At first glance, traveling for work can seem like one of the most exciting perks of being a small business owner. Unfortunately, the jet setting lifestyle isn’t always as enjoyable as you might think and can often lead to unpleasant situations with your fellow travelers. In this episode, Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin share some of their biggest travel pet peeves and how to avoid committing them yourself.

Executive Summary

2:08—Today’s Topic: What Are Your Biggest Traveling Pet Peeves as a Small Business Owner?

2:32—Because many travelers like to use their flight time to rest or gather their thoughts, forcing someone to engage in social interaction can be a big turnoff.

7:48—While it might seem more comfortable, walking to the airplane bathroom in just your socks or bare feet might bother some of your fellow travelers.

8:14—Treating the flight attendants and staff in a rude manner is not only unnecessary, but will reflect very poorly on you and your business.

8:28—Be courteous with your belongings. Don’t try to squeeze an oversized suitcase into the overhead bins if it doesn’t fit, and don’t move other passengers’ suitcases without their permission.

9:20—Don’t let your impatience get the better of you; try to avoid crowding the gate area because it actually slows down the boarding process.

10:23—If you decide to watch a movie or listen to music during the flight, have some consideration for your other passengers and wear earbuds.

11:19—When you’re waiting in the lounge, try to keep your talking at a conversational volume so that you don’t disturb other travelers.

12:55—Given the amount of work that airline employees do to ensure our safety, we as travelers really should not take out our frustrations on them.


Submit Your Question


Elizabeth: Welcome back to a special episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast.

Gene: What is so special about this episode, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth: This is a “stump Gene” episode-

Gen: Okay.

Elizabeth: So I know what the question is because I made the question up and I’m going to stump Gene because he doesn’t know what the question is. Actually, you’re not going to be stumped. I feel like you’re going to have a long list of responses to this.

Gene: And, by the way, if you’re a listener of this podcast, the questions that we have that are sent into us, yes, I get them in advance. I know what the questions are anyway. I mean, what am I going to completely operate in the dark? I want to make sure I’m prepared to answer these questions.

Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly.

Gene: But this one, I do not know at all.

Elizabeth: You don’t know what it is.

Gene: Complete surprise.

Elizabeth: I’ve made it up. It’s a question from me and it’s based on something very interesting I read last week that I really enjoyed that we’ll link in the show notes. So when you come back after hearing from our sponsor, we’ll dive into this new topic.

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QUESTION: What Is Your Biggest Air Travel Pet Peeve as a Business Owner?

Elizabeth: And we’re back. So this week’s question “stump Gene” is a question from me and let me give you the background on this. I follow this woman on Twitter. Her name is Roxane Gay. She’s a writer and she’s a professor. She writes books, but she also has a place online where she just writes articles about things she’s interested in and they’re a little less serious than her regular writing. And she wrote a whole article about all the indignities of air travel.

Gene: Of air travel. Okay.

Elizabeth: And it was hilarious. So since Gene travels pretty much every week, you’re on the road, you’re speaking at conferences, you’re meeting with people. What is your biggest air travel pet peeve as a business owner, and just as a human being?

Gene: There is no such thing as a biggest air travel pet peeve.

Elizabeth: They’re all the same.

Gene: Because I’m a guy in his mid-50s who’s been running a business for 25 years and-

Elizabeth: You’re just constantly cranky.

Gene: I’m just grumpy. I’m just grumpy. I’m the guy that when I get on the plane I… Here’s what my biggest pet peeve is. I’ll tell you what it is. My biggest pet peeve is my attitude towards flying-

Elizabeth: [laughing]

Gene: And I’m going to tell you the reason why I say this. I’m dead serious when I say this because I think there is a lesson in here. When I get on, before I even board a flight, Elizabeth, I’ve got my earbuds in and I’m listening to either music or a podcast and then when I get on the flight I’ve got my earbuds in and I’ll be watching a TV show or whatever.

Elizabeth: Now, do you even look at the gate agents when they scan your ticket?

Gene: Yeah, I do. I’m always polite. I’m always polite. Particularly the people working, the flight attendants engage-

Elizabeth: I know. People treat them so badly.

Gene: That’s terrible. No, I’m always like, I always am very blunt. I mean, I do very few things well. I’m not that good a person, but I do appreciate what they do. And I do say-

Elizabeth: Gene and I are both terrible people.

