Saturday, August 08, 2009

Easyjet Liverpool Berlin Fiasco

I always knew the only good thing about Easyjet was their cheap prices. I've never expected great service, good food and short queues. However, I have always expected to actually get on a flight I booked...until last week.

Flying back from Liverpool Airport to Berlin, I arrived at the airport around half an hour before the final check-in time. Massive queues. Standard.

I went to the Easyjet service desk and asked what was the best thing to do as this queue was going to take more than half an hour to receed. "Start queuing up and all Berlin passengers will be called forward." I was told. A Thai woman in the adjacent queue was asking the same question and we spoke briefly about how worrying it was the the queue was so long.

I made my way to the back of the queue but noticed this woman was a bit further ahead of me standing with her son. Never one to miss an opportunity to push past people (Germany has taught me this -the Germans hate queuing), I moved up ten or fifteen places to stand with this woman.

It turned out she used to live in Berlin and I chatted with her and her son just to take my mind off the queuing. It transpired that she was not travelling but had just brought her son to the airport. I soon realised all was not right with her sixteen-year-old son. Not in an obvious way as he was a pleasant and cheerful young man but I suspected he may of had learning difficulties and his manner was more of a ten-year-old than a person on the verge of adulthood.....saying that, he was bi-lingual so I could be totally wrong!

He lived in Dresden with his father and had been visiting his mother and her new family in Southport. His father would be picking him at the airport in Berlin.

As the time approached for last check-in time, I began to get nervous but a group not too far in front of us (also travelling to Berlin) went to the desk and were told not to worry as the flight had been delayed slightly.

The mother drew me to one side and asked me if I would keep and eye on her son and make sure he got the flight as she had to leave to go to work. She said he would be OK but just in case etc. I agreed thinking nothing could go wrong and to be honest I was enjoying chatting and joking with him...him laughing at my lack of German vocab despite living in Germany for three years.

We were eventually called out of the queue to check-in and after doing so we sprinted/jogged to the security area.

Again massive queues. Determined not to miss the flight, I pushed my way through the crowds with my new friend in tow. We reached the front and explained to the security guy our situation i.e. the flight would be leaving soon and we needed to get through as soon as possible. The bloke was having none of it explaining that letting us through would cause fights. He said if it was urgent then he would have been told and there would have been an announcement. He asked his supervisor who said they could not let us through. We went back and pushed in fairly close to the front and waited.

Ten minutes later we were through security and once again sprinted heading to the boarding gate.

The plane had gone.

Not to worry, I thought. We did nothing wrong. We were in the airport in good time. We ran every chance we got. They have messed up and will need to find a way to get us to Berlin....maybe late but they will get us to Berlin today!

But then the lies started from the girl at Easyjet obviously determined to cover up the fact they had made a total fuck up of thing.

"We made two annoucements" LIE

"We sent a person to bring people through security" LIE

"75 people checked-in after you and managed to board the flight" LIE.

These lies meant Easyjet were blaming us for missing the flight.

These lies meant Easyjet were not taking any responsibility for making us miss the flight.

These lies meant they would not pay a train fare or taxi fare to Gatwick were there was a flight leaving in five hours time.

These lies meant Easyjet would charge me £38 if I wanted to travel the next day or if I wanted to fly from Gatwick that day.

I wasn't sure what to do and my newly acquired travelling companion did not have his mother's number to tell her what had happened and his father who was picking him up at Berlin Airport was non-contactable.

After much thinking and working out connecting flights, trains etc, I realised there was no way to get to Berlin before 2am and not without a lot of expense.

My idea of asking Easyjet to contact Easyjet at Berlin Airport to explain to the father the situation once he realised his son was not on the flight and perhaps had gone to the Berlin Easyjet desk was thwarted when told they were not allowed to do this.

To cut a long story short, Easyjet tracked down my new friend's step-father who came to the airport to pick him up but not before I had to pay £38 to get on the following day's flight.

Obviously, Easyjet make it as difficult as possible to complain by email and charge premium rate to complain by phone. I'd almost given up until I used Twitter to voice my anger.

I quickly received a message to email a customer service guy and within a couple of hours they agreed to repay my money.

A very messy day and incident caused by incompetence by Easyjet staff at Liverpool and though it's easy to blame individuals the blame lies squarely at Easyjet's penny pinching management who did not provide enough staff or adequate training for their staff. They admitted this in their email to me.

