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AuthorScott Roewer

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My iPhone Saved Me Over A Thousand Dollars!

I recently had drama with US Airlines while trying to return home from my vacation, but my iPhone saved the day and a huge amount of cash.

us-airways_not+1 I tried to check-in for my flight online the day before my return flight but received an error message saying the system was unable to process my login and to call US Air. If you’ve ever called US Air customer service, you know this is not a pleasant experience. Their customer service is outsourced to locations outside the US. When I finally reached a representative, she explained that the number of people allowed to check in online had been reached, thus requiring me to check in at the airport. The agent said this was due to a T.S.A. regulation. I believe you save time at the airport, if you check-in online. Although I had not heard this maximum number of people reached rule before, I could only believe what she suggested and planned to check in at the self-service kiosks in the morning.

i-195_fl_wt_13-300x225+1I arrived at Miami International Airport around 6:30 AM and walked directly to a kiosk. Using my reservation confirmation code, the computer could not find my reservation. I tried to pull it up with my flight numbers and last name–still nothing! I grabbed my bags and headed for the short line to speak to a human. Well, wouldn’t you know it, they were having computer problems. Although there were only three people in line, it took almost 25 minutes before I reached an agent. It’s now 7:20 AM and I’m leaving at 8:15 AM. The rather frazzled-looking agent looked for my name in the computer. Within seconds she found me and said my flight had been canceled. She told me there were still seats available and that she could get me on the flight, but wanted to find out why my seat was canceled.

dollar-bill-airplane+1She started talking about change fees of $150 and paying the full fare for the flight, which was hundreds more on top of the change fee. The US Air agent then told me my flight was canceled because the computer reported it was on the 16th, not the 17th. Now, I may be blond, but I do check details, especially when spending hundreds of dollars on a flight. I knew there was a glitch in their system.

macbook_small+1 I pulled out my Macbook and looked in my email for the US Air receipt, but realized it was on my home iMac. Since the airport doesn’t offer free WiFi, I couldn’t use the ‘Go to my Mac’ feature on Leopard OS X. I was starting to sweat, thinking she was going to charge me over $1000 to fly home. I asked her to waive the charges, because I was certain the computer was wrong and I was correct. She promptly told me that was not possible, as there was no way for her to override the system.

iphone+!Racking my brain, I finally realized I had my new 3-G iPhone in my pocket. I pulled it out, went to the US Air web site using the Safari web browser that comes on the phone. I was able to log in, pull up my travel schedule and prove to her that yes, I was right–my travel was on the 17th! So, the iPhone saved me over $1000.00. It was amazing how she was able to suddenly override those charges when she learned I was right.
Because this process took an hour from my arrival, I lost my original seat and the flight was full. I firmly yet politely insisted she put me on the flight, because I purchased my ticket long ago and it was their system error. I ended up in the back of the plane, sandwiched in a middle seat between two very large men. One guy joked how he “should either fly first class or loose 100 lbs.” I thought he should give me $100 because he was sitting in at least that much of my seat.

safari1+1So, lesson learned. Do print out those confirmation emails (just recycle them when you’re home) and have an iPhone so you can have instant internet access to save your ass from US Air’s faulty reservation system. Having the iPhone paid for itself that day, three or four times over.

 

Book Donations For A Cause

Donate and Make a Local Impact

bfora_logo+2I love Books for America, a local organization in DC. They have the inspiring goal of building and improving libraries in area schools, shelters, and hospitals, supporting reading programs, and providing children in the Nation’s Capital with their first take-home books. The organization’s retail location, called ‘A Bookstore with a Purpose’ and located in Dupont Circle, is a fun place to visit. I stop in to both donate and buy books. A Bookstore with a Purpose 1417 22nd Street, NW Washington, DC 20037 Hours: Mon, Fri & Sat 10-6; Tues -Thurs 10-9; Sunday 11-5 What should I donate? How do I arrange for a book donation pick-up?

