Author: , August 29th, 2014
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Travel Budget

Our last travel column dealt with some of the complaints that owners of Bed and Breakfasts had with a very small percentage of the guests staying with them. They all said that 95% of their guests were very wonderful people who they would love to have them stay with them again.

It is just the 5% that are the problem. We have stayed at over 65 Bed and Breakfasts from coast to coast and we often ask other guests what they like and or dislike about the Bed and Breakfast. 95% of the time the guests give glowing reviews of their stay at the Inn. The most often things that we hear are how friendly and nice the owners are.

The personality of the owners after all is one of the most important things that a Bed and Breakfast is known for. Of course the Inn has to be very clean, great breakfast, lovely location and a very nice ambiance. A few years ago it seems as though almost all Inns were filled with antiques however in today’s world, they are decorated in all types of decor and themes. We have stayed in Inns with western decor, leather decor, retro and Art Deco decor as well as rustic and chrome and mirrors.

As for the complaints that we have heard from guests are that the owners are never there. Others complain that the owners are not friendly and seem not to care if they are staying there or not.

Sometimes linens and towels are not kept fresh and have ravelings. Yep, we have stayed one or two Inns like that. NOT a pleasant situation! Some Inns only change linens every 3rd day and this is a MAJOR complaint with guests!

It is nice for there to be some information about the Inn and the city in each room however we stayed in one Inn that actually had an 18 page booklet about the do’s and don’t’s about the Inn. Who wants to spend that much time reading things like that?

We were staying at in Inn a couple of years ago and a guest came down for breakfast and asked the owners about the bus line to go downtown. Rather than tell them, they told them that it was in their booklet upstairs and they needed to read it there. That Bed and Breakfast is no longer in business!

Some guests are returning guests and love staying at their favorite Inn however sometimes they notice little things like the Inn has lowered costs by changing their breakfast selections. No one wants to stay at an Inn and be served coffee in paper cups or try to unwrap a muffin from a cellophane wrapper.

If an Inn offers bathroom amenities, keep them coming. Don’t drop things like that as guests will notice.

Happy hour is very special at a lot of Inns. Don’t drop things like that either.

We realize that owning an Inn is a 24 hour job. The owners just HAVE to get away sometimes. Often they can hire a “Inn sitter” to take over but sometimes they just need to get away for a few hours. They just always need to give each guest their cell phones in case of an emergency.

We have stayed in Inns where the doors wouldn’t close to each room and the shared baths were not clean. If an Inn does have shared baths, they need to be sure and check them out often especially in the mornings. Not all guests are that clean nor that considerate of others, which is sad to say.

All in all, 95% of all Inns are operated in a very professional and friendly way. One major complaint that guests have is that when they email an Inn for reservations or even just a general question, it might take days for them to get a response. Rather than to call, they usually just book another Inn.

95% of the Inns where we have stayed are marvelous. One thing that owners do complain about is guests who are always leaving things behind and then expect the owners to ship the item to them free of charge.

We love Bed and Breakfasts and will continue to stay at them forever.

Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!

Donald and RayTRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married). Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at and visit their website at

TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD: Our Amtrak Experience – The Good, the Bad the Ugly and the Aftermath

Author: , August 1st, 2014
Email Donald & Ray | Visit the Gay Travel Guys Website

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AmTrak Ride With Pride

AmTrakTravelers have only about three choices on how to get to different places… by auto, by air and by Amtrak. Since we have plenty of time, 95% of the time we always drive to both coasts. Amtrak has a promotion to get the Gay and Lesbian travelers with their “Ride With Pride” Campaign. You can check out that website at:

With that in mind we decided to take our last trip to California on Amtrak to see for ourselves about how GLBT friendly Amtrak really is. Since we are press media, the home office of Amtrak in Washington, D. C. actually comp’ed our entire ride and dining from Kansas City to San Francisco and back so that we could see for ourselves and tell our thousands of readers about our Amtrak experience.

