A Series of Unfortunate Travel Adventures

Over the past month, I have traveled more than usual. And that’s putting it lightly – I was on a plane 9x (and it should’ve been 11 except 2 flights were cancelled), spent 40 hours driving in road trips, and spent 9 nights sleeping in beds that weren’t my own (no, not in that way.. I’m talking hotel rooms, condos, etc.) That may not sound like a lot for you veteran travelers, but this was after 2 months of no travel at all and before that it was just a trip home for Christmas. With all of this travel time, I’ve had some funny/crazy/frustrating experiences (let’s say a bout of bad luck) – all of which could not be explained in one blog post.

This post, then, will serve the purpose to share with you some customer service stories – and 2 lessons.

Customer service reps do not always know what they’re talking about: On one flight, I had two legs to get to my final destination. When I booked the flight on Continental.com, it appeared I was on two Continental flights. But when I went to check in for my flight, it showed that my first flight was Continental, and the second was United. And of course, I was unable to check into the United flight. So after calling Continental, and being told I had to call United (yes, they are soon to be the same company), I was put in touch with a customer service rep who clearly didn’t know how to help me. His solution for not being able to check in? During my 50 min layover in Houston, leave the secure gate area and check in at the United check in counter – and then go through security again and catch my flight. Ridiculous? Yes. Plausible during a 50 minute layover where I had to dash from one end of the airport to the other? Not at all. When I asked “Charles” if he’d ever been to the Houston airport, he said “Oh yes … this is very doable.” Did I listen to “Charles”? Of course not. I ended up being able to check in to my United flight when I arrived at the airport for the first leg of my trip. Did I still have to make a mad dash across the airport? Yes.  But if I had listened to Charles, I probably would’ve missed my flight.

Patience, when it comes to customer service, really does pay off: On one trip, after my hotel room was mysteriously cancelled (I found out the night before my stay and the other hotel rooms were booked due to high school basketball games in the area), I then somehow ended up with two different hotel rooms, booked with hotels.com. Of course I couldn’t be in two places at once, so I called hotels.com to explain the mishap and get the same hotel room for 2 nights. After waiting 35 minutes for my call to be answered, I was told by the first rep that they could not cancel my hotel room, because the reservations had been made more than just a few minutes ago … I explained to him that the reservations had just been made – but I’d been on hold for more than a half hour. So he put me on hold as he “tried to connect with the hotel.” When he came back 15 min later, I was told that he was unable to reach the hotel, because the reservations department at the hotel had already closed for the day and I’d have to try back tomorrow – at which point there would be a charge for the room because it was the same day. At this point, many would’ve given up. But not I. I was determined to take advantage of hotels.com’s free cancellation policy an get the hotel room that I needed.

So after the first call to hotels.com (yes there was another), I called the hotel and was put in touch with the reservations department right away. They told me that they had not been contacted by hotels.com and they were open for 24 hours.  They said they’d happily cancel my room if they got the confirmation paperwork from hotels.com. So I called hotels.com back, and waited another 40 min for my call to be taken. This time, the woman told me she was unable to confirm with the hotel because nobody was answering the phone. I assured her that they were, indeed answering their phone and were waiting for her call, as I had just spoken with them. So I was put on hold again as she tried to reach them. When she returned, the hotels.com rep then told me that she had spoken with somebody but their phone kept hanging up on her so she was unable to get their fax number. Of course, I had gotten their fax number so I gave it to her – to which she said she needed to physically speak with someone. After this went on for some time (each time she “tried” the hotel I was put on hold for 5-10 min), I finally told her I would be happy to call the hotel on my other phone and put them on speaker phone  so the could communicate directly. She responded that she would try again and see if their phone was working again. Then, she came back and said she had spoken with the hotel and they would not be able to cancel my room, because it was part of a larger reservation, for 5 rooms, and they had to be cancelled all at once. I luckily had asked the hotel about this – and told her what they had told me, that it was no issue at all to just cancel my room. So I waited another 10 min while she “talked over the issue with the hotel.” Sure enough, she came back and the situation was taken care of and I would receive the refund.

