Downtown Working

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November 17, 2003 // UPDATED 11:07 am - April 30, 2007
By: Elana Centor
Elana Centor

Lessons learned, the hard way

It was a week of hard-learned lessons. So in the spirit of "let me share my pain to spare you some pain," here are some key lessons about minidisc players and hotel and airline reservations that can hopefully make your business life easier

Lesson Learned #1: If you power down the minidisc recorder incorrectly, your entire disc can self-erase. There are fewer sadder sites then seeing "blank disc" displayed when just an hour before you had an important interview recorded on the exact same disc.

You know it recorded because you played it back. But somewhere between powering down the minidisc and powering it back up, every syllable was magically and irreversibly erased.

On the surface, minidisc players look like a high-tech version of the old-fashioned cassette player. But there's a big difference: in the old technology, the cassettes weren't smart enough to self-erase. Once you recorded something, it stayed recorded unless you rewound the tape and recorded over it.

Minidiscs aren't like that. It has something to do with powering down before the minidisc has completed writing its TOC (Table of Contents)

Normally, I would recommend reading the instruction guide -- something I rarely do -- but in this case, it wouldn't have helped. The instruction guide does not highlight this risk. No banner. No 18-point Helvetica Bold warning. Nothing. I guess they must think if you have a minidisc, you understand the digital recording process.

So, the lesson learned is, just because something looks like a comfortable technology does not necessarily mean it operates that way.

Lesson Learned #2: Don't rely on a hotel reservationist for correct information.

In booking a hotel in Chicago, I called the reservation department to check out their Internet access. While the rooms didn't have high-speed access, the reservation department assured me that I could use the business office.

Fast-forward to check-in, and I discovered that not only does the hotel business office not have high-speed Internet, the hotel doesn't even have a business office.

After relaying the conversation to the good folks at the front desk, I was told this: "Never trust the reservation department for information -- they don't know what's going on in the hotel. Always ask to speak to the front desk if you want to get reliable information."

Who knew?

Lessons Learned #3: When an airline reservationist gives you the green light to change a flight, make sure he/she notes it in your file.

It was a simple question: Does my ticket out of Midway allow me to fly standby out of O'Hare? After a ton of checking, the phone reservationist came back with the good news: yes, I could fly standby out of O'Hare.

Ecstatic, I headed toward the blue line, and 40 bumpy minutes later, ended up at the O'Hare reservation counter. They interpreted my ticket differently, informing me that I did not have a ticket that allowed stand-by at a "co-terminal" and that I would need to fly out of Midway.

The O'Hare folks explained if the call center had simply noted in my file that the conversation had taken place, I would have been allowed to fly stand-by.

Maybe the week has me a little jaundiced, but in addition to requesting that they note the conversation in your file, I'd also ask for their name and any other identifying information. Call it accountability, CYA (covering your ass), or extreme type-A behavior -- it's necessary in a business world wherein just saying a conversation took place doesn't give you a leg to stand on.

We want to tell your story! (Confidentiality guaranteed, for you and your employer.) Please contact Elana Centor at, or leave her a message at 825-9205 (then hit 102 for her voicemail).