Michaela Merz


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Business sense


I arrived in Frankfurt. As I so often do, I booked my taxi via Uber. It was there, before I could reach the location. My destination was far away from the airport. The trip was correspondingly expensive. With Uber I have noticed that the trip from the airport to the destination is a third to a half cheaper than the identical distance back to the airport. Regardless of the time of day. However my main concern was the return trip.


I knew that I would be travelling at the peak traffic hour and that right through the centre of the city. Therefore I asked my driver how much time I should reckon with in the late afternoon to be at the airport by 6.00 p.m. To my great surprise he said it didn’t make any difference. So, problem solved. He offered to pick me up. I thought that was a good offer. After all I knew the price in advance and I was aware that he would earn his money without the Uber service charge. That was also OK. But when I receive such offers, I am sceptical. Who knows whether he will really come. But at 5.00 p.m. after all my meetings, he arrived punctually at the agreed meeting place and was waiting for me. I asked him the price in order to avoid any negative surprise at the airport. I was greatly surprised when the price was much less than I had paid in the morning. But then I was sitting in the car and was on the way to the airport.

I asked him how he came to the price and he explained to me that he didn’t have to pay a charge to Uber and also any other taxes. That made me suspicious. I didn’t want to be any part in tax evasion, but I realised that my power is very limited. I tried to reassure myself with the fact that perhaps he will declare the income in his tax return, but that worked only for a few seconds. It was clear to me that, given what he had said, that was very unlikely. At the airport I asked for a receipt, but he didn’t have any and didn’t want to give me one. The price fell by another 5 Euros. I paid cash and left the Uber with an uncomfortable feeling. That in this way he earned more for himself than with Uber, was OK for me. After all, Uber had earned well on my first trip.

But defrauding the state made me think, as I had no idea how I could have prevented him. I believe that the state must receive the taxes which are due to it in order to fulfil its obligations. But I am not sure how I would react another time to such a taxi offer. Do I accept? Shall I refuse? What would you have done?

Thommy Weiss / pixelio.de


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How to lose customers


I’m a fan of UNIQLO. That is the shop, which only recently has started to clothe Roger Federer and the shop, which does not exist in Switzerland.

I discovered UNIQLO by chance, when I was travelling in New York. I was on foot on my way back to my hotel from a client and suddenly it began to bucket it down. I didn’t have an umbrella with me and needed shelter and the next doorway was into this shop. I don’t like shopping. Or rather, with the thought that I again have to buy new clothes, I get goose pimples. The idea that I’ll have to undress and dress and then undress again and again have to dress and nevertheless nothing fits, is simply unbearable. Continue reading


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London


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I’m working for a few days in London. Right in the centre with all the sights close by. It is a bitterly cold January, when you stay outside only if you have to.

I check into the hotel. I have the corner room at the end of the corridor. The door to the room is full of smaller and larger indentations. As if someone had tried with brute force and a sharp object to force an entry. I hope it was a one-off that is not repeated in this room every night. Only once in my life have I experienced how a drunk tried to force his way into my room. In the middle of the night that was scary, because I could scarcely estimate how long the door would hold. The door was stronger than I thought and then I had no visitor and I still don’t want one.

From the window I have a breath-taking view, but the room temperature is very low. I turn the heating up to maximum, but after an hour it is obvious that this heater has no more to offer. I’ll have to go to the reception and ask for an additional blanket.

But now I have to cross Tower Bridge to reach the restaurant, in which I have agreed to meet someone. I set out. It is at most 20 minutes by foot. I cross the road and enter a small park beside the Thames. And suddenly I feel rapid movements along the ground and quickly look around. But it is dark and difficult to tell what it was. I guess it was a rat but I’m not sure.

The dinner was very interesting and useful and shortly before 11.00 I set out back to the hotel. I walk across the bridge, which is wonderfully illuminated in light blue. Despite the cold there are still a lot of people about. I turn into the small park, which is empty and deserted. But I feel a lot of movement on the ground and suddenly I hear a painful squeaking and feel something under my winter boots. I have stepped on a rat’s tail. We are both startled. And the rat also felt the pain.

It is not alone. On the ground there is a great deal of activity. Perhaps it is the now closed wooden refreshment kiosk and even more the rubbish bin next to it which is the reason why the rats live in the centre of London, so close to all the sights.

