John Hughes AND Blake Snyder and a crit group . . . *sigh*

It wasn’t bad enough that Blake Snyder left us yesterday–he’s the “Save the Cat” screenwriter and teacher who was so great at a conference I attended–but now John Hughes has crossed over. He’s the director of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and several other films that are touchstones for a generation. *sob* This is depressing.

I’m gonna stop watching the news.

Then the critique group I have been in for a few months decided to dissolve. First it was one of the writers who felt she wanted a faster pace (and I can’t blame her–we HAVE been awfully spotty, and things were running slowly, but the fact is that when you do a chapter every month, it’s going to take more than a year to get through a novel) who resigned. Next, another writer who has just taken a job that will have her traveling to China and all over the world quit, saying she just didn’t have time to keep up afte rall. Then a third writer decided to leave. Well . . . there were only five of us in the first place. So now it’s just me and the group’s organizer. Whee! I am a Jonah! (No, really, I didn’t Do Anything. Except be particularly slow with my crits, which I blame on life in general interfering.)

I’ll miss seeing how their stories come out (although we’re connected on Facebook, so I’ll follow their paths somewhat), and I’ll miss the critiques. It disturbs me that they saw my story as more of a cautionary tale about bad things that can happen to teens than as a story about two girls who use a magical book and ring to rescue their cousin, who has been captured by Bad People She Crossed With Her Own Magic. The older sister starts changing, and it’s because of the influence of the ring that the cousin gave her (for safekeeping, as she went into hiding), but everyone seems to miss the blatant hints that I give about how the ring gleams or it is tough to take off or whatever. Don’t want to bash readers over the head with this, but they DO need to figure it out. This is my NaNo toy novel, though, so I’m just letting the characters write out this first draft.

In minor-irritant land, the AMEX bill came . . . with a charge on it from the hotel that Hubby did NOT stay at during his business trip. I made a reservation there for him for one night back when they first yelled that he had to go and that he needed to make his own travel arrangements, because he was scared that he wouldn’t be able to book any room at all (ComicCon was going on, and most hotels were already filled in San Diego), and then found three others that each had ONE of the nights he needed available. But within a day the company’s travel office had called him to say they’d found a place just outside of town that had four days available (which he took–who wants to change rooms daily?), so I canceled those other hotels and got confirmation emails. I canceled less than 24 hours after making the reservations, and a week ahead of the reserved dates.

Three of them were nice and honored the cancellation, and didn’t try to charge us anything.

The first one, though, sent through a $480 charge (for one night! Incredible! There’s a Tourism Tax and some other fee in there) plus a $44 charge (a fee for no-shows). I called immediately and read them the confirmation e-mail and confirmation number for my cancellation of that reservation.

They said, “Oh, but you booked online. That was an Internet Special. Those reservations can’t BE canceled.”

“What? How could there be any such thing?”

“The website told you when you booked it.”

“No, it didn’t. I’d never have clicked to reserve if it had said that. And it let me click ‘modify or cancel’ and then cancel the reservation–remember, I have the e-mail.”

“Also, the cancellation number you have here is for [insert slightly different name].”

I looked closely at the confirmation e-mail. Hubby’s name is Don, and they had typed “Dawn.” (Which is my aunt’s name . . . and she is also married to a Don. But anyway.) “They just made a typo, I guess.”

“No, this confirmation of cancellation is for that person, not your husband.”

We went around in circles like that for a while. I pointed out that you can’t very well charge a no-show fee AND charge for the room for the night–pick one and stick with it. They said that was their policy. I countered that they’d surely rented the room to someone else that night, since it was a convention weekend, and that I’d be willing to pay a reasonable no-show fee because of their mix-up, but it would be more like $30 or a normal fee that you see at a normal place. They just laughed.

This place feels that if the charge goes through and they get your money, then that’s it–they keep your money. They don’t care about their reputation, or business practices, or repeat business. They care about keeping the ~$500.

