Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Spending Recap: April 14-20, 2014

Bellagio fountain show!

Monday 14th
No Spend Day!

Tuesday 15th
No Spend Day!

Wednesday 16th
+ $38.88 Great Canadian Rebates
$50 gas

Thursday 17th
No Spend Day!

Friday 18th – Las Vegas, NV
$18.08 transit

Saturday 19th – Las Vegas, NV
$31.64 NY NY Rollercoaster

Sunday 20th – Las Vegas, NV
$217 cash spending
$39.71 lunch
$106.45 Lucky Brand Jeans

Freelance Income: $0 (+ $38.88)
Expenses- $462.88

TOTAL: - $424.00

I’ll admit that I didn’t track my spending very well in Las Vegas. I had a lot of cash left over from last month’s trip to Portland, so I didn’t have to use my credit card that much at all. As a result, all I have is $217 in bulk miscellaneous spending. This includes all alcohol, gambling (I ended up +$7 for the weekend), and food. We ate on the cheap for the most part – Subway and Chipotle were our friends. :) There were a few splurges on “fancy” cocktails – but even those were less than $10 each, and considered cheap by Vegas standards. The rest of our drinks were “complimentary” while we were gambling.

As for the rest of the week, spending was low because from Tuesday evening to Thursday, I was at a work conference where meals and entertainment were paid for. :)

Customer service in Las Vegas


Our long weekend trip to Las Vegas was great. Between hiking in Red Rock Canyon, taking in a Cirque show, gambling and drinking on the strip, and lounging by the pool, I think we did just about everything we wanted to do. And while all of those experiences were fantastic, we both agreed that there were two customer service experiences – one good and one bad – that really left an impression on us.

Bad Customer Service: Hertz Rental Car

hertzWe decided to rent a car while in Vegas so that we could go on a day trip to Red Rock Canyon. But words cannot express how horrible our experience was dealing with Hertz.

When we got to the car rental building at McCarren airport, there was a massive line-up at Hertz. No big deal, we thought. We have a reservation for a car, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Right?

The woman we dealt with took us to a video kiosk where an agent would guide us through our booking. We got about 10 minutes into the booking process when we were informed that it would be a 3-4 hour wait for a rental car. They had no cars to give anybody. Remember that old Seinfeld episode when the same thing happened to Jerry? Yeah.

Since we didn’t want to wait around at the airport for 3-4 hours, we asked if we could pick up our car the next day. No. Our names would be put on a wait list, and if we weren’t present for our name to be called, the car would be given to someone else … and we would end up at the bottom of the wait list again.

I turned to the customer service woman and asked what the point of a reservation was, if it didn’t actually reserve anything. She said in a very condescending tone: “it’s just like an airplane – just because you pay for a ticket doesn’t mean the plane is going to fly on time.” Wow, thanks.

We asked if we could cancel our car reservation and get a refund. Nope. No refunds allowed. Then we asked how many people were ahead of us on the waiting list. The answer? 44.

So we waited. For over two hours. Some people had waited much longer than us. Not a single Hertz employee apologized – except for the gate attendant in the parking lot once we did actually get our car – he seemed to be embarrassed about the whole thing.

If Hertz overbooked their fleet, fine. But they should have 1) told us ahead of time, 2) offered to refund our money, and 3) acted like they cared about the inconvenience they were causing to hundreds of people who were waiting around for hours when they were supposed to be on vacation.

Great Customer Service: Cirque du Soleil

cirqueBack in February, we bought tickets to see the “O” Cirque show at the Bellagio. At $150 each, they were not cheap. But we were really excited and looking forward to it as the highlight of our trip.

Our show was Saturday night, so around noon on Saturday we wandered over to the Bellagio to pick up our tickets, knowing the line-up would be really long come show time. The woman at the counter was having a hard time finding our tickets, until she realized that we had actually booked our seats for the Friday night snow. And the Saturday shows were now sold out – it had been for a while. We royally screwed up! :(

I almost cried. We were in shock, and extremely disappointed. We had just assumed the tickets we bought were for the Saturday. It didn’t even occur to us to check our e-mail confirmation. I was so mad at myself.

She said what most people in customer service would say: “let me see what we can do” and left to go to the back room.

When she returned, she was holding two tickets to the 7:30pm show. Not only that, but they were better seats than the ones we had originally paid for! “We managed to find something for you,” she said. (We realized at the show that she had gotten someone to wheel in two additional seats for us).

She could have easily done nothing. They could have just kept our $300, and that would have been our own mistake. But instead, she went out of her way to create seats for us to a sold out show. The rest of the trip, all we could talk about was how lucky we were. We even went back to the Bellagio a couple of times to see if we could thank her properly (with a tip), since we were in such shock at the whole interaction we didn’t even think about it. But we couldn’t find her… so if for some reason anyone from the Bellagio or Cirque du Soleil is reading this – thank you so much. That woman really made our trip a memorable one. :)

Anyone else have any recent customer service wins or fails while on vacation?

