Saturday, 7 October 2017

2017OOW - Travel and Hotels

It may just be me, but my travel could be a soap opera; there are always challenges and frustrations. During my trip I have been told I am very British and underplay challenges, so what I actually mean is you need to be a relaxed person or have your own techniques for surviving.

Twitter may be my technique, nothing like a public rant to let off steam!

Complaining is also a very British pastime. 

Problem One - My ESTA

Waiver - the messages are from memory and may be slightly incorrect

I did remember to check my ESTA in advance. I was a bit lazy, instead of finding it and checking the date, I went online, entered my passport number and got the message 'an application for this traveller has expired' so assumed that I needed a new one.

I completed the online application, and was surprised by the optional question of my social personas, got all the way to the end of 5-6 screens and got a new message 'a current ESTA exists for this traveller, if you continue with this application it will be cancelled'

Both statements are actually correct. I am on my 2nd ESTA for this passport. I understand it would not be a good idea to tell you the ESTA number as anyone with my passport number could find my ESTA.

Anyway problem was solved when I stopped being lazy and searched for ESTA on my MAC and found a pdf. Then it had a link on it for printing, which I pressed and got another message 'There is an issue with your application, which does not mean you will be denied but it will be determined within 72 hours' - luckily a page refresh solved that problem.

Great Customer Experience - Returning ESTA Queue

A balance to this is that on arrival at SFO there is a returning ESTA queue that was new last year. This so speeds up the process. I did have a query around bringing chocolates into the US, the agent helping by the kiosks said I had to declare it, so I did and that mean I had to go see a TSA agent. He told me that 'next time don't worry, chocolate, candy and crackers don't count' and 'we always need more chocolate'

Problem Two - My Hotel Booking

When I registered for OOW I booked the Hilton, hoping that the ACED program would later cover it, but just in case. The system generates a confirmation, but with an Oracle reference not a hotel one. Then 10 days ago a series of events happen:

  • Oracle Housing generate a final confirmation email with the hotel reference
  • An email from ACED arrives with a hotel booking code, which I cannot use until first one is cancelled
  • Oracle Housing no longer make changes if you need to cancel you must do so directly with hotel
  • Hilton routes you to central help desk for cancellations who have no idea about block bookings
  • Hilton London ring Hilton SF direct, who are able to cancel booking
  • Go into Oracle Housing App, enter ACE code, get new confirmation email (with just the Oracle ref no
As I start to get ready for the travel, I tried to link my Hilton booking to my Hilton account:
  • Realise the confirmation email does not have a Hilton Reference
  • Check Oracle system, which has a Hilton reference but only the cancelled one!
  • Check it with Hilton incase it does work - this booking has been cancelled
  • Panic
  • Email Oracle Housing
  • Get response 'we are not able to deal with hotel issues, please contact hotel direct'
  • Contact Hilton Honours on twitter messenger (big tip they are always really helpful) - who can confirm it is cancelled and there is no other booking in my name in SF
  • Contact Hotel direct and find someone who says she will help me 
  • Get email from Oracle Housing who accept their system has caused the problem (because it doesn't update the hotel reference) but there is nothing they can do
  • Hotel tell me they can't resolve issue till after weekend, but 'don't sweat we will resolve it'
After a very worrying weekend
  • First thing Monday US time, just hours before I get on my flight, hotel email me they have re-instated original booking, against the ACE block and I'm all OK to go
  • Check app, yes I have a booking

Great Customer Experience - Hilton SF upgrade

Even here I had great help. Upgrade (thanks to ACE Program) was for a King Junior Suite but I wanted 2 beds and I emailed and said I would need to reluctantly decline, and they found me a 2 bed upgrade in a much bigger suite. Having status is well worth it, especially when things go wrong. Thank you.

Problem Three - Out of Office

I have a MAC 99% of the time I love it, but one issue is MS Office for MAC. I use outlook because it is a company requirement and to consolidate all my accounts. One of those accounts is my BT email ( a bit like a UK google account).

I had an out of office for my corporate account, no problem and then for my multiple POP3 and IMAP accounts I set up rules to send an OOO. 

I tend to use long flights to clear down email and that tends to generate a lot in my outbox (no inflight wifi on BA). So when I hooked up to wifi on my arrival in San Francisco I had a full outbox plus many to receive which generate a response.

Also a rule replies to an email, many then respond 'this mail box is not monitored' and my rule would reply and they would reply this mail box is not monitored' and so on..........

Anyway I soon hit
a BT email limit for outbox side and they disabled my ability to send emails from outlook, however I didn't know that at the time.

My outlook was basically frozen, constantly trying to send, and failing, continuously. Removed the emails in the outbox or changed the account sending them. Deleted the rule. But still couldn't send.

Back to google and found quite quickly on their community forum, this is limited to outlook. Quick test on my iPhone and yes it is just outlook, and you need to get them to clear it. Not that easy. Had to delete the account and rebuild after 48 hours.

What a waste of my time!

Problem Four - First Hotel Restrooms

My time at Oracle HQ, I stayed in the closest hotel, The Pullan. 

This has changed it's branding (from Sofitel) since last year and our visit coincided with a total revamp of the ground floor. Very disappointing especially as they did not let us know in advance. 

Reception and Bar was in a meeting room, as was the restaurant. The coffee shop was in a corridor and the toilets were in the carpark!

And as this also coincided with a mini heatwave the pool being empty was again, disappointing.

Great Customer Experience - The mattresses 

The mattresses on the beds are still the most comfortable I have found; and I have stayed in a lot of hotels.

Problem Four - Flying 

No Problems - rare I can say that, but for this trip, British Airways delivered

Outbound flight - all on time, flying issue free, food good. 
Return flight, Airbus A380, comfortable, slept a little, and only issue was the almost 5 hour layover in Heathrow because the earlier flight was just outside their allowable transit time.

Finally home - 9pm Saturday

Return to main #OOW17 Summary  

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