Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Uber Flat Fares – Worth It or a Waste?

Late last week, I received a promotional email from Uber.  Let me start by saying I haven’t taken a traditional taxi in a very long time – I almost exclusively take UberX when needing transit (that is when I’m not taking proper public transportation).  When traveling for work, I don’t rent cars, but take UberX constantly.

This promotional email was akin to an email I got last year, just with updated pricing.  The new promotion allows you to get fixed price Uber rides for 30 days.  You can snag an UberX for $4.49 per trip or UberPool for $2.49.  There is a one time activation fee of either $10 or $20 depending on how many rides you want.  For $10 you have a maximum of 20 rides at this price and for $20, you get 40 rides.  You can only have one promotion active at once, but with either option (20 or 40 rides) you cane use them for either UberX or UberPool.

Last time this promo came out, the math didn’t work out for me, but this time I pulled the trigger.  Unfortunately these rides won’t get you to or from the airport, but they do get you pretty much anywhere else in Chicago you’d want to go.  Last time the map didn’t go as far as my house, so it made absolutely no sense for me.

So, how does the math work out?  I chose 40 rides – so with the $20 activation fee, if I end up taking all 40 rides, I’ll have spent $199.60 ($20 + 40*$4.49) or on average $4.99 per ride.  That’s a killer deal.  But what happens if you don’t use all 40 of your rides?  Well for me that was an easy decision.  On Friday night I was going to dinner in Streeterville – which is easily a $15 UberX ride, then I’d be coming home, another $15.  I used my first two rides for this dinner – even if I don’t ever use Uber again in the next 30 days, I ended up saving about $1 by signing up for this service.

I’m confident this will be a decent financial decision for me.  My biggest concern is that I’ll end up taking UberX more than I do now – for example if I’m running late for the train, I’ll just slow down and Uber into the office for $5 (My train ticket costs about $3.50 right now).  This also means that I’ll be much less active (when taking the train I end up walking about 45 minutes each day, just transiting to/from the stations).

You can further reduce the cost by ensuring that you charge your fares to a points earning credit card (Chase Sapphire Reserve nets you 3 points per dollar spent), plus you can get Starwood Points for all Uber rides too.

Other cties ended up getting this deal as well.  I’ve heard from friends in Boston, LA and DC who’ve signed up for their respective promotions.  Did you get a notice of this promo in your city?  How does the math work out in your world? I’m sure this type of promo will continue to pop up, but the price will be adjusted until the team at Uber finds an equilibrium point, where they still make money and consumers are getting just enough value to keep the promo going — does that mean that the drivers are getting screwed?  Probably.

What do you say? Does this Uber deal make sense for your transit needs?

Cook Books – Use ’em or Lose ’em!

We have a ton of cook books. Cook books always play a major role as Christmas gifts too. Each year we probably add half a dozen to our library. In general, we look at the book immediately after unwrapping it.  Then we make these great plans on all the new things we’ll make, then fail to execute.  When we have a dinner party or a free weekend, we’ll pull a cook book and find something new.  The book goes right back to the shelf afterwards, not to be explored again until another special occasion..

Cook Book Shelves

Our cook book shelves are overflowing

Cook book shelves

So many cook books and so little time.

I decided that I’d be meat free in January (also chose to be booze free). Needing to expand my meatless repertoire. I pulled A Year in a Vegetarian’s Kitchen – grabbed some post it notes and went to marking interesting recipes. About a dozen of these recipes really spoke to us and since they were vegetarian it fit my nutritional changes for the month.

We loved the recipes we made throughout the month. We tried so many great things in January, we decided to pick another cook book for February and will try this experiment again. While I’m not going to be meatless in February, I do plan to remain as mindful about my food as I was in January. It might be a bit tougher considering we chose Tommy Bahamas Flavors of the Southern Coast as our February book. We found another dozen or so recipes, but these recipes all require more work than our January selections, so adding these to our week night rotation will be tough.

It felt great trying so many new recipes in January and I can’t wait to work our way through this new book. How often do you use your cook books?  Seriously, how often?  Do you dig getting a new cook book as much as I do?  I love to give cook books just as much – it often means that someone will be thanking me for the gift by making something amazing out of their new book too.  Now that’s a win-win!

