Personal Finance: Booking Bamboozle

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, July 29, 2010; 10:21 AM

If you are making travel arrangements online, be sure to keep an eye out for a questionable but growing trend on booking Web sites: 'pre-checked' boxes that result in extra charges for your trip.

In a recent article, National Geographic Traveler magazine's advocate Christopher Elliot reports on the troubling practice that has many customers crying foul. If you don't actively opt out of such offers, you can end up paying for unnecessary travel insurance or other special services.

"Silence is not a contractual acceptance," says Jeff Langenderfer, an associate professor at the Meredith College of Business in Raleigh, N.C. "In other words, someone can't send you a letter reading, 'If I don't hear from you by Friday, we have a contract' and thereby bind you. In many ways, a pre-checked purchase box is not any different in that it requires no active assent from a purchaser, and thus tries to create a contract by inaction or silence - something that the law has prohibited for a very long time."

It's a pain, but I spend a lot of time reading all the way down the page when I'm booking travel online. I uncheck a lot of boxes, not just for extra services but also for newsletters, automatic e-mails, etc.

As Elliot advises, just be especially careful before you click the "buy" button.

Nonprofit Pay

I really do wish that the pay for people in the community service sector was higher than the compensation that athletes and entertainers get.

But, alas, this is America and folks who serve--like those in the non-profit world--often don't earn what they deserve. And if you're a woman, that's even more likely the case, according to an interesting posting by On Leadership panelist and author Selena Rezvani. Rezvani is author of the new book, "The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won't Learn in Business School."

There's a "troubling trend in disciplines considered to be female dominated, such as nursing, social work, and the larger non-profit arena," Rezvani writes. "These 'pink ghettos' (as the term was coined in a 1983 study) have historically been characterized by low respect, and even lower pay, despite the fact that service to communities is at their core."

What does this mean for the rest of us?

"Our economy is certainly shaped by high-profile companies like the Fortune 500, but jobs long seen as 'women's work' will also play a role in recovery," Rezvani writes. "With more men than women hurt by job loss, women's employment and earnings have more impact than ever, particularly at home."

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