The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons

The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons

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The clinical psychologist Jon Freeman was feeling burnt out. He spent
his days at a corporate office in Manhattan, managing dozens of research
assistants as they tested pharmaceuticals on people with anxiety,
depression, and insomnia. Looking for an escape hatch, he noticed that his
daughter often had nothing to do after school. She would pick up her
Nintendo Wii controller and drift “into this world of digital
isolation,” Freeman recalled. From time to time, he enticed her back
into social existence with board games. “Then I had this idea: Couldn’t
we do this on a larger scale? Could we expand this to our neighborhood?”

Freeman quit his job, and, shortly thereafter, in 2011, the first
customers—initially, his daughter’s friends—arrived at his pop-up board-game club and café, Brooklyn Strategist, a place where children and
their parents could sit down and play games, both classic and obscure,
over veggie platters and homemade ginger ale. Looking back at his work
in the research lab, he paired cognitive-ability tests with the board games that he had on hand, and divided these amusements
by brain function—kids worked their way around their frontal lobes a die roll at a time.

One day, a child who had grown tired of a sports-statistics game asked if Freeman had heard of the role-playing game
Dungeons & Dragons, and if they could play it. The game has no board
and no cards. Occasionally, players make use of maps. At its best, it’s
a story told between the players, who control characters (elves,
dwarves, gnomes, humans), and the Dungeon Master, who describes the
world and uses dice to determine outcomes in the second person (“You
come across a band of orcs, travelling down the road. What do you do?”).
Freeman refused for a week or two—the game was too open-ended, and didn’t have a straightforward cognitive benefit—but the customer persisted, so he went up into his parents’
attic, dug out all his old D. & D. manuals, and wrote an adventure. “I tried
to give them a little flavor of everything,” he told me, “A little
dungeon crawl, a little fighting monsters. They ate it up.” Word got
out. A few months later, a parent stopped him on the street with tears
in her eyes. “What are you guys doing?” she asked him. Her son was
dyslexic and had been role-playing at Brooklyn Strategist for a couple
of weeks. Before D. & D., he couldn’t focus on writing for more than a few
seconds. Now he was staying up all night to draft stories about his
character. “Whatever it is, bottle it and sell it to me,” the mother said.

Freeman got a permanent space in 2012 and added French-press coffee. A
few months later, Gygax, a once defunct magazine named for the
Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, chose Brooklyn Strategist to
host its relaunch party. A reporter for Wired, covering the event,
asked the magazine’s founders why they wanted to waste their energy on
such a publication (not to mention such a store) when “it’s video
games, not Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs, that are getting all the
attention?” This attention, it seems, has shifted. Two popular
role-playing shows, “The Adventure Zone” and “Critical Role,” sent
Freeman’s older patrons to their knees, begging for more D. & D. time in the store.
Soon, Freeman had to hire half a dozen paid Dungeon Masters for the kids and has now
begun training volunteer Dungeon Masters to guide adventures for the adults
who drop in on Thursdays to fight goblins, trick castle guards, and
drink wine.

Dungeons & Dragons nights have spread into classrooms and game stores
across the country. Forty dollars in Portland, Oregon, gets you into
Orcs! Orcs! Orcs!, a “Tavern-inspired” pop-up restaurant with D. & D.
games and artisanal delicacies. (One night, it boasted “tankards of beer” and “a whole roast pig.”) In Massachusetts, snow or shine, a
series of role-playing camps called Guard Up offers children the chance to chase
each other through the fields of Burlington with foam swords and Nerf blasters, while
somehow also learning. (Each summer, in one camp, novels like “Animal Farm” or “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” are adapted into a mock zombie apocalypse that is
then played out by the campers. In another, at a moment of detente,
Gandalf might appear on the edge of a running track to give physics
lessons.) “I’ve had parents get very upset with me,” said Freeman, who
recently opened another store near Columbia University. “Because they
sign their kids up for role playing and my staff is trying to expand
their horizons beyond D. & D. and into other independent games. But the
parents are, like, ‘If they can’t play D. & D., then I don’t know if this
is going to work.’ ”

This turn of events might shock a time traveller from the twentieth
century. In the seventies and eighties, Dungeons & Dragons, with its
supernatural themes, became the fixation of an overheated news media in
the midst of a culture war. Role players were seen as closet cases, the
least productive kind of geek, retreating to basements to open maps,
spill out bags of dice, and light candles by which to see their medieval
figurines. They squared with no one. Unlike their hippie peers, they had
dropped out without bothering to tune in. On the other side of politics,Christian moralists’ cries of the occult and anxiety about witchcraft
followed D. & D. players everywhere. Worse still, parents feared how
this enveloping set of lies about druids in dark cloaks and paladins on
horseback could tip already vulnerable minds off the cliff of reality.
At the end of the 1982 TV movie “Mazes and Monsters,” a troubled gamer,
played by a pre-fame Tom Hanks, loses touch and starts to believe that
he really does live beside an evil wood in need of heroes. “He saw the
monsters. We did not,” his ex-girlfriend says in a voice-over. “We saw
nothing but the death of hope, and the loss of our friend.”

