Archive for the ‘General’ Category

An Open Letter to American Airlines re: merger with US Airways

I am a long-time customer of American Airlines. I had an AA credit card for a long time, and I have flown with your airline many times. You are often my preferred airline. However, I have very grave concerns about your merger with US Airways because of my very horrible experiences with them, and my lack of satisfaction with how they handled my complaints. If I do not receive satisfaction from them, I will have no choice but to boycott American Airlines from this point forward.
You can read all about it on my blog.

I am a long-time customer of American Airlines. I had an AA credit card for a long time, and I have flown with your airline many times. You are often my preferred airline. However, I have very grave concerns about your merger with US Airways because of my very horrible experiences with them, and my lack of satisfaction with how they handled my complaints. If I do not receive satisfaction from them, I will have no choice but to boycott American Airlines from this point forward.

You can read all about it on my blog.

 

Another open letter to US Airways (aka Useless Airways)

I am still extremely dissatisfied and I am not planning to drop this any time soon.

I was travelling on another airline this week, and had a much more satisfying experience. I also noted that a travel delay on one of my flights, as well as over-booking, led the other airline to offer $300 vouchers to passengers who were willing to re-book onto a later flight. If gate agents are empowered to issue $300 vouchers, then I can’t believe that no one in your office can allow me to combine the crappy $100 vouchers that you gave me so that I can use them all on one ticket. You may say that you can give larger vouchers if you overbook because it’s your fault, but the problems that I had last year were definitely your fault. I also believe that you lied to me and everyone on my flight when you canceled the flight – not only because you told us that we would get on the 1st flight in the morning and then didn’t put us on that flight, but also because I think you canceled the flight because it wasn’t full. I know for a fact that the aircraft was there at Charlotte airport before the originally scheduled departure time, and that there was no weather in Toronto (my destination), despite efforts to blame weather for the delay.
I want to speak to someone in a position of authority. I am also going to contact American Airlines because I am a long-time customer of theirs, and I fully plan to boycott their airline as well after they merge with you if you don’t do something about this horrible incident, and do it fast.
 

@usairways Useless airways – the shittiest in the world

Can you  believe that they still think they can get away with treating people like this?

http://www.louiseroth.com/2014/05/us-airways-worlds-worst-airline-with-worst-customer-service-ever/

Here’s my latest message to them, since they appear to have dropped my case again:

I am still extremely unsatisfied with your response and I would like to speak to someone in a position of authority. The worst travel experience that I have EVER had was the fault of your shitty airline, and I want to speak to someone who can do something about it. I am not going to stop pestering you until I get an appropriate response. I want a phone number so that I can actually talk to someone with some power, instead of some peon who is going to tell me that they can’t do anything.

Please share on social media! #usairwayssucks #worstairline

 

US Airways – totally unacceptable #usairwayssucks #worstairline

After some nasty tweets, I finally got a phone call in which I detailed how shitty I thought their lame compensation was. Here’s the lame-ass reply in writing:

Dear Dr. Roth:

Thanks for your most recent email and for speaking with me today. As you may know, the Customer Relations Office responds on behalf of our Corporate Officers.

Although I’m confident my co-workers researched your case thoroughly, I also reviewed your situation and request. Upon further review, I have found no reason to alter the resolution. We are unable to honor your request for increased compensation. The voucher was intended to convey goodwill and to make amends in some way for the inadequate service you reported. It represents an amount we believe to be fair and reasonable.

While there will be no further communication regarding this matter, feedback such as yours affords us the opportunity to learn where and how we can improve our service not only to meet our customers’ expectations, but to exceed those expectations.

We know that each part of your travel experience is important and again, we apologize for the difficulties you encountered. Given the privilege of serving you again on US Airways, we look forward to providing you with a more satisfying travel experience.

