Monday, May 25, 2009

How to escape from the middle seat in the coach section

Privacy is relative and it comes in many forms. When flying, I currently solve that problem by going first class but in years past, I criss-crossed the Atlantic in coach. Never, however, without having a reservation for an aisle seat. That way I could edge away from the captive in the middle seat and also get up and walk around whenever the spirit moved me. (The spirit moves me quite often.)

On one memorable occasion, however, I boarded an Iberian airliner in Boston at the last possible moment. Although I started to congratulate myself on catching the plane, joy turned to horror when I discovered I'd somehow been re-assigned to a middle seat!

PANIC! Better to be waterboarded than to get stuck in the middle seat all the way to Madrid!
Fortunately, I always carry extra cash. I made my way upstream to see the flight attendant. I politely explained to her that I had booked an aisle seat, that I was claustrophobic, and that there was no way I would make the flight in the middle seat. My plan, I said, was to march down the aisle holding up three $100 bills and offering them to any passenger who would trade my middle seat for an aisle seat. "If that doesn't work," I told her, "on the way back, I'll hold up $600 and if that doesn't work--"

"Keep your money," she said with a smile, "and come with me." She walked toward the rear of the plane and told a passenger that he was to trade places with me. The man rose without a murmur and I took his place. On the aisle.

How had this miracle happened? No explanation was given but looking back, I think he was deadheading (getting a free flight as an airline employee) and had to take whatever was available.

So then, folks, whenever you travel coach, dress for business and carry some extra cash. If you're stuck in a middle seat, first politely check with a flight attendant. If that fails, then down the aisle you go, cash in hand and hand in the air. SMILE. On a shorter flight, even a single Franklin might do it. Happy traveling!

Monday, May 18, 2009

“Going to college was the biggest mistake of my life!"

So says Hernan Castillo, 30, who owes $30,000 in student loans and $5,200 in credit card debt. (He has an accounting degree but can't find a job in that field, so he works in a warehouse in California.)

“Sometimes,” he says, I wish I had gone to prison instead of college. At least I would have learned a trade or two and started being independent once I got out."

How things have changed since I entered the University of Minnesota in 1946! What ever happened to working your way through college? What ever happened to low tuition? What ever happened to paying cash or doing without? What ever happened to common sense?

In 1949, about to enter my senior year, I decided that, for personal reasons, I would not, after all, be able to spend the rest of my life working for the U.S. U.S. Forest Service. Common sense dictated that there was therefore no reason to pursue a degree. I dropped out—one of the better decisions I’ve made over a long lifetime.

Note to parents:

Your son or daughter may be better off in a trade school or a two-year tech school. But even if you believe they must borrow money and must get a degree, take out a $17 insurance policy. Order, read, and study (with your kids) SKIP COLLEGE: Go Into Business for Yourself.

1. On or before next Monday, May 25, 2009, order

2. Read and discuss it with your teens.

3. If you do not think it may change the lives of your children, send me an e-mail not later than June 25, 2009. Tell me what part you didn’t like.

4. I will then not only return your money but will send you a free e-report as well — either Crash-Proof or Least-Worst.

To paraphrase Hernan Castillo: “Not reading SKIP COLLEGE might be the biggest mistake of your life!”

Monday, May 11, 2009

The U.S. Postal Service takes a picture of every letter you send out. Should this scare you?

It scared me, when I first discovered this information some five years ago. I wondered what the purpose of this was, how long the pictures were kept on file, and whether or not the back of the envelope was also being photographed.

Thanks to a new friend inside the USPS, I now have the facts. Here is what happens when you mail a letter:

1. The front side of your envelope is photographed. At the same time, a fine color bar code is sprayed on the backside of your letter.

2. The image is then sent to a remote site, usually in another state where non-postal workers work at terminals and key in the bar code for that specific letter.

3. Your letter is then is processed through a machine that reads the light colored bar code on the backside and instantly sprays a regular bar code on the lower front side of the envelope. (However, if a letter already has a bar code on it, it will usually not have its picture taken. For example, mail from utility companies gets bypassed from this process.)

"I don't know how long those images are stored for," says my informant. "However, my guess is that it no longer than a few days."


Normally, it makes no difference whether you put a return address on the front or the back of the envelope. However, mail handlers can make a note of the return addresses you are using, if they have a legitimate reason for doing so. If, therefore, you are concerned about certain sensitive mail, one suggestion would be to not include a return address on your outgoing mail.

A better solution, however, would be to use a ghost address for the return. That way, you will know if your letter failed to arrive. (It may be returned for insufficient postage or for an error in the address. These things happen to the best of us.) It will also prevent your letter from ending up in Atlanta, Saint Paul, or San Francisco, the USPS's three major mail recovery centers. Once there, your letter will be opened and examined.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Why Nazita Aminpour is suing Chase bank for revealing her secret $800,000 bank account, and HOW IT COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.

If you’ve not yet heard about this case, here are the facts:

Nazita and her husband David have a joint account at a Chase branch in Kew Gardens, Queens, along with a custodial one for their three children. But Nazita also had a bank account of $800,000—money that was apparently hers alone. Unbelievable though it seems, the suit alleges that a bank employee at Chase called her husband David to encourage him to move some of that $800,000 in his wife’s secret bank account into other investments with Chase. David, it seems, knew nothing about that account until the phone call came in.

Had Nazita read either my book How to Be Invisible, or my e-book Invisible Money, this sad affair could have been avoided. Here is what she should have done:

1. Given a ghost address when she opened the account, along with:

2. A secret voice mail number that only she could access.

Do you have a secret bank account? If so, does the banker have your true address and telephone number? If so, move that account to another bank!