W*sh Lists and Sh*t Lists: E-kit, Hostel World, Air Asia, B of A…

IMG_0549Every once in a while, when travel and inspiration are slow, I feel like I should update my publicly accessed info just once for the record, and one for the road. For one thing, companies and businesses that I once supported and promoted, for free, no longer provide the service that I once endorsed. For another thing, I myself may no longer provide the service(s) that I once worked so hard for. Things change. Get over it. Life goes on. It’s a big world. Good luck out there…

First, the bad news—my sh*t list. It gives me no pleasure, I assure you, to diss companies that once provided a valuable service at a reasonable price, and there’s no reason why they can’t do so again. But sometimes they’re slow to get the message and change their business plan, so there needs to be a public airing of grievances…

Now if this just seems like a way to get back at companies that I feel may have done me wrong, I should mention that sometimes I patronize companies just for the purpose of testing their waters, whether I truly need them or not, and many times far beyond the bounds of necessity, just for the sake of loyalty, curiosity and convenience…

025So here goes: First there’s a product called ‘E-Kit’ by a company called Telestial which basically offers a SIM card for world-wide use, specifically to Americans, most of whom don’t even know what a SIM card is, much less how to switch them. Briefly: it’s the little chip on a snip that holds all your call history and personal info on your digital phone, which are a new feature to the American cell-phone market, which for eons was CDMA analog, great for the necessary long reach of Indian reservations, but not much else…

So now in the modern era most of the world is on the GSM digital protocol, with unlocked cell-phones, so that you can simply switch your SIM card for a new one in any country you plan to be in long enough to justify it. But in the USA there’s only ATT/Cingular and T-Mobile on that protocol, and you’ll only get an unlocked phone by ordering through Amazon or Best Buy. Now, though, T-Mobile has a new plan that lets you roam the world for not much more than what you’re already paying in the US, SO…

The fix is likely in for companies like Telestial and others, writing on the wall, and all that jazz. And that may be why they began requiring steady use of their service, or you’ll lose the balance you’ve previously topped up. That’s what happened to me, even though I know I never would’ve contracted the service in the first place if that had been the case. And also, the service is not that good, nor so cheap, and the temporary US number which applies when you’re stateside, one of the main perks, never worked properly…

me & stelaAnd while we’re on the subject, and before you invest in T-Mobile, be aware that they once socked me for a $150+ bill that a thief ran up in South Africa in the four hours before I was able to cancel the account. What happened to the concept of limitations on losses? Could you imagine the outrage if they did that to every loss or theft of an ATM card? These were all calls within South Africa, mind you, so hardly a big-ticket item, unless you’re a foreigner. Those calls are $.20 per minute now. They refused to back down…

Then there’s Air Asia, a well-known company for any of you who travel in SE Asia very often, one of the first and most widely distributed of budget airlines in the region. They provide a very good service at a very good price, EXCEPT: their website is hopelessly glitched. So I stopped using them a few years ago for that very reason only to resume when they began showing up on Expedia and elsewhere—no problem, UNTIL I needed a flight quickly and they weren’t showing up elsewhere, so I chanced their website again…

I booked the flight, then waited, and waited, and waited for an hour—no confirmation. By that time they were back up on Expedia, and I assumed the first booking never went through, so I booked again on Expedia. You know how the story ends. When I checked my email, there were two bookings, paid and confirmed. I tried to cancel before my flight two days later, but without success. The case is still pending with my credit card company…

To be continued…

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