There’s no such thing as “free” when you travel

Chase lied. United Airlines lied.

At least that’s how Marc Blumenthal sees it. When United offered him a United MileagePlus Explorer Card, which included a “free checked bag” for cardholders, it misrepresented the product in a significant way.

Blumenthal tried to get his “free” bag on his next United flight, but a gate agent insisted on charging him.

“I was told that in order to get the first checked bag free, I need to pay for the flight with the Chase credit card,” he says.

His case shines a spotlight into one of the travel industry’s darker corners, where misleading consumers is done with the tacit blessing of government regulators and the help of a small but loud group of industry cheerleaders. These “experts” will say he should have read the fine print, and they are right.

But Blumenthal thinks that’s wrong. The card should do what he believes it promised.

“It’s a hassle for corporate travelers whose ticket was purchased by their company,” he says. “I’m paying an $85 annual fee. I want my free bag.”

In fact, neither Chase nor United lied. They just downplayed a few important facts. If you read the cardmember agreement, you’ll see that the purchase requirement is disclosed in the terms.

“Primary Cardmembers and one companion traveling on the same reservation will receive their first standard checked bag free each time they fly on United- or United Express-operated flights when they purchase their tickets with their MileagePlus Explorer Card,” it says.

No such thing as “free”

Ah, there’s that word again — “free.”

The dictionary definition is “without cost or payment.” In other words, no cost, no strings attached.

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card — at least the way it’s initially presented — would cause the average customer to believe that by paying its annual fee, a cardmember would get “free” bags on United flights. And that’s not true.

But Blumenthal has stumbled onto one of the more pervasive travel practices: calling something “free” when it’s not.

In the airline industry, the most problematic example is Southwest Airlines, whose clever Bags Fly Free campaign should actually be called, “Bags Are Included With Your Ticket.”

But it doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

If bags really flew free, then anyone could walk up to a Southwest ticket counter, hand them their luggage over and ask them to fly the suitcase to their destination at no cost. But alas, you have to be a ticketed customer in order for your bags to fly “free” — which is disclosed in the fine print.

It’s not just airlines that offer “free” things that aren’t. Holiday Inn, with its Kids Stay and Eat Free program, proudly proclaims that “nothing is better than free.”

Oh, but there is something better, at least if you’re a hotel — making your guests believe it’s free when it isn’t.

Holiday Inn’s terms reveals that, alas, you can’t send your kids to the nearest hotel for a fun-filled weekend on the house while Mom and Dad enjoy some alone time. Your children must be accompanied by a paying guest, they have to be 12 and under, and you must order a meal from the adult menu and accompany junior to the restaurant.

Will someone please show me the dictionary they used to define “free”?

The mileage lie

But perhaps the biggest travel industry misrepresentation is that loyalty programs and all the benefits you get from them are “free.” This is so patently absurd that I have a hard time taking anyone seriously who believes that brazen corporate lie. And yet I recently got into a heated debate with a loyalty program expert — a person I’ve known for years and really respect — about the cost of participating in a frequent flier program.

We can agree to disagree about the overall effects of loyalty programs, which is to segment your best customers from the rest and then remove as many amenities as possible from the nonelite have-nots. I have a real problem with that because the good people in the back of the bus suffer, paying higher fees and getting worse service.

But, I asked this expert, can we at least agree that there’s nothing “free” about loyalty programs?

After all, you’re paying to fly, you’re shelling out $85 a year for your affinity credit card, and at the very least, you’re giving the company access to your personal data and your spending habits — data it can turn around and sell to one of its “marketing” partners without your consent.

Point is, you’re earning those miles.

But no. Some of us have obediently swallowed the travel industry’s rhetoric hook, line and sinker and truly believe those first-class award tickets to Europe are “free.”

Well, if they’re giving away “free” miles, I want some. I’d also like to check my bags “free” and send my kids to a hotel for “free” where they’ll eat for “free.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Federal Trade Commission took the travel industry to task for these unfair and deceptive claims? But a 1983 policy statement on deception suggests it would only do so if there were a “material omission,” which means, if they excluded the fine print.

In other words, some restrictions apply.

“Am I the only person who is bothered by this?” asks Blumenthal.

No. I’m with you.

Let’s tilt at this windmill together.

Is the travel industry lying when it claims to offer things for free?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • bodega3

    I have this card and it is VERY clear that you have to buy your ticket using the card to get the free bag. The OP is an idiot…sorry, but he wants something his way and if his card wasn’t used to buy the ticket, UA is very clear about this policy.

  • Bill___A

    I have to use my Visa card to get the trip interruption / baggage loss insurance….it too is very clear about that. They want you to use the cards to have the things that come “free” with them.
    That said, the mileage awards are definitely not free…and oftentimes not available at the points advertised. There is some understanding required and also some deception.

  • Bill___A

    Well put.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    Of course you have to buy the ticket using the card. It’s common sense. Its designed to be a triple win.

    1. United encourages you to fly its airlines
    2. Chase gets you to use its card thereby earning revenue
    3. The OP gets his free checked bag.

    I’m curious. Wouldn’t his corporate travel department take care of his baggage fee when he presents his receipts for reimbursement. This OP sounds whiney and entitled.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I have to take umbrage with taking the travel industry to task over the use of the word “free”, especially when there are legitimate problems to tackle. The word free is used pervasively in all facets of business without detriment or confusion to consumers. No one believes that businesses are in the habit of giving away something without strings. I don’t see the problem.

    The examples provided are ludicrous at best. The smallest application of common sense would prevent any misunderstandings by the public. No one believes that Southwest is taking random strangers bags all over the country without compensation, nor does anyone expect Holiday Day to feed your kids if you are not a guest.

    And today, I’ll pass on the obligatory anti-loyalty program rant.

  • Jessica Hernandez

    I usually agree with Chris Elliott, but in this one I strongly believe he is wrong. He himself admitted that the promotions states, “. .when they purchase their tickets with their MileagePlus Explorer Card,” What is unclear about that? My 8 year old granddaughter would know what that means. But then, she’s been taught that one can’t have his cake and eat it too. The gentleman in question sounds very whiney and entitled. I hope Chris did not try to get United to back off on this one. That would have been wrong.

