Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In which Primo gives Ted a super calm, reasoned explanation of why $875 cash reimbursement for a 25,000 frequent flier miles ticket that the airline charges about one cent apiece for is a bad idea

This is super long, but I want you to read for yourself and realize that Primo is being reasonable, calm, and non-confrontational in his explanation to Ted that he will not be reimbursing Ted $875 for a frequent flier miles ticket that costs $300 on the open market.

Ted,

Regarding your request for a timetable: I called [the financial advisor's] office to check on the status of the trust accounts and spoke to one of his assistants within the past hour. Last week, I filled out multiple forms to open a new account over which I will have control as Trustee and to authorize the transfer of assets from the original trust account into the new account. The new account has been opened, the transfer should occur within the next couple of days, and I should have checks for the new account by the end of next week. It is good that I called today because the checks had not been ordered; they must be sent to my home address and should arrive within a day or two of my arrival there (next Wednesday evening).

You mentioned my "fiduciary duty to our father’s estate regarding his will, his wishes, and [any] codicils he entered into." As specified in the trust document, my fiduciary duty is to the beneficiaries of the trust: your son, Michael, Maria, and Pia. Dad's will exists primarily to sweep any residue of his estate into the trust. You are not mentioned in the will or in the trust document. Jack is not mentioned in the will or in the trust document. I am mentioned in the will only as the Successor Personal Representative, and I am mentioned in the trust document only as the Successor Trustee (and as the contingent beneficiary only if all four grandchildren were to predecease me, which did not occur).

As far as I know, Dad's will had no codicils (and my mother's will also had none). Dad did mention a desire to make some changes to the trust document, but no changes were made. As we know, his demise was sudden and unexpected; we had every reason to believe that his remaining time would be measured in months or (a small number of) years. It is unfortunate that he did not make the changes he had been contemplating, but the documents are what they are.

I am aware that Dad informally expressed some wishes that were not included in his will or in the trust document. His statements expressing those wishes-- regardless of whether they were made verbally or written down in personal letters, emails, or other documents on a computer -- do not have the force of law, but as Personal Representative and Trustee I have been granted sufficient discretion to attempt to satisfy those wishes; for example, I am going to do my best to locate the bracelet that Dad wanted [your wife] to have. 

Regarding your request for reimbursement of your travel costs: Dad mentioned (when I was in the room) that he did not want you to pay for your travel out-of-pocket. Because he reimbursed me for some of my travel costs and expressed a willingness to cover your costs, I assume that his wish applied to your entire family, and as Trustee I am willing to reimburse you for reasonable costs.

I will reimburse you as requested for the car rental, gasoline, parking, and food. Although the amounts for a couple of those dinners seem a bit high (I've eaten only one $50+/person dinner during all of the time I've spent in Florida since Dad's knee surgery, and that was our big family dinner at Dad's funeral), it was certainly reasonable to buy dinner for Jack and for [your friends], who housed you for several nights and were exceptionally nice and helpful to Dad.

Your request for "reimbursement" of more than $3,000 for five one-way domestic coach flights, only one of which was (or should have been) booked at the last minute, is not reasonable.

First, this is not really reimbursement. To reimburse, according to Merriam-Webster, is "to pay someone an amount of money equal to an amount that person has spent." You used 87,500 frequent-flyer miles and spent $114.79 in airline fees, but you are asking for "reimbursement" of $3045 (which should actually have been $3062.50 at 3.5 cents/mile; your number must have been calculated from 87,000 miles instead of 87,500) in addition to the cost of the airline fees.