I nearly screamed for joy at the end of this saga. I had won the battle of customer service! But did I really win? I had started my calls/inquiries to solve the hotel problem at 5:00 p.m. and got off the phone with hotels.com at 7:30 p.m.  I had lost 2.5 hours of my life just so my client wouldn’t have to pay $150 for a hotel room that  I did not need. Was it worth it?

PS – I will never use hotels.com again.

What’s An Appropriate Response Time?

As many of you may know, I’m getting married in a month. In doing so, I’ve had a chance to to play the role that by working in a PR firm I’m not usually – the client. When dealing with wedding vendors (caterer, baker, DJ, photographer, videographer, etc. the list really is endless), I’m the client. It’s their job to please me and meet my needs.

Now that I’ve gotten through the planning, booking, entering deposit phase, there’s one thing that continues to surprise me – the length of time it takes a vendor to respond to me.

When a client emails me a request, question, etc. I make it a priority to respond within 24 hours, if not 24 hours. Even if I can’t fulfill their request within 24 hours, I’ve been ingrained to at least touch base and confirm that I’ve received their email. I believe this is true client:vendor best practices. I have hardly seen the case to be true with my wedding vendors and at times its 2, 3, or even 4 weeks (after I follow up) until I hear back from an email.

The purpose of this post is not to be a bridezilla and complain – it’s to ask, what IS an appropriate email response time?

Some questions to consider:

  • Does it change by industry? I understand that florists and bakers are probably not sitting at computers 9-5. But still, they do serve clients, who email them, and should be checking their email on at least a semi-regular basis.
  • Are other forms of communication better? Should I be calling my vendors with questions as opposed to using email? I’ve been told that “my generation hates using the phone.” While this may be true some of the time, I’m very comfortable making phone calls (in fact, my fiancé gives me the phone to order food, etc. because he hates the task). When it comes to wedding issues, however, many of which concern money and many different details, I like to have answers in writing for future reference, which is why I prefer email.
  • Is it really just a generational thing? Yes, we Gen-Y-ers grew up with IM, texting, email, and other various forms of instant communication, so we’re accustomed to getting immediate responses. Still, many of my non-Gen-Y-ers (talk about hyphenation!) did not grow up with these things, yet they still respond to email in a timely fashion.

So what do you think? What is the appropriate email response time? Does it change by industry/age/etc.?



Kale is the new spinach (Subtitle: Healthy Crockpot Recipe: Tuscan Chicken Sausage, Kale and Vegetable Soup)

I got  a crockpot! I got a crockpot! I got a crockpot! (can you sense my excitement?)

A few months ago, B and I registered for a slow cooker (correct term… but that’s the only time you’ll hear me use it) at Macy’s. Here’s the model in case you’re interested. Well, one of my best friends got it for me for my wedding shower gift and I was super pumped to try it out. The review? Awesome! It was easy to clean, easy to use, and everything turned out great!

For one of my first recipes, I wanted something truly no fuss and healthy. This meant no searing any meat before using it, not toooo much chopping (I haven’t gotten my Mini-Chop yet from my registry:)) — something I could truly throw together before work and return home 12 or so hours later to eat. So when I found the Tuscan Turkey Sausage, Kale and Vegetable Soup recipe I was really excited to try it out — and it didn’t disappoint! See below for a fabulous, easy and healthy crockpot soup.

Tuscan Turkey Sausage, Kale and Vegetable Soup

adopted from RecipeGirl.com


  • One (12-ounce) package of turkey or chicken sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (I used Al Fresco Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 medium bunch kale, stems removed, & leaves chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 3 cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth
  • One (15.5-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • One (15.5-ounce) can great Northern beans, rinsed & drained
  • One (14.5-ounce) can Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (or water)
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • shredded Parmesan cheese, optional (I’m a huge cheese fan … I ended up using Romano because that’s what I had on hand)

Directions (it really is as easy as 1-2-3)

  1. Chop all ingredients — chicken/turkey sausage, garlic, onion, carrots, celery and kale.
  2. In a slow cooker, combine all chopped ingredients except Parmesan. Stir to combine.
  3. Cover and cook on low until the vegetables are tender, 8-10 hours.

