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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Flixbus Review

What a shitty company when it comes to customer service and providing resolution to problems.

I've trekked across several countries in Europe by car, train and bus.

Taking the bus is one of the cheapest methods of going from one country to another in Europe. If you can put up with sitting there for long periods of time. I have purchased and road on Flixbus buses three times in the past.

The positive side of most of Flixbus is it's cheap and it gets you where you need to go. It's warm inside the bus. Moderately spacious, not cramped. There's a slide up food tray. The bathroom is functional. The Wifi didn't work well. The power outlets works fine. The luggage seems managed fine, even on stops of boarding during long trips (I don't know how the bus driver managed all that).

There have been no problems in the past but this most recent booking was a small nightmare. The type of nightmare you get when you a certain type of food and forgot to brush your teeth before sleeping.

I booked the ticket in the United States a week ahead and the last several rides had no problems. On that day I was at the bus station waiting with everyone else. I have been at this station before. I am here 35 minutes ahead of the "arrive 15 minutes before departure" time. I spoke to a little guy wearing glasses who spoke little English (each big city Flixbus station has an far that I've been to) about my booking on the app and printed paper. He says "wait here". Done. I stroll about the area a few feet but not too far. I never left the station platform. So, it's half an hour later and I have been checking the front of each bus for a sign indicating for my trip to Hamburg. None. It's now departure time and I speak to that little guy wearing and he says wait. I just assume the bus is late. 15 minutes and I ask for a third time. He now says "he called, it go". Meaning the bus already left. This is bullshit. I am now upset and a little distraught. One, it is now an onset that I missed my trip to Hamburg. Two, will I get my money back? Three, I am stranded in the little German city I am currently in. It's cold and I did not make a booking for a night(s) stay here. I had booked a stay in Hamburg that night...Thereafter...Four, I was lucky enough to get a few nights booking, I paid for, in the same place I slept in the night before, lucky they accommodated me because in this cold, a night outside is death-rimental. Five, I did not get to go to Hamburg and it ruined all the places I meant to visit after; basically like a domino effect it screwed up my trip schedule and all the plans I paid for ahead of time.

What did I do after the little guy wearing glasses who spoke little English (as a Flixbus attendant) screwed up? I went to their little booth. Not all or any stations have them but this one did. It's like a little shed, like a little newspaper stand. I spoke to this German guy after waiting on a slow attending line. I was told first I had to re-book with a paid ticket, he can't reschedule another bus. He then said call customer service, he will not do it. Kicked me out of the booth, into the cold after waiting on the long line, nothing more. My phone can't call European numbers. Back in a warm place where I could use my laptop I sent them an email and 2 days later, no response. Can't get a refund via their automated rescheduling website because it is a -past booking- I cancel all my thereafter Hamburg trips and I get a voucher minus a dollar for the trips I paid for for my next booking with Flixbus.

I am livid.

I will never use Flixbus again. Even if I do not get my money back which is not a big deal. I'm going to try and issue a chargeback. I have never issued a chargeback before on anything, ever.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Papa John's Pizza just lost a customer

Not that it matters much to the profit margins or growth of their business (unless this becomes a wide spread and viral issue) because it's not about the (mediocre to bland tasting) pizza but the experience. Papa John's Pizza just lost me as a customer and in the future when a friend or family wants pizza or anyone remotely suggest Papa John's I will suggest anything else except Papa John's Pizza.

When I was younger, our go to commercial pizza place was Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut has a better crust in my opinion and tastier ingredients though Papa John's offers a better variety and their pizza's taste lighter. There are light taste differences so I use to be able to go for either or but if one was next to each other I would go for Pizza Hut.

Lately, in the past few years there have been a few Papa John's opening in my area, especially around where I work. So, co-workers and I would sometimes order from them. When you make purchases at Papa John's on your account with them you get points for free pizza for your next order. 15 to 25 points will get you a pie. So, my account racks those points up and so does my co-workers. I also get promotional points from marketing here and there. I've gotten a few free pizza pies from Papa John's this way. I have a few expired on me. I mean who keeps track of pizza points?

