Elliott http://elliott.org a site that advocates for you. Tue, 04 Aug 2015 00:12:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://i1.wp.com/elliott.org/wp-content/uploads/Christopher-Elliott-headshot-vertical-546a8155_site_icon.png?fit=32%2C32 Elliott http://elliott.org 32 32 Burned by Jessica Alba, I’m not even in a movie http://elliott.org/last-word/burned-by-jessica-alba-im-not-even-in-a-movie/ http://elliott.org/last-word/burned-by-jessica-alba-im-not-even-in-a-movie/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 19:47:39 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45414 One sunscreen is receiving a lot of unwelcome press at exactly the wrong time this summer, with blistering reviews and painful pictures leaving its famous founder red in the face.

The post Burned by Jessica Alba, I’m not even in a movie appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
One sunscreen is receiving a lot of unwelcome press at exactly the wrong time this summer, with blistering reviews and painful pictures leaving its famous founder red in the face.

Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 made by The Honest Company, a brand known for all-natural, chemical- and hormone-free products, has received hundreds of online complaints since April.

Honest Company founder Jessica Alba, an actress, model and businesswoman, currently owns an estimated 15-20 percent stake in the company, which was recently valued at $1 billion.

On Twitter, the reviews were painful to see:

Don’t buy @Honest sunscreen unless u want to look like this. Second time I’ve tried this stuff and got fried pic.twitter.com/pEhO5GYIkQ

— Lindsy (@LindsyMarshall) July 26, 2015

@Honest this is my very real result from Honest 30 SPF sunscreen. Only spent 1 hour outside. Burnt. #nothappy #red pic.twitter.com/T42TNeg5mj

— Brandon Atherton (@bdatherton) June 1, 2015

But while Twitter is arguably social media’s most vocal platform, the complaints haven’t been limited to just there.

Angry parents have posted similar complaints to Facebook and Amazon, where 59 percent of users have given the product a pitiable one star out of five, the lowest rating possible. The pictures speak for themselves.

The company issued a statement that said:

“Our Sunscreen Lotion was tested, by an independent 3rd party, against the protocols prescribed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s monograph for over-the-counter sunscreen products. The results showed that our product is effective and safe for use as an 80 minute water-resistant (FDA’s highest rating), SPF 30 sunscreen lotion in accordance with FDA regulations when used as directed.”

So, why are people complaining?

Apparently, the company reportedly changed its sunscreen formula earlier this year, reducing the amount of its active ingredient, zinc oxide, from 20 percent to 9.3 percent.

The majority of other sunscreens that use zinc oxide as the only active ingredient contain much more of the mineral – anywhere from 18 to 25 percent.

The company, however, says it added other ingredients to keep it effective, according to the report.

Sunburns are serious business. A graphic video posted just last week shows two brothers whose extreme sunburn at their daycare landed them both in the hospital.

And with some of the hottest months of summer still to come, there are plenty of us left to be burned. Choosing the right sunscreen can be critical, not only to avoid discomfort, but, more importantly, the long-term health risks.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a person’s risk of melanoma skin cancer, the worst kind, doubles with one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence or with five or more sunburns at any age.

When it comes to companies being called out for ineffective sun protection, the Honest Company is not alone. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 80 percent of sunscreens don’t really work or have ‘worrisome’ ingredients.

EWG’s sunscreen hall of shame helps you avoid products that may not deliver as they promise. Neutrogena tops the list. There is also a guide to help you find the right protection for your needs.

When it comes to sun protection, it’s often not about what to choose, but what to avoid. Do your homework, talk to people who know and don’t get burned.

The post Burned by Jessica Alba, I’m not even in a movie appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/last-word/burned-by-jessica-alba-im-not-even-in-a-movie/feed/ 0
Secrets from the trenches of consumer advocacy http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/secrets-from-the-trenches-of-consumer-advocacy/ http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/secrets-from-the-trenches-of-consumer-advocacy/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 15:30:01 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45365 I'm dropping a few bombshells today. Ready?

The post Secrets from the trenches of consumer advocacy appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
I’m dropping a few bombshells today. Ready?

It’s the first time my staff has allowed me to write this column in months, and I’m not going to let the opportunity go to waste.

Many of you have asked about what really happens behind the curtains of America’s premier consumer advocacy organization. I’ll reveal all in the latest installment of From The Trenches.

Yeah, about that name. We’ve used it since the beginning, but not for much longer. We’re looking for something better.

“Helping an undeserving and uninformed consumer” maybe?

Oh, I’m kidding. All of our consumers deserve help, but not all of them are informed. That’s why we’re here.

The idea we’d like to convey is that this is one of our active cases, either from the forums or off our help form.

How about?

  • Today’s case
  • Advocate this!
  • Live case

Anyone … anyone?

Who is we?  This site has a team of active advocates. They’re the only ones in the forums with the “advocate” title, and they’re held to a high standard, both in terms of their responsibility and conduct. These volunteers are expected to answer consumer questions quickly and professionally. And they do.

No blaming the victim, no “you-should-have-bought-insurance” responses, no “stupid-is-as-stupid-does” comebacks.

Advocacy is not for everyone. We’ve had more than a few advocates storm off when we told them we were uncomfortable with them taking the other side. I miss them, but there are some things we can’t compromise on, and that is one of them. We are on the consumer’s side, because, well, we are consumer advocates.

Did we make 100? We use a fairly elaborate system to track our incoming cases. The cases submitted by way of our “Help” form are shared collaboratively and we often decide how to triage them in private. We also have a staff-only forum where we talk about ongoing cases. How do we measure our success? Two ways: number of cases resolved and traffic.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.56.19 AM

Our resolution rate is lower than you would expect — somewhere between 20 and 30 percent. That’s probably because most of our cases are intractable problems. We’re not miracle workers, but we try really hard to fix everything that’s fixable. On a good day, we’ll have 100 posts to the forums. There’s a reason I’m not showing yesterday’s traffic. It was embarrassingly low, thanks to a little malvertising problem. Don’t worry, we’re on it.

What if the forums don’t work? Our public forums can’t always help resolve a consumer problem, so they get referred back to me and I have to decide if a case is worth mediating. The problem could end up in our most popular feature, Should I Take The Case?, or as a Case Dismissed!, or it might never see the light of day. I might also successfully fix the problem, in which case it would become a Travel Troubleshooter or Problem Solved.

And to all our critics, one more thing. Some of our critics have suggested that advocacy is easy. All you have to do is email the PR department and flash your press credentials, and — voila! — problem solved.

That’s a naive assumption that’s completely divorced from reality. Then again, anyone who dares criticize the nation’s foremost advocacy organization is divorced from reality. I’ve invited these skeptics to spend time with us here, watching what we do in the trenches, but the critics are more interested in criticism. That’s fine.

