How to Avoid the Latest Travel Scam

Part of hotel interior

By: Suzanne Ostrander has published information on the most recent scam targeting those who are traveling on business or pleasure. In the latest hotel scam, travelers receive a phone call from an individual claiming to be from the front desk.  Typically, these calls arrive at odd hours, so the traveler is usually groggy and not fully alert when answering the phone.  As part of the hoax, the scammer claims that the computer at the front desk has crashed and they have lost their credit card information.  It’s also common for the scammer to simply claim that there has been an “error” processing the travelers’ credit card information.  The caller will then read back four random numbers to “confirm” the last four digits of the card. When the cardholder does not recognize the numbers, he is then asked to read the entire 16 digits on his card. The caller will never address the traveler by his name, because he obviously does not know it.  As a final tactic, the hotel guest is asked to “spell” his name, giving the caller all of the information he needs.

In each scenario, the traveler is put in the vulnerable position of having to give out his personal information over the phone. Once the caller has this information, it is only a matter of time before he is out on a shopping spree (your “treat”).

Katherine Hutt, director of media relations at the Council of Better Business Bureaus, states “We believe the scammers direct-dial the rooms so they can call in without going through the hotel switchboard.”

So how can we protect ourselves from this latest scam on hotel guests?  First and foremost, it is never wise to give out your personal information over the phone to a stranger.  If receiving this type of call when staying in a hotel, the traveler should refrain from providing this information over the phone.  With any financial discrepancy, it’s always better to go down to the front desk to resolve the issue in person.

Please share any other tips you may have on avoiding travel scams!

For direct access to Caroline Mayer’s article on the latest travel scams, click here:

Click below for a video segment on avoiding the latest travel scams:

The Cognitive Effects of Social Media in Small and Large Businesses


By: Suzanne Ostrander

Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield has researched the long- term effects of social media in the context of today’s businesses. In her novel, 2121, Greenfield argues that one of the most obvious “red flags” when it comes to hiring new college graduates is their dependency on social networking sites. In essence, this generation has become emotionally stunted as a result of the hours spent online. Interestingly, Greenfield believes that the social media revolution has reconstructed the brains of this generation to resemble those with Autism.  Without any form of non-verbal communication on sites like Facebook or Twitter, expressions of body language or tone slowly become overlooked.

“The human brain is only good at what it rehearses,” Greenfield remarks. “If you’re not rehearsing interpreting voice tone and body language, then you aren’t going to become very good at it. All those skills are vitally important. Until now, they’ve been our human birthright.”

Greenfield is suggesting that non-verbal communication is something that we must continue to practice, otherwise it will be forgotten.

When it comes to social media addiction, Greenfield worries that the Facebook-generation has become so used to seeking approval through idealized, rehearsed images of themselves that they no longer have the ability to be authentic.

“I’m not saying that we should ban [social media]. They’re part of the warp and weft of 21st century life. Very few people would deny anyone just a bit of chocolate,” she laughs. “But no one would recommend a diet just of chocolate.”

With the clear benefits that social media marketing has on small and large businesses, sites like Facebook and Twitter should not be banned in the business realm.  However, many corporations are taking measures to block employee access to such sites, in an effort to focus on interpersonal skills through face-to-face conversation.

Have you noticed a difference on how the younger generation perceives and uses social media sites?  In what ways have you seen the effects of social networking hinder the productivity and overall image of a business?

For access to Emma Byrne’s article on, click here:

For a video segment on Greenfield’s philosophy on the psychological effects on social media, click here:

The Biggest Mistake Marketing Professionals Make


By: Suzanne Ostrander

Econsultancy has conducted a recent study indicating the biggest mistake companies make in the marketing and sales arena.  The study yields a result that lies directly parallel to the outcome of a separate study by Vizu.  Essentially, both cases show that the primary objective of marketers and advertisers is to promote sales, rather than establish relationships.

Why is this marketing strategy potentially catastrophic?  To begin with, think about the phrase: “it’s all about who you know” and how it holds true to so many business pursuits.  If marketing professionals are placing a higher emphasis on sales numbers while undermining the importance establishing and maintaining relationships, suddenly “who you know” comes back to haunt you.  In addition to the cold, hard facts about a business, product, or service, most customers want to hear a story or an example of how it has worked in the past. The key is to present your pitch in a way that the consumer can relate to.