The other day Papa John's sent me a promotional offer with a few points. I login the account and I saw I had a free pie available. But I didn't want pizza then. Today, I had a couple teenagers hanging out in the house and what better way to keep them happy with some pizza! I remember those points and made my online order like before. So, we drive to the Papa John's 10-15 minutes away. I showed the cashier my order on phone. He checked the order and denied me my order. I asked why. What was the reason? He said there was some kind of fraud with my account and I had to make a purchase online to get the order. Correct, that made no sense. Basically, I did not get my order even speaking with the manager. Confused at the explanation and agitated. I sent a letter about my issue to Papa John's via Twitter, Facebook, their Customer Service Email and I called their Customer Service number. Being on hold for 10 minutes after my explanation while the representative I spoke with called the location inquiring why? The answer was still fraud, something wrong with my account. So, the representative escalated the issue to a team that will contact me in 24-48 hours with another rambling excuse.

What's the moral behind the story?

In the past I have come to realize a companies marketing team is not in good communication with the chain of operation. Oh, give customers points when they buy something so in the future they can come back as return costumers. Like a little game, it is a sale booster but it isn't always honored. A: It is somewhat false advertising.

B: I use to be a light fan of Papa John's (not so much for the food quality, just the branding) but not any more. The experience of the douche bag employees that handled my denied order in comparing with the advertisement just seriously lost them a good customer. I unsubscribed to their emails and in the future whenever I see anything related to Papa John's I will think of this experience.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Orange Is the New Black compared to Attica

It's been about 8 months since I've published a blog because of my environment. Last blog was an anticipation to post about my latest adventure to Europe. I did it. I spent a month traveling from New York to Boston then to Iceland, The Netherlands, Germany, The Czech Republic and then to Copenhagen before my flight home back to the New York City. I will likely write about my adventures on that another day.

There are a few topics that interest me. Traveling and culture are of course two subjects. Another two would be survival as a homeless person and the inner system of the prison culture. I'm going to talk about the latter subject.

This topic of the television show Orange Is the New Black comparison to Attica brought up by a friend raises a few interesting topics. My first thought was there must be some correlation between the two. She also mentioned in the subject the book to compare the television show by: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson.

Orange Is the New Black plots about a Caucasian lady (Piper Chapman played by the actor Taylor Schilling) going to prison from an average, what seems to be middle-class lifestyle. She does some money laundering for some drug dealers/smugglers and is sent to prison. She then has to adapt to prison life and there comes the rest of the cast of female inmates and what happens in Litchfield Prison. Ok, fine, the topics from scenes illustrate properly as the shows category: Comedy-Drama. At some points it will highlight on Lesbianism, violence, race, hierarchy, power struggle, mental health, survival and other prison life subjects BUT here's what makes the show Award Winning: it turns those very real subjects into a huge spin on satire. It turns those real subjects to the point of soap opera in prison for a show based on a non-fictional story line.

In season five one of the episodes during the riot a couple of prisoners started shouting Attica! But briefly after they did that they discussed why they were shouting it. They had no clue, they were just following along with others shouting it. They're not stupid, just a lack a knowledge I guess. I defend their ignorance for a few reasons. I too lacked that knowledge. I didn't know anything about Attica Correctional Facility, until I read the book Blood in the Water,  except it was a well known prison. I figured something big went down there but never sort to research it's history. And it happened 47-48 years ago. It being in history is one thing I learned, the date of it's occurrence. I also learned that what put it in history is the riot and why the riot occurred. I learned that it's still in operation. I had assumed it was closed down for such an old prison.

Does the show compare similarly with the book Blood in the Water or the Attica uprising? I can't compare it the television show with the actual memoirs the show is based on from Piper Kerman's Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison.

Yes, the television show Orange is the New Black has a light similarity to the book Blood in the Water.

-Piper Chapman is sent to prison for a somewhat considerable low-level non-heinous White-collar crime compared to some of the prisoners serving jail time in Attica before the Attica riots were also doing low-level non-heinous Blue-collar crimes. They were sent imprisoned for reasons other than their crime.

-Some of the actions and themes taken place in the show did also occur in Attica prison based on the comments from prisoners in the book such as abuse and sexual misconduct.

-The book and the show sort of give a little story line or description of prisoners and their life inside and out. I like that the show gives scenes relating to the prisoner's earlier life before they were imprisoned. The book gives a very light why prisoners are in jail.

-Racial and hierarchy between prisoners and guards did play a major factor in culture life in both prisons.