Sincerely,

Jocelyn Lane
Representative, Customer Relations
US Airways Corporate Office

You can imagine how livid this made me:

Ms. Lane,

I feel that this written reply does not come close to conveying the crux of the conversation that we had. I requested clearly that I wanted to speak to someone higher up, because the compensation that US Airways has offered is not at all fair and reasonable. The idea that this conveys goodwill or makes amends for the horrendous service that I received is beyond laughable.
You have offered me five $100 vouchers that are basically worthless. They do not even reduce the cost of a US Airways flight enough to make it economically preferable to fly with your awful airline than to choose another carrier. For travel that I need to take to New York in June, for example, the cost that US Airways quoted to me was $691. With a $100 voucher, that ticket costs $591, which is more than the $506 that I paid for a RT ticket on another airline. If you had made it possible for me to combine the vouchers then it would have been worthwhile for me to use them and I would have booked the ticket and this whole ordeal would be done. As it is, I booked with the other carrier and I am still steaming mad at your shoddy organization.
So when it comes to meeting your customers’ expectations, the statement that there will be “no further communication” is a poor start. I want to talk to someone with the power to provide me with a better resolution. I am still thoroughly unsatisfied with the way that you have handled this, after you made me spend 14 hours in Charlotte airport with 4 children, no meals, no blankets, and zero effort to help us find accommodation so that we didn’t have to sleep on the floor.
Louise M. Roth
 

US Airways Never Fails to Disappoint

I am consistently amazed by how shoddy US Airways is. Airlines in the US are terrible, but US Airways is easily the worst airline that I have ever encountered. As per my last post, they treated my family very poorly last summer. Now their Customer Service team doesn’t respond to my emails unless I send them a nasty Tweet, and will not give me compensation that I can actually use. Originally they gave us 5 vouchers for $100 each – a pittance to be sure – and each voucher was attached to one of the traveler’s names. Useless, because the kids and the nanny (no longer with us) will not be flying again. I asked them to make it so that I can use all 5 vouchers on 1 ticket and they tell me that they can’t. Really? Any desk agent can give away a flight voucher, so their whole Customer Service team can’t get it together to make a $500 vouchers instead of 5 $100 vouchers?

Meanwhile, I was waiting for them to respond with adequate compensation before booking a flight to New York for next month but I got nowhere. So I called to use one of the $100 vouchers and was told that I had to fly US Airways and the ticket was going to cost more than $100 more than a ticket on another (read: better) airline. So why would I got with them? Of course I booked a flight on the other airline.  Compensation that I can’t use – which really is no compensation at all! Whatever you have to do, avoid US Airways. They SUCK SO BAD. #usairwayssucks #worstairline

 

US Airways – World’s Worst Airline with Worst Customer Service Ever

I wish it hadn’t come to this, but I had the worst experience ever on US Airways last summer and I still haven’t recovered. So first a word of advice: DON’T FLY US AIRWAYS!

I was traveling from Tucson to Toronto with my 4 young children via Charlotte. First the flight was delayed 2 hours. Then 3 hours, and then 4. It was canceled at 1:30 am. At first, US Airways told us that the problem was air traffic control delays at Toronto’s Pearson airport. Then someone implied that it was weather-related. Then they told us that there was no available crew when they canceled the flight. When we spoke to a gate agent, she told us (a) that there was no accommodation available, and (b) that we were booked onto the 1st morning flight at 9:18am (3170). She told us that the airline would compensate us $75 per ticket and gave a number to call about getting a hotel. YES, ALL THEY OFFERED AFTER THAT WAS $75 PER TICKET.

There were no available rooms and it was too late to get anything on our own, although we tried, because it was nearly 2am. As a result, we had to sleep on the floor in the airport, which was COLD. We had none of our belongings because we had checked our roller bags due to a lack of bin space on our first flight. We were extremely cold and no one offered us a blanket. No one made any effort whatsoever to make us more comfortable or accommodate us in any way. My 9-year-old did not sleep at all. My 3-year old was freezing and we had to hold him to warm him up. My 6-year-old had my only warm-up jacket and was still cold. By the morning, we had barely slept at all and started to prepare for the 9:18 flight, only to find out that we were only on standby and they didn’t expect to get us onto the flight because we were a party of 5. Meanwhile, at least 5 people from our original flight were put on that flight ahead of us. Perhaps the fact that my children were well-behaved worked against us - if they had been screaming monsters, perhaps we would have received greater priority.

