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Fawlty Towers Conferencing

I think the last 24 hours must be a record for the catalogue of
amusing errors, in hindsight, experienced during a brief visit to the
Middle East.  I’m here for a two-day conference and cannot believe the
journey down here.

It starts off with a small thing like BA, as usual, not having my
meal selection because I chose a seat towards the rear of the cabin.
That always happens … so c’est la vie. 

Or should it be? 

all, if I never get my meal selection because I sit in Row 20 rather
than Row 10, should BA re-engineer that process? Possibly, as I’m a
long-term BA frequent flier and, as this happens every other flight,
I’m tempted to either (a) fly with someone else or (b) change my seat.

I’m a tolerant guy and seeing how most folks seem to spend an
inordinate amount of time in the bathroom shortly after the end of the
meal serving, appearing grey and haggard as they leave, maybe it was a
good idea to give the "Salmon and Eggs Hollandaise with Carrot and
Pease Pottage" a miss.

Arriving at my destination, I see the conference firm’s folks all waiting eagerly to check through the speakers.

"Hi, Chris Skinner.  I’m here to chair the conference and was told I’m staying at the Not Bad Hotel."

says nice greeter and meeter checking her lists, "yes.  We have no car
for the Not Bad Hotel, so can you wait there until one arrives?"

"If you say so", I say.  Tired, but not emotional.

minutes later, tired and slightly emotionally irritated, the Not Bad
Hotel’s courtesy car turns up and so I jump in, relieved to be on my

Arriving at the Not Bad Hotel, I blast through to reception to ask why they hadn’t sent the courtesy car as promised.

"Name, sir?" says the receptionist.

"Skinner.  It should be on the system.  Two nights."  Gggrrrrrrrr.

I realise why they hadn’t sent the courtesy car as the assistant spends
five minutes tapping away on the keyboard.  I can see a Computa sez no moment coming, so I ring my contact, the Conference Organiser.

"Oh sorry Mr. Chris, but we moved you to the Slightly Worse Hotel.  Do you mind?" says my contact.

At this stage, I don’t mind the Not Bad Hotel, the Slightly Worse Hotel or any hotel.  I just want to go to bed.

I jump into a taxi to the Slightly Worse Hotel.  The taxi driver is a
typical of the locality – wearing a ghutra scarf over his head, and a
long beige coloured thawb robe – and he’s decided to take me between
hotels in his highly moisturised vehicle.  In fact, there’s so much
condensation in the car that we can’t see a thing out of the windows. 

So he stops the car in the middle of the three-lane highway and jumps out to wipe down the windows.

As the screeching of tyres, blowing of horns and general shouts of something that sounded like the Arabic for son of a bitch
rang through the air, my driver totally ignores everything and
continues to wipe down the windows, chirping nice words like, "How many
receipto’s would you like sir?"

"Urrrmmmm … shouldn’t you get back in the car before you get hit by that truck?"

"What truck sir?"  As a ten ton, dual axle juggernaut flies past his ghutra.

Ah well, it’s his life.

finished, he cheerfully jumps back into the car with a “that’s better”,
and drives away … with only slightly misted windows.

We finally arrive at the Slightly Worse Hotel. 

much is that my friend?" I like him now that he’s shown so much bravery
and given me ten receipts, plus a map marked with all the McDonald’s

"How much you want to give me sir?"

"Urrmmmm … I don’t know.  Never been here before.  How much is it usually."

smiles, with his moustache rising in a slightly off pitch smile,
"however much you want it to be sir.  Make me happy."  He says, with a
shrug of his shoulders and a slightly servile look at my shoes.

I never knew that even getting a taxi over here was going to be like
entering a Souk market, so I say, “I’ll give you half a dinar.”

“You’ll give me half my dinner, sir,” he says, “why thank you.  That would be twelve dinar.”

half a dinar, not dinner, was what I offered you.”  I’m now getting the
hang of this.  He wants twelve dinar for a three mile journey and,
generally based upon my experience of the region, that would equate to
more like five dinar.

We start to haggle.

“Only half a dinar, sir.  But my wife and children could not eat a locust for such a pittance.  How would ten dinar sound.”

He’s quite an engaging character but, even so, “one dinar”.


This goes on for about five minutes and we settle for five dinars.

I’m happy, he’s happy, and we go our separate ways.

That was until the concierge turns to me and says, “usually that journey is two dinar, sir, but we like big tippers here.”


Anyway, into the reception to checkin.

"Name, sir?" says the slightly indifferent receptionist.

