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Our Population Future

July 8, 2017

My good friend Joe Aaron is an economic futurist – someone who gets paid to explain trends and what the future will hold.

I asked him about the recent report that the United States fertility rate had hit a new low, since it features prominently in his  conclusion that the country is headed for real trouble if we, as a nation of immigrants, don’t change our policies.immigrants

I asked if the news changed his opinion. This is his response:

The short answer is no. It does not change my thinking on demographics here in the U.S. If you read between the lines, the article describes a part of our population, the Millennials, who are putting off having children and marriage. 

“The number one reason child birth is dropping in the civilized world today is economic. Young people can’t afford children anymore or are unwilling to make the financial sacrifices. It cost half a million to raise a kid and send them to college. That explains why 20% of our population decides to stay childless.

“The more educated you are, the less likely you are to have an unwanted pregnancy. Women can now get birth control with ease.

Finally, a woman with a good education can have a career and financial independence. If she decides she wants to have a baby she can. She no longer needs a man.

Where demographics are changing in the in the U.S. is at the state level. For example, Maine’s population is actually shrinking each year. Vermont is flat. New Hampshire’s population is flat. But they will both join Maine in the dying category this decade.

These three states have a medium age of 42, the highest in the country. The medium age for the U.S. is 37. This means they are an ageing society. This means their citizens are aging out of the work force. If this trend continues, and I have no doubt it will, in 15 years this will impact the state gov’t’s credit rating.

These three states have an unemployment rates below 3%. This is too low. It puts upward pressure on wages. This in turn puts pressure on a business to consider leaving the state.

If you are a technology company, where are you going to find employees with technology skills? Imagine a recession caused by a lack of workers. It is possible there.

The glass is half empty for small towns and rural area. The kids are all leaving for the bigger cities. It is a brain drain. Manufacturing plants will have jobs that go unfilled. Schools will close.

I find little to be happy about when it comes to our nation’s demographics. We better embrace immigration while people still want to come here.”

 

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Who Pays the Price?

March 21, 2015

By now Americans are aware that the products we use can come with unseen consequences. That appears to be the case for the latest smartphone you bought.

Producer Heather White introduces her film "Who Pays the Price?"

Producer Heather White introduces her film “Who Pays the Price?”

A soon to be released documentary movie, “Who Pays the Price?” tells the story of Chinese workers whose lives have been ruined by the jobs they took at factories which flaunt international standards.

Produced by Heather White, Lynn Zhang and Dal Lamagna, the film documents the plight of workers who were forced to use benzene and n-hexane to clean and mark components to smartphones and a myriad of electronic devices we use every day.

The chemicals, are well-known carcinogens and countries all over the world have agreed they should not be used without protection. But in China where they have not signed the international treaty on worker safety, the chemicals continue to be used with impunity.

The film details the life-threatening illnesses that are attributed to the chemicals and the system that has left them with no alternative to a lifetime awaiting an early death. It is a fate that many have chosen to hasten rather than be a burden on their elderly parents.

It is an indictment of both the labor practices in China, and the blind eye that consumers turn as long as they can get the toys they want.

Hospitalized workers in China, injured by unprotected chemical usage.

Hospitalized workers in China, injured by unprotected chemical usage.

“Who Pays the Price” is scheduled to be released this fall and will be the topic of a number of magazine articles later this year, so you will hear more about it I’m sure.

Heather White, a former San Francisco resident, was in the Bay Area last week, hosting a screening of a shortened version, trying to raise funds to complete the project and a planned book.

Ms White, has long been a leader in fighting for the improvement of working conditions. She founded Verite, a well-known verification company which exposed and then worked to improve the plight of workers in textile firms making products for high-end brands around the world. She has now turned her attention to the electronics industry where labor laws and unverified supply chains have made enforcement of even rudimentary standards, almost impssible.

Her goal is not to tell people to discard their smartphones or tablets, but to make them aware of the working conditions that will continue unless some public pressure is brought to bear.

Companies such as Apple and Samsung are certainly aware of what’s going on, but a complex series of factors has made them hesitant to face up to the problems. It’s easier just to deny responsibility and hope to discredit any reports that interfere with their profits.

