the fact was that EVERYONE BUT ME was travelling with small children and at that time the airline’s policy was that individuals with disabilities and families with small children under the age of 6 board first.  So, being the only solo traveller, I ended up being last to board the plane.

9. Dropping Documents While Approaching Customs

womanholdingpassportdocsAs I was approaching the customs kiosk, I was fumbling with my documents trying to put my boarding pass and declaration sheet into the photo page of my passport when I dropped it all.  “Apparently” this makes you look suspicious and will pretty much guarantee you will end up in secondary screening. I obviously never did anything wrong besides accidentally drop my documents but from then on, whenever I have completed my customs declaration on the plane, I make sure to have everything organized together in my purse so that I don’t have to fumble with my documents last minute.

8. Driving the Wrong Way to Return my Rental Car

rentalcarreturnsIt was 4:30 or 5am and I was trying to return my rental car to the airport.  I missed the entrance to the rental car return area and drove into the next driveway which was barricaded and there was no exit other than to turn around and drive the wrong way. So, I did just that.  In order to get back to the main ring road I had to drive the wrong way and hope no other idiot like myself was making that very same mistake and would drive into me.  Fortunately, there was not another car in sight the entire time.  Pfewf!

7. “Buzzing” Carry-on Baggage

Baggage Screening_2.ashxUpon removing my liquids and gels from my carry-on baggage and placing it on the conveyor belt for X-Ray scanning at airport security, the TSA agents all gathered around the X-ray machine. I passed through the metal detector and they all gathered around my bag and asked me if it was mine.  When I saw it, I immediately knew what was drawing all of the attention- my bag was vibrating! And no, it’s not what you think! I had packed an electric toothbrush and it had accidentally been turned on as I put my bag on the conveyor belt.  Once they opened my bag, they all got a good laugh.  I think some of them were disappointed that it wasn’t something else.  Ever since then, I just pack a regular manual toothbrush!

6. Suitcase Goes on Wrong Plane

-While I was sitting at my gate, I was watching the baggage being loaded onto the plane at the neighboring gate and I noticed, that one of those bags was MY bag! I had a very unique bag so it was surely not to be confused with another and this plane was most definitely not my plane.  I ran up to the gate agent for that flight and alerted her immediately.  She initially assured me that it was fine but apparently second guessing herself, she made a call down to the baggage handlers and discovered that the wrong bags were in fact being loaded onto that plane! Fortunately, the ground crew was able to remove them in time and everyone on my flight all got their bags.

5. Broken Suitcase

stuckhandleNaturally, just as I approach the baggage drop kiosk, the handle on my suitcase refuses to go down. Talk about last minute stress! Since it is not possible to check a bag if the handle is locked in the open position, I had to get out of line and since I didn’t have the time to buy a new suitcase and figure out if all of my things would fit, I opted to take everything out of my suitcase, tear it apart and was able to locate the part that was jammed. Using a toothpick, I was able to temporarily fix the jam and lock the handle in the closed position so that the bag could be checked.  Throughout my trip, I didn’t mess with the handle but rather waited until I got home to purchase a new suitcase.  Dragging a 55lb suitcase with no handle in addition to a large briefcase and purse is no simple task!

4. Time for a “Quick” Cigarette Between Connections?

DEN security lineupWhen I was in DEN and had a 2-hour stop-over and I figured that this was more than sufficient time to go outside to have a cigarette, come back in through security and get to my gate but I was wrong! What I didn’t realize was that the ONLY way in and out of that airport is through a single entrance and that there are no exits in the individual terminals or concourses. It didn’t take me very long to exit the building, maybe 20 minutes or so but when I got back I realized there was ONLY ONE SECURITY CHECKPOINT for the entire airport and it was PACKED! I had my NEXUS pass but at that time the US airports only acknowledged that for international travel and I was travelling domestically.  Luckily, one of the agents let me into that line and I just made the last call to board my flight.

3.Leaving Valuables on the Plane

ipadonplaneI hate to admit that I have done this not once but twice and both times I forgot my items in the seat pocket in in front of me. The first time was my driver’s license. I had it tucked into my boarding pass and as I was getting seated, I placed it in the seat pocket in front of me and simply forgot about it.  It wasn’t until a month later when I got carded that I realized I had misplaced it.  The second time I forgot my iPad on the plane.  I was travelling for almost 24 hours and same thing, placed it in the seat pocket in front of me, fell asleep and forgot about it when deplaning.

2. Broken Shoe

sandalsRushing to make my connection, my sandal decided that it was the best time to fall apart and I mean fall apart in pieces (worse than in this photo-all the straps broke at the same time) . That day luck was on my side as I happened to have an extra pair of sandals in my carry-on so at least I didn’t have to run through the airport barefoot!

 

1. Asleep at the Gate

ManSleepingAtAirportI have never done this but a friend of mine did and I think this deserves the #1 spot.  He fell asleep at the gate while listening to his headphones and well, needless to say, he missed his flight. Ooops! The same thing happened other day when I was flying home when I couldn’t help but notice that the passenger behind me was asleep at the gate snoring like a madman and would not budge.  Take this as a warning folks, save the nap for when you’re ON the plane and if you can’t do that, be sure to set an alarm on your phone to wake you up at the boarding time indicated on your boarding pass.

To date, these are my top airline travel blunders and I’m sure there will be many, many more to come.   I would love to hear your stories, so please comment and share!

Happy travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

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Unusual Reason You Can Be Denied Boarding a Flight

gateagent

It is with great sadness that one of my loved ones was unable to make it back home to Canada for Christmas.

Why was he unable to?

Because he was denied boarding. 

Why was he denied boarding?

Not because the flight was overbooked.

Not because the flight was cancelled.

Not because he didn’t have a seat.

Not because he was drunk and unruly.

Not because he was on the no-fly list or any other obvious reason.

DamagedPassport

He was denied because his passport was damaged.

Most of us take good care of our important documents but we are only human and it is so easy to have an accident and damage those documents.  Unfortunately most of us don’t even realize what small “damage” to a passport can cause you to be denied boarding a flight and hence the reason I am writing this post. The worst part is, in Canada if you have to replace a damaged passport, you must complete a comprehensive general application and will not be able to simply renew it and this process can take weeks if not longer.

According to the Canadian Passport Office a passport is considered damaged if it:

  • impedes the identification of the holder;
  • appears to have been altered or falsified; or
  • could potentially cause problems or has been denied by an airline or at a point of entry due to perceived damage.

Examples of damage to a passport:

  • has been exposed to water or humidity
  • has a tear in one or more pages
  • contains unauthorized markings
  • the information and/or photo have been altered or made less identifiable
  • pages have been removed or torn out
  • the cover and inside pages have come apart
  • has been chewed by a child or pet
  • other forms of damage that are not listed here

A few years ago when I was in Grenada, I was almost denied boarding a flight back to Toronto because of my passport photo.

The officer looked at my passport then looked at me and asked, “Where is your beauty mark?”

I told him I didn’t have one to which he replied, “You have a beauty mark in your passport photo.  Come with me please.”

Wow! Was I ever sweating!! My heart sank right into my stomach because I had no idea what he was talking about.

I was taken into an interrogation room for a more detailed search of my belongings and asked many questions.

Fortunately they let me have a look at my passport so I could see what they were talking about…

PassportPhoto

As it turned out when I was entering Grenada, the officer stamping my passport accidentally put pen marks on my passport photo page AND on my face in my photo! Fortunately, the pen mark was in blue, there were multiple other pen marks on the page and I had several other pieces of photo ID so they let me pass.

I was sure to renew my passport well in advance of my next trip because I didn’t want to risk getting stuck anywhere again over something so silly.

There are a multitude of reasons that a traveller may be refused boarding or entry/exit into a country but don’t be one of those people.  Be sure to add “check the condition of your passport “ to your pre-travel checklist and do this well in advance of travelling.  If you are unsure about the condition of your passport, visit a local passport office or contact your airline.

Safe travels my friends. I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season without hiccups such as these.

Cheers,

TSW

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Road Woes: Getting Help en Route in a Foreign Language

Last week I wrote about my experiences cold calling in a foreign language.  As you can imagine, that entire experience was immensely difficult and intimidating however, trying to get help when you run into trouble en route is equally difficult, if not more frustrating.

womancartrouble

Every year I worked in the French-only speaking province of Quebec, something came up where I needed help and it was nearly impossible to do so because of the language barrier. This is something we all take for granted on our home turf.   These are some of my worst experiences:

 

Flat Tire

TIRE leaking-air-causes-the-liquid-to-bubble-at-the-hole

When I arrived at my hotel in Quebec City and got out of my car, I noticed that I had a flat tire. I called CAA and they informed me that they could not guarantee that they could send a tow truck driver who spoke English.

In preparation, I had prepared some soapy water in my hotel room and put it into a squirt bottle so that I could spray it onto the tire to clearly demonstrate where the leak was coming from (it will bubble where the leak is as shown in the photo).  I also did a quick Google Translate search for “flat tire” which came up as “pneu à plat”.

When the driver arrived, not only didn’t he speak a lick of English when I pointed to the soap covered tire which was clearly bubbling where the leak was present while saying “pneu à plat!”, he just gave me a blank stare as though I was completely insane! After a few minutes passed he just shook his head in a “no” direction. Great.  So I ran inside the hotel, gave the front desk girl $50 cash to be my translator which she did.   But the guy informed her that he didn’t have the proper tools to put a spare tire on so he left!!!

This left me no choice but to fill my tire up with air every 2 hours overnight at a nearby gas station so the tire wouldn’t be completely flat and damage my rim and then I drove it to a VW dealership the next morning where they fixed it.  At least somehow they understood me!

I later learned that in Quebec French, instead of “plat” they use the word cassé which directly translates to “broken”.  Lesson learned!!! But I still think that guy was being an @$$hole.

Car Accident

crash4

Naturally I was in the middle of absolutely nowhere Quebec when I got into a car accident and of course, the guy who smashed into me didn’t speak any English.  Fortunately, the day before when I got violently stung by wasps while I was driving (Check out the full story “The Busy Bee Gets Stung”), I had asked a hotel concierge if the 911 operators speak English and learned that they do!

Since this accident was clearly this man’s fault and not mine, I called 911 immediately and with confidence knowing that they spoke English.  They told me that they would do their best to send a bilingual police officer which they did.  The only problem was when the other guy was explaining his version of the accident, I had no idea what he was saying.  In general, Quebecers hate people from Ontario!!! So, I was certain that he was blaming everything on me and that the police officer would side with him.  Regardless, in the end I got lucky because the guy didn’t have his insurance with him and he failed to provide it to my insurance company which resulted in not only him being deemed 100% at fault for the accident but also fined for failing to provide insurance.

Sickness

womansleepingincarNear the end of my two week working trip in Quebec a few years ago, I contracted a nasty respiratory infection and I required antibiotics.  This is when I learned that Quebec has the poorest healthcare system in all of Canada. To see how the other provinces rank, be sure to read my previous article on Canadian Healthcare: “Free” but Certainly Not Consistent.

I went to 5 different walk-in clinics and every single one told me that I needed to show up at 7am the following day to register and then it would be a 2-3 day wait to see a doctor!  In spite of my attempt to explain that I just need a prescription and I’m in and out the door, it didn’t matter.

Each clinic informed me that if I required more prompt treatment that I should go to the hospital emergency department where I would likely be seen within 36 hours. When I told them that I could be dead from pneumonia by then, their advice to me was, “Well just go back to Ontario or drive to the US if you need to see a doctor today.”.   So that’s exactly what I did. I cancelled the rest of my appointments and went back to my home province where I got in to see a doctor right away and got the meds I needed.

TIP: If you have found yourself in one of these scenarios, all I can suggest is to try and use body language as much as possible.  It’s amazing how much information can be relayed using simple gestures.  If that fails and you happen to have a piece of paper and a pen handy, try to draw a diagram.  That can go a long way as well.

Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure in a foreign country, try to do your best in advance of your trip to determine what the healthcare system is like and to learn some quick phrases that may get you the help you need. Most people just spend time focusing on how to ask for food or drinks at a restaurant but based on my experiences, I learned that I needed to know how to say:

  • “I need help”
  • “My tire is flat”
  • “I am sick and need to see a doctor”
  • “I have an emergency and require assistance”
  • “Do you speak [YOUR LANGUAGE]? Or ‘’Can I speak with someone who speaks [YOUR LANGUAGE]?’

…and I’m sure there are many, many more!!!

I would love to hear your experiences trying to get assistance in a foreign language.

Travel safe my friends and always do your best to be prepared.  You never know what’s lurking on the road ahead of you.

Cheers,

 

TSW

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When the Four Elements Destroy Your Road Trip Plans

four elements

Because Sometimes Mother Nature Can Be A Bitch!

Now that its summer time, we generally don’t think of how the weather could interrupt our travel plans or at least I never did.  Here in Canada and in the northern US, snowstorms would be the most likely culprit to force us to put our plans to the way side. But interestingly, the only times I have had to make serious changes to my road trip plans have been during the summer months.