So here’s my challenge to them: Why don’t you go start your own advocacy organization and show me how easy it is? I’ll wait right here.

The post Secrets from the trenches of consumer advocacy appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/secrets-from-the-trenches-of-consumer-advocacy/feed/ 0
Top 10 hair-tearing consumer complaints http://elliott.org/blog/top-10-hair-tearing-consumer-complaints/ http://elliott.org/blog/top-10-hair-tearing-consumer-complaints/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 14:30:13 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45247 It seems American consumers have a lot to gripe about these days. From billing disputes with their cable company to issues with landlords, consumers have a long list of complaints about their dealings with businesses. The Consumer Federation of America recently released its list of the biggest consumer complaints for 2014. Shady dealings with car […]

The post Top 10 hair-tearing consumer complaints appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
It seems American consumers have a lot to gripe about these days. From billing disputes with their cable company to issues with landlords, consumers have a long list of complaints about their dealings with businesses.

The Consumer Federation of America recently released its list of the biggest consumer complaints for 2014. Shady dealings with car dealers and shoddy home-repair work topped the list.

Americans’ biggest consumer frustrations fall into these categories:

  1. Auto: Consumers’ frustrations include false advertising, purchasing a lemon, shoddy repair work, and leasing and towing disputes.
  2. Home improvement and construction: Faulty repair work and a failure to start or complete the work were consumers’ main gripes.
  3. Credit/debt: Dealing with billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt-relief services, predatory lending, and illegal or abusive debt-collection tactics were among the top gripes.
  4. Retail sales and utilities (tie): Misleading ads, defective merchandise, issues with coupons and rebates, and failed deliveries were commonly reported issues in 2014. Complaints about utilities include service disruption and billing disputes with telecommunications companies, as well as electric and gas suppliers.
  5. Dealings with professionals, including lawyers and real estate brokers: Consumers reported struggling with improper licensing, shoddy work and a failure by these professionals to perform the agreed upon work.
  6. Landlord/tenant: Renters had big issues with their landlords (slumlords may be a more accurate term here) in 2014, because of unhealthy and unsafe living conditions, illegal eviction tactics and a failure by the landlord to complete necessary repair work.
  7. Home solicitations: Not surprisingly, consumers don’t like telemarketers calling them repeatedly, especially if they’re on the do-not-call list, nor were they happy with unwelcome, pushy door-to-door salesmen.
  8. Health services and Internet sales (tie): Top consumer complaints in health services highlighted the problems of misleading claims and unlicensed practitioners.
  9. Scams: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, fake check scams and imposter scams got consumers’ blood boiling in 2014.
  10. Household goods: Failed deliveries and faulty repairs with furniture and home appliances topped consumers’ complaints.

Although it didn’t win the dubious honor of landing on the CFA’s top 10 list, identity theft was recognized as the fastest-growing gripe in the United States. Identity theft was the biggest complaint the Federal Trade Commission dealt with in 2014.

It’s not surprising, considering the sheer volume of data breaches experienced in 2014, as well as reports of stolen tax returns.

Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at CFA, said providing identity theft insurance and credit monitoring after the fact is not nearly enough.

“The solution to the problem isn’t to provide consumers with identity-theft insurance, it’s to require better security to prevent their personal information from being stolen and fraudulently used,” Grant said.

The post Top 10 hair-tearing consumer complaints appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/blog/top-10-hair-tearing-consumer-complaints/feed/ 0
Remember your e-ticket number — here’s why http://elliott.org/advice-you-can-take/remember-your-e-ticket-number-heres-why/ http://elliott.org/advice-you-can-take/remember-your-e-ticket-number-heres-why/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 13:30:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45361 It was one of those calls we laugh about now. At the time it happened, more than a decade ago, it wasn’t so funny. My travel agency client, who is also a friend, was traveling to Europe with her husband. The airline industry was moving from paper to electronic tickets around then. This particular trip […]

The post Remember your e-ticket number — here’s why appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
It was one of those calls we laugh about now.

At the time it happened, more than a decade ago, it wasn’t so funny. My travel agency client, who is also a friend, was traveling to Europe with her husband. The airline industry was moving from paper to electronic tickets around then.

This particular trip involved a Lufthansa regional partner carrier in Europe, and at that time had to be issued as a paper ticket.

When they tried to check in at the airport, my friend ended up calling our agency from the Lufthansa counter in a bit of a panic. She didn’t have her paper tickets with her.

What had happened was that when I’d given her the tickets months earlier, my friend knew they were paper, and placed them in a drawer for safekeeping. Then, she just forgot about them.

She’d also flown a few domestic trips with electronic tickets, and had gotten into the habit of not bringing paper tickets to the airport.

Fortunately, we had the ticket numbers in our office. Lufthansa was sympathetic, and reissued new paper tickets at the original fare, then refunded the original tickets after my friend mailed them in upon her return. So no harm done other than a little stress and a temporary double charge on her credit card.

These days, almost all tickets are electronic, and most agencies don’t even have ticket printers. But while travelers may not need paper tickets, it’s still a good idea to be armed with e-ticket numbers.

The examples below are just from the last month:

One of our clients was told by a United agent at the airport that they couldn’t find his e-ticket, and he must have had a paper ticket — which was impossible, as our agency no longer prints them. He called me and handed the phone to the United agent, who said she couldn’t find the e-ticket number on the reservation. I gave it to her, she entered it manually, and was then able to check him in with boarding passes.

2. A client had a draft itinerary for an international trip which we tweaked a few times. Either the final itinerary got lost in cyberspace or she accidentally just printed off a copy of the first draft before she left home. In any case, she ended up missing her second flight.

Now, final ticketed itineraries have the ticket numbers on them, so had she looked for the number with the original draft, she would have seen it wasn’t there and either would have been able to find the correct one or call the agency and get the updated itinerary.

3. This traveler eventually got on his flight with no problem, but there had been a schedule change, and while the flight left at the identical time, it had a different number. He had entered the original flight into his TripIt app, and somehow the app got confused. This resulted in him getting a flight delay message for a flight he wasn’t on.

In this case, he reached Delta, but the agent originally couldn’t find the flight with the old number and told him he wasn’t booked. They eventually sorted it out, but again, with the ticket number, the phone agent would have been able to pull up the trip immediately and save him a lot of stress.

Basically, a ticket number indicates that the trip has been paid for, and even if there are itinerary changes, a reservations or airport agent can retrieve it. Most airlines also let travelers pull bookings up on their websites with the number. Keeping the number on file somewhere can also help if a trip is canceled, as it’s an easy way to retrieve the old credit for future use. Not to mention getting mileage credit, especially since many people don’t have or keep paper boarding passes anymore..

