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May 03 2012

Trip insurance. You know, the insurance your travel agent really wants you to get in case you cancel your trip (for listed reasons on the policy), the cruise line goes bust, and so on. While lots of stuff can be cancelled with little or no fees within a couple of days of reservation dates, other things are either non-refundable or have a long cancellation policy. So, you get travel insurance.

Let’s assume, for the sake of this discussion, you are taking a trip that has non-refundable costs of $5,000. Maybe a cruise. If you’re under 60, that would cost you about 4% of the trip cost (say, $200+). If you’re 60-69, up that to about 6-7% (say, $350+). If you’re over 70 (me), it’s about 12%+ (oh, about $730). And when you reach the ripe old age of 80, it is over double that!

Guess they think us old geezers get sick more often and have to cancel. Well, guess we do. So, it’s the old trade off of risk vs. return. Insurance premiums, like on your house and your car and your health, you pay hoping do so wards off the evil spirit and that you never have to collect on the policies.

Apr 28 2012

My lawnmower wouldn’t start. It’s been wonderful over the several years I’ve had it. A Toro. Bought from The Home Despot. Dependable. Well, it just wouldn’t start. So I folded it up and jammed it into the back end of my SUV and drove down to the local branch. They took it in for “diagnosis” and told me a technician would look at it and call me if the repair was going to be over $100, an amount I had to authorize to leave it there.

Time passed. I heard nothing. I called. The guy in Tool Rental told me they had done the minor repairs they could at the store and wanted to send it to the repair facility in Indianapolis for a carburetor rebuild. I told them they could and was informed it would take about two to four weeks door to door.

Four weeks passed and I heard nothing. I called. After some “hold, please” time, the Tool Rental guy called back and told me that my mower had been lost in the system and was still sitting at the store having never been shipped out for repair, But, he said, he would fix it “like new.”

Read more: Running With The Bulls

Jan 24 2012

We have a VISA card through a major bank and tied to a major oil company. For the many years we’ve had the card, there have been terrific rebates: 5% on gas from that oil company, 2% on meals or travel, and 1% on all else (unless you buy gas from a competitor). Easy to understand and redeemable each month with a check made out to us. So, it was no surprise when we received a mailing saying that the rebates (cash rewards) would be changed. Such is the current market. What was interesting was how obtuse the brochure is regarding the new rewards program. Some examples (with the name of the oil company omitted and referred to as “XX”):

“At XX, 15¢ in cents per gallon rebates for every $100 you spend on XX purchases.”

“On eligible travel and dining, 10¢ in cents per gallon rebates for every $100 you spend on eligible travel and restaurant purchases.”

“Everywhere else, 5¢ in cents per gallon rebates for every $100 you spend on all other purchases.”

Read more: Feeling Pumped

Mar 29 2012

Ah, now I know how the new BP VISA rewards program works. I wrote earlier about how confusing it is, but here's the scoop. You earn "cents per gallon" based on a formula (so much for BP gas, 2% for dining and travel, 1% for all else). Rewards can be taken in a discount per gallon for BP gas for a fill up of 20 gallons or can be taken as a credit on your VISA bill.

So, let's say you've spent enough in a month or so to have the rewards program show you have earned "$3.24 per gallon." Let's just look at $3.00 of this. What this means is the following (gotta read the fine print here):

1. I can go to a participating BP dealer and get a discount at the pump of $3.00 a gallon for up to 20 gallons. If my gas-guzzling SUV takes 20 gallons, I'd get a credit of $60 right there at the pump. If I only fill up with, say, 12 gallons since that's all my gas tank will hold, I'd get $36 credit on the purchase, but would forfeit the rest.

2. If I choose to take a credit on my VISA statement instead of getting a discount at the pump, I can get $15 credit for each $1 "per gallon." So, for the same $3.00 as above, I could get $45. That's it.

So the real catches are:

1. Can't fill up with 20 gallons and give them back some of the rebate.
2. Get a credit on my VISA statement instead and give them back $5 for each "$1 per gallon."

They win, they win. And you? Hahahaha.

Dec 06 2011

Another rant about companies where databases are separate so the customer has to do extra work. I am business manager of a non-profit arts agency. We keep our book on QuickBooks. Every year they charge us an annual fee for their updated version coupled with their payroll function updates. Every year they ask us for proof of our tax-exempt status. Since we have already sent them a state tax exempt certificate that covers several years, I always call and ask why they need another one. Well, they do. On some occasions, they can find what we’ve already sent them. On most others, I have to send it again. So, I did this a couple of months ago with them.

This month, I ordered W-2 and 1099 forms online from Intuit. I checked on their order form that we were a tax-exempt organization. Of course, I got an email from them telling me we had to provide proof. I called the 800 number and discussed this with an agent. Seems as if THIS division had a copy of our exemption letter from the state that expired in 2010. The fact that another division had the current letter meant nothing. You see, they keep their data separately.

They keep their data separately. Got that? Here’s a company that sells database accounting software to lots and lots of folks, does payroll, sells supplies for its products, etc. and they don’t have an integrated database. Causes one to wonder.