A challenging business trip to Ireland

I recently made a 3-days business trip to Ireland for a 2-day Conference. Due to a relatively recent operation I had, I decided to travel light, carrying only my backpack and a cabin-sized suitcase with only the basics. But this is a trip where things went wrong…

  1. During the flight to Dublin, I managed to stain my shirt (one of the three I had with me) with olive olive during the in-flight lunch. I tried to remove it with wet towels, hand refreshers and lots of soap and rinsing with water but didn’t succeed.
  2. I reached the hotel after about a long trip of 12 hours from Athens. As a result, I missed the interesting guided tour to the Kilkenny Castle, the Welcome Reception (drinks included) as well as a couple of interesting speeches.
  3. When I reached the hotel and started unpacking, I realized that the small dispenser with my dry-skin lotion was broken in the suitcase and left some stains on my second shirt – two shirts off before even the start of the Conference!
  4. My third shirt, which I had picked up from the dry cleaners just before the trip had some small coffee stains which had not been properly (and entirely) removed) – I only wish I had noticed that when I picked it up…
  5. The hotel had a maze-like arrangement (rather complex for newcomers) and some irregularities (e.g. Reception was on top of the 1st and 2nd floor!) so I got lost while heading to the reception. This resulted in me getting out of the building through an one-way security door (not opening from the outside) and I found myself in chilling cold, wearing only a shirt and having just left the steaming shower. That was a shock for me, but fortunately I didn’t catch a cold. No doors opened from outside, so I had to walk in the woods surrounding the hotel until I reached its main entrance.
  6. I left my smartphone to charge overnight using an EU to UK adapter but forgot that the UK power outlets have a small on-off switch. When I woke up in the morning, the smartphone’s battery was almost drained. It was a good thing I had my second device almost fully charged.
  7. On the way back to Athens, my flight from Dublin to London was delayed by more than 1 hour, so I was not sure if I will be able to catch my connecting flight to Athens. I tried to reach both Aer Lingus and British Airways through their social media (FB pages and Twitter) but I got no response. On top of that, power outlets in Dublin airport were out of order and I was running out of battery. Thank God for the free WiFi.
  8. When we landed in London, nobody knew if we had sufficient time to catch our flight to Athens. I was rushing so much that I missed the signs leading to the bus connecting Heathrow Terminal 2 with Terminal 5 and I had to walk much longer to catch the train. I was in a real shock.
  9. Fortunately our flight from London to Athens was also delayed, so I found myself boarding later on. Unfortunately It was delayed so much (more than 2 hours, if I recall well), that we reached Athens early morning (about 05.30) instead of 02.30.
  10. British Airways has turned into a low-cost airline and I was not aware of that. Instead of free beverages during the flight, we were handed a Marks & Spencer menu list and we had to pay for virtually anything that we needed – even for coffee and water. I feel sorry that I had opted for the BA flight instead of e.g. an Aegean one.
  11. The delayed flights along with the lack of proper sleep during the previous days, resulted in me sleeping abnormal times during the weekend, as I was really exhausted.

That’s the kind of stuff that you hate when traveling – especially for business purposes. No matter how well you prepare, things can easily go wrong. It’s a good thing that they’re not typical to most of my business trips, but some times, shot happens!

Η κακή μέρα από το πρωί φαίνεται…

(This post is mostly about whining and grousing and I do these better in Greek, so I’ll skip English for this post!)

02.30: η σύζυγος δεν μπορεί να κοιμηθεί και θεωρεί πως πρέπει να ξυπνήσω κι εγώ – ανοίγει πόρτες, φώτα κλπ. Στη συνέχεια κοιμάται βέβαια. Κι εγώ μετά από λίγο.

05.00: Ο μεγάλος γιος ξυπνάει και θέλει να κάνει εμετό. Τον προλαβαίνουμε πριν λερώσει. Δεν μπορώ να ξανακοιμηθώ οπότε ξεκινάω να απαντάω σε emails της δουλειάς από τις 05.30 που έχουν κοιμηθεί όλοι στο σπίτι.