Decades passed, D. & D. movies and cartoons came and went, and the game
remade itself over and over. But interest fell like an orc beneath a
bastard sword. The game’s designers, surrounded by copycats and
perplexed about how to bring D. & D. online, made flat-footed attempts at
developing new rule books to mimic the video games that D. & D. had
inspired. Gygax died, in 2008, occasioning a wealth of tributes but
little enthusiasm. Then, a fifth edition of D. & D. rules came out, in 2014, and, somehow, the culture was receptive again to bags
of holding and silver-haired drow. People started buying up these
volumes in droves. “More people are interested in D&D than we thought,”
the game’s lead developer, Mike Mearls, said, as print runs repeatedly sold out. “Who are these people? What do they
want?”

In 2017, gathering your friends in a room, setting your devices aside,
and taking turns to contrive a story that exists largely in your head
gives off a radical whiff for a completely different reason than it did
in 1987. And the fear that a role-playing game might wound the
psychologically fragile seems to have flipped on its head. Therapists
use D. & D. to get troubled kids to talk about experiences that might
otherwise embarrass them, and children with autism use the game to
improve their social skills. Last year, researchers found that a group
of a hundred and twenty-seven role players exhibited above-average
levels of empathy, and a Brazilian study from 2013 showed that
role-playing classes were an extremely effective way to teach cellular
biology to medical undergraduates.

Adult D. & D. acolytes are everywhere now, too. The likes of Drew Barrymore
and Vin Diesel regularly take up the twenty-sided die (or at least
profess to do so). Tech workers from Silicon Valley to Brooklyn have
long-running campaigns, and the showrunners and the novelist behind “Game of
Thrones” have all been Dungeon Masters. (It’s also big with comedy
improvisers in Los Angeles, but it’s no surprise that theatre kids have
nerdy hobbies.) Nevertheless, the image of the recluse persists even
among fans. “We’re going to alienate ninety-nine per cent of the people
out there right now,” Stephen Colbert told Anderson Cooper last year, on
“The Late Show,” as they fondly recalled their respective turns as an
elven thief and a witch. “The shut-in at home is really excited,” Cooper
replied. “Neckbeards,” Colbert added.

The “neckbeards” may be more numerous now than he and Cooper realize.
“The Big Bang Theory” is a sitcom about young scientists at CalTech who
spend most of their time shuttling between their laboratories and the
comic-book store. The show’s protagonists also play a lot of D. & D. In one
episode, a theoretical physicist takes on the guise of the Dungeon
Master to relieve a microbiologist of her distress over the restraints
of her pregnancy. She pretends, for an evening, to live in a world where
only men are with child (“Your husband is home trying not to pee when he
laughs”), to drink ale out of the skull of a goblin, and to eat sushi
made from the meat of a monster that she has butchered herself. Fourteen
million people tuned in.

Dungeons & Dragons seems to have been waiting for us somewhere under the
particular psyche of this generation, a psyche that may have been coaxed
into fantasy mania by the media that surrounded it. Many were seeded
with “Harry Potter” books as children, raised with the “Lord of the
Rings” movies (and more “Harry Potter” in cinematic splendor), and
brought to blossom in adulthood by “Game of Thrones” on television. Let
us not forget the imminent return of “Stranger Things,” a show in which
something akin to Dungeons & Dragons not only literally lurks in the
wings but is also played by the central characters.

Last year, Dan Harmon, the creator of “Community” and an avid D. & D.
player, produced and starred in “HarmonQuest,” a role-playing television
show with celebrity guests. He offered his theory of the game’s
popularity: we have always been geeks, but we didn’t know how to break
it to each other. Being a nerd is “not about IQ or different
characteristics, it’s all about obsession and focus and taking something
seriously,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “The internet really allowed
everyone to realize that everyone was a nerd.” Sometimes the Internet
reveals these truths even more plainly. In a recent article for The Atlantic, about the rise of white supremacy in the U.S., Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote of “eldritch energies” released by an “orcish reality-television star.” When someone on Twitter pointed out his word
choice, Coates replied, “Dungeon & Dragons was my first literature—that
and hip-hop. Can’t escape who you are.”

Although, no doubt, escaping is part of the draw. Observe the throngs
that have harkened the call to break out dice and pencils for a fight
against a demon lord and you might think it’s not that something hidden
has come to light but, rather, that the terms of hiding have changed. When
mainstream American culture was largely about standing in a factory
line, or crowding into smoke-stained boardrooms for meetings, or even
dropping acid and collapsing in a field for your hundred-person “be-in,”
the idea of retiring to a dimly lit table to make up stories with three or
four friends seemed fruitless and antisocial. Now that being American
often means being alone or interacting distantly—fidgeting with
Instagram in a crosswalk, or lying prone beneath the heat of a laptop
with Netflix streaming over you—three or four people gathering in the
flesh to look each other in the eye and sketch out a world without
pixels can feel slightly rebellious, or at least pleasantly out of
place.