Like many things that seem odd or archaic in the travel industry, the ticket number might never become an issue throughout a trip, even a long trip. But think of it as a kind of free insurance.

The post Remember your e-ticket number — here’s why appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/advice-you-can-take/remember-your-e-ticket-number-heres-why/feed/ 0
Hey American Airlines, why can’t I have a refund for this seat? http://elliott.org/should-i-take-the-case/hey-american-airlines-why-cant-i-have-a-refund-for-this-seat/ http://elliott.org/should-i-take-the-case/hey-american-airlines-why-cant-i-have-a-refund-for-this-seat/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 05:00:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=43606 Andrea Bacon paid American Airlines an extra $64 for her daughter’s window seat in economy class on her flight from Chicago to London. Since the reservation cost extra, she assumed it would be a good seat. She assumed wrong. “When she boarded the plane, she discovered a large metal box under the seat in front […]

The post Hey American Airlines, why can’t I have a refund for this seat? appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
Andrea Bacon paid American Airlines an extra $64 for her daughter’s window seat in economy class on her flight from Chicago to London. Since the reservation cost extra, she assumed it would be a good seat.

She assumed wrong.

“When she boarded the plane, she discovered a large metal box under the seat in front of her, obstructing her leg room and also making it impossible to store her bag there,” she says. “It was a full flight and there were no open window seats.”

Bacon asked for an upgrade refund from American. It turned her down.

Here’s the annotated non-response:

We know that in-flight entertainment is a welcome diversion when traveling, and we are working hard on our fleet renewal and enhancement plans to create an industry leading inflight entertainment product.

You asked for this, didn’t you?

Still, with these enhancements comes the need to support the product, and under-seat electronic boxes associated with inflight entertainment systems is a solution that is becoming more common throughout the industry.

Everyone else is doing this, so that makes it OK.

We are sorry to hear that the inflight entertainment system under the seat in front of you blocked some of your access to the under-seat storage/legroom area.

We’re not sorry. If we were, we’d never charge you an extra $64 to sit in it. In fact, we’d never sell a seat like that. But that’s the thing. We are not sorry.

In evaluating your request, we carefully reviewed our policies and procedures as they relate to this matter.

We have a strict “no-refunds” policy. Too bad, so sad.

While I am sorry for the situation you encountered, we must respectfully decline. I am sorry.

I repeat: we’re not sorry. We will do this again until our passengers just accept it, or until they join our addictive and largely useless loyalty program and play the upgrade lottery.

Bacon didn’t like that answer. Neither do I.

“I feel cheated and tricked by American,” she says. “I think that American should have indicated on the seat map that this window seat was blocked, and should not have charged the same price for that window seat as for other window seats. This would be the case when buying theater or baseball tickets. American certainly charges extra for more desirable seats.”

Of course, American is free to monetize whatever it wants. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it.

Bacon’s daughter simply wanted a more comfortable window seat on her flight to London, and she’d already committed to an AA ticket. The airline gave her a crappy seat, knowing she couldn’t do much about it. And they were right.

That’s not market forces at work. It’s an oligopolistic airline giving us a substandard product. We shouldn’t reward a company like that with our business, but what choice do we really have?

I could push for her to get a refund in the short term. In the medium term, the government could impose minimum legroom standards for flights. Long term, the only fix is adding more competition, via the likes of Norwegian and the Gulf carriers, and lifting our archaic cabotage rules.

That’s beyond the scope of this story, and perhaps even beyond my sphere of influence as an advocate, but we can dream, can’t we?

The post Hey American Airlines, why can’t I have a refund for this seat? appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/should-i-take-the-case/hey-american-airlines-why-cant-i-have-a-refund-for-this-seat/feed/ 0
Pilot: “We have ‘bingo fuel’ left!” http://elliott.org/last-word/we-have-bingo-fuel-left/ http://elliott.org/last-word/we-have-bingo-fuel-left/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 16:30:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45334 When things go wrong, they really go wrong.

The post Pilot: “We have ‘bingo fuel’ left!” appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
When things go wrong, they really go wrong.

Consider what happened on Allegiant Air, Flight 426, headed from Las Vegas to Hector International Airport (FAR) in Fargo, ND, on July 23.

Even before takeoff, this flight was unusual. Flight 426’s flight plan tells us that the individuals in the cockpit weren’t just any pilots — they were Allegiant’s Director of Safety and VP of Flight Operations. How cool is that to have executives who not only talk the talk, but can also walk the walk? (or in this case, “fly the flight”)

Problem 1: Flight 426 left an hour later than scheduled. That’s never a good sign.

Problem 2: On that same day, the Navy’s Blue Angels, the esteemed precision-flight team, were using the Fargo airport for practice for an upcoming weekend show; thus, FAR had a temporary flight restriction in place and was closed to any incoming flights. Seems this should have been a checklist item for the Allegiant pilots?

Oh well, probably a minor detail.

Here’s the audio containing the exchange between the Allegiant pilots and the FAR air traffic controllers as Flight 426 entered the Fargo airspace.

As the recording showed, the FAR air traffic controller took the Allegiant pilots to task.

Controller: “Your company (Allegiant) should have been aware of this for a number of months.”

Allegiant pilot: “OK, we’ll follow up on that.”

And the score for telling it like it is? Controllers 100, Pilots 0. This is definitely something that Allegiant needs to follow up on.

Problem 3: Also at this point, Allegiant’s pilot informed the FAR air traffic controllers that he’d been circling, trying to land, and as a result only had 3 minutes of fuel left. Yikes! Let’s translate that span of time into something really tangible… 180 seconds. That must have been a proud moment for him, sharing that minor detail with the controllers.

Controller: “There will be a window opening in about 20 minutes for a landing.”

Allegiant pilot: “I don’t have 20 minutes.”

(Neither do the flight attendants or the passengers.)

If you ever hear a pilot or flight attendant whisper the term “bingo fuel,” start searching for the flight safety card that details all the instructions that were communicated to you before takeoff (when you were instead reading something else). In flight-speak, “bingo fuel” means “running on fumes.”

The FAA requires that all commercial passenger airplanes have a buffer (reserve) of 45 minutes’ worth of fuel before they take off.

So what was the outcome on Flight 426’s bungled landing plan? Thankfully, they were able to land at FAR after all — with a tip of the landing gear going out to the Blue Angels, who moved their practice session to another field.

So to summarize, the Allegiant pilots/executives: a) played a part in disrespecting travelers’ schedules with a late takeoff, and b) failed to do homework on any possible conflicts at the destination airport.