Second, the price of miles when buying them from the airlines without traveling (3.5 cents/mile) is greatly inflated and is much higher than their actual value, which is generally acknowledged to be in the range of 1 to 2 cents per mile. It is possible for the value of miles to be as high as 2.3 to 2.5 cents each when they are used for international business-class or first-class travel, but for domestic coach travel a reasonable estimate of the value of the miles is 1.5 cents each. It is easy to confirm this on the Internet. Here are two good sets of estimates:
    http://thepointsguy.com/2015/08/august-2015-monthly-valuations/
    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2014/12/07/value-of-miles-and-points-by-airline/

I am willing to "reimburse" you for the flights in one of two ways:
    (1) At 1.5 cents per FF mile plus the fees: 87,500 * 0.015 = $1312.50 + $114.79 = $1427.29
    (2) Based on a reasonable estimate of the costs to purchase the same tickets (i.e., what you would have or should have paid to purchase the same tickets using money instead of miles), as explained below.

Segment 1: [Ted's house to Sly's house] nonstop on United on a Saturday, booked the night before. Last Friday (because we were already discussing this), I checked United's website and found that a coach seat on the same flight you took to see Dad could have been purchased for the next day for $376.10. The price of the same flight for this coming Saturday is quite a bit higher: $521.10, although another nonstop flight on the same day is available for $166.10. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on this segment (because you booked it the night before and thought it was important to arrive in the afternoon, not in the evening) and assign a value of $521.10, which is not far from United's highest price for a coach seat on that route. 

Note that your statement "I used FF miles, which cost approximately 1/2 of last-minute airfares" is not true, at least not according to the value you've tried to assign to your miles (3.5 cents each). You spent 25,000 miles on that one-way flight and requested "reimbursement" of $875 (plus fees) for that segment, suggesting that the last-minute price for that ticket might have been more than $1700! (Even the first-class price is $670.10, which is still not anywhere near $875.)

Segment 2:  [Ted's house to Sly's house] on Delta, booked several days in advance (after you and I agreed that you would depart and I would arrive on that date). For next Tuesday, this routing is available on Delta for $144.60. For the following Tuesday, it's available for $81.60. Even for later today, it's available for $161.60. I cannot reasonably assign a value greater than $161.60 to this segment.

Segment 3: Again, [Ted's house to Sly's house] nonstop on United on a Saturday (for my mother's funeral), but this time you booked at least a few days in advance. As mentioned previously, I found prices for this route ranging from $166.10 to $521.10. I'll once again give you the benefit of the doubt on this segment and assign a value of $376.10, which is for a ticket in one of the higher fare classes I mentioned above.

Segment 4: [Ted's house to Sly's house] (two tickets, for you and for your son) on Delta on a Friday. We agreed on the date for Dad's service three weeks beforehand, so this was or at least should have been booked well in advance. (I booked the flights for GD and me three weeks in advance.) For a week from Friday, multiple flights with this routing are available on Delta for $161.60 per ticket. For Friday,  multiple flights with this routing are available for $211.60 per ticket.  I can reasonably assign this segment a value of $211.60 per ticket.

Using this method, the amount to pay you will be the estimated cost of purchasing the flights using the values assigned above. In each case, I have assigned values that are greater than the lowest prices I found.
Segment 1: $521.10
Segment 2: $161.60
Segment 3: $376.10
Segment 4: $211.60 x 2 tickets = $423.20
Total: $1482.00

Note that:
  • The fees you paid ($114.79) are not included when using this second method, because the ticket prices above include all taxes and fees. (You still come out slightly better with $1482.00 than with $1427.29.)
  • My analysis is consistent with the rule of thumb that FF miles are worth approximately 1.5 cents each, especially because I used relatively high prices for each of your nonstop flights.

Therefore, when I am able to send you a check, it will be for $2492.60. I should be able to send the check approximately ten days from now, so you should expect to have it about two weeks from now.
Breakdown:
  • Air travel: $1482.00
  • Car rental and gasoline: $463.69
  • Parking: $130.00
  • Dinners: $416.91

I've made good progress at the house since arriving here on Sunday night. The biggest news is that C2 was adopted yesterday (thanks to Nadine, the neighbor, who worked with a local animal rescue organization that found him a new home).

Primo

P.S. I use my name at the end of an email to honor the tradition of signing one's name at the end of a letter.

