KILLER CROWS IN ROME, LUCKY SHIRTS IN QUITO, When I was filming Raw Travel Season 1 in Quito, Ecuador, a raptor or some enormous avian creature excreted on me in mid-shoot. Cameras weren’t rolling, and we didn’t have the presence of mind to film a “When Travel Goes Wrong” segment at that point, sadly. I thought someone had thrown something on me, but alas, it was just a big old bird with digestion problems. In Latin America, it’s supposed to be a sign of good luck. Hmm, maybe, but the color was obscene (not the typical white), the amount voluminous, the smell was rank, and the look even worse.
I went to a public bathroom, washed off the shirt as best I could, and proceeded to film the rest of the day’s shoot shirtless, in a zipped up hoodie (Quito is high altitude, it’s chilly even during the day), until I could finally replace with a shirt bought off the street. Just in case the “luck” thing is true, I still have the original shirt that was splat upon to this day. I love that shirt and can’t find myself willing to part with it. Not sure of the replacement, probably not since it was likely something cheap and, most importantly, a bird hadn’t shat it upon.
I don’t normally promote a personal cause on the show’s page, but there are many people who’ve expressed a desire to help. So here we go – As many of you know, I have a pal struggling with covid for the past several weeks. His lungs have failed, and his only option is a double lung transplant, of which he’s been approved. Because I’ve struggled off and one with a relentless cyberstalker for over a decade, I wanted to keep his identity private, but that is no longer practical. Giovanni (Gio) was one of my first group of good friends when I moved to NYC, part of a period of my life I didn’t realize would be so important to me. I just knew I was having a blast getting to know a crew of funny, engaging, beautiful people at WXTV Univision 41, where I worked. We were drawn tightly together by the shared experience of working for a silly, silly company culture with a cast of characters running things that were hilarious when it wasn’t enraging—like my commission always getting shorted by some financial guy named “Ernie” in Jersey who couldn’t seem to add 2+2.
But don’t get it twisted. That experience was not bitter but sweet! It shaped my life in unimaginable ways. How could it not? I was from Tennessee and was living in the Big Apple, surrounded by people who were so different from me, yet so very, very much the same. Yes, it’s where my wanderlust first began to sprout.
Gio is a good guy. We’ve thus remained friends all these years. And as you can see, he has a lovely family, five kids, and a lovely wife, Jen, who is TRYING to hold it together while holding down a job. My heart is simply breaking for them, breaking in two, actually.
I’m a softie, but Gio is a hard worker. He had to be. He has five kids, all smart as whips, some receiving full scholarships to prestigious universities. They’re going to be givers… not takers. But they have to get to the other side of this misery with their father first. Right now, they are all holding down part-time jobs to help themselves, and alas, that is how covid entered Gio’s household. People who HAD to work in hospitality, in risky scenarios around other people who did not take things seriously. Many insurance companies have quietly discarded their covid deductible waiving policies. Health costs are going to run into the millions of dollars on this one. I like to give my money to places where it can do the most good, hence my fundraisers for Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Laos, etc., and other developing nations. But when it comes to bearing healthcare costs, the USA IS a developing nation. Work all your life, save your money, do the right thing, but don’t get sick, or it’s all gone in a flash. That’s the American dream? Sounds like a nightmare to me. Or a bait and switch.
But this isn’t about politics. Gio and I may or may not even see eye to eye in that regard. I don’t know to be honest, as we rarely discussed it. I’m hard-core. Most people aren’t. That’s okay. I am who I am, and they are who they are. Friendship has nothing to do with that, so long as someone is a good person. And Gio is a good person. If you know Gio, you know this. If you don’t, I hope you’ll take my word for it. And if you have the means, desire and motivation, I hope you’ll help me help his family through this difficult time—nothing too small. $5, $10, or $20 shows love and support, and if not able to give, that’s okay. Your continued prayers and support are and will continue to be treasured.
I love to travel because it jolts me out of that dull and unfulfilling zone and into a “wow” zone. And one reason I love giving back is how good it feels to take the focus off of me and onto someone else. Giving back is one of the most selfish things that one can do. What a lovely way to be selfish?
2020 has not been kind to travel, but it has opened the door to giving. Even in the world’s wealthiest nation (the US), people are suffering. But imagine the pain being felt in places suffering long before Covid 19 made it’s grand and morbid entrance.
As the 2020 holiday season limps along, it would be nice to shift away from a culture that discounts humans as consumers and allows us to humanize our neighbors once again.
On Raw Travel, we’ve profiled dozens of organizations doing good things in their little corner or chosen field of the world. I thought I’d list a few recent ones for you if you wanted to give to them in someone’s name as a gift this year. We’ve featured dozens, and there are so many more deserving than on this small list of five. But, since there are just five days of giving left before Christmas, I thought I’d limit the list to five. However, if you remember a particular “Give Back” that touched your heart and you’d like to give back in some way, please reach out on social media or email at RawTravel@aimtvgroup.com. We’ll try to hook you up with the best way to give.