Our first contact with anyone in person with Amtrak was when we went to the Kansas City Union Station to pick up our tickets. Her name was Paula Stogner and she has been with Amtrak for YEARS! She was extremely professional and extremely friendly. Too bad that she is soon to retire. On a scale of one to 10 she is a 15!

The next person we dealt with at Amtrak was when we went to the Union Station on April 25 to depart. Ashley was the agent at that time and all by herself. She checked in our luggage and was very professional and friendly. Our train was to leave for Los Angeles at 10:45 PM and she informed us VERY nicely that our train from Chicago was running an hour late. Being seasoned travelers, we know that this type of thing happens from time to time. Airlines run late or are canceled and when driving, road detours, wrecks, etc. can cause delays so we fully understood. One should always take a book or magazine or crossword puzzle with them when traveling.

We choose another option and that is to TALK WITH OTHER PASSENGERS WHO ARE WAITING. By doing so, what was to be an hour wait, seemed like only a 20 minute wait. We chatted with an elderly woman who had been in Kansas City visiting her brother and we chatted with both of them. (She was traveling by Coach and the following day after our lunch on Amtrak we walked back to the Coach area and chatted with her and it made her day!)

Upon getting on the train, we were greeted by our “room attendant” Candice who showed us to our room and asked if we needed anything else. For the entire trip to Los Angeles ( a 37 1/2 hour ride) she was extremely attentive and friendly and very professional. Our dining room server on the trip was Ty, a lovely young woman who was very charming, professional and friendly. We got to sit with so many wonderful and interesting people while dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We all chatted where we had been, where we are going and a myriad of other subjects. It was a PERFECT trip to Los Angeles on Amtrak and everything was a solid 10 or higher!

Upon arriving to Los Angeles, we went directly to the Metropolitan Lounge at the Union Station. We were greeted warmly by the receptionist, Rose. Again, extremely professional, friendly and asked all questions. When our train was close to arriving for us to board, she took us and the rest of the passengers by herself and led us to the train.

On our train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, our room attendant was Daly. He was very professional, friendly and took great care of us and all the other passengers on our car. Nanette in the Club Car was fun, funny and a great asset to Amtrak. Our server on that ride was Charlie, a wonderful lady who was perfect. (More about our train ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco in our “THE BAD” email which will follow.)

The food, presentation of food and the service in the dining cars were perfect the entire trip.

Upon arriving to Emeryville we had to take an Amtrak bus into San Francisco. Michael was our bus driver’s name and again, very professional, friendly and welcomed all on board to San Francisco. Not knowing exactly where to get off, he asked us where we were staying and he actually drove a few blocks further just for us since we were the last passengers on board. How thoughtful was that?

On our way back home, we first got on the bus at the Ferry Building in San Francisco to take the Amtrak Bus to Emeryville Our bus driver was Robert who again, was very professional and friendly and he kept a running description of everything about San Francisco and gave so much great information.

We then went to check in our luggage and was told that one of our two pieces of luggage was 2 pounds overweight. Does one take bathroom scales with them on trips to weight their luggage at the hotel before departing?

We got on our train, (no bedroom as it was a train that only went from Emeryville to Bakersfield. The conductor was Melinda. Guess what? She was extremely professional and friendly. The Cafe was open and Lisbeth was, well are you tired of us saying, she was very professional and friendly. We were running an hour late when we got to Bakersfield however our bus driver, Sgt. Garcia was again, professional and friendly and apologized for the train being late.

We arrived in Los Angeles and went directly to the Metropolitan Lounge where three receptionists were very efficient and there was a large number of people waiting but they took their time to answer all questions. When the time came, they personally took everyone down to the train.

On our train ride from Los Angeles to Kansas City we were very pleasantly surprised to have Candice as our room attendant again, the same Candice that was our room attendant on our way from Kansas City to Los Angeles. Our server for all of our meals was Ignacio who was the best of the best. He was professional, friendly, witty and extremely efficient.

