How organized is your house? Do you have a box somewhere filled with papers? Maybe more than one?
A little over 20 years ago, a man named John Walker booked a flight from Nashville to Sacramento. At the last minute he couldn’t make the trip, so he called United Airlines.
It was too late for a refund, but the airline told him he could still get credit toward a future flight. Since we were still doing things on paper back then, United sent him a physical ticket voucher, in the amount of $378.
Mr. Walker put the voucher in a box. He forgot about it.
A few years went by. The Walkers moved from Tennessee to North Carolina. Mr. Walker slid the box under the bed in the master bedroom in the new house.
There it stayed, forgotten, for another decade and a half.
“I just never really thought about it,” Mr. Walker told WFMY television. But then one day, he was looking for something else, and he opened the box.
He found the voucher, and read the two-decade-old letter that had come with it:
“Domestic wholly unused non-refundable ticket(s) can forever be applied toward the purchase of another domestic non-refundable ticket, for the customer named on the ticket.”
Forever, huh? Walker wondered.
A lot has happened since the 1990s. Google was brand new then. Mobile phones still seemed kinda neat. On airplanes, the average distance between seats in coach class was 35 inches. (It's as low as 28 inches now in some cases.)
Also, United Airlines isn't even really the same company as it was in the 1990s. It went through bankruptcy between 2002 and 2006. Later, it later merged with Continental.
Still, Mr. Walker called the airline to find out if “forever” really meant “forever.”
Customer service had no idea. Nobody had even seen a paper voucher in years. And even if they had, all of United’s debts had been discharged in the bankruptcy—including, one might think, old travel vouchers.
Last ditch, Mr. Walker tried United Airlines on Twitter. Lo and behold, the airline decided: What the heck? Let’s honor it anyway.
"I think it was just good customer service on their part," Walker said. Along with perhaps, the incredibly prescient notion that I would launch a daily newsletter and write about their customer-pleasing decision.
(I’m not the first, obviously. The North Carolina TV station broke the story, and I read about this on The Points Guy a while back.)
It's a unique situation, the airline explained. They didn't expect a flood of 20-year-old paper vouchers from the Clinton administration.
So, the moral of the story is clear: Never throw anything out!
You never know when you might need one of those 500+ old bank and credit card statements dating back to 1994. Or perhaps, someday you’ll wish you had the old charger to your work laptop from three jobs ago.
And, there’s always a chance that (a) the sweater from 1996 that you were thinking of giving to Goodwill might come back into style, and (b) you might simultaneously get back to your high school weight.
Nah, I’m only kidding. April Fool’s.
The real morals are twofold:
First, it rarely hurts to ask.
Second, if you can do something good for someone, do it—especially if it doesn’t cost you very much.
Special note: Happy birthday to my Aunt Maureen, who is also my godmother, and who has been wonderfully supportive of me my whole life. If you know her, you like her, it’s just that simple. She reads this newsletter, so everyone please join me, on three: Happy Birthday! … 😃 We love you Bo! 🎂
7 other things worth your time
Workers destroyed 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by mistakenly mixing ingredients from two vaccines together. (Politico)
More Covid stuff: Pfizer says its vaccine was 100 percent effective in a trial when it was given to 12 to 15-year-olds. France is on lockdown again. Also: the emerging wedge political issue that I guess we’ll be hearing a lot about: vaccine passports. (CNBC, Reuters, The Hill)
In the military and aviation, and probably some other fields, there is a convention to use names and words to stand in for letters, so they can be heard correctly on a radio: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, etc. In 1934, the Nazis purged the German version of this phoenetic code of any Jewish names, changing D-for-David to Dora, for example, and N-for-Nathan to Nordpol. Next year, Germany announced, it will change them back. (Jerusalem Post)
In Pittsburgh, President Biden rolled out his $2 trillion infrastructure package, calling it “transformational progress [and a] once-in-a-generation investment.” He said he hopes to pay for the whole thing over 15 years by raising taxes on corporations, and that nobody making less than $400,000 a year would see higher taxes, “period.” So, there’s your marker. (NPR)
A Democrat who officially lost her campaign for Congress by six votes out of 400,000, but who alleged that 22 legally cast votes for her were thrown out, asked the House of Representatives to abandon efforts to investigate the election. Democrat Rita Hart’s concession means Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks remains in office. (The Washington Post)
Did you collect unemployment last year? Did you already file your taxes? You could get an additional tax break due to the stimulus law, which excludes $10,200 in unemployment benefits from taxes. So, good news: it could be an extra $1,000 or so for you; slightly not-as-good news: if you’ve already filed your return, you’d need to file an amendment to get it. (WSJ, $)
The U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to the NCAA rules that bar college-athletes from being paid. It did not seem to go well for the NCAA in its attempt to maintain the current system. (NPR, Twitter)
Thanks for reading. Photo from Pixabay. I first wrote about some of this for Inc.com a while back. If you’re not a subscriber, please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter—with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers.
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