Category Archives: Consumer Advocate

Buy Every Lottery Ticket You Can Afford

Cash out that old IRA. Take a cash advance on your credit cards. Find every dollar you can and buy Powerball lottery tickets for tonight’s record $1.5B jackpot.

Apparently that’s some people’s advice that somehow get on TV. Is this not just proof again of how ridiculous our media is and how dumb American culture is? Let me just say it – you’re not going to win the lottery. You’re not going to know the person that wins the lottery. You very likely won’t be within 3 states of the person that wins the lottery. With the odds now at 1 in 292 million, since last summer’s lottery change to become even more of a crock, expect big jackpots like this to become semi-normal. It may take a while, but we will hit $2B relatively soon with those odds.

I just want to know who runs the Powerball. (Multi-State Lottery Association) They found an effective way to get people to pay taxes and not even complain about it. And the states that gain tax dollars off these lottery sales are laughing all the way to the bank! If we are all so concerned about taxes, maybe the government should create some new even bigger lotteries to help pay down the national debt. It sounds like many, many Americans are more than happy to oblige. But you may say, there is a potential benefit from paying these types of lotto taxes. Yes, I agree – false hope. If people are dumb enough to fall for that government scheme, then I am all for it.

What’s amazing, is that so many people play the lottery every week or at the very least, quite often. At nearly every place that I’ve been employed, there has been an office pool and they are back at it, every week, paying their lotto taxes like upstanding American citizens. The LA Times put together a neat Powerball simulator that shows no matter how much money you put into the Powerball over time – you are extraordinarily likely to lose over 90% or more.

Just a couple of random odds for you:

  • Odds of dating a millionaire: 1 in 215 more than 1.35M times more likely
  • Odds of writing a NYT best seller: 1 in 220 more than 1.32M times more likely
  • Odds of becoming a billionaire (without the lottery): 1 in 7M more than 42 times more likely
  • Odds of becoming President (yes that POTUS): 1 in 10M more than 29 times more likely
  • Odds of winning Powerball: 1 in 292.2M (yikes)

Maybe we should focus some of that lotto tax money on something that is a bit more likely and actual could be a benefit to us.

Write a book. Go find a rich guy. Start a business or just do something productive.

If I come across as brash, it’s because I feel that way. You are 29 times more likely to be President than win the Powerball – come on people, be real. You’re not going to be President either, by the way. I know I have shattered many dreams with this statement.

So if you want to spend a couple bucks on this “historical” jackpot, go for it, but consider yourself a winner if you win even $4 tonight. In the meantime, I think I found a fix for our government debt issue…


How I Got American Airlines to Refund My Non-Refundable Ticket

Short answer: annoy the sh** out of them.

Below is the epicly frustrating monologue outlining my story of getting American Airlines to refund my non-refundable ticket. Overall, this process took about a month. I didn’t do anything special, but I took every avenue possible and just didn’t take no for an answer.

A few months ago, my wife decided she wanted to visit a friend in Nashville. So we did our usual shop around and the best rate we ended up finding was a $202 American Airlines round-trip fare on Kayak (best travel search engine, still waiting on the sponsorship). A few weeks go by and long story short, this ended up being the weekend that her friend had to move to her next location because of a rotating job. I was pretty upset. For a while. Mainly because I had enough knowledge from previous encounters with American that I knew this money might as well have been thrown out the car window while driving 80 down the highway. For all intents and purposes (NOT intensive purposes – I need a better editor – LOL – thanks to reader Mara for pointing out), this money was gone and the fare was unuseable.

The first step was a phone call to the amazing AA customer service department (HA! sarcasm much?). The lady on the phone told me that there would be a $200 change fee, no exceptions, blah blah blah. She explained to me a situation where I could still recover some of the fare with a re-booking strategy even with paying the $200 change junk fee. I asked, “so this could save me between $2 – $4, seriously?”. She said yes without laughing. How helpful. Thanks lady. Next.

Next strategy was social media. I tried to keep it respectful, but still get the point across:

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About an hour later, I was greeted with this helpful reply:


Are you effin kidding me American? You send me a link that shows that I can get boarding group 1, same-day flight changes, and other misc. crap (for a large fee). Next.

So next, I found a very helpful consumer advocate named Chris Elliot that helps steer consumers in what to do with situations like this. His website can be found here. Basically, the strategy was to write an email explaining my situation and hoping that I catch the right person that day. Here is what I came up with:

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Notice, I was intentional in mentioning the words “family emergency”, but kept it very generic. I instead focused the meat & potatoes of my message on the fact that they have competitors (your turn, Southwest) who don’t penalize customers when circumstances come up. I emailed this to the AA customers relations email and also submitted on their cute little customers relations form website. After no response for a week, I forwarded the email to their executive contacts in the order that Chris Elliot suggests.

Also, make sure that you do go ahead and cancel the flight before it takes off (I did this the day before the flight) and request a refund through that method, as well. If you have talked with people on the telephone or have actual humans that have responded to your emails make sure to include these names and a quick synopsis of their response (only if it helps your case) in your next round of emails to AA.

After a couple of more phone calls and another email back to the original customers relations department. I got this and just about stood up and screamed in joy at work:

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I couldn’t believe it, my persistence had paid off and I’d been successful in getting American to FULLY refund me on a non-refundable ticket. Persistence. That’s the name of this game. Funny thing, I got an email later that week (YES – after I received said refund) saying they were still looking into my potential refund and explaining their non-refundable policy. HA! Just goes to show you how on top of things they are.

In case you got lost in the story, here is a summary list of resources to help, I’m sure other airlines would follow similar suit:

  1. Tweet @AmericanAir – I like Twitter better than Facebook, because companies can’t delete your tweets directed at them.
  2. AA Phone Number List – if you are an AAdvantage member – talk it up!
  3. AA Customer Relations (12/30/2016 – updated link – thanks to lora b for pointing out) – email, send them a letter, submit the form, all of the above!
  4. AA Refunds – make sure to cancel the flight (preferably the week of)
  5. Elliot’s great list of AA contacts
  6. BE PERSISTENT. This is most important, you can’t just do one of these and expect to get your money back. Don’t take no for an answer.


What other methods have you all been able to deploy to get refunds on airfare or other travel tickets?