Thirty or forty years ago, people reached through the dice-rolling
mathematics of Dungeons & Dragons for a thrilling order that video games, and the world at large,
couldn’t yet provide. Today, the chaos of physical dice is reassuringly
clunky and slow compared to the speed with which you nervously tally the
likes under a Facebook post. Rejecting your feed for an evening isn’t
like rejecting the God-fearing community that reared you, but something
heretical lingers in this lo-fi entertainment.

To be sure, the latest generation of dungeon delvers has also brought in
new technologies to help conduct what might otherwise be a freeform
narrative. Dungeon Masters often keep computers nearby to look up
forgotten rules or project maps of fantasy villages onto walls and move
characters across them like chess pieces. Many players sit at separate
screens, with microphones at their chins, and cast their spells by video
conference.

And yet the emphasis, even these days, is not on such forms but on
moving beyond them. A decade ago, when developers attempted to bring
Dungeons & Dragons into the twenty-first century by stuffing it with
rules so that it might better resemble a video game, the glue of the
game, the narrative aspect that drew so many in, melted away. Players
hacked monsters to death, picked up treasure, collected experience
points, and coolly moved through preset challenges. The plotters of the
game’s fifth edition seemed to remember that D. & D.’s strength lay in
creating indulgent spaces (get lost in your gnomish identity, quest or
don’t, spend time flirting in the tavern) and opposing whatever modes of
human industry prevailed among the broader public. D. & D. now has
vastly simpler rules than those found in an iTunes terms-and-conditions agreement. The
structures the designers made are also simpler and more subjective. If a
player thinks of something clever, you don’t have to thumb through a
handbook for a strictly defined bonus. The Dungeon Master can ponder the
idea for a moment—could a dwarf with low charisma, with a few
well-chosen compliments, really convince a city of elves to love
him?—and then decide to reward the player with an extra chance to
succeed.

Game engineers have begun to describe D. & D. as though it were crafted
as a pastime for Bronze Age poets. “Ever since we were primitive sitting
around campfires, we’ve been telling stories to each other, and
listening to each other tell stories to each other,” a D. & D. designer
explained. “There’s really nothing out there that can perfectly emulate
it digitally.” And we know that Gygax would approve. Earlier this year,
a graphic novel titled “Rise of the Dungeon Master,” based on interviews for a Wired article by David Kushner, depicted the D. & D. creator
robed and on a throne, playing one final session just before his death.
“D&D is not an online game,” he told Kushner. “There is no role-playing
in an online game that can match what happens in person.”

I’ve found this, too, at my own table. A few months ago, I was in San Francisco running D. & D. games for three
groups of people. They came to my house to take a break from their
careers at Google or Airbnb, or their Ph.D. dissertations on Soviet film
or medieval manners. For three or four hours, they would concentrate
instead on how they could convince a goblin to overthrow his king.
During one game, a player felt his phone shaking in his pocket, revealed
its glowing surface, and, from three thousand miles away, saw the news
that the national-security adviser Michael Flynn had resigned from the
Trump Administration. “Put it away,” another player snapped. “That’s
what I came here to escape.”

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October 24, 2017 at 04:16PM

5 Reasons to Get the Platinum Card from American Express

5 Reasons to Get the Platinum Card from American Express

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With so many premium credit card choices on the market, it can be stressful to pick one that’s right for you, especially since high-end credit cards come with high annual fees. But it’s also true that often you get what you pay for, so here are five top reasons the Platinum Card from American Express can be worth your hard-earned cash.

1. The Best Domestic Lounges — and Many More

There’s no better domestic lounge network than the American Express Centurion Lounges, and with the eighth US location scheduled to open in Philadelphia at the end of October — plus the first international Centurion Lounge now open in Hong Kong — you’ll have more and more layovers with these top-notch lounges available. Amex recently tightened up its rules on the purchase of day passes, so if you want to get into a Centurion Lounge, the only keys to the doors are Amex Platinum or Centurion cards.

Amex PHL Centurion Lounge Preview
The brand new Centurion Lounge in Philadelphia is scheduled to open in October 2017.

But eight Centurion Lounges are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lounge access with the Amex Platinum. The card will also get you into any of 33 Delta Sky Clubs in the world when you’re flying on Delta, and the Platinum’s Priority Pass membership gives you access to over 1,000 additional lounges worldwide, including free food and drinks at an ever-expanding number of airport restaurants and bars.

2. $200 Airline Fee Credit

The personal Amex Platinum comes with a substantial $550 annual fee, but if you travel with any regularity, it’s extremely easy to get more than a third of that cost back each and every year. That’s because the annual $200 airline fee credit that comes with the card can be used to offset a wide variety of airline fees, including checked bag fees, change fees, pet fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases and even airline gift cards in some circumstances.

The downside to the credit — other than it not being applicable to airfare — is that you’ll have to choose one exclusive airline each year to use for your fee credit. But even with that restriction, it’s not terribly difficult to maximize this benefit and get $200 in true travel value on an annual basis.

3. $200 Uber Credit

When Amex raised the annual fee on the Platinum card earlier this year, the company also added a significant new benefit — a $15 Uber credit every month and up to $35 in December. Again, if you travel on a regular basis or live in a major city, you shouldn’t have much trouble using up this credit every month on an Uber ride or two, which offsets the annual cost of this card by another $200.

