Archive for January, 2008

Credit Card Roulette

I did a random check of my bank balance online yesterday, and noticed that it was quite a bit lower than I thought it should be.  Closer scrutiny revealed that my account had been charged $453.22 by the hotel where The Megger and I had stayed this past weekend on a ski trip with about 20 of our friends. 

The trip itself had been a blast.  The company was great, the skiing was good, and the hotel itself, located on the slopes of what I will call “Small Goose-Like Bird” Mountain was just fine.  My only complaint about the hotel, actually, was that there was a stiff cold breeze blowing into my suite (our group had 3 total suites) from around the windows, which were closed and locked.  In fact, the breeze was strong enough that it could have easily blown out a candle, if that candle had the misfortune of being placed next to the window pane.  As a result of the breeze, we had to wear coats when sitting on the couch, but otherwise I had no complaint about the hotel; until I saw my bank account. 

Now, the reason I shouldn’t have been charged is that my friend Meredith, who had organized the trip, had received payment from each person in our group and had put the rooms on her credit card.  In fact, the only time that the card connected to my account had been exposed to the hotel was when The Megger purchased a lift ticket at the front desk. 

Now, when I asked The Megger about this, she said that they told her they would swipe her card for incidentals only, and that that last card swiped would be the one charged for the incidentals on the suite.  We weren’t going to incur any incidental charges, so we didn’t think anything of it. 

Still, I wanted a refund, and also to know how the person at the front desk could have confused, “I’d like to buy a lift ticket,” with “I’d like to pay for the entire suite,” so I called the good people at Small Goose-Like Bird Mountain. 

The first person I spoke with took only 10 minutes to decide that she wasn’t the correct person to resolve my issue, so she transferred me to the front desk of the hotel. 

Kathy at the front desk explained that the Small Goose-Like Bird Mountain policy is to take a credit card upon check-in and put a hold on that card for the amount of the suite, plus a little bit – for “incidentals.”  Then, she told me, any other card they get that is associated with that suite takes the place of the original card; including people who buy lift tickets at the front desk. 

Now, that is about the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.  The last credit card received, no matter what the reason, is the one charged for the room?  If you buy a pack of gum at the front desk with a debit card, and no one buys anything else, you get charged for an entire suite.  They can’t just keep the original card on file until checkout?  The whole explanation just boggled my mind, and I had her explain it to me four times. 

I gave Kathy my wife’s card number and she told me that she would put in a credit, but that it might take a couple of days.  It’s funny how the refunds always take so much longer than the incorrect charges do in the first place. 

My friend Meredith, when I called, checked her card and reported that she had 5 separate charges pending for the 3 suites.  3 of the charges were pending for more than 500 dollars each, which I can only assume were the original charges for the suites (plus incidentals); then two additional charges were for $453.22.  One of those lesser charges came lumped with the 500 dollar charges, and one came yesterday afternoon, presumably after I had called the hotel.  Meredith also said that when she left the hotel on Sunday morning, she collected the receipts that had been slid under the doors, and they looked as if they had been charged properly to her card. 

Now, I don’t want to complain too much, since the hotel so willingly agreed to credit my account, but it’s interesting that they would take the money off of my card and then just turn around and charge Meredith’s card without speaking to her about it.  They seem a little fast and loose with other people’s money to me.  What if she were to dispute the charge?  Would they switch the charge back to my card? 

I assume that the three $500+ charges were the original charges to hold the room, and that they will be removed when the actual charges are put through; but that means that there are only 2 of the “real” charges for the room that are charged correctly to Meredith…which means that someone else in my group likely paid for one of the suites without realizing it. 

So, what should have been a relaxing, if breezy, weekend on the slopes of Small Goose-Like Bird Mountain has turned into credit card roulette.  The moral of the story is, of course, bring extra sweaters if you are going to stay on Small Goose-Like Bird Mountain.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 31 Jan 2008 No Comments

Celebrity Exposure

When I clicked the web page link that had flashed up onto my computer screen on Tuesday afternoon, I found that actor Heath Ledger had unfortunately passed away.  If the current rumor about the death being from a drug overdose is true, it will be just another example of a star wilting in the spotlight.  It’s frequent to the point of becoming tiresome to read about someone in the public eye getting arrested or exposed for some sordid act. 

Without even spending any time thinking about it, I know that Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Anna Nicole Smith, OJ Simpson, the girl from High School the Musical, Mischa Barton, Randy Moss, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, Rip Torn, Shia LaBeouf, Wesley Snipes, Mike Tyson, Busta Rhymes, and now Heath Ledger have all been in the headlines fairly recently for less than positive things. 

