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.
Airbnb is the very popular web site that’s shaken up the hotel industry by allowing folks to easily rent out their apartment, condo, vacation home, tree house—anything suitable for lodging—to others. It turns out that prostitutes love the site, as well.
The NY Daily News broke the story that prostitution rings have been renting private residences listed on Airbnb and running prostitutes through them around the clock. As call girl told the newspaper, “It’s a lot cheaper than the Waldorf-Astoria.”
When you can rent a Manhattan apartment for $100 or $200 a day, she’s right.
In the most recent case, a New York publicist rented her apartment for a week to a woman who said she was in the Army and needed a place to stay in Manhattan before she shipped out. But when a prostitute was slashed by a client in her West 43rd St. apartment, the publicist got a call from the police, and she found clear evidence that her apartment had been used as a brothel.
To its credit, Airbnb put her up in a very nice hotel for a couple of nights while the company cleaned her apartment, changed her locks, and replaced her pillows and other belongings.
Word to the wise: Be careful out there.
The International Civil Aviation Organization said the accident rate for commercial aircraft worldwide last year was the lowest recorded since the organization began keeping statistics. With a global accident rate of 2.8 accidents per one million departures, it was a 13% decrease from 2012.
Even when there were fatal accidents around the world in 2013, the total number of deaths dropped to 173 from 388 a year earlier. Since 2009, total world-wide fatalities dropped by more than two-thirds.
In the U.S., the statistics are even better.
Over five years ending April, American carriers flew 3.7 billion passengers, or roughly 10 times the U.S. population, “without,” as the former head of safety at the Federal Aviation Administration put it, “so much as putting a scratch on anyone” who was a passenger.
Yes, three people died in that botched landing at San Francisco’s airport last year, but that was not a US airline—that was a Korean Air jet.
The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was a tragedy. But statistically, flying is safer than ever.