The steep cost of frugality

Megabus, the no-frills-bus from Chicago to Minneapolis, picked the wrong day to sell a ticket to a reporter.

When it blew up on the way to Milwaukee, the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler, Lucas Peterson, started tweeting, proving the old adage “the only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity” an utter lie.

Peterson got around to filing his column for the Times today and provided good publicity for Amtrak. Sometimes frugal traveling stinks.

Another hotly discussed topic among the passengers was that of reimbursement. Several people called up Megabus’s terms and conditions on their phones. It unfortunately states: “Our maximum liability to you for any loss or damage to your luggage is US $250 per passenger for any such loss or damage to luggage, and will only be responsible to reimburse passengers up to the maximum liability limit in the event of negligence on the part of” That information caused quite a bit of distress. “I’m just devastated,” said Alice Taylor, who estimated she lost $1,700 worth of belongings in the fire, including a laptop.

Deandre Bea said this was the second time he’d had luggage lost or destroyed on a Megabus. The first time, he said, he got frustrated trying to get compensation and eventually gave up. That was a reality check for me. I may choose Megabus to save a few bucks but many of my fellow passengers ride Megabus because it’s all that they can afford. And many lack the legal or financial resources to pursue the company for fair compensation for lost items.

So my takeaway is this: While you shouldn’t expect your bus to become a ball of flames, it is, sadly, necessary to be prepared. Carry irreplaceable things with you, if possible. Some credit cards, like American Express, offer baggage insurance if you purchase the ticket with the card. Most important, be safe. No belonging is worth injury or death. We were lucky that no one was hurt on our bus; this is largely because everyone was wise enough to abandon their belongings when things got dangerous.

An old adage still rings true: You get what you pay for.