Gene: We’re terrible people when it comes to that, but there are certainly… I just appreciate they’re working hard. They’re doing their thing. And so, but here’s… I don’t, and this is for any business traveler. When I get on the plane, I sit in my seat and I’m listening and then I’ll switch from my podcast to watching something on TV. I will go through entire five-hour flights. I don’t even know what the person sitting next to me looks like. I don’t know anything about the person. And I get it because the person next to me, that person doesn’t want anything to do with me either. Trust me, it’s not, whatever.

And here’s… So I’m ignoring. I’m in my own vacuum. I could be flying in a bubble somewhere. Okay. And you know what? A couple times in my flying experience, I mean on one hand I can count them, has the wall come down and I’d be sitting next to somebody and, I don’t know, they just catch me in a conversation or before I get the earbuds on, somebody, this person says whatever. You know what I mean? And I can remember all of those times. And I remember just those few conversations that I had on those flights. And I remember one guy we were talking about working out and he turned out to be a physical trainer. And he was telling me how the best workout that you can get really is just walking every day, as opposed to you kill your body doing all these other sports.

Elizabeth: Interesting.

Gene: And that resonated with me. And I remember talking to another-

Elizabeth: Gene’s like, “I can do that. I can walk.”

Gene: That’s something I can do. And I remember another person. It was a woman I was talking to and she was going down to see her grandkids in Florida and it turned out that she owned a business in Philadelphia, and I recognized the business, and we were talking and chatting and we just… It was just an anomaly that we happened to be in con… And yet I remember those conversations and I’m such a jerk when I get on the plane; I mean I’m not bad to other people. I just ignore everybody else. And you asked what my biggest pet peeve is, if I was a better person, if I was a better traveler and if I was less… if I was balanced and polite, not knowing anybody. But if I was a little bit more open, Elizabeth, to engaging with one of the other human beings that are sharing this metal tube with me for the next four hours and had just the chance to say hello and chat for a little bit and get to know somebody, I guarantee that I would be a better person because of that.

Elizabeth: I think so, too. I’m exactly like you. I’ll be very nice to everyone that works there, but I don’t really want to… And the thing is, I don’t want to start the conversation because then you have to get out of the conversation, and that’s like, “Do I just put my earbuds in?” I don’t know.

Gene: And it’s very awkward. My wife, her strategy there is if she has a conversation, she does it on the descent, because then there’s a ton of… By the way, speaking of my wife, because this happens to be with the same thing, she recently started up a business. She’s a pretty introverted person. She’s been forced because of the business to have lunches.

Elizabeth: She doesn’t even like to talk to Gene.

Gene: She doesn’t and we just read in silence. But she’s been forced to have lunches with people in the industry. She,,, It’s a startup.

Elizabeth: It’s gotta be hard for her.

Gene: And she’s gone to some conferences and networking events or whatever and it is hard for her. Every single time she goes, she comes back and she’ll be like, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I met this interesting person,” or, “I was introduced to somebody.”

Elizabeth: Always a surprise.

Gene: Yeah, this person can actually help me because this person knows somebody else that might be interested in whatever. There’s just, the world is made up of people, and people are good, and we’re all in our own little bubbles and I’m the worst offender of that as a business traveler who travels so much during the year that my biggest pet peeve, to answer your question, is my behavior when I travel. I can fix that and yet I’m still-

Elizabeth: You’re not going to, though.

Gene: Right. I’m still like, “I’m not going to.”

Elizabeth: You’re going to fly back. We’re sitting in Hartford, Connecticut today. He’s going to fly back to Philly tonight. He’s not going to talk to anyone.

Gene: No. I’m going to be watching some TV show and I’m going to be in the same pattern and that’s wrong and I should change, and I guess I would throw it out that if you’re listening to this show and you’re a traveler and you’re like me and you’ve got more… I don’t know. You’ve got more courage or a better attitude, that you can change yourself, you should do that. I really do. I think we would all be better for that.

Elizabeth: All right. I’m going to go down a list of all of Roxanne’s pet peeves.

Gene: She’s going to list them off.

Elizabeth: You tell me-

Gene: Besides that, by the way, my second pet peeve is open-toed shoes, when guys wear them. That’s my second.

Elizabeth: On planes or just in life?

Gene: On planes. In life, too, but mostly on planes. I don’t want to see your toes.

Elizabeth: One of her big ones was people that go and use the bathroom on the plane, but just wearing socks or bare feet.

Gene: Okay. That’s not on my list.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: That’s not on my… It’s a weird thing to do and it seems like a really… Yeah, that’s a really weird thing to do, but that wouldn’t be on my list. Are we going to switch off, back and forth?

