Trottings. Cathay Pacific fails test; I lose.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.


Trottings. Cathay Pacific fails test; I lose.




ERE following is my saga of trying to beat corporate blockheads. I failed.




FROM ME, May 26

Dear Sirs

I attach an Upgrade Certificate, now expired.

I tried to use this once, but was refused.

You add so many conditions, that clearly your aim is to try to get more money from the traveller.

You have forgotten that the certificate was given to make-good below-standard service.

You have succeeding in making the original fault worse.

Please do not send me one of your corporate reply letters saying “We are sorry…we aim…highest standards.”




We regret to learn that you were not able to use the upgrade certificate (019115) we have previously offered. The upgrade certificate is valid for one year in accordance with its terms and conditions, and we are unable to extend its validity any further.

We have already exercised our full flexibility in your case. We hope that we have made our position very clear on this subject and trust this concludes matters.

Thank you for contacting us.

Manoj Sajnawat

Customer Relations



FROM ME, June 23

Dear Sirs

I have just received your email reply. You ignored practically everything I wrote. I am more intelligent that your reply appears to have assumed. Please confirm by email that you will not respond to this email.




We are sorry to learn of your continued disappointment with this matter and having reviewed your case, I am afraid that there is nothing more that can be added to what has already been explained and offered in our previous replies. We trust we have made our position very clear on this subject and we will not be contacting you any further regarding this matter.

Thank you for contacting us.

Manoj Sajnawat

Customer Relations



The Fox’s Friends

Research & Markets. Mis-reading Chinese tea leaves.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.


June 27 2011


Research & Markets. Mis-reading Chinese tea leaves.



 E are often surprised at some reports from Research & Markets, a company, and sometimes shocked. Now we are open-mouthed.



At the end of June, R&M launched its ‘China Tourism Report for Q3 2011’ (sic). We have not seen the report, and thus accept that the full contents may explain some of the apparent wierdities, starting with that title. However, we presume that is actually the date of the report, not an indication the period covered. (Tip for R&M editors for next time: use a comma – ‘China Tourism Report, Q3 2011’.)


R&M says “the China National Tourism Administration has not yet released figures for tourist arrivals in 2011”. We and presumably others, have data through April – so we are not sure what part of CNTA is talking about. Clearly though, it needs to try other sources.


R&M goes on to note that “it is possible to assess the general trend through examining arrivals data for Hong Kong and Macau. As a frequent entrance hub for foreign visitors coming to China, Hong Kong arrivals figures can be used as a proxy for trends within mainland China.”


We are not sure if R&M knows, but more than 50% of visitor arrivals in those two destinations come from China itself. So it hardly makes sense to use a source which comprises mainly China’s outbound figures to estimate its inbound ones.


Also, we are not sure what R&M means by “frequent entrance hub”, but we guess it means ‘many travellers use Hong Kong as an entry to China’. The comment is out of date, nevertheless, with probably about 10% using HK as a gateway – although many tourists may also take an excursion trip from HK into China.


But if that is R&M’s justification for using the HK figures, what’s its justification for Macau?


Blindly continuing, R&M says arrivals grew 12% into HK and 5% into Macau. That, R&M adds, suggests that China “will also report…growth, following the trend established in 2010”.


It notes visitor arrivals in China in 2010 grew 6.3%. It does not define which set of data – one set includes visitors from HK, and that grew 5.8%, and the foreigner total (including foreigners living in HK and Macau) increased 19.1%. (There are others; we hope R&M knows.)


After this litany of mis-readings, we do not have great confidence in R&M’s forecast for 2011. But not to worry, because R&M does not put any figures to its belief that growth is “set to exceed [that] of 2010”.


We are not sure, however, if R&M knows that is a bold forecast, because 2010 results followed falls in 2008 and 2009. So the growth rate could be slower this year, and may also be negatively affected by Japan’s triple-hit in March.


The R&M report is dated June, so presumably R&M knows about Japan’s March events. But some reports we have seen from R&M sometimes have hard-to-understand date comments; not unlike, in fact, the comment in this report that there are no China figures available for 2011.


As it is – although you will not be able to read this in the report – Jan-Apr growth in foreigner arrivals in China was under 3%, and in two of the four months, there were falls in the number of visitors in China. Presumably though, R&M is still reading tea leaves in HK and Macau…



The Fox


Trottings. Cathay Pacific and Europcar.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.


June 24 2011


Trottings. Cathay Pacific and Europcar.



 PDATES on my trials with Cathay Pacific and Europcar.


In fact, the Cathay Pacific matter is more of a game. I complained that their Upgrade Certificate – to apologise for an earlier mis-service – was so wrapped in conditions that seemed to be designed to get more money out of the customer. And not to say sorry.


My complaint included a plea – please do not reply to this complaint. Because I knew it would be meaningless platitudes. Well, I failed. Cathay replied, managing to address not one of the about-five points I raised.