This should probably go without saying, but obviously, any day is an excellent day to give back. Be it a birthday, holiday, or just a plain old vanilla Monday, giving can always make the routine day a joyous occasion. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
HIDDEN TOURS JAKARTA – As seen in Season 8’s Episode 801: Going Solo: Jakarta, Indonesia. Our pal Ronny of Jakarta Hidden Tours takes travelers to meet the majority of Jakarta, Indonesia’s citizens and gives travelers an idea of Jakarta’s poor communities’ lives. This not only opens the eyes of travelers but creates an income-generating opportunity for the locals. Ronny donates the proceeds from his tours to the poor families he works with within Jakarta. He helps arrange for travelers to assist in everything from providing health care to books for children to necessary hygiene supplies. I’ve been in touch with Ronny since Covid hit, and it’s been devastating as tourism in Jakarta has dried to a trickle. You can find out more about Ronny and his organization here at https://www.facebook.com/jakarta.tour or by sending a donation via PayPal or email to email@example.com .
2) FREEDOM HOUSE HAITI – You may recall our visit to Haiti and our work with Freedom House, an organization rescuing orphaned restaveks (child slaves) and raising them in a loving and caring environment. We’ve helped this organization raise money over the years. This year you can help by visiting their new fair-trade gift site at www.BeautifullyMadeFairTrade.com . Freedom House’s USA main office is based in East Tennessee. Tennessee residents can take advantage of free 24-hour front porch pickup in Maryville, TN. Others can get delivery in 2-3 days. Find out more about Freedom House Haiti at https://www.facebook.com/freedomhousehaiti or their website at http://www.freedomhousehaiti.com/
3) CASA GUATEMALA – We’ve been working with this great organization since our first season during a brutal eight-week journey through Central America. When we arrived by river boat to Casa Guatemala by the shores of the Rio Dulce River, it was all worth it. We fell in love with the mission of Casa Guatemala. For decades now, they’ve been educating and caring for orphaned children in Guatemala and helping the struggling families in this rural region of Guatemala. We’ve been blessed ever since that fateful trip. It’s where we met our current cameraman/editor Nate, who was a volunteer at Casa Guatemala at the time we first filmed. Little did we know when we interviewed Nate getting his perspective as a volunteer that he’d one day join our team and go on far-flung trips with us to various corners worldwide. Nate is still with us, and Heather and the team are still doing their good work despite the challenges of Covid and Weather-related issues in 2020. Love these guys. It would be a great place to donate in a loved one’s name as I know the money goes to great use. Here is the link, https://casaguatemala2020.funraise.org
4) HUMANOS 3D / Formerly “Enable Medellin” – You will see these guys featured in early 2021 on Raw Travel – Socially Conscious Colombia, but I first met them in 2019. Despite having lived in Colombia for almost a year, I had no idea it was one of the world’s most land mined countries. The resulting number of missing limbs from kids and adults alike is mind-boggling. Humanos 3D uses cutting-edge, open-sourced technology and a network of volunteers to provide the coolest and most useful prosthetics for FREE to those who need them. You’re going to love this organization when you see them, but if you don’t want to wait until 2021 to help, here is a link to their fundraiser for 2020. I’m sure they can use the help, and I’ve seen first hand the joy brought to the hearts of Colombians who’ve suffered too long from the after-effects of a brutal civil war. Find out more and donate here https://humanos3d.org/en/about-us/
5) RED CLOUD INDIAN SCHOOL IN PINE RIDGE SOUTH DAKOTA: One of my most fulfilling episodes was filmed in the United States at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota in the summer of 2016. Much has been documented about one of the poorest counties in the wealthiest country in the world. The gripping poverty, lack of housing, drug, alcohol, and sexual abuse have led to past epidemics of teen and pre-teen suicides on the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation. I was so happy we could show another side of that narrative.
We showcased an all too rare hopeful and optimistic vision of the reservation, which is happening thanks to countless volunteer organizations and the Oglala Lakota Sioux themselves. Red Cloud Indian School has been educating Native children on the reservation for decades. They’ve changed a lot over the years. Now the Lakota language and culture are cherished and taught. They have an excellent track record of sending students to major universities, many in the Ivy League. We raised money for the art program at Red Cloud Indian School when we sold Raw Travel, “Still here, still proud!” T-Shirts designed by a local art student on the reservation back in 2016. Education is the key to allowing proud folks like the Lakota Sioux People to pull themselves up out of the horrific cycle of poverty. Red Cloud Indian School is key to this success. Find out more and donate here. www.RedCloudSchool.org
Christmas 2020 means most of us will not be traveling, or perhaps even carrying on with our typical traditions. It’s Christmas 2020, and we have to accept the situation as it is, not as we’d like it to be.
In matters of public health, we do have some control. It requires us to act in a mature, thoughtful, empathetic, and unselfish manner, traits that are useful and can be honed with international travel.