In this article, I’m going to share with you some instances where Mother Nature has lashed out with vengeance and no, I’m not referring to inclement weather like snow or rain.  Below are four instances where each of the 4 elements has grinded my travel plans to an absolute halt.  You can’t make up these excuses!

1. Earth: The Sinkhole that Swallowed My Car

stuckcar

While en route in central Ontario, I parked my car on a gravel country road and just as I put it into park, I felt the car shift downwards slightly to the right.  I stepped out of my car and noticed that the passenger side wheels were a few inches deep into the gravel so I got back in my car and attempted to drive out of that spot but unfortunately, I was stuck.  As I exited my vehicle, I noticed that it was sinking and quite rapidly so I reached for my phone to call CAA and low and behold, there was no cellular reception.  Within 15 minutes, two wheels on the driver’s side were up in the air and my car was rapidly sinking.   I had no choice but to knock on a stranger’s door and ask them to use their phone.  Luckily they were home and as fate would have it, they recognized me from a store we both shopped at over 2 hours away! They informed me that CAA would take in excess of 2 hours to come out there so they offered to pull my car out with their pick-up truck and some chains.  By the time they got to my car with the pick-up truck, my car was completely on one side and in the ground up to the top of the passenger side window!!! Fortunately they were able to pull my car out and were even nice enough to rinse off all of the stones in the undercarriage and wheel wells for me before I went on my way.

2. Air: The Tornado that Almost Swept My Car Away

funnelcloud

A few years ago, I was driving through a small country town in Southwestern Ontario that had just been hit by a tornado a few days prior when the weather took a turn for the worst.  The wind, rain and hail was so intense that I couldn’t see anything so I pulled over and called my office to ask them to check if there was a tornado watch in the area.  The gal at my office informed me that there was a tornado warning for the area and that the radar map showed that one was likely occurring not too far away on my intended route.  With that information I decided to take an immediate detour but it was too late.  There was a deafening silence in the air and my ears began to pop.  I looked to my left and saw a funnel cloud touching the ground 80-100 yards away and it was approaching me.  I pressed my foot down on the gas pedal as far as it would go, but my car would not go faster than 120km/hr! I kept shouting to myself (well more like the car) “Come on! Come on! Go! Go! Go!!” It felt like I was barely moving and this funnel cloud was rapidly approaching, 50 yards….40 yards…It was terrifying but also an adrenaline rush like no other.  Fortunately I was able to beat the funnel cloud but only by a matter of a few yards before I would have been sucked into it or tossed around, whatever! That was a close call.  At that point I decided to just stop at the next town and cancel the rest of my day.  I was seriously off route and didn’t want to risk encountering another one of these beasts!

3. Fire: Forest Fires

kelownafireLast year when I was on a road trip in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, a series of severe forest fires broke out and several areas were being evacuated.  The first ones I could see were in western Kelowna.  I could see them from my hotel room and knowing that I had meetings with clients in that area the next day, I called them to ask them if they were ok and if they were under evacuation alert.  Needless to say, if you have to call your client and ask them if their property is on fire and if they are being evacuated, it might be best to cancel that meeting! Although my clients weren’t being evacuated (just their neighbors!), I offered to bring by some emergency supplies and help as needed since they no longer had power.  Obviously no sales happened on this call!

Later in my travels to the southern Okanagan, I had to completely cancel the rest of my trip and fly out of a different airport because there were two forest fires; one on each side of the ONLY highway going into the mountains where I was supposed to go.  It was quite an expense and inconvenience to have to cancel the rest of my trip, but it was far too dangerous to risk driving on a highway surrounded by fires. What if the highway gets closed? What if I run out of fuel? Then what? In cases like that, my safety takes priority over making a sale.  After all, if you aren’t around to collect that commission, what’s the point?

4. Water: Massive Flooding

calgaryflood

Two years ago I had flown to Calgary for a conference and had planned to cover southern Alberta which I normally do in the spring but this particular year I had to cancel my plans because heavy snowstorms caused the closure of all primary highways to the south. I suppose as fate would have it, I was not going to be seeing any clients in southern Alberta that year because when I flew in, southern Calgary and all areas south experienced massive flooding and many of my clients even lost their homes. In speaking with some other sales reps and the conference, I was shocked that some of them actually had the nerve to try and see these clients.  I’m sorry but if your client just experienced some major natural disaster and suffered extreme damages or lost their home, I don’t think it is at all appropriate to try and make a sales call!!!  Have some respect and common sense people!

In my position, I cover all of Canada so I only get to see my clients once per year. I spend a significant amount of money travelling and invest a lot of effort into arranging these meetings, so I will do anything to avoid cancelling a meeting. I absolutely HATE having to cancel meetings! Sometimes however, instances like these arise that make it physically impossible to make to a meeting or an entire leg of my trip and  you just have to put your safety first and be cognizant of others’ situations.

So travel safe my fellow road warriors!

Cheers,

TSW

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Air Canada Carry-on Baggage Enforcement: Great But Not 100% Effective

In late May of this year, Air Canada announced that they will begin to enforce the carry-on baggage allowance at major airports across Canada. Last week, I travelled on Air Canada and experienced this process first hand.  I must say, I was quite impressed.

At check-in, Air Canada had several staff members approaching everyone at check-in to assess their carry-on baggage, measuring it if required and then affixing a “Carry-On Approved” sticker as shown.

CarryOnApprovedCloseup

Upon my arrival at the gate, I was pleasantly surprised to see how the majority of travellers had appropriately sized carry-on luggage.

AppropriateCarryOn

This was a dramatic improvement over all of my previous flying experiences, especially after Air Canada introduced their policy to charge a $25 fee for the first checked bag. When they implemented that policy, almost everyone had 3 bags and usually one of them was oversized.  This is extremely aggravating for us business travelers who generally speaking have appropriately sized carry-on that cannot be checked.  I used to dread the boarding process, looking at all of the other travelers with all of their huge bags and stressing out over if I will have room for mine.  To get around this, I would always book a seat near the rear of the aircraft so that I would board first and if the overhead bins above my seat were already full, I could stow my briefcase in any bin in front of my seat. 

In spite of Air Canada’s efforts to enforce their carry-on policy, there were a handful of passengers who slipped through the cracks like this lady in the photo below.

CarryOnCow

From her bag tags, I could see she was a frequent traveler so there is no excuse.  While boarding the aircraft in single file, she even had the nerve to push me aside and bud in front of me!  Now that most certainly isn’t frequent flyer etiquette!

After boarding was complete, the flight attendants announced that the overhead bins were full and asked some passengers to volunteer checking their bags.  I’m still not sure exactly how this happened since >90% of the passengers had appropriate carry-on.  However, I suppose all it takes are a few Carry-on Cows like that woman to slip through the cracks and disrupt the system.  In the end our flight was delayed approximately 20 minutes as the flight attendants tried to find passengers who were willing to check their bags.

So overall, the enforcement process was great not but entirely effective.  In my opinion, I think that it would be much more effective if at the security checkpoint, all carry-on bags should be double-checked to make sure that they have the “Carry-On Approved” tag and passengers who have more than 2 bags, should not be permitted to go through security.

Safe travels my friends and don’t be shy to speak-up to those Carry-on Cows!

TSW

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Excuses I’ve Used to Try and Get Out of Traffic Tickets

Some are good, some are bad but most are just plain stupid!

A beautiful young woman sitting in the drivers seat of her car, holds up her hands and shrugs with hopelessness as a police officer stands outside her vehicle writing her a moving violation ticket.

If you drive a vehicle, surely you must have gotten at least one traffic ticket in your life.  If you’re a road warrior like me, you’ve most likely have had more than your fair share.  The odds are against us. After all, we make a living on the road and when we aren’t in meetings or in the office,  we are most likely to be driving around rushing to our next meeting , driving in unfamiliar areas and scrambling to find parking.  It’s only inevitable that we have slip-ups from time to time.

Traffic laws are in place for a reason.  Aside from the obvious safety risks of breaking those laws, if you have too many speeding or traffic tickets, you will end up paying an arm and a leg for insurance. If you’re really bad, you may even risk losing your driver’s license.  If you make a career out of being a road warrior and you lose your license, your career is over, unless you happen to be wealthy enough to hire a private driver!

I really make an honest effort to drive within the speed limit and park legally but sometimes, I slip up and make mistakes. Nobody is perfect and I am certainly no exception.  I’d like to make note that these excuses I have used to try and get out of traffic tickets are for entertainment purposes only. I do not condone or promote breaking any laws.

Below is a list of some of the best and worst excuses I’ve used to try and get out of traffic tickets.

My Most Successful Attempts:

BEST EXCUSE “I spilled hot coffee on my left leg.”

coffee-pants

Charge: Speeding 92km/hr in 50km/hr zone

Circumstance: He caught me right where the speed limit dropped from 80km/hr to 50km/hr.  I realized I didn’t slow down in time.  I was also studying withdrawal reflexes in my neuroscience class at the time and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d “spill” hot coffee on my left leg which would make me withdraw that leg and extend my right leg (on the gas pedal) as a reflex.  I was only a few minutes from a coffee shop, so it could have legitimately happened.  Not that I tend to stereotype, but I was certain that most police officers would have at least once spilled hot coffee on their lap and could sympathize.

Verdict: No ticket.  BUT I must point out that this  happened a few year years ago and I wouldn’t recommend using this excuse these days because you may end up with a careless driving charge!

BEST ATTEMPT: Officer: “How Fast Were You Going? TSW: “15km Over The Speed Limit” *wink wink*

80kmh sign

Charge: Speeding 117 in 80km/hr zone

Circumstance: I was driving home on a country road that I normally take home. I finished work early on a sunny Friday afternoon and was simply not paying attention to my speedometer.  When the officer asked me how fast I thought I was going, I realized what he probably clocked me at but I smiled and said “95km/hour?”.

Verdict: Reduced Ticket for 95km/hr in 80km/hr zone (no demerits). I’m confident this excuse only worked because my driving record for the past 6 years was completely clean, so I thought I had a chance.

WEAK ATTEMPT “I’m from Ontario (in Quebec)”

xcusssme licenseplate

Charge: Driving the wrong way on a one way street…twice.

Circumstance: I was in Quebec, the French only speaking province in Canada.  I couldn’t figure out how to get out of this network of streets except to turn around and go the wrong way.  I pleaded ignorance. He even caught me doing it a second time!

Verdict: No charge. Pfewf!

RISKY ATTEMPT: “But I Signaled (when I passed you and cut you off on the highway)” *BIG SMILE*

Turn_signals_5

Charge: Speeding 131km/hr in a 100km/hr zone

Circumstance: Passing an unmarked police cruiser on the highway and cut him off.  I had nothing to say except smile and say “I signaled!”

Verdict: Reduced to 115km/hr (no demerits). That was pure luck!

My Least Successful Attempts:

DISHONEST ATTEMPT: “Somebody Was Following Me”

carfollowing

Charge: Speeding 72km/h in a 50km/hr zone

Circumstance: I was driving faster but slammed on my brakes when I saw the police car. He was obviously aware of this.

Verdict: Guilty as charged.  The police officer screamed at me saying “What are you trying to do? Kill some kids??” I dind’t realize it was a school zone.  Bad, bad me!

DUMB BLONDE ATTEMPT:That’s the distance from my destination? I thought it was my speed. Oh, and can I borrow your flashlight officer?”

gps

Charge: Speeding 131km/hr in 100km/hr zone (4 demerits)

Circumstance: I was driving from Toronto to Montreal at night which is normally about a 6 hour drive.  There is a particular stretch near the town of Cornwall which is notorious for its speed traps. After I passed this town, I stopped paying attention to my speed and was focusing on how soon I’d be at my destination.  I must have been going about 135 km/hr when I realized I drove past a police cruiser (black SUV) parked in the middle of the dark highway.  He pulled out behind me but didn’t put his sirens on right away.  But eventually he caught up to me.  When he approached my vehicle and asked me how fast I was going, I said “My GPS says 115km/hr, oh wait, shoot that’s the distance from my destination!” I explained I was tired after working all day and it was late at night. He then questioned what time I left Toronto and wasn’t pleased with my answer. When he asked me for my insurance documents I couldn’t see in the dark with the flashing lights behind me, so I had to ask him to borrow his flashlight. When I handed over my documents, it turned out he was from the same town as me, so that was a nice coincidence.  When he asked what I did for a living, that  didn’t go over well.  Apparently telling the police you’re in sales, isn’t going to get you very far!

Verdict: Guilty on a lesser charge: 123km/hr in 100km/hr (3 demerits)

ANOTHER DUMB BLONDE ATTEMPT: “I didnd’t know what “RES” did but it made my car speed up just as I passed you!”

cruise-control-honda-the-car-expert

Charge: Speeding 137km/hr in 80km/hr zone (If I did this now I would have lost my license on the spot!)

Circumstance: New car. New button. Apparently it was set really high? This was my first speeding ticket.

Verdict: Guilty on a lesser charge: 117km/hr in a 100km/hr zone.  I took this one to court and had it reduced to 95km/hr (no demerits). This only happened because it was my very first ticket.

