M&M’s, Ritz Bits, Grapes, Twizzlers and Skittles are all subject to the standard 5-second rule. Drop it, and if you can pick it up, blow it off and eat it quickly enough, it’s not contaminated. Sure, you’d tell your kids to throw it out but if they’re in bed, you’re eating that bad boy. And the closer you are to the end of the bag, the longer it takes to count to five.
Hard-shell candy is a pretty easy decision. Unwrapped chocolate like Reese’s Minis raise the awareness of time and floor conditions a bit. Stuff that can be washed off is subject to the rule, but sticky stuff can’t be saved. Rice Krispy Treats – yeah those are going out – especially if you have cats.
The notion that ill-effects can be reversed if we act quickly enough is one that I think needs to be embraced by a much larger audience. No, I’m not talking about restaurant spills (although there is the spaghetti sauce story from my catering days…). I’m not even talking about food. I’m talking about the other inconvenient momentary lapses that I’ve suffered. Recently, I’ve been snared by a few online reservation dilemmas that have brought me to reach for a non-existent 5-second rule.
Two weeks ago, I was making airline reservations for a business trip later this year. I’ll be traveling on Southwest. I’m leaving some parties anonymous but this is necessary to the story. You see, sometimes when I fly, I try to include a stopover in Iowa – to visit my brother.
Southwest is a difficult airline on which to book a 3-city trip. You can book the first two legs of your journey on one reservation, but you can’t complete the loop. You need to book that last leg as a separate flight and then stitch the two flights together. It’s a bit unnerving because, for a few minutes, you’re not coming home.
First, I checked the regular round-trip fare. I need to do that to be able to split the cost with my employer. Then, I checked the cost of adding a stop in Des Moines to the trip. Des Moines (DSM), like nearby Bradley (BDL) where I start and end my trips, is a small “terminal destination” airport, meaning flights to and from it are expensive. The next step is one every husband will recognize. I checked with my wife to verify that the travel dates and costs work with our schedule and budget. Cleared for takeoff, so to speak, I checked the availability and pricing of hotel rooms in Iowa.
Rooms were available at what I have come to accept as the normal price for staying at a Fairfield Inn in the middle of a corn field, albeit a corn field in a college town during the semester. Off to Southwest to complete parts one and two of my reservation. Back to the hotel site where I was greeted by a price that was now $110 more than the price I had been offered 10 minutes earlier. I called. I complained. I was told that not only was school in session, but there was a football game during my stay. “Prices change pretty quickly as rooms get scarfed up during football season” I was told. Small consolation.
I should have known better. I do know better. “Book the room” because you can cancel the room. You can’t always cancel a flight without paying a fee. In fact, I should have known this because of an earlier brush with an absent 5-second rule involving a side-trip to Iowa.
I had worked through the same reservation scenario with a different airline to extend a different business trip to include a stop in Iowa. That airline offered “multi-city” but I was flying from Boston to San Diego to Des Moines and then returning to Hartford so it was a bit more complex. I booked the hotels, the flights, and a rental car in one city and then I started to draft an itinerary for my wife. When I got to the last entry on that list, I realize that I had made the return flight one day later than I had planned. I called the airline:
“I’m sorry but you’ve waited too long to correct this error for free. There will be a $125 fee to change your reservation.”
“$125? You have to be kidding. I made the reservations less than an hour ago.”
An argument ensued but ended when I realized that it was cheaper to stay in Iowa an extra day than it would be to change my flight. Coincidentally, this is when I started flying Southwest. I can hold a grudge a long time.
I mentioned the hotel brand earlier because in both cases, the people at Marriott were as gracious and helpful as they could be. In the “I hate your airline so much I’d rather stay an extra day in I-O-wa than give you $125” incident, Marriott not only changed my reservation, but the customer service representative pointed out that I had two free-night certificates that were expiring. Using those allowed me to both extend my stay and lower my cost. In this most recent reservation snafu, the customer service representative couldn’t invoke the 5-second rule I requested. However, he resurrected an already expired free-night certificate for one night, and he applied a Triple-A (AAA) discount to the other nights. His kind actions brought the cost to within $20 of my original budget.
I’m running up against my self-imposed word limit, but the other place I would add a 5-second rule is on line choices. Toll plazas, supermarkets, ice cream stands and TSA all need a 5-second rule that you can invoke once you realize that the line you just chose is moving slower than the next one over.