Add up all the money wagered in Las Vegas in a week, and you’ll only equal a day’s worth of gambling in Macau. Where’s Macau? It’s on China’s southern coast just an hour or so by ferry from Hong Kong. And it’s the only place in China where gambling is legal.
When I first visited Macau decades ago, it was a sleepy Portuguese colony with not much to see and a single casino where it took blackjack dealers five minutes to deal every hand because dealers liked to pause to chat with each other. There were spittoons everywhere, and a big meter on the wall measured the strength of monsoons; when it hit the number seven, it was time for everyone to rush out to catch the ferry safely back to Hong Kong.
Portugal has returned Macau to the Chinese. Now there are 35 casinos crammed into 11 square miles with more huge resort casino projects under construction, and the government has decreed that there be more emphasis on fine dining and entertainment. As Atlantic City prays that this November’s introduction of legal, on-line gambling will rescue it, and as Vegas slowly returns from the recession, Macau’s GNP leaps 14% a year.
Check out the bright lights next time you’re in Hong Kong.
Some airlines let you put award tickets on hold for a day or more that allows you to cancel without penalty. Know your airline’s rules.
So why would you want to put an award ticket on hold?
There are a couple of reasons. Most important is this: If you see an award ticket you want but don’t have enough miles to buy it, you might need time to transfer, say, some American Express points to top off your airline account. Putting that ticket on hold means you won’t lose it. The solution is to lock it in so no one else gets it while your extra miles or points drop into the right account. You might also want to check with someone else’s schedule or simply consider the idea for a few hours before committing.
But not all airlines are created equally in this regard, points out Scott Grimmer of MileValue.com.
American, for example, gives you five days before you have to commit. US Airways gives you three days. But Delta and United are a bit trickier. It’s too complicated to explain on the radio, but here are links to Scott’s columns on Delta and United.
In December, I knew I’d need a rental car in Los Angeles for at least three weeks. I normally pick one up at the airport when I land. But not this time.
I often rent cars by bidding for them on Priceline.com because I can usually score a car for 35% below retail. Sometimes more. So first I went to Hertz and priced a small car for 22 days. $1,800. Over the December holidays when business travel is slow? Ridiculous. I check out Avis and Enterprise. Also $1,800.
Maybe demand was much higher than I thought.
So I went to Priceline, shaved enough off the retail price to score a car for maybe $1,200. Sorry, said Priceline–$1,800.
Every frequent traveler knows airport rental car locations add all kinds of steep taxes and fees to pay the airport and maybe even build a local sports stadium—local politicians love to stick visitors with extra taxes.
So I called Hertz and found that if I picked up a car at the Loew’s hotel in Santa Monica, my total price would be less than $700. That’s a saving of $1,100. I took a bus for $1.50 from the airport to Santa Monica.
Lesson learned: You’ll almost always pay much more to rent a car at an airport.
So here’s the deal at a café in London called Ziferblat. The coffee and snacks are free, but you pay five cents a minute to hang out.
The London magazine Time Out calls it the “contender for the best opening of the year.”
Ziferblat is owned by a Russian company, and the company calls Ziferblat a “social experiment.” The goal is to get folks to hang out in a congenial atmosphere. So the café is filled with comfortable chairs, writing tables, and Wi-fi. You’re welcome to sit down and socialize, read the newspaper or a book, or work.
Help yourself to coffee, tea or any snacks on offer—it’s all free. You just pay a nickel for every minute you’re in the house. That’s $3 an hour, and if you regularly spend $5 for a fancy coffee at a rival place, you may be ahead of the game if you spend less than two hours at Ziferblat.
I haven’t visited, so I can’t describe the food offerings, but it’s certainly an interesting concept. If you spend four hours a day writing the Great American Novel at a Starbucks, though, this might not be a business model that works for you.
Some restaurants in Europe—especially in Italy–routinely charge a couple of euros for your table setting that includes silverware, plates, tablecloths, and glasses. And I’ve noticed a charge for bread creeping onto American menus. Is the custom crossing the Atlantic?
In Italy, a charge of three or four dollars per person is called pane’ e coperto, or “bread and cover.” The occasional restaurant in England and France will do the same, but from my experience, Italy is the leader in this regard.
But at a restaurant in LA and another in Minneapolis recently, I noticed a charge for bread. Now, folks who don’t want bread might very well applaud this. After all, why should they subsidize the cost of your bread if they don’t want bread?
Interestingly, this is the same argument airlines use when defending baggage fees. If you don’t check any luggage, why should your ticket price be the same as someone who does? Why should you subsidize the cost of baggage handlers if you’re just using a carry-on bag?
I can argue both sides of the issue. But don’t be surprised if some restaurants begin copying the Italians.