LAME ATTEMPT: “I was just going with the flow of traffic.”

carsfast

Charge: Speeding 65km/hr in 50km/hr zone (no demerits)

Circumstance: This cop pulled 10 of us over at the same time.  He just waved us into a driveway and gave us all a ticket. When I asked to see the radar gun, he started to yell at me for not pulling over immediately and threatened to give me ticket for evading a police officer. I told him he pulled over too many of us and there was nowhere else to park. I wasn’t going to park in somebody’s driveway or in front of a fire hydrant, so I parked a little further away.

Verdict: Guilty.  He obviously had a quota to meet that day and since the ticket wasn’t even for demerits, I didn’t bother fighting it.

I CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO MAKE UP AN EXCUSE ATTEMPT: “I don’t know”

Talking-to-Police-Officer

Charge: Speeding

Circumstance: I’m ticked off that I got pulled over and don’t have the patience to bother making up an excuse.

Verdict: Variable ranging from being let off entirely to getting slapped with the full charge.

STUPID ATTEMPT THAT NEVER WORKS: “I’m late for work.”

man-pointing-at-watch-3-25-11

Charge: Speeding (don’t recall)

Circumstance: Obvious.

Verdict: Guilty every time! That’s a LOUSY excuse!

 

 

So there you go folks. Those are some of the excuses I’ve used over the years. I never said they were successful! Fortunately (and thanks to my good behavior), I haven’t had any run ins with the traffic police in a few years now.

Let the take home message be to drive safe my friends and follow the speed limit so you can stay on the road and sell, sell, sell!

Cheers,

TSW

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My Most Awkward and Embarrassing Sales Calls

Have you ever been on a sales call and thought to yourself, “Wow! That was awkward!”? Or “Seriously, did that just happen?!?” and wondered how you were going to redeem your professionalism?

Certainly we have all been there.  Every day on the road is a new day full of surprises: Some good, some bad and some that are just plain awkward. After all, we are all human and well, $%!# happens! These are some of my most awkward and embarrassing moments on the road.

  1. Intruder! Intruder! I’m Calling the Police!

bank robberSince I call on mobile doctors, almost half of my sales calls take place at their home office which is usually in a rural area.  One time, I had arrived at this doctors’ house before he arrived. I knocked on the door and there was no answer.  So went back into my car and proceeded to call him on his cell to see if he was going arrive soon but he did not answer.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, his wife was in the house and was in a complete panic.  She did not know I was coming and instead thought that I was some intruder who had been harassing her over the phone for the past few days.  She couldn’t see me in my car because I have tinted windows, so she assumed it was this “bad man”.  She frantically called her husband to say that she was calling the police because that “bad man” was at the house. Fortunately, she got ahold of him before she called the police and he told her that it was just little old me, the Travelling  Saleswoman who he was supposed to be meeting at the house.  He arrived shortly thereafter and informed me as to what was going on.  I met with him and his wife while she calmed down.  That sure made it hard to switch gears and focus on “selling”!

  1. Mixed Signals: The Handshake or The Kiss?

woman-rejecting-man-online-datingI had just finished a meeting with a client at a restaurant.  We walked outside into the parking lot and just as we were going to part our ways, I put my hand out for a handshake.  He went in for the handshake AND in for a face-plant of a kiss! Yikes!  I withdrew my head back so far that I lost my balance and because I was wearing heels on the icy pavement, I slipped backwards and fell flat on my ass.  I quickly got up and said goodbye and he scurried back to his vehicle.  How embarrassing! Needless to say, I never met with him again.  In my meetings that followed, I was asked about how I got my beautiful wool coat covered in salt and slush. I said I just slipped on the ice going back to my car. It wasn’t a total lie.

  1. Can You Drive Me To The Optometrist?

woman itchy eyesIt was a 3 hour drive to my first appointment of the day.  I was wearing contact lenses and my eyes were starting to feel very dry.  I had 5 minutes to spare so I stopped by a pharmacy and picked up some Visine (for red eyes), put the drops in and promptly hit the road again.  As I was driving, I noticed that my vision was slowly deteriorating.  Everything was getting really, really blurry.  I was getting quite worried but I knew that I was really close to the clinic so I continued on.  When I arrived at the clinic and met with my client, I could barely see.  I explained my situation to him and he told me (as if it was common knowledge) that Visine for red eyes is contraindicated with contact lenses because it can cause the lenses to melt on the cornea! I felt so embarrassed for not knowing that, especially because I have a background in pharmacology.  DUH!!! So I sucked up my pride and asked if someone could give me a ride to the nearest optometrist and fortunately he did.  Needless to say I didn’t do any “selling” on that call!

  1. The Jockey Swarm

horse jockeys

It was my first meeting with a veterinarian at a racetrack where I hadn’t been before.  I didn’t know exactly where the office was located in the backstretch, so I made sure to show up 10 minutes early.  In the backstretch, there must have been at least 50 jockeys.  I was immediately approached by several of them offering to help me find my way.  They led me all over the place saying things like “Oh, I think it’s right around the corner..”  and “I think he’s over here”.  They trotted me around like I was a horse getting ready to hit the track and we were going in circles.  I clearly stuck out like a sore thumb and felt as though I was walking through a boy’s locker room. Several of them came up to me asking “Are you the drug rep? Do you have samples???” to which I quickly replied, “No, I’m here to see the vet.  Where is the vets office?”.  After almost 15 minutes, one jockey FINALLY led me to the office which was literally steps away from where I had entered the main building.  DUH for me not noticing that!!!  At this point I was late for my meeting and had to explain that all of these jockeys led me astray.  I was a tad flustered by the time we actually sat down to do business!

  1. The Leg Wrestling Match Challenge

women_legwrestlingI was sitting in the waiting room of a clinic for an appointment with my client. The waiting room was quite busy and one of the doctor’s clients approached me and asked me who I was there to see.  I told her I had an appointment with Dr. D at 4pm. She threw her hands up into the air and said “Well, that’s too bad for you! I’ve been here all day and I am supposed to see Dr. D at 4pm!”, to which I replied, “This is Dr. D’s clinic, so she gets to decide who she sees first.”.  The lady didn’t like this answer so she says to me. “Screw that! How about we have a leg wrestling match and the winner gets to see her first?”.  I didn’t want to say anything too inappropriate. After all, I am a professional saleswoman right? But I couldn’t resist saying, “I’ve never had a leg wrestling match before, but lady, I’ve got really long legs so get prepared to lose!”.  At that point the doctor came out into the waiting room and said she would like to meet with me first.  I sure dodged that bullet! There definitely is a first time for everything!

  1. Countdown to Vomit Valley

HourglassAt a restaurant in YYC, I caught the Norwalk Virus.  By the time I arrived in Vancouver, I was getting quite ill. Fortunately the worst of it happened over the weekend so I didn’t have to cancel any of my appointments due to illness.  However when Monday came around I was still able to function in 1 hour bouts. It was like clockwork- precisely every hour almost on the dot, I would get sick. So I sucked it up and made it to all of my sales calls but forewarned my clients with, “Hi, I have the Norwalk virus so I won’t shake your hand.  I also only have exactly 30 minutes for our meeting because I will fall ill again and need to use the facilities in precisely 1 hour, so let’s get down to business!”  Such a lovely intro I know.  But I figured, I’d rather be honest and still be able to do my job.  My clients understood and it didn’t impact my business at all.  It just felt awkward to have to introduce myself along with the status of my gastrointestinal tract. Classy!

  1. The Match.com Déjà Vu

awkward faceAt one point I was regularly surfing Match.com.  For any of you who have ever used dating sites, you probably know that after a while you see the same faces over and over again.  So one day, I walk into a clinic where I had a meeting and I see a guy there who I’d seen several times on Match.com but who I never messaged. He had obviously recognized me as well since we both looked at each other and went “gulp”, as in “Oh God, please don’t say you saw me on Match.com!”. The doctor I was meeting with saw us exchange this awkward look in silence and asked bluntly, “Do you guys know each other?” to which we both quickly replied, “No, no”. At least my meeting wasn’t with him and he wasn’t a decision maker.  That would have been even more awkward!

  1. You’re Not My Rep, You’re the Service Tech

pink tool kitI had sold this clinic a piece of medical equipment.  Unfortunately, this device had so many problems and my company was unable to offer them a loaner or a repair service so I had no choice but to try and troubleshoot and fix it myself! As I mentioned previously, I have a pharmacology background, not one in engineering! However, using a little common sense, my little pink purse which held my tools and a voltmeter, I was able to fix it. I have to admit I was sweating profusely the entire time hoping I wasn’t going to break it!  But I didn’t.  I was quite proud of myself. The only lousy thing about it was whenever I had scheduled a sales call with the doctor, all of the staff just assumed I was the technical service rep and they took me away from the doctor to ask for help with the device! I tried time and time again to explain that I was actually the sales rep but all of that was to no avail.  I mean I always wore a suit- What tech service person shows up in a suit???? But to them, I was always, the service tech.*sigh*

Well I hope you enjoyed reading about my most awkward sales calls.  Fortunately I only have 8 in my 10 years on the road.  That’s not too shabby in my books.

I would love to hear from other sales reps about your awkward and embarrassing experiences on the road.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends and try to keep your cool, whatever happens.

 

TSW

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Top 10 Worst Airline Passengers I’ve Ever Encountered

Upset businesswoman checking in at airport ticket counter

Why is it that when people travel, so many of them lose their manners?

Is it that flying makes people feel elite and gives them a sense of entitlement at the expense of others? Or is it the stress that wears people down so they become incapable of acting on their best behaviour?

For the most part people aren’t so bad.  However I sure have met a few gems over the course of my travels.   Even if you don’t travel often, you’ve probably met your fair share as well.

If you’re like me, I’m sure that whenever you get into your seat on an aircraft where the seat next to you is empty, you keep your fingers crossed hoping and praying that nobody will sit next to you. But just when you think you’re home free, that stand-by passenger who gets on the plane last minute rushes down the aisle in your general direction. You size him or her up as they approach, assessing other vacant seats, and avoiding eye contact with them, thinking, hoping, that just “maybe they are sitting there and not next to me!”…or not.

So there you are,  all nice and cozy, seated with a complete stranger.   Let’s just hope they aren’t anything like some of these passengers that made my personal top 10  list of the worst airline passengers I’ve ever met.

Note that these are not in any particular order and that I have excluded those that are not acting out deliberately (i.e. crying babies). Enjoy!

  1. The Starfish-He Will Spread Out All Over You

starfish

Very shortly after I was seated on a long haul flight, an average sized man sat next to me.  I was relieved, thinking, that he didn’t seem so bad at all.  Well, immediately after take-off, he fell asleep and proceeded to slowly spread out in starfish position.  I was in a window seat and he in the aisle.  As his leg slowly pressed harder and harder on mine, his arm on the armrest did the same.  Initially, I thought he was getting fresh with me, so I moved abruptly pretending to access my bag below the seat in front of me giving him a big jolt but to no avail.  Before I knew it, his arm kept falling in my lap and his leg as spread out as far in my direction as possible.  He would not wake up, nor budge for the entire 5 ½ hour flight.

2. The Queen –She Commands First Class Service in Coach Economy

Queen

I was seated in seat 13A on a Dash 8, which is the worst seat on the plane. It’s very back row of a very tiny aircraft with minimal overhead cabin space. My briefcase (because of the wheels) would not fit in the overhead bin so I had no choice but to put it under the seat in front of me along with my purse.  I have very long legs so I was already very cramped which I’m not complaining about. I actually don’t mind being stuffed into the back corner of a plane.  It can be quite cozy.  The next thing I know, The Queen has arrived, fur coat, Coach handbag and all.  She sits next to me and immediately expresses that she has a problem with the baggage at my feet because she “has an arthritic ankle and needs the extra leg room”, where MY feet are! She demands that I remove my bags, which were not infringing on her legroom at all! I apologized nicely saying that my briefcase doesn’t fit in the overhead so I have it below my feet and reminded her that she has the whole aisle in addition to the space at her feet to spread out. She says to me “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day but your bag needs to go because I need the legroom!” I was enraged and told her that if she needed the room, she should have paid for the premium seat! She calls the flight attendant over and insists they remove my bags (including my purse!) and store them in first class! There isn’t even a business class section on these planes! I didn’t want to get into a full out fight and get kicked off the plane, so I sucked it up and told the flight attendant that she could take all my of bags.  That was an awkward next 3 hours!

3. The King –He is Above The Rules

kingOn a flight with severe turbulence passing over an area where just the previous day it had been in the news that several passengers were injured because of turbulence, I met The King.  As the turbulence increased in severity and the flight attendants insisted that everyone stay seated and fasten their seat belts, this very large gentleman who was about 6’5 and 250 lbs decided that it was a good time for him to stand up and put his shoes on! He was in the aisle with his foot on the armrest right in front of me.  I was afraid that the next jolt of turbulence would send him plummeting on top of me and crush me, so I politely asked him if he was aware that the seat belt sign was on. He tells me that he was and he didn’t care. He completely ignores the flight attendants well.   He needed to put his shoes on and standing up even though he was seated in an exit row and had all the legroom he needed.  Fortunately he sat down before the turbulence got really bad!