17 comments:

  1. Can I please marry your husband? <3

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  2. Primo has the patience of a saint.

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    1. Yes, although unfortunately, he lets the stress get to him when he is with me. Our biggest fights this year have been me telling him to be pissy with the people who are causing him grief, not with me.

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  3. OK, the Son of Sly's wishes have not been followed to a T. I expect a blistering response from Ted, with a few gratuitous cutting remarks and a free English lesson thrown in. Perhaps there will be some High Drama, as in, "You don't TRUST ME, you think I am INFLATING my charges, YOU ARE SO WRONG, I AM WOUNDED!!" etc. etc.

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    1. It was worse than I imagined. Once again, Ted "Trumps" my expectations of him!

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  4. You are married to the most patient man in existence. I would have already strangled the life out of Ted.

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    Replies
    1. I have already checked the prison time where Ted lives.

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  5. Primo is far more generous than i can imagine. My brother and his whole family made three trips to see our dying mother and a fourth for the funeral - all paid for by .... my brother. Mitchell and I went eight weekends - at our expense - and i went eight additional over-nights - all also at our expense. it's what families do. Hope you and Primo don't have to spend much time with Ted in the future. I suspect you will [literally] NEVER hear the end of Ted's complaining.

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  6. By this time, I would have knocked myself out after repeatedly hitting my head against anything hard and close by; Bless Primo, and I'm 100% sure that his well thought out and reasonable explanation to Ted will not be well received. God, that man is such an asshole.

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  7. IMO, Primo is being very generous to Ted. Perhaps Primo should reimburse himself for whatever amount of his costs that Sly did not already pay for. Or Primo could write to Ted that although he could reimburse himself, he is willing to pass on that because Ted has already taken so much from the grandkids, and he thinks the spirit of Sly's will was to give as much to the grandkids as possible.

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  8. Primo comes off very very VERY well here. Calm, reasonable, generous and kind. Oh, and mannerly too.
    Ted remains an arse. You both have more sympathy from me! J x

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  9. I *love* doing the math down to the last detail and um... waving it in front of somebody's face when they're all hyperbole and overexaggerating.

    Well done, Primo.

    - AC

    P.S. Feel free to point out that since Sly's wishes changed so often, it's actually quite generous of you to attempt to get Ted ANY money rather than making the very reasonable assumption that it is an unknown whether Sly would have followed through with anything he spoke about doing or wanting.

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  10. Primo's response is logical and meticulous - just like you'd expect from an engineer!
    He gets bonus points, though, for expressing his reasoning clearly, AND being polite to Ted!

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  11. Goldie, I love your blog! I'm an attorney and I'm thrilled to read that Primo has given Ted such a reasonable explanation. It should be difficult for Ted to argue with Primo! Merry Christmas!

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  12. Goldie, I used to think that you and Primo were reasonable people who had been slighted by your in-laws. I could totally see where you were coming from and respected that your husband visited them without you because of the break in relations. However, I've been reading your blog for more than a year and I have to say in the last several months you have become the bitch you claim not to be. I could not imagine feeling so put out that my husband was spending time with his family (esp. his parents whom I do not like). Yet you complain about the time he spent with his parents in their last months of very poor health on more than one occasion. Even if you don't like his parents don't your husbands feelings mean something to you?

    And I do not like Ted, at least how you have presented him, as he does seem like a jerk. But I think that you and Primo are wrong here, and I'm glad that when you talked to an attorney they were not in agreement with you about the reimbursement. I see the point you are making that the airline miles aren't worth the 3 cents you have to pay to buy them but that is what it would take to make Ted whole. Where making him whole = the $ amount he would have to pay to get the same amount of points he spent to purchase the flights. I think that the stand you are taking here is because you do not like Ted not because you your math is correct and his is incorrect. With such petty intentions I hope that your book is never profitably published.

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Primo reads this blog, so please keep that in mind in your comments.