September 23, 2021

Bucks Blog: Getting Change Fees Waived for a Canceled Flight

A traveler at an American Airlines terminal.Associated Press A traveler at an American Airlines terminal.

Airlines take a lot of heat for indifferent customer service — and it’s often justified. But I recently had a pleasantly reasonable experience with American Airlines, although it did take a little time to resolve.

This past weekend, I was scheduled to fly with my two daughters to Connecticut, to attend my niece’s college graduation. The event would also serve as a family reunion. We planned to get to bed early Saturday night, because the Sunday morning flight was quite early.

At about midnight, my 11-year-old appeared at my bedside — never a good sign. “Mom,” she whimpered. “I feel sick.”

Thus began an endless night of vomiting. Was it a stomach flu, or was the hot dog she had for lunch rancid? Who knows. But when dawn arrived, it was clear that we were not going to be able to board the plane. Rescheduling was too risky — what if she was contagious, and the rest of us were about to fall ill, too? I pictured us holed up at an airport restroom. Or worse, getting sick at the commencement. No, thanks. So, bleary eyed, I called American to cancel our flights.

“Do you want to rebook?” she asked. Not yet, I said, explaining that a member of my family was ill, and I wasn’t sure when we would next travel. She asked if it was one of the ticketed passengers who was sick. “Yes, it’s my daughter,” I said. “She is vomiting. You don’t want her on your plane.”

Since the tickets were nonrefundable, she said, we would receive a credit for the amount paid — but, a change fee of $150 a ticket would be deducted when I booked a new flight. That meant an extra $450. Ouch!

I asked if it was possible to waive the change fees, given our situation. She seemed puzzled: Waive all three fees, even though just one person was ill?

I explained that the ill passenger was a child; because she was sick, I couldn’t fly, and neither could her sister. Even though I was tired and grumpy, I tried to remember what a travel expert — and my husband — had told me: Customer service reps are stressed, too. Be nice, and you’re more likely to get what you want.

The representative put me on hold for what seemed like a very long time. I was losing hope. But then she came back on the line, to tell me that the airline had waived the fees. There would be a permanent notation on the tickets — she gave me all three of our ticket numbers for future reference — so when we re-booked, we wouldn’t have to pay the extra amount.

How often does something like that happen? Kent Powell, a spokesman for American, didn’t provide statistics. But he said in an e-mail that customer service representatives are trained to consider “extenuating circumstances that warrant exceptions to our policies and procedures.”

In other words, it can’t hurt to ask. The waiver didn’t replace the disappointment of missing our family big event, but it did help lessen the financial sting.

Things took a little longer when it came time to rebook the flight. I decided to use the credit for our family’s planned summer  vacation in late July. I had to call American to rebook, since I couldn’t apply the credit using the Web site. All went well until it came time to actually waive the change fee. Although the agent could see the notation on the tickets, she needed approval from the “pricing” department. The pricing gurus then referred her to customer service, which again bumped her back to pricing, she told me. All this occurred while I was on hold — for a total of nearly 30 minutes.

I then tried to add my husband to the reservation, which complicated things. Because he hadn’t been on the original trip, I had to make a new reservation for him. That would cost me an extra $25, the agent said, unless I went and paid online. She created a reservation for me and gave me a record locator number. But when I went online to pay for it, the system told me I couldn’t — because the reservation hadn’t actually been created online. So I had to start over to create a new reservation online for his ticket.

In the end, I got my new reservations without the extra fees — but it took much more time than I expected to complete the transaction.

Have you successfully had a change fee waived? How did you manage it?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/getting-change-fees-waived-for-a-canceled-flight/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Prototype: If Moms Can’t Find It, They Invent It

When she turned to the Internet, “There was nothing — no road maps, no anything,” recalls Ms. Monosoff, who lives near San Francisco and was education director for the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships for President Bill Clinton.

Fast-forward to today, and the term “mom inventors” yields about 290,000 results on Google. There is Ms. Monosoff’s own Web site, Mom Invented, which supports aspiring “mompreneurs” and licenses and sells products under the Mom Invented brand, a Good Housekeeping-like seal of approval. Other sites include the Mogul Mom, where mothers can satisfy their inner Edison by reading posts like “How Do I Get My Product in Stores?” and “Don’t Get Burned By Your Light Bulb Moment.” Not to mention the dozens and dozens of online stores, like the Busy Mom Boutique, that sell mom-made products.

What’s behind the growth in mom-generated creations? One factor is the rise of the Internet and social media, which allow child-raising women to exchange ideas without having to leave the house. Ms. Monosoff has nearly 6,000 followers on Twitter, and her Web site has a community of about 20,000 mothers, who exchange tips and offer support.

“Someone will say they’re having a problem and they can’t find a seamstress, and someone else will say, ‘I have someone who helped me,’ ” she says. “It’s instantaneous, whereas for me, I was looking in the Yellow Pages.”

Inventing is also a means of channeling energy for ambitious career women who suddenly find themselves changing diapers and searching for lost sippy cups.

“They’re engaged, they’re smart, smart women,” says Ms. Monosoff, who has two daughters, ages 8 and 10. “Whether they have a business background or not, they have their whole life experience to bring to the table. That’s what I love. They’re not constrained by business jargon or business concepts. They’re like, ‘I’m making this thing; how do I sell it?’ ”

Running Mom Invented, and writing books on inventing, is a full-time job that Ms. Monosoff fits in while her girls are at school and in bed. Her husband, Brad Kofoed, has been a supportive player in her business endeavors, she said, giving up his job as a software executive to help build the company. (This year, he went back into business development at a technology company.)

