April 30, 2009


When I first heard the term ‘Caveat Emptor’ (Buyer Beware) in a business class – I thought ‘cool’ Latin, but having just purchased a second hand Jeep I understand its meaning, in plan English.

         Okay – the 1992 Jeep 4×4 Sport was a bargain. Advertised on ‘Craigslist’ saying it required a new alternator – after a test-drive the Jeep’s owner Daniel Holzman accepted my 12 hundred dollar offer. I returned late the next afternoon, paid his Dad (John) the cash and off I drove into the darkness.

         I got two miles up the road when without warning the radio died, all the lights in the dashboard went out and the engine started to ‘skip’-‘chug’ and ‘stumble’ (It ran great during a test drive the day before).

         Aware I wasn’t going to get far – I started to drive North, hoping to make it to the safer streets of Santa Monica where I could crash park my wounded vehicle. My journey ended 30 blocks later outside an industrial complex at the corner of Olympic and 20th Street.

What's in a name?

What’s in a name?

Immediately I called Daniel’s father John to explain what had happened. He said quote: ‘Oh .. no .. I can’t believe that. My son wouldn’t sell you a dud – let me speak to him. I don’t want you out of pocket on this .. I want to make this right!’

         In the darkness, I arranged a tow truck then telephoned Daniel Holzman who is working as a chef in New York. ‘Oh ..’ he said .. ‘my Dad did say the lights looked a little dim when you drove off!’ Daniel offered to take the car back – but I liked the car. Then came the statement of truth (Daniel) ‘I thought you would have at least made it home!’ We came to a verbal agreement to reimburse me for the

The Dints Show Character!

The Dints Show Character!

towing and taxi fare home.

         Carlo’s the tow truck driver arrived an hour later and we dropped the Jeep off at Pep Boys workshop. The repairs came to $500.

The next day I left a message on Daniel’s cell phone, telling him I was now on the road and gave a breakdown of the costs for towing and a taxi. He never called me back. So I telephoned John, his Dad. ‘Oh … I’m not taking money out of my pocket’, he said. ‘It’s an issue between you and Daniel’.

Feeling I had been ‘Somali Pirated’ after recounting down the phone line his commitments made two days before, I slipped into LA mode – ‘something along the lines of how was he going to sleep tonight with a crooked back!’

I didn’t pursue the issue after that. I could use the cash, but any funds reimbursed would have had been tainted – sometimes it’s best just to walk away.

But for what’s worth, I did learn a practical lesson no lecturer could ever teach – Buyer Beware or ‘Caveat Emptor’ for those who speak Latin.


April 4, 2009

I’ve just joined the Qantas Club.

Not that airport haven from the tourist masses – but the Qantas Club joined by thousands of travellers delayed, inconvenienced, angered, frustrated by last Monday’s (30th March, 2009) three hour strike by Qantas baggage handlers.

'Up Up And Away ..'

'Up Up And Away ..'

Sure .. you’re always sympathetic to workers trying to get a better deal or support their efforts to highlight a safety concern – that’s until it effects you!

En-route to Los Angeles via Auckland from Sydney, QF 43 was delayed more than four hours taking off. No Worries .. I thought till I arrived in New Zealand and was told, I’d missed the LA connection and my alternatives were to fly back to Australia (Melbourne) and get a direct flight to LA early the next morning (21 hours travelling) or wait in Auckland a day and get an Air New Zealand flight. I chose the 24-hour wait.

'Pick a bag .. any bag!'

'Pick a bag .. any bag!'

Cueing to catch a bus to the Qantas paid hotel for the night, a guy and a girl on their honeymoon stated the obvious – ‘Why did they let us get on the flight out of Sydney if they knew we’d miss the connection?’ .. I’d asked a male staff member in the real ‘Qantas International Lounge’ – ‘I’ve got a connection in Auckland’ – he replied ‘they’ll sort it out when you get there’. As I said to the newly weds – ‘.. it was as if they wanted to get rid of us, so we become some else’s problem.’

A decent person, knowing you’d be inconvenienced further would have given the option of staying put and travelling the next day. But is not about being decent, it’s business.  

I’ve never considered the cost and flow on effect of an airline strike until yesterday. Chatting to the Auckland bus driver he said he’d driven – ‘more than 200 delayed passengers to hotels tonight’ around Auckland. There must have been at least a thousand others in a similar predicament and Qantas was picking up the tab.  

Checking in to the hotel (a three star joint), the newly wed was told he’d have to pay for a wireless connection in his room .. (it’s now that he lost the plot!). The sympathetic overwhelmed staff explained Qantas was paying the accommodation, dinner and breakfast in the hotel restaurant and a three-minute phone call! I didn’t argue about the 10 dollars NZ charge for the internet connection, realizing the girl behind the check-in counter had probably never travelled outside Auckland, didn’t understand the meaning ‘world global financial crisis’, ‘strikes’, ‘bikies’ or ‘airline cost cuts’.

Why were the baggage handlers striking anyway? The Union claims it was over security concerns ‘air-side’ following the bashing death of a Hells Angeles motorcycle club member in the domestic terminal. A week on from the alleged murder, it was impossible to push a trolley through the terminal without running into the heals of a gun on the hip ‘protective services officer’. It seemed like public relations over kill – where were they last week?

Looking beyond the waving banners and chants of the striking baggage handlers – I’d suggest the strike was also a warning to new Qantas CEO Alan Joyce .. ‘Expect public-financial pain if you play around with workers conditions’.



Former Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon oversaw a period of attempted financial change at the airline, basing crews overseas, outsourcing engineering and the failed attempt to sell a majority stake in Qantas. With an eye to the future and looking at the bottom line .. it’s not difficult to see why the Jetstar ‘wiz-kid’ Alan Joyce is now running Qantas.

As an airline traveller one has to put that tray table up and realise ‘it’s no longer a case of sit back and relax .. it’s business not service’ .. and if you have to be somewhere on time, leave a day ahead of schedule.

P.S. – Mr Joyce, I didn’t use the three-minute phone call. Can I get a credit on that to use the next time I’m delayed?