I urge you to take a look at the trailer on the website and make a contribution or contact Ms White for more information on how we can use our technology without killing the workers that manufacture it.

 

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What I learned at Wisdom 2.0

March 3, 2015

In my last post I outlined my overall view of the recently concluded Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

I have to admit that after three days there were some valuable take aways;

I learned:

Three great tips for Karaoke (from the CEO of LinkedIn Jeff Weiner).

How NOT to connect with  tech company HR types.

Tibetan monks work on a sand sculpture at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco

Tibetan monks work on a sand sculpture at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco

Even when they are off, cellphones, (or weapons of mass distraction), can disrupt a conversation.

Uni-tasking will be the next big trend. (Sherry Turkle, author)

There are still people (Pico Iyer)  who do not own a cellphone and manage to navigate the world.

Conversations need at least 7 minutes before they really get down to anything substantive.

Empathy, is the real victim among young people who try to talk and text at the same time, because they never learn how to read facial expressions.

Nomophobia is the fear of being without your cellphone.

Alanis Morrisette, in addition to being a great singer, is very smart and has spent a lot of time in a therapist’s office.

Humans of New York – a website dedicated to telling the story of ordinary New Yorkers, is a fine continuation of individual story telling in the tradition of Studs Terkel.

A job may not be a career, but if you can combine them with a calling you may actually have something.

Getting rid of ‘Shoulds’ to create more room for ‘Musts’ may be the key to happiness and satisfaction.

Meditators, monks, and teaching masters have all learned that marketing is the key to spreading the word. It seems everyone now had a catch phrase to make it easier for public acceptance of their theology.

According to Mark Twain the two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why.

That’s really quite a bit to learn in a three day conference.

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The Wisdom 2.0 Bottom Line

March 2, 2015

I spent the last few days at the annual Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

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Michael Gervais, (left) George Mumford and Mike Robbins (right) discuss sports and psychology and the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco February 28, 2015,

Many of you have probably never heard of the event, so a little context is probably in order.

Attendance this year reached 2500 and could have gone higher if organizers had not capped it. The conference is designed as a combination celebration and support group for anyone trying to bring more:  (pick one) consciousness, gratitude, or mindfulness to technology and business.

Attendees come from all over the world, although a large percentage are from California, to hear a variety of speakers from CEO’s to human resource managers, explain how they have tried to humanize their companies and deal with the increasing demands of the ‘always on’ world.

Using mindful meditation, exhortations to be present, and a wide variety of what many might consider alternative techniques, the conference is in direct contrast to the prevailing view of corporate America as a ruthless, cut throat, bottom line, profit driven culture.

In addition to the conference presentations on everything from neuroscience to networking, there are rooms devoted to meditation, and yoga, as well as a trade show in the Inspiration Lounge.

Many sessions focus on how to live a more fulfilling and compassionate life and to make choices that leave you happier both personally and in your career.

Here you can also find the latest in relaxation and stress reduction equipment and techniques.

While you might think the principles were some import from Europe, most of the foreign attendees, are quick to note that the techniques are uniquely American, which is what draws them here.

Companies with representative include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Gap and a host of others who say that recent studies have shown conclusively that promoting mindfulness and self realization in their workforce actually adds to their bottom line in  quantifiable manner.

In reality the conference is a large networking event, where like-minded folks can get together to reinforce their beliefs in hopes of connecting with someone who can help them move forward in their career.

A large percentage of the attendees are personal/executive coaches or management consultants, who are looking to make connections with those HR types from Google, Twitter, Facebook and GAP, to  improve workplace performance. Admittedly the chances are slim, but you never know.

In two days I collected a raft of business cards, and spoke with lawyers, coaches, HR managers and some old friends from the spa and yoga worlds.

My wife, who is a clinical psychologist, and attended the first Wisdom conference 6 years ago, may be a more typical participant, but she was ill over the weekend and insisted I attend.

I’ll admit I was hesitant, but after three days I was pleasantly surprised and happy I made the effort. More on some of the things I learned will come in subsequent posts.

