thSo often we encounter lackluster, slipshod or outright lousy customer service. Not today, though.

I’ve had an AT&T Universal Mastercard since 1992. One of the things I appreciate is its connection to the Citi Thank You Rewards program. Since the holidays are approaching I checked today to see if I had enough points for a specific gift for my daughter and son-in-law.

Turned out that I needed 14,000 points for the item. I had 12,585 with 1,226 more points waiting to be credited on Nov. 21. In other words, I was 189 points short and the next batch wouldn’t hit my account until Dec. 21 — a little late for ordering the present.

I said, “Oh, well, I’ll give an IOU for the gift and order it on Dec. 22, then. Thanks anyway.”

The customer service rep said, “Let me talk to my supervisor.”


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thMemorial Day weekend is coming up, as is a summer full of potential getaways. If the idea of paying $1.59 for a one-ounce tube of toothpaste irritates you as much as it does me, then you need this week’s prize.

These TSA-friendly travel bag giveaways are always insanely popular. The price of that toothpaste probably has a lot to do with it.

In addition, you won’t have to refill travel bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Plus: A free Ziploc freezer bag!

This time around, we’re looking at toiletries both luxurious and mundane:

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th-1Recently I was quoted in a U.S. News and World Report article about affordable Mother’s Day gifts. My suggestion was, of course, writing-related: Buy her a journal.

A written account of your days on Earth isn’t just a chronicle of the way you work, eat, love, parent, spend, vote and play, however. It can also be:

A safety valve. Write down what happened at work/on that first date/as you walked past a construction site, or risk having your head ’splode.

A historical document. Some day your descendants will be startled that you once earned only $50,000 per year or that you had to hold your phone in your hand in order to communicate. Preserving these memories will add to your family history.

An intimate friend. You can tell your journal anything, although it might be wise to have a stout lock on the thing.

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th-1The typical U.S. resident will pony up big-time on or around May 10. According to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, we’re planning to spend an average of $172.63 on things like brunch, jewelry, gift cards and, of course, flowers.

That’s about $10 more than we spent last year. It isn’t clear whether that’s due to an improvement in the economy of just plain old guilt.

Or maybe the things we want to give (more on that below) are pricier this year?

My mother died in 2003. I never came anywhere close to spending an adjusted-for-inflation $172.63 for a Mother’s Day gift. If I had, she would have raised the roof.

On the other hand, I did visit her whenever I could – and since I was coming from Alaska those were some pretty pricey tickets. Travel definitely averaged out to more than $172.63 per year, especially when I brought my daughter and/or then-husband along for the ride.

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imagesI put a card on DF’s coffee cup this morning, even though we’d agreed to opt out of the Valentine’s Day hoopla.

“It’s a frugal card,” I assured him. “Hallmark sent it to me.”

Seriously: I’m a member of the company’s Gold Crown loyalty programs, and Hallmark recently mailed both a love-you card and a birthday card. I was supposed to have had them scanned at the store to earn extra points, but I keep forgetting to do that.

After two years of living together, DF and I still “delight in each other’s company,” as he puts it.

Do we ever. Whenever he walks into the room my heart still does a funny little dance, not unlike the kind you see in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

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