For the past few weeks I’ve been exiting my taxis like a boss. No weird on screen prompt, no credit card swipe, no fumbling with cash – I just hop out of the taxi and say thanks. Sometimes even the cabbies are surprised and yell after me for my change – before I even turn around they realize my payments went through. The app is called way2ride and it’s as big a deal as Uber, Seamless and OpenTable for New Yorkers and yet no one is talking about it, or apparently using it!
It’s simple – you open the app, click “I’m in a taxi” and then hold the phone microphone up to the Verifone speaker that’s under the screen. The phone buzzes and automatically has my billing information and default tip setup. That’s it, when the ride is done I hop out of the boss and save an awkward minute with the payment system – I feel like a boss. It only works on Verifone cabs for now, but that seems to cover 80% of my trips.
The app is made by Verifone, the behemoth credit card processing company. I’m not sure if they paid an outside firm, or did it themselves, but they get high marks from me for reliability, user experience, UI and performance. A+
I’m a compulsive minimalist and am always looking for ways to reduce the “stuff” in my life while maximizing experiences. Last month I was in Colombia for a 3 week extended trip. For the first time, the macbook was left at home and the iPad became my primary means of work for 5-8 hours of work per day. It required a bit of planning to make sure I could do all work that I expected to have to do. Skipping the obvious things like having email and cloud storage setup, here were the other things that I did:
- Basecamp & Pivotal Apps for keeping tabs on the team
- Google+ for hangouts
- Go To My PC so that I could login to my laptop and do whatever I needed with Photoshop and PowerPoint. I kept my laptop plugged in and turned off the auto-off power saving features. PRO TIP: Load photoshop and powerpoint on the computer before you leave, loading them using Go To My PC is time consuming
- TurboScan for taking scans of documents. It’s amazing how the minute you leave on a trip someone needs a document hand-completed
- Keep a copy of your signature in photos (I used Zen Brush to create mine) so you can attach it to digital forms. I’ve heard good things about SignEasy too
- Photoshop Express is a great app for quick tweaks to images without needing Go To My PC
- Desk.com app is absolutely necessary if you are taking care of customer service issues
I’d have written a great article about how great this setup was, but on my first day in Colombia a guy stole my iPad and I was forced to use my brother’s laptop the entire time…
We used to use umbrellas to face the bad weather
So now we travel first class to change the forecast
Our commercial aviation system is arguably one of the most complex logistics system ever created. It effectively standardizes the movement of > 1.5M people around the US every day.
Understandably a web of processes have developed to handle the massive volume of exceptions. We’re not just talking about technology but cultural and business process ones as well. It is a perfect environment to exploit loopholes for personal gain. Over the years I’ve learned a few things about how to get what I want, here are my 8 favorite hacks:
- Politeness: Airline employees are assaulted by an endless avalanche of BS from anxious customers. They develop what I like to call the “Bureaucrat Shield” which allows them to hide behind company policy instead of confronting customers. The truth is that airline employees, especially those outside of the US, have a large amount of flexibility. I’ve been put on other airlines to get somewhere faster, had airplanes held on the ground for me, given hotel rooms to stay overnight and received a ridiculous number of unwarranted upgrades. All based on the good graces of airline employees who I went out of my way to treat politely.
It all comes down to being overly polite so that they realize you aren’t just another angry customer to be dealt with. Put on a big smile and use “sir”, “miss” and “maam” even when things are miserable. This is the best hack there is and if you use it you’ll find yourself hearing “I’m just not able to do that, it isn’t possible with our system” far less often.
- Deal with people of the opposite sex: I find I get a better result when I deal with women than men and I’ve heard the opposite from my well traveled female friends. Smile, put on the charm, and if you think you can pull it off, flirt. If you are on a foreign flight, use their native tongue whenever possible, it is charming. Learning just “please” and “thank you” are not that hard.
- Never use face-to-face customer service: If something goes wrong you’ll end up in customer service purgatory. The face-to-face line is a disaster zone of waiting and heartache that you should avoid like the plague. Call the customer service phone number and use the frequent flier specific call-in number if you have it. I violated this rule last week and paid for it with an extra hour of waiting & an error ridden return ticket.
- Bring food with you: Airport food is full of fat and salt and will not help your body deal with the stress of flying. Bring healthy foods like fruits, wraps and granola bars. One of my favorite tricks is to grab a few of those small cereal boxes they have in hotel breakfasts and then get milk from the beverage service. If you are traveling to a different time zone, drink lots of water which will help your body recalibrate.
- Be specific about what you want: Airline employees aren’t usually creative, so tell them exactly what you want and in situations where a creative solution can be helpful, make your thoughts known. You want upgrades to first class, ask for them. You want them to put you in empty rows even if it is farther back in the plane, let them know. Willing to fly through a different city or take a layover in a cool city you’ve been wanting to visit, offer them those options.
- Use Tripit, Flightview & MobileDay: These apps will keep you organized and efficient on the road. Tripit organizes all of your travel logistics in one easy to view itinerary. Flightview keeps you updated on the status of your flight and any other flights you are waiting for. MobileDay gives you one-click dial-in for conference calls so you don’t need to memorize access codes when you are running between flights.
- Keep frequent flyer numbers in a note on your phone: I keep a password protected “wallet” note with frequent flyer numbers in it. Most of the younger readers probably already do this.
- Keep notes for the places you visit: Whenever I tell people where I’m going they inevitably tell me all the great off-the-beaten track places and things to do. I keep notes for each city on my phone and just take noties whenever I talk to people. You’ll also get a huge amount of information to share when people ask you about places you’ve been and things to do.
Have some priceless hacks, put them in the comments.