April 14th, 2011

nepal

epic fail

OK now I can tell what happened during my last business trip. Scroll to the bottom for words of wisdom that cost me more than $1000. Yeah I am unbelievably generous today -- you get it for free!

We flew from Moscow (SVO) to New York (Kennedy), then from NY to LAX. On the second flight my colleague asked for a headphones, and I was lazy to get it from my backpack, so I asked a flight attendant to bring a pair for me. He brought it but (unlike on the international flights) they are $2/pair and they only accept credit cards. I was shy to reject it (like I can't afford spending $2, guess it's a typical feature of Russians). So I get my backpack (which I tried to avoid in the first place) and pulled my wallet out of it. Paid, then left it in the front seat pocket.

I forgot it there. Yes, my wallet left in the front seat pocket then I left the plane. Not sure why it happened, I was not even drunk (like it happens on a long flights sometimes), only extremely tired and with a headache, trying to not sleep in order to switch to -11 hours time zone change quicker.

In the forgotten wallet there was my personal credit card, my corporate credit card, and $1100 in cash, from which $1000 was because someone asked me to bring the most expensive version of iPad2 in white color. Yeah… another reason to hate Apple, even if they are not guilty in this case.

The wallet was never found (I guess because of the cash). Delta was very unresponsive — every phone line is a robot, and if you can make it to a human it also acts like a robot, asking you to go to delta.com and file a «lost item» report. Then you file such a report, it apparently goes nowhere.

My colleague had a personal credit card with him, but Fox rent-a-car refused it (although we were able to draw some cash from an ATM). Call to the issuing bank (Alfa) was non-productive: they said card is fine, unblocked and they are aware that we are in US not Russia, and they marked it appropriately, but they don't see any requests for a transaction except for the successful cash draw attempt).

I called my friend in LA to ask for help, but he texted me back saying he's in Thailand. He although suggested another friend of him who could help next morning (the time was like 2am).

So, we were unable to rent a car and unable to drive to the motel I reserved. We went to a Travelodge across the street, paid cash.

Next morning a friend came, it was Sunday and he had a bad hangover, and he was 1 hour by car away from us, but he came. He took the car under his name and using his credit card (with my colleague listed as a second driver).

Next scene, Sunday evening, 10pm, hotel lobby. Colleague's card is not working, we can't check into the hotel. Went out to try drawing some cash, didn't work. Fortunately it was already Monday morning in Moscow, so the call to the bank was productive, card became working, we have finally checked in.

To make a long story short -- the card was blocked a few more times, some places were not accepting it, one time we _almost_ ran out of money, fortunately the conference provided free food. :)

Now the morale of the story. Do not be a fool like me, follow these simple rules and you will be, well, not fine but OK.

1. Do not take more than $100-200 in cash, maybe even less. You can lose it all. If someone asks you to buy something, ask them to transfer money to your account, do not get cash!

2. Have more than one credit card, and put them all in different pockets/places. Cash should be in a different place, too.

3. Do not buy anything on board (especially as stupid stuff such as headphones). Well this is actually questionable and optional advise.