Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Helpful Instructions for First Time Internationl Travelers

I haven't posted for a while, and looks like I am not going to be posting for some time in future either. However, recently I compiled a set of instructions for my parents, when they were traveling to US for the first time. You are welcome to customize and use it as per your requirements.

Dear Papa and Mammi Jee!

This email has a detailed explanation of things you might expect on your International Travel. Please keep a print out of this email with other documents I have mentioned below.

Some Indian phones work internationally. So, check out if your cell phone will work in US.

Please do read through this mail completely.

Documents to carry (You might know, but please look at it again)

1. Passport - It should have the visa within it.

2. Copy of your ticket. You have an e-ticket or an electronic ticket. You should have a printout of that.

3. Your second identification document - Voter ID Card or driving license. This is very important.

4. Packet of documents I sent you for the visa interview. Keep a copy in big bags and one in carry bag.

5. My contact information and other details. You should have my business cards.

Day of flight.

1. Wear relaxing clothes and have a thin jacket in your carry on baggage.

2. It would be safe to reach airport 2.5-3 hours before the flight.

Now the details about your travel

1. The way you must pack is that you should have a small hand bag like ladies purse for mammi jee, a small hand bag (like school bag) for papa jee and one carry bag for you (Which can have clothes of one day at least, toothbrush, paste, comb, and some vanity things). 

2. Pack everything else in other suitcases. These suitcases will be checked in. Checked in means that the airlines will take these bags from you at the departure airport and deliver at your destination airport.  Do not overload the bags please. They should each be less than 23 kgs. Two bags for each of you means you can have a total of four of these big bags. (These requirements have changed recently)

3. You will be carrying your passport and visa in your hand until you board the aircraft (boarding means sitting at the aircraft). They check it number of times.

4. When you get to Indira Gandhi International Terminal (IGI), you can take a cart for each of you, keep your bags in them and go inside the terminal. A guard will see your papers before letting you in the terminal.

5. Once you get inside the Indira Gandhi Terminal, they will security check your big bags.  After the security check at the entrance at IGI, you will proceed to the ticket counter of American Airlines with ticket and passport in hand. They will check in your big baggage, and give a boarding pass for each of you.  The boarding passes will have your seat number, flight number, boarding time, and boarding gate number.

6. Now you will have just your ladies purse/hand bag, and a carry bag with you.

7. You will have to move through security. There will be people guiding you at all the steps. Don't hesitate to ask if you are confused about anything. Once you move through the security and passport stamping, you will be in the international area.  Now you are out of India.  You will be able to do duty free shopping if you wish.

8. You can wait in the terminal in front of your gate (gate number is written on your boarding pass) for your aircraft boarding to start. They board by the seat numbers and they will call your seat number.

9. You will be sitting in your seat about 11:45 pm. You will be tired and you can take your sleeping pill or a glass of wine (however, they do not serve anything until the plane is in the air) to sleep.

10. Your flight food preference is set as Asian Vegetarian, do make sure to confirm that with air hostess before eating when they serve food.

11. In the aircraft, the toilets are very small and western style, you will have to use tissue paper there only.

12. Try to get as much sleep in the aircraft as you can before you reach Chicago. Make sure to walk around couple of times as well.

13. You might feel cold in the plane, you can ask for blanket from air hostess and wear your jacket.

14. Before you reach Chicago, you will get a Customs clearance form. Just declare that the worth of your things as $200. Also say that you are not carrying any agriculture product.

15. In Chicago, you will have to get through Immigration and they will stamp your passport, take your fingerprints and picture. Just tell them what all they ask.  They are generally very helpful. You can ask them if you have any question.

16. Once you are done at the immigration counter, you will have to collect your baggage that you had checked in at Delhi.  You will see signs of Baggage Claim and you can always ask Airport attendants "where to claim your Baggage". Your Baggage Claim section will show your Flight Number plus same people who were with you in the flight from Delhi.

17. You will pass through the international line and then you will go through the "American Airlines counter" again and check in your bags there. Ask airport attendants if you can't find it.

