Getting United to pay out for EU-261

If you’ve had a flight delay originating in the EU within the past few years, you probably got a flyer with detailing your rights under EU regulation 261. Without getting into the details, it requires airlines to compensate passengers in cash for delays starting at 250€ and going up to 600€, depending on distance and length of delay.


Our flight out of CDG in January was canceled due to a mechanical problem and rebooked for the following day. We were given a flyer about EU-261, and so sent a message through the customer service form on their website that day. After about a month, I received a letter saying that unfortunately, our situation did not qualify for compensation but that I would be granted a $175 voucher for my next flight on United. I declined. I went back and forth with United a couple of times via snail mail and they sent a letter saying that the mechanical issue was “force majeure” (an act of god) and thus exempt from EU-261 payouts — end of story: “We consider this issue closed.”

I didn’t stop there. I contacted the FAA. They responded that they would investigate. N contacted the French equivalent of the FAA. He heard back that they agreed that United should pay out under the regulation, but that they would need to contact United. After that, we heard nothing for months, so we didn’t hold out much hope.

Change of CEO

In September 2015, Oscar Munoz was named the new CEO of United. With new leadership, I think they re-examined EU-261 claims and I was contacted out of the blue in October with a new offer: a $1000 travel voucher, 30K United miles, or 600€. I filled out the form and sent it off — I should be getting cash in the form of prepaid debit cards within the month.

How this affects you

If you haven’t yet received a new email from United about a declined EU-261 claim you believe is valid, it may be time to contact them again. Just send them the same information you sent originally through customer service messaging on and they will take another look at your case. I can’t be sure whether it was the CEO change or the FAA or the French FAA, but it’s worth a try! 250-600€ for 5-10 minutes of your time? Why not.

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Citi AT&T Access More card with Sprint mvno

Citi has a credit card that comes with a $650 bonus after $2000 spend. The catch? It can only be earned towards the purchase of a phone directly from AT&T. So, if you were considering an iPhone 6s or something, getting this card would bring your total bill down to about $100+tax for the 16GB model. Not bad! But the cheapest plans on AT&T cost around $50 a month. What if you are on Virgin or Ting or RingPlus and you’re already happy with your service? Here’s what you do. Note: I have personally done all of the following, but used this Flyertalk thread as my guide. After buying the phone you want from AT&T, do this:

1. Immediately unlock it. Before opening the box or powering the phone on. Go to AT&T’s unlock request page. Once you agree to the terms and conditions, fill out the info from your phone on the next page, and for “customer type” choose “Non-AT&T Mobility customer” — it means you don’t have an account with AT&T. Now wait for the unlock email. Mine arrived within minutes of submitting the request. Follow the steps in the email to unlock your phone.

2. Activate AT&T service on it using a friend or family member’s account. To get the $650, you have to activate and keep service for 15 days. It’s ok if you don’t keep your friend’s SIM card in your phone for the entire 15 days*. Your new phone just has to be activated on AT&T’s network for it to count towards the bonus.

My network is Virgin Mobile. I already had a SIM card specifically for an iPhone 6s, but the website “swap a handset” functionality didn’t work. I kept getting “Invalid sim” or “No sim” or “Could not activate cellular data”. If you get these messages, it’s because your device is not on the Sprint whitelist. No amount of messaging Virgin Mobile through email, Facebook, or even calling them will help you. They will escalate to the tech department and tell you that they can only activate replacement iPhones directly from the Apple store, not unlocked phones. They will tell you that your phone is not in their database and that it’s impossible to add it. Do not deal with Virgin Mobile or any other Sprint mvno directly. Just do this:

3. Walk into any Sprint store and ask a manager “Can you put my phone into your system?” The manager will ask to see your phone’s info (IMEI/MEID/ESN, which will be in Settings > General > About on an iPhone), and enter it into their system which is called DNA 2. This will take about 20 seconds.

Now your phone will be recognized by any Sprint mvno.** Congratulations! Now your you can pay $9.99 (or less) for service on your shiny new iPhone that you got for $100!

* I don’t have proof of this, but there are reports that as long as service isn’t canceled within 15 days, you’re good to go.

** A similar process will probably work for Verizon mvnos but I have not tried it.

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But, does it scale?

I’m back to report good news on the $5 Challenge: I sold the two Bodum glass containers for $40 each for a total of $80. After $18.32 in fees and an initial cost of $3.98, that’s a net profit of $57.70!