When traveling, so often it “goes wrong,” and the situation changes beyond our control. We have two choices, throw a temper tantrum like a child and likely make the situation worse, or accept things as they are, control our response and let things flow. I’ve done both and the second approach is far more useful and dignified.
Travel is unpredictable, and indeed, that is part of the appeal, if not the main focus, of independent travel. Those who want everything to be controlled can try a group tour, but even then, things happen.
Some typical examples I’ve experienced personally: the bus in Honduras is eight hours late, and we’re out of local currency, and there are no working ATMs; the directions in Nicaragua aren’t clear because the streets lack signs and we are perpetually lost; we don’t speak the language and are having trouble communicating and must rely on a series of mimes and hand gestures in Slovakia, one tempting one being the middle finger after I’m ripped off yet again by a taxi driver in Bratislava; there’s a strike in Buenos Aries and the trains are not running; thus our planned day-trip out of the city must be postponed; our flight was canceled due to a mechanical issue with the plane, and now we have to spend another night in Accra Ghana rather than go home as planned after 36 hours of no sleep; the people with the Airbnb in Kyiv I booked are not picking up their phone, and I’m locked out in the cold in the middle of winter and no one around that can help… the list goes on and on and on.
When this happens during travel, it’s exceedingly frustrating… and predictable. Yes, after a while, I have learned to expect these things. While it doesn’t make enduring them more pleasant, I am reassured that, in the past, things turned out ok, if not better than I had initially planned. Let’s face it “travel gone wrong” creates the best stories when we’re a few days, months or years removed.
We hopefully learn to adjust and roll with the punches and use that experience when things really go wrong, as in 2020. Not to minimize the suffering of those who’ve lost their lives, livelihood, or loved ones. On the contrary, I respect and empathize greatly what they’ve been through. I recognize how fortunate I have been (so far – knock on wood). I TRY to greet each day with gratitude, not bitterness over what relatively small inconveniences this has caused me. I’m not always successful. Sometimes, more often than I care to admit, I succumb to hopelessness, despair and depression. But then, eventually, the lessons learned from traveling serve as a reminder to “buck up,” “grow up,” and “mask up,” understanding this is next to NOTHING compared to the misery faced by countless ancestors and countless beings on this planet right now.
Wearing a mask is a small ask compared to the relative good it does. Staying home for a few months can be a welcomed change of pace, if we know we’ll eventually be back out in the world again. And let’s face it, this experience has reminded many of us of our relative smallness and unimportance compared to the vast universe and the realization that time will march on, with or without the human race. Perhaps this will inspire a collective shift in how we measure success and our relationships with each other and our mother earth.
A friend of mine typically visits New York City this time of year. She was doing the smart thing and staying home this year, so I volunteered to send her some photos of the Christmas lights in New York City.
I realized that I had never taken in these sights on my own, in my own neighborhood. The reason? The crowds. After living in NYC for a while, I had become anti-crowd. I went to a Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting only once when I first arrived in New York in the late 90s and have never gone again.
This might be the only Christmas where I can roam, relatively crowd-free, and appreciate the festive beauty that so many millions of people come great distances to see.
As I strolled around last night on an appropriately chilly, wintry evening taking photos, there was still a festive atmosphere in New York City. Yes, there were definitely pockets of people and crowds, especially near Rockefeller Center, the Bloomingdales’ Window Display, and Radio City Music Hall. Yet, the crowds seemed somehow local. They were mostly families with kids, almost all with masks, trying to social distance, and all making the best of a situation they could not control but refusing to let it keep them from enjoying the holidays.
No, we can’t (or shouldn’t) shop till we drop at big department stores, nor can we (or should we) hit big Holiday parties. At least not this year.
We can instead celebrate the silver lining of this moment in our lives. We can rise to the moment to revel in Christmas’s true meaning by giving to others and practicing goodwill towards all our fellow humans.
I’m sure there are many websites with great photos of the New York City Holiday Lights out there, but I’m uploading mine as a gift to you. 2020 was a gift to me that I probably won’t realize until I’ve had a few months or likely years to appreciate. Life changed. Priorities changed. My mortality, which I thought I was all too aware of previously, was cast front and center for a couple of scary months. This usually only happens when one is faced with a life threatening disease or a near-death experience. For me, it was just another, yet more intense, in a line of (so far) near-misses.
I’ve had my share of close calls throughout my life. I barely made it out of my teens and young adulthood alive, and indeed too many of my friends and family did not. Car accidents, disease, plane crashes, suicide, murder, and in the case of most of my family, old age.
Amid the sadness is a small, joyful cue that I am yet alive and their dying gift to me was this reminder. I have again been reminded that I, and only I, can do with this life what can be done. Will I reach my full potential or fall short? I will most assuredly fall short because I am all too human and I have already wasted so much precious time. While I can’t control or change the past, I can impact the future.
I will undoubtedly waste more time and some things will still happen beyond my control, but there are so many things that will occur within it and I will try to waste less of it.
