Hotels.Com – beware!

Last week I stayed in London. I had a long two days of meetings. It was a set of fairly late arrangements – I couldn’t book my usual hotel. I was also in the West End – away from the centre.


I searched via Google and found 196 Bishopsgate – ideally placed and reasonably (for London!) priced. The booking was done through I had a confirmation email – with a long number.

I turned up at the Hotel after a long day of meetings to be be met by the poker faced receptionist who say ‘non’. They didn’t have the booking. I showed him the reference but alas he was not on my side. Worse still they were fully booked with people who didn’t share my name.

It was Hotels.Com fault apparently. I called Hotels.Com from the reception – 14p per minute. Despite their best efforts it was all lost – there was no room at the Inn. In fairness I was tired and marginally irritable at this point. The girl offered to call me back to make alternative arrangements. After 49 minutes I gave up. I do realise in this interweb age that the call centre is unlikely to be near where I live – but the girl was struggling with the concept of where I was and where I wanted to sleep. Heathrow may have been her idea of where London is in the world – but it isn’t exactly convenient for the West End. I had no idea where West-meinster was – presumably close to large Benjamin?

It took me 4 minutes to book on my phone what it had taken Hotels.Com 49 minutes to fail to do. I had to pay though – the choice was limited!

You may be surprised to know that I have complained – that was a week ago. No reply just yet… I’m not holding my breath.

So beware – just because you have confirmed booking doesn’t mean you have a confirmed booking at Hotels.Com.

UPDATE.. No I haven’t yet had a reply, but they did invite me to rate their booking ystem, which I did (‘poor’ but nothing rude!). Then I got this email … It seems that they don’t like the truth.


The Muppet Show….

This is superb. WARNING – it contains adult language.

Having been the victim of the Tram works for the last 12 months at NG2 I can fully understand where they are coming from!

Global domination

Last week I was asked if I was trying to dominate the world – my name had been spotted by one of my neighbours on a sale board in Buxton!


I have written an article for my professional magazine ‘Modus’ on the reach and power of social media – like the wee blog you are reading. And twitter.

You might remember I managed to get a picture published in the Daily Mirror after I had taken a picture in a toilet on a train. Although on face value this sounds incredibly sordid it wasn’t – as you can see.

Buxton is a good drive – but Tokyo is further. It seems that my picture has reached the other side of the world. I gave permission in the week for Nippon TV to use the image!

Ms. Suzuki (I kid you not) has asked for a Licence:

- Program Title: Sekai Banzuke
- Broadcaster: Nippon Television Network
- Territory: Japan Only
- Air date: June 27, 2014
- No. of transmission: One time

It’s a whole programme about … toilets.

So if you’re in Japan (only) on 27 June – watch Sekai Banzuke. You might just spot my picture. If you want to try a taste of the programme – click here.

Global domination indeed.

The new way to watch TV

I don’t watch a great deal of TV. I occasionally get to see the C4 news when I get home. There’s not much else on TV?


But I do like ‘box sets’ – which tend to be American. Breaking Bad was addictive over Xmas (I watched all 5 series!).

I have just finished watching the first two series of House of Cards. It’s the story of power and corruption in The Whitehouse and stars Kevin Spacey. Again, it was fairly addictive – I was delighted to eland at the weekend that they are shortly to film the third series.

It is, of course based on a short UK series of the same name filmed in the 1990′s but there the similarity ends. That was 4 episodes, Spacey has filmed 26 – so far!

What makes this series stand out is that it was commissioned by the Internet streaming service Netflix. They paid for it and premiered it. They also apparently gave Spacey a series to go at – whereas most networks tend to operate on a piiot and then the possibility of further shows.

Perhaps this is the way forward – our traditional views and ideas about TV and film have been challenged by Netflix with great acclaim. And I can’t wait for the next series. I wonder if I need to pay the TV Licence any more – a bit like Noel Edmonds?

Engaging with people!

