When the 9/11 terrorists struck, airport security changed dramatically. Travelers were urged to get to the airport four hours in advance of their flights. A month later, I had to be in Chicago for the DMA convention. I wasn't scared of flying. With the increased security, this was probably the safest time to fly in the history of commercial aviation. However, I opted not to go through the airport check-in mayhem and instead bought round-trip Amtrak passage with a sleeping compartment.
In New Jersey the other week, a full tank of gas cost me $53.00. This was $13.00 more than my weekly salary as an NBC page in 1956. My second job at Prentice-Hall in 1960 was writing press releases for $60.00 a week. My third job, publicity director at Franklin Watts Publishing Co., paid $90.00 a week. Frank Watts used to say, "I want all my employees to feel overworked and underpaid." We did.
Here is the headline and lede of The New York Times story about the Ryanair add-on fees uproar that triggered this column: "Ryanair, Scorned in Europe, Turns on the Charm." From the article: Charging 60 euros, or $82, for carry-on bags deemed too large to go in the cabin. Assessing a penalty of €70, or almost $100, for not checking in online. Bombarding passengers who take a 6:15 a.m. plane with in-flight announcements hawking everything, including snacks, lottery tickets and smokeless cigarettes. Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair, has vowed to address the criticisms that have made his carrier, Europe's biggest and most profitable, its most reviled.
Hurricane Irene menaced the Eastern seaboard, pounding tens of millions of Americans with wind, rain and floods—but largely sparing New York after an unprecedented shutdown of the largest U.S. city ahead of the massive storm. In New Jersey, the ocean surge and rainfall caused severe inland flooding. Gov. Chris Christie said damages there would total at least $1 billion and could reach "tens of billions of dollars." Virginia's governor called the blackout in his state its second-largest ever and warned that electricity might not be restored for a week.
Quasi-socialist France is going broke. The public trough is empty and I'm nervous.
Prior to the strike mayhem (see IN THE NEWS to the right), we bought and paid for airline tickets from Paris to Philadelphia in mid-December. How long will pandemonium prevail? Will we get home on time or, like France, will we go broke being stuck in Paris with the euro on the rise?
For generations, the French have considered it to be their God-given right to retire at age 60. In order to stay afloat, the Sarkozy government has upped the retirement age to 62.
That's not all. When a woman friend in Paris lost her job, she was eligible to receive the equivalent of 57.4 percent of her salary for up to three years, courtesy of the state. She had a job offer, but opted to double-dip—take freelance work while collecting unemployment. Plus, of course, she has universal health care, as do all French.
The only solution is for the government to legislate some major changes in its business model, and the citizenry is up in arms. It's a mini-revolution.
The point is when upheaval is necessary—in business, health, education or government—it is imperative to alert in advance those who are affected and make a powerful and persuasive argument for the change.
In the case France, the message to workers is simple:
France is running out of money. If you don't go along with this change, your pension will be pennies on the euro. What's more, your grandchildren will be forced to work until they are 75 and will hate you forever.
Gaining an edge on the competition while relaxing—it's the kind of concept that would appeal to any business traveler. But market research revealed to Amtrak that two particular segments might appreciate having the inside track on its speedy Acela Express trains more than others. So the passenger train line is targeting African-American and Hispanic prospects in its "My Track to Success" campaign.
Last March it was announced that New Century—a giant lender of subprime mortgages—was going out of business, followed in August by the Chapter 11 of American Home Mortgage. Many economists predicted that this subprime debacle had a long fuse. On October 24, 2007 came the announcement that Merrill Lynch was forced to take an $8.4 billion hit in the third quarter caused by a revaluing of the bonds backed by subprime mortgages. Merrill Lynch stock fell 5.8%, its credit rating was downgraded and the overall loss for the quarter was $2.4 billion. Last August 23rd, this e-zine took off on the subprime mortgage crash.
On Friday, October 12 my wife, Peggy, and I took the overnight train out of Washington’s Union Station bound for Chicago and the Direct Marketing Association conference and exhibition. The following Wednesday, we flew home: Up at 5:30 a.m.; traffic jam during the taxi ride to O’Hare; hefting our bags to check-in at US Airways; being treated like terrorists by screeners; calorie-laden breakfast at Chili’s with plastic eating utensils; two hours in the crowded waiting room amidst loud cell phone yappers; middle seats in a sealed aluminum tube and hurled at 500 mph across the country for two hours; exit madness with apprehension over the