The future is unwritten, and we don’t know what challenges await, but we know there will be some. But we also don’t see what good things await, and this, we also know, will be coming as well. How we react can determine how much of each is in store for each of us.
With that in mind, I say a silent prayer of gratitude for 2020, and yes, I hope 2021 will be better, and I believe it will. Meanwhile, I’m going to seek the light shining through the darkness of this time because, as you can see from the photos, there is plenty of light… if we will just avoid the crowd, go out and seek it.
RAW TRAVEL KICKS OFF SEASON EIGHT WITH NEW EPISODES
– Nation’s Leading Travel Show Offers Escape for Viewers –
NEW YORK, NY: October 16th, 2020– AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV) announced today that Raw Travel® is kicking off the first of 20 original brand-new episodes for an eighth consecutive season this weekend, October 17th & 18th. The first-run, syndicated T.V. series’ Season Eight will be exhibited in over 173 cities representing 95% of the USA.
Thanks to a busy shooting schedule pre-pandemic, Raw Travel will be rolling out an entire season of original, first-run content. After a 7th consecutive season of audience and distribution growth, the show has defied the broader-based television industry trends. Home-bound travel fans are craving elusive, safe travel experiences months after the pandemic first hit U.S. shores, and the travel TV genre is perhaps more popular than ever.
Kicking things off this weekend has Raw Travel host and producer Robert G. Rose embarking on a solo, urban exploration of the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia. Forthcoming episodes include visits to Lithuania, Ukraine, Turkey, Colombia, Indonesia, Jamaica, Ethiopia, the country of Georgia, andsome limited, domestic U.S. travel.
As in past seasons, the show continues with sub-themes of “Going Solo” and “Buddy Road Trips,” as well as more traditional, authentic travel. “Voluntourism” (giving back) and “Ecotourism,” as well as authentic cultural experiences, will also continue to be the show’s recurring, over-arching themes.
“While our goal is to inspire viewers to travel, I am in hopes that we can offer a bit of escape and hope until travelers can safely again visit the neighbors,” says Producer Robert G. Rose. “The travel industry has been hit especially hard by this epidemic. People are suffering. But I also believe this is an opportunity to re-set and address problems such as over-tourism and environmental sustainability issues so that the industry can come back smarter. We want to be at the forefront of that effort,” Rose added.
The show currently airs each weekend in the USA on over 200 broadcast affiliates such as WNYW Fox 5 & WWOR My9 in New York, KCBS 2 & KCAL 9 in Los Angeles, WFLD Fox 32 & WPWR 50 in Chicago, etc., with multiple airings each week in most major markets.
In addition to domestic growth, Raw Travel continues to expand its international footprint on various outlets worldwide. Raw Travel is also exhibited on several In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) offerings on airlines such as American, Delta, Air Canada, Virgin America, and more.
People are home from work and school. Sports (usually) airs on the weekends. So why are so many phoning it in on the weekends?
With sports so uncertain, how are your weekends really looking?
We get it. You’re running a million miles an hour just dealing with day to day and these aren’t exactly routine times. Since we focus exclusively on the weekends, we pay attention. So, we thought we’d let you know some of our findings and observations.
There are rich opportunities for stations on the weekends to capture and retain new viewers and eventually, when things normalize, revenue.
RE-RUNS: Will you capture or shed viewers with oft-repeated, long-in-the-tooth programs “tired” from exhaustive network or cable runs? Have you ever noticed the copyright year of your weekend programming? Take a look sometime.
REPACKAGED SHOWS: We get it, COVID presents a challenging environment for us all. But if content suppliers are repackaging old stuff that is disguised to look like new stuff (new openings, themed re-runs, etc.), they need to be honest and let you know. First-run original content is KING and will be rarer than ever this fall 2020. Stations airing all-original, first-run programming will have a competitive advantage.
COMMERCIAL LOADS: There is no sugarcoating that some weekend program suppliers are cramming in so many commercials that the content is now “that stuff that goes in between ads.”
Why would viewers, with a plethora of choices, watch sub-par, old programming crammed with interruptions? Even the commercials themselves are sometimes repeated so often in the same show that it causes viewer tune-out.
CREDIT SEQUENCES: Ever notice some producers cut corners on content by featuring abnormally long, drawn-out credit sequences with little or nothing to entertain the viewers. This isn’t vanity, but a sign of a somewhat sloppy (or perhaps greedy) production. And it means that lead-out programs and the station’s overall weekend numbers suffer. Why not hold on to viewers at every opportunity?
ELECTRONIC PRESS KITS DISGUISED AS CONTENT: EPKs are not TV content. EPKs, at best, are meant to support or enhance story-telling, not replace it. Travel, Cars, Pets, or other types of themed-programming that relies almost exclusively on “b-roll” or EPKs provided by a hotel, travel destination, car manufacturer, etc. is NOT compelling content and does NOT belong on broadcast TV.