  • Eighmeagh

    Yep. And how, under Chris’s definition, could *anything* ever be free? Let’s say kids do eat free at Restaurant A, regardless of whether the parents are with them or purchase adult meals. The kids still have to go to Restaurant A — it’s not as if the kids can go to Restaurant B and have Restaurant A pay for the meals. How is that different from having to choose Airline A over Airline B to receive a “free” perk (assuming all other costs between Airlines A and B are equal). And let’s say Southwest would fly my bags for “free,” even if I’m not going anywhere. Don’t I still have to drive the bags to the airport? If Southwest really wanted to fly my bag for “free” with absolutely no strings attached, why should I have to drive it 45 minutes to the airport? Southwest should come get it for me. Wait, but then I have to pack it to Southwest’s specifications (e.g. size and weight). Isn’t that a string too? After all, they will fly it for free only if I pack it correctly. Shouldn’t I just be able to fly any kind of bag I want on any carrier I want and just have Southwest pay for it? Only then might it really be “free” as in “no strings attached.” (and I better be able to bill it directly to Southwest, because if I have to send them a bill to get reimbursed, that’s another condition)

    Obviously this is absurd, which is why I’m legitimately curious here about how the travel industry’s definition of “free” is somehow more insidious than the definition used in any other industry. When is there *ever* no condition whatsoever attached to something? As I move through life, I’m willing to accept that “free” typically means something like “no direct monetary cost or payment” and not “no strings attached.”

  • Bettina

    While I agree with the posters before me that nothing is ever really “free”, I would simply say that each time the advert says “Free” it should have a huge asterix and then at least say “restrictions apply”. That way, the person who is trying to use it is being put on notice to read the T & C’s.

    And we all know that usually the fact that it isn’t really “free” is not the first thing you see on the T & C’s of any product that might be advertised as “free”.

    I know that there is always a catch, and thus, when something says it is “free” I read the T & C’s carefully. But sometimes it takes 4 sheets of tiny script (front and back) to find all the loopholes they have granted themselves. And while I think everyone should take the time to read it, we all know that not everyone always does or even has the time. Plus, it is often couched in legalese so convoluted that you need to be a contract lawyer to figure it out.

    Thus, I think the word “free” in any advertisement, whether travel industry or anywhere else (think mobile phones, for example), should always be qualified right there, on the ad.

    In Europe, it has to be, by law. Yes, we could all say that government has enough to do to deal with something that “logical”, but if it were so logical, we wouldn’t have that many people caught by that tantalising word “free”.

    There is nothing in this world that is really “free” – unfortunately, too many people overlook that.

  • BillCCC

    I could have taken this column a little more seriously if the examples of free had been something other than the Holiday Inn and SW bag examples.

  • Charles

    First, quit calling people names. it’s rude.

    I recently got that card and did not realize that you had to buy the ticket using the card. I, too, missed the language in the agreement on that, so I guess I fall into your “idiot” category. The reason? I have a Delta American Express and it does not have that obnoxious and stupid language. Why is it stupid? Like many others, many of my flights are purchased for me for business travel. Delta/Amex doesn’t care, I still get the free bag. United does care. So, if I am going somewhere that I need to check a bag and a travel agency is providing the ticket, I’m now going to have to tell them I prefer Delta, something I don’t normally do.

  • Charles

    Lovely, more name calling…

    If it’s such common sense, why doesn’t Delta do it?

    I travel quite a bit on tickets paid for a government agency I regularly work for. They pay for the ticket and pay a per-dium. Any bag fee comes out of my pocket (pre-tax, admittedly). They don’t care what the ticket costs, BTW, but they just don’t do reimbursements. So, don’t assume you know what the OP’s reimbursement policy is.

  • Cybrsk8r

    This is why I never sign up for airline credit cards (especially from any of the legacy airlines) that charge an annual fee. There’s always some “gotcha” in print so small you need an electron microscope to read it. And the annual fee is so high that leisure travelers would never recoup that amount in baggage fees anyway. So again, you lose.

    I’ll just stick with Southwest, thank you.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Delta does it only for card members holding elite cards, not every co branded Amex.

    Plus, if you read carefully, you will notice it’s a question regarding his travel department, not an assumption.

    As far as name calling, these are conclusions based upon his actions. They are not ad hominems. He is demanding something that he is not entitled to, and upset because he didn’t take the time to click on a link which shows the terms in simple language and regular print. Now he is whining to Chris because he didn’t get his way.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’d agree except the restrictions don’t require an attorney. Bullet points in regular English and regular type.

  • backprop

    “If bags really flew free, then anyone could walk up to a Southwest ticket counter, hand them their luggage over and ask them to fly the suitcase to their destination at no cost. But alas, you have to be a ticketed customer in order for your bags to fly “free” — which is disclosed in the fine print.”

    What a dumb example.

  • Christopher Elliott

    No name-calling, please.

  • Christopher Elliott

    This comment has been flagged as a violation of our comment policy. It would be preferable to say why the example is so objectionable, as opposed to calling it “dumb.” Thank you.

  • Justin

    Here’s the one time I disagree. Free is clearly an integral part of the loyalty program or carriage contract. One does not walk up to an airline and expect bags to ship cross country without purchasing a ticket. The ability to check luggage or take carry-ons activates once a mutual contract is entered between both parties.

    So the examples of add-ons by Holiday Inn, Airlines, and so forth is a bit frivolous to claim free isn’t free. Of course, no company is going to let people walk up and take advantage without benefit to the organization.

    Now are the LOYALTY PROGRAMS littered with confusing verbiage, loopholes, and language that basically negates the rights of customers? Yes. Reading fine print is like taking a lesson in law. Good luck for us laymen to understand more than the basics.
    Therefore, research before signing up. I believe that if you hold the credit card, then the benefits need extended whether or not used. Yet, the fine print CLEARLY says otherwise. TO check luggage free, the credit card MUST BE USED. Assumptions in loyal programs are oft not to your favor. Ask first, never assume.

  • dcborn61

    Having worked in marketing for reputable companies with good lawyers, I’ve never used “free.” Instead, I have said “included for no additional charge.” Doesn’t have the magic of free. But at least it’s true.

  • SoBeSparky

    “Free” has been the biggest benefit to advertise since the first communication medium was invented. Very few things are truly free, where you can walk up or sign up and get something gratis, no strings whatsoever. You could even say that showing up or signing up are the conditions of the “free” offer.

    Fact is, through conditioning of such things as BOGO, buy one get one free, and other promotions, we have come to expect that most advertised items as free come with conditions. Almost every American consumer recognizes when something is promoted as free, you MUST read the offer. No excuses when people do not.