In other words, it essentially becomes counterproductive for marketing specialists to focus only on sales numbers, while neglecting their relationships with clients or potential consumers.  Eventually, the lack of time spent on customers will begin to have an adverse effect on monthly and yearly sales reports.

We’ve all heard the expression “time is money” as it relates to the business world.  It seems as if more and more marketing professionals are taking this concept and reversing it, instead of using it for their benefit.  For instance, sales associates who are driven only by their numbers have a tendency to spend less time with their customers, in an effort to make the most sales by the end of the work day.  In the short run, they may beat the more methodical and personable sales associate.  However, in the larger scheme of things, is quality or quantity more important?  The answer is both.  You cannot launch a successful, long-lasting product without spending time to nurture the relationships with your individual customers.  Time is money, which is why the quality of sales is essential for long-term success.

For access to Steve Olenski’s article on marketing relationships, click here:

Click below for a youtube segment on tips to building successful relationships in marketing:

Tablets Shown to Increase Worker Productivity

A recent study conducted by the Forrester Research Group reveals that tablets and other mobile devices significantly improve employee productivity. Portable electronics such as the iPad, iPad mini, or Windows Tablet give workers the flexibility to seamlessly access files and continue working while commuting, traveling, or even in the comfort of their own homes.

Roughly 30% of Americans are using some type of mobile device as part of their daily work ritual, and an increasing number of corporations are starting to distribute these products to employees to ensure productivity outside of the office. American Airlines, for instance, now provides tablets to flight attendants to improve the efficiency food orders, flight updates, or any special passenger requests. Physicians often rely on portable devices to access patient records, take notes, or even write prescriptions. The Forrester Research Group has furthermore predicted that tablet usage will triple to 905 million by the year 2017.

So what’s the catch? As we all know, there are both pros and cons to most groundbreaking, innovative technologies. For starters, most of these items come installed with a multitude of applications, games, and savvy gadgets that can tempt even the most dedicated worker. Twenty minutes on a solitaire app in the morning turns into an hour or two of real estate browsing, stock checking, and Fantasy Football recruiting. The next thing you know, it’s 5 pm and you’re reading an article about employee productivity on LinkedIn.

ipads and tablets are not made for all jobs. Marketing Specialists or Sales Managers can use tablets to easily access presentations, client data, or social networks. However, positions such as Data Analysts or Software Writers require much larger systems with ample memory.

An ideal solution would require some form of compromise on behalf of the companies providing tablets to their staff. Perhaps a way to maximize employee productivity would be to restrict certain apps, games, or websites on company tablets, in an effort to eliminate the temptation to procrastinate. Company tablet usage could be limited to those tasks requiring little to moderate memory, with the understanding that functions such as data processing or spreadsheet usage should be reserved for work or home desktops.

What are your thoughts?

To access this article from and related information, click here:

A relevant youtube video on tablets:

by: Suzanne Ostrander

Why Managers Hire Unqualified Candidates


A group of researchers from the University of California at Berkely, Carnegie Mellon University, and Harvard Business School conducted a study on a phenomenon known as the “fundamental attribution error” and how it relates to the business world.  In essence, the “fundamental attribution error” describes our cognitive tendency to rely on concrete facts as a proper measure of evaluating a person, while neglecting to examine any possible external factors.  In the experiment, the researchers asked business executives to evaluate twelve fictional candidates for a job promotion. Some candidates in the scenario performed well at an easier job, while others displayed mediocre performance in a more difficult position.  The result of the study indicated that the executives consistently favored the employees whose performance had benefited from an easier job.

This common, yet flawed logic has not only detrimental effects to the company that hires an unqualified candidate, but also to the applicant who is unjustly rejected.  As a consequence, the “fundamental attribution error” can lead to executives promoting under-qualified applicants, while turning away more competent individuals.

I have seen the “fundamental attribution error” also work in reverse, when a business manager uses his or her “gut” reaction to hire an overqualified candidate.  As we all know, six months later the same candidate is either back on the job market, or has already accepted a more challenging position.

Perhaps “the fundamental attribution error” has had an immediate effect on you or someone you know.  It is helpful to remember that this faulty reasoning occurs not only in businesses, but with college administrators, athletic recruiters, or even casting crews.  Have you experienced the “fundamental attribution error” throughout any part of your career? What are your thoughts on how this type of judgment can be avoided in the workplace?

by: Suzanne Ostrander

To visit the article from Harvard Business School’s website, click here: