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Smart Money

DEAR BRUCE: I boarded a flight in San Francisco headed for New York. The flight was on the runway three hours before passengers were ordered off to board another plane. I missed my appointments and incurred about $375 in expenses due to the delay. The airline is offering me a $50 voucher on a future flight.

Is this outrageous? I figure they owe me at least a free roundtrip flight for my next appointment. What would you do? — S.F.

DEAR S.F.: I sympathize with your situation, but the airline is not required to do anything other than get you off the plane in under three hours. While the $50 seems outrageous, the airline really doesn’t have an obligation to offer you any kind of reimbursement.

DEAR BRUCE: I’d like to get rid of my timeshare. I paid $17,000 and owe $8,800. Is there a way to just get rid of it on Craigslist or give it back? I’ve tried several times to contact the office in Hawaii, but have had no success. — S.A.

DEAR S.A.: You are a member of a very large fraternity. The fact that you are willing to give up $8,800 in “equity” says a great deal about your love for timeshares.

Unfortunately, there is no reason for the people in Hawaii to respond as long as you are making the payments. The answer is to stop making the payments. Write the company a letter and explain that you wish to return the timeshare and that you have had no success in trying to sell it. Suggest that you’re willing to give it back, and I am sure the answer will be no. Then you will probably have to contact an attorney in Hawaii because this dispute will likely have to be satisfied in the company’s home court.

DEAR BRUCE: I went to a Wal-mart in Oakland, California, and did my grocery shopping. At the end of the checkout aisle, a Wal-mart employee told me they had no bags for my groceries. So I told her to restock my 100-plus items and walked out of the store. I wrote the CEO of Wal-mart a letter asking that my roundtrip transportation be refunded.

I received a call from a guy saying he was a manager at the Wal-mart store. He told me they had no bags because of city hall politics over retail bags in Oakland. “Oakland is a bagless city,” he said, and the store periodically runs out of bags to comply with the city’s bag laws. He sent me a $50 apology card, which is $100 short in covering my expenses for a wasted trip to Wal-mart.

It is incredible to me that a company like Wal-mart would let politicians run the store and anger customers. — Longtime Reader

DEAR LONGTIME READER: While I sympathize with your circumstance, the apology and the $50 is more than the store was obliged to give you. I agree that the business of being low on bags is nonsense, but the $50 was pretty generous, given the fact that on top of that the store had to pay somebody to take your 100-plus items and replace them on the shelves.

DEAR BRUCE: In my Thrift Savings Plan, I contribute 5 percent and it is matched. Right now, I am in the tax-deferred plan. Would I be better to do the Roth instead? I have been at the post office for eight years and I am 49 years old. This is the only retirement plan I have, except for the postal retirement, which, from my understanding, will not be very much. — J.S.

DEAR J.S.: There is no way I can answer your question without specifics about how much money you’re earning. That would be the major thing that would influence my answer. You should be able to take all of your information to someone at the post office who handles these matters and have him or her explain to you the alternatives and the steps to be taken.

Send questions to Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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