So I sent back a reply asking them to confirm by email that they would not reply.


Guess. I got a reply, although admittedly only an automatic one. On the basis of the other, I will need to wait about three weeks to see how they respond.


Europcar is a more serious matter. After a broken contract, they still extracted money from me from a deposit-saving credit-card imprint. I believe their act is illegal – because they broke the terms of the rental contract – but we all know the usually-high cost of proving you are right.


But, if what they did is bad, Europcar’s inaction since then is worse. I have sent 7 messages via their website under a category for ‘invoicing’. Each time I get back an apparently-human response that the site does not deal with invoice matters. The obvious question is why then include it as an option.


It invites me to file another form – this one all in French (the rental started in France), which then tells me it will be three weeks before I get a reply. It is now four weeks.




The Fox’s Friends


Trottings. Cathay Pacific loses customer.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.


June 22 2011


Trottings. Cathay Pacific loses customer.



 ELL, I tried. Cathay Pacific gave me an upgrade certificate to compensate for some bad service. But the certificate was covered with so many conditions that it seemed more designed to get a little more money from me than to say ‘sorry’.


I was not able to use it, so I sent it back with a letter saying something similar to the above paragraph.


I added a plea. ‘Please do not send me one of your corporate reply letters saying “We are sorry……we aim……highest standards……”’


What did I get? A corporate letter saying……well, nothing, really, but an insult to my intelligence nevertheless. It said, for instance, that the certificate had expired. Not one of my points was addressed. If it was a machine that replied, then I understand. If it was a human, then it is time to buy a machine.


But will my reply, via Cathay’s site, beat the machine?


I made a couple of points, and then asked them to confirm by email that they would not respond to my message.



The Fox’s Friends


Trottings. Roomnight Report – Eaton Smart, Hong Kong.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.

June 19 2011

Trottings. Roomnight Report – Eaton Smart, Hong Kong.




 TRIED the Eaton Smart hotel on Nathan Road in Hong Kong’s Kowloon. I am not sure I like the name. I think I am smart, of course, but don’t feel the need to stay somewhere that shouts out ‘SMART’ to prove it. You must be really dumb to choose a hotel that says it is Smart rather than your cleverness working that out for yourself. But probably the word ‘Smart’ is really to describe the hotel’s style or appearance?


[] Convenient. Even for business on Hong Kong island in Central, because the MTR station is only 5-minutes’ walk away. (But note, five minutes in HK’s heat or tropical rain, is tough.) Both Jade and Temple markets are within 10/15 minutes walking distance.

[] First impression is that, surprising as it may seem, I found it difficult to find the hotel lobby. Presumably no problem if you arrive by taxi, but I arrived on foot. From its address entrance, Nathan Road, there are giant letters on the 1st/2nd floor telling me this is the ‘Eaton Hotel’, but you first go down some steps (awkward with baggage) and into what seems to be a shopping and restaurant area – no signs for lobby, just for the Eaton’s banquet area. Eventually I found that it required an elevator trip to another floor, and even then I passed a restaurant and lounge before I spotted the check-in area. I saw no check-in signs, but decided that this was the place because there were a few people hanging around.

[] In 2007, started refurbishing rooms and lobby, redoing the theme and adding ‘Smart’ to the hotel’s name last October.

[] There are three other Eatons in HK, but these are under the apartment-type Eaton House sub-brand.

[] The hotel does well with local business. I don’t mean Hong Kong; I mean from people living in that part of Kowloon. This is a hotel with a local spirit. And in particular for weddings. In various levels of services, it handles 500 weddings/year – including couples deciding to renew their vows. Yes, that’s more than one a day.

[] To promote weddings/banquets, the hotel has a Bridal Booklet giveaway on what to do in days leading up to the wedding, and which includes a pen (for signing the marriage certificate) and a pad to hold the wedding ring. In fact, that the hotel handles 500 weddings/year shows that it is doing more than just providing the ‘hardware’. It even has an area with booths where sales people talk with prospective customers.

[] The hotel also has a wedding suite – that is offered free to customers who book a wedding reception. A wedding reception, usually with 12 places per table, costs about US$700 (at US1 to HK$7.88) per table.

[] The hotel has been open 20 years this year (10 staff have been there since the start). It has a ‘perfect day’ (ie, wedding day) promotion for weddings for hotel’s November anniversary; probably all booked now are the favourites – 1-11-11 and 11-11-11.

[] One-hour ‘tai-chi’ exercises take place just off the lobby every day at 0800, where hotel guests can also join in.

[] The maid wanted to clean my room on the day I was due to check-out – waste of labour.


[] 450 rooms, starting at around US$127. The hotel does not have a club floor, but 20-25% of rooms are club rooms – those with, for instance, a better view. It also has had a club lounge, see below.