"Skinner.  Two nights.  Please."  I’m past the point of polite conversation.

"Ah yes, here you are.  Room 524 sir."

I have arrived.  As I go towards the lifts, I notice three people
standing with big signs for my conference, so I go over and introduce

"Hi, I’m Chris.  Is there a shuttle to the conference from the hotel tomorrow."

"You’re Chris who?"  says the smiling conferencing lad.

"Chris Skinner."

Conferencing chappie then taps my name into his computer.

"Nope.  Are you a delegate here?"  He frowns at me.

“No, I’m chairing the conference, and I would not mess with me right now because I’m not the happiest bunny."

"Wassup?"  Treading on dangerous ground, he decides to give me a prompt for a good whinge.

I’ve just spent five dinar on a journey that should have been two
dinar, and one that I shouldn’t have taken at all because your lot sent
me to the wrong hotel”, I snap.  I’m tired and getting slightly
emotional after all.

“Oh-er, sir, look at you.  Aren’t you the shirty one?” he snaps back. “Anyway, no sir.  The buses are for delegates.”

“Excuse me?  You mean that speakers cannot use the buses.”  I am bemused.

sir, but only if you’re very nice.”  I’m starting to worry about this
chap as he’s got a rather strange manner about him, so I slink away and
go to my room.

Now, I know I’m a sad old git, but my first
ritual on arriving at any hotel is to connect to the internet.  I’m a
net junkie.  I know.  Can’t help it.

I boot up the laptop, plug in the broadband connection and … darnit.  It doesn’t work.

click on networking tools, wireless connections, unplug and plug back
in again, reboot … I try everything I can think of and nothing
happens.  So I ring reception.

“Hello, I think the internet connection in my room is faulty as I can’t get it to work.”

“Ah yes sir, we shall send you the technician.”  Very helpful.

I start unpacking and stick on the TV and tootle around … and after
what seemed like a wait of days (25 minutes), Mr. Geek Squad arrives.

sir, I hear you are having trouble with your internet connection.  What
seems to be the trouble?”  He smiles supportively.

“Well, I’ve
tried every connecting way I can think of to get my PC onto the network
and nothing seems to work.”  I plead, tired and becoming worryingly

“What number are you dialling, sir?”   He grins grandly.

“I’m sorry?”

“What number are you calling for your internet connectivity sir?”  He beams broadly.

sorry but have I moved into the dark ages?” I stutter, shocked.  “Are
you telling me this hotel, which calls itself Good, but Slightly Worse
than the Not Bad Hotel I was going to stay in, does not provide
broadband or wireless internet?”

“That is right sir.  You only
have dial-up internet in the room.” His teeth are now so big and his
smile so wide, that I’m kind of wondering what toothpaste and floss
he’s using.  “Wireless is available in reception, but you may need to
put some clothes on.”

No, I’m not naked, but I am in my nightclothes, slippers and robe.  So, that’s that.

Off to bed and up early for the conference.  I go down to the bus, which is empty.

Tschtch.  The bus doors open.

"Yes, sir?"  says the driver.

"Morning, I’m going to the conference."

"Yes, sir.  Where’s your badge sir?"  says the driver.

"I don’t have one yet", I respond.  "I’m picking it up at the conference."

"Oh no, sir.  Then you are not coming on my bus." He smiles.


I think rapidly, and say, "How much?"

"Are you making me happy sir?"   I think the bus driver is related to my taxi driver of last night … so we haggle and, for the going rate of five dinars, he takes the bus down to the conference centre with just me on it.  In fact, I think I’m th only one who can be bothered to come to the conference at 5:00 in the morning, but then I am greeted with the sign: “Welcome
to our Conference with free wireless internet sponsored by XYZ Telecom.”

Fantastic.  I can finally get blogging and emailing.,

I boot up, click on wireless networking, click on XYZ Telecom and … nothing happens.

I ask the rep from XYZ Telecom what’s going on?

“I’m sorry sir, but we can’t get our internet working today.”

As the screams billow and swirl around the conference hall ceiling, someone points to my blog of the other day and says, “the cables have been cut.” 

Ah well, so much for modern technology.

Meantime, it does seem a shame for XYZ Telecom – who have sponsored
the conference, placed their internet cafe in pride of position, loaded
it with laptops and put lanyards up everywhere declaring:

With XYZ Telecom, and 2 mbps internet speeds, you will never want to leave home without us

– that their core product, wireless internet access, so obviously isn’t working.

I guess their investment is wasted?

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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