I’m always interested in how technology can be used to engage with people – especially if they are customers. Well McDonald’s is trialling a way of letting people put their avatars in it’s high profile digital screen in London’s Piccadilly Circus.


In essence you download from your artwork or animation and then digitally sign in to the screen!

You can create your own character on the site and once you are in the vicinity of Piccadilly Circus, you upload the image!

McDonald’s claims it is the world’s first digital advertising screen to be fully interactive 24/7, 365 days of the year.

Once posted to the screen, your character can introduce himself / herself and interact with others. The site detects the default language setting of your smartphone and flashes up a greeting from your character in its native language. Your character can dance, high five with others and perform magic tricks on the big screen. The sign is also updated according to the time of day, time of year, and the local weather.

This reminded me of the Bristol Hello Lamppost project I blogged about a few weeks ago (see here).

I like this sort of technology – it requires some input and is more than just a series of images being projected at you. Very clever!

24 hour Cities – New York sets the tone

As we wandered back from the Amnesty International concert on Wednesday night I realised I needed contact lens fluid – the nice man at Customs decided that my bottle was a dangerous weapon under some federal code and swiped it. It contained lethal peroxide apparently.


Where else in the world could you get fluid at 1am? New York of course. Duane Reads (like our Boots) was open 24 hours – and it was busy! I queued and wondered where all of the people had come from!

But this was just the start of the late night adventure. Forvarious reasons we had skipped ‘tea’ – and were decidedly hungry. The deli looked appealing – and it was very definitely open. But more appealingly was Scotties – on Lexington. A proper grungy New York diner. And he did food 24 hours a day.

So we did. It was, in my case, pastrami and gravy on bread. It was also 1.30am and reminded me of those days when you came out of a club (a long long time ago) and hit the kebab house. But this was clearly a place where life carries on irrespective of the time. When we arrived the place was half full. It was quieter when we left 45 minutes later! We left satisfied – the food was great as you can see from the image!

New York really is the 24 hour city. There is no necessity for them to close – there’s always someone to buy something – whether that is contact lens fluid, a bar of chocolate or a pastrami sandwich…

We have much to learn!

As shop that sells nothing?

When Steve Jobs set out to build an Apple store he created something that didn’t have selling at its heart – it was about the user experience. Of course it has been phenomenally successful. In fact the 5th Avenue store in New York (a few blocks from where I pen this post) holds the record for the most profitable shop in the world on a sales per square foot basis.


But down in Soho there is something afoot which might even shock Apple. In an Apple store there is the experience and the sale alongside. But their fiercest rival, Samsung, has opened a store which sells nothing! In fact they give stuff away. T-shirts with your own print design, coffee and cookies.

The shop is perfectly laid out in what can only be described as lifestyle vignettes. There are sofas, chairs, TV’s, a photo booth, a coffee bar, high benches and lots of ‘white space’.

You are encouraged to wander and engage (for points!) with staff. They are expert, the experiences are all about their equipment – as you would expect. But there is no hard sell. In fact there is no sell at all. They want you to enjoy the place.


Samsung spend four times the amount Apple do on marketing – and whilst they have a wider range of products this seems to have been reflected in this ‘store’.

This a fascinating concept and perhaps Shop 3.0.

Of course I have touched on their product range before and I think they have edged the iPhone 5 with the Galaxy 3. Places like this can only help cement a rosy future.

Bad news good news …

For reasons which will become apparent I attempted to switch our flight out of Toronto back to New York earlier in the week. However, the change was going to cost twice as much as I paid for a return ticket. The girl couldn’t explain it. I didn’t bother.


But then the weather took a turn for the worse and suddenly Air Canada were cancelling flights out of Toronto. In doing so they were offering anyone with a ticket the chance to change flights! As the forecast was for worsening weather we decided to change our 7.15pm flight to a lunchtime 12.15 one.

