The smarter consumer: 7 qualities of a winning customer

I spend a lot of time harping on customers who screw up. Sometimes I can’t help myself. Not only are the cases interesting, but they’re also instructive.

For example, one reader who will remain nameless recently visited an airline website with a “best fare” guarantee. She assumed she wouldn’t have to shop around, because if she found a cheaper fare elsewhere, she could just invoke the guarantee.

She made her purchase, but later found a better fare. The airline denied her claim.

If you’re wondering why, just check out the fine print on your average “best price” guarantee. They are maddeningly complicated, and ultimately worthless. All you have to do is read them to know why.
Continue reading…

Ridiculous or not? Travel is going to the dogs — and it’s our fault

From the “gotcha” fees that can double the price of your trip to being roughed up by airport screeners, there’s no shortage of issues to get mad about in the travel business.

So why do we allow the little things to set us off?

Case in point: My last article on pets and travel, which set off a firestorm when it appeared here a few weeks ago. I wrote that pets were better off at home and had no business joining you on vacation.

My “in” box promptly filled up with email from angry animal companions – yes, that’s what they call themselves, because it’s apparently species-centric to say that you “own” a cat or dog – criticizing me for my insensitivity.
Continue reading…

Scammed: How to Save Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals

It’s official: I’ve just finished the final edits on my new book, Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals.

I just have to tell you about it.

Last summer, a literary agent I’d known for a few years asked me if I had a book in me. I didn’t want to write anything on travel, because I felt there were already several great guides on being a smart traveler.

But how about something about the relationship between consumers and businesses?
Continue reading…

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Is anybody happy?

It might as well be Applegate in a revival of Damn Yankees asking the question, with a wiseguy up in the balcony with a clever comeback. (“Nope!”)

Nobody is happy. Nobody will every be completely happy.

That’s today’s lesson about consumer advocacy, my friends. Two reader emails, each received within a week of each other and possibly even written about the same story, illustrate my point.
Continue reading…

Government to airlines: limiting lost-luggage compensation “a violation” of regulations

airportterminalThe Transportation Department has warned airlines against limiting compensation for passengers who purchase necessities because their baggage is lost or delayed.

In a notice (PDF) issued today, the government said policies that arbitrarily limit reimbursement are a violation of federal regulations.

“Travelers should not have to pay for toiletries or other necessities while they wait for baggage misplaced by airlines,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a prepared statement. “We expect airlines to comply with all of our regulations and will take enforcement action if they do not.”
Continue reading…