EXPLOITED CONTENT: This is difficult to say but it is true. How is a “sports clip” program, with a straight-face, showcasing footage of girls in bikinis dancing around as sports content? Are so-called “outdoor enthusiasts” hunters skirting regulations to kill endangered animals? Is this now considered entertainment? Do we understand it’s 2020? Viewers certainly do.
Weekends matter. These long-creeping trends are not just one production by one studio. These issues can be observed every weekend on programs from studios and distributors of all sizes. Many of us are just too busy to notice, but it hurts overall viewership and we’re missing golden opportunities to court new audiences.
Broadcast TV has a rare opportunity at a renaissance in 20-21. Still, it could be a final chance to garner new audiences before viewers return to pre-pandemic media habits (and advertisers will hopefully return).
Our industry needs to be “all hands on deck,” to claim these new, and often young viewers. Weekend programming beyond the strip is a great way to experiment with unique, under-served content to garner new viewers while offering current viewers something blessedly original.
Like you, we can’t see the future, but we all know that the short-term will be challenging. However, we think the long-term prospects for broadcast TV could be bright… if we don’t phone it in. If we cease some bad habits and laser focus our approach to super-serving our viewers and advertisers like never before, perhaps broadcast TV can come out of this challenging environment as a more robust, healthier, and savvy industry.
Raw Travel pledges to you, our station partners, that Season 8 (20-21) will feature original content from around the world. Most, if not all, was filmed in 2019-20 (pre-pandemic). No previous season re-runs, or old, repackaged, “best of” stuff until we get to summer 2021.
October through June we pledge to premiere brand-new, first-run, top- of-the-barrel stuff. Travel offers escapism many viewers crave, especially now. We owe them our best. We’re working harder than ever to seize this unprecedented opportunity to garner new friends, fans and viewers.
RAW TRAVEL PLEDGE TO AFFILIATES
1) ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT FOR SEASON 8 (20-21) I’ll admit it. We were lucky. We never said “no” to a travel opportunity in 2019, and we’re sure glad we didn’t. The happy result is plenty of content to ingest and many great and inspiring travel stories yet to tell!
2) LIMITED COMMERCIALS: We will stick to our agreed-upon commercial load and will NOT try to sneak in extra commercial breaks. If we can’t make a living on our agreed-upon inventory split, then we need to find another way to make a living. Viewers crave content. Greedy pigs get slaughtered. We’re in this for the long haul.
3) EXTRAS IN THE CREDITS COUNT: We believe in TV and the power of storytelling to lift up, inspire, and yes, affect positive change. We will always endeavor to entertain viewers right up until the closing credits finish rolling with behind the scenes or “extra” bonus content to keep them engaged into the lead-out programming whenever possible. Even our music during credits is carefully selected.
Our mission is larger than Raw Travel. We want to make heroes of our affiliates and our advertisers. We wish to entertain and inspire viewers to see the world in a different light, and someday soon, when it’s safe again, experience the life-changing benefits of travel first-hand.
Season 8 Trailer below (3 Min. TRT).
To see how Raw Travel Stacks up to other weekend shows go HERE. and email us at RawTravel@aimtvgroup.com for password access to the research included in this presentation.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Robert G. Rose Executive Producer AIM TV Group & Raw Travel TV
RAW TRAVEL’S EIGHTH SEASON WITH ALL-ORIGINAL CONTENT
– Nation’s Leading Travel Show Still Growing Strong, Despite Pandemic –
NEW YORK, NY: August 5th, 2020– AIM Tell-A-Vision® Group (AIM TV) announced today that its first-run, syndicated TV series Raw Travel® has been greenlit for an eighth consecutive season. The show will kick off on October 3rd and 4th, 2020 with a full slate of all-original content as many producers are struggling to come to grips with original productions as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the US and other parts of the world.
Thanks to an aggressive shooting schedule pre-pandemic, Raw Travel will be rolling out an entire season of original, first-run content. Coming off a seventh consecutive season of audience and distribution growth and defying the trends of the broader-based television industry, the travel genre is perhaps more popular than ever as home-bound and claustrophobic viewers crave escapism.
Destinations from around the globe will be featured, including Lithuania, Ukraine, Turkey, Colombia, Indonesia, Jamaica,Ethiopia,the country of Georgia, and some limited, domestic U.S. travel. With travel and tourism at a virtual standstill, and many shows relying on re-runs or repackaging old material to get them through, original, first-run, non-news content is a rarity.
“Travelers miss traveling, and viewers need a dose of optimism, love, and hope. I’m so grateful that last year, I said ‘yes’ to so many travel opportunities. I had no idea that we’d need this content in 2020-21to complete our eighth season of all-original content”, says Producer, Robert G. Rose. “First-run, original content can help broadcasters attract viewers on weekends when sports are uncertain, and many syndicated shows have no choice but to re-run or repackage old content. We want to help viewers face this daunting new reality by giving them a chance to live vicariously through our adventures until eventually we can all safely and enjoyably travel again,” Rose added.
