Monday, March 15, 2010

Two Weeks Down

IMG_2666 I’m officially two weeks into nail school, and I thought it might be time to talk a little bit about it.  Well that, and I haven’t blogged in over two weeks so it’s time for an update, and since I have nothing else to talk about, I figured this subject was as good as any. 

I’ve had a lot of people ask both John and myself why I’m going to school for Nail Technology.  It doesn’t jibe in most people’s brains for many reasons.  First, like I said in a previous post, I’ve been an unrepentant nail biter since I got my first teeth.  Second, I’m completely capable of going back to college to get a real degree (I did pull a 4.0 at Marquette for nearly two years, until an essay question on an Archaeology final tripped me up and pulled me down to a 3.98; and yes, I’m still miffed about it). And finally, I’ve been a Graphic Designer for the last ten years.

Nail school just doesn’t fit in with any of the above.

Well, my nail gnawing habit is actually what started my interest in Nail Technology.  Not only do I bite my nails, but I also chew up my cuticle (actually called the Eponychium), and all of the skin surrounding my nails (the Perionychium).  I chew it so savagely that it’s rare for me not to have an area that’s either bleeding or badly infected.  I’ve tried just about everything to stop the habit, but nothing has worked for me.  Until, one day when a friend needed to decompress and I said we should go get our nails done just for fun.  I had a set of acrylics put on, and low and behold I couldn’t bite my nails anymore.  Not only that, but the new thickness on my fingernails made it impossible to reach the skin around them with my snapping teeth.  In two weeks my hands were healed and for the first time in my life they were actually pretty!  I was instantly enamored with what a good set of enhancements or even just a good manicure could do for a person.  It stopped a habit I had struggled with my entire life, it made me feel pretty and good about myself.  To put it simply, I wanted to be able to do that for other people.

As for real college…  I loved Marquette when I went back to school eight years ago.  It was an amazing experience for me, and I will go back someday to finish my Anthropology degree.  That day isn’t today though.  You see, when I was going to school, John was working for Marquette, so my tuition was paid for as a part of his benefits package.  He doesn’t work there anymore, so if I were to go back I’d have to actually shell out money for my education…  A lot of money.  Since I now have a child who will be starting her own college career in less than six months, it’s just not in the household budget.

Additionally, I can only go to school part time.  It didn’t take me long to learn the first time around that between the kids and my obsession with getting straight A’s (translated to mean: a lot of time spent with a textbook in my lap), part time is about all I can handle and still remember my own name. 

Now, it took me two years to complete my freshman year attending part time at Marquette, and since I haven’t been a student for over five years, I’d have to re-take several of my credits.  So I’d be looking at six to eight years spent in a classroom, before I had a piece of paper allowing me to work in my chosen field.

Call me silly, but I want to start drawing a salary before I’m fifty.

With Nail Technology, I’ll have my certificate in fourteen weeks, and there’s a good chance I’ll start out making more money than I would with a bachelors in Anthropology.  Also, when the economy tanked, people with Anthropology degrees found themselves down-sized (AKA unemployed) while the beauty industry continued to grow.  After all, you have to look good for job interviews.  So the program had everything I was looking for at this moment in my life.  It was quick and would provide a job in a stable market, that draws a decent paycheck. 

Now I’m not very good at math, but that one seemed like a pretty easy equation.

Lastly we have the “But you’re already a Graphic Designer” argument.  The thing is though…  I’m not.  I’m completely self taught in Photoshop and Web Design, so even though I have ten years of experience under my belt, I couldn’t go and get a traditional job with a company that cuts regular paychecks.  I have no degree, no certificate, nothing to make what I do a legitimate career.  Sure, I could go get a degree or certificate, but they’re expensive (quite a bit more than my current tuition); and to be completely honest, when I think about what I want to do with the rest of my life, Graphic Design doesn’t even make the top twenty list.  Sure, it was a great way for me to make some extra cash while I was at home with the kids, but as career choice it’s just not appealing.

I’ve also had people tell me that I’m a great writer and should consider writing a book.  The problem there lies in the fact that I don’t have the attention span to write much more than one of these blog posts.  Well, that and I’d have to come up with something to write about.  I’m not even good at bedtime stories and you want me to write a book?  That’s like three-hundred pages filled with people doing things.  Can people even do that much stuff?  I’m pretty sure they can’t.

So anyway…  What I wanted at this moment in my life is something that interested me, was quick, inexpensive, and would start drawing a return on my investment pretty quickly.  Nail Technology fit all of those requirements.  I may stay with it for the rest of my life, or I may not.  I haven’t given up on my dream of getting a doctorate of Anthropology yet, but that’s something that can wait for now.  Because, you see, that dream isn’t about money, career, or status, it’s about my desire to know as much as I can in a field I love.  There’s plenty of time for learning left in my life, so I can put that on hold until the need for a steady paycheck isn’t quite so pressing.