4. The Baby Daddy-He Wants YOU to Babysit His Baby

BabyDaddy

It never would have even occurred to me that anyone could have the gall to do what The Baby Daddy did.  I was seated watching a movie when a man holding an infant started waving at me as to attract my attention.  After I removed my headphones, he asks me “Hey, do you mind holding my baby? I need a break and I’m tired of holding him.” I couldn’t believe it. Did I look like some kind of babysitter? Or was it just because I’m a woman that I’m supposed to like holding babies? Seriously?!?!? I politely told him, “No, sorry, I don’t hold babies.” How awkward is that? So he moved along down the aisle and asked the next lady he saw the same question! For the record, he was not in any sort of distress and neither was the child.

5. The Seat Kicking Couple-They Are Getting Hot and Heavy Behind You and Don’t Need a Room
couple making out on plane

Seat kickers are the worst!!!  Especially the ones who clearly don’t give two #$%#’s, like this couple I had seated behind me once.  They were going through phases of intensely making out and tickling each other and hence all of the kicking. And like bad children, as soon as the flight attendant came by, they stopped so they weren’t caught.  This went on for over 2 hours.  And for the intermittent bouts of silence, who knows what happened there.  Gross!

6. The Party Princess-You Can Smell the Party On Her

hickeyNaturally I met this one on a long-haul flight.  This girl smelled like booze, had the worst body odor I have ever smelled on a woman and her neck was covered in hickies.  The worst part was, for the entire flight she felt the need to continuously adjust the fresh air vent, raising her arm above me.  The smell was unbearable.  Even my scarf couldn’t mask it.  When we landed, I couldn’t help but oversee that she was texting her boyfriend about how much she missed him-l I wonder what he thought about her “condition”? *sigh*

7. The Carry-On Cow- She Knows No Limit to Carry On Baggage Allowance

lady with too much baggageThis is nobody in particular.  We have all seen this person.  You know, the one with 3 or 4 carry-on bags, sometimes even a large suitcase who stands in the aisle looking puzzled as to why their bags don’t fit in the overhead bin.  I have no idea why most airlines do nothing to prevent people from getting on board with oversized or multiple pieces of luggage. Every time I board a plane, my blood boils just a bit looking at all of the bags people will try to bring on board.  This irritates me because those travellers hog all of the overhead bin space, meaning that there wont’ be any room for my appropriately sized carry-on and I’ll have to stow that under my feet for the whole flight. If their bags are oversized, they will have to be checked after they board.  Lots of people do this on purpose so they don’t pay the check baggage fee, and so often that this is apparently the #1 cause of flight delays.    Airlines need to get up to speed on this problem!

8. The Octopus-She Will Spread out in Ways You Never Thought Possible

The OctopusOn a very cramped flight where my knees were uncomfortably pressed against the seat in front of me, I encountered The Octopus.  She was worse than the starfish.  She was seated in front of me and had an entire row to herself, 3 seats and all. But she decided that she needed more room than that, so she decided to recline all of the seats in her row so she could lie down and spread herself out entirely! When I asked her nicely if she could put the seat up because none of us behind her had any room to begin with, she just laid back down and said “No, I am entitled to all of the space I need.”  Things started to escalate between us all and fortunately, the flight attendant stepped in and insisted she put the seats back in the upright position.

9. The Ignorant– Assigned Seating is Meaningless to Her

Boarding PassOne time when I was boarding a plane, I noticed there was a lady seated in my seat.  This is a common mistake, so no big deal.  However when I showed the woman my boarding pass and said that she was in the wrong seat, she just nodded her head and dove back into her book.  We were told that this was a full flight prior to boarding, so it wasn’t like I could just take a seat elsewhere.   I asked her what seat she was supposed to be in and she just kept ignoring me as if I would somehow just disappear if she didn’t look at me.  I’m sorry but if you can read the flight number and the gate number to get on your flight, you most certainly can read your seat number!  The line-up behind me was growing. My patience and the patience of the other passengers behind me was thinning.  There was no flight attendant in sight so I decided to make the executive decision to stow my bag and just physically pick her up and take her out of the seat and stand her in the aisle. Then I sat in my seat.  She just stood in the aisle looking very perplexed and sat in the next available seat.

10. The Clueless Guy-He Just Doesn’t Get Why He Has to Take Every Coin Out of His Pocket at the Security Checkpoint

h-armstrong-roberts-man-wearing-suit-looking-distressed-pointing-to-empty-pocket-pulled-out-of-pantsThis guy made me laugh to tears, so I saved him for last.  It was rush hour at the airport and really busy at the security checkpoint.  To give people the benefit of the doubt, it’s easy to forget to remove a belt or a piece of jewellery when you’re rushing through security but this guy took the cake.  He went through the metal detector at least 5 times! Each time he went through, he removed a watch, then his belt, then his shoes, then coins from one, yes just one pocket…And finally he went through a last time after he removed the change in his other pocket!  It was absolutely hysterical how clueless he was.  It was so ridiculous that I was thinking that it was some sort of prank but alas it wasn’t.

I hope you had a good laugh reading these and that you don’t ever get seated next to any of these poorly behaved travellers. Now that pretty much everyone has access to a camera on their phones, entire websites and twitter accounts dedicated to shaming passengers have popped up and are rapidly gaining in popularity.  My personal favourite is www.PassengerShaming.com, a site started by a sassy flight attendant.

In the meantime, travel safe my friends and good luck out there! It’s a zoo!

Cheers,

TSW

 

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Why You Shouldn’t Always Trust Hotel Websites

bates_motel_embed1

Have you ever booked a hotel online which you thought looked great on the hotel website only to discover that it more closely resembles The Bates Motel upon your arrival?  And found yourself wondering, “What the heck am I doing here? Why on earth did I book this wretched place?”  You are not alone!

Quite often hotel websites can be very misleading.  They contain photos of hotel rooms and facilities that may have been taken 10-20 years ago, or the last time the hotel was renovated.  Another scam is that some hotel chains may have standard photographs of hotel rooms that they use to represent all hotels in that particular chain even though in reality, some of their hotels are high end and others more closely resemble 1 star motels.  How are you to know the difference?

Another kicker is that usually by the time you arrive at the hotel (or motel), you won’t be allowed to cancel without any penalty.  Most hotels have very strict cancellation policies which usually require that you provide 24-48 hours notice or more to cancel your reservation.