Raw Travel’s Season Eight will debut in 174 US cities and 95% of US TV homes, also a record for the show. The show currently airs each weekend in the USA on broadcast affiliates such as WNYW Fox 5 & WWOR My9 in New York, KCBS 2 & KCAL 9 in Los Angeles, WFLD Fox 32 & WPWR 50 in Chicago, etc., with multiple airings each week in most major markets.
In addition to domestic growth, Raw Travel continues to expand its international footprint on a variety of outlets worldwide and can also be seen via several In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) offerings on airlines such as American Air,Delta, Air Canada, Virgin America, and more.
Today Alamo announced all employees are required to wear masks. I don’t know if our posts had anything to do with it, but I assume it didn’t hurt. Let’s hope other car rental companies follow suite. Here is the letter I sent their customer service.
To Whom it May Concern at Alamo Rental Cars / Enterprise Holdings
My name is Robert G. Rose. I’m the producer and host of Raw Travel TV and a recent Alamo customer. On April 1st, 2020 during the beginning of the peak of COVID 19 pandemic in New York City , I decided to travel and self-isolate on the farm where I grew up in Middle Tennessee. I booked a one-way flight to Nashville Tennessee.
After flying on a near-empty flight to Nashville International Airport (BNA), I proceeded to pick up my rental car from Alamo, which I had reserved for 14 days since I knew I would be self-quarantined at least 14 days. During the trip, I took every possible precaution, including wearing a mask and gloves the entire flight and drive home, as well as frequently sanitizing my hands.
When signing paperwork for the vehicle, I asked the gentleman at the counter if I could extend beyond 14 days if needed. He replied I just needed to call into the number on the receipt jacket to do so.
After my initial 14 days of isolation, it became clear that New York City was still not safe. I thought it safer for me and others to remain on my rural farm rather than a small apartment in a crowded city rife with the virus.
On or about April 13th, I called in to extend my rental. I spoke to Michelle, who said she would extend the rental for 14 more days until April 29th at the same weekly rate I’d previously booked. She specifically recommended April 29th as the return date because that date would lock me into a lower weekly rate rather than a more expensive monthly rate. I thanked her and agreed to her terms. She gave a reference #35133893.
I took the opportunity to report to her that the front passenger tire had a leak and was flat on day 2 of the rental, but that we had fixed the tire by plugging it ourselves to avoid any unnecessary contact with roadside assistance. Also, I told her about damage on the rear left fender, which I hadn’t noticed when I had picked up and she said she made a notation
On April 28th, when it became apparent I would not be returning to NYC anytime soon, I called customer service again to inquire about extending the rental for another two weeks. The lady I spoke with informed me that since I had already extended once on the phone, that I would need to go into a physical Alamo location to extend the rental again.
I asked her if I needed to go to the Nashville Airport
location specifically, or if there was a location closer to me where I could
take care of it.
After giving her my current zip code, she suggested that I instead go to the Huntsville, Alabama airport (approximately 40 or so miles away from me as opposed to Nashville almost 90 miles away).
Since I had an issue with the tire and back rear damage, I
inquired about the possibility of exchanging the vehicle.
She stated that if I wanted to exchange the vehicle, I’d have to do that in Nashville, but if I just wanted to extend the current reservation, I could do so in Huntsville. She stated she was sending a message for Nashville to ring or email me within 48 hours to be certain, but I never heard from them (and my frequent phone calls and emails went unanswered or flipped over to the national customer service).
To my initial confusion, she also insisted that the vehicle was not due back until 6 pm on April 30th, not April 29th as I had in my notes. After a little back and forth, I took her word for that. However, to be sure, I did call back a few hours later and spoke to Robert, who confirmed the information, and he also stressed that the vehicle was not due back until 6 pm on April 30th and he again confirmed that I could extend the rental at the Huntsville airport.
On April 30th, I ultimately chose to extend the car rental in Huntsville because it was 1) closer than Nashville and 2) I was short on time and 3) I could then be assured of keeping the same vehicle which had only had one occupant for the month, so I knew it was clean and safe from infection.
I arrived at Huntsville airport at approximately 5 pm, one hour before the car was supposedly due at 6 pm. I was surprised to see that receivers at the return area were not wearing masks, nor were they seemingly practicing social distancing, even though I had on a mask and gloves and was clearly trying to maintain distance.
When I walked into the airport to extend the rental, the clerk was behind a makeshift plexiglass window, and she did seem to be sanitizing her hands frequently. However, after a few minutes on the computer, she informed me that she was unable to extend the rental beyond one more day. And when she tried to extend for one additional day the entire bill increased by over 50%.
She seemed incapable of grasping the billing discrepancy but
made no attempt to call Customer Service Headquarters or to ask for help from an
on-site supervisor who she said was busy with other customers.
So, I called Customer Service while standing there and after getting hung up on by someone initially, eventually spoke to Danilo. He said that because I returned vehicle April 30th instead of April 29th, the extra day had kicked in the monthly rate instead of the weekly rate I’d been quoted.