Elizabeth: Well, no. I’m going to tell you Roxanne’s and you rate them on how…

Gene: Okay. Got it. Not on my list. Got it.

Elizabeth: People who are rude to the flight attendants.

Gene: The worst. Yeah, the worst. I just can’t, I don’t know what possible situation you’d be in to be rude to a flight attendant. I mean these people are working really hard. It blows my mind. It blows my mind.

Elizabeth: People who try to shove their overhead bag, and it’s not going.

Gene: And it’s not going in.

Elizabeth: It’s not going in.

Gene: Worse than that, and it’s a corollary to that, I have had sometimes, people, I will have my overnight… I bring a small overnight bag because I’m a guy, so I can get away with a lot of less than a woman. And so I have a small overnight bag. Sometimes people will move my bag without permission to fit their bag in and then move my bag a whole other place, somewhere back or over the aisle. And a couple of times I’ll just be like, “Excuse me, sir, that’s my bag that you’re moving. What are you doing with my bag?”

Elizabeth: Why not be the person who looks around and says, “Whose bag is this? I’m just going to slide it over.”

Gene: Yeah, ask for permission. Does this bag belong to anybody? Do you mind if I put it there? What are you… You’re just taking somebody’s bag you don’t know and just moving it two rows back in the plane? Terrible.

Elizabeth: This whole episode is just going to be for people venting.

Gene: It is a venting… Give me another one.

Elizabeth: The next one was people who crowd the gate when they’re like-

Gene: I’m the guy.

Elizabeth: You are the guy.

Gene: I’m usually first to board.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: So here’s my defense on that, because I’m an American flyer, so because I’m usually group one or group two, they call them up first and I feel like you’re responsible. You be ready. Go to the front, be ready to go. So they call you to get on the plane.

Elizabeth: If you’re in group nine-

Gene: You shouldn’t be anywhere near the gate. Of course not.

Elizabeth: You shouldn’t be getting in line to sit on the plane longer. I mean, no one wants to sit on the plane that long.

Gene: Yeah.

Elizabeth: I think a big part of that problem is-

Gene: It’s the overhead luggage.

Elizabeth: There’s no place… The overhead luggage space runs out so quickly. Okay. People sitting at the gate who have… They’re taking up one seat and then they’ve got their bag on the seat to the right and they’ve got their… And her argument was, “It’s like people just forget the social contract as soon as they walk in.”

Gene: But you know what? My take on it? I really don’t want to sit next to that person anyway, so I’m happy to stand. It’s completely fine, versus probably I just don’t feel like dealing with them.

Elizabeth: Another big one-

Gene: By the way, the person sitting at the gate or on the plane and they’re may be watching a TV show or something, without earbuds.

Elizabeth: That was another one. That was the next one I was going to bring up.

Gene: It’s a plane. What are you doing? Nobody wants to hear what you’re watching.

Elizabeth: I don’t understand. I was actually in line at a store a couple of weeks ago and the woman in front of me in line was watching a show on her phone with no earphones in and I thought-

Gene: I don’t understand.

Elizabeth: This is very, this is just odd behavior. Why do you want everyone else to know what you’re watching?

Gene: Why is it… Why are we annoyed when people talk on the phones on a plane or they’re talking to somebody on their cell phone? A lot of people, that annoys a lot of people, and it kind of annoys me, and I don’t know why it annoys me because it’s like, “Okay, maybe if that person was talking to somebody else there, they’d be having a …” Why does it annoy me that the person’s talking on their phone and it’s that… For some reason, I don’t know why that is.

Elizabeth: And this is the last one I’ll give you.

Gene: I’ve got one more to add.

Elizabeth: We are going to, we will link this article. It’s really, really well written and this I think really applies to business travel. And she said, business travelers who speak very loudly in business lounges. So she’s trying to get something done and then there’s like a group of people who work together.

Gene: She’s right. She’s right.

Elizabeth: Maybe they’re having a couple drinks. The volume just goes up and up and up.

Gene: She’s right.

Elizabeth: And then the whole point of the lounge is so you can get some work done.