Now you may think that we praise everyone all the time, when in fact, nobody and we do mean NOBODY complains about service, food, accommodations more that we do, but on the other hand nobody and we mean NOBODY praises more that we do. All of the above mentioned employees of Amtrak are truly to be commended for their professionalism. We always talk to everyone and everyone of the people mentioned above, we found very friendly and professional and we asked them all types of questions about Amtrak.

And now, you have heard THE GOOD about our experience with Amtrak.

Now the “THE BAD” about our Amtrak Experience… On our trip from Los Angeles, all was going fine when we heard from some of the passengers about a VERY rude employee on board. We asked what the problem was and they said that she was very nasty with them and “barked” at them rather than to give them simple answers. We went down for lunch and saw her walking thru “barking” at some of the employees.

She was acting like she OWNED Amtrak and berating the other employees. She went back to her table on the dining car where she was working on some paperwork. Usually at lunch, we can make reservations for dinner however our server said that “Trish” and that was her name, would be in charge of that. I “Donald” went back to where she was sitting and asked if I could make reservations for dinner since we were going to be taking a nap. She “barked” at me and said that she would be coming around later to take reservations. It was her way or no way.

After, when it got dark and passengers were trying to sleep in their rooms, she came on the intercom and woke everyone up and complaining to the employees several times. Why did she need to do this over the intercom ????? She was barking orders to them. This was NOT a good thing. All of the passengers were talking about this. And yes, her name was Trish, whoever she is or whoever she wants to be. (CONFIDENTIAL: We talked with a few of the staff about her. We asked specifically, “What percentage of the time is Trish a bitch”? Each answered, “95% of the time and we do everything we can to not schedule working her shift.”

We do not know if you have ever been to San Francisco or not via Amtrak that the train drops you off in a suburb of Oakland just across the bay and then an Amtrak bus takes you into San Francisco at different locations and the main stop is at the Ferry Building. We needed to know about the other locations we could pick up the bus so we went to the main office of Amtrak a few days before our departure, which is at the Ferry Building.

I, Donald, went into the office and there were two gentlemen behind the counter… a mature man with gray hair and a younger man. Since the mature man was already waiting on a customer, I went to the younger gentleman whose name was Michael. I explained to him what I wanted to know and he asked if I had my reservation number which I immediately gave to him. He pulled it up on his compute and then started making fun of my name, (Donald Pile).

He started calling me Gomer Pyle which was a television sitcom show. I explained to him that I did not think that was funny or appropriate and that Gomer Pyle was merely a TV character on a sitcom. He neither apologized or anything. It WAS rather embarrassing to say the least. He just went on and on and on. The mature gentleman (the other employee there, was thru with his customer and just stared, not knowing what to see or do, which was smart on his part).

So I got the information and just left. As I was leaving I noticed a sign on the front door had fallen to the floor and I took it back inside and handed it to the mature gentleman behind the counter and he thanks me very much.

One should NEVER make fun of anyone’s name, nationality, race or anything! This young man needs to take a course in how to be NICE to customers rather than make fun of them.

AmTrakAnd now THE UGLY on our experience on Amtrak… After having such a wonderful time during our experience traveling on Amtrak, we were really looking forward to our last leg on our trip, from Los Angeles back home to Kansas City.

It was after 6:30 PM when we boarded and got to our roomette.

We had dinner and then was ready to settle in for the night. Except for the fact that our ceiling vent would not close! We tried and tried and tried but to no avail. We got a hold of our room attendant, Candice and she said that they were having trouble with some of the vents. She was VERY concerned, etc.

By this time, she knew that we were going to be writing a national travel column on our adventures on Amtrak. She said that they did have a couple of rooms that were not being used and most likely we would be upgraded to one of them. She had us talk with the Conductor, David.

We explained who we were and explained that we were writing a national travel column on our experience on Amtrak and that we would be writing about “Ride with Pride” which he knew nothing about. He said that he would look into it and get back with us in 5 or 10 minutes.

Then I handed him our business card and we could tell by the expression on his face, that he was not going to do one thing about it. We knew that it would be impossible to sleep with the ceiling fan vent bearing down 2 feet from our face. We waited and waited and waited and finally after 2 hours, I hunted for the Conductor, David and found him sitting down.