Until then, I’m happy with my decision.  The school?  Not so much, but that’s a story for another day (as I’ve hit the limit of my attention span).

Until then…



Monday, March 1, 2010

A Detroit Vacation: My side

John posted his side yesterday, now it’s my turn.  Granted, my side is more of a rant because I was unable to do much during the ordeal other than watch from the sidelines.  I want it out there though, as a formal complaint, and because soon I’ll be directing the customer service people from a couple of different companies to my blog.  They need to see that I’m not kidding around when I say that not only will I never use their services again, but that I’m letting the masses know about my experience and advising them to do the same.

Not that it will matter, I’m sure.  No one seems to care anymore when a single customer walks away from an experience feeling like they’ve been bent over a table and violated…  But I digress…

It all started when I got the phone call from school informing me that classes were scheduled to start on the same day that John had purchased tickets to fly to New York.  We have no one currently in the area who is able to watch the kids for two days, so the only option was to reschedule his trip. 

John called the airlines to see if he could arrange to have his tickets transferred to a flight a week earlier than he had booked for.  We knew there would be a fee to re-book, but we were in for a bit of a shock.  He purchased the original tickets for a little over $90.  The re-booking fee?  $150  Yup, you read that right, nearly double the original price of the ticket.

  • So, a little math…
  • $90 + $150 = $240
  • or he could just purchase a new ticket for the flight he wanted…
  • $90 + $90 = $180
  • Guess which option we chose.

So, feeling like we’d already been exploited, John purchased a new ticket.

Now, for a little side rant.  A $150 flat rate fee for re-booking?  Come on now, who are we kidding here.  I could see a percentage of the ticket price, even as high as 50%, but $150 on a $90 ticket is completely outrageous.  What is the airline out when a customer re-books well in advance of their flight?  This wasn’t a last minute thing, he purchased the ticket four weeks in advance, and re-booked three weeks before the flight.  Except for a little paperwork, the airline is not losing ANYTHING!  They had plenty of time to fill the vacated seat with another passenger.  That insane re-booking fee is just a shallow attempt at pocket padding, plain and simple.

Now, back to the story.  We’d been watching the weather in New York the day before the scheduled flight, knowing that they were in the middle of a snow storm.  We frequently checked the weather and the flight statuses into White Plains as well as nearby airports (for those of you unfamiliar with the New York area, there are three: JFK, Newark, and White Plains).  John’s flight had a layover in Detroit, and we even joked that with our luck he would end up stranded there.

Can we call it, or can we call it?

Friday morning dawned dark and cold at 4:30am, but another check assured us that while JFK had closed to incoming air traffic, White Plains was still up and running.  After all, it’s not really about the weather, it’s about the airport’s ability to keep the runways clear.  White plains is a small airport, so they can devote more time and energy to clearing their limited runways than the larger airports can at times.  Newark was still taking inbound air traffic too, which was reassuring.

So with a kiss and crossed fingers, John headed out to start his journey.  I’d like to state here and now, for the record, that when John’s flight from Milwaukee to Detroit took off (late), his connecting flight from Detroit to White Plains was still scheduled to proceed as planned.  We were both monitoring it closely, and if it had been cancelled beforehand (or he had received any indication that it might be from the airline, and he asked), he would have never left the ground here at home.  We weren’t, however, going to cancel the trip on the premise that it might not go as planned.  We’d already learned the re-booking terms of the airline, and didn’t want to get socked with that fee again.  No, if the trip was called off we wanted it to be on the airline’s head this time, not ours.

When John landed in Detroit (late) he took the time to call me while he was walking to his connecting flight to let me know he had survived the first leg of his trip (I worry), and as he approached the gate he started swearing.  The flight attendants had assured him on landing that he would have enough time to make his connector, which was still scheduled to take off mostly on-time.  So somewhere in the time it took for him to walk between the two gates (about 10-15 minutes), they cancelled the flight to White Plains.

No, they didn’t delay it to see if weather conditions would improve (they did), they just threw their hands up in the air and shut it down.  The funny thing is though, there was a flight set to fly the same route not quite two hours later, and that one was not cancelled, and in fact took off as planned.  So if weather conditions were so bad that they didn’t think they could even delay John’s flight, why did they not cancel the other flights?  Were they hoping more people would come in to meet connecting flights and get stranded at the lovely vacation destination called Detroit?  Personally, I think they were looking to pad their pockets even more, because if you stick with me you’ll see how much money they managed to make off of us for a service that was never actually rendered.

