My Painful Expedia Refund Process – Never Use Expedia

Expedia SucksThis is a writeup of my experience of having to deal with an airline ticket refund I purchased via Expedia.com. If you know me, I’m a very patient and understanding guy but after dealing with such a poor and ridiculous customer experience with Expedia, I felt it was worth documenting the steps I painfully went through in my attempt to collect the refund/credit I rightfully deserved.

I’ve read other horror stories on the web from people who had similar problems so I know I’m not the only person having to deal with such crap. I am actually writing this post as I wait on hold with Expedia (one of the many many times). I have also attempted to collect each persons name and call center location I speak with from Expedia. So here’s how the story goes….

On December 30th, 2006 I purchased a round-trip ticket from San Francisco to Tokyo on Japan Airlines (JAL) from the Expedia.com web site for $876.52. My flight was scheduled for January 25th, 2007 but I had to cancel the ticket because I could no longer go. I called Expedia in January a week before my flight and let them know I needed to cancel. I spoke to someone in their Philippines call center and they had no problem canceling the ticket. They informed me I had 12 months to reuse the credit of $871.52 and there will be a $100 re-booking fee per the airlines ticketing rules. Fine with me…I’ll just re-book the trip next time I plan on going to Japan. Continue reading My Painful Expedia Refund Process – Never Use Expedia

A Faster Way Through Airport Security

Those of you who are tired of having to wait in long lines at the airport no longer have to wait. There’s a new system called “Fly Clear” which allows you to essentially bypass the standard security lines at airports. Once you sign up with Fly Clear, you are given a biometric card which allows you to pass through security faster and with a lot less hassle. Continue reading A Faster Way Through Airport Security

Around the World Trip Part 2

My friend Jen Nathan has taken the last year or so off work and decided to travel around the world. She absolutely loves to travel and write about her journeys so I couldn’t think of a better place for her right now. I’ve tried to convince her multiple times to write a book and turn this into a profession but she just hasn’t taken my advice! Grrr. Well, I’ll keep trying but in the meantime I’m going to post her emails on my blog to share her experiences with everyone. She does publish some great information on her personal website www.jennathan.com but doesn’t always include the nitty gritty. This is the first email of part two of her trip around the world!

What an amazing week. Seriously.

I experienced a camel ride at sunset in the middle of some of the most amazing sand dunes ever. I experienced day turn into night on the terrace of my riad with my fellow riad peeps while looking out onto an ancient medina. I drove through palmeries. I saw Kasbah after Kasbah. I had a guy wanting me to pet his monkey (much more innocent than it sounds). I headed out for a sunrise camel ride under a starry sky while watching shooting stars and looking at the Milky Way. I had lunch with a local family ‚Äì who happened to speak only Arabic and Berber (a bit of a challenge). I got scrubbed down (in every sense of the word) by a woman vying as a wet t-shirt contest winner who afterwards changed into her burka to head outside. I read my book in a beautiful park. I found a patisserie that I loved. I heard French accents all around me. A friend and I got swooped into the home of somebody we now call ‘The Spice Doctor’.

Such is life in Morocco… Continue reading Around the World Trip Part 2

Die Hard in Tokyo?

Japanese Bruce Willis SmallI was watching tv while working over here in Japan and flipped to a hilarious show. There was an actor on some game-type show pretending to be Bruce Willis from Die Hard. This guy had a wife beater tank-top, 5 o’clock shadow, along with a perfect impersonation of Bruce himself!

I couldn’t stop laughing because his head was 5 times bigger than his body…it really just looked like someone took Bruce Willis’ head and popped it onto this skinny Japanese guy. Turns out his name is Akihiro Suzuki and he’s been in several Japanese movies which I’ve never heard of.
Japanese Bruce Willis

If you ever get a chance to watch Japanese tv, you’ll be on the floor laughing. They do some silly-ass stuff and most of it has to do with food. They have more cooking and food sampling shows than Robin Williams has hair.

How to Find Inexpensive Airfare Online

Cheap AirfareOver the past year I’ve become quite the jetsetter so finding discounted airfare has become even more important for me. I found this great article by Kate Siber where she lists six sure-fire steps to finding the lowest possible deal on airfare, along with other ways to the best airfare prices.

#1: FIGURE OUT THE BEST TIME TO BUY
Your first step to airfare success is to determine the best time to buy your tickets. If you absolutely must get home to Mom for Thanksgiving—or to Courchevel before Lance passes through—the age-old advice still holds true: Buy your tickets at least three weeks in advance.

“I think most airline sources would agree that anything outside 21 days before takeoff is considered an advance-purchase ticket,” says Brian Ek of Priceline.com. “Airlines are different, but generally, once you hit 15 days before the flight, the price begins to go up, then it goes up again at the seven-day mark. So if you want a retail ticket, buy it at least 21 days out for the best price.” Consider buying retail and buying early for vacation destinations during popular seasons or during high-traffic holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and spring break in March. Continue reading How to Find Inexpensive Airfare Online

Trip to Tokyo, Japan – Day 4

It was just another day in the office but waking up in Japan made things a bit more interesting. That day we went to Italian food for lunch which was probably a nice change for the Japanese marketing team. I must say, it was interesting looking at the drink menu and seeing beers like Coors & Budwieser listed under “Imports” and Sapporo and Asaki under “Domestic”.