-In the show the riot began when one or more (with her associates) of the prisoners lead by prisoner Taystee started a sort of stampede. She was upset over a briefing by the warden defending a guard that killed her other prison friend. In the book, it was stated that the Attica riot began when one of the guards was struck in fear or sort of defense. A certain block of prisoners were being rerouted from one part of the jail to another when one gate had been locked the prisoners were trapped and for one reason or another fear of being trapped in a sort of tunnel caused a prisoner to assault a guard and that's when a single action from a circumstance caused a chain of chaos.

Warning: Spoiler Alert!

-In both themes, negotiations were not fruitful in the immediate future. In the show who knows what will happen if there is a season six. In real life or that is in the aftermath of the Attica riot there were questions on why the outcome with such as forceful raid actually necessary and lawsuits.

-In both there were negotiations (of course different demands). The show had a list of comfort and entertainment negotiation demands while the actual Attica prisoners of 1971 wanted amnesty and fairer treatment.

-In both story lines there was raid or that is a storming of the prison by force. The actual event is said to have had 49 prisoners/hostages lives lost. In season five of the show besides, Poussey dying in season four, two died.

-Both gave a look inside what prison life is like but probably not the whole story, one I would gladly never like to experience.

There's probably more and some details slightly off or not written but just an update on what's currently on my plate.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


I'm on day one (a pre-prep) before a minimum two week travel plan from New York City to Europe. Connection is Iceland to Amsterdam then by bus to Frankfurt (and another city in Germany) then hopefully and maybe Prague. I was going to head to Paris but I decided to leave that for another time. As per Paris has only three things to do and this trip does not favor these three things: sightseeing like museums (The Louvre Museum + Eiffel Tower + Etc...), French food (I never had Foie Gras, only similar, would like to try Foie Gras), Romance.

I can't wait to be back in Amsterdam to smoke some Indica and eat a fried piece of mush from a Feebo. And I can't wait to be back in Frankfurt for some German food. My last trip to Prague was short and I can't wait to be back to explore some more.

I actually came on to post about a topic relating to my anticipated trip. Just some differences in leaving the comfort of my home where I have almost everything for paying more for everything in seek of something different and adventure.

Ice is something I really enjoy. It makes my beverage cold. A cold beverage gives me an exuberance of joy, just like a sugary treat hits the brain to some adults or a child. That joy is seldom seen by Europeans I have read. Europeans are not big on ice. And when traveling I have to give up that joy just a little. I mean, yes, you can get ice in Europe. But there's nothing like the ease of reaching into my freezer and getting it for almost no cost.

That topic along with a few other minor differences such as paying for the restroom in fast food places/chains and paying for ketchup at most McDonald's in Europe are just some things to be appreciated in the comfort at home as an American. But who constantly wants the comfort of home?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ice Cream Review #1 - Friendly's S'mores versus Turkey Hill Double Dunker

I'm not normally an ice cream eater. But this summer has been full of ice cream. I been buying it practically every week this summer. So, with summer just ending and autumn in it's beginning by just three days, might as well put in my second ice cream review, well actual first, the original was for gelato. So many to share, from the newly tasted JC's Pie Pops to my top choice: Unilever's Magnum Infinity Chocolate Ice Cream Bar.

If I had to put two flavors from the mainstream commercial market from the frozen section to represent a highly favorable choice it would be the Friendly's S'mores and Turkey Hill Double Dunker as choices. I'm sure there are others. But for now I chose:

1) Friendly's S'mores is one of my favorite choices. It being a "Limited Edition" flavor, heck, why not give it a go because being limited edition I might not get to try it again. When you think S'mores you think of camp fire sandwiches of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. I think I done that in an actual camp once and couple more times at a home backyard BBQ and over the stove. Does Friendly's S'mores ice cream live up to the name "Toasted marshmallow flavored ice cream with dark chocolate flavored flakes and a graham cracker swirl"? Yes, it does to one main aspect and not on the other two ingredients. It does well as an ice cream overall, a swirl mix in of an ice cream with those ingredients.

I thought the marshmallow aspect was lacking. I've tasted other ice cream with marshmallow highlighted as a main ingredient and I got a marshmallow presence in that other ice cream but not the S'mores flavor from Friendly's.

The chocolate factor was disappointing. It contained tiny bits of chocolate chips, not very pleasing to a chocolate lover. Friendly's could have done a better job on the chocolate aspect to cater to the chocolate lover in this flavor.