Yield: 6 servings (1 1/2 cups per serving)

* Nutritional Information (without Parmesan): calories 241, fat 5g (sat 5g & trans fat 0g), cholesterol 37mg, sodium 1,258mg, carbohydrates 31g, fiber 8g, protein 19g, calcium 158mg

* according to Recipe Girl

If you liked this recipe, or want more slow cooker recipes, check out the ones I’ve tried and shared, here.


Here are a few of my other favorite soup-like recipes:

Slow Cooker Spicy Chicken and Black Bean Soup

Beef, Lentil and Spinach Stew

Sweet Potato Chicken Chili

If you liked this kale recipe, check out some more!

Shrimp and baby kale fajita salad i crashed the web

Shrimp and baby kale fajita salad

A Review Crew Review – Shrek the Musical

This past week, I was lucky enough to get two free tickets to the Broadway showing of Shrek, which had just opened up right here in Playhouse Square at the gorgeous Palace Theater.

I was really excited to see it – I loved Shrek (the movie) when I first saw it however many years ago and remember watching it over and over again with my younger brother. I was curious to see how the movie had been adopted for the theater.

What did I think of Shrek? Should you see it? Did it do the movie justice? Read on …

What were some parts of the musical that I enjoyed?

The scenery was great – it was childlike and colorful, which fit the show perfectly. The costumes were also great – Donkey’s head-to-toe getup was lifelike and creepy at the same time (a compliment), and Pinocchio’s costume (complete with a growing nose) was perfect!

The dancing was also fabulous. Lord Farquaad’s costume and dancing was hilarious – perfect for kids. There’s also a scene where the Princess dances with some rats (from the Pied Pieper of course), which turns into a full-blown tap dance (and the rats become tap shoes) which was unforgettable. My favorite song (singing and dancing), was Let Your Freak Flag Fly –  a song with a beautiful message (a la Lady Gaga’s Born This Way) and a catchy tune.

The musical also paid homage to and made fun of various other musicals and nursery rhymes – which was great. I lost count of all the references, but there were shoutouts to the Disney Lion King musical, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, etc.

How did the musical relate to the movie?

I’ve only seen Shrek 1 and Shrek 2 … sorry, I never made it past those two. The musical follows the plotline of the first movie pretty closely. Even some of my favorite scenes, word for word, were in the musical (“Not my gumdrop buttons!!!” was even included).

I thought the musical did a good job of bringing the movie to life on stage. The kids in the audience definitely agreed – they were all cheering, laughing and even dancing along. My only complaint? Sometimes the plotline felt a little lost (as I feel sometimes happens when things are sung, rather than spoken) and the characters weren’t as developed as they could’ve been. Shrek was still bumbly and loveable – but not the same as the movie.

Also, the music was fun – but that’s about it. Besides the aforementioned Let Your Freak Flag Fly and the finale (surprise for you), there really weren’t any catchy, memorable songs.

Should you see the musical Shrek?

Yes! Here’s who should see it:

  • Anyone with kids. Kids in the audience and children of Review Crew members loved the musical. They were laughing, smiling and dancing along.
  • Anyone who needs to be cheered up. Seriously, if you’re in a bad mood, I promise you won’t leave Shrek in a worse one! I went in feeling a little tired and sick (was coming down with a cold) and left feeling awake and energetic.
  • Anyone who’s a kid at heart. Would it have been better if I had brought a kid with me as opposed to my fiancé? Perhaps (he liked it but wasn’t singing and dancing along). Would I have enjoyed the musical more about 16 years ago? Perhaps … but the kid at heart in me still loved the musical and had a great time. Thanks Playhouse Square and Review Crew!

More from me and my other Review Crew friends: