Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why you should avoid Alamo Rent-A-Car

This week my family split apart for 25 days so my wife could visit family in the USA.  Because of some fortunate events she was able to travel with friends the whole way making the trip much easier than anticipated. But Alamo Rent-A-Car destroyed any hopes for a happy ending.

I reserved the car on the Expedia.com website, prepaid for 25 days and even paid for the insurance.  I also ordered two car seats and a booster seat.  When my wife arrived, after her 12 hour journey, from El Salvador she was met with Shantell at the SLC Airport Office.  Shantell made it clear to my wife should could not pay the deposit with a debit card and would need to have a credit card with her name on it.  Why may you ask?  Because a debit card can be canceled, she said and we could steal the car.  I guess credit cards can not be canceled?  In addition she said that my wife is a local driver (not really but her license is Utah) and so she could not be trusted with the car with out a major credit card.  Really Alamo...you have defined trust by someones ability to have debt?  But I digress, you see the policy on the Alamo website says if we have a return ticket they will accept a debit card.  Not for Shantell.

Alamo Debit Card Policy
Click on Graphic to Enlarge
Debit Card Policy on the Alamo Website

Our next solution was for me to get on the phone and offer my business credit card to pay the $200+ deposit.  Shantell said she could not except that because they must physically swipe the card.  What is this 1995?  As my wife sat their and wept with 4 screaming children, I began to come up with solutions with Shantell, I quoted her again the policy saying that if I presented a return ticket I would be allowed to use a debit card, she said it is their actually policy to not allow debit cards, even though their website clearly states it.  I offered other credit cards, to have people come down and pay it, etc.  She refused all solutions.  In the end I asked her what I should do with my stranded wife and she responded, "I don't know, because there is nothing I can do for you."

Next step was to jump to customer care, I called Alamo 1-800 line and after 20 min of waiting was transferred BACK to SLC Airport.  No good there, Shantell already doesn't want to help me!  I tried Twitter and Facebook.  I got Rob who kept referring me to call customer support or email care or call Expedia.

Rob and Tweets

Alamo, why do you have a twitter page?  You told me to email care in a DM and I got the same person on twitter--Rob! So I emailed Care aka Rob and his reply?  "I am forwarding this to the manager"

...at what point  "my wife was sitting on the floor crying" did they not understand?

Click on Graphic to Enlarge
Rob and his email...Rob asked me to email him through a DM.

What does this come down too?  Alamo was unwilling to uphold their own policy that is clearly posted on their website and instead left a woman stranded in the airport with crying 1 year old twins.  Refused to answer their customers demands that they simply uphold their policy.  I wasn't a casual user here, I pre-paid 25 days of a 5 passenger car with trip insurance.  All for nothing.  Was I demanding?  Yes.  Was I frustrated? Still am.  But did at anytime I ask them to violate their policy? No!

So thank you Alamo, I am so happy for your level of concern for your customers and for your own policies.  My wife, screaming babies and my wallet all thank you for destroying this vacation.

Wish you the best.

UPDATE: 7/18/2014

The past day I have received tremendous support from friends and strangers about this issue.  But most interestingly it has been Alamo.  They have had 5 separate people reach out to me asking for information all replying that they would have someone contact me or pass the info on.  But the best was the emailed response I got from the Customer Service Website.  According to Bryan, because my wife had a Utah Driver's License and a Utah Credit Union Debit card (even though the website does not say this...see above) she does not qualify for the Debit Card Policy.  Never mind the fact she showed them her El Salvador Residency Card, Passport with El Salvador Stamps and a round trip ticket originating and retuning to El Salvador.  See Bryan's amazing email below and spread the word on this folks:

Click on Graphic to Enlarge
Bryan's email telling my why they denied my wife a car after prepaying.


I replied to Bryan saying I didn't think this was a valid answer since his website doesn't say anything about the local residency requirement.  He replied saying that he will take my feedback into consideration and will use it to make them "The car company of choice"

Click on Graphic to Enlarge
Bryan wants Alamo to be the Car Company of Choice

UPDATE: 7/21/2014

After 3 more emails asking, I received a great answer from Erica.  She feels horrible for the situation and wants to make things right.  She made it clear the reason the policy was not followed was because my wife is a local customer (not true) and that she was not a Flying customer (we showed our round trip ticket).  To help she is giving us 3 FREE days on Alamo, um how am I going to use it if I don't have a Credit Card?  See Email below - Click to Enlarge:

Click on Graphic to Enlarge
Erica explains my wife was not a flying customer (lie) and that I can have 3 free days.
 How will  use this without a credit card?

UPDATE: 7/22/2014

Thanks Marketta from Alamo, your newest excuse to my wife being left to fend for herself with 4 kids and me spending an extra $400+ is because you say my wife's round trip ticket was NOT in and out of Utah.  Um...we flew from El Salvador!  It says it on the itinerary we presented!!!

