Pampering people and pets, and scams and surcharges

by September 4, 2014

Another raft of ideas jotted on scrap paper or e-mailed to myself are in danger of sailing off into the horizon, so welcome to another installment of Quicktips, the place we salvage viable story pegs at risk of becoming forgotten flotsom.

Hotel fees.

In our increasing a la carte economy, hotel fees are the latest buzz — as the L.A. Times reports, a new survey finds that hotels will collect more than $6 billion in tacked-on charges for items ranging from early check-in to chilling your own Coke in the mini-bar.  It’s a story ripe for localizing, as KTAR did here, especially with convention and conference season getting into full swing.  Be sure to talk with event planners for professional and trade groups — how much of a turnoff are these surcharges?

Looking spiffy.

If you haven’t done your mancaping story yet, here’s an example from the Detroit News; they took a peg from Gillette’s introduction of a non-facial shaver “built for male terrain” to generate a story about men’s increased demand for grooming services boosting biz at area salons.  (I would be curious to hear local stores’ report on demand for that new male razor, too.)

Building for pets, not just people. 

Not long ago on a charity tour of old houses, I saw one where residents had converted a pantry into a sumptuous suite for their small dog, complete with scrollwork door replacing the solid door, a raised bed, dishes and more.  Beats having a crate in the middle of the den, I thought, and wondered how much that fancy millwork had cost.

Why me? Pooch wear

Photo: Flickr user Steph Carter

Turns out they were cheapskates compared to what some pet-owners are spending on built-from-scratch amenities for Roxie and Rex:  The Associated Press reported recently that at least one construction company is cashing in on the $55 billion American pet market with animal suites designed into new houses.   The 170 square-foot area (that’s more than a 12’x12′ bedroom, folks) includes tiled wash area, commercial dryer, bunk beds and more — even a washer/dryer and TV set for the pooches.   That builder, Standard Pacific Homes, is offering the pet suites in 190 developments so perhaps there’s one in your market — or check with other builders and remodelers on how animal amenities are being incorporated into houses.  Here’s a Gannett piece about microchip activated pet doors, a converted bath and even simple modifications like a drawer that holds a feeding station.

Another new phishing scam.

They’ve tried messages from funeral parlors and court clerks; now the e-mail trolls are using fake messages from toll collector EZ Pass to scare consumers into clicking on their fraudulent links, as Consumer Reports notes.  Information Week says phishing scams are at an “all-time high” and that hundreds of thousands of attacks in 2013 cost nearly $6 billion; IW warns that worker training is not keeping up with the scams.  We know big employers have IT departments aimed at foiling sophisticated hacks, but what are they doing to keep front-line employees from letting scammers in via innocent-looking e-mails?

Saline shortage. 

A shortage of IV solution continues to plague medical professionals;  I’ve been wanting to suggest localizing it and here’s a neat angle from the Columbus Dispatch about EMT workers now accounting for supplies via a high-tech vending machine.  And here’s a fresh look by the Denver Post at how hospitals are coping.