Still, they should have organised for me to get to Berlin that day. I wonder what David Dimberley would have done.

I was concerned to read about the problems you experienced at Liverpool airport and would like to apologise for the inconvenience and the frustration that this will have caused you.
There are procedures in place to ensure that regular and correct information is forwarded to our passengers as soon as we receive it ourselves. It seems from your comments that you did not receive this level of service and for this I sincerely apologise.
We are aware of the fact that at certain airports level of service is not the one we would like to see. We have already taken certain steps in order to change this. We are gathering feedback that we receive from our customers and our Executives have already visited some selected airports and retrained the staff.
Your feedback also confirms that we still need to improve a lot in terms of the customer experience we offer at the airports. Having checked your reservation I decided to refund the rescue fee that was charged at the airport (£38). It will be returned back to the card used for making your easyJet booking within 5-10 working days.
Once again I would like to thank you for taking time to pass your comments to Paul and please accept my apologies for the inconvenience you experienced at Liverpool airport. This feedback will definitely help us to improve the level of service delivered to our customers. I do hope this will not stop you from flying with easyJet again.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Graham Cunningham on Hills and Ladbrokes

Below is piece by Graham Cunningham (my favourite racing broadcaster despite him refusing to print off my racing figures at Pontefract one day...claiming there was no printer in there) which was buried in a recent Betfair piece.

If I ever end up on Mastermind then you can bet 1.01 with confidence that racing politics will not be my specialist subject.

However, the news that William Hill and Ladbrokes are taking their internet betting operations abroad in order to minimise their tax burden really began to grate on me as this week has worn on.

It wasn't so much the fact that big businesses want to find ways to make more money that grated - more the brazen way in which Hills chief executive Ralph Topping seemed intent on blaming everyone bar himself for the decision to head offshore.

Topping probably has a point in describing racing's leadership as "a rabble," but he is well wide of the mark when calling the move to stage the Derby on Saturday "a numpty decision" and really showed his true colours when insisting that racing should realise it is a mere betting product rather than a true sport to rival the likes of the Ashes and the FA Cup.

It's hard to envisage anyone with such a view going out of his way to help racing to any real extent, but what should the sport do in response to the projected loss of around £5m in Levy payments?

Better brains than mine need to provide the answer to that, but it wouldn't do any harm for newspapers and television channels to start restricting the amount of print and airtime given to the omnipresent PR representatives of firms who head offshore.

For example, the Racing Post devoted the first three pages of its Friday edition to the news that Ladbrokes are heading offshore but sugared the pill to one of its biggest advertisers with an adjacent and blatant puff piece about a punter who could win £1m if Red Merlin wins the Ebor to complete his £250 ante post treble.

"Both we and the punter are set for a fortnight of sleepless nights," said Ladbrokes' incorrigible PR spokesman David Williams.

I don't know about the punter, but I've often wondered how Williams, Topping and the rest of their merry gang sleep at night.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cricket, the Family Allan and Hot Chocolate

Having not seen much British TV over the past three years and never having Sky Sports in England, it's been great recently to watch Twenty/20 cricket on BBCiplayer. ...well until England got knocked out.

I was only able to see the highlights package but that did for me as it brought back some good memories. Cricket was an important part of my culture for a long time. From fighting with my brother and sister because I was scoring a Gillette Cup match between Gloucester and Somerset while they wanted to watch Rainbow to playing well into my 20s every Saturday and Sunday during the summer.

Despite the early spats with my brother and sister, cricket became the main sport that would see four out of the five kids in our family sitting down peacefully, talking and communicating with each other. There was something magical about the first session of a day's play in a Test match betwen 11am and 1pm.

The video below is totally off topic . Hot Chocolate's Brother Louie. You just would not be allowed to get away with the following line..."Man, let me tell you, I don't want no honky in my dig! No honky in my family."

Mixed bands like Hot Chocolate and The Specials played a part in me not being racist.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Luck and the World Cup

I was offered a job the other day in a 'hot' country. A few years ago I would have jumped at the chance but as I already live in a foreign country and have no desire to leave here, I turned it down.

