An inconvenient truth about loyalty programs


Is your loyalty for sale?

Would you remain true to a company, no matter what it does, in exchange for a platinum card or the promise of “free” or discounted product?

Target is hoping so after more than 40 million customer credit-card numbers were compromised on Black Friday. Its response? A 10 percent-off bribe offered to holiday shoppers last weekend.

Perhaps the retailer knows its customers too well. Give ’em a few bucks off — or better yet, something “free” — and they’ll overlook anything. (Never mind that almost nothing is free and that the definition of “free” we’ve come to accept is misleading, harmful and wrong.)
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They underestimated us – their mistake!

Golden Pixels/Shutterstock
Golden Pixels/Shutterstock

Richard Barnes wishes he hadn’t rented the car.

The vehicle, which he reserved for on a business trip in Atlanta, was absolutely fine. It’s what happened afterwards that makes his blood boil.

Barnes picked up the vehicle at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He drove it to the Hyatt in Atlanta. The next day, he returned it to the airport without a scratch.

“Four months later I received a bill for $12,000 for an accident and damage to the car I had rented,” he says.

Say what?

Yep, $12k for a rental car returned undamaged. I recently wondered how careful you have to be in order to not get scammed as a consumer.

But there’s another side to this issue: How careful do businesses think we are?
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Seriously, how careful do consumers have to be?

Bryan Perilman shoulda known better.

He and his wife were flying from Fort Lauderdale to New York this summer on Spirit Airlines, but the their flight was canceled because of mechanical problems. When a representative offered to fly the couple on Delta Air Lines if they accepted a voucher, he should have known to ask: Is there a catch?

“A Spirit representative offered us two free round trips each,” says Perilman. “More than fair, we thought.”

But they thought wrong.
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Yes, you can still fight a bogus car rental damage bill – here’s how

Photo of Kotzin's alleged damage to her bumper.
Photo of Kotzin’s alleged damage to her bumper.

Don’t mess with Barbara Kotzin.

Someone should have warned Enterprise before she rented a Toyota Corolla from the car rental company earlier this year. Maybe it wouldn’t have sent her the repair bill, which Kotzin claims was bogus.

Then again, maybe it would have. Hard to know.

Here’s what I do know: Kotzin’s tale of fighting what she believed to be a fraudulent damage bill, is an inspiration to anyone who thinks car rental companies are enriching themselves from frivolous damage claims.
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How coffee taught me how to be a consumer advocate


It’s one of the most common questions I get as a consumer advocate: How did you get that job?

The answer: It started with coffee.

Seriously. My odyssey into advocacy began in 1984 with my first gig at a small business in Mountain View, Calif., that specialized in roasting gourmet coffee. It happened to be owned by my late uncle, who offered my younger brother and me a job and a place to stay in his spare bedroom.

You’re probably picturing me delivering lattes to the pilots at Moffett Air Field. Cushy job, right?
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