Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Customer Service; the Good and the Ugly

We are not rich people. You might look at the places we go and the places we stay and think that we are more comfortable than we are. We learned a secret a long time ago, and that secret is to live UNDER your income. We live under what we can afford, we pay our bills in full, and we pay attention to small leaks that can add up to big financial leakages over time.

First, the ugly. Today I checked my KLM Flying Blue mileage, and they only gave me 25% of the miles I earned flying from Pensacola to Johannesburg and back. That should have been a huge number, but 25% of that number is very very low. I did some exploration on KLM and learned it has to do with a lot of factors, including type of ticket you buy.

To me, that’s just sleazy customer service. A person who buys a ticket should get the full mileage. If you want to give bonuses for higher levels, then do so, but give me the miles I earn, don’t swindle me with a fraction of the miles I flew. It leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. Honestly, I don’t think Delta is all that much better, but I may switch my frequent flyer program to them because now I am flying Delta more often. I had thought because they were all “Sky Team Partners” that the miles were all the same, but I was wrong. And try booking an award ticket on one of the partners – they have wires and mirrors and a series of hoops to jump through, and you get to the end and the answer is not only “No” but then they have the gall to ask “Can I help you with anything else?”

I promise you, I am very polite, but when they ask that, I tell them “You didn’t even help me with what I asked help for!”

Here is the good. I paid as many bills as I could before I left, including some significant travel costs associated with the Grand Canyon / Mesa Verde Trip , but when I got home, I found a letter from the credit card service company, with the check my bank sent, saying that there wasn’t enough account information on the check to credit it. I could see the last five numbers of my account on the check, which I believe many banks are doing to help protect client privacy and exposure to identity theft, so I sent the check back with the account number and today I called and complained, and especially that they had charged me an interest charge, when I had paid the bill in full, they just hadn’t credited it to my account.

They credited the interest charge immediately, no argument. They were pleasant and helpful, and I felt like they were on my side. In a time when banks are not our friends, I had a positive feeling toward our card provider.

I smile when I hear AdventureMan in his office, talking with medical claims people – when we had a recent vaccination, a very expensive one, I was re-imbursed and he was not. He is taking on the bureaucracy, slowly and patiently, to make sure he gets that money back. He is also seeing what can be done about getting re-imbursed for our yellow fever immunizations. It takes a lot of patience and persistence, and it pays off. We laugh that we are becoming those old farts who have enough time to make those phone calls.

Little drops of water . . . and paying attention. Battling bureaucracy, trying to make the most of opportunities . . . that’s how we manage our lush lifestyle.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, KLM, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Travel | 2 Comments

Angry Father Beheads Daughter with Sword

I am embarrassed to tell you that my source for this story is Fox News:

JAIPUR, India – Police say a man upset over his daughter’s lifestyle chopped her head off with a sword and then paraded it through his village before surrendering to authorities in western India.

Marble miner Ogad Singh’s 20-year-old daughter had been living with her parents in the Rajasthani village of Dungarji after leaving her husband two years ago.
Police Superintendent Umesh Ojha says Singh was upset by his daughter having affairs with men, and became enraged when she eloped with one of them two weeks ago.
Ojha says Singh forced her to return home Sunday, and beheaded her Monday with a sword.

Rapidly modernizing India faces increasing social clashes as youths resist traditions like arranged marriage or limits on women venturing outside their parents’ or husbands’ homes.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Cultural, Family Issues, India, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, News, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife
Pauline Mclain

“This isn’t going to end well” you tell yourself when you start reading
this  book, and you tell yourself not to read any further but you can’t
stop. This is a very good girl who meets a bad boy – what is it about
bad boys, anyway? You know you should go for the serious guy, the one
who will always have a good job, be a good provider for the family, a
good father to your children. You know all this, and you choose the bad
boy anyway. Why?

Hadley Richardson is a good girl at one of those transitional times in
history; world war I had ended, the damaged young men, including Ernest
Hemingway, are back from war, it is the 1920’s and the world is turned
upside down. When they meet, the chemistry is hot and strong. Their
friends warn Hadley against marrying “Hem” but when the attraction is
so hot and high, who can listen?

You know from the beginning that she is just the first wife, so most of
the book is full of dread, waiting to find out just how awful it is all
going to be. The early years, living in Paris, being dirt poor while
Hemingway gets started with his writing, are good years. They meet lots
of interesting expats living in Paris, they drink a lot, they are off
to Spain for the bullfights, and to Austria for the skiing, on the move
a lot, even once the baby comes.

It’s a fascinating book, a snapshot of the roaring 1920’s, of the
transitional era when women started becoming less submissive and more
free, and of a relationship between a nice girl and a talented but
damaged and self-destructive man. You’ll hate having to put it down.

Post review add: I finished this book while in Zambia and wrote the review. I really want to read A Movable Feast, now, Hemingway’s last book before he killed himself, written about this marriage. I understand it is a nostalgic tribute to his first marriage and to Hadley.

We watched Hemingway and Gelhorn last night, and watched him leave Pauline, the false friend who snatched him from Hadley (this is not a spoiler, folks, this is history) for Gelhorn, and then in anger at Gelhorn, turn to the woman who would become his last wife. She is protrayed as a total twit.

The movie, Hemingway and Gelhorn, was only mildly interesting; Kidman was her glorious self but there was zero chemistry, her romance with Hemingway barely believable. And he comes off as a real jerk. The jerk part is consistent with The Paris Wife, but while The Paris Wife is more sympathetic to Hemingway, portraying him as damaged but vulnerable, in Hemingway and Gelhorn, he is just arrogant, egotistic and obnoxious. Still, after you read The Paris Wife, it is interesting to see the rest of the story.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Books, Character, Civility, ExPat Life, Mating Behavior, Movie, Relationships, Values | 1 Comment