The FAA is investigating. Allegiant is an airline known for cutting corners when it comes to passenger amenities. Maybe it’s taken that philosophy a little too far.

The post Pilot: “We have ‘bingo fuel’ left!” appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/last-word/we-have-bingo-fuel-left/feed/ 0
Don’t let scammers pave a way to your money http://elliott.org/advice-you-can-take/dont-let-scammers-pave-a-way-to-your-money/ http://elliott.org/advice-you-can-take/dont-let-scammers-pave-a-way-to-your-money/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 15:30:33 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45336 With summer in full swing, so is the paving scam. Auburn, Mass. police recently posted to their Facebook page an alert about two out-of-state men going door-to-door offering a supposed deal on driveway seal coating.

The post Don’t let scammers pave a way to your money appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
With summer in full swing, so is the paving scam. Auburn, Mass., police recently posted to their Facebook page an alert about two out-of-state men going door-to-door offering a supposed deal on driveway seal coating.

Offering seal coating or paving services like that is a classic scam. The wandering workers drive around looking for driveways that could use a facelift. When they see one, they’ll knock on the door and say they’ve got leftover materials from a job and can fix up your driveway on the cheap.

It’s a setup that forces you to make a decision on the spot. You don’t know who these guys are, who they work for, or where they’re from.

The pavers will get the homeowner to pay first and might even look like they’re doing work after taking your cash. They’ll toss down some asphalt or spray something onto the driveway. Then they’ll disappear, usually leaving a mess behind.

The Worcester-based Better Business Bureau of Central New England notes these red flags that should tip consumers to a scam:

Forcing a decision to hire on the spot. Never hire anyone who won’t leave you with a written estimate or allow you to think before you commit.

No contract. It’s important to get in writing just what you’re paying for.

Cash-only demand. If the only form of payment accepted is cash, say “No, thanks.” Don’t listen to their excuses for why.

A price that’s too low. If you’ve been quoted prices of $3,000 to $5,000 for a job and the price you’re offered is closer to $300, it’s not reasonable to expect $3,000 worth of work. Expect less than $300 worth.

Out-of-state plates. Plenty of local contractors are available. Avoid roving outfits.

“Don’t feel pressured to accept a deal that sounds good without having time to research the company and the services offered first,” warned Nancy Cahalen, chief executive of the Better Business Bureau of Central New England.

The post Don’t let scammers pave a way to your money appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/advice-you-can-take/dont-let-scammers-pave-a-way-to-your-money/feed/ 0
Even Apple can’t make a computer to withstand this http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/even-apple-cant-make-a-computer-to-withstand-this/ http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/even-apple-cant-make-a-computer-to-withstand-this/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 14:30:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45324 Amy Skopp-Cooper was all settled into her seat as the plane hit cruising altitude, she pulled her computer out to work on her presentation.

The post Even Apple can’t make a computer to withstand this appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
After Amy Skopp-Cooper’s recent United Airlines flight reached cruising altitude, she opened her laptop computer to put some final touches on her presentation for a big client. The meeting was important, and so was her presentation.

Along came the flight attendant with her cart of goodies and drinks. And that’s when things started to turn turbulent for Cooper and her Macbook Air.

The attendant asked, “What would you like to drink?”

”Coffee,” Cooper replied.

But when handing the cup of hot joe to Cooper — bump! — the attendant accidentally dropped the credit card machine on Coopers’ hand.

Details are in today’s featured forum post.

We all know that Apple makes a good product, but unfortunately for Cooper, not good enough to withstand hot coffee spilled all over the keyboard.

There went her presentation.

This cascade of errors was enough to cause any business traveler some angst and stress. But wait, if this wasn’t enough, her slacks were stained also, so her presentation wouldn’t just look bad — she would look bad, too.

“The crew was extremely apologetic,” remembers Cooper. All through the flight they kept checking on her. They admitted their fault and had a customer service representative meet her at the gate upon arrival in Chicago.

Cooper tells us:

Customer service promised a quick fix since I had explained that I needed the computer for work immediately. They instructed me to complete an online form (without a computer!).

The link was initially broken. And using the phone made everything harder. Eventually, and with tremendous frustration, I submitted the information and the response was I would hear in 7-10 days! That’s immediate?

I was working on a PowerPoint presentation, which I lost.

I had just paid for online wi-fi which, obviously, I was unable to use.

My pants are stained and will remain so.

I am dismayed that I have still not had the immediate response which customer service promised would be forthcoming.

I understand that spilled coffee is something which can happen to anyone, and I do appreciate that the crew was so concerned. It is the response of the administration that I find so overwhelmingly poor.

We feel your pain and we want to help. Our advocates have offered their advice in the forum, and steered Amy to United’s contacts with links. Stay tuned to see how this is mopped up.

The post Even Apple can’t make a computer to withstand this appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/even-apple-cant-make-a-computer-to-withstand-this/feed/ 0
Did Tom Brady have to surrender his personal cell phone to his employer? Well, you have to… http://elliott.org/blog/did-tom-brady-have-to-surrender-his-personal-cell-phone-to-his-employer-well-you-have-to/ http://elliott.org/blog/did-tom-brady-have-to-surrender-his-personal-cell-phone-to-his-employer-well-you-have-to/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 13:30:16 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45242 However you feel about Tom Brady, the Patriots, and football air pressure, today is a learning moment about cell phones and evidence.

The post Did Tom Brady have to surrender his personal cell phone to his employer? Well, you have to… appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
However you feel about Tom Brady, the Patriots, and football air pressure, today is a learning moment about cell phones and evidence.

If you think the NFL had no business demanding the quarterback’s personal cell phone — and by extension, that your company has no business demanding to see your cell phone — you’re probably wrong.  In fact, your company may very well find itself legally obligated to take data from your personal cell phone.

Welcome to the wacky world of BYOD — bring your own device.

The intermingling of personal and work data on devices has created a legal mess for corporations that won’t soon be cleared up. BYOD is a really big deal — nearly three-quarters of all companies now allow workers to connect with personal devices, or plan to soon. For now, you should presume that if you use a personal computer or cell phone to access company files or email, that gadget may very well be subject to discovery requirements.

First, let’s get this out of the way: Anyone who thinks Tom Brady’s alleged destruction of his personal cell phone represents obstruction of justice is falling for the NFL’s misdirection play. That news was obviously leaked on purpose to make folks think Brady is a bad guy.

But even he couldn’t be dumb enough to think destruction of a handset was tantamount to destruction of text message evidence. That’s not how things work in the connected world. The messages might persist on the recipients’ phones and on the carriers’ servers, easily accessible with a court order. That was just a leak designed to distract people. (And I’m a Giants fan with a fan’s dislike of the Patriots).