Uber
Monthly Uber credits come as an added benefit of the Amex Platinum. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Even if you don’t happen to need an Uber in any given month, as of this writing you can use the $15 credit on Uber Eats for a food delivery to your house or workplace if the service is offered in your area. So don’t dismiss the value of this perk — even if you don’t use ride-sharing services, it can still bring you a free lunch.

4. Elite Status at Hotels and Car Rental Chains

No other premium credit card comes with elite status at as many hotel and car rental companies as the Amex Platinum. On the hotel side, you’ll get Gold status at both Hilton and Starwood Preferred Guest, and thanks to the merger between Starwood and Marriott, you can match that SPG status to Marriott Gold as well. That’s three major hotel chains where you’ll be able to get extra perks just for having the Platinum card.

On the car rental side, you’ll get complimentary elite status with Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Emerald Club Executive memberships. Those perks can help the often stressful experience of renting a car go a little more smoothly.

5. Points, Points, Points!

Finally, the personal Amex Platinum card is currently offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus after you make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months of cardmembership. That’s the highest publicly available sign-up bonus the card has ever had (though some folks are occasionally targeted for higher bonuses). Those 60,000 points are worth $1,140 based on TPG’s most recent monthly valuations, and that’s on top of all the benefits mentioned above.

IMG-delta-main-cabin-ife-a350
Airfare purchases made directly with the airline earn 5 points per dollar spent on the Amex Platinum.

And once you’ve got the card, you can earn 5 points per dollar spent on airfare and hotel purchases. You’ll need to book through Amex Travel to earn the hotel category bonus, but the 5x on airfare can be earned by booking directly with any airline. That’s a better category bonus on airfare than any other credit card on the market, including even the business version of the Platinum card (which requires airline purchases to go through Amex Travel in order to get the 5x multiplier).

Bottom Line

The Platinum Card from American Express isn’t a cheap card, so it’s not surprising that it comes with so many benefits. If you don’t travel a lot and won’t be able to take advantage of those perks, a less-expensive card might be more appropriate for you. But if you fly even just a handful of times a year and want to make your days on the road a little bit easier, you should consider whether the Amex Platinum might make sense for you.

For more information on the card, check out the following posts:

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October 24, 2017 at 04:15PM

Expedia Axes Its Price-Matching Guarantee in a Sharp Break From the Past

Expedia Axes Its Price-Matching Guarantee in a Sharp Break From the Past

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Corp Amman Hotel

The Corp Amman Jordan hotel is available for booking on Expedia’s website but forget about any price- matching guarantee from Expedia. Corp Amman Hotel

Skift Take: Expedia’s move seems odd, as hotel chains ramp up their direct-booking campaigns that include best-price guarantees. Our guess is that the company tested and found that most consumers are no longer swayed by price-matching offers. Or perhaps there was pressure from ongoing probes in Europe.

— Sean O’Neill

For years, Expedia.com, the flagship brand of online booking conglomerate Expedia Inc., joined the industrywide practice of claiming that consumers would always get the best prices for travel on its websites and apps. But on October 18, Expedia-branded websites worldwide dropped that long-standing offer, Skift has learned.

Until then in the U.S., Expedia had offered to match the price and provide a $50 travel coupon for bookers who found a cheaper flight, vacation package, rental car, cruise, or activity on other publicly available sites within 24 hours of the reservation. Similar offers were made in other countries worldwide.

Asked to comment about the move, Expedia Inc. spokeswoman Sarah Gavin told Skift:  “Our marketplace, as well as the broader landscape, has evolved so much that there are so many easier ways to save than there were when this was invented. Our customers now have their hands on the savings steering wheel themselves. They don’t need the old booster seat anymore.”

The company did not explain the business rationale behind the decision. Had the guarantee lost effectiveness over time? Were the types of consumers who went to the trouble to submit complaints cheapskates the company no longer wanted to spend money supporting?

Or did the company fear that regulators in other markets, such as Europe, might find the notion of a price-matching guarantee a distortion of market pricing — perhaps putting independent hotel owners at a disadvantage because they didn’t have a comparable prowess at digital marketing? French watchdogs currently are pursuing Expedia and other companies about their contract terms, though not the price-matching guarantees.

One possible explanation is that Expedia wanted to enhance the perk for its loyalty program members, who are its most-frequent bookers.

Another Expedia spokesperson, Nisreene Atassi,said that + silver members of the company’s Expedia + loyalty program (meaning people who have booked at least 7 nights of travel or spend $5,000 within the past year) will still enjoy the price-guarantee policy as a perk for hotels specifically, but the best-price guarantee for other travel purchases is no longer active even for them.

Atassi did not say that the loyalty program was the reason for the move. “In terms of the thinking behind the decision, we are confident in the strength of our marketplace and the wide array of options we offer travelers from over a million flights, hotels, packages,” the Expedia spokesperson said. “This allows our travelers to continue to find great deals to help them see the world and get to where they need to be.”

