fighting the lack of good ideas

the ‘benefits’ of being friendly

Coming home from Hartford this week, my wife and I got stranded in Detroit (ok, so DTW is in Romulus… but whatever). Our flight into DTW from BDL was delayed a bit, but we still had ~40 minutes to get to our flight to Lexington. However, when we landed we found out that the flight home had been canceled due to winter weather around CVG and LEX (while the accumulations weren’t real high, the winds and low visibility made us happy they had canceled our flight).

Being stranded at an airport is something I have had to deal with on a couple occasions before (once even at DTW 2 years back), but never with anyone other than myself… and never with an important appointment the next day: my wife was slated to have lasik Friday afternoon.

Thanks to Delta’s newer ticketing system, all you have to do if your flight is canceled is to head to a self-service kiosk, scan your boarding pass, and get the new one printed-out. We decided to speak to one of the Delta customer service representatives, though, because neither of us was thrilled with the idea of being stuck in Detroit, and were hoping there might be some form of compensation (even a meal voucher) offered for the weather inconvenience.

Turns out, that when you’re friendly to the customer service folks (whether they be dedicated representatives, gate agents, or flight attendants), they can be quite nice back. When our boarding passes were scanned for our replacements, two hotel vouchers (one for each delayed passenger) and four meal vouchers printed as well! That was pretty cool, and from the automated system. The part about being friendly and asking nicely for a little help that came next was even better: Delta has “toiletries” bags for stranded passengers that include a disposable razor, toothbrush, laundry detergent, toothpaste, and a t-shirt. However, like with many other “perks” – it is up to the discretion of the customer service rep as to whether or not to hand out these “add-ons”. Our guy was very pleasant, and gave both my wife and I one. And told us where we needed to go to find the hotel shuttle that would bring us to the Best Western International Gateway hotel (which, on a side note, was the absolute BEST Best Western I have EVER stayed in!)

I have worked customer service before (and in many ways still do in my current professional services role) – and it is truly astonishing how much better service you can get if you’re not rude to the guy trying to help you out. When I worked phone and email support several years ago, I was never unprofessional to any of my customers, but some definitely received more elaborate responses because they didn’t start off with an antagonistic stance.

For years I have made it a priority every time I come in contact with a “service” representative (waiter/waitress, cashier, ticket agent, nurse, tech support, etc, etc) to be polite to them. If I have a problem, I always try to make it not sound like their fault when I can, and I try my best to be patient with them knowing that regardless of how much I may dislike the broccoli rabe they brought instead of my carrots which I ordered, it probably wasn’t intentional; or that it wasn’t their idea to have a swirling snowstorm ground all traffic into a particular region for the night.

I haven’t been as perfect on this front as we all should be, but a little smile and a polite word can go a very, VERY long way 🙂

reading more

I find that the more time I tend to have, the less I want to read… but when I’m really busy, I’ll find all kinds of books that look interesting.

With my current work arrangement, I travel frequently, and have been taking the time on the flights (if not sleeping) to read through histories, novels, and other materials that have been on the “to read list” for too long.

To try to help encourage me to read more, I’m going to start writing about the books I read: reviews, summaries, likes, dislikes, rants, etc. Seems like the act of writing helps to gel thoughts and encourages more activity, so we’ll see how it goes.

saying “thanks”

In case you ever want to know, here are a couple pages that spell-out how to say “thank you” in hundreds of languages:

jeopardy! was wrong

A recent Final Jeopardy! question said there are two pairs of countries which differ in spelling by only two letters: Australia/Austria and one other. The answer they were looking for was Niger/Nigeria.

Well, I was thinking about this recently and realized there is a third pair: Mali/Malawi.

It’s not often you see errors on Jeopardy! 🙂

new blog

My wife started blogging recently – and while there’s only one post up so far, I’m sure it will grow 🙂

Welcome to the blogosphere, honey =D

pee-harmony, the original doggy forum

Have you ever noticed while walking a dog that they stop and sniff every tree, bush, and poo pile? And when two dogs come together, they sniff each other’s butts (a distinctly rude activity, if you ask me!)

I have a theory – dogs sniff each other’s butts because they’ve sniffed the pee patches and poo piles and want to know if those anonymous leavings are from the the dog they’ve just run into.

If they are, it must be somewhat akin to meeting in real life someone you’ve only known in a chat room or forum – DonkyKongSr or spiffalicious71. I wonder if the dogs think “hey! That was a really funny message you left!” or “man! You’re a jerk – I should bite your face off” when they come across the leaver of the scent.

And how disappointed must dogs be when the only way they ever hear back from another dog is when they pee on the same spot and they can tell that spiffalicious71 has come by again. Must be the canine equivalent of phone tag – but with eau d’ammonia instead of voices.

melting pot

Normally I don’t like reviewing chains, but The Melting Pot is different. It’s a fondue place, and is a blast to eat at.

The first time I went was with my wife and parents-in-law the weekend before Thanksgiving. We were looking for a “fun” place to eat, and had been thinking about trying a fondue place for a while, so we went. We ordered a pair of their “Big Night Out France” dinners – two four-course fondue extravaganzas that allowed us to mix and match our “cooking styles” (in other words, the broths in which you cook your meat chunks).

So the cool thing about a fondue place is that you cook your own food at your table. The ingredients are brought out raw, and you spear them and set them in the near-boiling broth for 30-90 seconds (as done as you want). The four-course dinner started with a cheese appetizer round with chunks of bread and fruit to dip. Second was a selection of salads for each person at the table, and then came the coup de gras – the meat round! (My wife would say that the best part is the dessert, but she’s wrong 😉 )

The meat comes out raw and seasoned in a variety of marinades (we had duck l’orange, peppered sirloin, marinated fillet, chicken, shrimp, and lobster tail). There are also a host of sauces that can be added post-cooking to the different meats: far more than I could recall in detail 🙂

Our evening out was a blast – while we were worried that it would be hyper-formal or “too fancy”, it was fun. Fun enough that a couple weeks later I took my wife back for a smaller meal for just the two of us. The second time we went there was a small bit of excitement a few tables away from us: a couple on a date got engaged, and left with stars in their eyes.

Melting Pot is not a place I would recommend on a routine basis – full meals run in the neighborhood of $50 a person – but it is a lot of fun, and definitely worth going to for special events.