After a hearty pasta lunch, we headed back to the office and got back to business. We worked the usual time and then all went out to Shibuya for dinner. Shibuya is a vibrant, lively, fun, faddish, crowded, cramped, and busy area. It is another shopping and entertainment district situated in the west of Tokyo. It’s newer than its rival Shinjuku and has a cleaner, safer reputation along with its huge department stores.

So once we arrived, we took the Hachiko exit of Shibuya Station and got prepared for the crowds and the famous “Shibuya Crossing”. I took several pictures and soaked in the moment before we moved on. It was just myself, Junko, and Megumi for the first 45 minutes because Ayako and Tomoko had to finish up some work. So Junko came up with this cute idea of taking pictures at one of the arcades. It’s apparently very popular with the younger crowd because there were litterally dozens of these photo booths. We did many poses and ended up with about 6 different shots.

We then met up with Ayako and Tomoko and headed to the Japanese restaurant. We had to remove our shoes before we could sit down.

Trip to Tokyo, Japan – Day 3

Salesforce.com Japan OfficeIt was finally time to get down to business so I got ready, had breakfast and headed for work. The Tokyo office is only a 15 minute walk from my hotel but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I met Mayuwa down near my hotel and we walked to work together. I don’t know how I would’ve survived without all the help Mayuwa provided! She was amazing and very generous the whole time I was there.

The office was on the 18th floor of the Ebisu Business Tower. There was quite a view since it was the top floor of the building. You could even see the Tokyo tower off in the distance. Once I was shown my temporary desk, I settled in and got underway. The Japan office works very hard (9am – 9pm) but it was great because I had a lot of time to work with them.

Trip to Tokyo, Japan – Day 2

I woke up Sunday morning around 3am because my body wasn’t used to the time change. I laid in bed and eventually fell back asleep. Today I was going to Asakusa with Mayuwa, Nori, and Ayako. We met at the densha (train) station and headed about 30 minutes north east to this earthly shitamachi (downtown) area. Asakusa is the heart of old Tokyo, home to the most visited ancient temple complex.

Asakusa TempleHeading to the most popular temple, we passed through the Kaminarimon Gate which is marked by a huge red paper lantern and guarded by two god statues (Fujin the wind god and Raijin the thunder god. We explored the cute stores and ate some Japanese snacks along the way and also stopped to smell burning incense which is supposed to cure ailments. We finally got to the Kannon Temple which has built in AD 628. We got our fortunes and tossed yen into a offertory box for the temple. After bowing our heads to pray, we continued on.

It was then time for lunch so we stopped at a cute little Japanese restaurant and ate outside. It sure was fun to people-watch while we ate and drank Sapporo’s.

Oedo Onsen Monogatari Hot SpringsOur next stop was to the Tokyo Bayside which is very famous for their Tsukiji fish market. Japan consumes one sixth of the world’s fish and this market is where it all takes place. We then arrived at Oedo Onsen Monogatari (Hot Springs) which is a traditional hot spring bath. It was very fun and interesting at the same time. We checked in and picked out a Kymono to wear and headed to the bath house. We got naked (men and women had separate bath houses) and settled into a roasting hot outdoor tub.

After a relaxing bath, we got dressed and had some dinner. We then left and walked back to the densha station and took a train back to Ebisu. It was time to get to bed because tomorrow was a work day.

Trip to Tokyo, Japan – Day 1

salesforce.com Tokyo OfficeIn an effort to ramp up the growing Japanese CRM market, I was tasked to fly out and help the Tokyo salesforce.com marketing team with their web strategies. I left for Japan on Friday the 21st around noon on ANA airlines (I got a middle seat…yuck) and arrived in Tokyo about 11 hours later. I lost a full day b/c of the time change so I actually landed at 4pm on Saturday!

The time went pretty fast with all the inflight movies (Batman Begins, Herby Goes Bananas, XXX, and Bewitched). The food was really good too….a full lunch and dinner were both served. They even had video games built into the seats….pretty cool.

I was so happy once we finally landed (one can only sit in such a small space for so long!) but I still had a good two hrs before I reached my hotel. The Narita airport is outside of Tokyo so I still needed to sit on a train to Nippori and then transfer to Ebisu before I got to my final destination. The train/subway system is soo confusing but I eventually figured out which way to go. Most of the signs have English and Japanese so that helped!

Westin TokyoOnce I got to the Westin in Ebisu, I checked in at 6pm and was happy to finally laydown. I didn’t have long before Mayuwa-san (one of my salesforce.com Japanese friends) was taking me out for dinner so I had to get ready and leave pretty quickly. We met in the lobby and headed to a nice authentic Japanese restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal. After several Sapporo’s and fish, it was time to head back to the hotel. I was exhusted and ready for bed.