Donate and Make a Future Impact

bfora_store+1The number of incarcerated individuals in the U.S. is staggering. Although we have less than 5% of the world’s population, we have more than 25% of the world’s prison population. Most inmates are only allowed to receive books donated through programs such as Books to Prison. Books can be dropped off in DC at Foundry United Methodist Church on Wednesday evenings, or in Brentwood, Maryland at the Quixote Center during normal business hours. They’re located approximately four blocks from the Glut Food Co-op. Foundry United Methodist Church 1500 16th Street, NW (16th & P ST NW) Washington, DC 20036 Quixote Center 3502 Varnum St Brentwood, MD 20722 301-699-0042 Find a local Books to Prison program in your area by visiting their online directory.

Donate and Make an International Impact

btblogo+1Book donations can also have a big impact internationally. According to the Camel Book Drive in Kenya’s blog, children’s storybooks are most popular, general fiction is also in high demand, and there is much interest in nonfiction books covering topics like astronomy, geography, and history. Books by African authors are especially appreciated. Both gently used hard and soft-cover books are welcome, but paperbacks are preferred due to weight considerations. These books often reach their final destinations via camel! The librarians suggest that the donor inscribe a note in the books, as this helps the patrons feel connected to places which they can otherwise only imagine. Wajir Library For Camel Library Librarian in Charge, Mrs. Maryan Osman Warfa P.O. Box 217 Wajir, Kenya How do you donate books? Where do I send the books and what’s the cost?

For more resources on book donations, check out this list published by the American Library Association.

Opting Out Saves You From Unwanted Credit Offers

mailbox+1The volume of credit offers I see cluttering the homes of my clients is unreal! All the paper, postage, gasoline to move those letters, and time to deliver them is such a waste. Needless to say, they usually just go into the trash and fill our landfills.

Take a stand and opt out of these credit and insurance offers! Here are two to choices to help you opt out.

According to the FTC’s website, you can opt out of receiving credit and insurance offers for five years or opt out of receiving them permanently. Call toll-free 1888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com for details. The telephone number and website are operated by the major consumer reporting companies. When you call or visit the website, you’ll be asked to provide certain personal information, including your home telephone number, name, Social Security Number, and date of birth. The information you provide is confidential and will be used only to process your request to opt out.

It’s important to remember that if you have joint credit relationships, like a mortgage or a car loan with a spouse or partner, you are likely going to receive further unwanted solicitations until both of you exercise your opt out rights. Typically, the requests to opt out are processed within five days, but it may take up to 60 days before you stop receiving prescreened offers.

If for some reason you want to opt back in, you can simply reverse the process by calling the same phone number listed above. What are you waiting for? Do it now!

Marriott, Toilet Paper, and Excess

Can you ever been so organized that it is too much?  Do you know anyone who has labeled everything in their house?  Personally I think you can go too far with a label machine and today I learned the Marriott is label happy.

I arrived at the Marriott Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida and had some time to relax.  So, I was taking my time to unpack my belongings.  As I was arranging my toiletries in the bathroom of my hotel room, I reached for some toilet paper to blow my nose when much to my surprise, I saw a label (see photo) on the sink basin.  Perhaps they thought the toilet paper was out of view, or perhaps the housekeeping staff was going overboard with their label machine?  Either way – I thought it was a little redundant.

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Do you know anyone who’s gone overboard with labels in their home?  Can you ever be overly organized?

Could You Live Like These Three Women?

I was recently flipping through Domino magazine’s February Issue, “The Organized Home!” which contained three advertisements that really caught my eye. The first ad was by Citi Cards featuring their ‘Whatever your story is’ ad campaign. Grace lives in a small apartment in the big city and doesn’t cook, so she used her Citi Card to buy some closet organizing supplies to transform her kitchen into a walk-in closet. The ad continued by saying Grace saved room for plates, glasses and silverware, but I certainly don’t see any in the photo!  I love how the stemware holder is now used for sunglasses glasses and the coffee mug tree is used for bracelets. Do you know anyone who stores stuff in their kitchen or stove that’s not specific to cooking related?

Click on any image to see it larger.

citicards_21+!

The next advertisement for American Express featured writer/actress Tina Fey in their “Are you a card member?” campaign. Obviously she enjoys Post-it notes to capture her creative flow process. I am willing to give her some slack, because she’s a Macbook user and because her daughter is adorable. Tina’s perfect day “Coffee/Playground/Nap/Exercise/Flea Market/Playground/Bath Time/Dinner with Grownups/See a Great Movie/Asleep by 9 PM.” Obviously she does not have time to organize her office. Could you be creative in this mess?