But back to the main point: I’ve heard folks say that the NFL had no right to ask Brady to turn over his personal cell phone. “Right” is a vague term here, because we are still really talking about an employment dispute, and I don’t know all the terms of NFL players’ employment contracts.  But here’s what you need to know:

There’s a pretty well-established set of court rulings which hold that employers facing a civil or criminal case must produce data on employees’ personal computers and gadgets if the employer has good reason to believe there might be relevant work data on them. Practically speaking, that can mean taking a phone or a computer away from a worker and making an image of it to preserve any evidence that might possibly exist.  That doesn’t give the employer carte blanche to examine everything on the phone, but it does create pretty wide latitude to examine anything that might be relevant to a case. For example: in a workplace discrimination case, lawyers might examine (and surrender) text messages, photos, websites visited, and so on.

It’s not a right, it’s a duty. In fact, when I first examined this issue for NBCNews, Michael R. Overly, a technology law expert in Los Angeles, told me he knew of a case where a company was actually sanctioned by a court for failing to  search BYOD devices during discovery.

“People’s lives revolve around their phone, and they are going to become more and more of a target in litigation,” Overly said then. “Employees really do need to understand that.”

There is really only one way to avoid this perilous state of affairs — use two cell phones, and never mix business with personal. Even that is a challenge, as the temptation to check work email with a personal phone is great, particularly when cell phone batteries die so frequently.

The moral of the story: the definition of “personal” is shrinking all the time, even if you don’t believe Tom Brady shrank those footballs.

For further reading: here’s a nice summary of caselaw (PDF). 

The post Did Tom Brady have to surrender his personal cell phone to his employer? Well, you have to… appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/blog/did-tom-brady-have-to-surrender-his-personal-cell-phone-to-his-employer-well-you-have-to/feed/ 0
It’s time for the Uber of air travel http://elliott.org/blog/its-time-for-the-uber-of-air-travel/ http://elliott.org/blog/its-time-for-the-uber-of-air-travel/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 05:00:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45231 Airbnb changed the hotel industry. Uber changed ground transportation. So why can’t the same change happen for air travel? Airlines are ready for disruption. With only four large airlines controlling more than 80 percent of domestic air travel, the industry is a classic oligopoly. Even the government, which is currently investigating airlines for collusion, seems […]

The post It’s time for the Uber of air travel appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
Airbnb changed the hotel industry. Uber changed ground transportation. So why can’t the same change happen for air travel?

Airlines are ready for disruption. With only four large airlines controlling more than 80 percent of domestic air travel, the industry is a classic oligopoly. Even the government, which is currently investigating airlines for collusion, seems to agree.

Air travelers, who complain of higher prices and fewer choices, say they’re ready for the next Uber to take flight. And now Congress is in a good position to actually encourage competition through smarter regulation. The latest Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, now being drafted by lawmakers, could pave the way for a more competitive airline industry.

“Competition is a great thing for consumers,” says ride-hailing-industry expert Harry Campbell. “American airline carriers have consistently been falling behind, compared to more robust international carriers, when it comes to price and experience.”

Campbell says applying the Uber model to aviation would improve the flying experience for everyone, even if you choose to fly on one of the four dominant carriers.

“It would further intensify the pressure on airline carriers to improve their product, lower their prices and become more efficient,” he says.

That’s already happened in the lodging sector, where Airbnb and vacation rental services such as HomeAway have kept rates competitive and forced large hotel chains to up their game by adding more services and amenities. It’s happened in ground transit, in which Uber and Lyft offer an often cheaper, more accessible alternative to taxis and limousines.

Chester Goad, a university administrator and Uber customer in Cookeville, Tenn., says he’s “excited” about having the same option for flying. What if, for example, an Uber for airlines could utilize smaller airports that are more conveniently located and offer direct flights to airports not traditionally served by large airlines?

“The bottom line for me is if the fares were reasonable or offered conveniences not offered by other airlines, and if they were equally accessible, I’d definitely check it out,” he says. “Especially if I could avoid the hassles of a major airport.”

It’s easier said than done. Several travel start-ups have tried to follow the Uber model. Although they’re an option for business travelers, they’re still priced out of reach of most leisure travelers. For example, Rise, a private flight-sharing service in Dallas that launched this May, offers an “all-you-can-fly” option starting at $1,650 a month. It offers scheduled flights on King Air 350 eight-passenger twin-engine aircraft between Dallas, Houston, Austin and Midland, depending on demand, and has announced plans to expand domestically and fly London to Brussels in 2016.

Rise is interesting because it had to secure special approval from the Department of Transportation, which regulates air travel in the United States. More on that in a minute.

Industry experts say that in at least one sense, flight-sharing — or ride-sharing for planes — already exists. In private aviation, it’s referred to as the gray charter market. That’s where passengers pay for a flight with an aircraft operator that does not have the correct permissions to fly the trip commercially.

“This could be because the operator does not have an aircraft operator’s certificate, which is a license from the aviation authorities to operate commercially, or a gray charter could be more subtle, such as a European operator picking up an extra passenger within the States during an internal leg of an international schedule,” explains Adam Twidell, the chief executive of PrivateFly, an online marketplace for private aircraft charters.

So what would it take to make air travel as affordable, flexible and, of course, as controversial as Uber or Airbnb? How do you get from here — an industry in which only the elites can fly private and the rest of us have to contend with a consolidated industry where competition has been squeezed out — to a business in which you can fly as easily as you can drive, and for a reasonable price?

Timmy Wozniak, the chief executive of FreshJets, a site for booking discounted private jet travel, says the government can be an obstacle or an enabler.

“There has to be compromise on both sides,” he says. “Especially for concepts that involve smaller, recreational aircraft and pilots.” The smaller operators, he says, would need to step up and meet some safety requirements. But the government can also more clearly articulate what will and won’t be allowed, especially when it comes to charter operators being allowed to sell on a per-seat or per-aircraft basis.

A clearer statement “will have the biggest impact on our business and will determine truly whether the airline industry can be disrupted,” he adds.

All of which brings us to the FAA bill, which is now being drafted by the Republican-controlled Congress — Republicans who, time and again, have supported free markets and competition.

Yet the FAA, as a matter of policy, has made Uberization difficult, say industry observers. Operators say the certification process is cumbersome and favors large, well-established airlines with deep pockets — in other words, it ensures the same four carriers will continue to dominate the industry. An FAA official told me the agency is just upholding national and international laws that require commercial air transportation providers to hold a certificate and meet requirements for training and maintenance, among other things. The FAA is also working to “streamline” the certification process.