We had to wait another 2.5 hours to get on an Air Canada flight, and we didn’t know where our luggage was. US Airways couldn’t track it, so we didn’t know if it would make it Toronto. I was nearly in tears, running around the airport and trying to figure out if our luggage was going to make it, because otherwise we would have nothing that we needed. We spent 14 hours that we spent in the Charlotte airport with NO MEAL VOUCHERS. After our arrival, we learned several things that made me even more angry about our experience. First, the first two messages about our flight delay blamed air traffic at destination but the 3rd indicated that the problem was weather affecting a prior flight. However, we learned that the plane that was connected to our flight (3190 from San Antonio to Charlotte) and scheduled to continue on to Toronto was not very late. It arrived in Charlotte at 21:44, and should have been ready to take off for Toronto shortly after the originally scheduled departure time of 22:15. Secondly, there was no bad weather in Toronto on Jun. 26, so why was everyone in Charlotte so eager to blame weather for the delays? Third, Air Canada had booking problems on the same day and offered passengers $800 each for their inconvenience. US Airways offered us only $75 per ticket, and only raised it to $100 per ticket after I made a big stink – which is still totally inadequate.

 

Gender Asbestos at The Economist

This post originally appeared on APEsphere on January 7, 2010 at this URL.

In a recent article, “Womenomics: Feminist management theorists are flirting with some dangerous arguments,” The Economist takes a position on an age-old feminist debate: are women the same as men (and therefore equal) or are women different from men (implying that men and women are unequal)?  Since at least the early 1980s, feminist scholars have recognized that this debate is a trap because it makes men the measure of all things.  If women have to be the same to be equal, then they must live up to a male standard that doesn’t fit their experience (especially if that standard includes a stay-at-home spouse and no childcare responsibilities).  If women claim to be different, then difference can be used to justify inequality.  But The Economist comes out firmly on the side of preferring the sameness argument: women should be tough and manly in order to compete with men on their own turf.

To be fair, The Economist makes some very valid points, especially in light of the simplest version of the difference argument.  Claims about women being wired differently than men, even from self-described feminists, emphasize stereotypical gender differences and undermine the goal of creating equality.  The hard-wired claim ignores the fact that gender differences in brain structures are minimal at birth and then respond to external input, so that stereotypical gender behaviours are learned and vary cross-culturally.  The Economist makes a valid point in stating that “arguments about the innate differences between men and women are sloppy and counterproductive.”  They also rightly point out that variation within subgroups, in this case men and women, is usually bigger than the difference between them.  This means that, while it may be true that risk-taking and bare-knuckle competition can lead to disasters like the recent financial crisis, one should expect women in the financial industry to share these traits with men who have similar experiences, situations, and incentives.

But on other points The Economist is confusing the issues.  The article seems to want to maintain a male standard by arguing that women should get tough and compete with men by being more stereotypically manly.  It claims that first generations of successful women, like Margaret Thatcher or Hilary Clinton, “insisted on being judged by the same standards as men” and “on getting ahead by dint of working harder and thinking smarter.”  But why should women have to be manlier than men to fulfil their potential?  When I interviewed women and men who worked on Wall Street in the 1990s for my book, I found that some women were able to be successful on men’s terms, especially if they had powerful mentors, but that women who moved up were also held to double standards: expected to be tough, competitive, aggressive workaholics on one hand, and yet to be nice, nurturing, kind, and family-oriented because they were women.  It is, of course, impossible for anyone to fulfil these expectations simultaneously. The Economist prefers to ignore the huge body of research that finds that women are subject to higher standards than men, which means that men receive more opportunities to perform and higher evaluations for the same performance as otherwise similar women.  As a result, average men have an advantage over above-average women.  In fact, those pioneering women who succeeded by men’s rules had to be beyond extraordinary in order to compete successfully with mediocre men.  That is hardly a level playing-field for establishing a meritocracy.  (I have made similar observations in previous blogs.)