There are some suggestions the move came suddenly. Expedia’s Japanese website still hadn’t taken down its homepage promotion logo for the offer, though the page that had details on how to claim the guarantee has been taken down. Under that generous version of the offer, consumers who booked on Expedia Japan and found a publicly available lower rate on another Japan-based website within a day of their booking with Expedia could have received a refund of twice the difference, up to 20,000 Japanese yen, or about $175.

End of an Era?

The price-matching trend started with U.S. hotel chains. After the U.S. economy tanked in 2001, hoteliers saw a surge in bookings via new-on-the-scene online travel agencies like Expedia. The sudden uptick in commissions alarmed them. So Starwood debuted best-rate guarantees that promised the cheapest rates for their guest rooms would be on their own branded websites.

The marketing device was successful. By 2004, InterContinental, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott copied it because the promise instilled confidence in comparison-shopping consumers — and only a sliver of them attempted to make claims.

The marketing device was so successful, in fact, that online travel agencies — starting with Orbitz — soon introduced their own version of it: a promise to match rates found elsewhere. In 2012, Orbitz juiced up the offer to include a $50 voucher for future hotel bookings, and Travelocity matched it. Each added similar offers for package vacations. Soon after, Expedia copied the move for all travel products.

Terms varied. But in general, consumers had a limited time, such as 24 hours, to comparison shop. The rate found elsewhere had to be for the identical product (both nonsmoking king beds with ocean views) for the identical travel dates. The guarantees excluded many things, such as discounts for particular membership clubs like AAA, travel sold via wholesalers and private sale websites, and the like.

In short, consumers often griped that the price-matching offers had too many restrictions and claims were too frequently rejected, as consumer watchdog Christopher Elliott has often reported.

When it came to hotels, Expedia had one of the most generous price-matching guarantees. It promised to refund the difference and give a consumer a $50 travel coupon for future travel if they found a cheaper rate on their hotel reservation up to two days before their check-in.

It is unclear whether Expedia sister brands will drop the guarantees, too.

As of today, Expedia Inc.-owned Travelocity, Orbitz, and Hotels.com all still had price-matching offers — though the offers are not prominent. It took some sleuthing, for instance, to find Hotels.com’s once well-advertised price guarantee.

Orbitz and Travelocity only have two words on their home pages mentioning their price guarantees, while Hotels.com states that “we provide incomparable choice with a Price Guarantee” but then offers no link to it from its homepage.

Meanwhile, arch-rival Booking.com still offers a price-matching guarantee on its hotel listings. Priceline.com also continued to prominently tout its best rate offer. No doubt the company and its Priceline Group sister brands will be watching Expedia’s move with interest.

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October 24, 2017 at 04:04PM

Who Can I Share Ultimate Rewards Points With?

Who Can I Share Ultimate Rewards Points With?

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Chase Ultimate Rewards points are the most valuable rewards currency out there. They’re flexible, offer valuable transfer partners, and are easy to redeem. But between the 5/24 rule and concerns over shut downs, earning them has become more difficult. Luckily, Chase does allow points to be shared between accounts. This makes it much easier to accrue these points.

The question I always get asked is “Who can I share Ultimate Rewards points with?” The rules have changed over the years, but overall it’s gotten less restrictive. Or at least the pool of people you can transfer them to has expanded. Here is an overview of Ultimate Rewards transfer policies for personal vs. business cards:

 

Chase Ink Plus, Ink Business Preferred

If you have an Ink Plus or Ink Business Preferred card, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to an account belonging to you, someone in your household, or a business co-owner. The business co-owner must be an authorized user to qualify for a transfer. Want to transfer points directly to someone else’s airline or hotel account? This is only possible if the other person is an authorized user and either a member of your household or a company owner. That’s not a big deal since Chase doesn’t charge a fee for adding authorized users to these accounts.

Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Preserve

Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited cardholders can move their rewards to another account as long as that person is a household member. Why would you transfer “cash back” to Ultimate Rewards? Because there is more flexibility in Ultimate Rewards points than cash back. More importantly, the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve both offer bonuses when you redeem your points through Ultimate Rewards Travel.

 

When it comes to transferring points from a personal account to an airline or hotel partner, pretty much the same rules apply as for the personal cards. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards to a airline or hotel rewards account belonging to a member of your household who is an authorized user on your account. Very reasonable rules, considering most people won’t want to transfer points to anyone outside of their household anyway. Sure, it sucks that they can’t be shared with friends, but overall these are very sensible transfer rules.

Ultimate Rewards transfers used to be restricted to spouses/partners only. The new rules were implemented about two years ago. A lot of people were upset, but I see this as a positive change. The pool of qualified transfer recipients has expanded, making it possible to share points with more people. Overall, this was a positive change that I think many people appreciate today – especially in light of the 5/24 rule implementation. Points aren’t as easily acquired anymore and being able to pool them together is a huge plus.

I want to hear from you: Who do you transfer Ultimate Rewards points to and how often? Did the 2015 transfer rules work out in your favor?

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October 24, 2017 at 04:03PM

New Skift Research: U.S. Experiential Traveler Trends 2018

New Skift Research: U.S. Experiential Traveler Trends 2018

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Skift Take: The data collected from our second annual Experiential Traveler Survey presents a deep dive into the mindset of the modern traveler. We dig into their values, attitudes, travel behavior, and more.

