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Help on wheels


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POSTED: Monday, June 08, 2009

Mandie Miranda has a cruise job, especially when he's actually cruising around Waikiki on his Fuji bicycle, making himself available to visitors who need assistance.

Wearing a bright neon-green shirt and blue shorts, Miranda is one of about 20 “;Aloha Ambassadors”; employed by Block by Block, which operates under contract to the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association. He joined the company just over a year ago, after working in loss prevention for a large retailer at Ala Moana Center.

Miranda, 47, who also works part time at a Waikiki hotel, served in the U.S. Army 11 years, reaching the rank of sergeant first class.

A graduate of Santiago High School in Garden Grove, Calif., he is married to the former Amalia Arios, with whom he resides in Waipahu. Between them they have four daughters, ages 13 to 23, and a son, 4.

Mark Coleman: What is your official work title?

Mandie Miranda: Aloha Ambassador team leader.

Q: What does that mean you do?

A: Well, I started out as an Aloha Ambassador, and now I oversee what the other ambassadors are doing.

Q: And what do they do?

A: We have safety and hospitality—basically, mobile concierge—and help out the visitors in Waikiki.

Q: Why did you decide to take this job?

A: I was recruited by my boss, Gilbert (Biaquis). I actually work part time at one of the hotels in Waikiki, too—the Aston Waikiki Beach Tower—so it kind of goes hand in hand. At the hotel I work in front services, where we help the guests, provide valet service, and concierge service.

Q: What kind of a person do you think is best suited for this job?

A: Basically, someone who is outgoing, approachable. We can teach the skills, but you gotta have that aloha spirit.

Q: Do you go through some kind of training?

A: Yes. When they first come in, they get the orientation and training, and then basically it's OJT on the outside.

Q: OJT?

A: Yeah ... (laughter) ... sorry—on-the-job training. Basically, you're on the street, and nobody can tell you what to say out there, but you're there to help out.

Q: What's the most common type of help you give to tourists?

Q: Mostly directions to where they wanna go. Also, people want recommendations—where to eat, and traveling. Basically, they wanna know about the islands.

Q: I know a few weeks ago the Star-Bulletin ran a picture of you monitoring surveillance cameras at the Waikiki police substation ...

...A: Yeah, of the back of my head. (Laughter)

Q: How often do you help the police with that?

A: We have somebody there every day, from 3 to 11. And part of my duties also are to walk the beach and walk the streets.

Q: How many people do you come into contact with every day?

A: At least a good thousand to 2,000. Not by myself. I mean the whole team.

A: With the drop in tourism lately, have the streets been a little lonely?

Q: Yeah, well, from the last two months, yeah, it's been pretty slow. But it's picking up now. It's slowly picking up. It should pick up this summer.

Q: How do you document your progress?

A: Everybody has a PDA, and everybody logs in what questions got asked and if they had any incidents.

Q: Do you ever get complaints from the tourists?

A: Not a lot, but we do.

Q: Like what?

A: Mostly about the homeless.

Q: What do they say?

A: They kind of wonder why are they allowed, and stuff like that.

Q: What do you tell them?

A: We're working on it. The Waikiki BID (Business Improvement District Association), which is who we're working for, has an outreach and is working with the homeless.

Q: How often do you work with the police?

A: Almost daily.

Q: Do they know you guys?

A: Oh yes. (Laughter) I hope so. We got the regulars, the officers, that we work with.

Q: But you're not like security officers. You're not carrying weapons.

A: No. We have a bike patrol, but it's more for safety, not security.

Q: What kind of bikes do you ride?

A: Fuji. They're great.

Q: So are you outside mostly?

A: Yes, pretty much, unless, before everybody goes out, I gotta do briefings and unless I gotta do paperwork. I gotta walk the streets, too.

Q: Like what kind of paperwork?

A: Incident reports, pull schedule, little memos.

Q: As a supervisor, have you ever had to fire anybody?

A: No. That's Gilbert's job. But I've had to counsel people to tell them what they're doing wrong. But I don't do the firing. (Laughter)

Q: So is it a fun job?

A: It's what you make of it. You never know what you're going to get when you come in, but generally it's a lot of fun.

Q: What part of your job do you like the best?

A: Just helping people, and learning every day about the islands. Even though I've been here 20 years, I still don't know the whole islands. So I'm still learning.