The bad news was that this gave us a lot less time in Toronto. Especially when the show overnight hit the 6″ mark! We dutifully set off for the airport. It was as bad weather as I have witnessed – but this is Canada and they are not about stop for some light flurries. They dug our plane out and we managed to get underway – nearly three hours late. We were de-iced so as not to crash.

So that was all of the bad news – apart from the re-defining of moderate turbulence by the Captain – I presume heavy turbulence is when the wings are ripped off! A girls was literally thrown off her feet.

The good news was we were back in NYC for another gig. And if you thought the post about Barenaked Ladies was bad – how do you explain to your mum that you have actually seen Pussy Riot. They were guest of honour at the Amnesty International “Human Rights Home” concert in Brooklyn. I should make it clear they didn’t play – but rather spoke out against the oppression in Putin’s Government. Feisty young ladies and a credit to all ‘frondeuse‘ on the planet.

But the concert was also peppered with celebrities – Madonna, Susan Sarandon, The Fray, Blondie, The Flaming Lips, Imagine Dragons and for the third time in less than 12 months Bob Geldof! Geldof played at the ‘Secret Policemans Other Ball’ concert in 1981 – singing “Mondays’ – he did the same last night.

Stars of the show? Imagine Dragons by a long chalk. So every cloud?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Music, Travel Tagged Amnesty International, Blondie, , Brooklyn, Concert, Imagine Dragons, Madonna, , Pussy Riot

A world class attraction?

I collect world class attractions – I have done ever since the Sheriff’s Commission was formed in 2008/9 and we went in search of what the criteria was for such an attraction. The general consensus was more than 1m visitors each year.


This week I could hardly fail to see and visit the CN Tower in Toronto. It’s on the list of world class attractions. It’s big too – although their claim that they are the “Worlds Tallest Building‘ may be slightly misplaced – the tallest man-made structure is Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in Dubai that reached 829.8 m (2,722 ft) in height on January 17, 2009. Still Nottingham has a legend aka Robin Hood so facts and a good story needn’t trouble us too much!

The CN Tower is impressive – although a trip to the top is a bit expensive – setting you back £20. We did get to see a film about Boeing (an advert for Boeing) and a ‘ride’ into some fantasy forest project in a place between the Amazon and Nepal – all a bit 1970′s.

The building is iconic and reminds you of the power of such things. CN stands for ‘Canada’s National’ – such is the importance of the structure. 2m visitors arrive each year – which is impressive – and profitable.

Not sure that claim is quite right!

Not sure that claim is quite right!

When we researched attractions for the Sheriffs Commission there was feature we noted several times. people love to look down on our place – buildings occupying height have a fascination for us. Glass elevators are a very cool way to acned. The glass floor 1,100 feet above the ground below is a real feature.

If I’m honest I didn’t think there was that much at the tower – but the views are amazing. On a clear day you can see 100 miles…

So, applying this to Nottingham – the glass elevator on Castle Rock to get people to the top of the Castle is still a key in put future success?

Seasoned travellers – the worst sort?

As you know I’ve been trying not to use this platform as a place I can shout at people or things. Even if I want to! I figure it’s not what you want to read.



I have been observing on my various flights across the planets surface a breed of person who really is quite despicable. The plane traveller. They are typically frequent flyers and think they have shares in the planes. You certainly get to know about their presence.

On our short flight to Toronto out of La Guardia it was busy. And nearly everyone had carry-on luggage. I groaned at the sight of some of the bags – mine were within millimetres of the allowance. Some people must have used hands to approximate.

There were some prize specimens on the flight. Parents with single child and buggy half the size of my car – with bottles and food for a week (it’s an hours flight). The stroppy girl who was just out of High School who had no intention of being helpful when she was asked if she would move – I can only assume at 14b is her lucky number? But the real prize was to a lecturer from one of New Yorks Colleges (I saw the free case) – who wanted to fight with the stewardess because the overhead lockers were full – he did not want his bag to go in the hold. Delicate little flower (and bag presumably).

Flying really does bring out the worst in people.

I have two more flights to look forward to this week…