Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thumbs down for Rewards for Opinions (taking surveys for points)

I have some points in my Southwest account that I want to keep alive so when I got an invite to join a program to take surveys to get some points and that I'd get 500 points for taking my first survey, I decided to join.  So once I joined, I see 5 surveys available to me.  I do a calculation for the most number of points per minute and start some surveys.

But I'm finding I don't qualify for any of the 4 surveys, then I'm asked to answer a few questions for them to find me a new survey and this time answering questions about my gas utility provider, I get this survey.  50 points for 20 minutes, is comparable, but some of the other offers I got were laughable, as in 10 points for 60 minutes of my time.

The issue is that this keeps happening over and over, even with these new surveys I don't quality for them, so I've spent the past 30 minutes looking for a survey I actually qualify for with no success.

What a joke.  I recommend not wasting your time with Rewards for Opinions as offered in partnership with Southwest.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What is wrong with Korean airlines websites?

I need to get my dad to Korea tomorrow so I've been trying to book a flight on Asiana's website and I keep getting error pages at various points during the booking process.  I've tried both the Korean and English pages and it makes no difference.  I literally tried about 12 times before I gave up and booked the ticket on Expedia.  I kept trying on Asiana's website since it's easier to select my own seats when you book directly but it's just not worth me throwing the keyboard against the monitor while I'm at work.

How come a country that's so advanced technologically have such antiquated websites where I can't even book a paid ticket on their own website?  It's not just Asiana, I experienced the same thing while booking award flights on Korean Air and last year when I was flying with Jeju Air as well.  In general, I see this with other Asian airlines' websites as well where they're very poorly designed with lots of errors all over the place.  I'm looking at Singapore and Cathay Pacific as two other examples I've run into.

So I guess that's one place where US airlines are actually better than Asian airlines.  Their websites.

[edit] Good grief, I've been trying to check in and I had to use 3 different browsers before I was finally able to actually check-in on Internet Explorer [/edit]

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Don't make this mistake while booking Alaska flights as an AA elite!

Pardon me, the title is my attempt to create a sensational title in the vein of "You can get rid of all your debt with 1 deceptively simple trick!  BANKS DO NOT WANT YOU TO KNOW THIS!" or "THIS HOT CHICK DISCOVERS A HIDDEN CAMERA IN THE BATHROOM, YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!"

So anyway...

Per this page:
AA elites (Platinum and up) flying on Alaska (AS) get preferred seats.

First I looked on and found the flights I wanted were $700 for an AA codeshare flight on Alaska metal (plane.)  But it was $177 booking directly on Alaska's website.  Even though it's a work trip, I couldn't in good conscience book on and there is really no reason to since it's not like I'm going to get upgraded to first class on Alaska based on my AA status.  (AA elites don't get any chances for complimentary upgrades to first class on Alaska)

So I started to book on Alaska.  First I entered my AA number on my profile before making a booking, then during booking I selected my AA number instead of my Alaska number: (see lower right)

But when I get to the seat selection screen, I see this.  Note I have to pay $17 to select more legroom seats and most of the plane appears unavailable.  If I didn't want to pay $17, literally only a few middle seats in the last few rows on the plane were available. Presented with that option, I first made the mistake of paying $17 by selecting a more legroom seat, then I also paid $27 for  a premium class seat on the return flight for similar reasons.

But when I got to the final booking confirmation page, I saw this message saying my AA elite status is confirmed and that I may have new seat options available.

 So I went back and seats that were previously showing as unavailable (it's not the same flight as the pic above) were now available and even better, more legroom seats were now free.

However, on flights with the new Premium Class, those are not free and are still extra ($27 in this case for a short 1h55m flight) but I was able to select 10B whereas at first only seats at the back were showing.

So since most US airlines allow you to cancel flights within 24 hours without penalty, I cancelled my original flight where I paid for both the more legroom on the outbound and premium class on the inbound and rebooked and got the more legroom seat for free and didn't bother booking a premium class seat on the inbound since I can sit just 1 row behind, although I ended up going with 10B in the hope no one sits next to me.  (hope springs eternal in yours truly)  I'm sure I'll survive 4" less legroom for a sub 2 hour flight and I should be boarding early based on my AA status anyway.

Thanks to this, I saved $40!!!  😱😲 

-As an AA elite, do not pay for 'more legroom' seats or row 6 seats, you'll be able to select this after you purchase the flight
-Also a whole bunch of regular seats will open up in the forward half of the plane
-As an AA elite, you'll still have to pay for Premium class 
-Alaska charges any upgrade fees such as the fee for premium class or more legroom seats as a separate transaction, it doesn't say 'upgrade fee' or anything but it looks a bit suspicious if you're going to be submitting expense reports and you're only allowed the cheapest economy fares by your travel policy.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Update to the latest Airbnb Saga

As an update to the post above, the host initially said they'd refund us the money but then later changed her tune and asked us to cancel and that she'd give us a full refund.