Frustrated that was getting late and I was getting nowhere
fast, I informed the lady at the counter that I was going to try to drive to
Nashville and return it there before they closed. I asked her what time BNA closed.
She again was unhelpful and was unable or unwilling to tell me and replied that
every location has different hours.
Before heading back to the vehicle to drive to Nashville,
now a 2-hour drive instead of a little over an hour drive, it would have been
for me initially, I tried customer service once again. I spoke to a young lady
whose English-language skills were challenging. However, she did connect me
promptly to a supervisor, David.
Unfortunately, David only made this deteriorating situation
worse. Instead of helping to resolve the problem, David droned on endlessly
without pause how company policy was that rental extensions had to be taken at
the physical location where the vehicle was picked up.
When I was finally able to edge a question in, I asked why both
previous agents had told me otherwise. David deflected and again went on a
long-winded explanation about company policy, without addressing the erroneous
information I’d received or offering a hint of apology.
He also all but accused me of being a liar, saying that he had no record of me extending the vehicle to April 14th. When I gave him the reference number provided, he said he could see in the notes that I’d called in and wanted to extend but saw no evidence of the contract being extended. He kept saying he understood that I thought I had extended but that since Michelle didn’t extend the contract in “the system,” I hadn’t actually extended the agreement. Thus, because I had returned the car a day later, I would be subject to the higher monthly fee. He then added that I was currently in breach of contract because it was past 6 pm on April 30th and would be subject to even more potentially higher penalties and fees.
I asked for David’s employee #, and he gave me #E772PF, but
given how the conversation was going, I have doubts that is his real Employee
#. If that is indeed David’s employee # and if his role is to de-escalate
tension and retain customers, he did the exact opposite. Because of David’s
rude tone and could-care-less, glib response to my inquiries, I then decided
that I’d return the vehicle to Alamo and use any another car rental company my
remaining time in Tennessee and, if I could help it, for any future travel.
When I finally arrived at Nashville Airport about 2 hours later nearing 8 pm (4 hours after I had set out) with a fully gassed up vehicle, the young attendant who received me was without mask and gloveless. He was climbing into the vehicle to check the mileage, etc.
He asked if everything was ok and I told him I was not happy. He then walked me over to the night manager and asked him if he could help me. The mask-less night manager and the other young man were standing right next to each other, about a foot apart. Despite me having a mask and gloves neither appeared to be practicing any social distancing.
When I mentioned there was a pandemic going on, they did
apologize and separated a bit. But when I aired my grievances with the night
manager, he mumbled something about the car was no longer accruing charges and
that he’d take up with management in the morning about my billing and
I rented another vehicle with Budget Rental Car on the spot paying a premium for the last- minute rental. I sprayed and wiped down the new car from Budget as much as possible and drove home with my mask and gloves on, trying not to touch anything other than what was necessary to drive safely. I arrived back home at about 11 pm, roughly 7 hours from when I’d begun an errand that should have taken 2 hours to complete.
Despite the billing hassles, the repeated misinformation, and the glibly rude treatment by David the supervisor and the shrugging treatment by the Nashville night manager, by far, my biggest concern from this experience was Alamo’s attitude towards customers during this pandemic. Instead of making it easy to extend via telephone, I had to interact with up to 6 people in person yesterday, each seemingly taking safety precautions much less seriously than their customers, many of whom were wearing masks.
This morning, May 1st, Anthony, the Nashville Tri-Brand Manager for Alamo, Enterprise and National called to apologize and straighten out the billing. He informed me that as of today, May 1st, 2020, all Alamo employees are required to wear masks when interacting with customers. Anthony was going to send me an email with his contact info and billing summary, but as of the writing of this letter about 4 hours later, I have not yet received it.
I did, however, also receive a call from Mr. Shawn Hurley, VP of the Middle Tennessee area rental car locations, and he assured me that corporately, Alamo and Enterprise Holdings do take customer safety seriously. Shawn expressed his frustration at my treatment and said he would do everything he could to improve his staff’s behavior when it comes to safety. I appreciated Shawn’s call and believe he will try his best to address this issue.
Based on my observations, neither Nashville or Huntsville
Airport Alamo Rental Car employees are taking enough safety precautions to
protect themselves or customers. It’s frustrating to see and hear companies pay
lip-service only to something as crucial as customer safety.
I, like many, am extremely challenged during this time. I’m trying to continue to run my business, while working remotely. I am trying to ensure my employees, vendors, freelancers, and others who depend on this show for their livelihood are taken care of while keeping myself and my loved ones safe. I’ve had many friends and friends and relatives of friends who have had COVID 19 and recovered but it was tough. I’ve had others who have not been so fortunate and have succumbed. I take this dangerous disease and health recommendations seriously and if you want my business, I believe you should as well.