  • MarkKelling

    I don’t see where UA is hiding anything in small print. Just because they do things differently than other airlines do with their credit cards does not make them wrong. (Wow, never thought I would be defendign UA. ;-)

    I have attached the details from their web page. Seems very clear to me.

  • KarlaKatz

    Mr. Blumenthal is such a whiner! Every airline card offer I’ve perused, specially mentions that all those lovely perks they offer are conditional: one must use the card to make the ticket purchase. It’s the same with car rental coverage most credit cards offer; Rent the car with our card!

  • John Baker

    @MarkKelling:disqus … Don’t ever let the facts get in the way of telling a good story…. :-)

  • shannonfla

    I don’t have this card but even I know you have to purchase the ticket with the credit card to qualify for free bags. Come on! Stop being naive people. I’m the nicest person in the world so I say that with love. When was free ever really free for businesses trying to lure businesses? Thirty years ago as a kid, an adult had to buy a meal to get a free one for a child.

    Edited for spelling errors

  • S363

    Come on, Chris. I love ya, but you’ve gone too far here. It’s obvious what Southwest means when they say bags fly free. You usually don’t defend those who haven’t bothered to read the rules and then come to you for help when they run afoul of those rules.

    I’ve got the United card in question – it’s totally obvious what the rule is, if one actually reads the material, and the print isn’t even fine. I have found the card to be worth having, for the free bags and priority boarding as well as the miles, especially since Chase has been willing to credit me back the annual fee every year for the past five or so. I’ve made a number of trips using the miles, though one does have to plan them well in advance.

  • Gerald Vineberg

    Sorry but after the way UA treats it’s customers now & after how Chase cheated consumers, I have no sympathy for either of these “lying” Corporate Welfare Bums! They can both disappear from the map & the world will probably be better for it.

  • Joe Harris

    I believe that thinking that your will not be charged for your bags when not using the card is just naive. United and Chase both make it clear that in order to get the benefits of the Explorer Card, you have to actually use the card to pay for the airline tickets. To believe anything else is just silly. I have the Explorer card and use it all the time for travel. There are lots of other benefits, including car rental insurance coverage where they are the primary coverage, so your auto insurance never gets involved. BTW about “free” travel. This summer we went to Europe using American Advantage miles. While it wasn’t “free”, the total cost of two tickets was $5.00. It’s not free, but it’s as close to free as you can get.

  • Jeff Kolker

    I have no sympathy for you. I don’t use these cards, never subscribed to any of the frequent flyer programs, etc etc. but even I knew you had to buy the ticket with the card to get the perks. Not sure about UA but the Citicard/American television ad mentions you must buy the ticket with their card. With any credit card offers I may utilize, I always double check, and never assume anything .

  • Cam

    I think some of your examples can easily be deduced using common sense as meaning ” free with purchase”. For example, the HI kids eat free thing.

    However, some offers, are too opaque, such as the credit card offer.

  • S363

    United’s annual fee for a Mileage Plus Explorer card is $95. A checked bag is $25. Each way. The “free” bag applies to one companion too. (I guess I’d better put free in quotes.) So if one makes one round trip with a companion one is ahead $5, even if one doesn’t care at all about getting the miles. That doesn’t seem like many trips, even for a leisure traveler.

    I do concur with the Southwest LUV.

  • S363

    OK, I’ll take that up. The example is so objectionable because no competent person could ever possibly think that their bags could fly free without them on Southwest. It’s so totally obvious. But then I think the Chase/United policy is pretty clear too, having read the rules before getting the card. And I’m not a lawyer, though I do come from a family of them.

  • Charles

    Delta has this policy for the Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards. I don’t know of any other co-branded Delta/Amex cards.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Nothing is free in this life.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Wow, this is crazy on so many levels. First, Chris is telling one of his moderators they’ve violated the comment policy?! You don’t see that every day. Second, after reading the entire comment policy, I have no idea why Chris thinks that comment was a violation. It’s not a personal attack, as it clearly says the example is what is dumb. I guess it must be in violation of the “be nice” rule, but awfully thin skin displayed here by Chris.

    And if Chris really needs a detailed analysis of why that was a really poor example, I fear there’s no hope for him. It is possible to put together a decent argument on this topic, but Chris utterly failed here.

  • emanon256

    I also want to point out that the verbiage is not even hidden anywhere in the agreement. Here is the main page listing the cards features in big bold letters. Its pretty obvious, as is the $95 fee that is waived the first year.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I wasn’t admonishing a moderator. Someone else flagged the comment. I was saying that it was preferable to say why the comment was dumb, as opposed to just calling it dumb. I didn’t see it as a personal attack.And you are right, there’s no hope for me. The “free” lies have to stop.

  • emanon256

    I completely agree with you CCF. Chris, how about when a store advertises free something or other with purchase? Or buy one get one free. Are those also lies? ;)

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Totally agree. He’s a great guy that does so much good, but there are a few pet peeves he continually goes after where common sense and logic go out the window. I wish he could realize how poor it makes him look. I shudder to think what a first-time reader would end up thinking about him based on this column.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    But, respectfully, by the logic of that very poor example, a lady could write to you because a bar told her “ladies drink free” but she got mad when a different bar across town demanded she pay. You’d really call that a “lie”? And is that really the sort of consumer you’re looking to help?

    Sometimes it’s far better to admit you overreached rather than mount a defense of a really bad argument.

  • emanon256

    I would agree in the case nothing is mentioned, and its hidden in 4 pt font on some page deep in the T&C. But, at least in the case of the Untied Explorer Card, it says in 11pt font, right on the main page without even having to scroll down:

    Primary Cardmembers and one companion on the same reservation can each check their first bag free on United-operated flights when purchasing tickets with their Explorer Card.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Please, folks. I realize this is a hot-button issue, and many of you are upset at me personally for accepting the dictionary definition of “free.”

    I’m so sorry to be such a literalist.

    Agree with me or not, let’s try to be cordial about this discussion. I’ve already seen several comments get flagged and moved to the “pending” queue for the moderators to deal with. Most of those comments are just unnecessary and do not help you make your argument.

    I really don’t want to have to add the word “flyer” or “mile” or “cranky” to the title of this site, but if this continues, I might have to …

  • Christopher Elliott

    Yes, I know. Using the dictionary definition of “free” is a terrible argument. I withdraw and retreat!

