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When deals are worth the fight

Marketers can get cute. First come the hooks. Sometimes we bite.

Then come the hoops. Will we jump through enough of them to cash in on the dangled promise?

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A colleague recalls responding with a smile and a shrug when an eye-catching "75 cents off" sticker on a package of chicken didn't register at a food-store checkout.

Turned out that it was a mail-in rebate on some poultry parts. Deduct the cost of postage and he could feel diminishing returns kicking in fast.

Higher-stakes cases can launch a consumer into activist mode.

Recently, an airline on which I had booked a flight was acquired by a bigger carrier.

I've long been enrolled in that bigger carrier's frequent-flier program. The program was boasting that it would recognize miles flown on the bought-out airline.

Seemed like a sealed deal.

My frequent-flier program's customer-service department confirmed this, and told me to fax in copies of my boarding passes.

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But weeks later, the program sent a form asking for clear copies of the passes by mail. It also asked for copies of the full tickets - an extra hoop held very high.

I was ticketed electronically - as the program's administrators know, having seen my fax - so I held those tickets only long enough to walk the few steps from the gate agent's station to the top of the airplane's Jetway. (I didn't pass a photocopier along the way.)

The case remains unresolved. My sense is that I'll ultimately get my miles. But I'll probably be as wrung out from extracting them as I'd be if I had run them.

Today's lead story probes the promise of savings from shopping with discount cards. Consumers can win. But it takes a little work.

Reach us at work@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor