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How To Fly For Free*

*Ok, not EXACTLY free, but close, here’s how:

Oftentimes, Southwest Airlines (and other airlines) will sell more seats than the plane actually has. They do this assuming that a small percentage of the travelers will change or miss their flights. You may have experienced this while waiting for your flights, they will sometimes ask for volunteers to give up their seats and take a later flight, in exchange for airfare vouchers, and sometimes, hotel rooms. Most people need/want to get on the plane at that point, and don’t volunteer.

Just like trading, you can put the odds in your favor, here’s how:

1. I like to use SOUTHWEST, because they don’t assign seats, and they don’t have “change fees”, so its not uncommon for people to change their flights last minute. Other airlines have assigned seats and use “standby” tickets so they may not oversell like Southwest does, and this plan may not work.

2. Start with booking a flight, but try to choose a day when you have some flexibility. Instead of looking for the cheapest flight of the day, focus on getting an earlier flight. That way, if you give up your seat, its no big deal. Plus, the cheapest flight may be the least likely to be full. You will need to pay for at least one flight to get the free ones, but if you follow these steps, you will have to pay less for future flights, because you will use vouchers. Avoid booking the first flight of the day as they are rarely delayed (and a delay means less people will miss the flight, increasing your odds. Repeat, a delayed flight is good.)

3. Before you go to the airport, have two plans in your head, one where you get there on time, and one where you get there hours later. Wear comfy shoes, bring snacks and books to read, etc. You will need to have some stamina and patience, so be prepared.

4. Check your bag(s) as normal (2 free on Southwest) being careful to keep your phone charger and laptop charger, headphones, snacks, toothbrush, and maybe some extra clothes in your carry on. Be ready to camp out in the airport. Your checked bags may beat you there.

5. When you get to the gate, immediately make friends with the gate attendant. Walk up to the desk slowly with a big smile on your face, don’t interrupt them, ask how they are doing, and introduce yourself by first name. Make it clear you are not complaining about anything. Flirt a little and see if they are the flirty type too.

6. Nonchalantly ask if the flight is full. If they say “yes” or “probably”, tell them that you have _voluntarily_ given up your seat in the past in exchange for a voucher. Then, ask them if they are looking for volunteers to give up their seats on your flight.

7. At this point, you just became their best friend. Even if they are not overbooked, they will take down your name and tell you to stay in the gate area and listen for your name to be announced over the PA. Because most people don’t walk up and volunteer, you will probably be at the top of the volunteer list, increasing your odds.

8. If they don’t need your seat, you simply get on the flight you booked. I always pay extra for “early bird checkin” (guaranteed Group A) because when you volunteer, they will often refund/pay you with a $25 to delay your boarding. If it doesn’t work on the first flight, be sure to try steps 5-7 on all layovers. If it works you will get a voucher for the full one way trip (all legs).

9. If they do need your seat, they will announce your name and then give you a ticket for the next flight, which may have a different layover. They will also issue you a voucher for the price of your one-way flight plus $300. Sometimes, when they are desperate and have no volunteers, they may offer $500 or $600 plus the cost of your flight. They don’t refund the fees, and you pay fees on the next flight, but its still a huge savings.

10. Once you have given up your seat, you have some time to kill. Buy yourself a nice meal, walk the airport end to end, read, work, sleep, stretch often. I sometimes bring my guitar or uke to pass the time.

If you do this consistently every time you fly, you will find that you will save significant money on airfare. The flights are not exactly free, there are still fees, but it usually totals about $20-30. You have to use the vouchers within one year, but you can apply them to more than one flight, even share them with others!

Example: Thanksgiving 2015, I booked a round trip flight to the East Coast for about $500. I gave up my seat during the layover in Las Vegas for a voucher worth about $500. I used that voucher from Thanksgiving 2015 to pay for a flight for a wedding June 2016, and gave the remaining $170 in voucher to my friend who took care of my cat while I was away. I again volunteered up my seat on the flight home from the June wedding, and earned another $500 voucher which I used to pay for my recent Holiday trip, Christmas Eve through my birthday.  And then once again, on the way back in January, earned another $528 voucher.  So I basically bought one round trip and got three free, plus shared the excess with friends.  And I can keep going and going; it’s not exactly free, but close.

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URGENT: Why You Should Avoid Using ALL-CAPS And Other Melodramatic Fonts

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When I first opened the email with the above thread, I immediately thought of the Holiday Season. It reminded me of jokes that my mom might forward to me. The bold and colored text was quite effective.  Each person used a different color in the thread; as I read the email, I could almost hear 3 separate voices, singing “Oh Tannenbaum…”

We all know the basic rules of online netiquette, the first rule being variations of, Please don’t use ALL CAPS because it is the online equivalent of yelling.  We all had to learn this at some point.  A lot of people, myself included, started emailing in caps because we were AutoCAD or Excel users.  Or maybe it was because our lazy little pinky fingers had not yet learned to use the “Shift” buttons automatically after a period and space.  But in every case, someone who had slightly more internet experience would tell us, Dude, don’t do that, don’t use all caps, and we would reply BUT I HATE HAVING TO… and then we would learn.  Apple figured this out years ago, labeling some keys on their keyboards in lower case.

So why have these capital letters made such a comeback in Corporate America?  I believe there are two reasons, the first being the shear volume of emails sent every day.  In order to stick out from the crowd, many people feel the need to use capitol letters and melodramatic words like “urgent, help, needs attention”; I bet you have heard them all.  The second reason is the rise of social media, where people often argue using all caps.

The people who send those “URGENT” emails are often the same people who usually don’t read or answer your emails

I will let you marinate on that one for a second. It’s okay, take your time, no caps here…

When you are finished, let’s move off of the subject of the subject line, and move onto the body of the emails.  The word body is key here.  The body of the email should be treated the same way as the human body.  It should be healthy and mindful of its emotions.  I myself am guilty of using some very strong words in my emails, but they are just that: just words.

Seeing Red Again

I recently received an email from a coworker that was over 50% red bold text.  I felt my heart begin to race when I opened the email.  I was panicking before I read the first word.  Red is the color of stop signs, brake lights, market losses, sunburn, and worst of all, blood.  There are a some positive instances of red, of course. A red sports car can be appealing, or a woman in a red dress might stick out from the crowd at a nightclub. But most of the time, red means something is wrong.  Using red, bold fonts makes you sound like Satan.

After I read his email dipped in blood, I wrote my coworker and said that I felt the need to go bury it in my backyard.  I begged him to consider using another color in the future.  Green may not be as loud as red, but think about how many positive things are associated with the color green: go lights, money, charged batteries, and most importantly, Mother Nature.

Ask yourself, Would I rather receive an email from Mother Nature, or one from Satan?

You will never find me using excessive formatting, all capitol letters, or red text in my emails.  I DO sometimes use all caps to emphasize one word in a sentence, although I prefer italics or underlining. I use a lot of punctuation. I use bold when I want a  word sentence to stick out.  As you can see, this is much more effective than writing an entire paragraph or email using bold font.  You are basically wasting ink and/or causing stress.

What I am asking everyone to do, is to simply avoid adding unnecessary melodrama.  Please, stop using URGENT or other words in all capital letters, there is no need for it.  The only reason you should ever uses the word urgent is if you need something ordered today.

Most importantly, start treating the body of your emails like a body.  Keep it healthy and clean.  Use underline to emphasize, italics to quote others, bold to call out part numbers, highlight to reference something further down in the thread. If you must use a colored font in an email or document, please try your best to use any other color than red.

MAYBE TRY BROWN NEXT TIME. – P.K.

 

LinkedIn Is The New … Minesweeper?

In 2011, I wrote a blog post titled, Why Skype Is The New Solitaire, where I predicted that Skype would become commonplace in business once it was integrated with Microsoft Office and installed on every Windows computer.  Of course, it didn’t take a a crystal ball to see the future of the video conferencing, and I don’t take any credit for my divination skills. I do take credit for the witty Solitaire analogy, and this here witty-titled post is meant to be a “sequel” to that first post…

Last month (June 2016), Microsoft announced plans to acquire LinkedIn. This adds leverage to their current CRM software, by adding a large social network of adults, who are mostly professional.  I say mostly, because lately there has a been a surge of worthless content on Linkedin.  I hope this deal makes LinkedIn more about business, and less BS.

I used to praise LinkedIn for relevant content, and its gotten me more leads than any other online source. There is no definitive date of when The Old LinkedIn became what LinkedIn is today, but I personally felt the shift when the occasional annoying recruiters in my Inbox were suddenly outnumbered by periodic junk mail messages:

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But these messages don’t annoy me nearly as much as what I call the math problem posts, here is an example:

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2732 Likes and 14506 comments on a math problem that a grade school student should be able to solve?   And for the record, the answer is -13. Following the order of operations, you first reduce the multiplier and multiplicand (3×6) and put their product (18) back in the equation 3-18+2 = -13.  But why is this on LinkedIn? Why?  Because you Like it, that’s why.

Let’s push the math problems off to the side for now, and look at how the LinkedIn / Microsoft deal could actually help your business to grow, work more efficiently, and sell more effectively, by adding functionality to your desktop, tablet, phone, or Surface Hub:

  • Minesweeper_XPThe Contact List Convergence–  You meet someone at a trade show, and send a LI request to be connected.  They accept, and are automatically added to your Outlook email contact list.  You send them an Outlook Meeting Request.
  • Office LinkedIn 365 – It will be easier to share presentations and edit documents within LI groups.  You will see live chats and webinars emerge within LinkedIn Groups.  Maybe there will be local LinkedIn Groups within your Exchange Server?
  • Skype Within LinkedIn – You see a job you like on LinkedIn and apply for it. A day later, you are asked to meet on Linkedin for your first interview, using Skype For Business.

These are just 3 examples of changes you may see as a result of the the Linkedin-Microsoft merger, but you need to be careful. Just like “Mr. Softy” got half of the world hooked on Solitaire and Minesweeper, many of you will soon be using LinkedIn and Skype on a daily basis. Don’t believe me?  Just try it, the first one’s free. Here’s a free download of Windows 10, and free Microsoft Word for your Ipad…. Look, a Skype button, let’s test it!  Wait, why is this sending an email to all of my Linkedin Contacts?  And what’s with all these math problems?

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