Throw Edgar from the train!



  • So, we have a contract with a major corporate lodging provider to serve as a middleman between us and the various and sundry hotels our folks stay at when they travel -- we are a major hotel-room consumer.

    Thing is, said corporate lodging provider makes you think their entire operation is three folks in a trailer with shoeboxes for filing. They fold their fee back in the hotel charges -- so you get a charge on your expense report that's different from the receipt the hotel gave you, and you have no idea why. They delay their billing for months, to the point where it causes people concern that they might miss the 90-day expense reporting deadline due to the provider. They sometimes will bill a stay in two parts at different times.

    Is it not a reasonable expectation to have those concerns taken care of in a workable fashion?



  • @tarunik said:

    Is it not a reasonable expectation to have those concerns taken care of in a workable fashion?

    By firing the middleman?



  • @tarunik said:

    Is it not a reasonable expectation

    It is a reasonable expectation. Apparently your provider is not reasonable.



  • @boomzilla said:

    By firing the middleman?

    And then dealing with $large_number of hotels directly? Yeesh -- that almost sounds worse than this, if only because of incompetent hotel managers...



  • Is there another middleman you could use instead?



  • @HardwareGeek said:

    Is there another middleman you could use instead?

    No idea. I sincerely hope we aren't being held in the iron grip of a monopolist here...



  • @tarunik said:

    And then dealing with $large_number of hotels directly?

    Who books the rest of your travel? Seems like using some generic thing that tourists use would be preferable to whatever these guys are doing.



  • @tarunik said:

    monopolist

    WTF. It's a glorified travel agent!



  • @tarunik said:

    Is it not a reasonable expectation to have those concerns taken care of in a workable fashion?

    Yes. While our corporate travel partner of choice aren't sans undefined (there's at least one post here pointing those out) - they are generally competent. Certainly they've never done any of the things you mentioned.



  • @boomzilla said:

    Who books the rest of your travel? Seems like using some generic thing that tourists use would be preferable to whatever these guys are doing.

    We book the airline parts of business trips through a local travel agency -- although this doesn't help us for the major reason we have these folks.

    Thankfully, they aren't a monopolist, probably just the cheapest -- most of the other providers seem to cater to high-rent folks only...



  • @tarunik said:

    we are a major hotel-room consumer.

    My company has its own internal travel agency. Or at least, it used to. I haven't had to travel for a few years.

    .....checks intranet....yep, still do.



  • @tarunik said:

    We book the airline parts of business trips through a local travel agency

    We have hotels, planes and trains covered by the same company. Car hire is another.
    Good job they're better than yours by the sounds of it.



  • @boomzilla said:

    My company has its own internal travel agency.

    Hrm...that either sounds like a decent idea, or an even bigger source of WTFs. Keep in mind that we aren't just asking for major metro chain hotels to provide us with cheap stuff -- we need rooms in podunk one-inn towns as well.



  • @tarunik said:

    we need rooms in podunk one-inn towns as well.

    We probably do less of that than you do. But also lots of international stuff, which I suspect you don't.



  • @loopback0 said:

    We have hotels, planes and trains covered by the same company. Car hire is another.Good job they're better than yours by the sounds of it.

    We have a lodging provider (TRWTF), a local travel agency handling airline tickets (which is nice), and direct deals with 3 major rental car companies.

    Trains, though? Either it's the bigwigs in a business special (man, that has to be a sweet ride), or somebody deadheading (not sure how that works, ask the TE&Y folks).

    @boomzilla said:

    We probably do less of that than you do. But also lots of international stuff, which I suspect you don't.

    We indeed don't do much int'l stuff. At least neither of us have to find rooms in one-inn towns in faraway lands!



  • @tarunik said:

    Trains, though? Either it's the bigwigs in a business special

    I'm assuming you're 'Merican where flying places internally is a much more attractive option vs tgetting a train.
    In the UK, not so much.



  • @loopback0 said:

    I'm assuming you're 'Merican where flying places internally is a much more attractive option vs tgetting a train.In the UK, not so much.

    Yep -- although I did do a one-way train trip (on a detoured AMT005) this last fall. (I flew back, because there wasn't enough time to take the train on the return trip.)

    Worth the 24hrs it took, especially considering I was in a sleeping car. However, you better not be in a hurry!


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @tarunik said:

    major corporate lodging provider

    I literally did not even know this was a thing until I read this post...



  • @tarunik said:

    Worth the 24hrs it took

    Here if you end up on a train for 24 hours, you've probably been back to where you started multiple times.



  • My girlfriend works in an industry (oil) where companies buy up whole hotels for years at a time (until they run out of oil in that area). Travel is difficult in my province now because of this practice. Fuck corporate lodging providers.