— meghan

Today we are publishing the full results of our second annual U.S. Experiential Traveler Survey. In our report entitled, U.S. Experiential Traveler Trends 2018: Skift Research’s Annual Survey & Data Analysis on Traveler Behavior, Motivations & Preferences. we take a statistical look into the following attributes of the avid U.S. traveler:

  • Domestic and international trip incidence
  • Travel motivations and trip planning
  • Top motivators for leisure travel
  • Personal values about wellness and well-being
  • Incidence on rental accommodations across brands
  • Preference rates for hotel vs. rental accommodations
  • Satisfaction rates on Airbnb rentals
  • Preferences for on-property hotel amenities
  • Hotel spending habits and booking channels
  • Accommodation and airline brand preferences
  • Attitudes toward leisure trip planning
  • Attitudes toward sources of user-generated reviews
  • Incidence based on destination type
  • In-destination traveler behavior
  • And more

We fielded our 55-question survey with a trusted panel provider to collect responses from over 2,300 U.S. residents. In the data, we discovered a lot about U.S. travelers.

 

Did you know that:

  • 50 percent of travelers would rather not feel like tourists while traveling.
  • 70 percent of travelers feel like they have a strong emotional connection to the places that they visit.
  • 3 out of 10 travelers would rather not share their travel photos on social media.
  • Less than 20 percent of travelers post travel photos on Instagram.

Our consumer survey results are full of insightful data points that you can use in your presentations and strategic planning efforts.

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Did you know that 10 percent of U.S. residents have never heard of Airbnb?

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A majority of avid travelers report having a preferred airline, with Southwest coming out as the most preferred over other full-service carriers.

Survey results indicate that avid travelers are motivated to travel by a variety of factors. When forced to make an “either-or” selection, however, experiencing new things is prioritized over relaxation.

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October 24, 2017 at 03:35PM

Delta Is Hiring More Than 1,000 Flight Attendants in 2018

Delta Is Hiring More Than 1,000 Flight Attendants in 2018

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Delta Air Lines is hiring more than 1,000 flight attendants. But, before you prep your résumé and send out your application, there are a couple caveats. First, it’s incredibly selective — last year, fewer than 1% of applicants were chosen — and second, the pay is pretty abysmal, starting around $25,000 per year.

For 2017’s round of hiring, the company received 150,000 applications for around 1,200 positions. Of the 150,000 applicants, 35,000 were chosen to complete video interviews, and from there only 6,000 people got in-person interviews. In all, fewer than 1% of all applicants were chosen to become flight attendants.

Given how selective Delta’s hiring process is for those who want to become ambassadors for the airline, you would think new hirees would be offered competitive pay, right? Delta apparently thinks otherwise. According to CNN Money, average entry-level flight attendants earn around $25,000 per year, which can vary depending on a flight attendant’s work schedule. Other benefits include 401(k) with a company match and profit-sharing program, plus travel benefits for themselves and family members.

If the less-than-ideal pay and daunting task of applying haven’t turned you away yet, here’s what you’ll need to know about what exactly Delta is looking for. You must have a high school degree or GED, the ability to work in the US, speak fluent English and be at least 21 years old by January 1, 2018. You must also have a flexible schedule. According to Delta, the best résumés will include:

  • More than one year of work experience in a personalized customer service, patient care or similar role
  • Experience in a role ensuring the safety and/or care of others (teacher, military, EMT, firefighter, coach, law enforcement, lifeguard, nurse, etc.)
  • Education beyond high school
  • Fluency in a language other than English: These applicants are considered for “Language of Destination” flight attendant roles, which offer additional pay as well as special responsibilities.

If you are one of the more than 1,000 chosen to become a Delta flight attendant in 2018, the training process will be grueling. The top priority for Delta flight attendants is to ensure the safety and comfort of all passengers, so you’ll learn how to put out fires, perform CPR and more in order to keep the flight safe. Plus, there’s the fun stuff, like learning how to properly present a Delta One meal.

Flight attendants have many responsibilities — and sometimes have to deal with rude passengers. So, in that sense, it’s a shame that Delta doesn’t pay its flight attendants a competitive salary. On the other hand, however, if you have a flexible schedule and a history in the service industry, this could be a job that will allow you to see the world.

Featured image by Delta.

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October 24, 2017 at 03:15PM

Key West Florida Gets Its Iconic Symbol Back After Hurricane Irma Damage

Key West Florida Gets Its Iconic Symbol Back After Hurricane Irma Damage

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Rob O'Neal  / Florida Keys News Bureau via Associated Press

In this photo, artist Danny Acosta completes lettering the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. marker October 23, 2017, in Key West, Florida. One of the most-photographed tourism icons in the Florida Keys was pummeled by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10, stripping most of the paint and a large chunk of stucco. Rob O’Neal / Florida Keys News Bureau via Associated Press

Skift Take: Sometimes storm recovery involves more than just repairing roofs and power lines. Restoring a place’s sense of identity must be part of the healing process, as well.

— Dennis Schaal

Artists have restored one of the most photographed tourism icons in the Florida Keys after it was damaged by Hurricane Irma.

