How Bangkokians Preserve Their Fish

While exploring the areas nearby my apartment, I came across some ladies selling dried fish on the side of the street.

There’s not much room to do much of anything in Bangkok, so people make do with whatever space they can find. As you can see in the video, the fish is being dried right next to the road.

I personally wouldn’t buy this fish, but I don’t doubt that the fish I’ve already eaten has been dried in a similar manner somewhere else on another street in this city.

Go INSIDE a Streetside Bangkok Restaurant!

Bangkok has almost as many food carts and restaurants as it does people. Everywhere you go there’s someone selling some type of food or drink you can shove in your face.

Yesterday Nikki and I met up with P’Bam, Nikki’s sister and we went to a restaurant on the other side of the river.

Here’s the place and explainer of some common themes you’ll see in these types of  Bangkok eateries.

UPDATED: How Delta Airlines’ AMEX LIES Cost Me $500 in Baggage Fees

Delta Skymiles AMEX is NOT for International Travlers

For the past couple months, I’ve been telling EVERYONE  about how awesome it is to have the Delta Skymiles American Express card. That is coming to an end.

While I am not cancelling the card right away, I am pissed with Delta for LIEING to me about the benefits of this card, and screwing me and Nikki out of $500 at the airport.

Delta is pushing this card pretty hard in the Detroit area – promoting the fact that anyone on the same itinerary as the cardholder will be able to check one bag for free – up to 9 people on the itinerary.

Because Delta charges $25 per checked bag, just one roundtrip for Nikki and me alone would cost us $100 in checked bag fees. That makes the card a no-brainer – apart from all the other benefits AMEX provides.

It only makes sense that I would want to save on baggage checking fees if I was going to be making about 10 international flights in the next year. So I got the card.

BUT GUESS WHAT!!?!?!?!

Delta does NOT give free baggage checking to Delta Skymiles AMEX cardholders during international flights! Surprise!

Nowhere in their advertising does DELTA say that the card’s main promoted benefit applies ONLY to domestic flights.

YES, I CHECKED WITH DELTA

A couple days before I left for Bangkok, I called Delta to ask them about the free baggage checking on international flights.

They told me – BECAUSE I WAS A DELTA SKYMILES AMEX CARDHOLDER – that I and up to 9 people on my itinerary would get up to 3 bags checked free.

That’s a total of 6 bags checked FREE for my international flight. I asked the person on the phone a number of questions to make sure I had it right. I even called AMEX to confirm, but they couldn’t speak for Delta.

Anyway, I felt pretty good because Nikki and I more or less packed all of our belongings into 3 suitcases, while 4 other suitcases were filled with gifts we were bringing for her family and friends. That’s 7 suitcases in total.

I knew Delta charged $150 per extra checked bag under 50lbs and $200 per checked bag under 70lbs. So I figured, ok, I’m going to spend an extra $200 on a bag.

‘At least I’m saving lots on the other bags because of my Delta Skymiles AMEX,’ I thought.

SURPRISE! YOU OWE US MORE MONEY

When Nikki and I rolled up to the gate at Detroit Metro Airport, I showed them I was a Delta Skymiles AMEX holder.

“You know, the card you guys are promoting,” I said.

They looked at me with an puzzled look, then told me I would be charged for the 3 extra bags.

3 EXTRA BAGS?!?!

Yes, they explained. Delta automatically offers 2 free checked bags for international travelers – depending on the length of the flight.

Ok, but I’m a Delta Skymiles AMEX holder. If you offer 2 FREE and my AMEX says I get one, that adds up to 3, which is what your person in customer service told me.

“Um, no,” 3 of them said. They looked at me like I had just said the most absurd thing and they were very condescending in their responses.

“So my Delta Skymiles Amex does nothing for me?” I asked.

“You’re correct. This only helps on domestic flights.”

I figured, ok, I need to go. I’m going to pay this extra $500 on these bags, which I wouldn’t have packed had I known it would cost me an extra $500 to bring, and then I’ll get on the phone with customer service and set the rude gate people straight.

SO I CALLED DELTA

I explained the situation to another customer service person at Delta after checking in. I told them how another rep told me I get 3 bags per person FREE with my card when flying from Detroit to Bangkok. I told them how the gate people disagreed. Then the rep told me they would check on it.

When she came back, she told me I was indeed in the wrong. This card only applies to domestic travel – because Delta already gives 2 bags free on international travel.

WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?

“Um, you don’t say this card only applies to only domestic travel any of your advertisements for the DELTA Skymiles Card,” I said.

‘Oh well,’ was her response. (paraphrased).

LET ME HELP YOU WITH MATH DELTA

Domestic Travel: = 0 Free Checked Bags + 1 Free Checked Bag from AMEX = 1 FREE checked bag

Intl Travel = 2 Free Checked Bags + 1 FREE Checked Bag from AMEX = 3 FREE checked bags.

YOU DON’T GET TO LIE TO PEOPLE. THAT’S NOT HOW ADVERTISING WORKS. I KNOW. BECAUSE ADVERTISING IS MY BUSINESS.

I wrote Delta a couple days ago. I haven’t heard anything yet.

Saving on checked bags is part of the reason I booked my flights to Bangkok, Tokyo, Taipei and back to Bangkok with Delta.

After finding out that this Delta AMEX does NOT help international travelers, I’ll be on the lookout for other solutions for my trips to Buenos Aires, Prague and Berlin next year.

****************************************************
Update: Here’s Delta’s response to my customer complaint. They tell me that this card does not aid international travelers, so they can’t refund my baggage fees. But they did send over two travel vouchers for $100 each as compensation. So that means I only lost $100 in extra baggage fees when you take into account the two bags that should have had free checkin cost me $300. Still, that means I have to use those vouchers with Delta and don’t get an actual refund. It’s a start I suppose.

I responded with some thanks for the vouchers and reiterated that the card policy should be updated to help international travelers or the advertising should be changed to show that the baggage check benefit is not applied to international travel. Otherwise, this card and its advertising remain misleading.

Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the service provided while traveling with us.  On behalf of everyone at Delta Air Lines, I  sincerely apologize for the unsatisfactory customer service you encountered

Our goal is to offer accurate information and assistance to our passengers at all times.  I am sorry you did not receive the service you expected and should have received.  Feedback like yours will help us  improve our overall customer service experience.

Further, I would like to inform you that AX cardmembers with a Gold, Platinum, or Reserve Delta SkyMiles credit card from AX are eligible for the benefit.  Delta SkyMiles “Classic” and “Options” cards are not eligible for this benefit. To receive the waiver, the cardholder must have received their eligible  card from AX by the date of travel. Companions/family members (up to 8 additional passengers in the same PNR as the primary card holder) are eligible to receive the waiver. Supplementary cardholders on the same AX account are not eligible to  receive the waiver. The waiver applies on flight segments which originate on a Delta or  Delta Connection carrier.  Delta marketed codeshare flights are not  eligible for the waiver even if the reservation has been confirmed  through Delta. Bags that are oversized or overweight are not eligible for the fee  waiver and may be assessed the applicable charges. Any of Delta’s check-in options can be used as long as the AX  cardholders SkyMiles number is in the reservation.

The above mentioned policy is applicable for domestic travel.  Passengers traveling International are allowed to check in two bags for  free of cost.  Thus, you and your wife are allowed to check in total of  four bags free of cost.  Passengers will be charged excess baggage fee  if they exceed the free baggage allotment or size/weight restrictions  for each bag.  Keep in mind that piece, size, and weight excess baggage  charges may be charged independently.  For example, if your allotment is one bag and you have two checked bags with one of them oversized, both  an excess piece and excess size charge will apply.  Thus, you were correctly charged the baggage fee.  Respectfully, I must decline your request to refund the excess baggage fee.  I realize this is a disappointment and trust you will understand our position.

However, as a gesture of apology for the poor customer service, I have issued an Electronic Transportation Credit Voucher (eTCV) in the amount of $100.00 for each passenger.  Please note the voucher number and associated Terms and Conditions will be arriving in a separate email.  I encourage you to add Delta Air Lines to your receiver list so the voucher document is not misdirected to your spam folder.  Please keep the voucher number and the Terms and Conditions since the number is required for redemption.  It is also important to remind you that there is no Direct Ticketing fee for reservations confirmed online at delta.com.

Mr. Smith, again, I apologize for the disappointing experience you and your companion had on your recent trip.  As our valued SkyMiles member, your support is important to us.  We assure you we will make every effort to serve you well in the future.

How to KEEP the Most Money When Living & Traveling Abroad

img by marcopapale.com

If there’s one thing I hate about dealing with banks, it’s paying fees for working with MY MONEY.

This really comes into play during international travel.