  • Raven_Altosk

    I have the United card and it is VERY CLEAR that you must book the ticket with it to get the free bag allowance.

    Also, your example of Holiday Inn is pathetic. Yes, kids stay free in the same room as the parents and must be accompanied to the hotel and the restaurant. If your kid is under 12 and you send them to a restaurant alone, I’d question your parenting skills. Seriously?

    There are plenty of “free” scams out there. The most notable is the “free credit score” and their cute little jingles.

    Neither of your examples here really are column worthy, bro.

  • Raven_Altosk

    LIKE X1000

  • MarkKelling

    OK, here is what the internet dictionary shows as the definition for free:

    “given or available without charge. complimentary, gratis, on the house”

    If you further dig into the definition of the terms you will see that “complimentary” or “gratis” or “on the house” means “without additional charge.” I think this allows the use of “free” as the airlines and other travel businesses use it.

  • BillCCC

    I guess the examples could be taken in the same way as say someone promised to make me the world’s smartest traveler just by reading a book. Nobody would really mean that would they?

  • Lindabator

    Wow – don’t let the facts stop your hating here – the OP was CLEARLY in the wrong here – he is just whining he can’t get what he wants from the card when he NEVER used the card! That’s neither UA’s nor Chase’s problem – its his.

  • ctporter

    Like others have said, the examples used to illustrate a point were totally off the mark. This is not a case of “gotcha” the way the “daily resort fee” at some hotels can be or the daily convenience fee for a toll pass on a rental car can be, or even those “damage” claims upon return of a rental car. I too must use a corporate card when booking my travel, so that means I could not take advantage of those credit card offers. Does that mean it is “unfair”? Not in my opinion. Why should I get a payback from a company that i have not utilized? In this case, the payback to the flyer is not from the airline, it is from the credit card company, so why is United in the wrong for not waiving a baggage fee?

  • Gerald Vineberg

    Are you a lawyer? The customer may be “in the wrong” here but the “facts” are in today’s world, Corporate America has been less than responsible for it’s actions & it is only getting worse as there is little Consumer Protection. This site is an excellent example of how consumers can vent. It is your tax dollars that bailed out both UA & Chase & their thanks is? The airline industry in the USA has fallen to 3rd world levels. Talk to anyone who flies International Airlines & they will explain it to you clearly. Credit Card “bandits”? You are “protecting” them? It is very sad.
    Safe travels.

  • Jeff Kolker

    Still, this topic is about the Credit Card and it’s usage to get the promised “free” stuff. While you are entitled to your beliefs, you are certainly off topic for this discussion. Save it for a more appropriate column….

    And in this case, UA and Chase are clearly in the right (the website says the rule in very plain simple to read words), regardless of whatever else they may or may not have done in the past.

  • Christopher Elliott

    My argument isn’t that United or Chase were misleading. The worst they can be accused of is downplaying the purchase requirement. But it is disclosed – no one is denying that.

    What I am saying is that United shouldn’t be advertising it as a “free” checked bag. It is not free. It is a member benefit.

  • bodega3

    This isn’t a ‘hot button issue’ Chris. You are trying to make something out of a nonissue. Even you write in your book about getting something free from hotels. Don’t you have to pay to stay at the hotel to get those?
    In this article, the OP is embarrassing himself and so are you. The terms of being able to check a bag with UA, when owning one of these cards is very clear. I would suggest you ask the OP why his company isn’t paying for his bag if he is traveling on company business. To me that is the real issue.

  • Mark Cuban

    You need a new feature: People that need to learn to read. Marc Blumenthal is the first spotlight.

  • DavidYoung2

    Agree that the OP had an ‘unrealistic expectation’ that he could fly his bags for free without purchasing the ticket on the card. Yes Delta allows it, but that’s an Amex card and just because Delta allows it doesn’t mean everyone will.

    The reason they get away with calling it ‘free’ is that in the world of advertising, there has to be some reasonableness standard. No, a BMW is NOT the ultimate driving machine, and you can’t sue if you buy one and find out there are better cars in this world. Come on OP, use your brain. Sorry, I’m siding with the airline and card issuer on this one.

  • Colin Blair

    The misuse of the word “free” that Elliott is complaining about seems to originate in the 1850s with the “free lunch”, a meal included by bars with the purchase of at least one drink. Considering this usage of the word free has been in common American English since the 19th century, that a dictionary doesn’t include it would seem to be a problem with the dictionary.
    For my own part, my own reaction to this article is inflamed by Allegiant’s commercials on TV making fun of other companies use of the word “free” to justify their own horrible customer service.

  • Mark Cuban

    People that take advantage of offers and don’t read the terms can be either called lazy or idiots. They are valid labels. You have to take some responsibility for your actions, you need to understand the terms under which you go about your life when dealing with companies that sell products and services. Everyone doesn’t get a trophy in life.

    Do you really think that just by holding an airline affinity card that has an offer associated with it and not using the card to get the offer is OK? I’ve got a good deal on a bridge for you…

  • Mark Cuban

    WHAT? You mean I didn’t get the ultimate driving machine???? Damn….

  • LonnieC

    Okay. A little law here (from an old retired attorney): The First Law of contracts: “The big print giveth, and the small print taketh away.” “Free” is in big print; “use of the card” is in small print. Keep the First Law in mind and you’ll stay out of trouble. Law school 101 is ended….

  • Charles

    Gee, my Delta American Express card gives me a free bag even if I don’t buy the ticket using it. I have used it that way many times and that is their language. So, yes, I am holding an airline affinity card that has an offer associated with it that I get without even using the card.

    It is astounding to me that I have been attacked because I felt the level of discourse would be better if people did not call others idiots, lazy, whiney, etc. It’s also amazing to me how many people defend the idea of lowering the discussion to attacks and name calling. I sure would like to know that those calling people idiots can say with absolute certainty that they have NEVER made a mistake about the terms of any of their credit cards or gotten the differing terms mixed up. I’ll admit that I have done both. I found it informative that I had missed that wording on the United card. I came to the card with pre-assumptions based on another affinity card I hold, as do many people. Those assumptions led me to overlook a term I was not expecting. I’m not going to complain to United about it, it was my mistake. But, the idea that someone who makes such a mistake should be referred to by so many attacking terms makes me wonder why anyone should participate in discussions such as this.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I have politely, and repeatedly, appealed to the commenters to keep this discussion cordial and to stick to the issues. No personal attacks, please.

