fundraising…with the rich and famous

Hubby called mid-day yesterday asking if I’d like to accompany him to a fundraiser. His company was one of the corporate donors, and he was asked to attend on the company’s behalf. Normally I prefer to settle in for the evening, especially when I’ve had a busy week running around doing whatever it is I do as a housewife. But since we’d not had a date night within the last month or so, I thought…”What the heck! Just go for it.” And so I did.

Of course it took some primping…and wriggling in and out of outfits…before I passed the visual test. I looked in the mirror…gave myself the once over…and decided that was as good as I was going to get. Hubby, on the other hand, always tells me I look…”beautiful!” I don’t always agree…but hey!…I’ll take it.

I had a chance to visit the Museum of Flight a...

Funny thing is my husband referred to the fundraiser as an “event.” After I hung up the phone, I said to myself “Event? What kind of event?” The only clue I had was that it was being held at the Museum of Flight. I’d been there on a couple of other occasions for cancer fundraisers. So I imagined we’d be attending something similar. Although my husband did say this wasn’t the same “event.”

Initially I thought I’d just dress up a pair of nice jeans with a tank and a knee-length jacket made of glittery threads. I imagined the crowd would be young and hip. After all, it was the Museum of Flight…not Benaroya Hall where the Seattle Symphony plays…or McCaw Hall where the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the opera perform.

As it turned out it’s a good thing I decided on a safer, more traditional floor length, brown, sleeveless jersey dress with matching lace jacket.

When we pulled up in front of the museum, we were greeted by young men hired to park cars. Waiting to greet us were young women in gowns with fur capes. A tent set up over the entrance was lit with chandeliers. The cement floor was covered in a red, outdoor carpet. And before ascending the stairs to the tent where we had to register our credit cards and pick up our bidding packets, we were greeted by a ritzy, black, L-107 2013 Lincoln MKZ Luxury Sedan…one of the items up for bid.

English: 737 body in the Museum of Flight, Sea...

I couldn’t help thinking…”This is going to be a mighty interesting evening.”

As it turned out the event was to raise funds for the museum and the educational opportunities it affords younger generations of pilots, aeronautical engineers, scientists, astronauts and the like. We were treated to a video of just such a young hopeful who today, at 24, is involved in retrieving photographs from outer space and deciphering what exactly it is they are viewing. She was on hand, as were several young pupils who hoped to follow in the doctor’s footsteps. Yes, Laura is now addressed as “Doctor.” 

It was evident from the high bidding that took place as the evening unfolded, that Mr. and Mrs. William Boeing of the Boeing Company, had brought along their monied friends.

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...

One of them was wearing a dress once belonging to Marilyn Monroe. Try as I might to get a glimpse of the woman who’d obviously succeeded in bidding for the famed celebrity’s clothing, I left without knowing for certain. If it had been the white one Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch, it would have been easy. My guess is it was the satin, white dress with large, black flowers that the star wore in her last film. The one in which she would’ve starred opposite Dean Martin. And the one Monroe more famously left in the middle of filming to fly to New York City’s Madison Square Garden to sing “Happy birthday…dear Mr. President. Happy birthday to you.” That was none other than…President Kennedy. Due to Monroe’s erratic behavior, the movie was finally completed with Doris Day and James Garner in the starring roles.

Last night’s “star,” the Lincoln sedan, donated by Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, as a personal favor to Mr. Boeing, ultimately sold for $45,000. It was valued at $49,500. Other big ticket items up for auction were…dinner for 8 hosted by Boeing Commercial Airlines President and CEO Ray Conner, and Alaska Airline‘s Chairman Bill Ayer…first class airfare on Alaska Airlines with hotel and reserved tickets to the 2014 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in NYC…lunch with the Boeings at their home followed by a “once-in-a-lifetime ride” on Miss Wahoo, their hydroplane…first-class air for 4 on Alaska Airlines to and from the Four Seasons Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii…Delta business class tickets and 3-night vacation at a Tuscan villa for two couples…and “Kentucky Derby experience for four with private jet air travel to Louisville” as guests of Bernt Bodal, Museum trustee and President and CEO of American Seafoods.

English: The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) begi...