I explained that our room attendant was making up rooms for the night and we needed to know if we were going to be able to move to another room. He said that there were no rooms available. NONE! And we knew in fact that there were at least 2 rooms that were available. He said that his shift ended in Kingman, Arizona and to talk to the next Conductor! I asked him why he did not get back with us in the 5 to 10 minutes that he said he would rather than us having to track him down two hours later. He said that had been busy. But we knew when he saw our business card with the word, GAY TRAVELERS on it, that he was not going to do anything.

AmTrakSo much for “RIDE WITH PRIDE” when the conductor was rather homophobic! After we returned to the roomette, poor Candice was trying to help us do something with the ceiling vent. Then Conductor David came by and had her get some old cardboard and masking tape and fix the ceiling vent that way. Candice is a short woman and David is a tall guy. Did he offer to help her? No! Ray, being tall himself assisted Candice trying to tape up the old cardboard.

Needless to say, the cardboard came down a couple of times since the air was blowing out of the vent so hard. We knew that we would not be able to sleep that way, so we walked down to the Coach section and slept in one of the empty chairs for the night. After the new Conductor Cedric Williams got on board and we were back in our room, we requested that he come to our room. He promptly came and we explained the situation to him.

He said that he was truly sorry (and hinted as to how bad Conductor David was) which he really should not have told us. We KNEW that there were still those two other rooms available and he KNEW that we had slept in the Coach Car the night before and he said that he would take care of it immediately.

We said that we hoped it would not take two hours and he assured as that it would not. Guess what ? 2 hours later he came back to our room and said that there was nothing that he could do! We asked if he realized what type of national travel column we would most likely be writing up about our adventures on Amtrak? and he simply said that there was nothing he could do and there were no other rooms available.

So the Conductor gets off at we believe Raton, Colorado and another Conductor comes on duty. Apparently someone had told him about us, (most likely Candice). He did not even have the professional courtesy to talk with us. He told Candice to tell us that yes, there were two available rooms available and that we could have either of them but would have to pay an extra charge for the upgrade!!!!!

Needless to say, we declined his offer. We tried sleeping again by putting up more old cardboard and masking tape but it didn’t work, so yep, we went back down to the Coach Car and slept in a chair.

NOTE: Candice who was our room attendant did EVERYTHING that she possibly could do. We certainly do not want to get her in trouble as she was only doing her job and she did try very hard to handle the situation for us. She is to be commended for her professionalism and friendliness with all of the passengers. She is great!

However, here we are now in a dilemma. The first 3/4 of our experience on Amtrak was great! The last part of our trip was a total disaster and one that no one should ever have to go thru. If indeed, there were no rooms available, we would have been understandable, however when the first two Conductors actually LIED to us about there being no rooms available and then a slap in the face when the third Conductor admitted that there WAS two available and that we could have one if we paid for the upgrade, is really too much. We would never want any of our thousands of readers to go thru what we did.

With the hundreds of very professional and friendly employees that Amtrak have, it really is a shame when a few destroys everything like this.

On a VERY personal note, all of the professional and friendly employees that we mentioned in “THE GOOD” email are to commended very highly. While dining, we met so many wonderful people, many of whom have emailed us and saying how much fun and interesting time that they had while dining and talking. After all the best things about traveling by Amtrak is seeing the sights of the land and meeting new people.

By the way, one woman from upstate New York that we dined with twice, has lost luggage. She got on with us in Los Angeles and got a call from Amtrak that for some reason her luggage was taken off the train and given to some passenger in Albuquerque, New Mexico and she just emailed us saying that she is now home and still no luggage. However we do understand that problems and mistakes do happen, but when they do happen a good company takes care of them immediately.