When organizers at the opening session asked who, in the audience, was a first-time attendee, I raised my hand along with two-thirds of the crowd.

Sponsors were thrilled, saying it showed how the movement was attracting new members. But you have to think; what does it mean when attendees at previous sessions are not coming back in significant numbers?

If this were a business that had to rely on new customers for 66% of it’s profit each year, would you be optimistic?

 

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Can We All Agree – 2/8/15 Edition

February 7, 2015

News and Commentary in the hope that: We Can All Agree on Something.

Can we all agree that the latest ISIS atrocity may have finally tipped the balance of public opinion in the Mideast against the terrorist group?

Can we all agree that comparing the fight against ISIS to The Crusades, as Mr. Obama did, was not a good idea, but the concept has  crossed your mind before?

katy-perry-prismatic-tour-us-2014-01-billboard-650Can we all agree that regulating the Internet as a public utility sounds like a pretty good idea?

Can we all agree that the latest GOP vote (their 56th) on repealing The Affordable Care Act, cements their image as a doomed party, beholden to ultra-conservatives, and unwilling to present an alternative agenda?

Can we all agree that the situation in the Ukraine is taking a scary turn and Mr. Putin seems to have the upper hand as long as European rulers won’t confront him.

Can we all agree that last weekend’s Super Bowl was one of the best ever – no matter which team you supported?

Can we all agree that initially, after hearing there would be a new book by Harper Lee we were all thrilled but after a closer look – a 40-year-old rejected manuscript may not be such a good idea after all?

Can we all agree that adding 275,000 jobs in a month is good news, even if it means the unemployment rate increased.

Can we all agree that the British vote to allow babies created with the DNA of three people may be a bit too close to a brave new world?

Unknown-1Can we all agree that this week’s train wreck is TV news anchor Brian Williams? As a journalist, all you have is your credibility and he has none, now.

Can we all agree that the State of New York’s decision to investigate the supplement industry will make everyone who takes supplements safer in the long run?

Can we all agree that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to tone down both his extremist rhetoric and policies, was a long time coming?

Can we all agree that watching Tiger Woods struggle on the golf course is just heartbreaking?

Can we all agree that, no matter how they wind up slicing it, the President’s $4 trillion budget is a lot of money?

Can we all agree that Democrats are disappointed, and Republicans are thrilled, that Mitt Romney decided against another Presidential run?

Can we all agree that GOP support for Elizabeth Warren is pretty transparent?

Can we all agree that the current measles outbreak could doom the anti-vaccine movement?Unknown-1

Can we all agree that the Super Bowl ads were, as usual, a mixed bag? My personal favorite was the Brady Bunch Snickers spot, but that just shows my age.

Can we all agree that Pete Carroll will be explaining his Super Bowl play calling for the rest of his career, or until he wins another Super Bowl?

Can we all agree that Katy Perry brought her ‘A’ game to the halftime show?

Can we all agree that it’s disheartening, but probably not surprising to see Robin Williams’s family fighting over his estate?

Can we all agree that no one is surprised that NFL player Johnny Manzeil is in a treatment program?

Can we all agree that the murder of a prominent Argentinean prosecutor may topple the government, which is just what President Cristina Kirchner said was the goal?

Can we all agree that Anthem’s data breach, in which ‘several million’ customer and employee records were stolen, will make little difference to them, but a big difference to those whose records were stolen?

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Would You Reprint Charlie Hebdo’s Cartoons?

January 13, 2015

Ever since the attack on Charlie Hebdo last week I’ve been wondering what I would have done if I were still an editor at a newspaper.

The day after the attack, I was consumed with embarrassment for my profession when so few papers, who reported the murders, printed any of the offending cartoons.Madonna-Uses-Paris-Shootings-Je-Suis-Charlie-to-Promote-Her-Album-469566-2

As part of their coverage some publications in Europe did print a cartoon, but except for the Washington Post, I’m not aware of any major US publications who printed an example.

Even the Post printed the cartoon on the editorial page leaving the news columns free to describe the artwork. They, like the New York Times and other publications, claimed the actual drawing ‘were not relevant’ and their message could be communicated in words.

Clearly the cartoons were relevant, and just as clearly, mere words could not describe why the cartoons led to the attack. In truth, after looking at a sampling of the cartoons, I found many childish, insulting and tasteless, but I would still defend their right to publish them.

Almost every religion came under attack, but according to some, only the Muslim faith specifically prohibits depictions of their prophet.

My outrage, was tempered by a good friend, recently ‘retired’ from a small local publication, who noted that if had been editor, he’s not sure if, as a married father, he could take the risk of publication, even in a small hometown weekly.

Would the emotions of any editor be any different. Presumably they could all be the mothers or fathers of young children, and publication would open them up to the same fate as Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists.

I guess my anger was more rooted in the excuse that the cartoons “were not relevant” to the story. I just wish the editors would admit they were scared and, while they knew that failure to publish meant the jihadists had won, they would be honest about it.

I had the same thought this week when the new cover of Charlie Hebdo was released and the announcement in my email, only showed half the drawing.

I still don’t know what I would have done, were I still the editor of a newspaper or even if I should use a cartoon to illustrate this blog post?

But I hope I would at least be honest with my readers.

Maybe, if somehow everyone published the cartoons, there would be strength in numbers like the 1 million French citizens who marched in defiant solidarity in Paris last weekend.

 

 

 

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Can We All Agree V 3.0

December 11, 2014

Can we all agree that despite what the officials say, today’s storm ended the drought in most people’s minds.

Can we all agree that if you need a legal opinion to define ‘torture’ you are already in trouble. As the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography, the definition may be unclear but, “I know it when I see it.”

Can we all agree that every once in a while the Noble Peace prize committee gets it right – like this year.

Can we all agree that the message of the Berkeley protestors has gotten a bit lost in the methods.

Can we all agree that the NCAA selection committee did a pretty good job. TCU and Baylor disagree but, the playoff games should be pretty good. My pick, Alabama-Oregon final with The Tide on top.

Can we all agree that the economy is headed in the right direction.

Can we all agree that John Boehner has told the Tea Party folks (and Ted Cruz) to sit down and behave like good little children and pass the $1.01 trillion spending package.

Can we all agree that there are probably so many unrelated provisions in the budget bill, (campaign finance is just one example) it will takes months to know what Congress is really approving.

Can we all agree that the Rolling Stone Magazine has done more to harm coverage of sexual assault than any jury ever could.

Can we all agree that continuing violence in protest of the Ferguson/NY grand jury decisions, is not helping race relations.

Can we all agree that when athletes participate in the debate on racial inequality, we all benefit.

Can we all agree that the Senate report on the CIA’s torture methods is an embarrassment to every American.

Can we all agree that GOP protests against release on the Senate torture report is just a smokescreen to protect George Bush.

Can we all agree that watching the price of oil fall is a great winter sport. The fact that Vladimir Putin is really squirming is just an added benefit.

Can we all agree that we knew Steve Kerr might be a pretty good coach but the Warriors are still a surprise.

Can we all agree that McDonald’s recent earning statement is good news for the overall health of the nation.

Can we all agree that when the federal agency sponsoring flu shots admits they might not do any good, the only winners are the pharmaceutical companies.

Can we all agree that the NFL’s treatment of cheerleaders is odious and disgusting and should be part of the sexual assault debate.

Can we all agree that President Bush may not have known what torture the CIA was up to, but Dick Cheney, the administration’s Darth Vader …come on.

Can we all agree that my RedSox may be better off with Porcello, Masterson and Miley instead of John Lester.

Can we all agree that The Santa Clara Niners…oh never mind.

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Unconscious Bias

September 24, 2014

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,observations,Wellness — Tags: , , , — admin @ 11:56 am

A lot has been written over the last year about steps Silicon Valley companies are taking to combat bias in hiring.

In case you missed it, over 70% of the workforce at many firms, is white and male. A recent NYT article details the problem and some proposed solutions.

But I think the issue is closer to most people’s homes than they realize. A recent example helps prove my point.