The last brush strokes were placed on the “Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A.” marker Monday.

The red, yellow, black and white marker, a massive 4-ton cement monument that resembles a giant marine navigational buoy, is located beside the Atlantic Ocean. It proclaims that Key West is 90 miles from Havana.

Irma pummeled the marker Sept. 10, knocking out a large piece of stucco and stripping much of its paint.

Despite damage to the marker, Key West was not seriously impacted by Hurricane Irma’s passage through the Keys. The region reopened to visitors Oct. 1, although some harder-hit areas of the 125-mile island chain continue to recover.

Copyright (2017) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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October 24, 2017 at 03:07PM

Why being passive can be unhealthy for revenue management

Why being passive can be unhealthy for revenue management

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‘Passive’ revenue management (PRM) takes human intervention out of the equation. It means complete reliance on the sophisticated analytical model for setting fares – letting the sophisticated forecast and optimisation model allocate inventory across fare levels, and price dynamically based on a vast database of historic performance. 

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October 24, 2017 at 02:51PM

When British Authors Write American Dialogue, or Try To

When British Authors Write American Dialogue, or Try To

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P. D. Viner is a British crime writer who has published two novels and
two long novellas. Recently, he completed a manuscript titled “The
Funeral Director,” which is set in western New York. Viner was born and
raised in South London; his prose, naturally, tends to have a British
accent. “I feel like I’ve got a very good handle of American idioms,” he
told me. Still, he wanted this book, and particularly its American
characters, to sound as American as possible. He felt that he couldn’t
be too careful.

He asked an American reader to vet his manuscript, hoping to eliminate
any slip-ups—the British “windscreen” for the American “windshield,”
that sort of thing. Ultimately, he decided that asking just one reader
was insufficient. He ended up relying on a dozen Americans, including
eight who read the entire book. One was a ghostwriter in Virginia; two
were high-school teachers; some were people he met through Facebook.
Each found at least one Britishism in the text that had not been
identified by someone else. Viner had written “hired car” instead of
“rental car,” “ring off” instead of “hang up.” (He didn’t pay his
vetters, but he plans to acknowledge them in the finished book, he
said.)

Viner’s precaution is extreme but understandable: it’s fairly common for
British writers to create ostensibly American characters who give
themselves away in dialogue. The writer need not even be British,
necessarily: Lionel Shriver is an American writer who has lived in the
U.K. for many years. Her most recent novel, “The Mandibles: A Family,
2029-2047
,” imagines a financial apocalypse set entirely in the United States, albeit in the future. All of the
major characters are American. And yet a father assures his son that a
set of silverware “could come in useful.” A woman signs off a telephone
conversation with her sister by deploying a British term of endearment:
“Bye, puppet.” A woman tells a child, “You’re a bit young to
send into the fields. I could be done for violating child labor laws.”
(The lingering Britishisms are especially curious because other aspects
of the text and dialogue are Americanized—even the novel’s British
edition uses “z” rather than “s” in words like “apologize” and
“publicized.”)

“My publishers think I have become some kind of linguistic moron,”
Shriver told me. “In truth, I am one of the better sources for what is
and is not British or American usage. However, I do sometimes become
uncertain.” Such uncertainty may be on the rise. “It’s becoming more
complicated,” the British author Nick Hornby told me in an e-mail, “what
with all the borrowing and the lending of phrases. ‘Do we say that here
now?’ Quite often, the answer is yes.”

Hornby and Shriver have both spent a good deal of time on both sides of
the Atlantic; other writers and editors who go back and forth between
the U.K. and the U.S. told me that increased cross-pollination creates
confusion. Several were quick to point out that the lines between
British and American English are hardly fixed. In Hornby’s novel
A Long Way Down,” from 2005, three Britons and an American encounter each other, on
New Year’s Eve, on the rooftop of a London tower, each having arrived
with suicidal intentions. The American character, JJ, initially reveals
his nationality by referring to a “cell phone” instead of a “mobile.” But
the use of “mobile” seems to have grown in the U.S. in the years since.
(And, of course, these days, many people are likely to call such devices
“phones.”)

The inverse situation—American-created British characters with
off-sounding diction—appears to be less prevalent, everyone agreed,
perhaps because many American writers are too unfamiliar with, or
intimidated by, British usage and slang to even try. (They may also have
less occasion to do so.) Shriver, in any case, has been criticized from
this direction as well: some British reviewers of her novel “The
Post-Birthday World
,” from 2007, attacked the Cockney slang of one of its
characters—a charge Shriver labels “ludicrous.”

Instances of American characters speaking British English may, on
occasion, be at least partly intentional. While an author may wish to
make an American character sound American, doing so can confuse or at
least distract British readers. (This is especially true for children’s
books, one author pointed out—what kind of ear for American idiom is the
average British seven-year-old likely to have?) Shriver’s books, for
instance, are published in the U.K. first, and generally sell better
there than in the U.S. It would be reasonable to think that her primary
audience is British.