Websites like TripAdvisor can be immensely helpful when selecting a hotel because for the most part, the reviews are legitimate.  Occasionally however, especially if the town you plan to stay in is quite small, even the top rated hotel might not just be up to your usual standards.  Sometimes even the top rated hotel can be well, much, much worse than you had ever imagined.  Below are some of my hotel booking horror stories:

Oriental Working Girl Oasis

Oriental Room

I needed to stay at a hotel that was relatively close to my first appointment that I had scheduled for early the following morning.  After reviewing all of the hotels on TripAdvisor (but without reading the reviews I must add!), I booked myself into a hotel that was rated 4/5 stars, was very highly rated in the provincial hotel rating system and wasn’t cheap. At $175 per night,  how bad could it be?

Upon my arrival at this “hotel”, I quickly realized that it was more of a motel and located within walking distance from a strip club.  In the hotel lobby, I noticed that the high ranking they received from the provincial hotel rating system was well out of date. They put me in a room that I can only describe as an ‘Oriental Working Girl Oasis’, to put it nicely.  The picture of this Oriental themed room is from the hotels website and was clearly taken before it was ever used.  What you can’t see in this picture is that the room:

  • had mirrors all around the bed and on the ceiling
  • stunk like cigars and perfume
  • had no windows, just a sliding door to the street
  • and everything was covered in dust (clearly nobody was using the desk!)

I didn’t want to touch or use anything in that room.

So what did I do?

I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I kept all of my clothes on including my boots and a hat, drank a bottle of wine, passed out on the bed (on top of the covers on my jacket) and just got up and left immediately for my meeting the next morning. I didn’t even open my suitcase. I left it in the car because I was sure that some sort of vermin or insects would get into it. I know this doesn’t sound very classy, but in speaking with other sales representatives, I’m certain that I’m not the only one who has experienced this!

In doing some research, I discovered that this small town with a population of just over 50,000 people has 4 strip clubs.  That’s 1 strip club per 12,500 people! In Canada, Windsor and Montreal both claim to have the highest number of strip clubs in Canada. Windsor has 10 strip clubs to service a population of 217,000 (ratio of 1:21,700) and Montreal has 75 strip clubs to service a population of 1.62 Million people (ratio of 1: 21,600).  Based on this basic internet research I’ve done, I’m pretty sure I was staying in the Strip Club Capital of Canada!   Next time around, I stayed at a very nice place that was over an hour from my first meeting.

 

Escort Escapade Hotel: The 5 Star Experience

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This hotel I found online and not on a trusted traveler site.  I was looking for a nice hotel in this particular city where I had an early meeting the next morning.  In an internet search, this 5 star hotel came up.  The website looked nice and the pictures of the room looked fabulous.  The price was decent as well.  I must add that this hotel website was in both English and French and the English side didn’t seem to make too much sense to me.  The gist was that it was ideal for all business travelers and it had photos of what appeared to be business or high class couples enjoying champagne in the hotel room.  When I went to make the reservation, I noticed that you could only do so if you paid in full with PayPal in advance.  I called the hotel and they informed me that they do not accept credit cards but will accept cash or PayPal.  This was a HUGE red flag!  I asked my coworker to read the French side of the webpage, and well, let’s just say that there was a lot of information about this place that was either not correctly translated into English or not translated period!  In particular, this “hotel” offered packages for business travelers where the hotel room was accompanied by an escort! I was sure glad to find this out BEFORE I decided to book this hotel and show up.  Needless to say, I found alternative accommodations that did not come with an escort!

Hotel Hell

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I discovered this gem which I call “Hotel Hell” when I first started out in sales.  One of my superiors recommended to me that when I am researching hotels, that I should book those that were either in close proximity a major highway or the airport, depending on my schedule, so that is precisely what I did.   However, having just researched location and price, I did not spend much time researching the quality of these hotels and now I am much the wiser!

This hotel was supposedly close to the airport and very reasonably priced.  I had a very early flight the next morning, so I figured it would be fine to just spend the night.  As I pulled up to the hotel, I quickly realized that it was in much poorer shape than the photos on the website had indicated.  I noticed a bar/club/bowling alley on the main floor of this “hotel” and as I was pulling into the driveway, I witnessed a drug deal clearly taking place in front of the hotel in broad daylight.  I immediately thought I would be a target of some sort of crime since I was driving an Audi A4, which was a complimentary upgrade from the rental car company. So much for that being a blessing! I hesitated going into the hotel, but I didn’t know where else to go since there were no other hotels in sight, because it was NOWHERE NEAR THE AIRPORT and I also didn’t want to just leave my belongings in car since I was sure it would be broken into.

At the front desk, I was informed that I had to pay in full for the room in advance and they asked me if I needed the room for the night or just a few hours??? Yikes!! Now if that wasn’t a bad sign, I don’t know what is!

I proceeded to the room and well, I couldn’t believe my eyes! These are some highlights:

  • The huge old school 27″ TV had a large sign on it saying “Please Do Not Remove From Room
  • The bed sheets were filthy, torn and had clear hand prints on them
  • The window opened to the roof outside and had no locking mechanism
  • There was no phone in the room
  • Mouse or maybe rat excrement in the room corners

So what did I do?

I didn’t even want to sit on the bed it was so horrifically disgusting.   I needed to find another hotel room ASAP.  There was just NO way I was staying here.  The problem was, I was in an unfamiliar city, there was no phone book in the room and my computer was dead (but I’m sure there was no internet access anyways!) so I had no way of figuring out another place to go.  I had misplaced my city map and I felt lost.

So what did I do? I called my ex-boyfriend, whom I hadn’t spoken with in at least 5 years, hoping that he still lived in this city  which is where he had moved here after our break-up.  Luckily, he answered the phone and bailed me out.  He escorted me out of the hotel (no pun intended) which made me feel safer since he was a big guy and he drove with me to a much nicer hotel that actually was close to the airport. I’ll never forget when he arrived at my hotel room, he said to me, “What are you doing here? I wouldn’t even &*%$ prostitutes in this hotel!”  That was reassuring!

Needless to say, I’ve never stayed at discount hotels since, even if they are part of a major chain!

I also make sure to thoroughly research the reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and read them in great detail.  When booking hotels now, my preferences are in the following order:

  1. Hotel amenities
  2. Positive Reviews*** MAKE SURE YOU READ THE REVIEWS FOR DETAILS! I CAN’T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH!
  3. Price
  4. Location

So the next time you’re booking a hotel, make sure you do your research and not just blindly trust the hotel website because otherwise, you might just be in for a horrific surprise.

Bates Hotel anyone? Count me out!

If you have the time, take 5 minutes to write a review of the hotels you stay at regardless of whether or not your review is good or bad.  All of us depend on those honest reviews.

Safe travels my friends.

Cheers,

 

TSW

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