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Travel Solutions: To avoid refund problems, book a la carte or buy insurance

If you thought that reading the terms and conditions on your next travel purchase is enough to keep you out of trouble, meet Thomas Hanko.

April 06, 2014 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Get a rental agreement, but don't sign or pay until you've read it

Q: I recently paid a $2,060 deposit to rent a home in Aruba through VRBO. Before I was sent a copy of the lease, I realized that the rental didn't have enough room for our party of 10, and I notified the owner that I wanted to cancel.

August 11, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Online booking agency should have told traveler about fare rules

Q: I booked a round-trip ticket from Buffalo, N.Y., to Chennai, India, on Continental Airlines, just before it merged with United Airlines. I used Expedia to make the reservation. I completed the one-way trip but due to a family medical issue, I had to cancel the return. I called Expedia and…

August 04, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Just why, pray tell, is Hillary so 'fascinating'?

"I think she's one of the most fascinating women of our time and this world," confessed Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC, as part of his announcement that his network is making a miniseries about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with Diane Lane in the starring role.

August 03, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: 'Vermeer' works aren't even good fakes

The smart collector: 'Vermeer' works aren't even good fakes

Q: Are these paintings by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) of any value?

July 28, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: If a hotel room is unsafe and 'just gross,' don't stay there

Q: While traveling through Pennsylvania on a college tour with our daughter, my husband and I made a reservation for two nights at a Super 8 through Hotels.com

July 28, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Cynic in chief pivots again, and an odd move it is, too

"My rival in this race," President Obama announced early in 2007, "is not other candidates. It's cynicism." Sadly, it's now evident cynicism won.

July 27, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

The smart collector: Set emotion aside to assess value of inherited items

Q: Can you comment on these antiques that have been handed down through the family? I also need the name of a reputable appraiser in my area.

July 21, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Figure hotel reservation stands until you get cancellation number

Q: I recently attended a job fair in Marietta, Ga. Because I was unsure of the number and date of interviews I would have at the event, I decided to book a room for one night at the Hyatt.

July 21, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

There in luxury sits Rev. Al, master of the universe

If Tom Wolfe were writing "The Bonfire of the Vanities" today, he'd need a scene in the Grand Havana Room in New York City. It's an Olympian den fit for what Wolfe called "masters of the universe," the super-rich gods of finance who today go by "the 1 percent."

July 20, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Why Paul, his eye on White House, trudges uphill

Rand Paul is the most interesting contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And I mean that in the broadest sense.

July 17, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Hotel should've honored reservation after it was sold - but no

Q: I made a reservation at the Comfort Inn in Troutdale, Ore., this fall, and received a confirmation number. At that time I was told that the hotel was in the process of being sold and would become a Holiday Inn Express and the reservation would be honored.

July 14, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Look far and wide when choosing auction house

The smart collector: Look far and wide when choosing auction house

Q: I have about 200 Madame Alexander dolls (with boxes) to sell. How do I find doll auctions in my area?

July 14, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Obama's smart-government plan is simply dumb

President Obama wants to make government "smarter." Who could disagree with that? Whether you're an anarchist, a Leninist or somewhere in between, everyone can agree that Uncle Sam could afford a few more IQ points.

July 13, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Do your research before selling inherited items

The smart collector: Do your research before selling inherited items

Q: Several years ago, family members aged 91 and 95 died and left me a lot of things that I have no idea regarding value. Can you give me a clue? I'll pay for your appraisals.

July 07, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Agency's moral compass is out of whack: Fire 'em

Q: I recently had to have jaw surgery, and my doctor recommended that I cancel a planned flight on Delta Air Lines. I submitted a request through my travel agency, but it refused to refund the ticket because it had a policy that tickets are nonrefundable, except in cases of illness or death.

July 07, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

'Inhospitable' Earth? Compared to the past, hardly

You just can't out-gloom an environmentalist. The Atlantic invited some luminaries to answer the question "How and when will the world end?" Some contributions were funny. Others simply plausible - a volcanic eruption from underneath Yellowstone National Park is frightfully overdue.