I specifically chose Alamo because I felt the service would
be better than an off-brand, less expensive choice so I could focus on other,
more pressing issues. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred. As a result, I
am behind on my sleep, my work, and my business.
Yet, I consider myself very fortunate compared to so many who have lost so much. I owe it to them to do what I can to communicate the urgency of this matter to others who may not understand or comprehend the potential of this situation. It is absolutely zero fun to watch a pandemic explode all around you, while you wonder if you will be next, or do you already have the virus and not know it or does your neighbor have it or who will die next from the disease or to wonder if you should shelter in place or escape while you can to a safer environment?
I could have easily dropped this matter when the billing discrepancy
was adjusted. However, I feel a bigger responsibility to my friends, family,
viewers and social media followers to be transparent so that they can
potentially avoid any unnecessary safety risks or additional stress during this
stressful time. I regret that I cannot recommend Alamo Rental Car to them.
I hope that by publicizing my experience, this may help in some small way bolster Alamo’s commitments to better customer treatment, more robust customer service training, and most importantly, during this unique time, a much more significant commitment to employee and customer safety and health.
WATCH RAW TRAVEL SEASON-ONE ON-DEMAND & HELP FEED HUNGRY IN COLOMBIA & GUATEMALA
As tough as the economic toll of this pandemic has been on the USA, it’s been devastatingly worse in many developing countries where the poorest of the poor live day-to-day. These folks, who struggle mightily in the best of times, have been unable to work to garner their daily meals due to lockdown restrictions.
The governments of these countries do not have much if any, social net to speak of. Only private individuals, companies, or NGOs are able to help and they are now struggling as well. The United Nations has issued dire warnings of hunger of biblical proportions is something isn’t done. So what can we do?
We can each do something big or small (a little goes a long way in developing countries) to help trusted and vetted partners address their communities’ hunger.
If you remember my pal Andres Ocampo from Medellin Colombia (Los Suziox lead singer, Raw Travel theme song composer & El Sub music venue owner) from Raw Travel Episode 706 – “Going Solo: Medellin Rocks”? Andres has turned lemons into lemon aid (pun intended). His venue, El Sub is unable to host any events or concerts during the lockdown, so Andres has turned the space into a repository for donated food & toiletry items for the poorest of the poor in El Castilla and surrounding working-class and poor neighborhoods in Medellin, Colombia.
People who are unable to feed themselves let their needs be known by placing a red flag outside of their home. As you can see by the photos and videos, there are lots of donated items, but there are lots of red flags outside of homes as well.
GUATEMALA: Our old friends at the orphanage of Casa Guatemala are doing something similar in rural Guatemala, collecting funds for their neighbors who are locked in and unable to work and thus feed themselves. Casa Guatemala is a much-respected resource in their rural area of Guatemala near Belize, and they understand that their neighbors are suffering.
We didn’t want to simply call attention, we wanted to come up with a way that our affiliates, vendors, advertisers, and viewers could help, either big or small.
Between now and May 15th, 2020, donate $50 or more to either Casa Guatemala HERE:
or for El Sub’s Relief for Medellin, Colombia HERE: and we will donate the money directly to the organization.
Then simply send us an email of your donation receipt to RawTravel@aimtvgroup.com and we’ll forward you a pass for a free rental pass for Raw Travel – Season 1 good for all 19x episodes of Season One HERE
If $50 is too much to ask for this vulnerable time, we have smaller increments and rewards:
2) Between $6 and $49 donation will get you access to all three of Season One’s Colombia and Guatemala themed episodes:
Or if you prefer to rent any individual Colombia themed (#105 & #105) and/or Guatemala themed (#116) episodes between now and May 15th, the $1.99 entire rental will be donated and split between both organizations.
I know these are tough times, so we are trying to do our best to give you an avenue to help in a small or big way depending on your situation and hopefully at the same time help you remain entertained while at home.
But please if you are suffering economically yourself, do not donate. But if you are like me, feeling blessed at having a fairly secure job and outlook economically I thought this could be a good way to help.
As always, thank you all. God bless and stay safe… and sane. I know, I know… easier said than done.
* Please note this offer to view episodes is limited to viewers in the US only. Sorry Canada and others, it’s a territorial rights issue. But please do feel free to donate if you so desire and still send me an email and we’ll work out a way for you to be rewarded as well.
UPDATE MAY 17th, 2020 : Thanks to the following contributors who helped Casa Guatemala raise several thousand dollars and our pals at Justice for Andres in Colombia raise hundreds of dollars to help feed their neighbors in during the Covid 19 crisis. Special thanks to:
Stacey Pryor – Casa Guatemala
Laura-Lee Gosa.- Casa Guatemala
Rosalba Gordon – Colombia
Judy Smith – Colombia
Heather Pauli – Colombia
Brian Eubanks – Colombia
Lauren Wheat – Colombia
While our fundraiser is no longer active, if you do wish to donate, please feel free to do so at the links above and we will make sure the money gets to the right place as hunger, as you know, doesn’t take a holiday!