Apr. 13th, 2017

walkitout: (Default)
T. had another eye appointment last night, so now we have to schedule "vision therapy" for the next 12 weeks. That should be interesting. The glasses have gotten him up just barely into average for age; perhaps the exercises will get him a little further towards the middle of the pack.

I took a long walk by myself. I also walked the 1 mile loop with M.

I did some laundry, some cleaning. There was no NCIS from last night to watch, so I watched TRMS and then some Bloomberg. I'm trying really hard to back away from the chewy scandal but it is soooo hard.
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My sister picked this one out and I read it after she did. She also bought another book by a waitress. This is a little reminiscent of those EMT books I read a while back -- memoirs that are "tales from the trenches". In this case, a NY high end eatery, a waiter/manager who went to seminary, then worked in the psych industry for a while, then fell into waiting tables because he needed the money and that's what his brother did. The book started life as a blog; the blog still exists:

http://www.waiterrant.net/2017/04/get-off-fucking-plane/

That's his opinion on the United flight scandal that I am having so much trouble avoiding. He's totally wrong on so many levels. He tells a story about a kid:

"Once I was flying home and seated next to a tearful little boy who, for reasons I’ll never figure out, wasn’t seated next to his mother. I was by the window and the boy was in the middle seat."

Last year, Congress finally passed a law that will put an end to this practice. Airlines fucking around with families is why I quit flying legacy airlines shortly after my son was born. They did an equipment change, and we wound up seated in 3 middle seats all over the plane. This wasn't even legal, because one of us was then an infant in an infant seat (paid for the fare, and when we paid for it, the fare knew it was for an infant). Infant seats cannot legally be placed in the middle seat, because they will block the person in the window seat from exiting in the event of an emergency evacuation situation. But that doesn't stop the airlines from booking it that way and leaving it to cabin crew to somehow fix the situation. Once I realized how the world worked, I started flying Southwest; since I then lived in Seattle, I knew my originating flights would always be empty so all I had to do was get into group A and I was set -- and an infant made that pretty straightforward. It took a lot to switch me to JetBlue, with reserved seating, but back then they only had one kind of aircraft, so an equipment change didn't change seating. And they had the no-overbook policy, so I figured we were in the clear.

It's weird to tell a separated family story without entertaining (never mind being unaware of the recently passed law) the idea that this is a policy cockup on the part of the airlines.

The "friend" in Dublanica's United post makes exactly the argument that rankles me the most. He's taking it as gospel that the deadheading crew had a right to bump reserved, confirmed passengers. They don't. That's a direct violation of FAA regs. And now that it's become clear the entire industry believes the employees have a right to those seats over the rights of reserved confirmed, I figure it is only a matter of time before there's a consent decree. I don't know whether they'll change the policy (maybe they should -- maybe crew _should_ have a right to those seats) or change airline practice, that is, the de facto policy. But that mismatch is a chunk of why passengers are always feeling like they are being lied to when a plane is oversold. They _are_ being lied to. And it does not have to be that way, at least not as often as it _is_ that way.

But Congress has finally passed a law to fix what _should_ have been common practice in the separated family situation, if airlines were sane. Airlines are NOT sane. It took them over a decade to get it done, but it did finally get done -- over massive lobbying by United and other companies to stop that legislation from happening.

Dublanica is funny. He's knowledgeable. And he's got a pretty good grasp of why people do what they do. But he's relentlessly conservative -- change is something he only accepts when he doesn't have other choices, and that resistance to change and the heroes he has as a result (Raymond Chandler, natch) are fundamentally somewhat irritating to me.

If you want a rollicking read about all the crazy stuff that can happen in a restaurant (people running scams at all levels, people having strokes or heart attacks or whatever, people drinking too much, rants about immigration policy, etc.), this is a great book. Lots of fun. And he's fundamentally a good guy -- when confronted with a much better policy (describing the change in handling tips at the end of the evening, so people don't go home with all the cash in their pockets), he does recognize the improvement. He comes across as basically honest, in that he is willing to display his own failings, morally, as a manager, as a friend, employee, boyfriend, etc. (Of course, the problem with people who come across as basically honest because they are willing to talk about their bad behavior is that sometimes they are actually way, way, way worse behaved than the stuff they are sharing. I don't _think_ that's what is going on here, but one never knows.)

Because so much of the book is about pre-bust days, I sort of wonder about some of the advice to customers. I think the don't-take-the-kiddos-to-a-fancy-restaurant-at-10 p.m. advice is probably eternal. But I wonder about the whole don't put your phone on the table/don't entertain the kids with electronic devices/etc. He's willing to allow a laptop as part of a working lunch, so he's clearly got some sort of theory about acceptable/unacceptable; I wonder if it has changed, in the post smartphone/tablet age.

I was not surprised to see he favored customers who tip in the 20-25% zone. I was a little surprised that he capped it, because too much more makes the server feel like a whore, unless it is at the holidays or whatever. I don't disagree with the thinking -- I just had never encountered that before.

I knew about limited menus for major restaurant days like Valentine's, Mother's Day, New Year's -- I've encountered them (and then decided to stop eating out on those days, for the most part. I scrupulously avoid Mother's Day. *shudder*). I had not realized that the menus were designed with price gouging/profit maximization. I assumed it was to reduce choice to speed up the whole process (which it obviously is, also), simplify stocking food and prep, etc.

ETA: The argument to comply with illegal requests/orders -- "get off the fucking plane" -- is good personal life strategy/tactics. It's how you keep your teeth and avoid concussions. But it is not a moral position. Not at all. If someone catches hell at the hands of an authority abusing that authority, piling onto the victim in support of the authority is not respect, or good advice or even realism. It's cynical acceptance of bullying; it is identifying with the oppressor. Totally unnecessary in terms of self-protection and anti-social in terms of moving our society in the right direction -- or even showing basic human decency and compassion.
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http://www.latimes.com/business/lazarus/la-fi-lazarus-united-low-priority-passenger-20170412-story.html

Roughly similar to Dao, in that United had boarded a paying customer -- in this case, full fare, first class!!! -- and then tried to remove the person from the flight to make way for someone else.

To be clear, there is _nothing_ in FAA regs to justify doing this. Under rule 25, United's Refusal to Transport clause, there is _nothing_ to justify booting someone from the plane. In this case, they stashed the _full fare first class customer_ in a middle seat in coach.

So if you, like me, were thinking, well, you could just buy your way out of this problem by only flying first? Nope.

""Instead, the service rep offered to refund Fearns the difference between his first-class ticket and an economy ticket — about a week later, as if that wasn’t the first thing they should do in a situation like this — and to give him a $500 credit for a future trip on the airline.

“Despite the negative experience, we hope to have your continued support,” the rep concluded. “Your business is especially important to us and we'll do our utmost to make your future contacts with United satisfactory in every respect.”"

Not only was there no compensation for failing to provide the paid for service -- he had to go _ask_ to get the refund, it wasn't offered, and it wasn't a complete refund, nor was there additional compensation. And the cabin crew threatened to cuff this guy for saying he wanted to stay in his boarded, paid for, full fare, first class seat.

I hope he sues. I at least want the discovery part of the trial to occur.

ETA: The article sparked additional stories to come out:

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-united-customer-emails-20170412-htmlstory.html

I find it striking that so many of these stories involve people basically dumping a United ticket and flying on another airlines, because between change fees and so forth, it didn't make any sense to continue to work with UAL. Makes you wonder how they ever wind up overbooked, if so many people don't even fly their tickets in the first place.

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