Click on Graphic to Enlarge
"Your wife presented a local drivers license with a round trip flight and that flight was not for flying in and out of Utah therefore she did not qualify"
So I sent Ms. Marketta an email with my wife's Itinerary she responded quickly...um, there is nothing I can do for you I will have someone call you...Yeah I have been asking for that for over a week now.

Monday, March 10, 2014

El Salvador Final Presidential Vote - Fraud and Fear

Last night was the final vote for the President of El Salvador.   Last month's vote eliminated the bottom challengers and pushed the country to a second round of voting which culminated last night with the final election.  Campaign coverage on local television and internet was superb as had the previous night and I expected to see a clean easy election as I had in the previous one.  But the night was filled with adrenaline as it appeared ARENA had closed the gap and for brief moments was even ahead in the polls.

The final result in the preliminary ballots ended with FMLN 50.11% and ARENA with 49.89%.  Too close for any candidate to concede. All night long we watched as the political experts debated these results and how close the election turned out to be.  I have my own opinion as to why this happened, but that is for another post.  The real concern is the potential for fraud and violence that came with the results.

Even though the TSE (Tribunal Supremo Electoral) asked everyone for prudence in announcing victory or questioning the ballots; both candidates wanted to claim victory.  The local newspaper and social media began showing a number of miscalculations in the counting process.    A quick summary of how the ballots are counted will help to explain how this works.  Each ballot box is opened at the polling location, each ballot is counted and called out for all to hear.  Poll watchers count the ballots as well and can essentially pass results to their campaign headquarters before it is even released to the public.  Once the votes are counted they are certified and then sent to the TSE who then posts the results on their webpage.  Well according to ARENA, they have counted all of their votes and show they won, to support this they are showing a number of certified voting sheets from the polls that do not match the numbers on the website.  Honest mistake or fraud?  Arena is calling fraud.

Potential Fraud

The scary part is during a speech to rally the support of ARENA Norman Quijano (candidate for president) said that he had been robbed and had called the armed forces.  He stated they were ready to protect democracy and made a call for potential violence to ensure his election as president.  These phrases have shocked many of those around me saying they supported Quijano but are now scared of what he will do.

It is obvious some irregularities have been found and that the country is very divided at this moment.  The next few days will set the stage for either a new president or potential for something worse.




Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Insider Perspective of the Utah Caucus System

Count My Vote Caucus Meeting Utah
There is a tremendous amount of debate in Utah about the "Count My Vote" initiative that seeks to eliminate the need for neighborhood caucus meetings and move towards direct primaries.  Supporters of the caucus system will argue this removes real choice and discussion from the voter because now "big name ID" and "big money" can buy the election from uninformed voters.  Count My Voter supports argue a small group of delegates can't represent their neighborhoods affectively.  I am here to give you personal experience as a delegate recruiter, trainer and converter and in my experience how big money is no different, if not worse in the caucus system.

For some quick background: I have been a state delegate, county delegate, and caucus chair.  I have believed in this system because I have seen it work in my favor in the past.  I am not a career political operative; however, I have worked or consulted on a number of political campaigns since 2000 in various roles from volunteer to full time staffer.  Two of these campaigns would be considered major political campaigns.  In the campaign I am about to share with you I was hired as the Statewide Advance Team Director.  Now I will preface my experience with the opinion that this candidate was and is an amazing person and I would say the most honest and hardworking candidate I have ever seen.  Needless to say, we played the delegate game like everyone else.

Dan Liljenquist State Delegate Training DocumentDuring this campaign I really had two jobs, one was to organize events for the candidate and prepare the venues before the candidate arrived.  My second job was related to delegates.  Every week for months prior to the neighborhood caucus meetings I would recruit as many people to attend delegate trainings.  Every candidate holds these trainings and it is considered Utah Politics 101.  Some of these meetings would be filled with food, drink and always printed instructions on how to go to your caucus meeting and get elected as a State Delegate.  Lots of time and money is spent in organizing these events.  Invitations are made, people are called, locations reserved, instructions printed, and food is often provided.  Each staffer on the campaign had a quota of delegates they needed to bring to the convention, but we all worked as a team to recruit and convert. 

You see the life of a delegate is fun.  One of the big selling points for us in our delegate recruitment was the power to make decisions in the political process, the second selling point was the royal treatment you would receive.  Candidates we will wine and dine you to get you to vote for them.  

As part of our recruitment process we often looked for the following type of people because of their ease in getting elected: young, college bound, first time caucus attendees and the innocence of no political agenda. In fact you were instructed to never give your full allegiance to any candidate in the meeting (though secretly you had been recruited and essentially paid off with glory and promises of free food, t-shirts galore) and make sure to tell them how you look forward to voting with what the neighborhood wants.  You were instructed to bring as many of your friends as you can to vote for you and if possible rehearse the nomination process.

