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British Airways sets speed record in fixing priest’s non-refundable dilemma

THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU

$1,418,587

Updated: October 29, 2012 6:59AM



D ear Fixer: I was to attend an international meeting in Rome from Sept. 12-21. I made my travel arrangements with British Airways.

Unfortunately, I entered the hospital on Sept. 4 with acute bronchitis. I was released on Sept. 7, and my doctor advised me to cancel my trip.

My ticket was non-refundable, but I thought that maybe I can use it at another time. I contacted British Airways and was told to have my doctor send a letter. That letter was sent. However, each time I called — one time waiting on the phone for 30 minutes before a human voice answered — I was told another item must be sent. I followed up with my doctor again.

I am asking that I be able to use that ticket for a future date. If you can help, I would appreciate it.

Fr. Peter W. McGarry, Chicago

Dear Fr. McGarry: The Fixer is sorry to hear about your recent illness, and we hope you’ll be on the mend soon.

Here’s some news that should make you feel better: After we contacted British Airways about your predicament, their U.S. spokeswoman, Caroline Titmuss, got this fixed. In fact, we think she set some sort of airline speed record: Within just a couple hours of getting your problem, she had an airline representative phone you to let know your ticket is usable through next May. Just let them know when you’d like to rebook your trip.

Online help for consumers

As consumers, it’s easy to feel like we’re drowning in fees and debt, with little savings to keep us afloat.

A panel of experts brought together by the National Consumers League Thursday said that consumers who use personal financial management tools — many of which are online and free of charge, such as Mint.com or various banks’ online tools — can fare better at saving money and cutting down unnecessary fees.

A caution, though: consumers need to make sure they’re dealing with a legitimate site that will protect their privacy. For more, check out NCLnet.org.

COSTLY LESSON: A consumer’s tale of woe

If you were the most underhanded sales person in the world, wouldn’t a signed, blank contract set your heart racing? Imagine the possibilities — with a consumer’s signature and some blank lines you could create any deal you wanted.

That’s exactly what an ethically challenged used-car outlet did to R.R. of Joliet.

R.R. had told the salesperson repeatedly that he only had $2,000 cash to put down and needed a monthly payment under $170.

After much haggling, they reached a deal. The salesperson got his manager to draw up a contract, and R.R. picked up the pen to sign.

“He had me sign it and then he pointed out I missed a spot in the middle, which he didn’t explain, and I signed that. He never mentioned that in the middle section, the sales manager had written ‘non-refundable deposit, will be refunded if we cannot get financed,’ “ R.R. wrote The Fixer.

“Before leaving, I told him what range I needed the monthly payment to be in, and he said it would be OK. Well, the next day, the loan came back at 24 percent interest with a monthly payment of $270,” R.R. wrote The Fixer.

R.R. told them that was unacceptable and that he was on his way over to retrieve his $2,000 deposit.

That’s when the dealership’s finance manager let the bomb drop that R.R.’s deposit was non-refundable. He said he had the signed contract to prove it, and he knew nothing of any verbal promises made by the salesman.

The only way they’d give the $2,000 back was if R.R. would agree to buy a different (read: cheaper, crummier) car and apply it to that deal.

“I said that they were trying to steal my $2,000,” R.R. wrote The Fixer. “He replied: ‘Yeah, it sure seems like we’re stealing your money.’ ”

What is a Costly Lesson? It’s an UNFIXABLE problem that cost someone a lot of money but holds a valuable lesson for the rest of us. If you’ve got something to warn the rest of us about, e-mail it to szimmermann@suntimes.com with Costly Lessons in the subject line.



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