Why? Because banks know you’re vulnerable and will shell out extra cash for fees because you want the security of knowing your U.S. bank will give you access to your money when you need it – at least, you hope!

I wasn’t going to let that happen with Nikki and I going global for the next year and a half.

So here’s how I set up our financial infrastructure to make sure we kept most of our money.

Note: Instead of boring you with details on how I did my research, I’m just going to give you the straight dope on my findings. It will save us both time!

1) Get a Charles Schwab Bank Account

This is easy and FREE! Just visit the checking account page and on the right side you’ll see the join link.

Here’s your benefits:

  • 0% International Transaction Fees
  • NO ATM fees ANYWHERE!!! And Schwab will reimburse you for any fees you incur anywhere in the world!
  • 0.50% Interest on your FDIC-insured checking account – tell me where else you can get interest on your checking with no minimum balance required.
  • oh yeah, no minimum balance required.
  • No monthly surcharges

For someone like me, that basically ads up to a fee-FREE international banking system.

Is it too good to be true? I asked the Schwab rep the same thing, and he told me Schwab has very little overhead (0-few brick & mortar branches) and they make most of their fee money on brokerage accounts.

NOTE: You will have to open a brokerage account, but don’t worry, you never have to use it – and you don’t even have to keep money in it.

SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

It means I can essentially take money out at ANY ATM worldwide and incur NO fees on taking out MY MONEY!!!! And if some ATM charges me a fee, which many will, Schwab will reimburse the fee – just make sure you save the receipt in case. Then at the end of the month you’ll get all of those fees back.

That also means I don’t have to deal with exchange counters with crappy rates or traveling with a bunch of cash on me at all times. Sounds like a double rainbow doesn’t it?

So go ahead and get your account already.

Edit: HUGE Props to JCinATX for pointing Schwab out to me.

2. Get a Capital One Credit Card

This is the ONLY card I found with the right benefits and NO foreign transaction fees.

Here’s what that means: with most credit cards charge you a 1-3% fee on every purchase for using their services abroad. It’s likely even higher for a cash advance.

This doesn’t happen when you use your credit cards in the U.S.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot, let me paint a picture for you: You want to buy a $10 meal with your CitiBank card which has a 3% foreign transaction fee. Your meal is now $10.30 without tax, solely because you’re using a Citibank card. But now it’s going to go up again – many foreign merchants also charge a credit card convenience fee – it’s that ~3% fee that most U.S. merchants eat so they can accept credit cards. Foreign merchants like to push that back on to traveling consumers. This could increase the cost of your meal to $10.60.

Doesn’t sound like a lot? Think about traveling abroad for at least a week. You’re likely to spend about $1,000-$3,000. That’s an extra $90 you’re spending in foreign transaction fees alone – not including the foreign merchant fees.

So again, get the Capital One card with NO foreign transaction fees.

You’ll be presented with options for miles or cash-back. I went with 1% cash-back because the miles are independent of miles you will get flying with specific airlines.

I asked them if I got the miles card, could I combine the miles with my Delta Skymiles. They said no. Since I’ve already racked up about 60K+ miles with Delta, going for 1% cash-back on all purchases sounds like a better deal to me.

If you want to stick with your own credit cards, that’s fine, just call up your bank and ask them about the foreign transaction fee. Then add up how much you’ll likely incur in fees. If that’s not an issue for you, then skip this card. For me, I can’t stand handing money over to banks when I don’t need to. So Capital One makes sense for us.

NOTE: If you’re going to apply. Get someone on the phone or on website chat to help answer your questions. It will be worth it.

3) (dis)HONORABLE MENTION: Delta Skymiles AMEX

If you’re traveling abroad, you probably are going to fly. If you’re flying Delta, it makes a lot of sense to pick up this Delta Skymiles American Express card because:

  • One FREE checked bag per person – up to 9 people – on the same itinerary as a cardholder. on a roundtrip flight, that can save each person $50!
  • Earn a Skymile for every dollar you spend and double that for every dollar you spend with Delta.
  • AMEX Global Support. This seriously is the best support of any credit card. They will help you get medical assistance, travel assistance, lost luggage, you name it.
  • Use the card to rent a car and it provides insurance for you so you don’t have to buy that crappy $82 insurance plan from the rental company.
  • Automatic travel accident coverage
  • Lots of other benefits too, but these are the best for me.