After we returned home, we contacted several people at Amtrak’s home office about our problems. First of all we were told that if a problem did ever come up on Amtrak during a travel, that the passenger needs to see a conductor, which is exactly what we did!!!!! to no avail! Brandon Wilson. Customer Relations Specialist for Amtrak emailed us back saying, ” however, the 2 Conductors should have been more honest with you” and that “it is now an internal matter”. Some employees need to go thru a sensitive training session. Further emails we sent resulted with the following:

John Wojciechowski, Director, Office of Customer Relations responded, “any follow up we take with our employees is kept strictly confidential”. Mr. .Joseph H. Boardman, President and CEO of Amtrak did not respond to our emails. Eleanor D. Acheson, Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, National Railraod Passenger Corporation replied, ” I apologize for my delay in doing so but wanted to confirm that the customer service problems you experienced and issues you flagged were referred to the appropriate departments of the company to address”.

We have received other emails from Amtrak saying that it might take 60 days to get back with us. We arrived back in Kansas City the middle of May and still no reasonable response from Amtrak! Not one person at Amtrak explained to us that things like our experience would not happen to other LGBT travelers. Will we be taking Amtrak again ? NO way! And if you would like to read what other travelers have to say about their horrible experiences with Amtrak, click :

One wonders why Amtrak is losing so much money every year and now we know why! Customer Service at Amtrak is something that is simply not there. And so much for their ‘Ride with Pride’ campaign. We will drive our automobile from now on.

Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!

Donald and RayTRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married). Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at and visit their website at

TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD: More Travel Problems and Complaints

Author: , March 10th, 2012
Email Donald & Ray | Visit the Gay Travel Guys Website

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Gay Travel ComplaintsWe keep getting dozens of emails from readers tell us about horrible experiences that they had when traveling and what to do about them. We all love bargains, however when it comes to traveling, bargains are usually NOT bargains.

There are dozens of websites such as Orbitz and Hotline that is wanting to be your “travel advisor” when booking hotels, motels and resorts. They let you think that you are getting such a great deal when most often you are not! Dealing directly with the hotel/motel/resort itself usually gets you a much better price and you KNOW what type of accommodations that you are getting before you give them your credit card information.

We have been hearing horror stories from readers who have paid up front before they saw their room and then upon checking in have found that they were put in the worst room possible and not even resembling what they thought that they were getting. At that point in time, complaining to the front desk does little good since they will say that you have to deal with hotline or whatever other online business that you dealt with in the first place. And then if you want to check out early, they will not let you since they already have your money up front.

And that is one of the many, MANY reasons why we always prefer dealing with accommodations that are listed on You actually see the accommodations where you are staying and usually can even see the room. We have just never, ever had a problem with anyplace where we have stayed that is listed on purleroofs.

We did have a major problem while driving back from Florida in January when we stayed in a “chain” motel in Kentucky. The front desk clerk, with a beehive hairdo up to the heavens, was extremely homophobic to us.

It was dark, cold and late so we went ahead and checked in. The next morning we immediately talked with the general manager of the motel who was extremely apologetic and comp’ed our night’s stay. When we got home the next day, we contacted the home office about the experience.

The President of the company sent us a very nice apology letter and their attorney called as well as a couple of people in customer service. Even in 2012, there are still stupid, dumb and ignorant people out there, so just be careful. KNOWING when to complain is the rule of thumb.

If you have a problem in a restaurant, complain immediately to have the problem taken care of at that point and don’t wait until after you leave the restaurant and then complain.

Auto rentals can really give you a run around so always print out your rental contact ahead of time and ALWAYS take photos of your rental car before and after you bring it back. Never sign anything unless you read everything. Auto rental agencies of course make a lot of money getting their customers to purchase extra insurance that they don’t need as well as upgrades for a price.

It is really up to each and every traveler to do their homework before they take off traveling. Know exactly where you are going to stay, know exactly what type of room you will be getting and know what all charges will be.

In Las Vegas now, the hotels love giving you a very low price and then they add on an additional daily “resort fee” which runs from $12 to $20 a day. We do NOT like hidden charges where we are staying, when we rent an auto or at a restaurant.

Bacon bits? Extra butter? Sour cream for your baked potato? Never be embarrassed to ask your server if there is an additional charge for anything. It is your money and spend it wisely.