One of the more interesting items which sold in excess of its $13,000 value was “to take the reins of the Hubble telescope and explore the universe…As Space Ambassador, you will receive the following:

  • An invitation for two to the exclusive finished spacecraft unveiling event, where YOU will be a guest of honor.
  • Your name etched into the actual historic spacecraft before it blasts into orbit!
  • At the event, you will mingle with the rockstar team at Planetary Resources that previously landed NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity on Mars.

Finally, once the spacecraft is in orbit, you will:

  • Receive a special pass to use the ARKYD’s Space Photobooth for THREE special personal occasions on demand. (get your selfie in space!)
  • Have the opportunity to propose a name for an asteroid discovered by the ARKYD.
  • Help educate the community by donating a school and classroom of your choice the chance to be among the first to control this starship through their very own educational program customized just for them. You will be their Space Ambassador as you help them encounter their INNER ASTRONAUT and explore the wonders of the universe with the ARKYD starship.

Launch estimated for 2015. Donated by Planetary Resources, Inc.

The evening’s piece de resistance, however, was funding the Museum of Flight’s educational programs. The goal was $300,000. Two couples donated $100,000 each, one of them included…the woman walking around in Marilyn Monroe’s dress. Others raised their paddles at $75,000…$50,000…on down to $500. Obviously there were more raised paddles at the bottom rung.

That’s where we normally jump in…at the $500 level. However early on in the bidding, hubby and I decided this fundraiser was not something we were moved to join. While we agreed with its mission, we’re more inclined to donate towards cancer research or some other social issue. It was obvious that The Museum of Flight had a plethora of wealthy donors who could probably give to various charities. We, on the other hand, are middle-class donors who must be selective since we’re not able to…burn through money like the big rollers.

These patrons of flight gave a whopping $450,000 toward the museum’s educational mission alone, surpassing their goal by $150,000. I would imagine the evening’s grand total probably approached $1,000,000. Not bad for one night’s work.

As I anticipated, the evening was fascinating for so many reasons…the money donated, the people, the food, our dinner companions and, of course, the flight memorabilia that surrounded us on all sides…some even floating overhead.

I heartily suggest that when you visit Seattle…you can skip the fundraiser, but…

…the museum of flight…is a must-see!!!…

………hugmamma. 

Seattle Museum Flight Mar05 48

 

comcast’s “secret weapon”

Comcast Center, the headquarters of Comcast - ...

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t say enough about the quality of service extended by Mark Casem of Comcast Corp’s National Customer Operations. In my professional life I had worked several positions in the service sector, first as a store salesperson and department manager, then as a health insurance customer service rep, and then in the airline industry in personnel as benefits supervisor. While the jobs could be tiresome and tedious some days, what job isn’t, the gratitude of those I helped gave me satisfaction. And what remains with me to this day is the desire to make a difference in someone else’s day…for the better. I’m hopeful I’m succeeding, in small part, with hugmamma’s mind, body and soul.

Singapore Airlines flight attendants

Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I both worked in the airline industry, which also requires public service. Airline employees today will agree, especially in the current economy, that their job security is dependent upon great customer service. Of course the range of quality is across the board, running the gamut from heavenly, like Singapore Airlines, to almost nonexistent in some of the larger carriers. My personal preference is Southwest who’s somewhere in the middle. But because their air fares are usually favorable, and their boarding procedures are quick, I would rank them a little higher. As a result I’ve not traveled on Delta or American in many years, and I can’t remember when I last flew United. Customer service is as important a consideration for me, as are prices and product. Jerk me around long enough and I will go elsewhere. Not a threat, just a fact.

I meet a lot of great people who service the public in restaurants, retail shops, banks, medical establishments, and other businesses, but a gem like Mark Casem is the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” But once found, he remains on hand, desiring to serve “above and beyond.” Lucky Comcast. Lucky me.

One Response to and the award goes to…

  1. ComcastMark says:

    Hello Hugmamma! I am happy to come across your blog again! I am glad to know this was addressed with the help of Mike. Mike Cardone is on of my colleagues (he works the later shift after I leave).

    I will share your daughter’s experience again to my contacts to make sure that they are all addressed and resolved. I am sorry that your daughter’s request was not accommodated the first time she called. I agree with you, (we) should have tried harder in meeting your daughter’s request.