The next question you and everyone will ask is “Yes, but does it scale?” The answer is, of course, no — but it doesn’t matter. The thing about retail arbitrage is that while you may be able to get deals that you can buy more of than just 1 or 2, most of the time, those deals don’t even scale up a single degree of magnitude. When there are good deals on eBay, most are limited to 2-5 per purchaser. There are mystery buying limits at Best Buy, Staples, Saks, Macy’s and many other retailers. Even if there weren’t, you would soon hit other limits: credit limits, limits on how much time and space you have to repackage and send your inventory to FBA or customers, etc.

To be truly scalable, we would have to find items of ever increasing values with the same margins and that sell as frequently as our current items sell. After iPads at around $500, can you think of much else that consumers buy regularly? Anything that’s even 1 order of magnitude more expensive? No, not really.

When starting out, I wouldn’t worry about whether things scale or not. If you’re able to find items that will net you $50 of profit every time you step foot in a Goodwill, and you like going to Goodwill, don’t let the issue of non-scalability bother you. On the other hand, once you find a better place with more consistent (or bigger) profits, you will naturally prefer to do your sourcing there. But you have to start somewhere, so don’t be discouraged that whatever you’re doing doesn’t scale. Just keep your eyes open for other opportunities as well when you’re scouring those estate sales and Salvation Armys.

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Sears collects tax on tax-exempt 3rd party purchases

Some background: when I started reselling a few months back, I did an iPad deal that I saw on Oren’s Money Saver. I purchased 3 iPads and my total came up to $1419.19 with tax. Imagine my surprise when I received the iPads and the invoice from the 3rd party seller for $1305: my total with no sales tax added. That makes sense: the seller is based in NY and doesn’t collect sales tax in my state. So why did Sears charge me tax?

July 29: After several emails back and forth, Sears agreed to refund the difference of $114.19 in the form of a mailed gift card, which would take 7-14 business days to arrive.

August 20: No gift card yet, so I emailed Sears again asking for an update. They respond that the gift card is “pending” and they’ll investigate and get back to me within 24-48 hours.

August 24: No followup, so I emailed Sears again asking for an update.

August 31: The supervisor of the email team responds,

First off let me say that you were given misinformation about the taxes on this order. Which I’m sorry that it happened to you.Tax are never refunded unless a person or a company are tax exempt and have the certificate, or they live in a tax free state.

This was never the issue: tax was not supposed to be charged in the first place, as the seller does not collect sales tax in my state. However, she did conclude the email with

I have forwarded the request to our gift card department to issue the gift card of $114.19 that you were promised. It will arrive at your mailbox in 7 to 14 business days.

October 19: The promised gift card has STILL not made its appearance, so it’s pretty clear that Sears is giving me the runaround and hoping that I will just go away. I emailed them one more time, requesting a check instead of a gift card because I am no longer interested in being a Sears customer. We’ll see how that goes.

I am not holding my breath on this one, but in case you were getting into reselling, these are my experiences with Sears. Dealing with their customer service might not be worth your time.

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Selling to Saveya could be risky

Since there are so many gift card reselling websites, it’s good to know which ones are reliable, and which ones would be better to avoid. Saveya has some of the highest rates for reselling, but I am cautious about using them going forward because I, and several others I’ve talked to, have been having issues with them.

Shipping problems

I have tried twice in the past month to ship gift cards to Saveya because they had the best rates for reselling some gas gift cards. Unfortunately, all gas gift cards need to be mailed in. This is usually not a problem, but with Saveya, the same shipment has run into problems twice now.

Here’s the timeline on the first attempt:

August 14 – gift cards shipped to Saveya via USPS
August 18 – USPS reports “Undeliverable as Addressed
August 29 – USPS reports “Moved, Left no Address
Sept 12 – gift cards returned to me

I emailed customer service, and they confirmed that the address was correct, but added “I sent this to our fulfillment center to look into. I will say we always suggest FedEx and not USPS.” I had not seen or heard that suggestion anywhere before the email. So, I was told to ship it again — that there shouldn’t be issues. I tried again, with a printed address label — I had handwritten the first. FedEx? I wasn’t going to pay $9 or whatever, when my margin was already low.

This time, USPS reported that “no secure delivery location was available“. No secure delivery location at 11:25 on a Friday morning — seems strange for a business. No mail box, no front desk? The first attempt took more than a month — that should’ve been my lesson. But now I’m for sure done with shipping cards to Saveya.