    I am about to suggest to the moderators that we close the discussion on this post.

    Seems to me a lot of travelers love the loosey-goosey definition of “free” and want to beat anyone who challenges them into submission. That’s an unfortunate strategy that I don’t endorse.

  • Jeff Kolker

    That is why I used “free” in quotes. I understand what you mean in that while there may not be an overt cost, there is an implicit cost in that one must do certain things to get the services. My response though was mainly intended to the gentleman who is seemingly way off topic.

  • Stephen0118

    Well, I like flying Southwest too, but starting next year, they may start changing for bags. See my post on consumer traveler (self promotion there).

  • Lindabator

    NO – but I DO KNOW HOW TO READ. Just because you don’t LIKE the terms and conditions of the card, they are CLEARLY shown, so you have no complaints just because they wouldn’t do something THEY NEVER PROMISED to.

  • bodega3

    Potatoe, potato.

  • Cybrsk8r

    OK. How about this : “When you fly on Southwest Airlines, you can check two bags thru to your destination at no additional charge, unlike other airlines, which will nickel-and-dime you to death.

  • omgstfualready

    I don’t know you personally to be upset at you, but what was written seemed like a bit of an eye roller. If I wear makeup on a date am I going to be in trouble for false advertising? People do need to realize that everyone uses marketing, not just big business.

  • omgstfualready

    haha – that was amusing

  • Christopher Elliott

    Oh, you really got me with that one.

  • backprop

    My mistake. You’re right. I pointed out one example of several that I thought needed no further elucidation as to my point. But, it could be construed as a baseless attack.

    It’s a dumb example in my opinion because nobody not laboring to make a point would assume that “bags fly free” is an invitation to non-passengers to drop off luggage at the airline counter

  • emanon256

    Well, suppose the OP was flying on UA where they had to pay for their bags and WN was flying the same route? After UA tries to charge them, might they try to drop their bags off at the WN counter since bags fly free? Based on their assumption with the card, they may actually try to do this too making Chris’s point valid. Okay, I’m just being facetious.

  • emanon256

    Why would someone vote you down for this? Well, maybe they disagree because the air is free?

  • emanon256

    OMG I am cracking up out loud!

    If I wear makeup on a date am I going to be in trouble for false advertising?

  • MarkKelling

    Sounds OK to me.

  • bodega3

    But don’t forget there are size and weight restrictions. More print that people don’t want to read.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Annie M

    The moral to the story and the comments – United did not misrepresent the product significantly. If it was this easy for so many commentators to screen print the language right from the main page of the wbesite showing that the ticket must be purchased with the card for the free bags, someone didn’t really do their homework when they signed up for the card and Chris, I have to say, you didn’t check into the issue well either this time since it is so clearly stated on the website.

    The OP was wrong and this really didn’t warrant a complaint about “free” not really being free. Chris, I understand what you are saying about how things really may not be free but this isn’t a good example. This should be more a lesson of reading the fine print.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I’m afraid you’ve lost the argument.

    We both agree that the card is crystal clear about its terms. The question is, should United and Chase be calling it a “free” bag, and indeed, is the travel industry lying when it claims to offer things for “free”?

    As you can see, 70 percent of the readers in today’s poll agree with me, despite of the truly compelling arguments made in the comments. (Yeah, now I’m being facetious.)

    United shouldn’t be calling it a “free” bag. It’s a member benefit. Bags are included in Southwest’s fares. Kids’ meals are included when you book a room at select Holiday Inns.

    You can’t call it free. Sorry.

  • bodega3

    Free Bag, Member Benefit. It is all potatoe, potato. Even Clark said last week, you are stretching things, especially since you write in your book about getting ‘free’ amenities. This is really just a silly discussion. Call it what you want and we will call it what we want. As for you polls…really Chris, they rarely relate to a discussion even by your own admission.

  • MarkKelling

    Size and weight restrictions on the bag and the traveler on Southwest. :-)

  • Christopher Elliott

    Sigh. I have 70 percent of the vote. I rest my case.

  • MarkKelling

    In defense of the OP, maybe he originally had the Delta AmEx card where you get “free” checked bags on every flight no matter how you pay for it as long as the card is actively linked to your Delta Frequent Flyer ID and expected the UA card to match that benefit exactly. Yes he should have verified that before attempting to fly.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m considering signing up for the United card for a year and then cancelling it and pocketing the miles. In the little color brochure that comes with the invitation, it clearly says in normal print the ticket has to be bought with the card. I may not read all the fine print (but now that I hang out here, I think I’m going to in the future) but United clearly spells out the terms in the standard brochure they send out.

    When I travel with my company, I’m expected to either make the purchase with my card and then get reimbursed or with the corporate card which can be a United card. In addition, if I need a bag, I can get that reimbursed too.

    Indeed, that’s the problem with much of travel unbundling nowadays: the expectation that the coveted business traveler DOESN’T CARE about the fees since in the tragedy of the commons, he’s not paying for them! He sends the overpriced hotel breakfast bill, the bag fees and the internet fees for expense reimbursement. It’s the normal traveler that’s budget conscious that sticks with places that have “free” (or included) internet and dodgeable bag fees.

    In addition, business travelers can dodge fees if they travel enough and earn status (which Elliott objects to, but for most business travelers it’s a good deal.)

  • bodega3

    Didn’t know it was a competition. Your polls are always skewed, so read them as you want, it doesn’t matter. BTW, my ‘free’ first class ticket on the 11 1/2 hours flight home the other day was excellent. Thanks UA!

  • Miami510

    I voted “no.” The writer is taking the word free out of the generally accepted context. If I see a restaurant sign that says, “Kids eat free,” I certainly don’t expect them to feed my kids in my absence or if I don’t purchase a meal along with them.

    I once was in a business selling a pharmaceutical product and there had been a lot of bad publicity about a rival product which used a preservative, Thimerasol. Thimerasol was found to cause problems. So as not to have our product confused with the one with the damaging ingredient, we printed “THIMERASOL FREE,” on the container. One customer ordered 6 bottles and then refused to pay, because it said “FREE.” The writer must be my customer’s doppelganger.

  • bodega3

    OMG, that is too funny…or sad?