Maybe it can do more. A good start would be to rethink the current regulations on small aircraft — called “Part 135” aircraft, which are named after the section of the Code of Federal Regulations that gives them the authority to operate. Operators of these commuter aircraft should be able to fly “as frequently as they like between cities, as long as operational standards required to fly safely are met,” says Wade Eyerly, the chief executive of Beacon, a subscription-based, all-you-can-fly private plane service that is launching in September with flights between Boston and New York.

Imagine being able to fly anywhere safely at a fraction of the cost of a private jet. It’s something the government can clear for takeoff now — if it wants to.

The post It’s time for the Uber of air travel appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/blog/its-time-for-the-uber-of-air-travel/feed/ 0
Thanks to Alaska Airlines, thumbing a ride will never be the same http://elliott.org/last-word/thanks-to-alaska-airlines-thumbing-a-ride-will-never-be-the-same/ http://elliott.org/last-word/thanks-to-alaska-airlines-thumbing-a-ride-will-never-be-the-same/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 18:30:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45286 Alaska Airlines wants passengers to thumb a ride. For the past several months, the airline has been testing the use of fingerprints as a form of identification instead of personal documents.

The post Thanks to Alaska Airlines, thumbing a ride will never be the same appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
Alaska Airlines wants passengers to thumb a ride. For the past several months, the airline has been testing the use of fingerprints as a form of identification instead of personal documents.

Dubbed “e-thumb,” travelers can use their fingerprints instead of a boarding pass or government-issued ID to check their bags, speed through security and board their flight.

The experiment pits two notoriously opposing forces: technology proponents and privacy advocates.

“Using biometrics as identification has a huge potential to simplify the travel experience and eliminate hassles, while adding to the security of air travel,” says Jerry Tolzman, manager of customer research and development for Alaska Airlines. “We’re very excited to see where we can take this next.”

Biometrics is the practice of using physical traits such as fingerprints, eye scans and face and voice recognition to verify the identity of an individual. The technology is gaining popularity in both public and private sectors.

Privacy advocates maintain that once online, personal data can simply never be fully secure. Connectivity is an integral part of what defines the virtual world. And as long as information is connected, it’s vulnerable to pilfering.

It’s true — it seems hardly a week goes by without a new controversial hacking incident hitting the news.

London Heathrow Airport ditched a plan in 2008 to fingerprint passengers departing on flights from the building because of privacy concerns.

The carrier’s motives appear to be pure. “Alaska Airlines is known for its commitment to improve the customer experience through technology and innovation,” says the airline’s biometric technology vendor.

Indeed, Alaska Airlines is a favorite of US travelers. A recent informal survey of readers of this website ranked Alaska Airlines best among 11 of the nation’s largest.

The first tests of biometrics began last fall in Alaska’s Board Room airport lounges. The opt-in fingerprint entry option proved so popular that it’s now a regular feature of all four Board Rooms.

The logical next step was to begin looking into biometrics for other areas of the day-of-flight experience, according to the airline.

Peter Neffenger, the new head of the TSA, likes the idea of biometrics and looks forward to the day that “you are your boarding pass.”

At a biometrics conference in March, TSA Executive Liaison Officer Deborah Kent said, “We are proactively working to adopt more of a risk-based screening methodology, which would include the expanded use of biometrics for the purpose of identity verification and validation.”

Biometric identification is the natural next step in the integration of technology into our personal lives.

Every step along the way — from e-commerce to social media to hyper-connected smart phones — consumers have been asked to give up some measure of privacy in exchange for the convenience and empowerment the new technology provides.

If successful, Alaska could set a precedent as the first US carrier to use biometrics for boarding passes and inflight purchases, leading the way for further wider adoption across the industry.

Will proponents’ assurances of security be enough to allay the concerns of privacy advocates on the other side, or is this one step too far?

The post Thanks to Alaska Airlines, thumbing a ride will never be the same appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/last-word/thanks-to-alaska-airlines-thumbing-a-ride-will-never-be-the-same/feed/ 0
Should Congress require airlines to seat families together? http://elliott.org/blog/should-congress-require-airlines-to-seat-families-together/ http://elliott.org/blog/should-congress-require-airlines-to-seat-families-together/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 17:30:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45298 Ever seen families beg, borrow and almost steal to get their young children seated next to them on a flight?

The post Should Congress require airlines to seat families together? appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
Ever seen families beg, borrow and almost steal to get their young children seated next to them on a flight?

I’ve personally watched as a young mother pleads with a business traveler in the aisle or window seat to switch with her so she could sit closer to her offspring. Unfortunately, the answer was no.

“I paid extra for this seat,” the road warrior will invariably say. “I don’t want to give it up.”

Well, hope is on the horizon, thanks to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), both members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

They’ve just announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to help keep families seated together on commercial flights. H.R. 3334, the Families Flying Together Act of 2015, would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to direct each airline carrier to notify passengers traveling with minors if seats are not available together at the initial booking stage and for each carrier to establish a policy to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family is seated together during flight.

“As a parent, seeing other dads and moms struggle with airlines to get a seat next to their young child on a flight is always frustrating,” said Davis. “Consumers and families continue to experience this problem, which adds unnecessary stress, so it only makes sense for airlines to accommodate families to the best of their ability on flights. This bill would benefit families by requiring more seating information at the time of purchase, as well as a dedicated policy that guarantees they receive greater consideration when flying.”

Nadler notes that air travel is complicated and expensive enough for families. “Families should not be stuck paying hidden fees, or buying premium seats, simply because they wish to be seated together on crowded flights,” he said. “It is positively absurd to expect a two- or three-year-old to sit unattended, next to strangers, on an airplane. It is up to air carriers to make their seating policies clear and easily accessible to the public.”

The current bill to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expires at the end of September. Davis and Nadler are working with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to get these provisions included in the upcoming reauthorization.

The congressmen have a point. Why do families always seem to get the two least desired seats in a row? Usually because the only two seats left were the ‘dreaded middle seats’, and most times mom or dad is not a seasoned traveler, and not aware of the early check-ins afforded those frequent fliers.

Relief may soon be available, but how would this affect airlines whose business model is no assigned seating, such as Southwest? I’m sure there will be some debate between their lobbyists and the committee members.

Stay tuned. If this passes, it could lead to happier kids, and by extensions, happier moms. And you know what they say: If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

The post Should Congress require airlines to seat families together? appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/blog/should-congress-require-airlines-to-seat-families-together/feed/ 0
This Enterprise customer wasn’t paying with a full deck http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/this-enterprise-customer-wasnt-paying-with-a-full-deck/ http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/this-enterprise-customer-wasnt-paying-with-a-full-deck/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 15:30:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45271 Cory Roche showed up for his Enterprise car rental in Albany, NY. His reservation, however, didn't.

