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Letter from America

I have recently returned from a visit to the USA. Among other locations I visited Texas where I found it really is true that everything is bigger - the buildings, the cars, the restaurant portions...

For me, one of the joys of travelling is to compare the attitudes and outlooks you encounter from people in different parts of the world. In every shop and every restaurant we visited in the US we experienced outstanding customer service - people who want to help, who are pleasant and polite. A real contrast with many of the appalling examples of customer service here in the UK, which we've highlighted through Myth Busters because they've been hidden behind health and safety excuses.

It's standard practice in US restaurants to offer to pack up any remaining food from the huge meals to be taken home to be eaten later. Many of the restaurants we went to provided special 'take-home' boxes. Ironic then that on my return to these shores I find one of the latest Myth Busting cases we've received here in HSE relates to a UK restaurant that refused a customer's request to package up their uneaten food to take home on grounds of - you guessed it - health and safety. To be clear there are no h&s regulations preventing food outlets packaging up food for home consumption.

However, not everything I saw in the US was better than here. In every state we visited I was shocked by high proportion of people using their cell phones while driving. On the day we left Texas our hotel arranged a taxi to take us to the airport. The "taxi" turned out to be a huge four wheel drive SUV.

Throughout the entire journey the driver talked continuously on his mobile phone while travelling at 70 mph (the legal speed limit) on the highway. I attempted to get his attention to tell him to stop, but to no avail. When we screeched to a halt at the airport he told me the fare was 80 dollars. I paid him exactly 80 dollars and he said "It's custom over here to give tips". I was more than happy to give him a tip as we disembarked from the mammoth taxi..."When you're driving at 70mph - don't use the phone."