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Sep 14

So I decided to take a vacation to Portland, OR. It would have required a night of overnight stay so I started looking for good hotels online. Since we were 4 people I wasn’t able to use a lot of websites. Sites like Hoteltonight.com don’t even have an option to configure the number of people in a room. Not wanting to argue with check-in staff later, I started to use Hotwire to book my hotel, I would like to point out that at this point Priceline was unable to find me a hotel for my price and Hotwire was in fact showing me such a hotel. Pricewire is also a much more shitty interface. Maybe all the money they pay Kaley Cuoco and William Shatner came from product development. For those uninitiated with Hotwire, here is how it works, you tell Hotwire your hotel location and check-in and checkout dates and Hotwire will show you hotels available with amenities and ratings from their customers. The actual hotel names and locations are only revealed post booking. Kind of like Name your price tool of Priceline except you don’t have to keep guessing a price.

Day 1

Anyway, so day 1, I search for hotels in Portland, OR. I got a nice 3 star hotel for $100. Remember the stars here are their own ratings and 3 star doesn’t really mean anything. It turned out to be Extended Stay America in Hillsboro, OR. The location was pretty premium and I was happy. We drive down to Crater Lake in the morning, calling at 11am to confirm our booking at Extended Stay. We checked in at 8pm and lo and behold, crap unfolds. I am told there are only smoking rooms available and there is ‘no wiggle room’ to fix it. Wait, didn’t I just pay you in advance and book my room. The hotel was sparsely staffed. At 9pm, I really was in no mood to fight with customer service and find another room. I did leave poor feedback after the stay to Hotwire, no followup from the company. Boo ! Also, the taxes and fee is a little shady at Hotwire :

This is what they claim :

The taxes are tax recovery charges Hotwire pays to its vendors (e.g. hotels); for details, please see our Terms of Use. We retain our service fees as compensation in servicing your travel reservation.

 

hotwire - extended stay america portland hillsboro

 

Day 2

Unhappy with our demotion to a smoking room and no remorse, I didn’t want to extend my stay at ironically named Extended Stay America. I was able to get a better deal near the Portland Airport area, less prime area, no breakfast but $20 cheaper. It turned out to be a Holiday Inn. The hotel was much nicer and cleaner. No free breakfast though. Again see the disproportionate tax and fee added.

 

hotwire - holiday inn portland airport

 

Verdict

Overall I think I did save some money thanks to Hotwire, however be careful about these loopholes like no smoking rooms. I also read online about some people landing at their hotels only to be told the hotel was overbooked and then hotwire making them do the turnaround. I would advise to use Amex cards in that case. Amex has very consumer friendly policies, I would just take it in written that the hotel room was not available, book another room and chargeback Hotwire and sure them. Even though they may have terms against this and USA’s most stupid arbitration laws are applicable here.

 

Would I use hotwire again, probably only if I save a lot, but I would be very aggressive about pushing and flexing my rights. So if you do book through them, call and confirm your booking even though hotwire tells you not to. You do end up saving some money. For some people $15 you save maybe an expense they are prepared to give for peace of mind.


Sep 13

So I was looking at some of the calls I had received which I didn’t pick up. The advent of spam calls is so high that you really cannot pick up every unknown number. I usually look them up in truecaller to see who called. Sometimes the names are cryptic and I have to callback and ask. However I came across 2 gems today. Guess who are not getting callbacks today Open-mouthed smile (For non-Indian readers, they are some cuss words with prefix and/or suffixes telling me it’s a bank or an insurance company).

icici

bekaar insurance


Sep 12

while foods logosafeway logo

Recently on television I saw a sensationalist segment on Fox News regarding the prices at Whole Foods v/s Safeway. Everything was great, there was even a caveat that prices vary by region, however something didn’t seem right. Safeway is absolutely not more expensive in my limited experience here in the Pacific Northwest.

 

To be honest, my headline is also a bit sensationalistic, Fox News was showing the results of a study and it wasn’t original research by them.

 

The pricing shown would have been genuine, however it looks like they forgot one crucial detail. Safeway has this awesome app and has this thing called club card. If you have used Safeway’s app, you would know they routinely have decent discounts on everything from milk to fruits and vegetables to even giftcards and sometimes bonus points. Infact at this very moment my Safeway app has a spend $30 and get $5 off coupon in it. Wholefoods almost never has sales on basic staples and never have I seen a proper off sale on Whole foods. So its important to view any news article with the right perspective.

 

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Sep 09

So I do try to live healthy, but every once in a while I cheat by having chicken mcnuggets at Mcdonalds. They are the kryptonite to this superman. Chipotle, I love you, but your taste nothing like the engineered taste of chicken McNuggets. Anyway a few weeks ago McDonalds released their mobile app which on registering gives you a free premium sandwich. So at a minimum you get a free sandwich. Over time I have seen rewards such as free french fries, free sundae on another purchase and they even have a punch card system for McCafe coffee so every 6th coffee for you is free. Overall I think this is one of the most rewarding customer loyalty apps out there and the McDonalds app team has done a great job.

 

Even as I write this post my coupons page is full of so many good coupons :

 

McDonalds App

As you can see there is a coupon for a free McDonalds burger, free happy meal with a salad and a free sundae with any purchase.

 

Give it a try and let us know how you found it.


Sep 09

Dear Quest Nutrition,

 

A few months ago, I got introduced to Quest bars. After Googling and Binging the hell out of how healthy Quest Bars are and are Quest bars really healthy, do they have high quality protein and do they taste good, I was convinced and bought my first case of Quest bars. I have not looked back since. I love the chocolate cookie dough, chocolate mint and double chocolate bars. The 20-21g of protein is great and I loved the taste of most bars. However today thanks to Facebook and ironically Quest’s own facebook account I was informed of a formula change and that the company was defending the switch to corn fiber. I have a stash of around 100 bars however I will not purchase more if the switch to corn fiber continues.

 

I personally don’t care about the research you have linked to, ever since I came to the US, I am bombarded with cheap corn junk, HFCS and cornstarch being the primary crap in most food. I cannot fathom why you would try to fix something which is not broken. Please don’t switch to the crap corn and let us keep our Quest bars.

 

Thanks

Wisetechie

An Avid Quest Bar consumer


Mar 10

I was curiously browsing the dailies for my latest dose of Indian news when I came across an article almost self written for the tabloids. A female white German professor denied an Indian male student an internship. Well what’s new in that, you may ask ? IITians spam every professor in the world to get a 2 month paid vacation every summer you say. Well this time the reason for denial was a classic one.

The professor Annette G. Beck-Sickinger who teaches biochemistry at Germany’s Leipzig University apparently felt scared for her female students, she was afraid of the ‘rape culture’ that’s apparently present in India and wanted to show consequences for the rapes we keep doing. She goes on to suggest that other female professors in Europe are also taking similar decisions. I know what you are thinking, but we will leave the discussion of how someone so dimwitted became a professor for another day. Lets learn about the facts of the case.

So the letter first appeared on Quora. Reading through the letters you cant help but feel angry at the professor. You can see that she probably feels all smug and superior about bashing an Indian student and Indian culture all the while forgetting about how Germany also has its own evils to deal with. I am amused at how she narrates it almost like a Hollywood movie (tourists are kidnapped and raped etc.) and also coins a new term ‘multi-rape’ crimes. The German embassy was quick to write a letter to the professor which TL;DR conveyed shut up.

The university too apologized, although the language they used left a lot to be desired. Their language seemed to suggest the professor was misquoted and her quotes were extracted and used without context. However as you see the author had pasted full letters so there is no indication of that.

Personally I hope the professor is disciplined hard, this is nothing but modern day superiority complex and racism and we cannot have it in our teachers and professors. Its only because of the Internet that we even came to know about this, otherwise this racist professor would have gotten away with it.

Letter 1 from professor :

Professor email 1

Letter 2 from professor:

Professor email 2

German Embassy’s letter to professor :

German embassy letter to professor