The post This Enterprise customer wasn’t paying with a full deck appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
Cory Roche showed up for his Enterprise car rental in Albany, NY. His reservation, however, didn’t.

The tale of Roche’s car rental snafu is today’s featured forum post.

Roche had taken the train to New York’s capital and rented his car through Enterprise. When he arrived, he was shocked to learn his reservation was invalid, thanks to a problematic debit card.

When he tried to contact a live person at Travelocity, guess what? No one was available to offer any help. As a matter of fact, there was no one to talk to at all.

So Roche and his party hailed a cab and schlepped off to Budget Rent A Car’s local office, which ended up costing him an additional $40 for the ride. Since the Budget rental was last minute, it cost him an additional $200 over what had been quoted to him for his Travelocity reservation with Enterprise.

Our advocates have offered advice, and also some tough love, about using online travel agents.

Tecnomage1 noted that Enterprise’s policy on non-traditional cards is clear:

Essentially, only select locations may accept them. Unless you had a traditional card, there wasn’t much you could’ve done once you arrived there.

With online travel agents, you’re responsible for knowing all the details — even if you can reach a human, they won’t be able help you.

Unless you were charged for the unused Enterprise rental, I don’t see much of a way forward, honestly.

Judyserienagy wrote:

Restrictive policies like this are hard to discern … I’ve sort of picked this debit card thing up I guess, just like the ‘over 70′ rule that trips people up AFTER they reach their destination. We should bring back real travel agents who tell their clients about these things. I agree with my colleagues, there seems to be little recourse. Maybe someone will come along who’s smarter than all the rest of us and give you some guidance.

FOR OTHER READERS: AVOIDING THIS IN THE FUTURE
When traveling, always have at least 2 credit cards available so you aren’t ‘stuck’ in a bad situation.
Bring two debit cards on different accounts as well in case something happens to one of them.

Here is Travelocity’s policy on debit/credit cards.

Realitoes chimed in with:

You can try and write Travelocity.com and they may give you a small voucher for future travel at the most. Just so you know, here is where you would find the information when booking with Travelocity (Enterprise Car Rental).

You would have to click the Rules & Restrictions to see (in this case a credit card is required)

So, in the end, it turns out that, depending on location and each entity’s rules and regulations, the use of a debit card is not ubiquitous across each entity, and is always subject to each location’s final determination.

Come join us in the forum and share your views or offer advice.

The post This Enterprise customer wasn’t paying with a full deck appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/from-the-trenches/this-enterprise-customer-wasnt-paying-with-a-full-deck/feed/ 0
How much will those “free” Apple points cost? I can’t tell you http://elliott.org/blog/how-much-will-those-free-apple-points-cost-i-cant-tell-you/ http://elliott.org/blog/how-much-will-those-free-apple-points-cost-i-cant-tell-you/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 14:30:22 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45236 Want a fancy new Macbook but don’t have the cash for it right now? Don’t worry, Apple offers two ways to finance the purchase — PayPal Credit or Barclaycard Visa (with points!).

The post How much will those “free” Apple points cost? I can’t tell you appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
Want a fancy new Macbook but don’t have the cash for it right now? Don’t worry, Apple offers two ways to finance the purchase — PayPal Credit or Barclaycard Visa (with points!).

As you might imagine, I don’t think buying a computer on new credit is the greatest idea. If you are doing so, it’s almost certainly because you don’t have enough credit already via a credit card. But there might be some exceptional circumstances where it makes sense. If you feel you must, pay careful attention to the details. I’m not a fan of the disclosures.

Apple fans might be tempted by the Barclaycard for two reasons. The card offers points (triple points!) on Apple purchases, which can add up to free Apple Store gift cards. And the card offers interest-free credit if paid off during the promotional period. But…

Like all these old “same-as-cash” deals, there’s a big trap in the Apple offer. Interest does accumulate during the promotional period, and if you fail to pay the balance off in full, you’ll owe a big chunk of money. So, for example, if you buy a $1,200 MacBook Air today, you get 18 months to pay that off. If you don’t pay every last cent by January 2017, you’ll owe a lot of interest to the Barclays folks. As an added trap door, there’s a second way all that interest kicks in — if you make any late payments during the course of the 18 months.

How much interest?  I can’t tell you. Maybe $50, maybe $500?  Just a guess. In fact, it’s pretty darn hard to find out what the interest rate might be. Let me take you through the clickstream.

When you navigate to a laptop at Apple.com, you are presented with the full price and an “as low as” price, hawking the financing options.  In the example above, users are quoted “$1,199.00 / From only $57.57 for 24 months*”  Click on the finance option, and you arrive at a page offering a PayPal Credit payment calculator or the Barclaycard option. If you are curious how much that costs or how the deal works, you might be inclined to click on “see terms and conditions for details. Learn more about financing with the Barclaycard Visa with Apple Rewards.”  Once there, you see a “frequently asked questions” page on Barclays servers. Fourteen questions down — 14! — you’ll see “What is the annual percentage rate?”

A: N/A

You can’t see it, at least not there. Here’s the answer you get: “Please see the Terms and Conditions for Annual Percentage Rates available to new applicants.”

OK, so back a page. Armed with no information about potential financing costs, the would-be buyer’s only option is to click on “Apply Now.”  After doing so, you’ll see a gleaming silver Apple Rewards card image, a big form to fill out and after scrolling through all that, you’ll see “Legal Terms and Conditions.” And in that section, you’ll see a chart that finally says:

“Annual percentage rate for purchases: 13.99%, 19.99% or 26.99%, based on your credit worthiness. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.” (There’s also a link to a pop-up with that information closer to the top of the page under the words “Learn about financing at Apple.” I missed it on first reading).

Might as well say 0-30 percent. Not very helpful.

But, it’s also perfectly legal, according to Chi Chi Wu, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center.

There are two obvious problems with the Apple/Barclay disclosures. First, it shouldn’t be so hard to find the APR. And second, what good is a huge range of APRs when a consumer is trying to shop around for the best deal? Remember, the mere act of applying for a credit card hurts your credit, so you can’t just apply for a card, decide it’s a bad deal, and move on harmlessly.

Let’s take them one at a time. First, the location of the APR disclosure.

“The disclosures only need to be with the application or solicitation. So if you can find them easily when you start applying, I think that probably would be compliant,” Wu said.

On the other hand, the use of APR ranges is something the NCLC is trying to change. It sent a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in May requesting an update to credit disclosure rules.

“One of the fundamental problems with credit card disclosures is that they simply do not provide adequate information about the APR for consumers who are comparison shopping,” the letter reads.”We encourage the CFPB to require disclosure of a single APR, not a range of APRs or multiple APRs, when it is feasible to do so.”