Depleted gift cards

My friend sfoflyer had an issue with selling gift cards electronically. Here’s the story in his words:

I sold 2 GAP gift cards to SaveYa, and they required me to enter the card number and PIN to verify the balance of each card. After I entered them, their website verified that the gift cards had the correct balance. Since I received a confirmation email, I thought it was done deal and I just had to wait for my check in the mail. I received my check 4 days later, then a week later SaveYa charged my credit card $120. I called their customer service — they didn’t know and had no clue and couldn’t help, really the worst customer service. I filed a dispute with my credit card company, then 2 weeks later SaveYa emailed me that the reason they charged my credit card was because “one of the gift cards balance was depleted”. It doesn’t make sense, because they charged me the full $120, which is what I was paid for both gift cards. I called customer service again, but it was the same….all the reps were completely clueless and unhelpful. So I just have to wait and hope Amex sides with me on this dispute.

Staples bait and switch

Esther of ‘dem flyers tried to sell Staples gift cards to Saveya after verifying with customer support that they do accept mailed print-outs of e-gift cards. She shipped the printouts, and when Saveya received them, they emailed her saying “Sorry, we only accept physical gift cards” and shipped them back to her. Here’s her experience:

I was supposed to be paid 93% per card and I sent in 39 printouts. Took me 20 min to print them all out because I had to click each link in a new tab.

It was a one day only rate and I confirmed by email the next day that it was ok to match the rate because I had submitted the order and that I could send in printouts.

Saveya responded

The purchase order saveya-[...] has e-certificates.  I know we discussed this prior to you sending them in; however, our system only accepts codes, not e-certificates.  I apologize and will be sending these back via FedEx for Wednesday delivery.

Esther also notes that her experience with customer service is frustrating because despite her status as a bulk seller, they never respond to her first email, requiring her to follow up with a second email every time she has a concern.


If nothing else, dealing with Saveya could be a waste of your time. But, with their non-transparent policies on depleted gift cards (Do they do an investigation? Do they contact the issuer and not just the customer who may be claiming fraudulently that the gift card has no value?), it could be a waste of money too. With so many gift card reselling sites competing for business, Saveya will have to do a lot better to stay competitive. I hope that they will start by investing in a mailbox that USPS can access, doing thorough investigations before charging seller’s credit cards and making their rules clear and consistent.

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The $5 Challenge

I found $5 blowing past me while walking down Clement street. No one was chasing it, so it was mine. I was so inspired, I came up with the $5 challenge. I’m going to track this $5 and see how much I can make out of it by buying and flipping things. Of course, the actual spend went on a credit card, and this inspirational runaway bill is being saved for posterity, but you get the picture. Here’s a picture. Of the actual $5 bill I found

My first transaction was these two Bodum Yohki glass storage containers (68 oz) for $1.99 each

and this vintage red Dymo labeller for $0.99

I’ve posted them for sale, and we’ll see where this goes.

Total spent: $4.97
Total earned: $0.00
Total remaining: $0.03

Feel free to join me with your own $5 challenge if it would amuse you.

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Maximize Discover Cashback Redemptions

I read, with interest, about the possibility of getting more than the cash value of your cashback from Discover from Miles Per Day. The method mentioned by his readers involves being a bulk seller on a certain exchange though, and I’ve just started in the world of MS about a month ago, so I’m not quite there yet.

I’ve found a method that is maybe even more lucrative. It’s more complicated and less instant though. But if you have patience, you don’t need bulk seller status. Discover Cashback also has $50 Overstock e-gift cards available for $45. Okay, so you’re looking at Giftcardwiki and seeing that you only get 75% and you paid 90%. But wait! There’s more.


You can sell these on Raise very easily for $49.50 — I’ve even made sales for the full $50. The downside is that Raise takes 15% of the sale price. So, at a sale price of $49.50, you’re getting $42.08. Okay, still losing money. But wait! Here comes the fun.


If you click through TopCashBack before you sell on Raise, they’re offering $10 cash back on gift cards listed for sale with value of $50 or more.

The math

$45 for $50 Overstock gc from Discover Cashback = -$45
$42.08 paid by Raise for selling Overstock gc for $49.50 = -$2.92
$10 paid by TopCashBack for listing gc of $50+ value = $7.08

Overall, you’re making $7.08 extra for each $45 redeemed in the Discover Cashback store. That’s about 15% more than if you took the cash. If you had $1000 in Discover Cashback to spend, you’d end up with $1150 instead. The downside is that it takes Raise about 5 weeks to pay out, and it may take a couple of weeks for your gift cards to sell on Raise. If you’re not in any hurry, this is very little extra work for a 15% boost to your bottom line!