July 06, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: If it's old, it's not necessarily valuable

The smart collector: If it's old, it's not necessarily valuable

Q: Any info on my vase marked, "Made in Japan"? It seems to be clay and is 11 1/2 inches tall. Note that the surface is not smooth.

June 30, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Rules for 'affinity' credit cards can be changed at any time

Q: I recently applied for and received a co-branded credit card from Chase and AARP. The card had an introductory offer of 5 percent (cash back) for the first six months of card usage. I used the card and earned 201,780 points. Every single charge was legitimate, and I have receipts. Further…

June 30, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Abortion rights not synonymous with women's health

When your grandmother gets some bad news, do you tell her: "Well, at least you have your abortion rights"?

June 29, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Grandmother fights gun violence - politely, forcefully

For an activist, Kathleen Glueck is exceptionally polite. When speaking, she reflexively checks her tone, careful to not monopolize a conversation.

June 27, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Terminally ill vacationer takes a risk when it comes to insurance

Q: I am currently sitting on a deck overlooking a park at a hospice facility while my mother lies in her bed taking a morphine nap. She will die in a couple of days.

June 23, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Demand usually low for old oak pieces

The smart collector: Demand usually low for old oak pieces

Q: This old oak rocker was painted black. I had it stripped. How can I sell it? It's marked "Wisconsin Chair Co." and "1896."

June 23, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Put your money where your mouths are, young Obama fans

OK, young'ns, here's your chance. In two consecutive elections, you've carried Barack Obama to victory. You voted for Obama by a margin of 66 percent to 32 percent in 2008, and, despite a horrendous economy for people your age, by nearly that much again in 2012.

June 22, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Folding bed has value as a curiosity, but no collector market really exists

The smart collector: Folding bed has value as a curiosity, but no collector market really exists

Q: My mother bought this folding bed in the 1970s. It's marked "Bednet," but I can't find any info online. Is it a Murphy bed?

June 16, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Libertarianism may be 'the wave of the future'

'Why are there no libertarian countries?" In a much-discussed essay for Salon magazine, Michael Lind asks: "If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century i…

June 15, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Antique and early fire memorabilia is a white-hot collecting category

The smart collector: Antique and early fire memorabilia is a white-hot collecting category

Q: I got this fireman's trumpet, badge and bell at an estate sale and would like to know what they're worth. I was told the bell was used going to a fire.

June 09, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: No exceptions: Take photos of rental cars, before and after

Q: I recently rented a car from Budget in Ontario, Calif. When I returned the vehicle, a representative claimed that I scraped the bottom of the front bumper on the passenger side of the car.

June 09, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

View government data collection with healthy skepticism

The U.S. government is trying "to create a database of every 'phone' call ever made."

June 08, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Mug has 3 hound-shaped handles

The smart collector: Mug has 3 hound-shaped handles

Q: I was given this three-handled cider jug by friends in England long ago. I was told that it's very old. There are no marks, but I think it's unique because it is flawless. Any info?

June 02, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Customer thought he was getting Priceline price, but Avis said no.

Q: I recently prepaid for a rental car using Priceline's "name your own price" option. I was given a car through Avis - or at least that's what I thought.

June 02, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

The guy still willing to kill decides when war ends

'This war, like all wars, must end. That's what history advises. That's what our democracy demands."

June 01, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Lamp collectors covet fine pieces from the golden age of cut glass

The smart collector: Lamp collectors covet fine pieces from the golden age of cut glass

Q: Any info on this antique lamp I bought at an estate sale? There was no information furnished with it. I thought it was pretty. It's 27 inches tall, not including the chimney.

May 26, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Get documentation things are 'fine' from car-rental firm

Q: My husband rented a car from Hertz in Madrid last summer. The car broke down while he was on his way back to the airport, and he had to abandon it by the side of the road in order to make his flight back to the States.

