Is it possible to take the quest for points too far??


How much is too much when it comes to the searching for more points for less money? Is there even such a thing? It seems that finding that line – and choosing to not cross it – is becoming a harder and harder challenge for many. In pretty much every situation where there is a “too good to be true” deal it is because someone made a mistake. A missing digit or a misclassified product code or something of that nature. And there are some who feel that the only appropriate response is to buy in bulk. Not just to support the next trip or to get a few points. I’m talking about buying 40 or 50 tickets on a mistake fare. Or trying to buy hundreds of millions of points at a 90%+ discount.

That’s right: HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS.

And, not surprisingly, once the mistake was discovered, the vendors weren’t too keen on paying out those points. Naturally, a lawsuit has resulted. Filed in mid-October, the suit seeks to compel US Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and the companies which operated their online shopping portals to deliver somewhere between 180-200,000,000 points to a group of 26 customers who took advantage of the situation.

There are a couple familiar names on the plaintiff’s list, some who are known for taking deals to the extreme and some who have routinely suggested that when mistake fares don’t get honored that’s the way it is. And now they are joined in the lawsuit, suggesting they might actually feel otherwise when it is their personal benefit at stake.

My view on the situation is a simple one: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

The people who take a deal to the extreme are, in general, doing no one any favors. And they’re doing a disservice to the communities that they claim to be members and supporters of. A shame, really. Rather than representing the frequent flyer community as rational, motivated customers they just appear greedy and selfish.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

57 Comments

  1. Yes I saw the list of names on there and particularly the first one, the founding of father of this very site right here. I am fairly sure in public he’d be saying it was a nice ride but no point in pushing. And we all heard he was such a nice guy? 🙂 Just kidding. But very interesting case.

    While I do agree with your sentiment in general, I do feel these companies need to be held accountable someway, and the lack of any regulatory framework and the murky waters they operate in anyway means litigation is sadly the only way to deal with it.

    I am sure they will end up getting some kind of reasonable settlement to make it go away.

  2. Slimy and tacky. I always knew these people were out there, but it’s a petty world they live in.

  3. Pretty sad, really. If Randy is going to choose to throw his weight behind some causes, I certainly can’t understand why it would be this one.
    I wonder if HA/US will suspend the accounts of the defendents, as they don’t want to do business with them or something along those lines

  4. I don’t always agree with WA (Seth) but I certainly do on this. I fear we are approaching the “S&H Green Stamps” phase of point collecting, with a giant bubble burst sure to follow.

    1. At least one of them is, oneeyejack.

      I also think that there is a difference between the pudding situation – where the company bought the miles and knew what the cost of the marketing effort should be – and where a group of 26 people expects a web hosting company to pay a commission to a 3rd party for sales which were not commissionable or where they expect that same 3rd party vendor to take the hit when they don’t get paid the commission.

  5. What I am about to say will meet with the scorn of many on this site and others…

    The whole community has completely unraveled in the last few years. I think it’s partly the airlines allowing customers to game them, but a large part of the blame goes to the frequent fliers who have shown a complete and utter abdication of moral standards. Don’t get me wrong…I like a deal as much as the next guy, but I have never bought coins from the mint, purchased a mistake fare, or opened an AMEX Bluebird account. I have never been to Home Depot and I don’t own an Ink or Bold account in conjunction.

    As a husband and father of 2, I can’t fathom the time that some folks spend on making Home Depot runs, transferring money from here to there and stopping at ATMs. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t pull that off from a time perspective.

    The level of effort some display to game the system to the tune of millions of miles is truly pathetic for me to watch from the sidelines. I don’t even think it’s necessarily wrong to participate in a too-good-to-be-true deal, but if it doesn’t go through, then let’s move on.

    Certain bloggers have remained above the fray (WA/Seth being one of them), but I have lost complete respect for certain others. Frugal Travel Guy, Dan of Dan’s Deals, Randy Petersen, and Steve Belkin come to mind. While they might be nice folks in person, their cunning and opportunist nature is so disgusting to me that I would have zero interest in ever meeting them in the first place.

    Increasingly, I find myself completely “turned off” by the creepy, selfish deal seeking that some seem to engage in 24/7.

    I suspect that this lawsuit, and others will soon ring in a new era where mileage will be far more difficult to earn again because the financial institutions that are underwriting this endeavor are taking it in the shorts. At some point, they will wise up.

  6. I think the issue of “unilateral mistake” will come up, and a court would likely find that these are savvy travelers who knew, or should have known of that mistake.