My ophthalmologist, is the mother of twins , a boy and a girl. I have been seeing her for almost 15 years so I’ve followed the normal trials and tribulations of parenting.

The children are now, at 15, starting to make choices about college and careers. At my last appointment the doctor said the young man had really applied himself and was looking forward to technology/science as a career and was looking at top tech schools.

When I asked about her daughter, the doctor said she found math and science “too hard,” adding,”all my friends just want to get Liberal Arts degrees.” The doctor’s response,”Well, OK, if that’s what you want.”

I was slightly appalled, and my expression must have revealed my thoughts, because she asked, “Do you think I should have pushed her more?”

We had a lengthy discussion, in between eye chart readings. But it made me wonder how many other subtle signals the little girl had received about avoiding math and science.

It’s no surprise the Silicon Valley workforce is overwhelmingly male, if even a professional women, in a field that certainly required some science (ophthalmology), wouldn’t even urge her daughter to consider science and math because they are “too hard.”

Maybe  a short visit with an unbiased career counselor/coach would help break through the peer pressure and produce a few more female engineers for the next great startup.

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Sun Valley Serenade

September 2, 2014

My wife and I closed another hotel this weekend. 

Well, I guess the Sun Valley Lodge was going to shut down for 9-month renovation, whether we stayed or not, but we were among the last guests to see the Lodge in its current incarnation.

The spa and apartment units

The spa and apartment units

The 124-room, 78-year old symbol of high-end fun in the snow will be converted into a 96-room playground for the rich and famous.

Big changes planned inside

Big changes planned inside

The Lodge will renovate every room, except one, expanding them to accommodate fireplaces, and updated bathrooms which will include Jacuzzi tubs and modern amenities.

The truth is the renovation is long overdue. While the Lodge, which bills itself as America’s first destination ski resort, is the priciest in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, it fares poorly when compared to many budget priced hotel rooms. Where rooms are larger, and bathroom space for two people often included double sinks.

The Lodge was built in 1935 by the Union Pacific Railroad and has only had three owners. It’s only relatively recently that the current owner Carol Holding, who owned Sinclair Oil  with her late husband Earl, made the resort and the surrounding area into a year-round destination.

The Holdings also own a number of other five-star resort properties in the Western United States

Before Mr. Holding, began marketing the location to events such as the annual Allen and Co. technology and media conference, most of the private jets at the Blaine County airport, only came during ski season. Now it’s not unusual to see folks like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mariel Hemmingway, or tech moguls wandering downtown Ketchum year round.

A Labor Day visitor

A Labor Day visitor

California’s former governor was there over the recent Labor Day weekend, with his current young honey, but that’s a story for another post.

For the last four months the Lodge has been the site of a major addition to accommodate a new spa and fitness center as well as several 4-bedroom apartment units designed for families or wedding parties.

You can find more details about the renovation at the Lodge website but you won’t be able to stay there until June of 2015 – just in time for the Allen and Company gathering.

A true sign of the year-round nature of the Lodge business, is the fact that they are closing for the what used to be high-season for The Valley ski industry.

Until next summer, you can stay at the Sun Valley Inn, the sister hotel barely 100 yards away, or at any of the many condominiums managed by the Lodge.

In general, locals are thrilled and seem genuinely happy that a new generation of the Holding family is taking an active interest in managing the mini-empire. Carol Holding, is in her 80’s, and has been largely a ceremonial leader since her husband died in 2013 but her son, Stephen, has apparently taken over and as the press release says, wants to guarantee another 75 years of ownership.

Ernest and Mary Hemingway

Ernest and Mary Hemingway

By the way, that lone room that will not be renovated? You guessed it – room 206, which hosted Ernest Hemingway and his lover in 1939, as ‘Papa’ finished “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Current hotel employees say the room has never been fully renovated and includes the original claw-foot tub- and can still be rented – although the plumbing apparently clogs frequently.

But the isolated cabin, where Hemingway lived during his Sun Valley years, and where he died, is on private land and not open to the public.

If my wife and I probably win the lottery by next year-  we’ll be  able to afford the rates at the new Lodge, since  the area is truly a beautiful destination any time of the year and we look forward to returning for the annual Sun Valley Wellness Festival next May.