    As always, we are here to help if you need more help in the future.

    Mark Casem
    Comcast Corp.
    National Customer Operations
    We_can_help@cable.comcast.com

guardian angels do exist…we just have to look for them…in each other…hugmamma. 😉

The New Guardian Angels

Image by ckaiserca via Flickr

 

 

“auctioning off seats online”, delta passengers

Have you ever opted to take the money, or voucher for future travel, offered when an airline has overbooked a flight? Whether you’re a novice to the practice, or a devotee, you’ll be interested to know that the normal ritual of gate agents shouting it out over the loudspeaker, may go the way of the dinosaurs. “Delta Makes Fliers Bid to Get Bumped” caught my attention when I perused the January 14th edition of the Wall Street Journal.

“The age-old ritual of the passenger bump is getting a high-tech makeover at Delta Airlines Inc.” According to the article, airlines are enjoying fuller flights these days. So wanting to hang on to more of its hard-earned dollars, and preparing to meet the possibility that regulators will demand more money be paid to involuntarily bumped passengers on overbooked flights, Delta has derived a new system.

On its face the system, in place since last month, seems a great solution to the drama that usually unfolds minutes before takeoff. Trying to get takers who’ll forfeit their seats, raises the adrenalin for everyone within earshot of the action. I know I’m never willing to opt out of my scheduled flight. Having gone through all the rigmarole to get on a plane, starting from scratch has no appeal for me. So I’m always grateful to those who have no qualms doing so. God bless them, and their capacity for waiting.

Did you know that “8% to 10% of passengers with reservations for a particular flight typically don’t show up”? It’s a fact, according to the director of MIT’s Global Airline Industry Program, Peter Belobaba. That’s why airlines have taken to over booking for decades, so that planes don’t leave the ground empty. Now I understand what I always considered to be stupidity and greed on the part of the travel industry. I think cruise lines do the same thing, but I’m not positive.

Delta’s clever concoction to the once chaotic over booking dilemma?

…a silent auction that asks passengers to name their price electronically before they arrive at the departure gate if it looks as though there may not be enough seats on a flight.

Passengers who check in with Delta online before leaving for the airport or at kiosks before going through security can type in the dollar amount they would accept from the airline to be bumped from their flight. Delta can then accept the lowest bids, eliminating a lot of the uncertainty early.

Having worked a combined 10 years at Iran Air and TWA, and my husband having begun his career at Pan American World Airways, we both agree that Delta’s alternative to the previous over booking practice to which all other airlines continue to subscribe, is intriguing. I would even venture to say that the employee who dreamed up the idea should be promoted…to CEO! Give that woman a corner office! I’m sure it was a female; we think “outside the box.” You know, all that experience multi-tasking as daughters, wives, moms, caretakers and so on, and so on. I’m sure the Delta execs and board members would agree that the genius deserves their undying gratitude.

Atlanta-based Delta says the new bidding system allowing passengers to be voluntarily bumped is a “win-win” for consumers as well as the airline because it boosts efficiency and removes a lot of the chaos at the gate…

“Saving three or four minutes at the gate has a big operational impact,” said Paul Skrbec, a Delta spokesman. He acknowledged that the price Delta has to pay fliers to agree to be bumped probably would be cheaper under the silent auction.

Put another way, consumer is pitted against consumer, giving Delta “a negotiating edge with the consumer because it can pick the lowest bids and passengers won’t know how low others are willing to go.” The airline also wins since the Transportation Department is considering upping the amount customers must be paid if they’re bumped from an overbooked flight, from the current $800 to $1,300. Delta could realize quite a savings based upon past statistics. In “the first nine months of 2010” passengers agreeing to be bumped from overbooked flights on U.S. carriers were 541,694, and those who were involuntarily bumped were 53,287.

It looks as though over booking negotiations will rise in 2011 since people are taking to the skies in record numbers once again. Meanwhile, “the airlines plan to keep their domestic capacity roughly flat.” I think this means they’re not rushing to add more flights to their scheduled runs.

I’m certain the other airlines are playing the “wait and see” game. Just thought I’d give you a “heads up,” so you’ll know the rules of the game before you play.

as for me, i still won’t play that game…hugmamma.