The Economist’s efforts to assert the benefits of a sameness approach for creating “old-fashioned meritocracy” in business is particularly critical of Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland’s arguments in Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution.  Admittedly, the book does engage in some “difference” arguments that claim that women and men have different but complementary strengths and that organizations need to recognize men and women as both equal and different – arguments that could come straight from the 19th Century First Wave of feminism.  But The Economist’s homage to Second Wave principles of treating women the same as men (with the exception of recognizing women’s greater role in raising children) wants to ignore or negate the wealth of literature on gender and organisations that has developed since at least 1990.  Scholars like Joan Acker began arguing at that time that organisations assume heterosexual male career patterns, which involve no reproductive events, no childcare responsibilities, and ideally a spouse who can take care of all non-work aspects of life.  (Obviously this ideal does not even fit most men in the 21st Century.)  This ideal worker norm and other assumptions about which traits are necessary for success in business are based on custom rather than efficiency, and establish particular subgroups of men as the standard against which all others are judged – simply because these men created the rules and standards.  The feminist argument is not that organisations should promote women in general, but that women may have something valuable to offer that has previously been overlooked because the criteria for success have heretofore been based on traditions that privileged groups of men created in their own image.  As Wittenberg-Cox and Maitland argue, if organisations do not appreciate or nurture women’s skills and experiences because of obsolete standards and traditions then the loser is the organisation.  Wittenberg-Cox and Maitland are simply making a business case for diversifying the standards for success: women represent the majority of consumers and of available talent, so organisational success depends on marketing to women and tapping women’s potential as employees.  For that reason, feminist scholars who aim to transform the workplace to become more gender-balanced and accommodating of women’s experiences and skills are correct about the need to audit the entire building for “gender asbestos.”  Sexism is built into corporate structures and processes in ways that prevent meritocracy from being achieved through any efforts toward “gender-blind” treatment.  This leads to a need to broaden the criteria for success so that individuals who demonstrate skills and insights that are useful to their organisations’ bottom lines, whether they are women or men, can earn success in business.

 

ACOG Up to Dirty Tricks

This post also appeared on the Huffington Post on September 1, 2009 at this URL. You can comment on it there.

A recent press release details some of the lengths that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is willing to go to preserve its near-monopoly over maternity care in the United States.  In an effort to deter growing numbers of women from seeking out-of-hospital maternity care, ACOG urged its members to submit anecdotal, anonymous “data” (i.e. horror stories) about women who planned out-of-hospital births. This represents an effort to develop an unscientific case against out-of-hospital birth.

ACOG is not a protector of maternal or fetal life – it is primarily concerned with avoiding competition from midwives that could negatively affect the incomes of its members.  A campaign to expose ACOG’s efforts to collect unscientific evidence used social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, and email to encourage thousands of women to submit their own stories about healthy births in private homes and freestanding birth centers on ACOG’s website.  How did ACOG respond?  It “quickly moved to scrub its website and placed its request for unsourced data from members behind a password-protected firewall” (http://www.thebigpushformidwives.org/_ccLib/downloads/8-31-2009_PushNews_RELEASE_Viral_Internet_Campaign_Exposes_Bogus_Research.pdf).  The survey is still there, in the members-only section, where it is “protected” from the public.  What is likely to happen is that ACOG will then use the unscientific anecdotal data that it can collect from members to support lobbying campaigns directed at denying access to out-of-hospital birth and the midwives who are trained to provide it.

Will this work?  Unfortunately it might, because ACOG has professional legitimacy and receives a lot of respect from members of the media and the general public.  That’s why advocates of reproductive rights – which includes the choice of where and with whom to give birth – must increase awareness of what ACOG is doing.  Otherwise ACOG will bring out their “data” to support opposition to out-of-hospital birth whenever the press offers them some attention.  More people need to recognize that ACOG is a trade association (i.e. a cartel) that tries to protect its members from competition.  Its primary goals do not include promoting science or evidence-based maternity care – obstetrics is one of the least evidence-based specialties in all of medicine.  In fact, the cherry-picked horror stories are designed to discourage women from examining the evidence and making rational decisions about where, and with whom, to give birth.  Meanwhile, two recent well-designed, scientific studies of homebirth in the Netherlands and Canada, both published this year, provide solid evidence that planned out-of-hospital births have comparable perinatal mortality rates, lower rates of serious maternal and neonatal morbidity, and fewer interventions than hospital births among women who meet eligibility requirements for homebirth.  These studies were well-designed scientifically because they compared women with the same level of “risk.” (See Amy Romano’s excellent summary of the results here, or a press release on the Canadian results here.)  Given an opportunity to examine real evidence, like that in these recent studies, many women may rationally choose to give birth outside a hospital setting, and that’s exactly what ACOG is going to desperate measures to prevent.

Obviously birth activists who want pregnant women to have the option of midwifery are interested in this, but really everyone should care about ACOG’s self-serving behavior, which violates principles of anti-trust and is also relevant for the health reform debate.  Maternity care in the U.S. is much more expensive than any other developed nation and has far worse results – higher infant and maternal mortality, more premature and low birth-weight babies, and more infants in the NICU.  Having a baby is the most common cause of hospitalization, and cesarean sections are the most common surgery in the United States.  Out-of-control cesarean rates (around 1 in 3 births) and high-intervention obstetric care for low-risk women represent huge cost burdens on the system as a whole.  The health reform debate has said little about maternity care, and that is a major omission.  One of the best ways to reduce health care costs while improving results is to better integrate midwifery care and out-of-hospital birth into the health care system.  But ACOG clearly doesn’t want that to happen, since it would reduce its members’ bottom lines.  It’s time for this cartel to be broken up.

 

Woman-Hating and the LA Fitness Massacre: Hate Crimes against Women

This post also appeared on the Huffington Post on August 7, 2009 at this URL. You can comment on it there.

I was a university student living in Montreal during the Montreal Massacre on December 6, 1989.  In a classroom at the Ecole Polytechnique of the Universite de Montreal, Marc Lepine separated the men from the women and, claiming that he was “fighting feminism,” shot all 9 women in the class and killed 6 of them.  Specifically targeting women, he managed to shoot 28 people and kill 14 women before committing suicide.  At first people said he was “crazy,” “psychotic.”  Then they started to blame his mother: she must not have loving enough, and she shouldn’t have worked outside the home.  After all, blaming mothers is one of the easiest ways to blame women for men’s crimes against women.  (Thank you, Dr. Freud.)  But despite some efforts to suppress the contents of Lepine’s suicide note, Canadians soon started to realize that the Montreal Massacre was an anti-feminist attack, an extreme form of violence against women.  After all, Lepine singled out the women and blamed them for taking the education and jobs that he felt entitled to have as a man.  His suicide letter said that the feminists had always ruined his life and that he planned to send them “to their Maker” (“Ad Patres”).  In the note, he claimed to be a rational man who just wanted to kill the feminists who enraged him.  Why did feminists enrage him so much?  Because he thought that women were taking away men’s traditional advantages in education and in the workforce, without relinquishing women’s traditional advantages (he mentioned cheaper insurance and extended maternity leave – so you know he wasn’t living the U.S.).  It also contained a list of 19 Quebec women that Lepine considered to be feminists and wished to kill.  This note, in conjunction with Lepine’s oral statements and the clear targeting of women as victims, quickly led Canadians to see the event as an antifeminist attack and an example of wider issues of violence against women.

I remember these events and the discussion afterwards well – I was a university student just like those that Lepine shot, in a classroom at another university in Montreal.  Now, nearly 20 years later there has been a strikingly similar anti-feminist attack: the shootings by George Sodini at an LA Fitness center near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Sodini walked into the aerobics room where about 30 to 40 women were exercising and started shooting, killing three women and wounding nine before fatally shooting himself.  The instructor of the class, who is pregnant, was shot twice and critically injured.  Once again it is all too close to home: I teach group fitness classes at LA Fitness (a skill I picked up back when I lived in Montreal).  Given the response to the Montreal Massacre, I wonder if this event is getting the media attention it deserves (although I’m sure LA Fitness would prefer that the attention die down – understandably, since the organization had nothing to do with the shooting or the shooters’ motives).  But this was a hate crime against women.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Sodini was just a lone psychopath.  But like Lepine, Sodini targeted women in general rather than anyone personally.  He was a WOMAN-HATER.  That needs to be said because it’s too easy in this crazy political climate to accuse women who want equal treatment of being “man-haters” or to accuse people of color who recognize the effects of historic mistreatment of being “racists.”  (The ridiculous rhetoric around Judge Sotomayor’s nomination is a case in point.)

