Vayama is legitimate

Vayama

Vayama

I recently had an experience with Vayama (and antecedently Kayak) that, along with a search for Vayama, temporarily had me thinking they were scam artists.  However, after I sent the following email of my experience to both Vayama and Kayak, David from Vayama completely resolved my issue.

The email that I sent to Vayama, which describes my experience, was:

Vayama,

I fly quite a bit and usually use Kayak to find a travel service through which to purchase my ticket.  I recently purchased a ticket from Vayama via its partnership with Kayak (for which Kayak receives monetary compensation) on April 17th for $1488.65.  In all previous cases, from services other than Vayama, when I purchased tickets online I quickly received an e-ticket.  So when I received an email from Vayama stating the trip ID and flight numbers and times I thought I had booked my flights.  Unfortunately that was not the case.  Looking again at this email I see that it states, “…we will issue your ticket(s) and you will receive an “E-ticket Confirmation” email within one business day.”  Furthermore I see that I received an email from Kayak stating, among other misleading statements, “Vayama will email your ticket number within one business day.”

This morning, April 21st – four days later – I received a call from a Vayama representative.  He said that one of the airlines flying a leg of my itinerary, Swiss Air, raised the price of its leg, and that now the price of my trip is $1685.00.  This has never happened to me before, so I am under the impression that Vayama negligently did not reserve my seat with the airline immediately after I submitted my information as other services do.  Instead they attempted to purchase my ticket much later than is expected (or agreed upon) by the industry.  Therefore the price that the airline had quoted them had expired.

Since prices for my flight itinerary in general have gone up over the past 4 days I cannot purchase an equivalent ticket for an equivalent fare.  I feel blackmailed by Vayama.  Due to Vayama’s negligence I am asking that you reimburse me for the difference of the flight prices, i.e. book my flight at the price you originally quoted me.  Please let me know your response immediately so that I may take appropriate actions.

Regards,

Roel

The next morning I received an email from Kayak and very soon thereafter from Vayama. The Vayama response was:

Dear Roel –

Your communication to KAYAK regarding your recent booking experience was forwarded to me by my contacts at KAYAK.

Let me first start with an apology for this less than satisfactory experience.

In reviewing your booking history I found that your booking request got stuck in our automation process which prevented our normal (and speedy) automated ticketing processes from completing the ticketing portion of your booking.  It remained stuck for a number of days until someone noticed.  By then the fare had been lost within the booked class of service.

Given that none of this was your fault, I have authorized the ticket to be issued to you at the original fare quoted ($1488.65) with Vayama absorbing the increased fare difference.

The ticket has now been issued and confirmation email sent to you.

If for any reason you no longer need this ticket, please respond to this email TODAY so I can void the transaction and have the fare charged to your account voided as well.

Again my apologies.  This was an isolated and unfortunate issue.

Sincerely,

David

I’d say that is a very legitimate response to my issue.  I asked David whether he would have responded to my email if I hadn’t emailed Kayak.  He stated that he had received my email and would have responded to it but that he responded to the Kayak email first since that was presumably the more urgent one.

This kind of thing may happen infrequently at Vayama but since it happened to me I am going to dock them one star out of five and rate them 4 stars at Trustpilot.  At a minimum, Vayama appears to be a legitimate company that stands up to its word.

Update:
Here is a letter from Vayama that I received on April 26th.

Dear Roel,

First of all, please accept my most sincere apologies for this error having occured in your booking. I believe this issue has already been satisfactorily resolved with a full refund from Vayama, which was processed on April 22nd. The error that occured in your booking happens when availability is updated by the airline when you are actually in the booking process. We receive your payment, however the flights at the fare originally offered cannot be honoured by the airline, as there is no longer availability. We unfortunately have many bookings with this error, and need to manually process all of them as we aim to find flights for the same price. Our notification to you was not within a satisfactory time frame, this I do realise, once again please accept my most sincere apologies on behalf of my colleagues who deal with processing these errors.

Kind regards,
Stephanie

Proform Treadmill Support Is Excellent! (But the Equipment Is Not)

Image

Frickin amazing.  I almost can’t believe it.

I purchased a demo Proform Performance 400 Treadmill at Sports Authority within the last year for a couple hundred bucks.  Recently its motor began making a lot of noise.  I considered tossing the whole treadmill in the garbage and getting a new one.  But after seeing that a high-end, secondhand Woodway was just as loud (louder actually), I investigated having a local repairman fix it.  As I surfed the web looking for a repairman I read that Proform treadmill motors have 25-year warranties.  “Hmm…”, I thought to myself, “that doesn’t sound right.”  But I decided to call Proform and see what they said about their warranty.  Sure enough their treadmill motors DO have a 25-year warranty.

After reading how treadmills and the companies that manufacture them are highly unreliable, I was surprised at how easy it was to receive a replacement motor.  The Proform support representative asked me to hold my phone near the motor so she could confirm that it was in fact the motor that was making the noise.  She asked me a couple questions about the serial number and where and when I purchased it, then told me I should have a replacement motor, with replacement instructions, within a week.

My newly refurbished treadmill is working like a charm, and more silently than ever.

 

Update 5/27/2014:  The new  motor became noisy too.  I may give up on this treadmill and get a different one.

FAQ for Media.net/Yahoo/Bing Contextual Ads Program

ybn-logo

I, as a publisher, use Media.net to fill some of my advertising inventory.  If you are considering using Media.net, or have recently begun using them, the answers below may help you understand some of their payment processes.

1.       How can I discern if a particular wire transfer was from Media.net?  My bank statement does not contain that information.

The payment we make is made via ‘SecureN1 transactions LLC’. This should help you identify payments from us.

2.       Do you charge me for wiring money to me?  If so, how much?  Do you charge for Paypal payouts?  If so, how much?

We do not charge you for the wire. However, the bank processing the wire may have charges. Again, we do not charge for Paypal payouts but Paypal may have charges in some cases.

3.       Why do you not offer ACH payouts?

We currently do not have this method of payout. However, it is being considered.

4.       How will I know what period of time was covered by a particular wire transfer?  Is there a page within my account that I can see such a correlation?

We make payments on a NET 30 basis. For example, you will receive the payment for the month of February on or around the 30th of March. You can see the previous months earnings on the dashboard. Additionally, the narration accompanying our payments also mentions the month for which the payment is made.

Elto.com Review: The Joke that Elto is

I recently was looking for someone to migrate my self-hosted WordPress site, EuropeanParty.com, to one hosted by WordPress.com.  The (one!) requirement was to make it look as similar to the self-hosted site as possible without incurring any WordPress.com fees.

I found on WordPress’s own site that they recommend Elto.com.

The short story is that Elto is not much better than the various (mainly) foreign freelancers that hold themselves out to be WordPress experts – in other words, they have NO idea what they are talking about.  If you want the long story (i.e. the transcript) leave me a comment.

I ended up having to do it myself.  Below is one screenshot of the self-hosted site and one of the Wordpress.com hosted site.

Self-hosted self-hosted

WordPress-hosted
wordpress-hosted

Transfer Contacts from Android to Windows Phone

Android to Windows Phone

I recently lost my Samsung Galaxy S III and decided to replace it with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and its killer camera, which required me moving from Android to Windows Phone 8 (WP8).

I had anticipated moving to another phone before I lost my S3 so all of my contacts were saved online in my Google account with Google Contacts.  At first it appeared that my transition would be import and export free:  all I would need to do is sign in to my Google account from my WP8 phone.  But upon checking my contacts after syncing my Google account I saw that most of them were missing most of their info, notably phone numbers.

I did a lot of research, including reading some announcement that Google Sync will be discontinued for free Google Apps users, but nothing told me why most of my contacts were defective.  So I looked at the actual content of the Google Contacts format by downloading the file and eventually found that the reason for the missing content was capitalization of some of the field names.

If you have the same issue do this to fix it:

  1. Download your Google contacts via More -> Export… -> Google CSV format.
  2. Open the file with a text editor, e.g. Notepad,  (Excel won’t work for this task.)
  3. Do a case sensitive replacement for:
    HOME -> Home
    MOBILE -> Mobile
    CUSTOM -> Mobile
    MAIN -> Mobile
    WORK -> Work
  4. Save the file,
  5. Delete all your online Google contacts,
  6. Upload your newly decapitalized contacts file, and
  7. Finally sync your Google account on your WP8 phone.

That solved my problem.  Hopefully it will solve yours too!

You may find that you have more field names for certain phone numbers:  maybe pager, company, or whatever.  Sentence case these field names also.

Let me know if this helped you transfer your contacts.

Good luck!

Carbonite is Useless (Review)

Carbonite

Carbonite

I don’t have much to report here since I my experience with Carbonite occurred a few months ago and I’ve forgotten many of the details. But I’d like to report that Carbonite was absolutely useless.

Apparently Carbonite had backed up several gigabytes of data for me, but I couldn’t get to any meaningful amount of it. Nor could I access particular files for that matter.

I have a very high speed internet connection; speedtest.net tells me upwards of 50 Mbps. However, it took me 24 hours to download less than a couple hundred Mb from Carbonite. I called their tech support several times the next day to ask them how I could download a particularly important file I needed. They directed me to the search function of their desktop control panel. It turned out to be unable to search my files effectively. It also crashed many times.

So after spending over an hour on the phone with their tech support over the span of several calls and days I decided to ask for a refund for the unused 2 years on my 3-year plan. When they should have offered me a full refund they told me I had to spend more time with their tech support winding my way through 2 more levels of support despite having worked my way to what I already thought was level 3 support.

Well, I’m using SOS Online Backup now. If I ever need to access my data I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Critique and Review

No KahnemanLet me begin by saying, Wow!  I was blown away by this book.

But in a bad way; not in a good way.  I was blown away by the monotony and the abundance of inaccurate science.  One wouldn’t normally expect mainly bad science from a Nobel Prize winner.  Then again, perhaps one would if the Nobel Prize is in Economic Sciences, since in general the further you stray from the hard sciences the less rigorous the science is.  (Incidentally, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was created in 1968 whereas the other five were created in 1895.)

The book provides a few interesting insights, but not nearly enough for 400+ pages.  I’ll quote the most interesting one here so you won’t make the mistake of buying the book yourself:

Consider two car owners who seek to reduce their costs:

Adam switches from a gas-guzzler of 12 mpg to a slightly less voracious guzzler that runs at 14 mpg.

The environmentally virtuous Beth switches from a 30 mpg car to one that runs at 40 mpg.

Suppose both drivers travel equal distances over a year.  Who will save more gas by switching?

If you do the math, the unintuitive answer is that Adam will save more.  The conclusion is that US labeling policy should be changed from mpg to the more intuitive gpm.

I fear that the above may entice you to read the book.  So in an attempt to offset that urge let me provide some examples of the deplorable logic that dominate the book.

On page 72, Kahneman tells a story in which he and his wife saw an acquaintance in Australia, then two weeks later saw the same acquaintance in a London theater.  He states, “By any measure of probability, meeting Jon in the theater was much less likely than meeting one of our hundreds of acquaintances – yet meeting Jon seemed more normal.”  Huh??  Why is meeting Jon less likely?  Actually, if all else is equal, they are equally likely to meet Jon in London as any other acquaintance.  And if you take Jon’s propensity to travel (as evidenced by the only additional information we have, namely his presence in Australia) into account then it is more likely to meet Jon in London.

Then on page 76, Kahneman writes, “Experiments have shown that six-month-old infants see the sequence of events as a cause-effect scenario, and they indicate surprise when the sequence is altered.  We are evidently ready from birth to have impressions of causality, which do not depend on reasoning about patterns of causation.”  Huh??  Does Kahneman assume that a human cannot learn impressions of causality in his first six months?

You may think I’m nit-picking a bit here, but I wouldn’t have picked up on these two examples if erroneous thinking wasn’t pervasive throughout the book.  Let me present two more examples.

On page 116, he recounts his contribution to the Israeli Air Force during a war.  Two similar squadrons were faring differently.  One squadron lost four planes while the other had lost none.  The operational differences between the squadrons were initially found to be small.  He says, “My advice was that the command should accept that the different outcomes were due to blind luck, and that the interviewing of the pilots should stop.  I reasoned that luck was the most likely answer, that a random search for a nonobvious [sic] cause was hopeless, and that in the meantime the pilots in the squadron that had sustained losses did not need the extra burden of being made to feel that they and their dead friends were at fault.”  Again: huh??  This one I really don’t get.  His thinking is so ridiculous I can’t explain how it’s ridiculous.  But let me attempt anyway.  He implies that since the losses were probably random that they shouldn’t be investigated.  I would say that the loss of a multimillion dollar plane should be investigated regardless of whether you think it may be random or not.  What if a non-random cause is discovered?

Lastly, on page 184, he ends the previous chapter with the following exercise:

One of my favorite examples of the errors of intuitive prediction is adapted from Max Bazerman’ s excellent text Judgment in Managerial Decision Making:
You are the sales forecaster for a department store chain. All stores are similar in size and merchandise selection, but their sales differ because of location, competition, and random factors. You are given the results for 2011 and asked to forecast sales for 2012. You have been instructed to accept the overall forecast of economists that sales will increase overall by 10%.  How would you complete the following table?

Store       2011       2012
1       $11,000,000       ________
2       $23,000,000       ________
3       $18,000,000       ________
4       $29,000,000       ________
Total       $81,000,000       $89,100,000

Having read this chapter, you know that the obvious solution of adding 10% to the sales of each store is wrong. You want your forecasts to be regressive, which requires adding more than 10% to the low-performing branches and adding less (or even subtracting) to others. But if you ask other people, you are likely to encounter puzzlement: Why do you bother them with an obvious question? As Galton painfully discovered, the concept of regression is far from obvious.

Again Kahneman is incorrect.  The most reasonable calculation in this scenario is to treat each 2011 sales number as that store’s average due to the store’s location (and therewith simply add 10% to each number), and not to confusedly combine the numbers and regress them to the mean as if they were representative of all stores.

It is not only bad science that makes this book so unreadable; it is also unfortunately oozing with self-satisfaction and reminiscences of Kahneman’s happy, bygone friendship with his “research” partner Amos.  Does Kahneman mean to present this book as an autobiography or a popular account of science?  By all means, be inspired by and happy with your work, but emoting such self-satisfaction about your own poor thinking only degrades the quality of your work further.

Kahneman attempts in this book to give a scientific exposition of various failings of humans’ propensity to occasionally misinterpret certain numeric scenarios, and to make it sound new in the process.  The ideas he presents in this book are not new.  Some of them are from earlier books and articles, and others from his papers of 1983 and earlier.  As I read I felt Kahneman attempting to make his book entertaining, as Malcolm Gladwell does with similar subjects.  But where Gladwell succeeds in entertaining us, Kahneman fails miserably.  Neither does Kahneman adhere to any scientific method, as I detailed earlier.  Kahneman’s resulting book is neither new, nor entertaining, nor scientific; it is unfortunately simply a monotonous aggregation of anecdotal statistics.