  • Ben

    The Holiday Inn example isn’t great, but the SW one is. Companies use “free” all the time when they really mean “included” and it is a bad practice on par with advertising one price but requiring a bunch of additional fees so that the product costs more than is really advertised.

  • Ben

    Still doesn’t make it a good marketing practice.

  • backprop

    I hope so!

  • backprop

    And yet another lie: “bags” does not include my mother-in-law.

    I kid, I kid.

  • SoBeSparky

    “Good” is a value judgment. You might be right. However competitive is another marketing judgment call. Most companies will continue to advertise “free” until otherwise limited by law or custom.

  • $16635417

    Like “Propellerheads”?

  • technomage1

    His misuse of the of the word free aside, if his ticket was purchased by his company, they’re the ones on the hook for his bag costs, aren’t they? Or are companies now insisting business travelers only fly with a carry on?

  • LonnieC

    Glad you liked it…

  • emanon256

    I used to work for a company where all employees were 100% travel. We had to fly out every Sunday and return every Thursday. In 2010 they drastically changed their travel policies.

    The old rules were very loose. Try to save the company money, but don’t make it too inconvenient for yourself. Try to stick to the same airline so you don’t have to pay baggage fees. Try to go with cheaper flights, but definitely take a direct over a connection, and leave as late in the day as you can on Sunday so you spend time with your family. Use your best judgement.

    The new rules were. You must take the cheapest flight, even if its Sunday at 6am with 3 connections. Always go with the cheapest carrier regardless of if another carrier gives you free bags. Baggage fees will no longer be re-reimbursed at all, so if you don’t carry on, you must pay the fee. If flying back Friday plus an additional hotel night is cheaper than a Thursday night flight, you much fly back on Friday. You must submit a print out of all of your flight options showing you took the cheapest flight, if you did not, you will be re-reimbursed for what the cheapest flight would have cost.

    I switched to another company within a month of the new rules.

  • emanon256

    I just noticed this one too. I try to book a flight as my wife, who doesn’t get free bags on united. It even says on the baggage fee disclosure page that she will pay, unless she books and pays with an Explorer card.

  • emanon256

    You can’t call it free. Sorry.

    Sorry to beat a dead horse, not that you are a horse, and you certainly aren’t dead, but I really like the expression… Anyway. It does state under a “Card Benefits” heading: “First Checked Bag Free…when purchasing tickets with [your] explorer card.” (I edit out the explanation that its for the member and 1 guest on the same reservation etc…)

    So when you say:

    United shouldn’t be calling it a “free” bag. It’s a member benefit.

    And United Already Says:

    Card Benefits:First Checked Bag Free…when purchasing tickets with [your] explorer card.

    What do you suggest Untied actually say?

    ETA: free quote

  • tomjuno

    I long ago dismissed the word “free” as meaningless. Just as I dismiss the word “gourmet” on restaurant menus as equally meaningless. Indeed, I tend to stay away from businesses (and restaurants) that throw those words around. It helps me to not waste time reading the small print.

  • LZ126

    It’s a good thing he didn’t try to make off with a bottle of alcohol-free hand sanitizer.

  • emanon256

    Good idea. I always tell my wife, “If they have to say its superior, its not going to be.” whenever I see a product that says, “The Best”, or “High Quality”, etc.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Are you a lawyer?

    Linda might not be but I am and she is right. The OP is clearly in the wrong.

  • Asiansm Dan

    They forget they pay a “Green Tax” for awhile, specially ticket to and from Europe. And all Americans pay for the Department of Environment to keep the Air clean and breathable…

  • rwm

    Wow, that is the most draconian company travel policy I have ever heard of. You were smart to leave that company. I would have done the same.

  • Carchar

    When I sign up for a branded card, I just assume that I have to use it in order to get the perks. Perhaps I’d better read the fine print just in case there is an obscure one that lets me off the hook. ;)

  • Jason Hanna

    IOW.. “I’m tired of arguing with you, so I win”

    This winds up being semantics again.. It’s also is why your polls tend to suck. No offense.. I get that you can’t have 20 options on each poll… But so many of them quite simply aren’t black and white/yes or no issues.

    Is there any such thing as free? No. But is the travel industry lying? No. At least, I don’t think so.. No more so than the grocery store saying “Buy one get one free”..

    You seem to, by extension of your argument, be saying that if a store advertises “Buy one, get one free” on Pepsi, then I can go to one store and buy a Pepsi, then go to the store running the promo and get a free Pepsi.. I mean, after all, I bought one.. So, they have to give me one free.. Never says that I had to buy one from them, right? Your argument that free means no strings attached is your (IMO, misguided) opinion. There can be TONS of strings and there usually are.

    The travel industry hasn’t made it to the level of scammers… yet.

    You *DO* have a legitimate point.. However.. You probably picked a very poor example of it.. You find something like a car dealer.. There’s a good one.. “Free financing for 36 months or $5000 cash back”.. That’d be a good example. because you’d have to finance (someone do the math) quite a lot for the free financing to equal $5000 over 36 months.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Actually, it is a hot-button issue… to Chris. And that’s the entire problem. If he had some distance from the topic, he’d come up with better examples and realize how poorly his arguments are constructed here.

    Nobody got up this morning saying “I can’t wait to go to war with Chris Elliott over something.” The majority of people disagreeing with him in these comments are typically are in his corner. But when he advances ludicrous, basically comical, examples and tries to pretend they’re serious points of debate, what does he expect?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Wow, what a horrible story concerning the travel policies. My friend used to work for one of the big telecoms and he had some good ones concerning their travel policies. They’d try to tighten things up in this manner every couple years and it’d be hell until a big executive got inconvenienced then things would loosen up again.

    I remember one time he was forced to go with the cheapest hotel option regardless of location. (They weren’t getting stuck at Motel 6, they had a list of fairly decent chains and the cheapest would be where they had to stay.) That rule lasted until my buddy was stuck out in the boonies with his VP, each of them with their own rental car, when they could have skipped the cars entirely and stayed at the convention hotel, except the conference rate was $10 per room higher than where they ended up staying.

  • omgstfualready

    surprised they didn’t sue because they thought there was free thimerasol to be had at no price. Imagine their disappointment that your product had none and they had to pay. Wonder if they appealed to this site for help against the bad pharmaceutical. ;-)

  • Belle42

    I agree — “free with purchase” is a scam. If it is free, no money changes hands. “With purchase” makes the word “free” in the phrase a lie. It isn’t just travel that does it — I’ve seen the wording on food coupons as well. It makes me not want to purchase from that vendor!

