Monday, August 9, 2010

Living a High Life

I'm wary about joining any sort of club on the premise of earning points. It seems like I never earn enough points fast enough to collect. I used to have one of those subway cards but when I went to collect my free sub, they had increased the number of stamps you needed. I eventually collected the additional stamp for my free sub and got another card which I eventually filled out only to be told that they no longer had that deal. The local oil changing place had a deal where if you paid for ten oil changes, you got one free. I live and work in the same town and my family lives 40 miles away. I don't exactly put on a lot of miles. Three years later when I went to collect my free oil change, they no longer honored the deal. The list goes on and on.

But I keep trying despite all the past failures because it doesn't cost me any extra to participate and just once I think I might collect something from them. So five or six years ago, I signed up for a mileage program for a national airline that I use when flying back and forth to the Philippines. Not enough mind you to ever get a perk such as an upgrade because the few days I fly are never days when they apply. Just enough to keep my playing along. Well as luck would have it, that airline would never have the best airfares or times to get me to fly on them again and I received a notice that I had 16,000 miles that I needed to cash out or lose them.

Having a credit card that earns points that I can apply towards gift certificates at a multitude of stores, restaurants and subscriptions to magazines that I actually use, I thought this would be the case. I was wrong. I couldn't get gift cards to stores but I could shop at the airlines store. I could select any of the 13 magazines that they offer but I don't have a desire to read any of them. I could also trade them in for gift certificates on The catch here is that there were only about six restaurants in the whole state of Iowa that participated and the only one close enough for me to consider using happened to be right here in my town, at one of the most expensive places to eat.

The food there has always been outstanding and I've blogged about some it before. But the price is on the steep side and so we don't go there often. I thought about cashing out all my miles for certificates to this place but in the fine print is says that you have to spend $37 in order to use a $25 gift certificate and that is before they tack on a mandatory 18% gratiutity. So at bare minimum, I'm stuck with a bill for $17 plus tip if what we order is exactly $37. The once or twice we have been there for dinner in the seven years we've lived here, the average bill is more like $50 so I'm looking at $25 plus tip, the cost of eating about anywhere else in town.

But the food is good and the service is top notch. Recently using another certificate that I got for a different reason to the same place, they made a special order plate just for our daughter since they don't offer kids means and they brought it immediately, even before we had our own appetizers so that she was almost done eating before we got our food. That allowed us to almost have time to enjoy our meal instead of shoveling food in between times when our daughter needs some sort of assistance with her meal. They fill up our water frequently and without being flagged which is another good service thing that seems to be lost most everywhere else we go and they never make mistakes. We recently ate at a place over in Illinois where the fellow waiting on us forgot our fries with our meal after we had corrected him once when he repeated it wrong upon our initial ordering. He apologized and ten minutes later, brought out fries for my wife's meal but not for mine. I finally told him to just forget it since we were about done with our meals anyway and just remove it from our bill.

So I splurged and used 3000 of our airline miles for $125 worth of $25 gift certificates to the restaurant in town. I suspect we will be eating dinner there a little more often in the upcoming couple years. That still left me with 13,000 miles to burn which could have gotten me $625 worth of gift certificates to the place but their menu isn't that deep, nor my pockets for the extra $17 plus tip. So instead after going through their extensive airline shopping catalog, I burned 12,750 points on a vacuum cleaner for the apartment in the urban jungle so we don't have to keep lugging our heavy antique back and forth. It's one of those fancy smancy bagless models. Like I said, we're living the high life, just not in first class of some airplane as I had initially hoped so many years ago when I signed up for their frequent flyer miles.


R. Sherman said...

I've always figured that these companies make money on this stuff. Thus, the gifts or "points" probably can't be redeemed without more effort than their worth.


sage said...

I kept reading to find out how many points it took to get a case of
Miller High Life... And was wondering if you were building a new shed (with fridges) to store the stuff... I have often used air miles for tickets, but it keeps getting harder to use the miles and I hate flying more and more.

Ron said...

This reminds me of when a company I used to work for started doing rebates, instead of just selling discounted merchandise as they had before. The reasoning, I was told, is that a high percentage of people never redeem their rebates.

Glad to hear you got a vacuum out of the deal, at least. :)


Bone said...

I thought from the pic you'd won some free beer.

The last time I was on a plane and the beverage cart came around, the guy beside me ordered a beer and handed the flight attendant this full-page size coupon that looked like it had been torn out by hand. It read: "Have one on us."

I'd never seen one of those before. Nor had I ever seen Corona in a can, which is what he drank as I had my apple juice.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - I figure your right on the money.

Sage - Since I inevitably go with the airline that has the best schedule for the trip along with a good price, I rarely fly one airline enough to get enough points to redeem. I think I have points on four or five different airlines.

Ron - The company I work for encourages a similar tack to our distributors.

Bone - Next time I fly, I'm going to have to find me some coupons. Did the corona come with a lime? I'm not sure I could drink one without a wedge of lime floating in it.

Vince said...

All the supermarkets on this side have some sort of loyalty card. They tend to have an amasing amount of information on the buying patterns of their members.

TC said...

As I read this, I just kept finding myself nodding and going "mmhmm." ALL of this happens to me, and yet I get suckered in, every time...

PhilippinesPhil said...

So, you got a new free vaccuum cleaner. Sounds good. Pretty much manna from heaven, eh?