Christopher Elliott has a great travel website that answers traveler’s questions daily and it is a very good education to read. His website is, You can also read his articles in many daily newspapers around the country. They are very interesting to read how other travelers have so many problems.

Traveling should be stress free but unfortunately in today’s world that is not always the case. Do everything you possibly can before you take off to insure that you have the nicest traveling experience possible.

Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!

Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!

Donald and RayTRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married). Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at and visit their website at

Getting What You Pay For

Author: , June 11th, 2011
Email Don & Ray | Visit the Gay Travel Guys Website

More and more travelers are getting tired of being ripped off, whether when flying, booking a car rental, staying in a hotel/resort or dining in a restaurant. Many wait until they return home from the travels to complain and that is NOT the proper time to complain. The time to complain is when a problem is developing.

Others rant and rave at the time and get no results. Many of our readers assume that since we travel all the time and write about all the wonderful places where to stay and visit that we never have any travel problems.

However we, as well as thousands of others have problems. It is just that 99% of the time we get a problem taken care of immediately. But one does have to learn that once in a while a problem simply cannot be resolved and at that point in time, it is best to just walk away and go on with your life.

Just because you book your airline doesn’t always mean you have a ticket for that flight. You have to check and double check on all flights. They can be changed or even canceled at the last minute.

Then what will you do and what are your options. You are already booked into a hotel or ready to board a cruise ship when your flight lands and then you find out that your flight has been canceled!

You book a car rental and get to their office only to find that they are out of cars to rent!

You get to your hotel and they tell you that because a bus tour has a delay that your room will not be available for a day or two!

You make reservations at a restaurant only to have to wait for an hour before you can be seated!

Having just one of these problems when traveling can be bad enough but if several problems arise on your trip, that can put quite a strain on your stress level.

We have stayed in resorts where the pool bar is open till 1 or 2 in the morning with the music blaring full blast. Nobody could possibly sleep under those conditions. Normally, a simple call to the front office should take care of the problem quickly however last year that happened to us and the front office would do nothing about it, saying that their drinking patrons come first.

The next morning, we chatted with the manager and explained why we were checking out even though we had booked our stay for a week. The manager could care less about losing resort customers and now the resort has closed.

Whenever possible we have learned to start at the top, rather than to stop at the bottom when trying to take care of a problem. Otherwise, you start at the bottom and have to work your way to the top and waste your time.

We have waited for over 30 minutes for our order to come out at restaurants and of course when that happens, you know that there is a problem in the kitchen. The best thing to do is simply LEAVE and be sure and tell the manager exactly why you are leaving. You have wasted a lot of time, but why waste more time and give a business your money when they don’t think enough of paying customers that they don’t give them good service.

Customer service gets worse and worse and businesses are thinking up new ways to bring in more money. If they would only give good customer service they wouldn’t have to.

We have stayed in dozens of gay owned Bed and Breakfast’s and Resorts where they treat everyone like royalty. They appreciate their paying customers and have build a strong customer base and those customers appreciate that and would never even think about staying anywhere else when they visit that city.

On those rare occasions when you must complain, always be polite, be very direct and professional. Keep your voice at a regular level. Do tell them the problem and what you expect. Know what your rights are especially when making reservations for a flight, car rental or hotel.

If your room is dirty or not to your expectations, call the front desk immediately! Usually they will change rooms for you. We have checked into rooms where housekeeping forgot to leave towels and the only person on duty is the front desk clerk. Sometimes, we have to go down to the office ourselves and pick up the towels. We don’t care to do that, but sometimes things just do not turn out like they are meant to be.

If all else fails, just walk away. At that point, always take photos, get names of all involved and the time of day the problems were. Later you can email or call the headquarters to file a formal complaint. Try not to let a problem ruin your travels. That is easy to say, but sometimes we just have to look the other way and go on with our lives.

Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!
TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married). Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at and visit their website at

Don & ray - Gay TravelersAlways remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!

TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married). Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at and visit their website at