What gave it the favorable choice? The brown sugar like taste for the graham cracker aspect. That is what gave it it's A+ factor. There was a lightly soft creamy, but not liquid-like, almost caramel smooth-like brown sugar-graham cracker in a light crunch that gave it a "oh yeah, sweet" Japanese term: Unami in an American style campfire sweetness in the ice cream.

2) Take that last paragraph's light crunch factor, triple the crunch factor and make it chocolate instead, no make it cocoa flavor like an Oreo cookie. Yeah, the kind you might get from a chocolate crumb cake made of Oreo cookie crumbs. Add cookie dough in parts to the ice cream and tiny chunks of chocolate and you have Turkey Hills Double Dunker. When I read "Double Dunker" I think of dunking something in my cup of coffee: dunk two things?, dunk something twice? A donut? A cookie? No. The description: "Mocha Ice Cream swirled with chewy cookie dough and crunchy chocolate cookie swirl". Well, damn, someone slap me twice.

Only problem is that the entire batch in the container of ice cream is not fully of the brown sugar-graham cracker sweet crunch or the Oreo cocoa-like crumbs. These little chunks of goodness all mixed in with the regular tasting ice cream.

You gotta randomly be patient to hit those sweet pockets of goodness, sort of like finding the red or pink Starburst in the pack.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sunflower Seed Addiction

I remember when I was younger someone in my family grew a single stalk of sunflower in my yard and eventually when it bloomed seeds, I tasted the rawness of it. Not so great without it being roasted, salted and commercialized.

A few years ago I got addicted to the leading David brand Jalapeno Hot flavored ones. I ordered a 12 pack online had them delivered and started giving packs out to my co-workers and they got addicted to them also. But it's been a few years since that epidemic has calmed itself.

Recently, I was just browsing my local Rite Aid drugstore and saw packs of the David brand sunflower seeds. Since they were on sale for just one dollar (normally Rite Aid without a discount has them for a bit over two dollars) I decided to buy a few packs. My choices of only two to select from are Original or Ranch. I chose all Ranch flavored.

And that begins the tale of me snacking on a variety of different sunflower seeds everyday now for the entire month of August.

I'm not alone! One day I'm snacking away and a neighbor tells me she has been doing the same. So, the next day she gives me a pack of the ones she's been snacking on. Wow! The brand she gives me is totally better off based on the first few samples I ate. I've always known David because it's the most popular brand around in the United States. I mean I've seen other smaller brands but the David brand has always been the to go to sunflower seeds.

In the photo below, in the middle are the David brand sunflower seeds (do a Google search and you can find what the packaging looks like) and on the right are the ones she gave me. The seeds she gave me in terms of shell size are almost double the size of the David brand. The difference in taste of the shell since both are roasted is the David brand is Ranch flavored with it's natural and artificial ingredients consisting of: the Trans Fat Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Buttermilk, Corn Syrup Solids, Spices, Whey, Yeast Extract (MSG replacement), amongst other ingredients, mmmmm Ranch; I guess I could have chosen Original flavor and some of these bad ingredients won't be in there? I don't know, I didn't look at the ingredients in Original.

The package for the brand she gives me is photoed below and says Mongolian Sunflower Seeds. Each pack cost about four dollars for a 408g bag. Everything else is in Chinese. The ingredients, labeling, details about the company are 99% in Chinese. I can't tell you the ingredients. 'In a nut shell' :] to compare the taste of the outer shell: David taste like Ranch flavor & salt since I chose that over Original. The Mongolian Sunflower seeds comes in two flavors: Caramel and Five Fragrances. The Mongolian brand seems to be also roasted, sweet instead of salty, has spices including what I can detect as a hint of Star Anise. Both outer shell have in their own respect a good flavored shell. Both have a good crack when split open.

Inside the kernel: The Mongolian brand is a bit bigger just like the shell compared to the David brand. The David brand is less roasted so you get a more of a whole body kernel and a softer chew but I'm not tasting much of a sunflower flavor, just a neutral taste. While the Mongolian brand has a crisper kernel, it loses it's whole body kernel sometimes on varying seeds being eaten because I guess the extra toast factor takes away that soft chew. And the sweetness on the shell seems to have infused inward to the kernel. The flavoring overshadows the natural taste of sunflower. I can't detect much sunflower flavor in the Mongolian brand.

