Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree ... Oh Tannenbaum ...

AA Pic of the Week 125 w

Spotted in a Düsseldorf shop window. I just had to get my little compact camera out. Window dressing to the letter! Mmmm, I wonder, what kind of shop might this be?

Very clever, and it brought a smile to many passers-by.



Friday, December 04, 2009

Ryanair - Daylight Robbery!

bad choice sign

Now I know how Ryanair, one of the leading low-cost airlines in Europe, makes such huge profits even in these tough times.

I can understand that you have to pay for extra weight, luggage that is, not your own.

In principle I accept that you can pay extra for a priority ticket, to board among the first passengers, although it doesn’t always work very well.

I understand the underlying principle to limit check-in luggage to 15 kg and allow 10 kg as carry-on luggage.

I can also see the practical reason for only allowing one carry-on item, so that handbags, camera bags and airport shopping all go into the one piece of luggage

The Ryanair strategy is obviously to minimise staff through putting the onus and responsibility on the passenger, ideally having just a single item to carry on board.

When you buy a ticket online you start off with a very low, basic price, just like when you buy for instance a Volvo; any add-ons or extras will cost you, soon making it less cheap.

With Ryanair you pay for getting on board among the first, checking in luggage, paying with a normal credit card … and there have even been rumours of plans to introduce a fee for using on-board toilets, which brought down ridicule on the arrogant boss of the company.

Before you have checked in online, you can change your ticket at a cost. Fair enough, not too bad. And when you do check in they give you very detailed instructions about travel ID, best use your passport. I have no problem with that.

Then it is time to print out your boarding pass, using your own printer, again saving the airline money. Very clever, smart move.

They tell you to make sure that the information on the ID matches the details you enter for the boarding pass. Out comes your travel document with a dotted line and a picture of some scissors to indicate where and how far to cut what will become the slip the Ryanair staff will tear off at the boarding gate. I even trimmed mine so the slip would be of perfect size and shape.

When I got to the airport in the morning to travel to Stockholm to visit my grandchildren I felt absolutely confident I had done all they asked of me, weighed my luggage, printed and trimmed my boarding pass and so on.

- You can’t travel on this boarding pass, said the check-in guy.

- Sorry?

- The information on the boarding pass doesn’t match your passport.

I had checked the passport number and dates etc. many times, as one does.

- On the boarding pass you have two initials for your first names.

- Yeah? It’s still me, nothing wrong, just shortened to the initials.

- It has to be exact.

I produced two more ID:s and put them on the counter; my UK driving licence and my British military ID, which I am obliged to carry as a civilian attached to the British Forces in Germany.

This military photo ID has my name, with initials just like my boarding pass, AND shows my passport number! He didn’t even bother to look at them.

- It has to match in every detail, he informed me.

- Is it possible to change it then?

- Yes, over there, he said pointing over my shoulder.

I realised they would charge me for that since everything extra costs you. Obviously carrying extra weight costs fuel, baggage handlers need to be paid, so I thought there would be a small fee for somebody to spend a few minutes accessing the computer booking system to change this small detail.

Keep in mind that my ticket cost € 175. Are you ready for this? To change my initials to my two full first names (8 added letters) cost € 150, one-hundred-and-fifty euros. ONE – FIVE – ZERO euros! What could ever justify a fee like that? It is not a fee, it is a fine. As if I had committed a crime, done it deliberately, in cold blood, just to annoy them.

rob warn

First time in my life I have been robbed. It would have been cheaper not to see my grandchildren. What would you have done? Where can I complain?

On the out-journey Ryanair lost the little padlock on my case. Maybe I should invoice them € 150 for this precious little padlock of extremely strong emotional value to me. Yeah, that would have been as ridiculous as their “fee” for next to nothing.

I do not think you find it hard to understand that I promised the Ryanair staff never ever to fly with them again, and to recommend people to fly any other airline but them!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

No, Not Usain Bolt, Useless Bolts!

What I am on about? Just look at them!


And then look at these!


The bolts are too long!

I have just had the winter tyres fitted by the garage. They store the set of tyres not in use, and also switch them at a reasonable price. Since last year we have got a new car, but of the very same make and model. And then the hub caps won't fit. How is that possible?

I was so drowsy early in the morning (Germans start early) that I didn't protest or question the situation, but my wife told me off at lunchtime for having been too compliant and soft. Thinking about it in retrospect I agree. Where is the logic? Another trick to squeeze money out of you?

The thing is that I think the naked winter tyre looks so ugly, I insist on having hub caps although most people don't seem to be bothered.

So I had to ring them back this afternoon and spoke to the sales guy, who promised to speak with the service people. I want new hub caps "kostenlos" as the Germans say.

To make it worse, when I checked the car afterwards I could not find the special key for the lock nuts. The young mechanic, who got a little embarrassed and nervous about the nuts-and-bolts situation, had forgotten to put it back in the car. Although I hope never having to use it for a flat tyre, it needs to be in place just in case.

So now they have to send a driver tomorrow to deliver the special key to me.

BTW - I laughed, just like last year, at the little sticker they put on the dashboard saying not to exceed 210 kph ( 130 miles per hour!). Remember, we are talking German motorways here, with sometimes no speed limit. Vrooom!

Speed restriction