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January 16, 2009

What can I say... WOW!!

January 16. Day 200.

Just so you don't accuse me of burying the lead, and just so you don't skip this post because this post says it all, let me spell it out at the top.

It really, truly, positively can't hurt to ask.

With one halfhearted attempt and a little patience, I got more $ tonight than I have in the previous six months of asking, combined.

I was tired and impatient, and I didn't honestly think it would work.

But it did. It so so so did!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry to sound gloaty, but I'm so happy, and above all, I'd be thrilled if such attempts ended up being contagious...

Here's how it all went down.

Our flight from Hawaii to San Diego passed through San Francisco, and on a whim we decided a day earlier to ditch the last leg and spend the weekend in SF. Mr. A took Monday off work, so he said he'd drive up today to meet us, we'd hang out in the Bay Area, and then drive down the coast Monday. On Thursday I made a hotel reservation (didn't ask for anything discount there, since it was online, a fine price, and I was too rushed to haggle), and Friday around 9 p.m., we got off the plane and headed for the exit.

On our way towards the hotel shuttles, I got a random thought.

"Do you mind if we stop by the next gate, to see if they need our seats?"

La Divina wasn't familiar with this practice, since it's not typical in Italy, so I explained it: Put your name on the "willing to take a later flight list," in exchange for something -- a voucher, free dinner, a ticket, depends on the airline and circumstances.


We headed to the gate of our San Diego flight, but no one was there yet, since it was leaving two hours later.

Next stop, the main ticketing counter at United, where a man told us to go to Counter 26. Sales and schedule changes.

We waited 5 minutes. No one glanced at us.

Waited 5 more. Nothing.

I finally flagged someone down, and she replied she'd be with us shortly.


After a while, I started getting ansy and pessimistic.

"It's basically pointless, since they probably won't need our seats. The chances are really small, since it's a very heavily serviced route. And who knows who long we'll have to wait. Do you want to just take off? Because if anything, she'll just think we want to cancel and say the cancellation list is not an option, and we'll be wasting our time. Because it's not likely they'll need the seats. I mean, it makes sense to try, and we're already here, but if you want to go I'm fine with that..." and so on...

"Why don't we stick around a little longer? It's not like we have anything better to do."

She had a point there. We didn't have a car, we were wearing our Hawaii outfits in the NoCal midwinter (albeit a mild one), and once we got to the hotel, Mr. A was arriving in another hour or two. Why not wait, indeed?

About 10 minutes later, the agent told us to come on over.

"Hi," I started, already tasting defeat. "We're booked for the next flight to San Diego, and it turns out our plans our flexible. If you need our seats, we'd be willing to give them up."

I expected her to look me square in the eye and spatter: "You're saying you want something for nothing? Get a voucher for hanging out in San Francisco? Move it. Scram!"

Instead, she checked to see how booked the flight was.

"Looks like it is overbooked. We'll need your seats."



She started clicking away at her computer, and as it sank it, I started wondering what we'd get. $200 voucher? $50 voucher? Free one way upgrade?

"So, since you're giving up your seats, you're each entitled to a free round trip ticket anywhere in the continental United States."

I played it cool. So cool....


"Yes. So are you guys based around here, or why are your plans so flexible?"

Aha. She was about to say it's not valid if you have a hotel already. You have to give up the tickets, as a sacrifice. It has to bother you, deeply.

"No..." I replied. "We just don't have to be in San Diego tomorrow, so we thought we'd check."

"Good thinking! That's great luck your schedule was flexible, since we definitely needed those spots. And actually, you also get a free hotel and meal vouchers."


"Since we're bumping you, and that was the last flight out tonight."

La Divina and I were practically dancing inside our shoes and grinning like two Cheshire cats. Couldn't couldn't couldn't believe it. The constant search for an opportunity. My last minute idea. Her patience. 20 or 30 minutes. A vow to ask for something, anything daily.

Gained: Estimated value of $1000 to $1300 in travel vouchers. Let's guess between $400 and $600 per ticket, plus $100 for the hotel and $30 for dinner. Thank you, thank you, thank you United! You rock!!
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