Either she's ignorant that if we cancel we get hit with the severe penalties (50% of our money + we don't get the airbnb fee back) that she has in place or thinks we're stupid.

So we just escalated to Airbnb and sent them a note explaining the location is incorrect in her listing and that we want to cancel and surprisingly Airbnb quickly responded overnight and gave us a full refund plus a token $22 coupon (original booking was $220) to use for a new reservation.  The Airbnb rep also assured us that she would talk to he host and make sure the location gets corrected.

I'm surprised that with hundreds of reviews she has for her place that no one really complained that it's in a completely different location vs what is advertised.  Initially I was afraid the host would use that line of defense (but hundreds people have never complained...) but I'm glad to see Airbnb acknowledge the misrepresentation and correct it.

So key takeways, raise your concerns even if you see hundreds of other people just grin and bear it.  And secondly, it's tricky to find where you can contact Airbnb.  For this type of issue you can submit the message like this:

From this page:
select - traveling - issues with host - trouble with host

then type in your message, I included screenshots (hosted on of the wrong location + the actual location from her house checkin instructions in the message.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

More Airbnb Issues...

I've previously written about 1 downside of Airbnb:

I'm running into another right now for a property in Seoul, Korea.

Basically, the location is not where the listing says it is.  On a listing, you have these teal circles which represent the area where the property is located.  I wanted a place next to Seoul Station and the title of the listing also said "SEOUL STATION" (amongst other words).

So I get the directions to the place and it's actually farther south than the map above and it's actually further south than the Namyeong subway station that you can see at the bottom of the picture.

The main reason I booked this place is to take 1 train from the airport directly to Seoul station (the main central station in Seoul) and just walk to the apartment.  Now I have to switch from an airport train to a subway and go an extra stop and worst of all, I may not have elevators or escalators at the subway station and need to carry my luggage up the stairs to street level.  I know Seoul Station has elevators and escalators to street level and was another reason I booked this place.  And now I found out the location of the listing is completely misrepresented in the listing.

The listing does have positive reviews and no one among the first few pages of reviews complained of the wrong location.

I am getting really tired of Airbnb...  I am messaging the host to ask about this.  If she wants to cancel, that'd be ideal since that way she gets penalized.  If she does not want to cancel, then I have to involve Airbnb for an inaccurate listing and get them to cancel it for me and to correct the listing.  Will update on what happens...

Friday, September 23, 2016

An alternative to getting home from the airport vs Uber/Lyft with surge pricing

Quick summary: look into 1 way car rentals vs high priced Lyft/Uber/Taxi at peak times, it might be cheaper

Recently I landed in SFO at 11PM on Labor Day Monday and I didn't want to inconvenience anyone at that late hour. (how considerate of me)

I had planned on taking a Lyft or an Uber and thought it might cost about $60 or so.  But boy, was I wrong.  When I first opened Lyft and saw that the price for a Lyft Line (shared ride like Uberpool) to San Jose was $110, I thought I put in the wrong address but nope, the price for a shared ride was $110.  The price for a regular Lyft was around $140 and UberX was similar.

I had never taken a taxi from SFO to San Jose but upon my quick search, it seemed like it would be around $120-130+.

At this moment, I had this idea of booking a 1 way car rental instead.  And lo and behold, I was able to make a booking for a 1 way rental at around $63 including all taxes/fees using my corporate code.  I suppose it might be higher without a good corporate/discount code but it's definitely worth a look.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A good way to get a taste of local life

While I was in Panama over this past weekend (along with spending the day in NYC and a long layover in Miami), I had a chance to go to a few grocery stores, ranging from a tiny corner store to a big, air conditioned, modern supermarket and while a lot of what's in the big market is already Westernized (and particularly Americanized in the case of Panama), it's still an interesting look into how the locals really live.

Then I remembered I also enjoyed going to grocery stores in other countries.

One note is that at the supermarket, there was a security guard who was totally eyeballing us and following us (me and my girlfriend) around the store.  The thing is it was like he was almost trying to be as conspicuous about it as possible.  But again, that is part of the cultural difference that makes things interesting.  I have to say their bathroom was spotlessly clean.

But in summary, visiting a grocery store is a good way to get a look into the local culture.  And a good way to pick up local snacks to bring back as souvenirs.