This process is still in affect today as you can see from the previous senate races.  Interesting to note that Dan Liljenquist didn't even get elected as a state delegate in his own caucus meeting.  Why?  Senator Hatch has way more experience (and money) in recruiting delegates for caucus meetings.  They were well trained to take Dan out.  

Having attended dozens of these meetings, I can tell you these delegates rarely get out and talk to their neighbors.  Many never return and report, some will never return to another caucus meeting once their candidate has been elected.  Some delegates may return, but it is rare.  Of all the delegates I recruited none of them returned to their caucus meetings.  Most of these delegates would report to me after their election and tell me how their caucus meeting went and how they were able to get elected easily by following our simple instructions.

Once the caucus meetings were over, I then moved into Delegate Conversion mode.  Campaigns will then spend every penny possible visiting delegates and treating them to meetings, dinners, and speaking events.  Some events took place at nice restaurants others in the homes of delegate supporters.  Part of my job was to organize meals, t-shirts, invitations, and donations for all these delegates.  Essentially buying their vote through food and prizes mingled with education of the issues.  Seasoned delegates new this process well, they would milk it for every penny.  Some asked for extra food, additional drinks and would even hold you hostage if they didn't get the right t-shirt size or their steak cooked medium rare.

After a few months of delegate missionary work we moved our efforts to the convention.  The plans for the state convention go back all the way to delegate trainings.  Our booths are chosen and paid for with big bucks because one must pay to play in the world of politics.  Then marketing firms are hired to design and plan the perfect booth.  Our campaign spared no expense on food and brochures, since we were going up against people with bigger name ID and way more money.  Our plan was to have chocolate chip cookies baking while people came in so they would connect the smell of home baked cookies with our candidate.  However convention rules required us to use the food services of the convention center.  Being the Advance Team Director, I was tasked with the duty of solving this problem.  I called the food services director and asked them how much a cookie cost on their menu, we then agreed we would purchase a cookie for every cookie we gave away if they allowed me to bring my own (the same went for the milk that was donated by a local dairy).  They agreed to the deal since this wasn't about their food and more about big money. 

The day of convention delegates act like it is Black Friday.  They go booth to booth scooping up hats, t-shirts, bags, food and more.  People visit the candidates they hate simply to get their swag.  You can see them walking around like tourists returning from a hard day at Disneyland.  Covered in buttons, stickers and literature, many waddle around talking to candidates not even in their district to pick up their prizes.  Some will be in the main hall debating rules and procedures but the rest will play their candidate bingo card and get all they can.  Many campaigns will setup a private room for their staffers and candidate to sit and relax; in addition, special delegates and donors are invited to come and partake of the free food that will be in there.  This particular time we had a chocolate fountain (back when they were a novelty and not a household appliance) and we were told to invite special delegates who were 100% confirmed to swing by for a quick snack if needed (this usually meant they were donors as well).

Now this process may have changed a little, but having attended all my caucus meetings since this time and many before (note this will be the first I will miss in many years) I will say the process has not changed much.  Remember I had one of the more conservative and I would say the most honest candidate in this race.  So imagine what the rest were doing.  Currently special interest groups are now more involved and they will also train and push for delegates related to their cause as well.  Banks and Credit Unions are the most famous for this as of late. 

In defense of the system, it is wonderful to get together with your neighbors and discuss politics and the future of our state and country.  However in my opinion, nearly everyone who comes to these meetings has a secret agenda of who they want to vote for and who campaigns have trained them to vote for.  

So if you think this is a fair representation of your neighborhood and you don't mind these delegates will essentially be trained operatives for the candidate, bought and paid for--then the caucus system is for you.  If you think otherwise of the caucus system, you're naive at best. Direct primaries will in reality cost the candidates more money since you no longer have to focus your time on a select group of 4000 people but instead on a much larger group.  But from my insider perspective, big money and big name ID affects the caucus system even more when it is limited to small group of people.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

More Waste In Utah - Senator Aaron Osmond's Pledge of Allegiance Bill

This year is starting out to be a great year for Utah waste, with wasted textbooks, trashed school lunches and now my favorite message bills. In 2010 I posted about the 27 lengthy steps on how a bill becomes a law.  Feel free to go back and review it if needed, since it shows the long process and cost involved with making a bill and passing a law in Utah.

This year Senator Aaron Osmond, out of complete bordem with his chair position on the Economic Development and Workforce committee, has had decided that we need to remove the comma in the pledge of allegiance.  SCR 01 in all it's glory is bound on wasting our short legislative session in all it's glory debating this hot topic.

