This Week In Your Wallet: Try A Little Tenderness
On the last day of the year, I heard from my contractor that he hadn’t received a check I’d sent him (via the US Postal Service) using my bank’s bill payment interface two-and-a-half weeks earlier. And that wasn’t my only delivery to go awry. A scarf I’d sent out via UPS during Hanukkah (which you may remember came fairly early this year) along with some great HerMoney swag, either never made it or were incredibly delayed. If you were similarly frustrated, you should know the problems were widespread. As USA Today reported last week, FedEx ground experienced a 24% jump in business from the year prior, and UPS was up by 13%. The Postal Service struggled with 30,000 of their nearly 650,000 workers contracting COVID. And – as the story noted – they took the brunt of the excess volume because unlike the private companies, they’re not allowed to turn down mail. And while they can turn down packages, they typically don’t. (Who knew?)
Anyway, as you might expect, angry customers blamed small businesses who had promised delivery by the holidays – as well as the delivery services themselves. And I get it. Yes, we know it’s the thought that counts – but if the cards/gifts/etc. don’t arrive, then your recipient might not know they were on your mind in the first place. Still, as the Christmas season has slid into the season of returns, perhaps we can try to just breathe a little, in the hope that someday those wayward gifts will still show up. And, perhaps, because they’ll be unexpected, they’ll be even more welcome.
And as for that check — if you ever discover that a check sent out using online bill payment didn’t arrive, heads up that the process for cancelling it is different than for a handwritten check. You need to call your bank or credit union and start an investigation. Even if your financial institution can confirm that the check wasn’t cashed, they’ll still look into the matter – potentially reaching out to the intended recipient for an interview – to try to find out what happened before they’re able to put the money back in your account. The whole process, I was told, can take up to 10 days. So don’t delay.
And, if you can see via your accounts that bills you’ve paid haven’t landed, call both the creditor and your bank and let everyone know. Late fees have been waived routinely during the pandemic, so don’t be shy about asking if you need it. Perhaps all of this is just the impetus we needed to turn to both electronic billing and direct payments whenever possible.
The Fish Guy
My Philadelphia-based mother and cousin can’t stop talking about The Fish Guy. Shortly after the pandemic began, Robert Aman – whose business, Small World Seafood – had been supplying restaurants, took to the streets and started selling directly to consumers. His prices, because he’s a wholesaler, are amazing. His quality, because he has direct lines to the fishermen, is even better. Every week, he sends out a newsletter outlining what he has, including a few recipes, and asks customers to send him snapshots of their dishes. He even inspired my cousin Steven to learn how to shuck. And he’s not the only one. Here in NY, I get a weekly newsletter from Fable Foods (Fable = Farm to Table) that’s similar in tone and organization. Here’s what’s new this week. If you’re a local, I highly recommend you place your order and schedule your pickup or delivery.
Upstarts like these have likely changed the way we shop – and eat – for good. In addition to buying directly from suppliers, home milk delivery has regained popularity (I’ve got to say – I got milk delivered when my children were young and going through a ton of the stuff, and I don’t know why it ever went away!) Consumers have also become more comfortable with online grocery shopping and home delivery. It’s expected to account for more than ⅕ of all grocery shopping by 2025 – a 60% hike over where it was pre-pandemic. Online shopping with curbside pickup stands to gain, too. As a result, grocery stores themselves will change. Some will be smaller. Others, like restaurants that have opened “ghost kitchens,” won’t welcome customers at all. “Shoppers will select fresh meats, bakery and produce items, while a robot in a backroom fulfillment center picks the shelf-stable items they ordered online ahead of time,” Phil Lempert, The Supermarket Guru predicted to reporter Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz. “I think it will be a much better experience,” he told her.
Friendly Hassle-Filled Skies
Chances are good that by this point in the pandemic, you’ve had to cancel a flight. Maybe even a lot of them. Perhaps you were given a refund for your journey, or, the more likely scenario, a flight credit. A credit sounds straightforward enough, maybe even exciting— when the time comes to take to the skies again, that next trip will seem “free”! — but increasingly, travelers are reporting complicated restrictions, lost money, and limits on voucher value. In this week’s Wall Street Journal, Scott McCartney writes that some airlines are making it incredibly difficult to use the billions of dollars tied up in vouchers for flights cancelled during the pandemic. Figuring out what you have — and when you can use it — is proving to be a Kafkaesque nightmare for many travelers. United, for example, has both travel credits and flight credits. They may sound the same, but how you must use them (and how you can lose them) is completely different. Meanwhile, American has three types of credits: flight credits, travel vouchers and trip credits, and Frontier Airlines just imposed a 90-day rebooking expiration on all of its credits (which may or may not hold up in court).
A little advice for those of us already made weary by all this before even setting foot on a plane: If you’re told you’re going to lose money or that you can’t take the flight you want, be prepared to escalate, escalate, escalate. Write. Call. Ask for a supervisor. Don’t back down (but be nice in your persistence). Then, once your credits are fully redeemed, consider making a permanent switch to Southwest and Delta — these two airlines have flight credit terms that are simple and straightforward, and if we don’t reward the airlines that were there for us when the chips (ahem, planes) were down, what kind of message are we really sending with our 2021 travel dollars? Whether you’re a frequent flyer, or just a regular gal dressed in traditional colonial garb churning butter on the wing, our travel experiences really shouldn’t have to be so stressful.
A Challenge — Should You Choose To Accept It
Maybe back in December you saw our push for HerMoney’s “New Year, New You” financial reset this January, but you were too deep into episodes of Queen’s Gambit or stacks of gingerbread house shingles to care. Well, 2021 is here, it’s real, and it’s (hopefully) spectacular. It’s not too late to sign up to join the rest of our HerMoney community for important financial insights delivered daily to your inbox this January. At the end of the month, the goal is that you’ll have everything you need to tackle the next 11 months with a healthy dose of financial savvy, and a lot of success. You’ve only missed a few days so far, and I’ll catch you up right now:
- How To Finally Get Your Side Hustle Off The Ground
- Those New Home Improvements You Made? You Need To Update Your Homeowner’s Insurance ASAP
- How To Ask For A Promotion Now — Yes, In The Middle Of A Pandemic
- The Six Best Credit Cards For 2021
- Could 2021 Be The Year You Start — And Stick To — A Budget?
Sign up today so you don’t miss tomorrow’s piece — How to freshen up your investment portfolio for 2021.
Have a great week!