When I told Dana this story, she told me that today she was present at the birth of 25 baby rats from two mother rats that come from 2 father rats, which were sold to her as castrated.

Life is obviously full of surprises.


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Why I use Uber


I’m always on the move, frequently abroad. Without a taxi it’s often impossible. But my experience with taxis is very mixed and unfortunately often not only positive. The vehicles are dirty and stink of cigarettes. The drivers are impolite. When I ask them to close the window or switch off the radio, I am ignored. I have to load and unload the cases myself, the credit card is refused and cash demanded. The worst is, I feel cheated, if I have already driven the route and suddenly it is a good deal dearer and who knows what happens when I don’t know the normal prices. Riding taxis around the world is like a bag of surprises, it may be great but it can also be a terrible experience with a high degree of frustration. The chances are about 50/50 and very often the main feeling is that it was simply OK. Continue reading


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London from a different perspective


There are cities, which are alive, inspirational, pulsating and time and again surprising, so that you can’t see them too often and where a lifetime is too short to discover everything worth seeing. London is certainly one of them. Where to begin and what to see? I’ll leave the classic sights unmentioned, all you have to do is google.  If you’ve ticked them all off, what about Covent Garden Market? Not only because of its many small shops, which offer astonishing things, and the inexpensive flea market, which has even more surprising things on offer, but above all for the artists performing there. There is always something on: street comedians, singers, jugglers, living statues. It’s never boring.

Or what about a “Bond in Motion” exhibition not far from the market? All the cars, with which James Bond had spectacularly raced and chased all the rogues in the world, are exhibited there in the original version. They are accompanied by the appropriate film excerpts and some requisites are also there. A must for every James Bond fan.

A visit to London should also include an evening at the theatre. Musicals, dramas, comedies or Shakespeare for those, who like it classic. The tickets are not cheap and you shouldn’t be naïve and think that one can pick up tickets at the box office. If you don’t book in advance, you’ll probably have to miss the culture.

Even with a small budget, quite a lot can be seen. For example, all the museums in London can be visited free of charge. The Tate Museum of Modern Art for example. Even if one can’t get on with modern art, from the 10th floor there is an excellent view, almost as good as from the London Eye, only one can enjoy it FREE as long as one wants. In addition, there is a wonderful corner, where small children can play. And also worth mentioning is that a modern residential block has been built so close to the Tate building that one can see not only city, but also the interior decoration of 14 floors, because the English don’t believe in curtains and therefore don’t have any. Quasi a “live ” course on interior decoration by the upper class at the beginning of the 21st century.

And if you’re travelling on a restricted budget, then close to the Tate Museum there is an old food market with many delicacies, but also opportunities for attending courses in baking or learning how to butcher. You can try much of the food free of charge and an inexpensive, wonderfully smelling lunch can be bought at one of the stands.

Food in London is a world of its own and one should find the courage to eat things one doesn’t yet know. Everything is there and in all price ranges, you can eat Chinese, Indian, French, Lebanese, Japanese, Mexican and so on for 7, but also for 120 pounds. It’s worthwhile. For breakfast try porridge, it fills the stomach and lasts until the evening.

What surprised me was the number of homeless people, who could be seen everywhere in the centre and gave the impression that they had taken root where they slept. It wasn’t simply people in sleeping bags, which one knows from other cities, but real tented camps with household equipment and only the stench of urine reminded one of the limitations of living in a tent.

You can live very well with a lot of money in London, but I think that, as a visitor, you can live well and also see a lot on a small budget. The courage to enjoy unusual experiences is certainly rewarded in this city.

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Dublin – Zurich


I’m booked on the flight at 6.40 am from Dublin to Zürich. The evening before my departure the reception cannot make my bill, but as customer service they offer to wake me up. I say OK and ask for 4.45 am.

But next morning I’m already awake at 4.15 am and deal with all my mails that have arrived since yesterday evening. I am ready and prepared and wonder why the hotel telephone has not rung. At last I notice that on the telephone a light is on and a message has been left on the telephone answering machine. But the telephone didn’t ring. A special way of waking guests. Continue reading


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Madrid in a state of emergency


We planned to go and see a flamenco performance and spend the rest of the evening drinking a good wine, eating tapas and just having a nice night out.

On our way to the theatre, we noticed that the streets were being barred and that there were police officers everywhere. Continue reading