  7. Can someone post FT handles too so I know which idiots to avoid? Clearly Randy is a big one.

    I really wish this gets dismissed with prejudice and that the judge gives the plaintiffs a dressing down. Or even better, the companies should post the miles and then US and HA should close the accounts for abuse or unprofitability after changing the T&Cs, which I am sure can be changed without notice. As much as I hate the airlines, these guys deserve it.

  8. Really? Randy? I don’t personally know him, but this disappoints me. A lot. Thanks for this eye opener.

    It’s also interesting that Gary of View from a Wing wrote this LONG blog post about the suit with ever mentioning that his buddy/business partner is #1 on list of plaintiffs.

    http://blog.wandr.me/viewfromthewing/2012/10/29/frequent-flyers-sue-us-airways-and-hawaiian-airlines-over-200-million-miles-uncredited-from-shopping-portal-transactions/

    I don’t know any of the other names, but it would be interesting to see them mapped to FT/MP handles. I am sure I’d recognize some of those.

  9. Their behaviour also disgusts me. Unfortunately, greed has taken over the world. The CEO’s and other greedy leaders of this world are even admired and almost deified for exactly such behaviour.

  10. All good comments and all true. These people were greedy and they don’t represent my flyer community. I agree with all of the above I hope their accounts are closed. You’re quote about pigs and hogs are so true and these are fat hogs!

  11. I guess some of the true colors are revealed here…. It might have once been about sharing to the community but the last years have been just about personal greed for a lot of these people. Nothing wrong about using a mistake fare once in a while, but these sheer volumes are just ridiculous.

    Closing of accounts seems prudent. Blacklisting these people seems the only way to rid us of these kinds of behaviour.

  12. @Gerard. Part of the problem is that this whole game has become mainstream. It’s not just fringe folks doing this anymore. It’s everybody that has a credit card. While the bloggers pump the pipeline full of miles while earning referral credits, they sell their award booking services at the other end of the funnel because it is getting too difficult for many to keep track of their miles and redeem them. They are playing this game at several levels of the profiteering scale.

  13. That’s why I also dislike a lot of the bloggers. Not so much for taking advantage of the credit card referrals, but for generating all these useless post that are just aimed at promoting the referrals. And for presenting themselves as a generous sharer while just being in it for personal gain.

    And now I’m starting to see more and more reviews where a stay or flight is comped. That’s the next step in giving up any values, writing about something you have gotten for free with the sole purpuse of generating a favourable review.

  14. Great analysis Seth. Thanks for staying true to the community. You run probably the only blog left that has any integrity.

    I can’t stand Million Mile Secrets & Frugal Travel Guy.

  15. Flyer Talk, Milepoint– are a financial cow to Randy , Gary and others. Also they are both a waste of time, once any thing is written about there it is history. Some bloggers i still enjoy reading for honesty and creativity , mainly Seth,s Wandering Aramean and Frequent Miler.

  16. Where is the line? what if you buy 1 ticket? How about 5, 10 tickets? How about if you get 25,000 points at discount?
    What is moral standards? Your moral standard or my moral standards?
    GREED is the name of the game, I didn’t invented the game just trying to be one of the best players.

  17. I was saddened the other day to see the names on the lawsuit… The lawsuit culture is appearing as the hogs grow in number :(, but to see the Steve and Randy plus a few so far low key folks (some of the Norwegians are behind former scanair.no) join in was shocking. Even more disturbing is that some of them are mileage and even dollar millionaires, so the miles they tried to earn were certainly not for personal use :p
    I guess now that the collective attracts about half a million readers the few percent of geeks and freaks on one end of the spectrum number in their thousands, so no end is in sight and the battles will get worse plus the good tricks will move more underground to prevent a blogger having his 15min of dubious fame.

  18. Hmmm, here’s a take on this: It sounds to me like there are some jealous people in here–starting with the person who wrote this blog post.

    The issue for me is more about: Will a company (like the airlines, the company with the product to sell and the malls in this case) actually make good on its advertised service? And then, if they should have thought of ways to deal with issues BEFORE putting such ads and deals on the table inviting people to consume?

    The actual amount in question is less a factor if you think about it–it just makes for a case that will finally hopefully answer those questions above.

    Maybe people may say that those who were buying in through this offer could have shown some sort of constraint, but who here is to say exactly what that is and why? We are all consumers. You are a company who is selling widgets and I want to buy widgets. Unless there are limits, why would I stop buying widgets if doing so is somehow seen as good for me and my needs (unless it’s illegal or unhealthy, which is not the case here)?