Are there more celebrities getting into trouble today than in days gone by?  In the old days, when Joe DiMaggio was breaking down hotel room doors with Frank Sinatra, were police officials more likely to give them a break?  These days, if a police officer gives a celebrity a break it can cost the officer his or her job, so that could be a factor.  Another factor could be that people can immediately post any videos or pictures they have onto the internet, where they are available to the entire world.  Or, perhaps the celebrities themselves, or their agents, leak the information, as a way to augment their popularity during periods when they don’t have a movie in the theaters. 

It could also be that the entire “celebrity” industry is larger than it has ever been.  Television in the early evening used to be chock full of shows like PM Magazine; shows with light feature news stories about people in our area.  Now, the airways are clogged with celebrity news.  Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous might not be around any more, but its spot in the television landscape has been replaced by TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Inside Edition, and Access Hollywood, and an entire network, E!  All of these magazines and television shows have to fill space and sell ads, so it’s no surprise that there is video of Britney Spears buying things at mini-marts and that Tom Brady can’t walk down the street without showing up on TV.  It’s also no shock that some celebrities eventually punch out cameramen. 

It makes me wonder if the public is really hungry for this information, or if the demand is being driven by the television companies.  I suppose that the demand has to be there, in the form of ratings, for these shows to survive; after all, when we aren’t watching news about celebrities, we’re watching other shows based on them as “real” people.  Shows like Celebrity Fit Club, Celebrity Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars, and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew aren’t exactly dragging down the ratings of their networks. 

In the days of DiMaggio and Sinatra, people tell me that it was considered “uncouth” to delve too deeply into the personal lives of celebrities and sports stars.  For anyone willing to be uncouth, a couple of bucks or a pair of tickets from the celebrity would probably be enough to keep unwanted items out of the news.  Now, there is little doubt that the celebrity news engine is willing to pay much, much more, and everything shows up in print or on film.

I’m not going to sit back and criticize our society for supporting this celebrity news superstructure; after all, I find myself watching and talking about celebrities, as well (I am unfortunately sucked into Celebrity Apprentice this season, and I don’t even want to talk about how much time I spend on ESPN.com).  The news itself is difficult to avoid; even on mainstream news shows and websites, Mr. Ledger’s death is announced in a banner headline. 

And, in a way, I can relate to that, beyond the shock of the loss of a 28-year old man who seemed to have the world at his fingertips.  When Carroll O’Connor passed away, I remember feeling sad about it.  I hadn’t known the man at all, nor did I know any of his family or friends, but he had made me laugh so many times in the hours and hours I spent watching him that he felt familiar to me.  He was a part of my own history, and I was sad to see him die.  There are probably people who feel the same way about Mr. Ledger. 

I have friends who get angry at the coverage.  It’s just an actor, they say, why should we care?  What impact does it have on anyone’s life outside of Mr. Ledger’s family and friends?  Why is it anything more than a small blurb of news? 

My answer to that is, if you are upset about the amount of coverage that celebrities get, and you think that our society is overly obsessed with America’s attempt at royalty, all I can tell you is that it’s our own fault.  The headline banners are clicked on, the shows are watched.  For those upset with the level of coverage, I can only quote the philosopher Pogo, who said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

The Day to Day Grind Tim 24 Jan 2008 No Comments

Holding my Breath…

The Patriots pulled off their game this past weekend, despite once again looking less juggernautish than is comfortable.

Of course the Super Bowl would have to be against New York. If they were to (gasp!) lose, I would at least be able to respect Brett Favre for pulling some old man tricks out of his hat…but the New York Giants?

For years I have hated the New York Giants because Massachusetts is considered their secondary market (probably due to the fact that this was Giant country before there were Patriots in New England); this means that, every time the Patriots aren’t on, we get treated to the New York Giants. Run left, run right, fall asleep.

Also, they are a New York entity (in name only)…which would simply be the worst way to blow a perfect season.

If it seems like I am focusing on the negative here, it’s probably because I am. In the Super Bowl after the 2001 season, I was just hopeful that they could somehow pull out the game and the entire process was a joy. In all subsequent Bowls, I find myself terrified that they will blow it. Funny how winning can change an outlook (see: the 2007 Red Sox).

Of course, my negativity wasn’t helped when pictures of Tom Brady in a walking cast showed up in the news today. I know, I shouldn’t worry and everything will be fine (deep breath).

Go Pats!

Sports Tim 22 Jan 2008 No Comments

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