The main reason was the person I am with has a job here which they enjoy and it is refreshing not to hear somebody moan every evening about their job. I sometimes don't think they realise how lucky they are to be happy in work because my experience in the last twenty years is of work not being great.

I really have had some shit jobs in my 'career' - cleaner, barman, temping, betting shop manager. The list is long and varied. Most of the time, it was looking forward to a beer and a laugh at the end of the day they kept me going.....there was little reward in actually working...apart from the money - which was generally low if I didn't do overtime.

After quitting my betting shop manager job before getting fired, I got a lucky break after being given an opportunity to work on the horse racing desk of a sports news website. I only got the job through an old friend and not through any talent. The first few weeks I just intelligently kept my head down and looked keen and eager.

I knew I was safe in that job when they started hiring people with less knowledge than know who you are Anne Marie McTigeague! - she was actually a lovely girl and probably doing well for herself.

Anyhow, I luckily managed to get out of the hose racing desk work to work in a horse racing spin off department that the company had just bought.

The boss there gave me so much confidence in myself -despite not being the best worker - it was unreal and I can't thank him enough. We are still friends now and although he will hate me for it I see him as a bit of a father figure.

He ended up buying back the company he had sold to the sports news website and I was out of a job. I wasn't that bothered as I got some redundancy money and ended up working freelance for the horse racing desk for a year or so.

Fast forward a year and I'm skint again and have no work. I end up going back to working as a betting shop manager for a terrible independent company. Commuting an hour a day and working 12 hour shifts. It was not much fun.

After my ringtone website started interesting the search engines, I gave up that job and lived on the proceeds for a while (six months) until I had to look for work.

Luckily, I was able to get some shifts writing about horse racing but various reasons meant I was always struggling for money...and shifts.

I bit the bullet (probably never became a great writer due to overusing and wrongly using cliches) and worked for 500 quid a month on a World Cup website. It failed when England went out to Portugal (fucking Ronaldo) and actually made a loss.

I trundled along with the horse racing writing and picked up some poker and casino writing along the way as well other bits and pieces but I was always struggling for money and struggling for money is shit.

By 2008, I was surviving/struggling on 360 quid a month when the horse racing writing stopped until another lucky break and I ended up (after a bleak probationary period) on a half decent wage.

Moral of the's all luck.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time for Proportional Representation

I've always wanted proportional repesentation for the UK government ever since realising how the first past the post system was bordering on the corrupt.

I was told years ago that it would never happen because the political parties in charge would not change the system that guaranteed them continuing power.

It is funny how panicky David Cameron has become lately. He knows PR is the best system but instead he talks about changes to the process of picking MPs and putting stuff on Youtube...he hasn't got the confidence in his own party to campaign for PR because he knows his party will end up having less power.

There are no logical arguments for keeping the present system other than Labour and the Conservatives knowing how important it is for themselves.

Germany is a country with PR and it gets along quite nicely and so are many other stable and well run countries in Europe. It's time for a change but, once again,like the smoking ban, I can see Englanders in their pathetic little gardens rolling over as usual....or rather too happy to spend their time in front of the soap operas to actually care what is happening in their own country.

Long live Germany..the home of the free (smokers).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Families

Since my last blog entry I have become an uncle twice. My youngest brother Philip whose wedding I very nearly didn't go to became a father - a boy called Jack while my sister has just delivered a baby boy who will be called James.

My brother's wife had a relatively easy (if there is such a thing) birth but my sister had all sorts of complications with the cord being wrapped around James' head and they eventually had to cut the baby out.

Apparently she is on the mend now and according to a friend looks very 'mumsy and cute'.

Both babies look like me...though I think all babies look like me...must be the bald head and round head. In fact a lot of babies are fascinated by me when they see me. My theory is that they they think I must be the baby king as I look like them but am just huge.

Babies have been figuring everywhere recently. Pud wrote a good piece about his girlfriend giving birth on his poker blog.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Grand National Bets

It is so hard getting back into horse racing after being out of it for so long. I had planned to write a big preview of the Grand National with of course links to Grand National free bets.