A review of the FitBit Flex

photoWell, I was going to wait another week until I posted my review of theFitBit Flex, but I think after 10+ days of continuous use, I can give you my first impressions about the device. :)

I’ve been wanting to get some sort of fitness tracker for a while now. Sure I run and play field hockey, but what about my activity level when I’m at my day job? I love that it tracks my steps, distance, and calories during the day, and at night it tracks my sleep quality – including how many times I woke up and how many minutes I was restless.

What also helped me make my decision was that BF has been using a FitBit Flex every day since I’ve known him. So I was able to get a lot of first-hand experience with how the app works, and all the features of the Flex before I bought my own.

I have owned the tradition pedometers before, as well as a super fancy high-end Garmin. Neither of them were what I was looking for, and this FitBit Flex seems to be the middle mark that I’m after. And at $100, it definitely didn’t break the bank.

Just as a side note, I bought the FitBit Flex with my own money – this post is strictly a review and I’m not getting compensated in any way. :)


  • The iPhone app. The app is great – you can check out your details on the go, and sync your FitBit directly through bluetooth. It updates in real time as well, so you can start walking and see the step count increase right on the screen.
  • photo 2The sleep tracker. I’ve always known that I’m not that great of a sleeper. I routinely get 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and I’m always waking up. The app is great for tracking how many times I’ve woken up, and how many minutes I’m tossing and turning while asleep. Although BF did make a good point that even with all the sleep data, there’s nothing I can really do with it except be informed.
  • The silent alarm. I think BF likes this feature the best because he doesn’t have to be woken up by my annoying iPhone alarm every morning. The buzz from the FitBit is definitely enough to wake me up.
  • It makes me want to be more active. I think this is the biggest pro for me. When I check my iPhone app, or tap my Flex to see how active I’ve been during the day, it motivates me to get out of my desk and move around. I make excuses to walk more, and I’ve even found that I walk in place in my cubicle. Seems silly that a $100 device had to be the motivator for me, but it is, and I’m not complaining. :)
  • Easy to use and set up. There’s nothing technical about it. You just pop it into the USB charger, it syncs automatically, the app is easy to understand … it really just runs itself. I really like that, because there’s never any doubt about where I need to go to find a specific stat, or how to program something.


  • It’s not pretty. I can (and do) wear it with everything, so it’s not that bad. Especially compared to a lot of other wristband fitness trackers. But it’s okay. At least it’s comfortable? :)
  • photo 3Inaccurate step count. I’m a bit sketchy about how accurate the step count and distance tracking actually is. Waving my arms around can generate “steps” when I actually didn’t move at all. Also I did a 6km run (checked the distance with Google Maps) with my FitBit Flex, and used the Nike Running app on my iPhone (which is what I normally track my runs with). The Nike Running app said I had run 6km on the dot, and the Flex had registered 5.8km. Okay, not a huge difference, but still something worth mentioning.
  • The calorie counter is a bit annoying. It’s tedious to track all of the foods that I eat during the day, but I guess at least there’s that option if you want it. I started using the calorie counter to log all my food for the first few days, but then got annoyed with it and stopped.

photo(1)The one thing I’ll say after continuous use is that it’s really difficult to get the recommended 10,000 steps per day – and I’d consider myself to be a fairly active person. During the work week, even with my walk to work, I only average around 5,000 to 6,000 steps per day. It’s a real commitment to try and be more active, and I really like that about the FitBit Flex. It’s giving me real proof about how much of a sloth I am most of the time, and that needs to change.

Anyway, I’m really pleased with the FitBit Flex so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing to track my progress. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in tracking their overall fitness level, as well as their health through calorie counting, sleep tracking, and movement.

***EDIT (04/22/2014)***

I wanted to add a short comment about the accuracy of the steps/distance. BF and I both had our FitBits on the entire time we were in Vegas. We were together for 2.5 days straight, and walked the same distance. Our step counts were nearly identical for each day, but our distance walked was always off by a lot. His distances were always much more than mine. But, we think we’ve figured out why:

The FitBit website says it calculates your distance walked based on your height and predicted stride length:

Fitbit trackers calculate distance by multiplying your walking steps and walking stride length. Similarly, your running steps are multiplied by your running stride length. By default, stride length is determined using your height and gender.

Which is all fine and good. But if you shorten your stride length (like when BF is walking with a short person like me, or if we are stuck in crowds of people), it still calculates your steps as if you were walking at your predicted default stride length. It doesn’t know that you’ve altered how you’re walking. This can lead to a pretty inaccurate reading.

BF and I wore our FitBits all day, and while our step counts were basically the same (off by a few hundred steps – not a lot considering we walked over 20,000 steps each day), the distance it said we walked varied by as much as 2km! That’s a HUGE discrepancy. And we realized that whenever BF and I go walking together, our steps will always be accurate, but the distance walked will always be wrong. Either my stride will lengthen, or his stride will shorten. We will never be walking together at our default stride length that FitBit determined for us.

Anyway, I thought this piece of information is worth mentioning. It doesn’t take away from what the FitBit does for me personally, but it might for some.

Do you use a fitness tracker like FitBit?

What are the pros and cons you’ve found with devices like this?

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