Naturally, it’s not feasible for Barclaycard — or any credit card issuer — to give a specific rate to a generic Internet shopper, as the rates are based on personal characteristics. But even conceding that, the Apple / Barclaycard has an incredibly wide range. Even in the example cited by the NCLC, the range is a far narrower 8.99 percent to 19.99 percent. (By the way, this matters a lot. On a balance of $1,000, that’s an annual difference of over $100 in interest, the NCLC points out. Closer to $150 if you’re talking about an 18-month deferred interest deal, and closer to $200 if you span the gap on the Apple application.)

The NCLC points out that even in the challenging Internet shopper scenario, it’s possible for shoppers to get a better APR warning.

“For applications over the Internet or mobile applications, issuers should be required to provide a pop-up after the consumer submits his or her personal information, but before the application is approved, that provides APR information, i.e., a pop-up that says: Your APR will be 19.9 percent. Do you wish to accept this offer?’” the NCLC writes.

So, back to my original proposition. Let me stress that Apple and Barclaycard aren’t doing anything that some other credit card issuers and retailers don’t do. The problem is Apple’s cache with users, which might nudge someone who otherwise makes rational credit choices to make an irrational one.

The writers at MagnifyMoney.com make another great point about why this Apple Rewards card is a bad deal — sure, getting points towards Apple products with other purchases sounds great, but that’s a terrible deal when combined with any card designed to carry a balance as part of a deferred interest offer. New purchases on the card will incur interest charges immediately of 13 percent or more, as they aren’t covered by the deferred interest offer. Those points will be really expensive.

The moral? Don’t finance a new computer purchase if you don’t have enough credit on your standard credit card that you pay off every month.  If you have to carry a balance for a month or two on that card, it’s not the end of the world. It’s much better than ending up with a new piece of plastic in your wallet that’s full of gotchas.

The post How much will those “free” Apple points cost? I can’t tell you appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/blog/how-much-will-those-free-apple-points-cost-i-cant-tell-you/feed/ 0
What to do about the summer seat squeeze http://elliott.org/blog/what-to-do-about-the-summer-seat-squeeze/ http://elliott.org/blog/what-to-do-about-the-summer-seat-squeeze/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 05:00:00 +0000 http://elliott.org/?p=45232 If you haven't heard Ann ter Haar's story before, maybe you've experienced it.

The post What to do about the summer seat squeeze appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
If you haven’t heard Ann ter Haar’s story before, maybe you’ve experienced it.

On a recent flight from Sacramento, Calif., to Washington, D.C., ter Haar, who describes herself as a “5-foot, 2-inch, 130-pound, 58-year-old woman,” found herself wedged between two large men. She estimated that each of them weighed more than 300 pounds.

“I felt very uncomfortable with the arrangement,” says ter Haar, a teacher from Sacramento.

It’s an all too familiar feeling this summer. Passengers wear less — and sometimes not enough — and so when they sprawl, their sweaty flesh spills into your personal space. Warmer temperatures mean tempers fray easily. Every summer flight is a fuse waiting to be lit.

Normally, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to criticize airlines for deleting our personal space and creating these unbearable flying conditions. But let’s just abbreviate my rant about avaricious airlines squeezing us into ever-smaller spaces and skip straight to the solution part, OK?

Also, let’s give the required nod to old and controversial devices like the Knee Defender (kneedefender.com), which limits the recline on the seat in front of you.

I know, I know. Void where prohibited. Gotcha.

So now what? Well, ter Haar hadn’t planned to spend hours in a meaty vise grip, so she politely asked a flight attendant for help.

“She told me that nothing could be done,” ter Haar remembers. “She also said that it’s the job of the gate agent to note who might be too large for an economy seat, and to take action at that time.”

And so she flew packed in like a sardine.

For five long hours.

“I had no choice but to endure unwanted physical contact from the men on both sides of me,” she says.

The fix? Apart from upgrading to a business class seat, which is normally accomplished with years of lemming-like participation in an airline’s “loyalty” program, there are products being marketed to claustrophobic jet setters.

For example, the Sleeper Scarf (sleeperscarf.com, $55) is a combination oversize scarf and inflatable neck pillow. It allows you to create a cloth shield between you and the space invader, ensuring a less stressful flight. There’s also the Ostrich Pillow (studiobananathings.com, $99), a product that fully envelops your head and, as a bonus, makes you look like a space alien, so you can scare your seatmate. It also comes in a “mini” version ($45), a pillow that wraps around your eyes and makes you look like a hostage.

Either way, you’re practically guaranteed to create at least the illusion of space between you and your seatmate.

The other way to avoid a tight squeeze is to choose your seats strategically. Angele Lafond, a bookkeeper from Ottawa, Canada, chooses her flight times to avoid the crowds. She prefers the first flight of the morning and the overnight “red-eye” flight. And when everyone else clamors for seats as far up front as possible, she makes a beeline for the back.

“If it’s your lucky day, you’ll end up with the row to yourself, allowing you to stretch out a bit during your flight, or at the very least with an empty seat in the middle,” she says.

The real solution, of course, is to give everyone more room on the plane. Or to at least make them feel as if they have more room. For Georgia Levison, the space crunch calls for “empathetic” design.

“It’s about the small details that have been designed to soothe each sense,” says Levison, the director of strategy for the New York design firm Safari Sundays. She recommends refitting the normally restrictive aircraft interiors with softer lighting, ergonomic shapes, gentle visual displays and more natural materials.

That may not stop passengers from getting compressed on their next flight, but who knows, it might fool them into thinking they’re not sitting in a hairy trash compactor. And you can always complain. That’s what ter Haar did after her flight, which resulted in the form of an apology and a $375 voucher from her airline.

How to avoid lighting the fuse

Don’t become an air rage statistic. Here are a few tips to avoid lighting the fuse.

Disengage. That’s the advice of Michael Brein, a Seattle psychologist who specializes in travel issues. Avoid or minimize eye contact, wear noise-canceling headphones or bring a tablet with lots of entertainment. “Stare out the windows to reduce interaction,” he adds.

Be courteous. Good manners can be an effective weapon against space invaders. “Even though you might want to secretly smack someone, I find that being polite, smiling and offering to help someone will usually guilt them into being a non-invasive passenger,” says Alyssa Ramos, who runs a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles.

Move. Kathy Delaney, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness’ global chief creative officer, offers this tip: Bring your Fitbit or other wearable fitness tracking device, and don’t sit for too long. “Get up and stretch, walk, or visit a traveling co-worker when the seatbelt sign is off,” she says.

The post What to do about the summer seat squeeze appeared first on Elliott.

]]>
http://elliott.org/blog/what-to-do-about-the-summer-seat-squeeze/feed/ 0