Took me ages to write the following and I've done less than one fifth of the field and the winner is not even there! More tomorrow I think. The figure after the horse is it's chance in poker terms:)

Cloudy Lane

Has been punished by the handicapper for winning the Peter Marsh at Haydock earlier this year. Has proved he is capable around this course (6th last season) but will struggle off this weight and would need to be huge price even to consider him an each-way prospect. J10o

Chelsea Harbour

Another who finished the course last season but another who has been clobbered by the handicapper. No reason to see him improving on his 10th place in 2008 and long price reflects his huge price 95hh

Snowy Morning

Third last season and had been quietly backed that day having been given a decent weight based on his proven ability. Has raced with enthusiasm this season but is another looks weighted out of it and better each way value can be found elsewhere. 76o


Generally consistent, the 11-year-old has been lightly raced this season and despite failing to sparkle last time out, this gelding holds every chance based on his form from a great performance at Cheltenham in January 2008 as well as his effort at this course in October, albeit over a much shorter trip. 1010

Comply or Die

Has been brought back quietly after his fine victory in this race last year and put in a good effort on his latest appearance at Cheltenham. Always hard for a horse to win this race twice and with the extra weight burden here he may even struggle to make the places. a10o

Ollie Magern

Another who looks badly handicapped. Fairly consistent though and represents good each-way claims if putting his best foot forward. Chance will be compromised by any further rain. J10o

Monday, March 09, 2009

Cheltenham Supreme Novices' Free bet and analysis

Believe it or not, I used to be a horse racing writer and with Cheltenham starting on March 10 I thought I'd get back into it despite not having written about the noble beasts for nearly two years.

Horses come and go, the names change but the form figures remain the same. I have used John Whitley's excellent figures ever since I was able to get them free when I worked on the Teamtalk Racing Desk.

I subsequently went to work with John...though purely in an admin O Level maths not enough to even discuss the mechanics of his methodology.

So, I'm previewing here the first race at Cheltenham and anyone foolish enough to follow my selection can negate the loss by getting a Cheltenham free bet - worth about twenty five quid - by clicking the link above.

So here goes...might be a bit rusty but one thing, I won't be is influenced by the racing media because I've not read anything about this year's Festival.

"Alan King's Medermit has an excellent chance of rewarding backers in the opening race of the 2009 Cheltenham Festival (13:30 - Supreme Novices' Hurdle) with the gelding boasting the best UK form over hurdles this season - achieved when winning at Ascot on his latest start.

I'm finding this really difficult...having not done it for so long...and WTF have they done with the reliable old Racing Post site??!...thank god, Whitley's figures never change.

The lightly raced ex-french gelding look set to be suited by the likely strong pace of this novice contest and although some of the lesser exposed types could well progress past him, the five-year-old holds solid place claims at the very least if reproducing that Ascot form. More rain would be a slight concern but if it stays dry then a price around 4/1 a place or 16/1 for the win looks tempting.

If Medermit is close up, then not far behind him will be the consist Golan Way trained by Sheena West. Following three excellent performances at minor tracks, the novice put up a fantastic performance in a valuable contest at Cheltenham - a race where the form has worked out very well before finishing behind the selection in that race at Ascot. His Cheltenham effort proved he was a gelding with a future and lost nothing in defeat to the gutsy Medermit. Golan Way has an improving profile and could run a big race.

Cousin Vinny is a little over-hyped on what he has he written about so much because he won a race sponsored by the Irish horse race writers on his penultimate start? His price though is nothing short of shocking and although he ran well at Cheltenham in the bumper last season, this front running sort may find himself burnt out as they turn for home and at the end of the day be out for another Irish entrant...perhaps Kempes or Go Nativ**I think I don't like Cousin Vinny because the film took the piss out of stutters--of whom I am a (proud) member.

That was harder than I thought...will stick to poker in the future.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More comments and readers

I actually wrote a post of at Betfair about how to get more comments on your blog and have realised I don't get so many on mine!

This is because I left out some important tips. I did this on purpose as the post was really about using the comments settings in Blogger to make it easier for people to comment rather than the other methods to attract more comments and also I didn't want to patronise people because the short list below is common sense.

These are basically things I don't do and should do if I want more comments and more comments usually means more readers....and I'd like more readers.