So, John’s debating what to do.  The soonest they can get him to White Plains is on Sunday afternoon, which is a joke because he’d have to spend two days in sunny Detroit, only to get to New York and turn around again to come back home.  So that solution wasn’t really a solution at all.  In fact, the only way it could have been more offensive was if they got him there after he needed to be back home.  I mean really, on what planet is that acceptable?  “I know you wanted to be there on Friday, but instead you can sleep in an airport for two days and we’ll get you there just in time for you to turn around and go home.  Not only that, but you’ll be happy we got you there at all.”


With all reasonable flights to White Plains booked solid, he would have had to consider flying into Newark, if there was a seat available.  So he called his mom to see what she wanted him to do.  She told him to go home.  The Tapan Zee bridge (just about the only way to get from the airports to where she lives) was closed, the roads were horrible, they were predicting fifteen more inches of snow later that night and into the next day, and the whole thing was making her worry.  So John set out to find a flight back to Milwaukee.

Now this part I love…  He went to the ticketing agent and told her that since they couldn’t actually get him to New York in a timely manner, he needed to go back to Milwaukee.  So she credited him the money from the portion of the flight he didn’t use, and applied it to a flight back to Milwaukee.  Lucky for him, he broke even, and didn’t have to pay MORE to get home.

Seriously, he didn’t book a ticket to fly to Detroit, he may have had a stop-over there, but his goal was New York.  So why is a service half rendered considered a service at all?  The airline sees that the first portion of his trip was complete so they don’t have to refund him for the price of that flight.  Then, apparently, the flight back to Milwaukee is considered something new, so he has to pay for that too?  You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!  He wouldn’t be stuck in Detroit if the airline hadn’t cancelled his flight five minutes before it was supposed to take off.  This is not the customers fault, and they shouldn’t have to pay for it.  Put him back on a plane to Milwaukee and refund the full ticket price for his aborted trip.  I know the airline will loose a whole $90, but choke it down!  You can make it up in your stupid checked baggage fees.

On top of this, as you read in John’s post, the hotel he made reservations at refused to refund the full price of his cancelled room (again, not his fault he cancelled, he can’t get there.  It’s not like he just changed his mind).  So let’s do a final tally of what John’s twelve hour vacation in lovely Detroit cost us.

  • Ride to the Airport: $35
  • Plane Tickets: $180
  • Unused Hotel Room: $60
  • = $275

I’m not going to even add in the fee that we’re going to get slapped with when we don’t emissions test the car John titled, in preparation for driving it home from NY, in the next forty-five days, or the money spent on crappy airport food, or the gas I spent driving to go get him, or even the fact that I would have had to pay $8 to park (you’re not allowed to wait at the terminal anymore) if I hadn’t gotten that last minute text message from John saying he was still in Detroit; even though the airline’s live flight tracker said he was preparing to land in Milwaukee.

All in all, we’re looking at over $300 for a trip that still hasn’t happened.  Just think of how excited I’ll be when we have to pay for it all again in a month or so.

Now, what I really want to know is when did the airlines decide that people were cargo, and that, since the next best travel alternative is the train, they could treat us like crap?

We are not cargo, or revenue, we are people and we have a voice.  One that I will use to let as many people as I can, know that your customer service is deplorable, and your fees and policies are highway robbery.  You charge baggage fees and then claim no responsibility when baggage is lost or damaged while it’s in your custody.  You design your aircraft to pack in as many people in as you possibly can, and then charge extra seat fees to any person who weighs more than Lindsay Lohan.  Not to mention the insanity of your re-booking fees and the fact that customers have to pay for the honor of flying your airlines only to get where they never intended to go.  You wonder why your industry is tanking?  I can tell you why, it’s because you took the ‘customer’ out of service, and we’re all starting to revolt.  Personally, I’ll find another airline until there are no more to fly, and then I will take the train or drive myself until something better comes along. 

Get this through your heads. you are a service industry, one that relies on the ‘cargo’ to pay your salaries.  When you have angered, and fleeced the majority of the people who use your service, you will no longer have a salary.  It’s simple cause and effect.  You might want to study it before you’re out a company, and a job.

I haven’t gone into all of the additional upsets that happened that day.  The TWO planes with mechanical problems, the delay, after delay, after delay that occurred, the fact that I had to cut time spent with my sister short to meet a plane at 3:45pm that didn’t show up until 7:30pm.  Because frankly, I wouldn’t have minded any of those things if they had just refunded the $90 ticket price.  See, I’m not really that hard to please.  I just have a hard time swallowing the fact that not only did we have a company bend us over the table and screw us, but we paid for the privilege of having them do it.  If I’d wanted a prostitute, I’d have gone to Vegas where it’s legal.

So to Delta Airlines, and Super 8 Motels…  Find some other rube to fleece money off of.  You won’t have the inconvenience of dealing with my patronage ever again.