The unauthorized guide to fine print, holiday edition

Zoon/Shutterstock
Zoon/Shutterstock

When Ben Blout invoked a big-box store’s “low price promise” after discovering a lower price on his merchandise, he learned something customers rediscover every holiday shopping season: some restrictions apply.

Make that lots of restrictions.

“They told me they won’t match any printed advertisement that is not valid for at least one week,” says Blout. “Specifically, their price match excludes timed events like early bird specials and door busters.”

Fine print is a problem any time of the year, of course. But most consumers get foiled by it around the holidays, in part because more people are shopping, and in part because of the extra offers with the extra restrictions.
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Happy holidays? JetBlue slams grieving grandson with booking fee, walk-up fare

Happy holidays? JetBlue slams grieving grandson with booking fee, walk-up fare

Micha Klootwijk / Shutterstock.com
Micha Klootwijk / Shutterstock.com
If an airline tells you it offers a more humane way to travel, should you hold it to that promise?

That’s the question raised by David Seltzer’s case on JetBlue Airways, a case that comes to us at an appropriate time of year.

Seltzer’s grandfather died unexpectedly a few months ago, and he immediately paid JetBlue a walk-up fare of $1,258 to fly from Long Beach, Calif., to New York, so he could be with his family. JetBlue then piled on the fees, charging him $20 for a phone booking and then hitting him with a $104 fare differential when he had to change his return flight again.

Seltzer then did what many distraught passengers do after the funeral. He politely asked the airline to adjust the price to a so-called “bereavement” fare. After all, Seltzer wasn’t just a random passenger requesting a fare adjustment, but a loyal, card-carrying JetBlue frequent flier, according to his mother, who contacted me for help.
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Bad holiday travel advice – and the bad pundits who give it

I’m done with offering the same dry travel advice every year at about this time. Finished!

You’ve seen the tips: book your tickets early, travel on the holiday, spread your legs for the TSA and you’re guaranteed to have a good trip.

But the travel advice you’re likely to read around the holidays is growing mold, and not once in all of my years of offering it to my good readers has anyone written to say “thank you for recycling.”

You deserve better.
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Driving home for the holidays? You’ll get there — eventually

There’s good news and bad news for motorists this holiday season.

America’s roads have never been safer, statistics show. But, depending where you live, they may never be slower.

“The big new trend this year is the construction,” said Carol White, co-author of “Live Your Road Trip Dream.” “With all the TARP funds rolling out on highway projects, last summer was a mess, and I think it is going to continue into the winter months in areas where weather permits.”

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal government has spent $27 billion for highway and bridge construction in the last two years.
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