Of course Hubby’s company isn’t going to pay for something he didn’t receive, but *we* will have to cover it out of our own pocket, because the AMEX can’t go unpaid or be paid late. I asked Hubby if we could dispute the charge with AMEX, but he feels that would be rocking the boat with his employer–and there are hundreds of qualified software engineers walking around who’d be perfectly hireable for his job (says he), so he just wants me to take the cash out of my IRA and pay it.

Hubby is afraid–that’s the bottom line. He and the other employees are always worried about being laid off or fired for something that isn’t even related to their job performance. It’s terrible that these hotel people can get away with an unfair practice like that just because he’s afraid to do anything that might get his account flagged and noticed by Corporate. Of course it is MY FAULT because this is a hotel that I found when I did a panicked search online to find somewhere in town, anywhere, for him to stay. *sigh* That’s why it has to come out of my IRA.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, but the lady on the phone said that a lot of hotels have these policies now, and they don’t care if they get repeat business. So it’s probably a lost cause. I think travel should be spontaneous, anyway, and I’d rather take my chances just finding a place instead of committing to reservations. This is what the Tarot cards meant, I suppose, when they said that I was about to be hit by something unfair and unexpected that I’d just have to ride through. At least I hope this is the only ick that happens.

It’s doubly depressing because I had SO wanted to stay at that place eventually when we DO go back to the area–it looks like an earthly paradise. Unfortunately, now Hubster says he’ll never go back to California for any reason. He says he’d go back to NYC first. He felt his travel experience was less than perfect and that everything was overpriced.

Businesses that care about the customers being happy are becoming rare. One reason I still shop at Penneys and Sears is that any time I have asked them to do a return or exchange, or honor a discount a day early (because I would be out of town), or whatever, they have done it–and whatever else they needed to do in order to make a customer happy. Sometimes they went out of their way to satisfy me as a customer. I know they don’t have the cheapest prices or the flashiest merchandise, but they deserve my repeat business and I know I will be treated fairly. The hotels that happily honored our cancellations will also be on my list for future stays–one was a Howard Johnson’s, believe it or not, one an independent inn, and one a Holiday Inn Express. These places were perfectly understanding about his change in plans. I think it’s important to consider customer service as well as lowest price, so I’m going to stick with businesses where I have had good experiences.

Actually, I’ll probably just stay here at Casa el Dumpo and watch the Travel Channel on teevee. It’s so much safer.

And the booze is cheaper!

[EDIT: I know this makes the entry TL;DR, but I probably should clarify why Hubster is so concerned that his job would be affected if he challenged a charge made to the card that he has through the company–in other words, that card belongs *not* to him, but to his employer, and is merely issued to him for business use only. The company pays the bill.

Okay. When you dispute a charge, you don’t always win, especially these days. First AMEX will tell the hotel the charge is in dispute, and the hotel will then send them this same song-and-dance about how the room reservation didn’t get cancelled (because “that confirmation email he has is addressed to a different person, so he has no confirmation to prove he cancelled it) and therefore they get to charge for the room at normal rates, and then AMEX could come back to his employer and says, “The charge is valid. Pay.”

So let’s say that the charge is put on again a month from now. At that point the employer notices. That puts a spotlight on him. They ask why we are delaying clearing up the bill. The upshot is that we THEN have to pay anyway. And his employer may THEN say, HEY, this guy did NOT book that room through our travel office, which is against company rules. The company frowns on that (even though his boss told him to do it himself for expediency’s sake–that command was verbal and not documented). People have been dismissed from there for “breaking rules” before. Jobs are scarce, and there are software engineers pounding the pavement all around us–he doesn’t want to be fired over this. After all, his earning potential is way more than this “penalty.” So there’s his reasoning, laid out a little more reasonably. It is tough to believe they’d fire him for breaking that rule, but stranger things have happened, and he is the sole support of our household, so I can see the dilemma. I just wish I had never heard of that particular hotel!)

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Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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