11.30: Η σύζυγος με ενημερώνει ότι ο μεγάλος γιος δεν είναι καλά (είχε ανακατωσούρες) και θα τον πάρει νωρίτερα από το σχολείο, να τον κρατήσει λίγο στη δουλειά της μέχρι να σχολάσει. Και η ίδια δεν αισθάνεται πολύ καλά…

12.00-14.00: προγραμματισμένη συνάντηση με φίλο που έχω να δω πολύ καιρό ακυρώνεται μετά από στήσιμο δύο ωρών. Έχω χάσει 2+ πολύτιμες ώρες από μια εντελώς πηγμένη ημέρα.

15.30: Τηλέφωνο από τη σύζυγο – μου λέει πως τελικά λιποθύμησε 2 φορές (!!) στη δουλειά και είναι στο σπίτι με τον μεγάλο γιο. Πρέπει να πάρει τον μικρό από τον παιδικό σταθμό και με ρωτάει πότε θα γυρίσω. Εγώ έχω τουλάχιστον 3 ώρες δουλειάς μπροστά μου και είμαι σε συνάντηση. Εξάλλου θέλω περίπου μία ώρα για να φτάσω σπίτι από το γραφείο.

16.30: Μαζεύω υλικό για να δουλέψω από το σπίτι, κάνω backup τα emails στον εξωτερικό δίσκο και φεύγω για το σπίτι. Στο δρόμο με πιάνει μια απίστευτη μπόρα. Φορούσα σακάκι (όχι αδιάβροχο μπουφάν) και όχι αδιάβροχα παπούτσια. Μπήκαν νερά παντού, ακόμα και στα καινούρια μου Geox παπούτσια…. Ακόμα και στο σακίδιο με το tablet. Επίσης γύρισε το ταπεράκι με το φαγητό μέσα στο σακίδιο και τα λάδια παραλίγο να βγουν από τη σακούλα και να κάνουν τα πάντα χάλια.

 17.15: Φτάνω σπίτι – σύζυγος και γιος με πυρετό, νηστικοί. Η σύζυγος τέζα στο κρεβάτι, ο γιος βλέπει παιδικά με τον μικρό. Δίνω κάτι στο μεγάλο να φάει για να πάρει αντιπυρετικό. Ταυτόχρονα στήνω το Laptop με το δίσκο για να αρχίσω να δουλεύω.

18.00: Ο ένας θέλει νερό, ο άλλος να φάει, η σύζυγος δε μπορεί να σηκωθεί κάν – 39 πυρετό. Ετοιμάζω λαπά για να φάνε. Στο μεταξύ δουλεύω σε παραδοτέα και απαντάω σε emails που πρέπει να φύγουν σήμερα.

20.00: Πάνω που έχω πάρει φόρα με τη δουλειά, κόβεται το ρεύμα. Εντελώς. Σε όλη την περιοχή. Είμαστε όλοι κομμάτια και άυπνοι, οπότε ετοιμαζόμαστε για ύπνο με τη βοήθεια ενός φακού. Και κοιμόμαστε κατά τις 21.00. Κι εγώ μαζί.

21.15: Ο μεγάλος ξυπνάει τη γυναίκα μου γιατί πονάει το δόντι του. Η γυναίκα μου ξυπνάει εμένα, που μόλις έχω κοιμηθεί. Πάνω που κοιτάμε τι έχει γίνει, έρχεται το ρεύμα.

21.30: Το ψυγείο έχει πάθει τραλαλά από τη διακοπή και σφυρίζει συνέχεια επάνω στο UPS που το έχω (για να το προφυλάξω από τις συνεχείς πτώσεις τάσεις). Για να βγάλω το UPS πρέπει να τραβήξω το ψυγείο και να σκαρφαλώσω σε καρέκλα. Είμαι περισσότερο από 100 κιλά αλλά ευτυχώς δεν σπάει.

23.30: Κλείνω δύο ώρες σερί που δουλεύω παραδοτέα και στέλνω emails  – ελπίζω να μην κάνω λάθος γιατί έχω αρχίσει να παραδίνω πνεύμα. Τουλάχιστον θέλω να τελειώσω σήμερα και να μην τρέχω μέσα στο Σ/Κ.

Η μέρα δεν έχει τελειώσει ακόμα – περαστικά μας!

 

Leaving home without my wristwatch

….is never a good thing – and not only for practical reasons. When it happened to me, a couple of days ago, I knew that the day would go wrong.

I found myself running to the bus stop a bit late, only to find a sign that the bus stop had moved three blocks further (due to constructions at that road). When I managed to find the new, temporary one, it took the bus a little bit more to arrive (maybe the bus driver was as confused as we were) and so we only reached the suburban railway station after the train had left.

Killing time

A photo posted by Vassilis (@vprot) on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:57am PST

 

I managed to reach office at some point, only to realize that I had left some important documents at home; it was a good thing I had digital copies online so I could print them again.The strange thing is that a meeting that I had that day went pretty well (despite the fact that I was not wearing my watch). 🙂

On taking the wrong decisions (and paying for them)

I have setup my Windows 10 phone using U.S. as the default location, so that I could use Cortana (currently not supported in Greece). I also enabled international assist for calling, as I travel quite often outside Greece.

Today I tried to call a landline phone on Greece. I received an automated response about the subscriber not being available – in English. I checked the number I have called only to see that it has been corrected to U.S. number and in fact I had called a U.S. number.

This costed me about a couple of euros for a 10 second call. A lesson learned – I disabled the international assist option.

R.I.P. Lemmy

One of the first LPs (yeap,  referring to the old school vinyls) I got myself when I got into heavy metal was “No Sleep ’til Hammersmith“; an album that blew my brains out. Lots of speed, energy and harsh sound that made me love this band and keep following them throughout the years. Since then I bought several of their albums (and listened to many more) but I never had the opportunity to see them live.

5172s69mryl-_sx315_bo1204203200_A couple of weeks ago I was browsing Amazon UK for something interesting to read and I found two biographies; one of Lemmy and the other of Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath); the former was delivered directly to me in Athens while the latter to my sister in London, so that I could save on the postage costs. I was still reading Lemmy’s biography when I heard the news about his death; I was really sorry about that, as I deeply respect Lemmy (a 70-year old man who was still rocking that hard!); as I was reading, he has been through so many abuses that it looks like a miracle he lived so long. At the same time, he was a simple man, gentle and straight to the point.

R.I.P. Lemmy and keep strong Tony.

 

The progress of a bad day (without a mobile phone)

Yesterday, just before reaching the suburban railway station, starting my daily commute to work, I realized that I forgot my mobile phone at home. I had two choices: either to go back home and spend precious time or to move on without it. I chose the latter. Let’s see how a day without a mobile phone would evolve.

The scenery at the station was lovely: cold weather, windy and drizzling while the mountains far away were already covered in thick clouds. I usually take a couple of shots per day there, and this would be a really nice opportunity. However, I couldn’t do so without my mobile phone’s camera…

I found my usual seat inside the train and as soon as I got seated, I reached for my mobile phone to check out the RSS feeds I downloaded earlier in the morning using my home’s Wi-Fi (I do not have a mobile data plan). This is the best way to start your day, reading news about technology, work and leisure. However, I soon realized that I do not have my mobile phone with me – at least I had a book in my backpack, so I started reading. I also tried to remember of any meetings that I had for today as I usually use my online calendar, always synced with my mobile phone. I could not recall any meetings, and if there were any, I would have trouble keeping myself busing during them without my mobile phone.

I reached my destination, somewhere in the north part of Attica. It was already snowing there; a sight not common for Attica. Cars started getting this bright white color of snow, the pavements received a thin layer of tiny snowflakes. Ideal subject for taking photos but still I did not have my mobile phone.

I reached the office and settled down; I am always the first to get there and this was the case today. As soon as I entered the kitchen to brew my typical morning espresso, I realized that there was no light there. I opened up all window shades and tried to switch on the espresso machine but there was no power. I took a peek at the fridge – no power there as well. I am not the most skilled electrician but still I reached the fuse box and tried switching on some fuses that were off. No reaction – half of the office remained without electricity. The landlord dropped by and let me know that indeed the whole building was left without electricity (in fact, half of it), and that he had already called the electricity company about that. He suggested that I did the same, in order to highlight the issue of not having power in a company (like ours). I tried to do so, but both phones are cordless and they were out of order due to lack of electricity. I tried moving on of them to another power outlet but the phone line cable was too short to reach. Then I though “Ok, I can call them using my mobile phone”, only to realize that I did not have my mobile phone with me…

I gave up and powered up my laptop; I had electricity in my office. Out of habit, I tried downloading my emails but the wired connection did not provide internet access. I said “Ok, let’s try the wireless one” but it was out of order, too. Both ADSL modem/routers were left without electricity. I tried to send an SMS through the web, asking colleagues to hurry to the office and help sort things out but of course without routers there is no internet…

I took a look through the office’s window and saw the snowflakes slowly falling on the ground, the trees of the nearby park and on the rooftops of the parked cards. What a lovely subject for a photo – it only made me wish I hadn’t left my mobile phone at home.

Then I thought that this is indeed a bad day so the least I could do would be to blog about it – I knew that I couldn’t reach my WordPress-powered blog without electricity/internet connection, so my second thought was to use Simplenote for that; alas, it also required internet connection! I gave up. Entirely. I fired up MS Word and started typing this post. After almost finalizing it, I recalled that I had the Evernote desktop version installed and I could have used it for drafting my blog post! If there was any single way for me to have made a tiny cup of coffee without electricity, things might have been better…damn bad day!

Electricity was restored a couple of hours later. In the meantime, a colleague of mine (and a good friend) announced that she’s quitting for another position (probably better). I tried to reach for my phone to get a selfie with her as a piece of memory (this is how I like to call them), but of course the phone was not there.

Throughout the day we got a really nice snowfall and I kept asking my colleagues to take some photos of it – I am not sure if I will ever receive these photos but I am sure that I would have made them in a different way. Later I wanted to see how my latest Instagram photo was doing but it was not possible (only through the lousy Instagram web interface).

During a meeting I found myself playing with anything that was around on the table – only to realize that I actually needed to get my hands on my phone!

While commuting back home, I really missed checking out the new RSS feeds through my phone and editing some photos on the fly; something I usually do after a hard day at the office.

The day ended. I reached home and found my mobile phone. WiFi was turned off and I had no calls nor messages. I made a couple of urgent calls, checked out Instagram, browsed my RSS feeds and then everything went back to normal.

The risks of being a prepaid customer of Wind GR

The risks of being a prepaid customer of Wind GR

wind_GRI am a customer of Wind GR (mobile operator in Greece) since late 90s, when I got my first mobile phone (a pay as you go) as a student – it was Telestet then, renamed to TIM after some years and now Wind. Since then I never changed my number nor moved to another mobile operator so I can be considered as a loyal customer. I was never a good one, as I tend to speak as little as I can over phone (including my mobile phone) so I make only minimum consumption of my available credit balance – I am not on a contract but on a prepaid card (Wind F2G).

Talking about credit balance, I managed to obtain a rather high one throughout these years, after some nice offers from Wind which allowed keeping double (and in some cases even triple) the amount you bought as airtime. Combined with my minimum consumption of airtime, I ended up with a credit of more than 150 euros in my account. In the end, I realized that this was not sustainable, so I decided to stop taking advantage of any (and I literally mean any) new offer by Wind – instead I would slowly consume my existing balance, only adding a new amount whenever needed (initially once per year, now twice per year) in order to keep my number “alive” and my balance active.

About 15-20 days ago I received an SMS informing me that a new package was activated for me (costing 10 euros) and for this I received almost 17,5 euros of balance in my account – but with an expiration date of one month only! I did not recall activating any package/offer, so I searched online to see what happened… and I found out: Wind decided (without asking their subscribers for confirmation) to activate this “offer” considering this as beneficial for them, with a duration of 6 months. However, it was obvious that due to the expiration date (of only one month) combined with my limited use of the phone, such “offer” was not beneficial for casual users like me. In the meantime, several affected F2G subscribers had contacted the General Secretary of Consumers (an organization under the umbrella of the Greek Ministry of Development & Competitiveness, as well as the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission, reporting the issue and filing complain forms.

I tried to find a way to cancel this “offer” and get my money back, so I discussed with the Wind Customer Care; despite the fact that the representative was kind and patient, she kept repeating parts from their website text related to the “offer” but she could not assure me that I would not be charged 10 euros per month for 6 months just for having this “offer” activated for me without my consent…at least she was kind enough to let me know that she could initiate the cancellation process. After giving it a second though, I decided that indeed this “offer” was not beneficial for me, so I asked again to have it cancelled. If this would not be accepted, I would have to issue a complaint form about that through the aforementioned services.

Indeed, after a couple of days I was informed that my balance was restored (referring to the 10 euros that I was initially charged) so everything was back to normal. What is not back to normal for me is my trust in Wind as a company; it seems that this was only one of the tricks used for charging pay as you go customers without their consent (you can Google for issues related to charging for internet access / 1 euro per day, when users are not really using internet!).

Big thanks and kudos to the Wind customer support for their help and prompt response (a good example for the Aegean customer support) but Wind, let’s get serious and start being honest to your customers or you’ll be in trouble…

On the Aegean Airlines Customer Support

I recently had an issue related to my Aegean Miles+Bonus (the new one); and when I say recently, it must have been back in early November 2014: Due to the fact that when I created my Miles&Bonus account (the old one), I did not have a passport nor an ID with Latin characters so I made a mistake when entering my first name in the application. Despite the fact that the first name in the account did not match the way my name was spelled in both my new ID and passport, I never had an issue with that so after a lot of flights (mostly with Aegean Airlines), I managed to reach the Gold level/status with my card.

When I tried to merge my old Miles&Bonus account with the one I had for Olympic Airways (after the two companies were merged and their loyalty programmes followed after a while), so that I could have my OlympicAir miles transferred to my new Miles+Bonus account, I got an error message prompting me to contact the Aegean Airways Customer Support, as the first names in my two accounts did not match (because I managed to use my correct first name when creating my account with Olympic Airways).

The old version of the Aegean Gold Miles & Bonus card
The old version of the Aegean Gold Miles & Bonus card

I hate phones (yes, I hate them, I have a strange phobia when I talk over phone), so I tried contacting the Miles+Bonus Customer Support team through the online form here and another one I found within the Miles+Bonus page (I cannot find it right now). I got no response so I tried again after a couple of weeks. Not a single answer, so I tried emailing Miles+Bonus. Nothing. Repeated the process both through email and contact form. Nada.

Miles_Bonus_gold_new
The new version of the Aegean Gold Miles + Bonus card

After a while, a decided to contact the Aegean through their really active Twitter account. They responded after a while and said that they’ll look into it but never got a response. After sending them a reminder I was asked to call Customer Care (but I hate phones, I have this strange phone-phobia – after all, I might as well be mute). I kept sending emails & enquiries through the contact form and new DMs to their Twitter account. In the end (and after about 3 months!), the Twitter team managed to make an Aegean CC representative respond to my email; and not only that, they actually fixed the issue (= corrected my name in the Miles+Bonus account) and let me know about that! After that, I managed to transfer my miles to my new account and everything was set.

Thank you all for the excellent collaboration and help but please-please-please try to be more responsive next time, especially for such simple issues!

Next Aegean Airways-related challenge for me: The new Gold Miles+Bonus Card I received (replacing my existing Miles&Bonus) expires 11 months earlier than the one that I already had! Is this a mistake? Does this have to do with new rules (that I was not informed about) or the fact that I did not travel that often after the summer of 2014 (for personal reasons)? I don’t know but I plan to figure out, so I am preparing my next round of communication with the Aegean CC team!