Click on any image to see it larger.

amex_tina_lrg+!

The final ad was by Kohler and features this very glam Hollywood Mom, who’s devilish son (hiding behind the door) used the Purist® Hatbox® Toilet to hide one of Mom’s favorite hats. Perhaps if she had put away the hat, this wouldn’t have happened! After all, there are over 60 hat boxes in the photo that could have been used. Why is the toilet in the middle of the room anyhow? Kohler wants us to believe this $3000 toilet would work just about anywhere, including Bryant Park. You guessed it right, this high fashion toilet was debuted at Fashion Week in New York City.

Click on any image to see it larger.

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Could you live like these three women? A kitchen for a closet, paper clutter in your office, or your hats strewn throughout your dressing area? If you have a favorite advertising campaign that features organizing or a lack there of, I’d love to hear about it.

Valuable Beatles Video Found in Garage

Film buff Richard Jeffs finally got around to cleaning his garage in South London, where he discovered a hidden treasurer that had been stashed in the corner for decades. Stacked in a dark, damp corner of his garage were 64 unmarked canisters, many rusted and damaged from years of neglect.

beatles+1With a bit of detective work, he deciphered the scribbled label found inside the film can and determined the names of the two presenters who conducted the interview in 1964. According to a story by the BBC, the faded handwriting was incredibly hard to read, but with patience he was able to read the labels.

This is the story of how a lost Beatles interview once again found the light of day. It offers a revealing insight into Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s songwriting partnership. The nine minute interview took place in the studios of Scottish Television on Thursday, April 30, 1964.

It’s rather remarkable the film survived at all. It is now being stored safely in a professional archive in Milton Keynes, where temperature and humidity are carefully controlled.

Let this be a lesson to my readers. Don’t store ANYTHING in your garage or attic space if you can’t afford to have it ruined. The extreme temperature changes, humidity, and critters found in these spaces will likely damage your treasurers. Mr. Jeffs should consider himself a lucky man to discover this rare Beatles interview.

I wonder what is inside the other 63 canisters?

5th Street Ace Hardware Makes A Good First Impression

5th-street-hardware1+1On Sunday, June 29, I had the pleasure of attending the VIP Grand Opening of the new 5th Street Ace Hardware at 1055 5th Street NW. It’s located in the CityVista project in the heart of DC.

In addition to over 9,000 square feet of retail space on two levels and more than 20,000 items in stock, the store is launching two product lines new to Ace Hardware–Mythic Paint and Schulte Storage Systems.

Mythic Paint is one of the first environmentally friendly, zero volatile organic compound (VOC) paints on the market, which should please homeowners who want to “go green.”

fr_profile+1However, I was most excited to check out the Schulte Storage Systems. I have worked with Schulte’s closet line named FreedomRail system (previously I found it at Organized Living in Fairfax), so I know the system is easy to install, durable, and perfect for condo dwellers or anyone who wants to get the most out of her storage space. Organized Living closed a few years ago. Because 5th Street Hardware is located below the new CityVista condos, I anticipate this product line will be a huge seller for store.

FreedomRail has a basic ‘Profile’ system which is very similar to the Container Store’s elfa®. There is one additional step when installing FreedomRail as opposed to elfa®. The extra step involves screwing the upright into the wall for stability, which is not a drawback for FreedomRail, in my opinion.

fr_tiered-shelf+!I love the new tiered profile shelf (pictured to the left), which has a built-in stair step that maximizes visibility of items on the shelves. It can be installed level or at an angle, depending on your needs. I didn’t see this in stock at 5th Street Ace Hardware, but Gina Schaefer, the store’s co-owner, said they can fill special orders and requests, usually within a week.

fr_darkwood+1Another item that sets FreedomRail apart from elfa® is the option of enclosed cabinets and drawers. I have several clients who have passed on elfa® because they did not like the mesh or grid wire baskets which make up the drawers. This could be the perfect alternative.

As expected, the store also has all the offerings of an old-fashioned hardware store: paint, tools, cleaning supplies, house wares, storage items, plumbing, electrical, a lawn and garden section, and more. If you can name it, this cool hardware store probably has it!

