So I’m going to Omaha, and the Sheraton offers me a $129 weekday special off the normal $185 rate for this nice room. I book it, but then offer Priceline $74 (which becomes $80 with their $5.95 service charge) for any 3-star hotel in downtown Omaha. Five minutes later, my offer is accepted and I have a room – at the same Sheraton. I call to cancel my $129 reservation and go with Priceline’s $80.

The one big disadvantage, other than not getting the frequent guest points, or whatever, is that the reservation is nonrefundable. So if I were to cancel the trip, I’d be out $80. Only use Priceline for trips you wont cancel.

But gee? A $185 room discounted to $129 but, for me, $80? That seems like a $49 saving, but it’s actually $56.37, because the 13.4% room tax is levied on only $74 instead of $129.

Meanwhile, those of you following Calton (CN) see that my triumph was short-lived. Yes, we got our $5 dividend. And, yes, the stock then opened the next day at $1.40 – giving those of us who bought at $5.80 or so a quick 60-cent gain on an effective 80-cent investment. But if you didn’t get out on the open, you saw the stock fall back quickly and close yesterday at 96 cents.

What’s more, it turns out I was wrong, and rather than having a bit more than $2 a share in cash, CN now has a bit less – barely $8 million, if that, divided over 4.2 million shares, give or take. So the cautions in last week’s gloating column were real. This company really could blow through its small pile of remaining cash, leaving us shareholders penniless. But for the same reasons I didn’t sell at $1.37 or $1.40, I’m certainly not selling at 96 cents. I’d only sell at this price if I couldn’t afford to see the stock go to zero. Happily, because of a lifetime of deeply discounted hotel rooms, I can afford to see it go to zero. And probably will.

(That gloating column was the one in which I revealed the mysteries of the forgotten bread, a common human experience. Herewith another small revelation: That contact lens that fell off your finger as you were leaning over the sink, putting it in your eye? The one where you instantly fear it’s gone down the drain? It’s not in the sink at all. It’s on the ledge of the sink, or on the faucet handle! Those of you with 20-20 vision will have no idea what I’m talking about. But for the rest of us vainglorious souls? I’m certain it’s in the sink, I see all those lens-like water droplets in the sink, I was leaning over the sink, I heard a slight ‘plip’ coming from the direction of the sink – but no, when I am about to give up hope, I see it sitting there on the faucet handle, or the ledge above the basin. It’s a law of physics yet to be explained. And, if you ask me, another reason for Seinfeld to regroup for a new season.)


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