1) Update often - people tend to comment on recent posts rather than ones a few weeks out of date.
2) Comment on other blogs - blogging is part of Web 2.0. It is a community based thing...leave a comment on someone else's blog and usually the author will click through to your site and have a snoop around...and maybe leave a comment. Because this blog is used for some testing of links and feeds, I don't leave too many comments on other blogs. Another reason I don't leave comments is I'm a bit shy...even behind my laptop. I think...what if I say something stupid? or what if people just ignore me?....what if I can't add to the conversation? Being ignored is probably the biggest worry. Imagine sat around a table in a pub listening to a story off someone in a pub then making a comment after it and being totally ignored by the the person who told the story. 
3) Link out to other blogs in your blog posts. Most blog owners through curiosity will check their referral stats now and again and may just visit your site.  I actually did this the other week...and got a comment back...thanks Rosie:)

So if you are a blogger using Blogger then check out my post for the technical stuff (that's not so technical)....and if you really want to get a more popular blog you really have to go out and get involved in other people's blogs...there are millions out there you will soon find ones you like.

Now I've written all that shit I can start with my brag post!!

My poker game has taken off recently since I started playing turbo mtts. I always used to shy away from them thinking they were just a lottery. And while there is an element of luck -more so than in the better structured mtts...there is still a fair amount of poker to be played and a strategy to follow.

I'd love to tell you how I have won nearly $2000 since the start of the year but I can't really explain it properly or perhaps....... it is just because I'm playing on Betfair Poker where all the fish hang out:)

I did write a post about why I am improving at poker...feel free to read it though I think being profitable at poker depends very much on your state of mind both on a general and specific level.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Alcohol ruining my poker game

Have been playing my worst poker for a long time this week because I've been off the booze.

I don't drink that much but had got into the habit of drinking a coule of bottles of lovely German beer in the evenings after work and while and during playing poker. My last post about improving at poker suggested I was moving in the right direction but it seems this week I have been falling backwards.

At my stakes (around $5 a game) I've not lost that much and really I don't play for the money, I play for the challenge. My mind is annoyed!

So back to the non-drinking. I think my game failed this week was because I felt too confident while off the ale. It was almost as though I thought to myself that my hand was stronger because I was playing it without alcohol. Almost as though the gods would smile kindly on me when I shoved with A10 out of position and was called by AK. I messed up the Brit Bloggerment by playing like a twat and lasted only a few orbits, have not reached any final tables (previously, I was reaching them wih regularity - I almost expected to reach them).

Anyway, I had a few pints today watching the football in the local bar so may report back later with stories of my success.

Congratulations to Girlie Poker who had a fine finish the other day winning over $1000. I read her blog occasionally and found her recent entry about prejudice against female poker players quite interesting. Well done to her.


Played a game tonight. Lost but came second for $35. Faith restored.....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Improving at poker

I've finally started to make some in roads into my poker game and while not winning huge amounts, I feel I'm making progress.

I've won about $300 this past week playing either tournaments on Betfair Poker or on Stars. I never play higher than $10 sngs or tournaments and will not play higher until I'm consistently winning or cashing at these levels.

My game has improved for a number of reasons.

1) Raise The River Forum. I'm not really a forum person (I'm too shy really) but find the advice on that site invaluable. I've only ever posted a few questions about particular hands but always get genuine advice and answers. I also started playing in their League Games and although I started badly and felt intimidated at first I've found playing against good players has really improved my game.

2) Marcus Bateman. Although I'm biased because he works for the site I do some freelance work on, I genuinely feel his clear concise articles have improved my game. Although, I hate it when he start to talk about cash games...cos I have zero interest. Check him out through the link above.

3) Yorkshire Pudding. Matthew Pitt is a great writer who is only going to get better and I read his stuff carefully - if not edit it carefully enough:) I watched him play a tournament on Team Viewer where I could access his computer and obviously see his hole cards in a game of poker. Watching him play really helped me learn how to get through the early stages of a MTT. It sounds stupid now but I was sat there thinking "Why has he folded KJo under the gun - they are both picture cards."

4) Volume. I play around about 15 hours per week. This is not a lot but it mounts up over the month. The more poker tournaments I play, the better I become just through experience of certain situations.

The level I play at means I have to understand bad players and this is something I am getting better at.

So, boring post over and as proper poker bloggers of luck at the tables.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New York City Plane Crash - Live pictures

Just heard about the New York plane crash and was seeing if these live pictures of the Hudson River crash would appear on this blog. Luckily no-one died in the plane crash.

Update - have removed the TV pictures as now all you get is local New York news...which is of no anyone.



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