That's it, not much except I had the pleasure of enjoying experiencing differences in sunflower seeds. And wondering, as in all grown plants, does one brand producer allow the plant to just grow longer?, use better fertilizer?, does the region they are grown in make a difference?, are there different genes?, is one brand organic without the organic label? The flavor chosen definitely impacts the ingredients in what you consume.

In the first image above, the sunflowers all the way to the left is a product of Taiwan and come from a packaging shown in the photo below. The cost is two dollars for a 7.4oz bag. The shell is longer than the David brand just like the Mongolian brand. It's shell a tad smaller than the Mongolian brand and lighter. The Mongolian brand is the darkest. I guess it's in the process in adding flavor to the raw product. The Taiwanese sunflower seeds include salt (even though it's five times less salty than the David brand), Milk Flavor, Sweetener (Liquorice Extract), MSG and Anise, that's all. The taste of the shell is bland (lightly salted), cracks open a bit more natural and the inside has a more natural sunflower taste. It's kernel is crisp but not as crisp as the Mongolian and has a whole body but not as full as the David brand. The Taiwanese brand is the second most natural tasting sunflower seed.

And last but not least and without a photo I personally took to show for it (because I ate them all before I could take a photo of them) is a brand I bought from Whole Foods. Their 365 Everyday Value brand. It is the best value for the money at two dollars for a 12oz bag. It is the most natural one of them all. And the smallest shelled of then all. The shell is a natural lightly salted flavor. And the kernel is the smallest of them all. Just like the David brand, it's a full but smaller bodied kernel with a soft chew. The 365 Everyday Value brand has the most natural sunflower kernel taste of them all. It's ingredient is simple: Sunflower Seeds (Dry Roasted), Salt. The shell is a light grey color shell sort of dusted.

According to a Google search and The Linus Pauling Institute:

"Sunflower seeds provide a rich source of vitamins E and B-1, as well as copper. Adding nuts and seeds to your diet benefits your health. Individuals who consume these foods on a regular basis enjoy a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes, according to the Linus Pauling Institute."

And more health benefits such as Anti-Inflammatory, Cardiovascular Benefits and "...a good source of magnesium" can be found at one of my favorite vegetable and fruit benefits website: the world's healthiest foods - Sunflower seeds.

I will most definitely be sourcing other brands.
I'm curious, are there any other sunflower addicts out there?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Talenti Tiramisu Gelato Review

I saw this brand of gelato on the shelves and thought nothing of it. I noticed it looked nice and assumed it be just another high end expensive ice cream but it is gelato. Then two of my female friends raved about it. And when I asked a third female friend she said yes she had tried it and said it was good but nothing too grand. So, it's summer and I am buying ice cream every week. There's so many flavors to choose from Talenti; I could barely decide on my decision for one.

In addition to my female friends positive enjoyment for Talenti I also looked up a couple reviews on the brand. The first flavor I read about was the Sea Salt Caramel. Every review or comment said it was good so I was going to grab Sea Salt Caramel until I saw Double Chocolate and Belgium Milk Chocolate. I was going to grab one of the mentioned but then I saw Tiramisu. That's my pick and will be the first flavor of Talenti I tasted.

Talenti is not a major brand but it has it's small fan base. I like it for it's design. A small, slightly hardened plastic one pint container with a twist close and open lid. Enough of design, I didn't buy the gelato for it's design but like it, yes.

Remove the clear wrap off the outer cap and twist open the lid stands the top layer of the gelato, like an ice rink. I can see a light swirl on top just like from the outside.

I highly enjoy Tiramisu and Chocolate and Coffee. The reason I chose this flavor was because it trumps Double Chocolate as something special because Double Chocolate is in everything. As a cake, I really like Tiramisu. I had it only a few times but each time it was great.

With a big table spoon I dig in and I get no wow factor. It's smooth but not very creamy or milky as the vanilla Breyers in my fridge or even less so than the Friendly's I have in the fridge. Does it have a Tiramisu taste? Not very much so, no. It has a strong taste of coffee with a very light milky/cheese taste that comes after the coffee flavor. They should have called this Talenti Coffee with hint of milk.cheese. That was my first impression and every other time after I tasted it. It's not too soft either. It's kind of dense. It is good gelato but nothing to rave about. I have had non-commercial gelato in Europe and in Manhattan and Talenti Tiramisu flavor is a bit of a let down in my experience. I should have chosen another flavor maybe unless the other flavors are like this. I wish I had read this review linked below before buying it.