  • bodega3

    What isn’t clear?. Buy something that item is free. Don’t buy it and you don’t have either. No scam, just marketing. People like to see the word free or sale. JC Penney’s move to one price, no discounts proved it. They went back to the former way, with discounts and sales. Business has picked up.

  • bettyblanco

    It’s similar to the “Buy 2, get one free” gimmick. Nothing is free. You get a 33% discount if you buy 3.
    Try returning 2 and see if you get to keep the third one free.

  • Justin

    Long story short – NOTHING IS FREE IN LIFE. These are merely marking buzzwords like the term unlimited.

    Unlimited internet is NOT without limits in most cases. Invisible caps, reduced speed, or even stated caps that somehow still fall under “unlimited”. ISPS love the word, just not living up to the ideals.

    Free is another beloved industry phrase. Free is never “Free”. 99% of consumers know by now that to get incentives, a purchase is necessary. No restaurant, hotel, and so forth gives away a service without strings attached. Common sense dictates a stay is necessary to earn points or a meal. Use of a loyalty card is required to get that “FREE BAGGAGE”

    Per the OP gripe, United wants business and loyalty. Chase wants the benefit derived from the use of the credit card. I understand the OP’s point of view, but the fine print is against him. Use of the credit card is clearly stated in the fine print and TOS.

    My advice: Read the fine print – Find loyalty program right for you – Look beyond the Marketing Headlines. Read the Fine print Twice!

  • Cybrsk8r

    Agreed. No company offers one of these types of credit cards because they think it will benefit their customers

  • Cybrsk8r

    Make-up is OK, but If you stuff your bra, then you ARE guilty of false advertising.

  • Justin

    Mr. Elliott,

    I see your point here, albeit a catch 22. Free is NEVER Free.

    99% of consumers understand that free and unlimited are industry buzz words.

    Accurate marketing = Member Only Benefits Include: Checking Luggage at No Cost with Use of Credit Card, Accruing Loyalty Points, etc.

    However, the word “FREE” captures our attention. Marketing ploy or not, consumer due diligence applies.

  • Trueman1

    My dad has the UA credit card and he mainly uses it to build up his United miles. His company has him fly almost exclusively on United except where code-sharing and places where Southwest dominates and is significantly cheaper. In the end, it helps him out on everyday purchases. I never read the terms and conditions for the credit card but figured out the catch with the free checked bag and its relation to buying the ticket with the UA credit card. The same would apply for the other airlines’ credit cards. As some people already state here, you can’t just use any Chase credit card and expect to get the free bag privilege. As I learned in an Economics class, “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” aka TINSTAAFL.

  • Gerald Vineberg

    Everyone has lost the meaning. Customer Service has dropped to the dregs in the USA & the consumer is only “cannon fodder” for the likes of the domestic airline industry as well as credit card/banks.
    The consumer may be wrong but if this were small/medium size businesses, something would have been done to save the customer.
    I also have no further interest in this over-blown topic. Time to get onto more serious issue.
    Safe travels to all..G

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You may want to reopen your case. For your reading pleasure in logic…

    In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe it. In other words, the basic idea of the argument is: “If many believe so, it is so.”

    This type of argument is known by several names, including appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum (“appeal to the number”), and consensus gentium (“agreement of the clans”). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect. The Chinese proverb “three men make a tiger” concerns the same idea.

  • Andy Shuman

    It seems that most people who have bothered to answer in this thread do believe that Mr. Blumenthal’s expectations were unreasonable. He’s a grown up. He knows there are terms and conditions that need to be read. Especially when they are spelled out in large print on the first page, as evidenced here. There are plenty of scamming and scheming businesses that actually lie and deceive their customers and make it the part of their business model, but calling this offer a lie is a stretch, to say the least.

  • Eighmeagh

    But you imply in your article that Southwest *would* be flying the bag for free if any random traveler could drop off a bag for transport without flying Southwest. My point is that even if Southwest did that, the bag would *not* fly free according to your own definition. And even if United had flown the bag regardless of method of OP’s payment, it would still not have been “free” as you have defined the word. After all, OP still had to sign up for the card, thereby handing over personal information, which, according to you, also makes something not free. (By the way, you are the one who equated your dictionary definition that says “no cost or payment” to mean “no strings attached.” Not everyone would agree those phrases have the same meaning).

    So I’m puzzled. Do you have an example from any industry, or indeed from any context at all, where, in your view, the word “free” is used correctly and actually means what you believe “free” means? Should the word “free” be banished from use in business altogether? I think the point of many commenters today is that the travel industry does not use the word “free” in any different manner from anyone else.

    BTW, I don’t disagree that saying “included with purchase” or whatever is more accurate than saying “free,” at least in the examples you provided.

  • BillCCC

    His example with SW was that he could bring a bag to a counter and they would fly the bag for free without him.

  • omgstfualready

    Seriously! I don’t do this, I prefer to be as close to me as possible (just the best version I guess) but I can change my hair between curly and straight, change the color at a whim, wear contact lenses or glasses (colored lenses too to alter my eye color), false eye lashes, padded bra, spanx undergarments, padded underwear (to get a fake butt), false nails, spray tan.
    If dating was viewed as a business many women would be in trouble for appearing to be one way when reality is so very far away.

  • Ben

    Exactly! You can’t, though, because it’s not really free, it’s part-and-parcel of a service that you must pay for.

  • bodega3

    IMHO, those who complain are amateur shoppers. We are about to head into a busy shopping season and the rookies head out and screw it up for the rest of us who know how the system works :-)

  • Laura616

    I think it would be fairly obvious that in order to get the free checked bag you would need to use the card to buy the ticket.

  • Ian Parrish

    Well, it is a reasonable assumption that you have to use the card to get the benefits. I mean just think about your Visa Signature cards or the like. They often include car rental insurance, some travel insurance, warranty extensions and the like. No reasonable person would ever expect to rent a car with their Mastercard and then expect their Capital One visa to insure the car rental. Airlines do a lot of wrong things, but this is not one of them. If you follow the very simple rules, your checked bag is indeed 100% free.

  • Hanope

    Yeah, I was thinking of taking my kids to Applebees for lunch on Halloween due to half school day, since it was advertised “kids eat free” on Halloween. Alas, its only free with purchase of an adult meal. Fine, I can eat, except that will still only get me 1 free kids meal for my two kids. Discrimination against single parents and those with a working spouse who have more than 1 kid.

