100daysofgrievances #41 CHEAP FLIGHTS AND TRIP ADVISOR

I’m currently a long way up in the air. I’m not going to hazard a guess as to exactly how high – I don’t really want to think about it – but definitely nowhere near the ground. I’m taking solace in a very useful fact (may or may not be true, but let’s not split hairs)  learned from binge-watching that well-known educational programme Orange is the New Black:

You are more likely to die from food-poisoning as a result of consuming aeroplane food than you are to die in a plane crash. 

As I’m flying with a relatively budget airline (no inflight meals unless you want to pay a tenner for a scabby sandwich and plastic cup of Nescafé), I’m feeling rather reassured right now.

The BF has yet to state that “it’s turned into a really nice day” and then promptly tried to drown out my laughter and derisive response that of course it’s a nice day, we’re above the clouds by pretending that’s what he meant all along.  He clearly learnt his lesson last time.  Actually, the only argument we’ve had so far today is the one about who would win in a fight.   The answer is that, today at least,  I would. I would make a highly tactical bee-line for his very sore side.  The very sore side that he has mentioned, on average, once every fifteen minutes for the past 4 days.  The very sore side that, after a thorough online diagnosis session, could  apparently be related to no fewer than three internal organs – I forget which ones. I think he must have concluded that they weren’t really vital internal organs though, as apparently his side (as very sore as it apparently is) is not sore enough to warrant an appointment with the doctor, or even a pre-holiday call to NHS24.   It’s not stopped him mentioning it though…

I don’t really like flying, hence the reason I thought I would attempt to write a mid-air blog to take my mind off it.  That now seems rather moronic given that I now feel obliged to list all the unpleasant things related to the experience.  Actually, as far as flights go, this one has been comparatively unstressful thus far (there I go, doing my best to jinx it).  For starters, we’re not flying with Ryanair or Easyjet.  Enough said, I think.  Also, touch wood, there hasn’t been any turbulence.  I know there will be later as the Canary Isles are well known as windy, but forewarned is forearmed (I’ll ensure I have a couple of medicinal G&Ts before then, won’t I?). We were also exceedingly sensible in our decision to go on holiday when the schools were about to go back after the Xmas hols, hence no screeching brats aboard this giant, heavy hunk of metal hurtling through the air miles above Earth. Okay, and I think that’s quite enough about the journey for now.

One rather positive thing about being so far away from solid ground is the fact that I don’t have access to Trip Advisor for the next few hours. If you want to get technical, I have heard rumours that the plane has wifi, but clearly I have no idea how to connect to that – this won’t be uploaded until I’m safely back on terra firma.  What is confusing me a little right now (and this is before my brain is addled by glugs of Gordon’s finest), is the fact that certain airlines won’t let you turn on any electronic devices for takeoff and landing, and insist that all phones be on flight mode for the duration of the flight as a SAFETY MEASURE, whilst others are bandying about adverts for their super fast wifi…

Argh, I’m not meant to be ruminating on the apparent disparities between airlines’ safety advice; I had changed the subject and was going to complain about Trip Advisor for a wee while.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Trip Advisor is one of the best inventions ever (up there with earplugs, hair oil and gin), what did we do without it?  That’s a rhetorical question; we stayed in a lot of BAD hotels and ate in several TERRIBLE restaurants. And as much as I love writing a TA review (both good and bad, you may be surprised to learn; nothing but fair, me), the forum is not without its problems:

  • Anyone can write a review, even complete and utter idiots.  People who write things like “i only gave this horid hotel one star coz I cant beleive that diet irn Bru isnt sold in there shop. What do ppl in Spain drink, m8!!!!” Don’t believe me? I suggest you have a brief peruse right now. Actually, scrap that, please don’t.  Save it until later as I know very well just how all-encompassing TA can be; you’ll never return to this blog. If like me, you become hooked, and can’t resist reading every single bad review of the hotel you’ve already booked (more of that later), then this can be a good way of weeding out the reviews to mentally discard… Complained at length that the food in the (Greek) hotel was Greek? Discard! Wittered on about the fact that the hotel wasn’t child-friendly? Result! Discard! Rambled for two paragraphs (sans punctuation) on the topic of where to buy the best Full English in Spain? Discard! Discard! The in-hotel entertainment wasn’t ‘lively’ enough? You get the picture. 

This  method of sorting the wheat from the chafe (is that the saying? I have no internet access so can’t check) also works for restaurants. My recent favourite one-star review for a restaurant where I had booked a table as a special treat complained that ‘not one member of staff asked how old my baby daughter was!’ (Shock horror!) What on earth this lady was doing taking a newborn to a Michelin starred restaurant, I have no idea!

  • People are allowed to publish reviews even if they didn’t stay/dine in the establishment. I recently read a one-star review (I spend  waste  quite a lot of time reading one-star TA reviews, even of hotels/restaurants I have no intention of visiting, in case that wasn’t already apparent) in which the reviewer complained at length about how she had cancelled a week-long stay with no prior notice, and the hotel had only refunded her for all-but-one of the nights (despite having a clear no-refunds policy).  Idiot.
  • Quite often it is apparent that multiple glowing reviews are written by the business owner.  Nobody seems to monitor this  (give me a job, Trip Advisor!). Giveaways are, for example,  numerous separate reviews all complimenting the ‘subtle lighting’ or the ‘most helpful manager’, or reviews purportedly written by people of all different nationalities but featuring strangely consistent spelling or grammatical errors…  Come on, if you’re going to write fake reviews, at least put a bit of effort in!

It goes without saying that a review is completely subjective, but I think TA reviewers should be made to undertake a basic online intelligence test before being allowed to submit a review.  I would like to point out at this point that I am not at all bitter about the review I once read of the pub I worked in: “Common and dirty, and that’s just the staff.”  I think that’s just rude (not to mention highly inaccurate)!

I think the fact I’m so obsessed with TA stems from some Bad Experiences*, but I can’t possibly go on holiday without reading all the bad reviews first (and checking religiously for newer, badder updates once the holiday is booked).  Take this holiday, for example…  The hotel we are staying in has mostly 4 and 5 star reviews, however the last time I checked (about 15 mins before takeoff), there were 62 one star reviews.  SIXTY TWO! And some of the reviewers sounded normal…Hours can be wasted checking out their other reviews to see if they are negative too.  I am however, feeling rather upbeat as the newest, baddest review mostly focussed on the reviewer’s belief that the hotel served too great a choice of fish.  He then went on to state that ‘luckily there is a McDonalds a short walk away’.  (Ha! Discard!)

I’m going to end here as I can here the rattle of the drinks trolley and it can’t be long until the seatbelt signs  light up.  In addition to that, when I flicked through the the inflight magazine earlier, I spotted an article about ‘cosmeceutical’ products that (surprise surprise) are sold aboard the plane.  It promises to be fascinating reading – I’m looking forward to tutting a lot and reading the most ridiculous bits aloud. That should take me through to that really annoying bit at the end of a plane journey when the plane comes to a standstill and  everyone stands up and crowds into the aisle.  Worse still, the folks who can’t fit in the aisle will happily loiter uncomfortably, stooped under the overhead lockers, looming over and tutting at us sane and sensible sitters.  And all for what? So that they can get off the plane thirty seconds earlier and then loiter for longer around the luggage carousel!

People.

*Return-journey blog, perhaps?

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