Bonus Pro Tip: If you do any online shopping, find your vendor through the Delta Skymiles Shop first! Delta has deals with different vendors that will give you Skymiles for shopping with them.

Nikki and I just bought a new camera from B&H Photo, which is a Delta partner. By using the Skymiles shop to connect with B&H, we were able to get a skymile for each dollar we spent. We also bought with the Delta AMEX card, so we got a mile there too. So that was double miles for making the same purchase we would already have made.

So why is the Delta AMEX getting a DISHONERABLE mention?

Because of some FALSE advertising and crappy customer service on Delta’s end.

Here’s the jist:

Delta promised Nikki and me that we could check 3 bags each for free on our trip to Thailand.

When we got to the gate, they told us we only got 2 bags checked free and the Delta AMEX card wouldn’t help us with anything. Because of that, we had to pay $150 extra PER BAG under 50 lbs. We ended up paying $500 in extra baggage fees. That was unexpected and you can read the whole story once I get the post up.

4) Get a PayPal Account

You need this! It’s an easy way to transfer money online between your bank accounts without incurring any transfer fees. You won’t always need it, but it will help sometimes.

That’s it! There was a bunch of research and trial&error that went into this. If you have questions, just ask.

BTW, DO NOT get a HSBC account. It’s NOT the world’s bank, like it claims. Schwab is!

imgs by marcopapale.com

I’m International for the Next Year at Least!

Photo by My Mom!Last Wednesday, Nikki and I left for Bangkok, Thailand – our first stop in our 1st year abroad.

We’ve worked really  hard with Sam and Amy for the past few years to give ourselves the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world. It’s finally happening!

Here’s a quick itinerary of the places we’ll be and when:

  • Sept 22 – Oct 22: Bangkok
  • Oct 22 – Nov 1: Tokyo (for Adtech conference)
  • Nov 1 – Nov 8: Taipei (Hanging with Tony Tsai)
  • Nov 8 – Feb 1: Bangkok
  • Dec 5 – our wedding outside Bangkok (Rose Garden)
  • ~Feb 1 – May 1: Buenos Aires with Charlie Visconti
  • ~May 1 – Aug 1: Prague
  • ~Aug 1 – Sept 15: Michigan
  • ~Sept 15 – Jan 2012: Berlin

You can still connect with Nikki and me the same way through email, Facebook, Twitter, AIM.

Nikki and I turned off our U.S. phone numbers and have them redirecting to our Google Voice numbers. I should have more details on that for everyone soon.

Can’t wait to see all of you who are flying out for our Wedding in December. We’re honored you can make the trip. We’ll have a great week in Krabi, Thailand after the ceremony.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT HERE:

I’ll be working on getting videos and things up regularly so you guys can see what I’m up to.

I’ll also do my best to resurrect Big Food Little Kitchen and highlight Thai food.

See you all on the internets!

Can I Succeed as an Entrepreneur? It’s Time to Find Out

I’m now a member of the self-employed. My last day at MLive.com is Friday, June 5, 2009.

My video explainer (turn your volume all the way up – sorry about that)

WHERE I’M GOING

Since my Nikki moved to Michigan, we’ve been working on building websites for small and medium-sized businesses. We joined up with Sam that summer to form Optimal Webworks. That was 2007. Amy Watson jumped in during 2008. And then there were four.

Over the last two years, we’ve all put in many long nights and weekends to help us get to where we are.

And it wasn’t easy.

But we are on the cusp now of realizing our goal – to own and operate our own internet-based company.

I am the first to transition to a full-time position with OW. Hopefully, I won’t be the last.

WHAT I WILL BE DOING

Internet marketing! It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work.

Everything from SEO to PPC to SEM to every other three-letter online acronym you can think of. That’s what I’ll be doing and have been doing for some time now.

Most people will call what I do affiliate marketing. I prefer to call it internet entrepreneuring.

BIG THANKS TO EVERYONE!

I really couldn’t have gotten here without the support of my family, friends and co-workers.

I’ve received an unbelievable amount of congrats and warm wishes, and it’s really helping make this transition easier.

The online experiments I’ve been given an opportunity to try during my four years since college have been incredibly valuable to my growth both personally and professionally. I can’t thank the people at MLive enough for believing in me and encouraging me to push things in all sorts of new directions.

I think we are both better for having such a great relationship.

I won’t get into the gushy stuff here. Many of you know how I feel. Thanks for everything.

SEE YOU ON THE INTERNETS