Aloft New Orleans Downtown

I love New Orleans. It is one of those cities that I could visit once a quarter just to eat and cocktail (even after this rough visit to the city). The French Quarter alone has enough restaurants to keep you busy for a year, and that’s just one neighborhood. Add in the Warehouse and Garden Districts and Uptown and you’ve got hundreds of great options.

This trip to New Orleans was for work. Early February was a perfect time to visit. It was sunny and 17C (62F) each day. The airfare was less than $150 and the hotels were cheap. I ended up staying at the relatively new Aloft which is situated on Barrone between Poydras and Canal. This hotel opened in March 2015, and is in a perfect location. You can walk to the high rises if you are on business and to the French Quarter and Warehouse Districts if on vacation (or hungry) or hop on the streetcar and head off to the Garden District.

The hotel lobby, bar, pantry and game area are on the first floor while the guest rooms are on floors 11-18.  This hotel is unique in that there are traditional rooms around the exterior of the building (with windows) and interior rooms – I didn’t stay in an interior room, so I don’t know if there was a light well or not, but I do know the interior room was only $3 cheaper. I mentioned hotels were cheap on this trip – I stayed at the Aloft for $81/night. I’ve had cheaper Alofts, but that was in Phoenix in July (and they had strippers/prostitutes in the lobby).

I arrived at the Aloft New Orleans Downtown around 22h10 on Tuesday night and found several hotel staffers hanging out lounging in the check in desk. Once I entered they scattered (kind of like the her a ton in Myrtle Beach). The gentlemen behind the desk was very welcoming and while not the most efficient (we had a lot of time while he clicked around with the mouse – not exactly sure what he was doing).

I was given a king room (with windows) on the 16th floor. One of the things I like about the Aloft brand is that everything is exactly the same. There is no way to mistake what brand you are staying in – interestingly enough, this is also the thing I hate about the Aloft. I like a little variety from time to time.  This room was a little different in layout though. You walked and were face to face with the closet and to your right was the sleeping area and to your left the bathroom.

The sleeping area had a king sized bed, a small desk (much smaller than many Aolfts I’ve stayed), a chair, a partially padded bench and a wall mounted TV.

Sleeping Area with a micro desk.

New Orleans inspired art above the bed.

Like all Aloft properties (at least that I’ve stayed) the sink was separated from the toilet and shower, which makes your morning routine easier if you are traveling with someone.  The water temperature and pressure were great my entire visit (morning and night showers were quite hot). I just loathe a lukewarm shower, don’t you? I am not sure if I hate that more than a hot shower that just drizzles out of the shower head.

The bathroom had limited counter space.

I hate when you enter a room and find the toilet gaping. It is such an unattractive welcome to the property. Another pet peeve of mine, a low flow toilet. This property had such a strong flush, you may end up losing a small child if you aren’t careful.

Welcoming wide open toilet. Gross.

A properly designed shower, with a high head yet not spraying the floors.

My three nights at the Aloft New Orleans Downtown were nice – nothing spectacular. Every interaction (except for the maid) was quick, welcoming and professional. People seemed to actually care and when offering recommendations their heart truly seemed into it.  I mention the interaction with the maid, which was limited, but frustrating. I was finished with meetings and working in my room around 17h00. I answered a knock on the door. The maid asked if I wanted a refresh in the room. I had opted for the Green  Choice where you earn extra points by not having your room made up each day, so I thought it was odd she was there. I said I’d just take a bottle of water, which she wouldn’t give me. She kept pushing the door open, then frustratingly pointing at the towels on the floor. I handed her a towel, and took a bottle of water from her cart, then pushed the door closed. I think it was mostly a language issue, but it was very strange.

I love New Orleans and if the Aloft is as cheap then as it is now, I’d definitely stay here again. The problem with Alofts though, they age very quickly – a combination of the quality of the materials used and the clientele, I suspect.

Have you stayed at the Aloft New Orleans Downtown before? How was the service? Where do you prefer to stay when visiting the Crescent City.