  • omgstfualready

    You cannot be serious?

  • gracekelley

    She’s dead serious I think.

    Two words can fix many things wrong with America.
    Lawsuit reform

  • omgstfualready


  • whatexit

    Air carriers cannot charge enough for fares so that the cost to ferry a passenger from point A to point B and back. In fact, if one looks at an inflation calculator, it costs no more to fly now than it did 25 years ago. Fuel costs are much higher vs inflation and so are labor costs. The alterantive os to charge fees. So be it.
    My objection to any “deal” is the existence of ‘fine print”…For most people, these terms and conditions are written in borderline legaleese. Few understand them. Most don’t bother to even read them. The latter is the fault of the passenger. However when the terms and conditions are several paragraphs in length, who has the time or the inclination to read them.
    My suggestion is for companies to be totally 100%( redundant) up front. No hidden stuff. No fine print. Just be straight up and people will much more readily to accept the terms.
    Few of us like negative surprises.

  • Merc

    Wow. Interesting comments.

    In order for a company to “rightfully” (and I use the term loosely) call the item/service/benefit ‘free’, the customer cannot directly (keyword there) pay for it. When it comes up on the receipt, you are not directly charged for it. It should come up as “$0” or not come up at all.

    However, a company always finds a way to make up for this cost since it costs them to give it to you free.
    I feel there was time when companies felt the cost was made up to them when they simply gained the loyalty of customers and they finally got the extra & old product off of their shelves. But these days, that’s not enough. Notice that sales and Black Friday aren’t what they used to be many years ago. These days, companies want their customers loyal for a guaranteed amount of time, and they want you paying more for their products and services in that time.

    For example, you’re locked in with Comcast for two years (and they give you all of these free or reduced benefits when you’re a new customer for a year or the full two years). The point?? You not only get used to their service, but you get used to having HBO and Streampix or whatever benefit you get, so at the end of the term, you fork over the cash. Because most people would say, when first signing up, “I don’t need that, so I don’t want that”–but if you got used to life with it??? Now you feel you have to have it and will grudgingly or gratefully pay for the service.

    Anything with credit cards is NEVER free. There’s this thing called interest rates. Oh, and they have all sorts of fees they are ready to charge you with. Trust me, most consumers are INDIRECTLY paying for their “free” services through the interest and fees. Of course, companies thought of those who a) travel many many times a month and b) pay everything off BEFORE they are charged interest. The money they make off of the yearly fee and the money they get in interest and fees from everyone else NOT doing that makes up for those few flyers that truly benefit from it.
    To make up for the fee’s and interest, you’d have to fly quite often and always pay your card off completely. And a lot of the time, you may only break even.
    This can be applied to wholesale memberships like BJ’s and Samsclub too. The money you supposedly saved has to outweigh the cost of the membership (and any other “hidden” fees and costs some memberships have).
    (P.S. Compare interest rates to regular bank/credit union credit cards to those with all these free benefits/services…..this CLEARLY demonstrates how you are indirectly paying for those “free” things).

    Usually, there is always some type of monetary “make-up” for the reduced priced things and free things somewhere else. Take laundry mats with “Free dryers”. If you went to the same laundry mat that previously made you pay for both, and then walk in next week to find that the dryers are now free….you’ll notice the price of washing has went up significantly. You’re not paying for the drying directly, but you are paying for it through washing.

    Think about it: You can legally say something is free when the consumer does not directly charge for it. But if the price of other (related) products and services go up? Or they have higher interest rates? Or for something to truly be beneficial you have to use the card/membership an ungodly amount of times? There’s no law against making up for the cost elsewhere.


    I am late on this one. But nothing is ever free. Nothing. It is not just the travel industry (Full disclosure–I have a Delta Amex and am a SkyMiles member–but everything else that is free. Kids eat free at a restaurant near our house–with that paying adult. Someone is paying for that meal and it is those of us who are child-free and cannot get a discount. Now we are seeing all sorts of free stuff added to healthcare. It is not free–we are paying for it with higher premiums, deductibles and taxes. Anytime I see the word free, I start looking at the fine print. I have yet to run across something that is truly free, most “free” items require something in return. While I think the OP simply did not pay attention here or is simply choosing to ignore what he does not like, I actually agree with Chris that there is nothing truly free. And you should expand your question to include more than the travel industry.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Bless you! I’m still in the ICU from the friendly fire I sustained earlier this week on this post.

  • AH

    I’ve been reading/re-reading some of your older posts, Christopher, and I was reminded of one time when “free” actually was “free” except for time involved.
    Back in the 80’s sometime, my mother was invited to one of those “free dinner” presentation for a timeshare. She was allowed to bring a family member, so I went with her. The dinner was fairly decent – as I recall it was a small filet mignon with sides of some kind of potatoes and some veggies – not great, but decent. Then we had to sit thru the 40 minute or so presentation.
    Now my mother is, and has always been, very financially practical – there was no way she had any intention of investing in a time share – no how, no way. So we enjoyed our dinner, watched the videos, listened to the hard pressure sell, and simply said, “No, thank you.” (Of course, that had to be repeated several times, but we just left while a bunch of other people were getting the, “Oh, how can I make this work for you?” spiel.
    We both went in with the attitude that we’d enjoy the meal and the presentation (while just chatting between ourselves), but had absolutely no intention of signing anything.
    Two hours (including driving to and from the presentation), a nice meal (albeit with the sales pitch going on), but it was free.

  • BMG4ME

    The card offers a free bag check. You read the fine print and you see that you have to use the card to get that benefit and then you use that card because after all why wouldn’t you want to use the card that you’re spending $85 a year to get? My only peeve is that credit card companies and the airlines don’t work together very well because if they did, they would offer you an alternative benefit to free bag check if you already get that because of your status with the airline.

  • TMMao

    To be fair, Disqus should identify the down voters too.

  • TMMao

    My BMW comes with “free” scheduled maintenance for three years. Anyone that assumes the dealer will also provide “free” service for their non-BMW cars is obviously deluded.

  • TMMao

    In computer systems design, a common saying is that there is no way to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

  • TMMao

    So if octomom dines there with her dozen kids, the restaurant has to pony up 13 meals for the price of one? It’s like those that complain about the single booking premium on cruises — find someone to go with you or pay up.