Oh and yes it was debated, while your child choked to death on toxic air in downtown SLC, your senator was debating a joint resolution on commas.  Essentially the pause just before the word "under God" is just too much.  So to celebrate those words and their 60 years of controversy we are now wasting our time discussing how they should be said--with or without a comma.

This continued waste frustrates me to no end.  In a few short weeks the legislature will close for the year and any bill that isn't debated will miss out.  Things like discrimination, pollution and education spending are put on hold for Aaron Osmond and his desire to get his name in the paper.  Well Mr. Glory Hound Osmond, Fox 13 has done a story for you, Aunt Marie and Uncle Donny would be proud of ya!

When can we stop this waste and get back serious issues.  See my previous posts on waste and message bills by former Rep Wimmer.

Comments on Waste Welcome.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Has Dixie State University's Website Been Hacked?

As my Alma Mater pushes forward for a new university president, they are advertising on Facebook and other areas to encourage public participation in the new selection process.  Today I noticed that their link to Dixie.edu has an interesting description:

Actual Screen Capture from Facebook - 
I guess the President Requirements include Kamagra use?
I think their website code has some problems...don't you?  I have sent this on to them, but I think it is funny enough to post about it.

Using your standard view code option in my web browser I found this code in the dixie.edu news page. http://dixie.edu/news/news.php?id=1259

Not Good...someone hacked their code?

Friday, February 7, 2014

More Wasted Money in Utah Schools - Canyon School District Shelves New Books.

Columnist Paul Rolly today pointed in his column that Canyon School District just blew thousands of dollars in new text books for the 2014-2015 year.  How did they waste all this money?  Well apparently know one reviewed the new health textbooks when they were purchased and when they arrived they contained questionable material.  Weird since these were "Custom Canyon School District Editions."

More wasted money on this book
No one read me before buying me!
What questionable material was inside these books.  Apparently the books talk about STD's in a way that is against Utah Law and District Policy.  Yeah, you heard that correctly.  The district purchased text books that violates their own policies and state law.  Regardless if you agree with the law or not; who ever is in charge of curriculum and purchasing over there is clueless to what they are doing. Oh and remember, they asked for a special edit.

So the solution!  Cut the pages out!  Yeah totally destroy any chance of resell or return; just rip those pages out.  Well these were custom editions so who knows if we could have sold them.

But then when the teachers reviewed it again...they hated that the summary was still in there about sexual orientation and practicing safe sex, etc.  So the end solution...shelve the books.  Word is maybe the will use them in the next year instead of 2014-2015; but I doubt they will ever be used.

According to the FCC report on textbooks and ebooks, Schools spend nearly $8 billion a year and average $250 to $1000 per student. Sounds like Canyon just blew a big chunk of change.

This coupled with the school lunch scandal, worries me who is running these schools.

We might as well just through cash in the trash along with little kids school lunches.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Update on The Lunch Room Scandal at Uintah Elementary

Screw Nutritional Guidelines for
Students, you ain't eatin'
As a follow up to the overreaching Godfather like powers the Nutrition Office has at the Salt Lake City School District (which we posted about last week), the School Board held their public meeting yesterday to discuss the bullying of 40 kids into coughing up lunch money.  The Salt Lake Tribune gave us a nice breakdown of this breakdown in basic department management.

According to Kelly Orton, the Nutrition Department Director, the district switched to a new billing system since, "it was difficult to get info from the old system and the new system is better at keeping costs down and is faster in processing payments."  Well apparently not!  We can't even get a list of who hasn't paid without giving the kids a lunch and then throwing it away.   The sunk costs in the negative publicity alone makes the old system sound like a Retina Macbook Air.  Not to mention they have now admitted many parents did not receive notices that they were even in the negative.  The old system had automatic email alerts for parents; apparently the new system didn't automatically transfer these settings and parents had to go in and setup e-alerts again.  Mr. Orton admittedly said, "the new system requires more effort to set that [e-alerts] up -- something of which parents were not aware."  In addition they now know many parents were not alerted or not properly alerted in the first place.  Most likely they failed to pin the bill to the kids shirt when they went home and mark them with a "Scarlet N" for negative.

Who created this system?  Seriously!  One of the first questions I would have asked when evaluating new software would have been, "Can we print a list of students who need to pay?"

if they don't take the kids lunch, 
they will be fired!
It also appears school nutrition officers are given absolute power to make discussions in the school since the principle wasn't even consulted on the decision to send kids to debtors prison with milk and an apple.  School Board members Michael Clara and Rosemary Emery cite a history of bullying from the school district to adhere to their evil commands which has lead us to this horrible event.  

Either they obey the Godfather or pay the price and I think this issue should go all the way to the top starting with the Superintendent and then the Nutrition Director.  They run their departments and they need to know what is going on in the field instead of playing candy crush behind doors.  Someone has given these orders to the foot solders to act this way.  I would expect more heads to roll on this national issue.