5th-street-hardware11+!

Trash Becomes Treasure – Recycled Art

bottlecaps+1DC has a very cool event each year titled Artomatic. It’s 1000 artist, displaying their work for 28 days and nights, all in one building, attracting over 50,000 visitors. The diversity of the artwork at this year’s event was amazing. I personally enjoyed all the artwork created with recycled objects. Over the next few weeks I’m going to highlight a few of the artists who’s work caught my eye at Artomatic 2008.

Elizabeth Lundberg Morisette
img_0244+2img_0243+1created a very cool 3-D display of bottle caps, title 1,584 Bottles of Beer on the Wall (I’ve Had My Share). Created with bottle caps and nails, I thought the 40″ x 50″ piece was very cool. It was inspired by her Grand Father-in-Law who gave up drinking around age 60. When he passed away, Elizabeth received two cans of nails he had saved. She used those nails for this installation. Check out Elizabeth’s Flickr Stream, she has great work much of it created with recycled materials.

Click on any image to view it full size.

I wanted to know more about how this display came about so I contacted Elizabeth. She told me the bottle caps have been collected over time from friends and family and that they were often brought back from vacations, or weddings. She created a permanent bottle cap mosaic wall in her house (which is for sale, by the way) with nearly 5,000 bottle caps. You can see more pictures of her house here.

DSCF1521+1Since her family is moving to Colorado, when Artomatic closed down, she couldn’t keep all the bottle caps. However, she did share this cool photo of a pot she created with some of the left over bottle caps.

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I think this is truly ‘Pop’ Art! Do you know any other artist creating art from recycled materials?

How To Save Time When You Travel

security_luggage+! The Transportation Security Administration has actually done something right! They’ve approved a new laptop bag which will allow laptop owners to run computers through security without the extra step of removing it from the bag. The T.S.A. will allow the new cases as soon as they’re available on the market. Being developed by Targus and Pathfinder Luggage, both companies estimate these cases will be available in September or October.

According to an article in the NY Times, “the new cases include either a fold-down section in a bigger briefcase or a stand-alone protective sleeve that contains no extra clutter and can be readily viewed through the scanner.” This maybe helpful to the 70% of business travelers who feel rushed when trying to catch their flight or to the 60% of travelers who worry that security checkpoints will prevent them from boarding their flight on time.

tsa_security+1I know I fall into the category of Americans who travel with their laptops, which according to a recent survey is nearly 25% of all airline passengers. I’ve always been concerned about the damage possible to my laptop when putting it on a moving conveyor belt or when the bin is pushed on its side because the subsequent luggage rams into the bins that have backed-up because people were trying to put their shoes back on. That’s another time waster I can’t bother with in this post!

I’ve also feared my laptop might walk off if I’ve been held up by the T.S.A for another scanning or pat-down. According to a recent survey by Ponemon Institute, I should be worried! Business travelers loose more then 12,000 laptops a week! Yes, 12,000! LAX leads the pack, averaging 1200 lost or stolen laptops weekly. Here in Washington, DC, DCA travelers average 450 lost laptops weekly and at Dulles more than 400 disappear each week.

laptop_user+1With these new laptop bags, hopefully travelers will feel less rushed and be more aware of their belongings, since 40% of the lost computers occur at security checkpoints. The bags will have a retail price around $39 for a backpack style up to more than $200 for a rolling case. Either way, the function will be the same – protect your laptop and save time by not having to remove it from the bag. Now, if you truly want to save time, buy Clear, the only government-approved screening process. The company estimates you’ll spend no more then 14 seconds in line at airport security. If I traveled more often, I would happily pay the $128 annual fee for this fast pass.

Protect Yourself From ID Theft

While researching ID Theft Information for a client, I discovered this video the FTC’s website. Watch the video to learn some good information on what to do if your ID has been stolen. Having fallen prey to a phishing email scam a few years ago, that emptied each of my checking and savings accounts, I highly recommend everyone take a few moments to learn more about ID Theft.

Has anyone else had their identity stolen? Leave me a comment and tell me about your experience.

To watch more of the FTC’s Video visit their YouTube homepage.