May 26, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

If you're going to defend the 1st Amendment, defend all of it

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

May 25, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Do as pros do - get the best, most current price information available

The smart collector: Do as pros do - get the best, most current price information available

Q: I found three vintage sports pennants from the 1940s, but I can't find value for them. There's a reference book on pennant prices, but who wants to spend $18.95 for something you use once?

May 19, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Nonrefundable ticket means just that - unless writer helps

Q: I'm trying to help my sister get a refund on her daughter's nonrefundable airline ticket. Her daughter went to Spain in January as an exchange student. Her return was scheduled for May 29.

May 19, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Obama deserves some blame for IRS debacle

Of course the president deserves some of the blame. Yes, it's extremely unlikely he ordered the IRS to discriminate against tea party, pro-life or Jewish groups opposed to his agenda (though why anyone should take his word for it is beyond me). And his outrage now - however convenient - is a…

May 18, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Potato-chip cans prove popular collectibles

The smart collector: Potato-chip cans prove popular collectibles

Q: Many years ago, we bought a Japp's potato-chip can at a flea market. Does it have any value?

May 12, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Wyndham should've fixed smoking-room problem at Days Inn

Q: I have a concern that I tried addressing with a specific Days Inn and with Wyndham, which owns Days Inn, but have not received a response. I recently stayed at the Days Inn in Fernandina Beach, Fla. I made a reservation for a nonsmoking room and was given a smoking room when I checked it.

May 12, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Libya hearings show Obama and Clinton lied, and lied again

'Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference - at this point, what difference does it make?"

May 11, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Cruise line was right to insist ailing passenger leave ship

Q: We were recently scheduled to sail on a seven-day Carnival cruise to Mexico. A few minutes after we boarded in Long Beach, Calif., I had horrible kidney pains. I couldn't walk, and felt as if I was going to pass out.

May 05, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Finding a value range for paintings by obscure artist is job for an appraiser

The smart collector: Finding a value range for paintings by obscure artist is job for an appraiser

Q: I bought some beautiful paintings in Germany decades ago. I need to assess personal property for insurance purposes and all I can give my agent are rough guesses on their purchase price, which I think is far less than today's value.

May 05, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Think of liberals as antibodies weakening society

Is the American body politic suffering from an autoimmune disease?

May 04, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Million-dollar vase gets column reader excited

The smart collector: Million-dollar vase gets column reader excited

Q: We read in your column about a Yuan Dynasty porcelain that sold at auction for $1.3 million. My relative lives in Taiwan and collects porcelains. He believes he has a Yuan item. How can I authenticate his claim and determine its value?

April 28, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Internet sales shed some light on price range for vintage lamp

The smart collector: Internet sales shed some light on price range for vintage lamp

Q: I saw a small Pairpoint "puffy" lamp with lilacs, flowers and butterflies on the 8-inch shade. The base is tree-shaped brass. What is the price range for this fine specimen?

April 21, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Christopher Elliott: When airline wants to change your ticket, follow the money

Q: I recently booked two tickets through an online travel agency for my husband and me to fly to the Philippines. When I got his ticket, I noticed that "Jr." was missing from his name. I went back to the site and saw there was no space provided where I can put a "Jr."

April 21, 2013 12:00 amLoading…
The smart collector: Founding Fathers', early presidents' signatures vary enormously in value

The smart collector: Founding Fathers', early presidents' signatures vary enormously in value

Q: Your column carried a photo of a Ben Franklin-signed deed that sold for $13,200. We have a document signed 1811 that grants land in Ohio to a family member. It's signed in two places by President James Madison and once by Secretary of State James Monroe. Is this of similar value? Should w…

April 14, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Travel Solutions: Ask agent to step up, or transfer travel job to colleague who can

Q: My fiancée and I are planning our wedding in Jamaica this summer and are using a travel agent to book our guests and us. We're also using the travel agent for our honeymoon at a different resort on the island. We will be in Jamaica for two weeks. There are about 40 people booked at this t…

April 14, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

Paisley, Paul 'conversation-starters' fall flat

Are Brad Paisley and Rand Paul the bravest men in America?

April 13, 2013 12:00 amLoading…

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