PayPal, AA, BofA, HW, and: the Sh*t-List Winner Is…

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Next there’s Bank of America, one of the USA’s largest banks and no stranger to the bottom-line profit margin. So why then do they need to plunder your hard-earned and hard-saved travel miles that you accumulate by using their credit card? Like Telestial (see above), they changed the rules in the middle of the game, like you’ve got nothing better to do, so they slip in the proviso that ALL miles accumulated have an expiration date, REGARDLESS of whether the account is active or not—SUX! Shame on you, BofA…

Then there’s American Airlines, whose own frequent-flyer program is not so bad—as long as the flights are within the US. If you’re traveling overseas, then the taxes alone will—supposedly—cost you almost as much as a new ticket on a budget airline! I’ve never been able to verify taxes of that magnitude elsewhere…

But the Big Winner of Hardie’s Sh*t-L*st award would have to be Pay Pal, which, like Uber and Air BnB and other dot-com conglomerates we’d like to think are above the shenanigans of the previous era of rapists and robber barons, BUT—not. In fact, they are probably worse. When someone hacked my account where almost a thousand dollars lay idle, charging until they could charge no more, Pay Pal informed me they found no malfeasance, and if I wasn’t satisfied with the product, then I should contact the seller…

IMG_0474Huh? WTF? There IS no product. I was robbed! Well, you let the right hand tell the left hand that, because this dog won’t hunt. So, meanwhile, for some reason, the credit charge itself was suspended, and the money still showed in the account, so I transferred it immediately, and then closed the account. Whew! That was close! The only problem is that they never admitted there was a problem, presumably to keep their street-cred intact. Sound like somebody we all know, pouting and petulant and sensitive to critics? Ahem…

And the Miss Congeniality Award goes to Hostel World, which didn’t really do anything wrong, per se, but might as well have. If you don’t know, they are by far the largest booking site exclusively for hostels and cheapo digs around the world, especially since gobbling up Hostel Bookers, previously their biggest competitor. Now hostels are bigger than ever, as I correctly predicted, but much, if not most of that business, gets transacted elsewhere now, by Expedia and the like, plus Air BnB, so far so good…

All of which is no slight to HW, not until I ended up in a room with no windows,  which I booked through them, and without a word of forewarning. Expedia will let you know in advance if that’s the case, plus room size, and I don’t think that’s an accident. They listen to complaints. The only other issue with HW is their increase in fees from 10% to 15%, and the question is, “For what?”

042They perform no banking functions, and that is the very reason that I use Expedia around the world—and not Hostel World. Charging all my lodging through one central US site means there is little or no risk and I have to go to the ATM for cash no more than once a month, for all my other costs. Using a credit card locally risks a security intervention by the bank, and carrying cash risks another security issue, by gang bangers up side your head…

So HW is missing the boat, and doing travelers a disservice, by requiring cash, or forcing smaller hostels to provide their own credit services, i.e. banking. I’m only concerned because I’ve promote hostels faithfully for years, but now rarely use them, simply because of the logistics of it. Which brings me to my other subject: me—and my projects. Did you ever wonder why there are so few hostels in the USA?

Well, now I know, after running one myself for over a year, before finally giving up a year ago. The deal is that they are not provided for in the Uniform Standard Building Codes in widespread use around the US. That doesn’t mean that they’re illegal, though some probably are, just that you’re dependent on the nod from the chief building official of each and every town, which is not always forthcoming, as in Tucson AZ…

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So now you know. I wish someone could’ve told me that before I plunked down a cool half Mil on a wish and a promise, now older but wiser. Welcome to Amerika. At least you won’t have to worry about rooms without fire egress (windows), just no (dorm) rooms at all! UK has a special category for hostels and B & B’s. In the US every town makes their own rules, but hostels are generally a no-go except on the coastal big cities…

Elsewhere you’ll have to make do with Air BnB, arguably the more Amerikan alternative anyway, but not the same. The irony is that those building codes can be changed, if someone were to have the time, budget, and far-reaching vision for it, BUT—two out of three won’t cut it. You’d think Hostel World or Hostels International or somebody like that would do it, but they haven’t, and now it’s probably too late, since the movement has likely peaked. Double irony: the US once had hostels, too, in the early days—YMCA…

All of which means that my hostel project, books and bunks, is likely moribund at this point. I thank all of you that supported me and I hope that we can still connect on my newest non-business venture—Buddhism, hence the current title of the blog. That’s where my heart is. I’ll leave business to the stress-monkeys. If corporations once had the reputation and bad blood of rapacious robber barons, now they’re more like nickel-and-dime hustlers and con-men, online scammers and street-corner whammer-jammers. Stay tuned…

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