These are my referral links for Raise and TopCashBack. Of course, you’re not at all obligated to use them, but I’m grateful if you choose to:

Raise ($5 off your first purchase)
Discover IT card application ($50 bonus cashback with first purchase)

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Cefalu and Isola di Ortigia

This is a the balcony of our rental near Palermo. Having meals with fat bumble bees and watercolor sunsets made me want to stay forever.

We took a day trip to Cefalu

There was a defense wall along the sea, and a path along it just on the water’s edge

Everyone wanted their picture beneath these arches

The old aqueduct system was accessible and the water, freezing cold. Refreshing!

Sort of attached to Syracuse is a small island called Ortigia.

On the recommendation of our host, we sought out the sandwiches made of smoked mozzarella. I watched in doubt as he made the sandwich: sun-dried tomatoes, prosciutto, smoked fresh mozzarella, then thin sliced lemon — with the rind, olives, mushrooms and mystery sauce. I shouldn’t've worried though. Best sandwich ever.

The magic of this island is that there are basically no cars. Just Vespas

And a beautiful old square

At night, one of the restaurants filled the night with old white people music, the pleasant kind: Frank Sinatra.

At one end, there was a fortress. Too bad, it was closed by the time we got there. So I peeked through the gate to get this pic

I was negligent and didn’t get pictures of our pizza from Mario’s pizza. We were proud of ourselves for eating at a place that wasn’t at all popular with tourists. And it was cheap. About 5 euros for the whole meal.

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Buy Yerdle Credits

Yerdle sells credits in-app, if you haven’t earned enough from giving away your things to get the things you want, but they sell at a rate of $1 = 1YRD (Yerdle Reuse Dollar). I’m offering you a better deal. $1 = 5YRD. That’s right — so if you want to buy $20 worth of Yerdle credits, you will get 100YRD.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Go to your Yerdle account and post a random item from your home with no description and the title “RESERVED”. Make the price the number of Yerdle credits you want to buy from me. So if you want to buy 100YRD, make the price 100. Be sure to make the post “Pickup only” by disabling the shipping option.

2. Pay for your Yerdle credits through Paypal:

Yerdle credits, Price

3. Be sure to include with your payment that has a link to the item you posted for me. I will buy your item and mark as received as soon as payment clears.

Not ready to buy? That’s ok. I’m feeling nice so here’s 25 free Yerdle credits:

PUZZLES (worth 5 credits)
ProPageLove (worth 15 credits)
MAMMAMIA (worth 5 credits)

See? I just gave you 25 YRD for free. Think of me when you’re considering buying Yerdle credits on an item you can’t quite afford.

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Mystery Shopping

Note: this post contains affiliate links, and while I greatly appreciate it if you use them, you are not at all obligated to do so. Thank you for reading!

One idea for a job that comes close to an Ideal Job is mystery shopping. Here, I’ll review a couple of companies that I’ve worked for.

Ace Mystery Shopping

payment frequency: monthly via Dwolla 

Ace jobs are mostly of the “menu audit” variety. They pay $7-$14 for you to visit a cafe or casual dining restaurant and take pictures of all the menus and food items available. Highly recommended if you have errands to run nearby, or if you can do several in one go. The shops are extremely quick — snap a few photos, upload them to the Ace website, and you’re done! No purchase or conversation or evaluation needed. Payments are issued around the 20th of the month for the shops you completed the previous month.


payment frequency: per job within a week of completion via check

Bestmark jobs are more involved. You usually have to visit a business, make a purchase and review the customer service received. But for the added trouble, you are usually paid more and/or reimbursed for expenses. For example, you could be paid $45 to go to one store and shop in 3 different departments. The best opportunity with Bestmark is free auto service. There are shops where you bring your car in for an oil change or tire replacement, and you get paid $20-50 on top of being reimbursed for the actual service. Other opportunities include restaurants, hotel stays, even events like the symphony or opera.

Goodwin Hospitality

payment frequency: 60-90 days after shop completion, via PayPal

Goodwin shops are mostly quick service restaurant shops, and the pay is enough to cover your required order, but not much else. Sometimes there are bonuses so you might expect to make $10 on top of your reimbursement, but that’s still not much when compared to other companies and also in light of the detailed feedback you are required to give. I would recommend Goodwin only if you like the restaurants or were planning to eat there anyway — think of it as a free meal in exchange for feedback.


This is an app and website through which you can access jobs from multiple mystery shopping companies. Payment frequency will vary, but it’s neat to be able to access dozens of companies from one website. I’m hoping this becomes more popular with the mystery shopping companies so that one day we’ll only have to go through one website.

I’ve signed up with a few other companies, but I don’t have experience with them yet, so I’ll update this post as I learn more about each company.

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