Linsay Chavez of Tucson, Ariz., quit her job as a marketing coordinator for a manufacturing company and started the Busy Mom Boutique this year. “A lot of moms need to support their families,” she says, “and while maybe they don’t have it in them to go get a full-time job, seeing as they have their kids at home, they actually get the momentum to turn ideas into reality.”

She adds: “In many households, moms are the chief buyers. And in the new millennium, if they can’t find what you need, they just invent it themselves.”

THAT was true for Ms. Monosoff, who couldn’t figure out how to stop her 8-month-old daughter from unrolling all of the toilet paper and stuffing it down the toilet. “I was like, ‘O.K., where’s the gadget?’ ” Ms. Monosoff recalls. “I was trying to figure out how to design something like that, but I really had no experience. Then I was buying shampoo at a beauty supply store, and I saw a hair permanent rod, that little roller thing, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that might work!’ ”

She worked on a rough prototype of what would become the “TP Saver.” The basic concept is that a small, plastic rod — that grown-ups can lock into place — keeps the toilet paper from unspooling.

Then she found a machinist and an engineer to work out the design, brainstormed with focus groups, hired a manufacturer in China, had the product patented and safety tested and ultimately got it into 9,000 grocery stores nationwide.

Such stories are everywhere: a mom runs into a problem with her child and, unable to find a solution, invents one herself. That’s happened to Heather Allard of Providence, R.I., who before staying home with her children worked as a saleswoman and account coordinator for Estée Lauder. When her second daughter was “busting out of every swaddling blanket” while she was sleeping, she joked to her husband, “I wish I could make a little baby straitjacket.”

“I told this to other moms, and said that would be really great, ” she says After making a “primitive sketch on loose leaf,” she worked with a seamstress on a prototype and had it patented. “There was a whole lot of trial and error, and a lot of expensive mistakes,” she says. For instance, the American manufacturer she first hired was costing her $16 a product. Then she switched to a Chinese company and reduced the cost to $5.85.

In the end, she spent $50,000 to get her product to market. She recouped the cost when she sold the rights to the product, the Swaddleaze, and its follow-up, the Blankeaze — a wearable blanket with leg holes — for six figures in 2008. That same year, she started Mogul Mom.

Nowadays, she says, the landscape is much different for moms. “We’ve come so far. I think at this point, it’s never been easier to do this kind of thing,” she says, pointing to the plethora of advice Web sites, coaching programs and even crowd-funding resources that help raise seed money for products. Those developments, she says, have “coincided with the rotten economy, so a lot of moms are out of jobs, they’re at home with the kids.”

She adds: “They say necessity is the mother of invention — well, that’s the case.”

E-mail: proto@nytimes.com.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ab1c42c2357619b159de7ad5e798ab13

Bucks: Questions About Paying for College

Carl Richards

Carl Richards is a certified financial planner in Park City, Utah. His sketches are archived here on the Bucks blog and on his personal Web site, BehaviorGap.com.

This month marks the beginning of high school graduation season and the start of something new for many families: college.

Over the years, I’ve learned how differently two parents (that is, when there are two parents in the picture) can feel about sending their children to college and figuring out how to pay for it. In recent conversations, I’ve heard more than once that couples were surprised to discover that they didn’t agree when it came to their children and education.

Why the surprise?

They just assumed that they both felt the same way and talked around the issue for years instead of talking about it directly.

If you haven’t had this conversation and put together an education plan for your children, take the time to do it now. We’ve heard story after story about the rising cost of college, and planning can make a massive difference. But long before you start doing the math, it’s important to talk about three things to make sure everyone is in agreement.

1. Should They Go?

Often we just assume that everyone should go to college, but that goal may be worth rethinking in some cases. There has been plenty written on the merits of trade school, starting a business or going straight into the work force. For some people, the best education may be real life.

I’m not advocating that your children skip college, but you do need to discuss all the options, and those options may vary by child. A good friend always said he believed his son would go to law school, but it became apparent later that it wasn’t the best thing for him. The son went to work in a trade, but his two daughters did go.

2. When Should They Go?

My wife and I took extended breaks during our college years and believe we’re better for it. In Europe, it’s common for many graduating students to take a gap year before entering university.

This proactive break (I’m not encouraging your children to play video games for a year) has started gaining some traction in this country as parents ask themselves, “What’s the rush?” Maybe there’s an opportunity to work a bit or to volunteer for some extended service. I remember returning to school more committed and serious about college because of my experience.

3. Should You Pay?

People avoid or skip this discussion completely, often because it’s the one that triggers the strongest emotions. Some people want to pay for any school where their children win acceptance, regardless of cost. Other parents feel strongly that their children need to earn and pay for their own education. Often these feelings reflect personal experiences, and it’s worth talking about all of them to make sure you understand what’s at the root of your instinctive reactions.

You also need to consider how paying for education impacts other financial goals. Don’t take the cost of college out of context as you measure where you’re at now compared to where you want to be in the future.

Just like every financial goal, preparing to meet the costs of college takes time for most families. Your strategy may be different than your neighbor’s, but you probably can’t afford to wait. Eighteen years passes a lot faster than you think.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=28b075038768108b98a3b489bebcb6e6