Gene: Correct. But the question is, when you’re in the lounge, this gets back to the cell phone question. Is it appropriate to talk on your cell phone when you’re in the lounge, when you know people are all around you trying to get their work done or not? And so many people do it, that I think it just has to be socially acceptable. Although-

Elizabeth: Yeah, I think so too. If you’ve got to get on a conference call and your flights are-

Gene: You know what I do? If I get on a conference call, I walk around. I find a quiet area or sometimes I literally walk end to end of the lounge so I’m not standing in one place bothering- I figure let me just bother everybody in the lounge instead of just this one person at the end. The other pet peeve that I have is people that bring their food onto planes, drives me… It’s always the guy-

Elizabeth: That doesn’t bother me.

Gene: With the big… He’ll have a big bowl of chicken curry and he gets on and he sits next to me in the middle seat of the plane, it bothers me, and I’ll be like, “Oh, my God, the entire plane now smells of chicken curry.”

Elizabeth: Yeah, the plane doesn’t smell that great anyway to begin with.

Gene: It doesn’t. You and I were talking about, it is unbelievable… I think as a business traveler, all these pet peeves that we have, I want to be just clear. We should be so grateful for these airlines. I mean, I am a big traveler and yes I’ve had my share of delays and all that kind of stuff. These airlines get you, for the most part, on time and safely in relative comfort. I mean, nothing’s perfect but it works. And if they cancel flights it’s because there’s a maintenance issue.

They don’t want… It’s a safety thing or it’s weather. It’s out of their control. These people that work and all the things that have to happen for a plane to take off. The crew arriving and everything to work and the weather to be right and your plane to arrive into the airport. It is a miracle that all this whole system works and works as well as it does. And so my final pet peeve is people that complain about the airlines because I don’t think you should be. I mean, I realize every company makes mistakes and it’s happened to me. But I think we should be so grate… Our great grandparents would be blown away with what we can do.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Get from Hartford to Los Angeles in five hours.

Gene: In a matter of hours, safely, and relatively on time, while eating food, drinking, and watching a movie or a TV show. What the heck? I mean, imagine going from Hartford to Los Angeles instead of 2019, in 1919.

Elizabeth: Oh, my gosh.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: What, by horse and buggy?

Gene: Who knows.

Elizabeth: Were there cars then?

Gene: Right. Were Lewis and Clark still alive? Just everybody stop complaining. You know what I mean? So that’s my biggest pet peeve.

Elizabeth: It is fun to complain about air travel, though, because we all know there’s so many indignities. It’s just like-

Gene: There are.

Elizabeth: My other big pet peeve is people who complain about babies and kids on a flight. I’m like, “What are you… They’re their babies and children. They’re at their limit.”

Gene: Surprisingly enough, whenever people travel with kids, my experience has been is that most passengers have been pretty good.

Elizabeth: Oh yeah.

Gene: Pretty understanding.

Elizabeth: I think at this point the people that complain have been shamed enough to be like-

Gene: Probably. Keep your mouth shut. And you know what? If you have a crying kid, it is not… The parents don’t want to be there either. They don’t want their kid to be crying. It’s not-

Elizabeth: Such a stressful situation for them. I think we should all have a little more grace about it. Most people do.

Gene: You read about sometimes like these celebrities that are on planes that they get kicked off because they refuse to get off of their phone. You know what I mean? Like you’ll hear they’ll argue with the flight attendants because they’re told to-

Elizabeth: Oh, my God. That’s so silly.

Gene: And you’re just like, “Would you please stop? We’re all in this boat together.”

Elizabeth: We’re all in this tin can.

Gene: Literally a tin can. So we should be very grateful for the airline industry and it is unbelievable the safety record of these airlines. It’s a miracle. It really is.

Elizabeth: Thank you for listening to our first episode of “stump Gene” on this podcast.

Gene: That was the easiest question I ever got. You got to get better at that.

Elizabeth: I know, I know. Next time. We would love to hear about your travel stories, your business travel stories, the indignities you’ve faced while traveling. I know Gene said don’t complain, but I would love to hear you complain.

Gene: You can complain to us.

Elizabeth: Leave us a review in the comments, email us, we’ll read them on air, or just leave a comment on our show notes and I will link that article in the show notes. It’s really very, very well written and the whole point of the article is, she’s making a case that everyone should just check a bag, which I know so many people who travel constantly who are like, “I would never check a bag.”

Gene: I would never check a bag. No.

Elizabeth: Yeah. I mean, I flew to Bali last year. I flew to Hong Kong. I didn’t check-

Gene: Carry on.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: Good for you. I’m impressed.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: Yeah. I’m impressed.

Elizabeth: All right. Thanks for listening everyone. Be sure to leave us a review on Apple Podcast. We’ll be back with a new episode very shortly.

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