Tuesday, April 15, 2008


By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I booked my flight back to NYC for the end of the month. I'm gonna spend two weeks there in early May. I had one free round trip ticket remaining from all that crazy travel on JetBlue. I used the first leg to fly out to California (last week) and used the second leg to fly back. Total cost? $5 in fees. That free round trip flight is probably worth about $500 maybe more. That's not a bad frequent flier program. You get a free roundtrip for every 100 points you earn. You need at least four coast to coast trips plus a smaller leg (like LA to Vegas or NYC to Florida) inside of one year to qualify for the free flights. I used to belong to Continental or Delta's frequent flier clubs and it took forever to rack up any freebies.

I also got an email from JetBlue. It seems that the value of their inflight DirectTv entertainment system is $15. I know because that's the rebate they offered to me... $15 for not having their system functional on my flight from JFK to Long Beach. I didn't even have to send a nasty email to customer service. They nipped it in the ass right away.

I recently got an American Express gold card. I have been using that exclusively for all of my purchases. They have a decent awards program. You have to spend through $30,000 to get a free round trip flight. In the last three weeks, I've racked up $3K in charges (mostly from a week of hotel rooms and food in Vegas and concert tickets like Radiohead).

I had serious problems with my old credit card. It used to have a $10K limit, but I maxed it out after 9.11. As soon as I started paying it down, they dropped my limit. It went from 10K to 7K to 5K and to 3K where it is now. It's been paid off for about two years and Citibank refuses to extend my credit despite my good marks. When I tried to obtain a different card that featured cash back rewards or some sort of partnership with a frequent flier program, I was quickly denied. There I was charging 30K in business travel every couple of months among other expenses. Since I had a line of credit of 3K, I was forced to pay my bill once a week to make sure that I had enough room to stay in a hotel on my next journey.

When I explained my situation, the wizards at Citibank suggested that I use my debit instead if I wanted an unlimited purchases. However, debit cards are much harder to deny a charge of there is any hijinks involving the transaction, plus I got zero rewards for using it. Since I do a ton of internet purchases, I'd prefer to use a credit card and not give anyone access to my checking account.

They were a pain in the ass, especially Citibank's Fraud department which flagged about 50% of my purchases. I also felt as though I had zero freedom because I constantly had to call them up and inform them where I'm traveling otherwise they'd cockblock access to my card. I mean, I don't even tell my mother where I'm going next week, but I had to tell Citibank. What the fuck?

And I almost always got some outsourced nit who had no clue what I was talking about. On two different instances, they made mistakes and listed my dates of travel differently than I stated. That fucked me twice last year. I was furious and applied for an American Express Card. They approved me right away and I got my freedom back! I can travel at will without having to tell the nanny state. Plus, I'll get something back for making all those purchases. Citibank fucked me over the last few years and the only way I can get back at them is to not give them my business. I went from charging several grand a month to under $50... which is just a couple of bills that have automatic payment on my Mastercard. I should switch those and give Citibank Mastercard zero of my business.

That's where you have power as a consumer. We're pretty much enslaved to corporations working for them and giving money right back to sister corporations or rivals. Making choices is the only way you can empower yourself. I used to boycott McDonalds not because their food was unhealthy (I actually liked eating it from time to time and these days I sometimes have to eat fast food when I'm on the road and have limited choices), but I boycotted them because why give a ruthless corporation more of my money when I could support family run business and restaurants. Same goes for Starbucks. I'm glad that I have given very little of my income to either evil corporations over the last few years.

Anyway, off the soap box for a few minutes.

I watched a couple of flicks the other night when I had a bad batch of insomnia. I caught a Thai flick on the Sundance channel. One Take Only is the Honk Kong English title and Som and Bank: Bangkok for Sale is the Thai title. It was a classic story about a drug dealer falling in love with a hooker. Interesting thriller. I must admit that I have not seen too much Thai cinema so I had very little to base that effort against.

I also watched Alpha Dog. I had resisted since it had Justin Timberlake in it, but I really dug Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild and I discovered that Nick Cassavetes wrote and directed it so I gave it a chance. I must admit... I liked bits of the flick based on the true story of one of the biggest pot dealers in Southern California. I was surprised that Justin Timberlake had the most face time... well his character did. I had low expectations and he surpassed them.

Monday was the first day that I did not watch sports. Over the last few days, I sat around in my boxers, ripping bingers, and watching the Masters or playoff hockey, or baseball. I loved having some sort of sports on the TV while I blasted music. I have only a few more days of that before Nicky comes home and she makes me put on pants.

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