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New York Commentary

September 24, 2013

Filed under: Health,observations,Uncategorized,Wellness — Tags: , , , — admin @ 5:25 pm

I just got back from New York City , and couldn’t help making some observations:

As California contemplates naming its newest bridge after the still very alive Willie Brown, it’s worth noting that two well known bridges in New York have been unsuccessfully named after two well respected deceased politicians.

The Triborough Bridge was renamed in 2008 after Robert Kennedy and the Queensboro, or 59th Street Bridge, was renamed for former Mayor Ed Koch. Maybe it takes more than a few years, but both  names are used only derisively by New Yorkers, despite numerous signs. The cabbies are particularly dismissive, noting they expect soon-to-be former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to pay to have the Brooklyn Bridge named after himself.

Speaking of Brooklyn. You can’t help but notice how the borough has become the center of the universe to many. With Nets shirts and paraphernalia far out outnumbering Knicks jerseys, even in Manhattan. Brooklyn is the trendy place to live, work, start a new business or just hang out. But more than one New Yorker pointed out how difficult it is to drive anywhere in Brooklyn and a few noted that it still has a lot of rough edges with graffiti decorating many buildings, and toni new restaurants in neighborhoods where you really would not want to walk at night. Maybe they’re just jealous…who knows?

We took a walk along the High Line –  the west side railway converted to a pedestrian walkway. The best part of the  walk  is the section that crosses 10th Avenue, which includes stadium seating behind a row of huge windows.  It’s like watching a series of big-screen televisions, all playing reality TV, New York style. A favorite place for natives to enjoy lunch.

You can’t help but notice the increase in bikes in New York City. The Citi Bikes program which allows anyone who signs up, to take a bike from one stand and return it to another, seems to be a hit with New Yorkers. We did witness a number of near-injury accidents with pedestrians and cars. It just adds to the element of surprise in navigating the New York streets. Drivers seem to universally hate the new vehicles, I guess until they get out of their car and on to a bike. A similar program is just getting under way in San Francisco.

We had a very nice chat with a cab driver from Senegal, explaining to him the difference between being a cabbie in NYC and SF. A few hills but fewer cabs: pedestrians who walk first and expect you to stop: drivers who are relatively polite: fewer people; smaller city; and a host of other factors. He added that driving inn New York can be stressful but it’s just part of the job.

Cabbies here are like waitresses in LA. They are all on their way to something else. Our driver from Senegal was just waiting to start his own business (undetermined) and a second cabbie was going to community college to get an AA so he could become a police officer, like his sister. They actually give policemen a small replica badge (3 each) to give to family members that says “brother of policeman” or whatever is appropriate. He says it helps with minor infractions, but does nothing if you’re caught speeding. My brother-in-law  is a SF cop, we got nada. (Will have to check on it)

Genetically Modified food doesn’t seem to be a big issue in New York. Maybe it’s just because we had an initiative that failed in California, or maybe it’s just my wife who won’t eat GMO food, but no one seems to even notice GMO’s. Even a restaurant specializing in healthy , nutrient rich food, made no mention of GMO’s on the menu, and our waiter, seemed puzzled when we asked.

Finally, no trip would be complete without some comments on flying. Yes, we continue to use United Airlines, hoping against hope that we’ll score a free upgrade, based on my lifetime miles. We returned to SF on a reconfigured 757, which included wifi. I never used it before so for $10 I gave it a try. Worked pretty well, although there’s a bit of a delay in response time for web pages. Plus, I only bought an hour and lost part of my time when we crossed a time zone and my clock updated automatically.

While the flights went well, despite two lousy movies, the trip ended on a sour note, as our luggage took almost an hour to get delivered to the baggage claim area. I wouldn’t mention it except that it happens every time we travel. Retrieving baggage at SFO always takes longer than any other airport. No -one seems to be able to explain why, but it’s been consistent for the 20 years I’ve been traveling out of SFO.

As United Airlines begins a new PR campaign to convince us that it really cares about it’s customers, I wish they would fix the parts that matter to its customers.

 

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