And there are economic incentives for keeping British idioms in a book.
When an American publisher buys the rights to publish a British novel,
the cheapest and easiest tactic is to buy the book’s “films”: a digital
version of the printed page and its layout. The next level of expense
would be to commission a copy editor to “Americanize” a
manuscript—taking out the “u” in “colour,” switching some “s”s to “z”s.
But if an editor begins to change substantial portions of the book to
correct for diction, then the publisher may need to get the author’s
approval, and the book may need to be copy-edited again, and possibly
even laid out anew. This can quickly become both an expense and a chore.

Viner happens to be married to an American professor of linguistics,
Lynne Murphy, who teaches at the University of Sussex and writes a blog
called Separated by a Common Language. Next year, she will publish a
book, “The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American
and British English
.” Novelists, Murphy told me, tend to put their
energy into crafting things that a character would say—it’s a less
intuitive exercise to try and weed out what a character wouldn’t say.
“It’s like trying to prove a negative,” she said.

What’s more, making an extra effort to perfect American dialogue may
have risks, Hornby suggested. “Paying American characters special
attention can backfire—you spend too much time shoehorning words like
‘sidewalk’ and ‘diaper’ into places where they don’t properly belong,
just to show you’re thinking about it,” he explained. “In my opinion,
less is more, just as it is when you’re writing, period. Readers don’t
want to be distracted, either by egregious errors or impeccable
research.”

Even so, Hornby says he wouldn’t dream of letting an American character
go unvetted. “I have American friends, and I have an American editor,”
he told me. Hornby is also a screenwriter. “American actors wouldn’t let
me get away with anything that didn’t sound right to them. I think I
have a lot of safety nets.”

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October 24, 2017 at 02:01PM

Airbnb Head of China Operations Departs as Co-Founder Settles Into New Role

Airbnb Head of China Operations Departs as Co-Founder Settles Into New Role

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Waldo Swiegers  / Bloomberg

The next domino just fell in China as the head of Airbnb’s China operation departed after a few months on the Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk’s recent ascension to the post of chairman of Airbnb China and now Hong Ge’s departure as head of its China operation are all part of the housecleaning the company feels it needs in the strategic market. Despite all the swagger about Airbnb’s growth, it’s obvious from the latest changes that the trajectory of the company’s China position wasn’t going according to plan.

— Dennis Schaal

In a blow to Airbnb Inc., the head of the company’s China business has left four months after taking the top job there.

Hong Ge, a former software engineer at Facebook and Google, told colleagues he was leaving the company for another opportunity. His departure reflects the struggle Airbnb faces in China, where protectionist laws and fierce competitors have long humbled tech giants such as Uber Technologies Inc.. Just this month, its government forced Airbnb and other home-sharing companies to cancel bookings in Beijing’s city center in the lead up to the Communist Party Congress.

Airbnb has long regarded building a brand in China as vital, as affluent millennials travel more than ever before. It spent years raising money and preparing the groundwork to tackle local rivals Xiaozhu and Tujia, which just raised $300 million. While the company has offered properties there since 2013, this year Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky renamed the service “Aibiying” and pledged to double investment in China. It now complies with controversial laws that give local authorities access to users’ information.

In an email sent to colleagues, Ge didn’t elaborate on his reasons for leaving but reflected extensively on Airbnb’s breakneck pace of expansion in past months. Its offices have grown from 30 people to more than 120 in Parkview Green in Beijing, while total listings had doubled to 140,000 from 70,000 a year ago. Airbnb’s on track to double room-nights of Chinese origin to 8 million in 2017, and Ge also pointed out his team reduced instances of fraud from over 8 percent of gross bookings to less than 2 percent.

“It’s a very tough decision for me to leave behind all of what we have built together. But hey, it’s a small world. I will still be in the Internet industry,” he wrote. “I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future.” Ge didn’t respond to messages sent to his WeChat social media account.

Airbnb had searched unsuccessfully since 2015 to recruit a business chief for China, before finally promoting Ge from within. On June 1, Chesky told employees Ge would report directly to him. “This marks the end of what began as an external search for a China President,” he wrote. “As we met with candidates, it became clear that the best person to lead China was already inside our building.”

Ge was well-regarded by other executives in China’s shared housing space, including at rivals, who saw him as a potent mix of local know-how and Western expertise. On Oct. 21, Chesky sent another email: “Hong Ge, our VP of China, is stepping down to pursue opportunities outside of Airbnb.”

Cheksy told employees that Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk would be spending half his time on the China business and making monthly trips there. That management change was unexpected, two people familiar with the matter say. A team of senior executives, including Vice President of Employee Experience Beth Axelrod, descended on Airbnb’s Beijing office at the time of the announcement, they said, asking not to be identified discussing internal matters.

An Airbnb representative declined to comment.

Kum Hong Siew, who runs Airbnb’s business in the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, will now play an even more prominent role, though his portfolio is becoming unwieldy. He’s the deputy general counsel for the Asia-Pacific, the head of business for the region, and now the steward of the company’s operation in China. Siew has worked at Airbnb since 2012, when he joined after a nearly four-year stint as Yahoo’s general counsel for Southeast Asia.

–With assistance from David Ramli

 

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Olivia Zaleski and Eric Newcomer from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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October 24, 2017 at 01:35PM