18. Once you check in with American Airlines you can go and wait in front of your "gate number" or roam around the airport. Remember in US, toilets are referred to as "Restrooms."  There are no waiting rooms at airports for cheap ticket holders like us.

19. You will have enough time to brush your teeth and eat something at the airport.

20. If you are hungry and want to eat anything, safest bet would be french fries, biscuits, cakes, coffee, veggie burger. Make sure to ask if it has no meat, no chicken, no fish, and no shrimp.

21. Chicago to San Jose should be pretty small and easy flight. Once you come out of the aircraft at San Jose you will have to go to baggage claim again as you did at Chicago airport. Keep your baggage in cart.

22.. You will have to come out of airport and you will find us. I will not miss you as you missed me in Delhi.

23. Call us if your phone works in Chicago or we will try to call you as well. In case, your phone do not work, you can request anybody to lend their cell phone and you can call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx, else do not worry about it.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Tips to buy a coconut with some common sense!

I was at an Indian store few minutes back.  An Indian couple there was buying a $1.00 coconut.  To ensure that the coconut is fresh and they do not waste their $1.00, they asked the shopkeeper to break the coconut, then saved the coconut water in two polythene bags, and broken coconut in another polythene bag. Three bags for a coconut which doesn't need one. In an effort to be very smart and save $1.00, they are now going to drink the coconut water that will be in a polythene bags for quite some time, waste some more bags and plastic, and remove the freshness of coconut.  Fresh food in plastic, especially the low grade plastic should be avoided.

Next time, if you want to buy coconut (the one you can use for making chutney), shake it, if you can hear water shaking, its fresh and good. 100%.  People break to check only dry coconuts, not the one with water.  I know environment is last thing on most minds, but a simple common sense and google can be used some times.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

People have become very systematic these days!

And when they go to buy grocery, they very carefully put each cucumber in a clear plastic bag, bananas in another such clear plastic bag, Jalapenos in clear plastic bag, each cantaloupe in the clear plastic bag, and then they pack all these individual plastic bags in the grocery bags. Since these bags get heavy they request another plastic bag from the bagger.  The shopping cart looks mostly like the ones below.  It's difficult to realize if they are buying grocery or grocery bags.

At home they throw the big grocery bags in trash, and put all these vegetables in refrigerator. Every time they take out some of these vegetables they throw the clear plastic bags in trash. Many times the vegetables packed in these bags do not get enough air and get bad in those plastic bags and they are thrown in the trash. 

Using huge amount of plastic is already normal in our life cycle these days, and we exacerbate the problem by adding more and more plastic. If you have no idea how these plastic bags are made, they are made up of "petroleum."

I do not understnad how is it convenient to pack bananas in plastic bag and then remove the pack once you reach home? How is ot convenient to pack cucumbers, Cantaloupes, and already packed vegetables and unpack them again? I can understand using those packs for Okra, beans, some leafy vegetables and that's it. You anyways have to (should) take out these things before you keep them in refrigerator. In Walmart today, I saw a lady packing a Bleach bottle in two plastic bags.  I do not understand how come people get so engrossed in a habit that they confuse convenience and habit and intermingle it with stupidity.

Some people say they recycle the plastic bags. Either they lie or they are among 1% of the people who recycle the plastic bags.  Some "supposedly" use them as trash bags. As per my experience, only few of the trash cans are of the size of the grocery bag. Also, these bags mostly get teared up by the time they reach home, making them useless as trash bags.  As per the small clear plastic bags are concerned, they are not worth for second use for anything.

There are some people who bring reusable grocery bags, however I have "never ever" seen any immigrant (Indian, Chinese, Mexican, other Asians, South American etc.) family using reusable grocery bags.  Being an Indian, I mostly go to Indian grocery store and I have never ever seen any other person using these kind of bags (I know some of my Indian friends use that though).  It is surprising to see Indians detached with environmental issues, because statistically they are the most educated ethnic groups in US. Perhaps, education and sanity doesn't always go together.