    Think about it people: It doesnt matter who bought in or how many they are trying to get out of it… a company failed huge and when that happens you try to reason with them but when they wont assist you simply use the institutions and agencies this country has in place to further such actions. That’s all this is. No one is sue happy, it just is such a big amount I believe it makes sense to go there.

  19. Just curious as to where people see the moral line — is it making a whole bunch of purchases to get the bazillions of miles, or is it suing to get the deal honored?

    I probably wouldn’t have done the purchases (although I always think I _should_ get in on things like that). But I definitely wouldn’t sue. It’s pretty clear that it wasn’t intended to result in the distribution of so many miles — it was an accident or oversite somewhere along the way.

    On the other hand, companies should not advertise what they cannot provide and they should stand behind their advertised specials. If this lawsuit forces the “industry” to better police themselves (even though it may well result in smaller bonuses) then I suppose something good will have come from it.

  20. The only thing a lawsuit like this will do is prevent onthers from making ANY offers. So we all lose.

    Sure, companies should be accountable for their mistakes. But it should still have some relationship between what was offered and what the “damage” is. Getting something for practically nothing, knowing this and still trying to abuse an obvious mistake is questionable at least and should not be rewarded.

    So go ahead bankrupt these stupid shopping portals but also blacklist these people in ever participating in any loyalty program again.

  21. Part of it is that some of the people in the suit, are supporting it, are FF community personalities who in the past have scolded others for thinking of legal or regulatory action when a mistake or
    Deal goes sour. They preach “if it works out, great, but if not, let it go” Now that they are impacted, different story.

  22. So I wonder… would Randy have sued American, United, Hyatt or one of the other programs that his companies seem to regularly do business with (MegaDo, MP Premium Membership, …) if it had been their name on the Mall that had these offers?

  23. It’s a sales contract and if the vendor fails to perform, I don’t see why the other side is on immoral ground to take action to protect its right.

    Thats the purpose of the law. Isn’t it?

    1. @king: Most contract law allows for exclusion of obvious mistakes. That is likely to come into play during the lawsuit. Moreover, it is generally not possible to coerce performance versus a refund. You an claim damages – and that’s what this suit is seeking – but it is hard for me to believe that they’ll be able to convince a jury that the real damages of getting their money back and not getting the miles will be significant.

      @warren: Not sure where it sounds like I’m jealous but I can assure you that’s not the case. I have no reason to be jealous of an effort to “teach someone a lesson” for making a mistake, a lesson which very well may put them out of business. If you can make the claim that the company was acting with malicious intent or actively trying to screw people somehow then maybe there is a reason to fight them. But that hardly seems the case here, at least to me.

      As for making good on the advertised service, again I’ll ask to what extent? Should United have been compelled to honor the obvious mistake of 4 mile tickets to HKG? I do not think so. I actually think that the current DoT regulations are a step too far on this front, preventing most obvious errors from being reasonably addressed.

      Looking at it from a different perspective, if you ran a factory selling widgets and you loaded up your sales system to sell the $30 widgets for $0.30 one day and someone ordered 10,000 of them would you honor the deal? Would you take that $3MM loss? It is nice to think that the answer is, “well, don’t make mistakes then.” Reality is that mistakes happen all the time. The oft-repeated view that somehow just because someone else made a mistake I am entitled to benefit from that mistake is unfortunate. That some people take it to extremes – we’re talking about tens of thousands of transactions, not just one or two – makes it even less likely that the deal will be honored.

      And now there is a lawsuit. Either the lawsuit is because they think they deserve it or because they think it will encourage the other side to settle in their favor. Neither is particularly pretty to me.

      Maybe it is a gray area, but I do firmly believe there is a line out there somewhere. I take advantage of sales when I see them. I take advantage of mistakes sometimes, too. I’ve had great trips thanks to those. But I’m not in it to bankrupt the companies. That’s too greedy IMO.

  24. @Oliver – I bet not!

    @King – But if the vendor didn’t deliver, isn’t the normal recourse a refund of the purchase price?

  25. I bought 42$ worth of stuff for a “Million miles” when the AA shopping mall came up a year ago for 87650 miles for each purchase. Got only 2500 miles and was happy – done with it, 1.7 cpm cost. Next time, I would get just 3$ worth for 2500 miles.

    I think expecting a Million miles will not succeed, but if it does, it will shut down the shopping mall segment.

    Also in full disclosure, I did get Track it Back in 2009, after US confirmed that it will honor the purchases. Should have done more!

  26. if the vendor wanted to refund in this case, it was because they realized they messed up and did not want to pay out on what was advertized. hence, they reneged and backed out of a contract. If it happens the other way around, are they going to let me out of it? I think not. We all know that.

    As for this potentially ruining malls for miles, GOOD! These malls are shams and many here know they often fail to pay out and make huge mistakes costing flyers hundreds of thousands of dollars in time and miles lost if all added together (no way of knowing this but you could estimate it). They need a revamping anyway. If something like this forces this to happen, so be it. If bonuses get lower as a result, well maybe that’s good too: I personally would welcome a lower bonus that was guaranteed to post than a higher bonus that may or may not sometimes and oh well we didn’t ‘intend’ for you to get that! sorry! Again, just think if the shoe were on the other foot.

    1. Yes, warren, imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. Would you honor a mistake which was about to cost you a million dollars and potentially bankrupt your company? The attitude of entitlement – that someone is due a benefit when another party makes a mistake – is just ugly.

  27. @seth. It just sounded to me as though you were wishing you were part of this deal and are maybe upset because you weren’t. But if that’s not the case, so be it.

    I just think that in the widget example, it can often come down to how things are handled. For all we know, one or more entity involved in this case had no ability to reason with the plaintiffs so they had to go to court, where such matters are often solved. Like a divorce court maybe: Two parties could amicably agree to split up and end the relationship, give back the Beatles albums, still be facebook friends but just no longer married, etc etc, OR they can come to a point where they fight tooth and nail for everything including the kitchen sink. Maybe in this case it was more like the latter one. Who knows. Had the widget company been really truly sorry and found a way to honor something somehow early on and tried to act like they cared or agree it was a mistake and said omg we want to reach out and offer this or that please accept it in lieu of our mistake, then I bet most humans would ‘let them off the hook.’ We don’t know if that happened here–for all we know the entities involved immediately blamed the customer and did what most airline mall entities do and became unwilling to assist in any way whatsoever (which is why they really need a punch in the nose and a good change!) We also don’t know who got what/expects what in this deal or how much of the pie.

    For that, I guess it’s best to stop the speculation and finger pointing and let the courts figure it out. After all, that’s what they are for, right?

    1. I do know that there were conversations between all parties over a series of months prior to the suit being filed. Obviously the claimants felt they are due more than the companies were willing to offer. I do not know the exact details of the proposed settlement but I know that there were discussions.

      And while I agree that acting like you care makes for better customer service, there is very much a difference between customer service and contract law. When I was asked about this topic by one of the claimants over a year ago I suggested that I thought they might get a customer service offering from the companies but not to expect more than that. Apparently whatever was offered wasn’t enough.

  28. All this hipocrisy. US new religion? You are a thief if you steal 1 million miles, but not if you steal only 1 mile? Either you dont do these deals at all, or you do it to your personal level. Lots of mini judges and mini Gods here. Get over it move on to the next deal!

  29. @warren terra: As far as I know easyCGI has a 30 day money back guarantee. So yes, if you buy anything from them by mistake or whatever – you can get a refund.

    There are a couple of things that I don’t know: Did the plaintiffs at least get a refund of their money? Because if not, I would mosf likely sue as well. They have put in a bunch of money upfront.

  30. I am not sure if things were refunded or not or if that even matters. But like I said before… if they wer quickly backed out or refunded to ‘get out of it’ and then the company claims some sort of supposed fraud to ‘get out of it’ and then also claims they have nothing to do with it, then that is bad news and they should answer to a higher power for this move. I have seen such things go this way. Am curious how this one went.

    If you make up a reason to toss me out of your store and throw my money at me, does that make whatever happened right and over? I came here to buy this so I could do that. But once I showed I could do it, you back out and I get booted. Why?

  31. VOTE @AAExPlat FOR PRESIDENT ON NOVEMBER 6!

    When, at some point in the next five years, the era of frequent flyer windfalls without flying becomes constricted, and the lavish bonuses we now enjoy dry up, we will look back at this lawsuit as the beginning of the end. Greed got the better of some of us – and, one way or another, all of us will pay.

    As always, @Seth is spot on.

  32. Its a well established fact that the malls are constantly gaming customers, and literally owe zillions of miles that actually no one could legally contest. But they are big and powerful, and you hit your head against a wall trying to fight them. All milesplayers should be eternal grateful that someone dare to step up, and maybe tip the balance, eventually benefitting all making them honor their obligations. It might be perceived as going far or even too far, but dont the malls deserve this? Wonder how many hipocrats booked RGN tickets?

  33. I wouldn’t sue over something like this, but I think somebody should take the malls up to task for a fiasco like this. Every time a “mistake” like this happens companies point fingers, a wand is waved and nothing happens. Too often companies enforce terms and conditions only at their benefit.

    I agree with standing up for the principle, hopefully there will be fewer fiasco’s and more company responsibility. I do think they are greedy, but they’re still on higher moral ground than the malls.

  34. I agree with the majority here who feel some people just go too far and risk ruining things for everyone. This particular lawsuit is nonsense, and I hope it gets thrown out of court. Selfishness run amok, I’m afraid. There are plenty of legitimate offers that are well worth pursuing and can make for a nice run of flights and hotels. Excessive greed will be our downfall.

  35. OK, I get my puny miles from BIS flying and have no idea how to get more than a trivial # of miles from shopping and don’t even WANT to know…but are you really suggesting that it is somehow illegal, immoral, and fattening to try to pursue a dispute in a court of law? If people don’t go to court when they have a dispute over something worth millions of dollars, then it is VERY bad for consumers, because it sends a message that consumers will just give up any time there is real money at stake. How does that help the deal seeker? These so-called greedy people are doing our work for us — work we are, for the most part, too busy to do — and they are being called names for doing it. I’m not gonna play for points and I’m not gonna litigate over points but SOMEONE has to do it or the game will get “fixed” in the interest of the corporation, not the consumer. A game without a referee quickly becomes an unfair game. Mr. Peterson and co. apparently want an unbiased referee (a judge or jury) to make the decision about whether or not to award the points. How is that greedy? Seems perfectly reasonable to me. If the consumers won/earned/bought the points in accordance with the T&Cs, they should get the points, or a judge (NOT the greedy company which wants to hold back the points) should explain why not. How is that unfair? Lawsuits don’t kill deals. Dumb as mud consumers who allow themselves to be treated any old way kill deals by teaching the businesses in question that they can rig the game — paying out only when they darn well feel like it. We need more educated consumers who are willing to stand up, not fewer. Go, guys, I hope you win a ton.

  36. @fredric. First of all, if you want to stick it to the malls, don’t shop there. I for my part have shopped on the old CO OnePass shopping portal once or twice and received my mileage late, but I did receive it without having to follow up. I also own a Chase Sapphire and have used Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall 2x and have had the bonus mileage posted without a hitch each time. UR even sends you emails about the bonus mileage you’re earning, so your argument about malls gaming us feel slightly hollow (not to say it doesn’t happen, but I don’t think it is the norm).

    And secondly, many of us opposing the suit are not “hypocrites”. I wasn’t one to buy RGN fares or the 4 mile mistake by UA or the SQ F bonanza.

  37. I just might be too suspicious of people but I get the impression that a few of the bloggers tend to tell each other of deals and make sure they get the first shot at them and only later post them on their blogs. Just my suspicion.

    It does irk me when people try to take advantage of an obvious mistake. I would say I also don’t care for airlines expecting all the rules to favor them. I have no problem with them not refunding non-refundable airfares regardless of situation. I do have issues when they can’t uphold their end of the contract and try to avoid fulfilling their end and pass the buck onto others.

  38. @peachfront: “but are you really suggesting that it is somehow illegal, immoral, and fattening to try to pursue a dispute in a court of law?” — I’d consider it immoral to discover an obvious mistake and then go “all in” to the extend that these people have. 200 MILLION miles? That’s not just taking advantage of a pricing mistake, that’s going in for the kill. I don’t think anyone has suggested that it’s illegal or that the plaintiffs don’t have the right to file a lawsuit. But it does change my perception of people like Randy Petersen. On MilePoint he usually is Mr Nice Guy with his charitable initiatives, and here he’s apparently showing a completely different face. Makes me wonder if that more public face isn’t just part of the marketing approach.

  39. @Rich (AZ): not only bloggers, everyone shares deals under the agreement not to spoil it. Some blab, some don’t 😉

  40. I think going this far over the top on an obvious error is dumb and just leads you to court which is a waste of my time but. on the other hand I don’t have much mercy for the shopping mall operators that also make errors in not properly rewarding everyday purchases (yes I’m talking about you British Airways mall). Of course maybe I’m bitter. At some point though you reach a point of morality. It’s not what you do when people are watching but what you do when they aren’t.

  41. Discovery is going to be fun. First few questions would be to ask them what their FT, milepoint, etc. handles are and then start mining posts.

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