Like Lepine, Sodini’s hatred of women was based on his sense of masculine entitlement.  Sodini may have had less to say about what he believed that women took away from him economically, although he did comment in his on-line blog that the lack of a wife/sexual partner was a career disadvantage.  But Sodini’s gripes were more about what he believed women owed him sexually and did not deliver.  The suicide note (yet to be released) that was in his gym bag apparently complained about how he had never spent a weekend with a woman, vacationed with a woman, or lived with a woman, and his sexual experiences were limited.  His on-line blog documented his growing rage with women for rejecting him.  In it he said, “I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne – yet 30 million women rejected me – over an 18 or 25-year period. That is how I see it. Thirty million is my rough guesstimate of how many desirable single women there are.”  How does this lead to a hate crime against women?  One thing that allowed him to do such a thing to individual women who never did anything to him personally was through his objectification of women.  On the blog, he described the women he saw at the gym: “Many of the young girls here look so beautiful as to not be human, very edible.”  He also clearly believed that women were giving sexual access to men that he viewed as less entitled than himself, such as black men. “Black dudes have thier [sic] choice of best white —-. You do the math, there are enough young white so all the brothers can each have one for 3 or 6 months or so.”  While it is likely true that Sodini, like Lepine, was a disturbed man, it is clear that the channeling of his rage against women as a group makes it a hate crime against women.

Maybe few people are drawing the line between this hate-crime against women and the Montreal Massacre nearly 20 years ago.  Or perhaps few Americans remember that this happened before.  In Canada, December 6 is a commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in recognition of the political nature of Lepine’s hate crime.  How will the U.S. acknowledge the woman-hating crime that occurred in 2009?

 

The Health Care Bubble: The Status Quo is Unsustainable

This post also appeared on the Huffington Post on August 5, 2009 at this URL. You can comment on it there.

Everyone loves to be angry with Wall Street and the mortgage lenders for causing a big financial mess. That’s understandable, and I have certainly had my share to say about high bonuses on Wall Street. But I am struck by the sheer idiocy of some comments from defenders of the private health insurers in the U.S. who don’t seem to recognize that health care built on private insurance companies is headed for the same kind of train wreck. Planted by Republicans and lobbyists to disrupt town meetings, and writing comments on articles and blogs in support of health care reform, defenders of the status quo seem unable to see the big insurance bubble for what it is: an unsustainable out-of-control behemoth headed for a huge collision.

Never mind that I am chronically angry with my health insurance company, United Healthcare, which cost over $17,000 in the last fiscal year, a large chunk of which is paid by my employer. If that’s not a huge tax, I don’t know what is. No wonder we have not received adequate cost-of-living salary adjustments during the nine years that I have worked here. Meanwhile, they recently denied the claim for my son’s 2-year-old check-up. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends well-child check-ups at 15, 18, and 24 months, and then every year after that. But the plan says that he has maxed out his benefits for well-child check-ups this year so I get the bill. Do the defenders of private insurance companies never receive this kind of absurd denial of payment after paying through the nose for the coverage that they love so much?

But all hatred aside, it is clear that the current system of private health insurance is economically unsustainable. Health care costs have been rising 12% per year, while incomes were rising 2% per year before the current recession. As increases in income are likely to be small or non-existent this year because many people have lost their jobs or had to accept pay-cuts or furloughs, health care costs just keep rising. The math simply doesn’t work. It’s like the housing bubble that few seemed to see coming as prices peaked in 2006. House prices can’t increase 30% a year forever. It doesn’t take long before people can’t afford to buy a house, and those who already own them can’t pay their mortgages. We all know how that story ended: in a huge recession. The story of a health insurance system built on private companies whose primary goal is the pursuit of profits for their shareholders will also have a bad, bad ending.

It is clear that retaining the existing health care system in the U.S. will drive the economy into the ground. It is also clear that the most economical solution to covering everyone and reducing costs is to implement a universal single-payer insurance system. Unfortunately there is no political support for that – partly because the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries own the two houses of Congress and partly because Americans fetishize the free market with its valorization of private over public (both of which, again, brought you the housing bubble and the financial meltdown). What isn’t clear is whether the lobby-funded lawmakers will reform health care in a way that benefits the public and the economy, or will keep letting big business run this country into the ground. Maybe then I will finally convince my husband that we should move back to Canada, where health care is both cheaper and has better results.