I would also like to see stores providing some incentives of using grocery bags. Safeway gives you a 3 cent incentive (ridiculous) every time you use your own bag. Trader Joe lets you enter into a weekly raffle.  I sometimes request discount from some stores for bringing grocery bags.  Sometimes they do give the discount.  In next few days I will write feedbacks to most stores to provide incentive for people who use reusable bags, and will post them here.

This post was mostly a rant although I didn't want it to be. In the next post I will try and post some feedback letters I post to the big grocery stores.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Circuit City and its Fraudulent "firedog" Service

So, I was looking for a reasonable laptop last month. I found the most reasonable laptop on Circuit City website. The website gave me the location of couple of stores where it was available for $479.99. I went to the store to buy it and they said they were out of it, but sent me to another store which had the laptops available. This other store was in Palo Alto, CA. That store had only two pieces of the laptop available that I was interested in, but both had the "firedog" service done on it. Circuit city charged me $39.99 for this firedog service. They supposedly had done following things on the laptop.

• Perform initial setup

• Run Microsoft updates

• Clean up icons & software

• Personalize desktop

• Set user-access controls

• 90-day guarantee

First of all they pretty much forced me into buying this service, as they never gave me an option to buy this laptop without the service. Now, in this service, they run through the intial setup of laptop and make a user named Owner. This is probably the easiest thing. Then they remove the only security feature of Vista i.e. User Access Control (UAC). Further they move all the desktop icons to a folder. They run Microsoft updates and then charge you $39.99 for it. They also supposedly 'optimize' the computer for faster boot up.

So I bought my laptop on Aug 22, and as soon as I switched it on in the store, it started downloading updates and the firedog people started giving me reasons that the computer was last updated on Aug 3, 2008 (I realized later that it was actually Mar 8). I said it doesn't matter, "if I am paying you $39.99, I need the service." They said you can sit here and we will do it for you, but will not refund the extra charge. I stopped arguing, bought the laptop and came home. Updated the computer with 23 updates. I was pissed and so I mailed Circuit City on their website as follows.



I bought a laptop on Aug 22, 2008 from Circuit city at E. Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA. The laptop model was ACER Aspire 5720-4126. The laptop was supposedly sold with firedog package that added $39.99 to the total cost of the laptop. I went to the store expecting a price of $479.99 as advertised on the web that day. There were only two laptops available on this model and, only on this store.

So, this firedog was forced onto me which I didn't want at first place itself. Further firedog service hadn't done things that it promised. It still had lots of freeware programs installed, the computer took about 2 minutes to boot, and the computer was not updated for more than 20 days.

In wake of these things, I think I was cheated for $39.99 by Circuit City, and I think it's done on a regular basis to all the customers. I would like to lodge a formal complaint in this regard and would appreciate a formal response from Circuit City. In next few days, I will post the picture of unwanted program from "uninstall program" and a video that shows the time taken by this laptop to boot on my blog, if my complaints are not taken seriously.


I got the following response:



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I did record a video that shows very normal time for Vista to shutdown and boot, and will upload it pretty soon. Well, couple of days later the computer told me that Vista Service Pack that was released in May was not installed either. Screenshot for update history is below.

Screenshot for Vista SP1 update is below.

I called the store, and the manager and the computer guy said either I can return my laptop, or take it to the store and they will update it for me. Frustrated, I called Circuit City at 1-800-THE-CITY, and nobody ever picked up the phone there. I finally called American Express to cancel the extra $39.99 that I paid to circuit city and now Amex will dispute that with Circuit City directly.

It is frustating to see how big stores like these dupe the customers for small things on regular basis. I am not sure if BBB (Better Business Bureau), does care about fraud of these small things.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Everything's Cool - Trailer

Saw this movie yesterday. It's a pretty good presentation of controversies surrounding Global Warming (unfortunately this has become politically uncorrect word today).

It has a good historical background of this issue which will be helpful for the people who hate Global Warming issue just because it was raised by Al Gore, a political leader.