    Then again, the towns where this kind of thing is common aren't exactly places you'd ever want to visit.



  • @loopback0 said:

    Here if you end up on a train for 24 hours, you've probably been back to where you started multiple times.

    Or not moved very far at all.



  • @loopback0 said:

    I'm assuming you're 'Merican where flying places internally is a much more attractive option vs tgetting a train.In the UK, not so much.

    Attractive in the sense that it is much cheaper to fly than it is to take a long-distance train.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @tarunik said:

    No idea. I sincerely hope we aren't being held in the iron grip of a monopolist here...

    Isn't this just what most companies use that exotic thing called a travel agent for?

    My company's not huge, but we have a travel agent we book all travel through, and it works fairly well. Presumably there are bigger agencies that can handle a big company.



  • @Nprz said:

    Attractive in the sense that it is much cheaper to fly than it is to take a long-distance train.

    Not really -- it's the length of time long-haul trains take that makes them unattractive for travel more than the pricetag, at least from the numbers I have seen (and experienced).

    @FrostCat said:

    Isn't this just what most companies use that exotic thing called a travel agent for?

    I don't think many travel agents deal with hotel rooms outside of normal travel contexts...



  • Companies around here just outsource all that shit to Expedia. Which I guess is a "travel agent" kind of I guess.

    The nice thing is using Expedia on a corporate account, they bend over backwards to help you when you need to reschedule a flight or whatever. They don't do that for the plebes who come in the front door.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @blakeyrat said:

    The nice thing is using Expedia on a corporate account, they bend over backwards to help you when you need to reschedule a flight or whatever. They don't do that for the plebes who come in the front door.

    Yeah. My company's travel agent does that kind of thing too. Of course you pay a premium for it.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @HardwareGeek said:

    Is there another middleman you could use instead?

    We use these guys. They seem OK I guess. Or at least better than our office when they decide to do things directly. 😒



  • @tarunik said:

    @Nprz said:
    Attractive in the sense that it is much cheaper to fly than it is to take a long-distance train.

    Not really -- it's the length of time long-haul trains take that makes them unattractive for travel more than the pricetag, at least from the numbers I have seen (and experienced).

    No, they're expensive in both time and money. I know we've looked at doing a train for a vacation, and the price always makes us balk. For slow trips and seeing the sights, driving is better. For getting somewhere and doing stuff, planes or driving are better depending on the distance.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @boomzilla said:

    No, they're expensive in both time and money.

    The fascinating thing is that this particular slowness of trains is a US thing. I wonder how you guys managed to CDCK your passenger rail transport systems?



  • @dkf said:

    I wonder how you guys managed to CDCK your passenger rail transport systems?

    You've got it backwards. Passenger trains suck for the distances we're talking about. Making passenger trains useful for that would be CDCKing.

    We use our trains (over all) for more useful things that aren't so time sensitive. Our train system is more useful than yours (to us) because it ships stuff instead of people. Again, the right tool for the right job.



  • @dkf said:

    The fascinating thing is that this particular slowness of trains is a US thing. I wonder how you guys managed to CDCK your passenger rail transport systems?

    It's a factor of the size of the US -- we'd need very high-speed passenger rail lines in order to have long-haul passenger rail that doesn't take days. Most US HSR advocates are focusing on regional-scale systems as a result (akin to the existing Northeast Corridor, but in other megaopolis type areas).


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @boomzilla said:

    We use our trains (over all) for more useful things that aren't so time sensitive. Our train system is more useful than yours (to us) because it ships stuff instead of people.
    Europeans look at our rail network and see "Why is everything running at 55MPH!?"

    We look at our rail network and see "Doesn't matter if it were 100MPH, it'd still take two days. May as well keep the freight moving."

    NOBODY from Europe understands how far apart cities are here until they come here and experience it. Most of them understand intellectually, but not in the visceral worldview challenging way.

    Anyway, corporate hotels. Here's how our system works. I know because I'm following the opening of a new office.

    When we open a plant or office ("facility"), we negotiate with one or two nearby 3-4 star hotels for a corporate rate, and if it's a sales/executive facility, we also nab a 5-star. It's literally a standard rate for that hotel. You can pick up the phone and say "I want the XXX MegaCorp rate" and they'll give it to you without question. The rate is based on estimated number of rooms per year. This takes the building PM's team of crack negotiators all of a day to accomplish. The deal renews annually, and the negotiations there are handled by that facility's procurement team/person.

    We inform our corporate travel agency of the rate, they add it to the booking system.

    Billing proceeds direct to each traveler's expense card from the hotel and a booking fee from the travel agency (if you bothered. You can get better flight deals on Expedia etc.*) as a separate transaction. No muss, no fuss (aside from the agency website being shit. I have not yet been able to book travel without a phone call saying "YOU DIDN'T ENTER YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER!" arriving a few minutes later.

    *This is technically a policy violation. The agency is supposed to act as a central repository of 'where are our people?' data to allow the risk management/security folks to react in cases of terrorism/war/plane crash/natural disaster. People were fired after 9/11 for being unfindable. You are also encouraged to use it for personal travel.



  • @Weng said:

    *This is technically a policy violation. The agency is supposed to act as a central repository of 'where are our people?' data to allow the risk management/security folks to react in cases of terrorism/war/plane crash/natural disaster. People were fired after 9/11 for being unfindable. You are also encouraged to use it for personal travel.

    *laughs* Somehow, I don't think that'd work for jack squat where I work: our people are all over the place to the point where some of them you'd never find without calling up the dispatcher first.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Weng said:

    NOBODY from Europe understands how far apart cities are here until they come here and experience it. Most of them understand intellectually, but not in the visceral worldview challenging way.

    Seriously, this is true. I got in a discussion a decade ago with some Europeans. I was in DC at the time, and I think it started with them making the usual cracks about us Americans not knowing any other languages, and I said, look, I can drive a thousand miles in any direction (except, obviously East), and know that the people there speak English. Another language, then, isn't as useful as it would be to Europeans. The guy was from the Netherlands, or Belgium, or somewhere around there, and I said, look, if you got in a car and drove 900 miles, how many languages would YOU need to get by?" I've also had conversations with Europeans who came over here and then went on a long cross-country trip, and had a new appreciation for the distances.



  • Here's the entire country of Belgium:

    At the same scale, here's two neighboring cities in the US:


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    For another perspective, if you drive fast but legal, don't sleep, and try to keep stops to a minimum, it will take approximately 20 hours of clock time to drive from Tampa to Dallas (Bing says it's ~16.75 hours of driving time)



  • I wonder how many European countries would fit in the great lakes without overlapping any land.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    And my personal favorite. If you drive FLAT OUT, as completely and utterly irresponsibly fast as possible in cars specifically built for the task - at full on race pace, breaking every single law there is - it takes 28 hours and 50 minutes to go from New York to Los Angeles (that's the current record, anyway)

    The official drive time at the speed limit is ~40 hours straight through without stopping.

    If you drive like a normal person and actually sleep, it's 3 days.

    40 hours of driving is Madrid to Moscow. By way of Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus and Russia.



  • So if Marco Polo had been a Sioux and started off in South Dakota, he might have made a huge voyage eastward and returned after discovering Pennsylvania.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @FrostCat said:

    I can drive a thousand miles in any direction (except, obviously East)

    If you go 1000 miles north of DC, you're deep in backwoods Quebec. You won't find anyone speaking anything very much there except the odd weirdo speaking French. (They're weird for being quite that far out in the boonies.) You'd get more conversation if you could talk in beaver or moose.

    A thousand miles due south is in the Bahamas. I think that's nicer than northern Quebec!

    The point I'm making is that the US is not quite as big as you make it out to be. It's still big (once you go west of the Mississippi, the distances become really quite substantial, especially east/west), but not quite as vast as you think. Similarly, Europe isn't exactly tiny either. Belgium isn't big, but neither is New Jersey. France is a similar scale to Texas. (Russia is huge, nearly twice the area of the USA. Just the European part of Russia is nearly half the area of the US, and the total land area of the European continent — a small continent as these things go — is rather more than that of the USA.)

    The point of all this is that saying that you can't run high speed trains because some parts of the USA are large is just making up excuses. Chicago to DC is just under 1000km, to NYC just a bit over. That's very similar to the distance from Madrid to Paris, which is practical for real HSR (where sustaining speeds on the order of 300km/h is possible).

    If you're going from NYC to California, fly if you're not a dumbass. But that's not a majority of inter-city travel in the US, even discounting longer commutes. 😄




  • @Weng said:

    40 hours of driving is Madrid to Moscow.

    40 hours of driving is also Perth to Sydney - you barely change latitude and can do the entire drive without going within 150miles of a town of greater than 35,000 population.
    I normally fly home to Perth - the train takes four days each way.
    I've driven a handful of times, but after the last trip when we broke down on a 117F day, 400miles from nearest 'major' town (Kalgoorlie, population 30k) a couple of days before Christmas, my wife isn't keen to do so again.



  • @da_Doctah said:

    So if Marco Polo had been a Sioux and started off in South Dakota, he might have made a huge voyage eastward and returned after discovering Pennsylvania.

    How did you get access to my alt. history screenplay!??!??!?



