My mini break – indulging the day away

The other day I accompanied my husband on his business trip to Brisbane – the big city for us these days.  It was just an overnight trip but it provided the opportunity to get to all those shops that were no longer available to me – the Fabric Shop, Lulu Lemon, Mecca, etc.

Although the experience began a bit wobbly – we turned up to check in at the hotel only to find our booking had been made for the previous week – the hotel staff very efficiently righted wrongs and turned things around. Checkout was at 11am – not really a problem but I wanted to go to the gym in the morning and didn’t want to get up very early or rush so asked if a later check out was possible.  No problem – 1pm!  Our room was on the 18th floor with city views, large and spacious and well appointed with a comfortable king-size bed and lots of comfy pillows.  I’m a real pillow fanatic and can’t sleep if the pillow isn’t right.  These ones were perfect.

The bathroom was also nice and big and even better – had a big bath.  Ah, I thought:  gym followed by a luxurious soak.  But meantime, having unpacked it was definitely time to have a drink in the bar downstairs.  We were staying at the Marriott and although it’s a bit staid, the service is impeccable.  The bar downstairs felt like something out of a 50’s movie – all dim lights and small tables – perfect setting for a dirty martini.  Don’t know why but I was surprised at how good it was.  I suppose it’s not a drink that’s commonly called for but then again, in the service/hospitality industry, isn’t that what a good bar tender should do: mix the perfect martini?  So, another tick for this hotel’s staff.  Excellent service all round.

I had planned to sleep in the next morning but woke early (why is it that men can’t move about quietly?) and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Not wanting to get up and start my day I switched on the tv, made myself a cup of tea, got out my knitting and hopped back into bed. I spent the next hour or so knitting in bed and watching tv.  Not something I’ve ever done before.  Not something I imagine anyone has done before. It felt very indulgent.

Eventually I’d had enough knitting – and was ready for a coffee – so it was time to get to the gym.  An hour later I was back in my room and running the bath.  There’s something rather decadent about having a morning bath.  Pure luxury.  The only thing that was missing was a glass of champagne and while I did (briefly) consider calling down for one, I thought this might be a bit impractical having already submerged myself in a bath full of bubbles.

Bathed and dressed I sought out a good coffee and then sat and attended to emails and other business before packing up and calling down to request my car.  12.45pm.  A very nice start to the day.  It felt like I was on holidays.  Had I been staying longer I would have indulged in a spa session and then had a glass of wine in the bar. And then perhaps gone to see a movie.  As it was, I ran my errands and had a leisurely lunch before picking up my husband and driving back home.

I realised that it’s that easy to give yourself a treat – a day off.  Make use of all the facilities in the hotel and pamper yourself.  A real ‘go slow’ day.  It was the best mini break I’ve had in a long long time.

Taxi troubles

There’s a bit of a stramash going on in Australia within the taxi industry. Basically the big taxi cab conglomeration is not happy with organisations such as ‘Uber’ and ‘goCatch’ (though the press has only really been focusing on Uber). They claim they take away earnings from ‘real’ cab drivers and are not safe. They present them as unlicensed mavericks. I haven’t used Uber but I’m a big fan of goCatch. Its quick, reliable and you can track how far away the driver is as well as making contact with him via his mobile phone. You can also set up a card payment system which makes the whole enterprise seemless and fast.

Essentially though its about customer service and customers are reacting to the poor quality of service provided by the taxi industry and taking their business elsewhere. I don’t know how many times I’ve waited for cabs I’ve ordered that haven’t turned up. One time I waited for over an hour. Another time I missed my flight because the cab didn’t turn up: I rang and asked where was it. The operator ordered another one. Same thing. No cab. Finally on the third attempt the operator just hung up on me. Poor service.

I always leave plenty of time when ordering a cab to go out to dinner – I like to get to places early and have a drink at the bar – but too many times the cab is so slow to arrive that we not only miss the bar drink but are late for our booking. Enquiries to the cab company are usually met with inidifference and a lack of information about how much longer the cab will be, or if indeed it is on its way. And there have been innumerable times when the cab driver didn’t bother to let me know he was outside, despite having my phone number and at times, despite pouring rain.  He just drove off!!!! How is that customer service?

So when I hard about goCatch I gave it a go (no pun intended); not only could I track where the cab was but the driver rang to say he’d be there in x minutes (and its generallly about 5!!) The drivers arrive and call to say they’re outside; they’re always polite and professional and they are in proper taxi cabs. So what’s the problem? Seems to me that the real issue is that the taxi industry is out of touch and indifferent to the needs of the people who are using them – their client base. What I don’t understand is why, in a competitive market they don’t look at the reasons customers are turning away from them. Instead of complaining they should get their act together and provide a better service. Perhaps then they’ll get their customers back. In an ever-changing, competitive market if you don’t provide what you’re supposed to and you lose your customers then really, you have nothing to complain about. Unions find it hard to let go of their stangle hold but they never seem to get it: if its not working, you have to change your way of operating. And be reliable. Interestingly, in a recent interview in the  Qantas Magazine, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, a senior exec at the Commonwealth Bank praised Uber.  She is also a fan of the Uber app and recommends using Uber “so you can always retrieve that phone you left in the cab”.*

As more and more people use taxis when going out – safer than driving when you intend to drink – its inevitable that they want a reliable and efficient service. So while I’m happy to flag down a cab on the return journey, I won’t bother with the big cab company. I’ll use goCatch every time.

*Qantas, February 2015, p111

Tania Layden