[] Although the lobby is small, it is neat, and bustles with facilities and therefore energy. This includes an external ‘Green Wall’ (so named because it has plants) in what is now the ‘T’ Garden. I am not sure whether T is for Tea, or for the previous name – the Terrace (because as we all know, an initial is currently trendier than a word). The Wall includes running water which, I am assured, improves the air quality.

[] There are seven restaurant outlets. The ‘T’ garden also acts as an extension to the two outlets in the lobby – The  85-covers Metro coffee shop, and bar.

[] Tat Chee restaurant. Owned by the hotel’s owner. There is also an outlet in the Harbour View building in Wanchai (where the owning company is headquartered).

[] The hotel has a gym and swimming pool (with Roman-like pillars) on the top floor. There is no pool menu, but guests can order F&B.

[] There is lots of bamboo (even the check-in desks). This is an environmental move because bamboo is plentiful and grows quickly, but it does not last as long as hardwood.

[] The lobby area is well equipped for computers, with what it calls E-Point (I am still not sure what ‘E’ refers to, but no matter). There is one section with computers at three bar-stool points, with a printer, and an adjacent section with more comfortable 3 sit-down points. Seems more than adequate for guests.

[] There is no traditional check-in/out front desk, but three separate units. Because these are small, staff can get out to meet/greet the customer if need be.

[] Its ballroom can do 25 tables in dinner style. And its function space can handle 500 people for a cocktail reception.

[] It has a club lounge, which it calls the E-Lounge, with good and friendly service. Services include the usual breakfast, cocktail hour, running coffee/tea etc. The only downside was there are no external windows.


[] My room was neat with some trendy touches. But some shortcomings:

-I could not open the cupboard door and keep the cupboard light on (it needs to be opened far enough, but that then triggers the turn-off connector);

-No all-off power switch;

-No bedside switch (for the bedside light – you have to get out of bed to turn the light off!);

-The bathroom switch is not on the wall outside the bathroom, but round the corner on another wall;

-No full-length mirror.

[] But good facilities. Plus little pleasing extras – such as a dim-sum basket showing specials and freebees.


Comfortable business class hotel in convenient location. I would put it at 3-star (counting InterContinental at 5-star, the top level). Staff cheerful, helpful, and bright.

Just two shortcomings which should be corrected:

–The walk-in entrance from Nathan Road. Amazingly, there is not even signage; I can only presume no managerial staff has ever entered the hotel this way thinking of the arriving-guest experience – because otherwise it would have been changed before now.

-The club lounge. Having no windows is not what I could call a ‘disqualifying’ shortcoming. And I understand the cost in HK of giving window space to an outlet that is a cost outlet more than a revenue-earning outlet – in direct terms. But management should calculate whether the extra revenue from club-room guests ‘pays’ for a window-view lounge.

For this stay, I was the invited guest of the hotel management.


The Fox’s Friends


Trottings. Europcar leaves you on your own.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.



June 05 2011



Trottings. Europcar leaves you on your own.




 RENTED a car from Europcar. So far, so good.


I was due to return the vehicle on a holiday, but the office was due to be open that day from 1400 to 1800. These times were on the rental agreement.


I turned up at 1415. The office was closed. My friends left me with my other vehicle, and I waited, giving the office 30 minutes grace on a holiday. But by 1500 I assumed they were not coming, so I call Europcar’s helpline.


Misnamed. During the conversation, the operator actually said (check the recording, Europcar), “we can do nothing for you; it is not our problem; it is between you and the local office”.


(There were other words, and the operator was polite. The message, however, was rude.)


She did suggest I find a hotel or another car rental company and leave the key with them. But for obvious reasons (I was responsible), that was not a sensible proposal. (I later found out that the office had an arrangement with the next door restaurant, but that is not much use if the arrangement is a secret.)


The operator also suggested I drive to another town (it was named, but I was not from the area and so I don’t know where it was; I later found it was about 50km away). And leave it at the Europcar office there. (I presumed she knew that office was open – but that was not certain because she did not know my contracted location was closed.)


But she could not help me on how I would get back from that other location to my other vehicle. Also, I had already travelled from the town where I was staying because the Europcar office there was scheduled to be closed that day.


But, I was on my own. Europcar could not help me. I had to resolve the matter myself.


I put a note under the Europcar office door (the letterbox had been sealed closed – so I could not leave the car keys there). And I left the keys by a wheel – hidden from view, but not secure of course.


I left my number for Europcar local office to call me. They did, the following day. They explained that Europcar (the big Europcar) had been advised that this local office would be closed, but did not enter that information. I, of course, have no way of checking either version.


But, of course, ‘the system’ knew I was returning the car at that time. Somewhere, someone should have known this was not possible, and advised me. The fact that this did not happen indicates there is a system fault.


Lastly, I had given a credit card for deposit, but planned to pay cash. That, of course, was no longer possible. That caused me a problem because I could not have payments on that credit card.


I am now in the process of trying to get that reversed. That is proving surprisingly difficult as well.



The Fox’s Friends