  • @dkf said:

    The point of all this is that saying that you can't run high speed trains because some parts of the USA are large is just making up excuses.

    We're not saying that. We're saying no one would fucking use them, because they're not better than other things we already have. So your'e an idiot if you try to build one (e.g., Barack Obama and Jerry Brown).



  • @boomzilla said:

    We're saying no one would fucking use them, because they're not better than other things we already have. So your'e an idiot if you try to build one (e.g., Barack Obama and Jerry Brown).

    So, how's the Northeast Corridor doing?



  • @tarunik said:

    So, how's the Northeast Corridor doing?

    Does any of that qualify for "high speed rail" of the sort @dkf mentioned? Is anyone actually building a new rail line there? Does even that area make money? This is the best thing I could find quickly:

    tl;dr DC/NY and NY/Boston makes enough to cover operating expenses, but not capital expenses.

    I just looked at a train ticket from DC to Princeton (a route that would be useful to me). Cheapest is $104. Looks like it takes about 90 minutes. It's not terrible for one person vs driving (though worse with current gas prices), especially if you have someone on the other end who's picking you up so you don't need a car once you get there. But insane to take my family. When you add in the time to get to the train station, a lot of the time advantage to driving goes away (~3 hour drive from my house on a weekend, longer if rush hour / holiday type traffic is involved).

    I pay the same tolls no matter how many people are in the car, and the marginal gas difference is relatively negligible.



  • @boomzilla said:

    We're not saying that. We're saying no one would fucking use them, because they're not better than other things we already have.

    I would. I think there's a very nice sweet spot for trains for trips longer than a couple hours and less than... maybe 16? Something like that. Compared to driving, trains let you actually do stuff while traveling rather than waste time. Compared to flying, it doesn't make you want to commit suicide. (OK, obviously I'm exaggerating. But trains are a far, far more pleasant experience. Comfortable seats, the ability to get up and roam, don't have to feel like you're being nickel-and-dimed for everything, can carry on more luggage, can carry on items that are too "dangerous" for planes, don't have to deal with TSA searches, don't have to carry earplugs to not go deaf from the constant engine roar, etc. Literally everything about the experience is more pleasant except for (1) the length of the journey and (2) the loss of the ability to marvel that you are flying through the air in a metal tube.)



  • @EvanED said:

    I would.

    Sure, a few people would. My point is that not enough would to make it economically viable.

    @EvanED said:

    But trains are a far, far more pleasant experience.

    All that stuff is there and drives up the price, because no one is competing with each other and the shit economics is hidden by public money. Get rid of public subsidies and all that crap goes away (so do most of the trains, for that matter).



  • @EvanED said:

    But trains are a far, far more pleasant experience. Comfortable seats, the ability to get up and roam, don't have to feel like you're being nickel-and-dimed for everything, can carry on more luggage, can carry on items that are too "dangerous" for planes, don't have to deal with TSA searches, don't have to carry earplugs to not go deaf from the constant engine roar, etc. Literally everything about the experience is more pleasant except for (1) the length of the journey and (2) the loss of the ability to marvel that you are flying through the air in a metal tube.)

    And (3) the fact that "two hours late" is considered on time, and "five hours late" is not considered remarkable.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @dkf said:

    If you go 1000 miles north of DC, you're deep in backwoods Quebec.

    I knew someone would come out of the woodwork and say this. Enjoy your flag.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @dkf said:

    The point I'm making is that the US is not quite as big as you make it out to be. It's still big (once you go west of the Mississippi, the distances become really quite substantial, especially east/west),

    ROFL. Just how much of the US (or Europe) have you driven? I have made multiple round trips from Florida to Texas, from Boston to Miami, from DC to Green Bay, and so on. I am well aware of how big the country is, having driven a pretty darn good portion of it.

    @dkf said:

    Russia is huge, nearly twice the area of the USA

    Yeah, and much of it is more or less empty.

    @dkf said:

    The point of all this is that saying that you can't run high speed trains because some parts of the USA are large is just making up excuses.

    Anyone who says that and isn't ignorant is just ignoring for the sake of discussion the other issues, which are substantial. Unless you want to sieze a very large amount of land, you can't build high-speed trains. The reason the Acela is only notionally high-speed is basically because they couldn't afford to buy all the land necessary to get the long straightaways and wide curves, as well as any buffer zones, in densely-populated areas. How expensive, do you think, would it be, to add portion of a new high-speed line that went through, say, downtown Berlin? Anywhere east of the Mississippi the land is probably already in use. You may blink at the idea of buying up a 100 or 200-foot strip of land (the exact width isn't necessary for the purpose of this discussion) that's 600 mi long, but I assure you the people who would have to build it will. There's also the issue of that pesky mountain range.


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