This weekend we take a look at how hotels pamper guests for the first 15 minutes, a primer on home exchanges around the world and a current US Airways phishing scam of which to beware.
Checking In? Hidden ways hotels court guests faster
Hotels are trying to please customers during their first 15 minutes of contact. They have determined that first impressions are indeed priceless. Lobbies are being gussied up, staff is being retrained, body language is being studied and check-in procedures are being modified all to set incoming guests at ease.
A guest’s first impression is even more critical these days because of social media. In the past, guests usually waited until after they checked out before posting a review on TripAdvisor or Expedia, so hotels would have time to recover from an initial service snafu. Now, with guests tweeting and posting Facebook updates about their vacations almost in real time, a bungled first impression can be immediately broadcast to hundreds— even thousands.
Hotel executives say the miserable state of air travel has also made achieving a good first impression harder. “Guests show up totally stressed, with their shoulders up to their ears. They’ve gone through travel hell,” says Niki Leondakis, president and chief operating officer of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, a chain of 54 U.S. properties.
Open your home to strangers—and see the world
A veteran home-exchange couple offers suggestions on swapping homes with others for vacations. They like to stay a month at a time and normally pass on sharing automobiles, at least when they are staying in cities. This is a fascinating article on a program that has lots of upside for those flexible enough to enjoy it.
The homes in which we have stayed run the gamut. Our home in Hong Kong was about 1,500 square feet in a high rise overlooking the city and the bay, with a full-time maid. Our home in Granada, probably the most interesting one in which we have lived, was colonial style with an open center and totally open kitchen, covering 5,000 square feet. In our last stay in Paris, we had a single small bedroom, a small living room, and very small kitchen and bathroom. In all, about 500 square feet.
In each case, we knew exactly what the home was like before we made our exchange. One helpful tool is Google Earth. We use it to locate the exact address of our potential exchange and get a 360-degree street-level view. We are currently discussing an exchange to Madrid for this summer. We can see the address on the building where we will be staying and virtually walk up and down the surrounding streets.
US Airways: Beware of fraudulent e-mails
This past week a Web scam involving US Airways email has been running rampant on the Internet. My inbox has been packed with as many as a dozen emails an hour telling me to check in for my upcoming flight. The only problem — I have no flights booked. This is a phishing scam. The scammers want unwary users to type in their ID and passwords so that they can be stolen.
For those who fear they may have received a fraudulent e-mail, US Airways offered guidance on “what to look out for.” The airline says:
Be suspicious of emails that begin with something generic like ‘Dear user’ or ‘Dear customer’ and that have typos or bad grammar.
Many of our emails include your name and Dividend Miles number. Our Web Check-in email doesn’t have your name, but it has your valid confirmation code, which is never all numbers. It should be either alphanumeric or all letters.
Before you click, check the link by hovering your mouse pointer over it and identifying what URL (website) is displayed. A legitimate link will have a website address/URL with ‘usairways.com.’
Photo: Courtesy Flickr Commons by zbigphotography