Last weekend I flew to Chicago O'Hare on Spirit Airlines.
Was it a barely-survived-to-tell-the-tale-experience with outrageous baggage fees, long delays without updates, surly flight attendants, back breaking uncomfortable seats and lost luggage?
None of that happened to me, at least this time. My worst fear was a delayed flight, but we left a few minutes EARLY to Chicago and the return flight to MSP left on time. So why might you not want to hear about my experience? Because if you hate Spirit as much as many flyers do, my pleasant experience will contradict your "flyer beware" disasters.
It was one of those cheap fares advertised for $33 that costs $78 once the taxes are added. I also purchased two Big Seats for $20 each, Spirit's version of a business class seat.
Do I recommend paying extra for one of the Big Seats in the first row, which are almost as big as Delta's business class? Yes, but I only paid an extra $20 one-way. It can run as much as $100 or more on longer flights but you're paying only for the extra room, not free food or drink.
On Spirit's Big Seats, the seat pitch (legroom) is 36-inches (28-inches in Spirit economy). On Delta it's 36-38-inches in business class (30 to 34-inches in economy), according to Seatguru.com.
Spirit's Big Seat is 18.5-inches wide (17.75-inches in economy) compared to Delta's business-class seat at 19 to 21-inches wide. It seemed more than adequate for my 170 lb. frame, but I thought it was even wider since there are only 4 seats across in the first row compared to six seats across in subsequent rows.
One more plus: the Big Seats also recline, unlike all other seats on Spirit. That's right, Spirit's economy seats do not recline. Since it is in the first row (bulkhead), I was worried that we would get charged for our carryons since we could not put them under the seat in front of us. But no, we were able to put them in the overhead without paying the extra $35 to $45. TIP: you may be able to bring a 2-wheeler to fit in the overhead instead of a fit-under-the-seat piece, but I am verifying this with Spirit. That alone will save you $35 or $45.
Nearly everyone who flies Spirit the first time complains about the bag fees for carryons placed in the overhead as well as those checked ($30 to $40). And those who check luggage at the airport are outraged to discover the fee is $100. But you learn. We brought only duffle bags to avoid the baggage fees--and for a weekend trip they're fine. Still, I will admit that a heavy duffle bag is not nearly as convenient to tote as luggage on wheels.
My worst fear was that we would be delayed. Spirit has one of the worst on-time records in the business. Sixty-four percent of its flights arrive on time compared to an industry average of 80 percent, according to Flightstats.com. Experts recommend taking the earliest flight of the day to minimize delays. Spirit's 6:05 a.m. flight to O'Hare has a 72 percent on-time arrival rate (flight 612). It's 9:30 a.m. departure from ORD to MSP has a 63 percent on-time arrival rate (flight 761). By the ways, those numbers have improved. Three months ago, the same flights had on-time percentages of 51 and 45 respectively.
We were fortunate to have on-time arrivals both ways. Everything went off without a hitch. Even the flight attendants were amiable, funny even. As we taxied to the gate in Chicago, the attendant said "We'd like to thank you for flying Spirit Airlines. We hope you had a pleasant flight. If you have any complaints, please call 1-800-S-O-U-T-H-W-E-S-T."
My only regret was the 6:05 a.m. departure. It meant setting an alarm for 2:45 a.m. and boarding the first light rail train of the day at 4:06 a.m. Luckily, our hotel room was ready when we arrived there at 8:30 a.m. and we didn't even get charged extra for early check-in.
Thumbs up for Spirit this time around. Thumbs down for catching any flight that leaves before 8 a.m. Too early for me.
Style Encore, a chain of women's resale boutiques, now has its first Minnesota location in Eagan. the store opened Thursday, May 29 after purchasing new and used women's clothing and accessories in Eagan and Burnsville for several months.
The concept is designed for women by women, said owner Mary Klapperich, who used to work for the parent company WInmark until she decided to become a franchisee with Style Encore. Winmark also owns Plato's Closet, Play It Again Sports and Once Upon a Child. Klapperich made sure that dressing rooms were larger, including a handicapped accessible one that fits a stroller, and painted in neutral colors.
The new Eagan store is Winmark's 13th in country with more agreements to open, said Steve Murphy, president of franchising for Winmark.
Despite a strengthening economy, the U.S. $13 billion resale market continues to do well, growing at about 7 percent each year for the last 2 years, according to the National Association of Resale Professionals.
What makes Style Encore similar to Clothes Mentor is that each company pays cash on the spot and no appointment is necessary when bringing in merchandise. But Style Encore is somewhat unique is accepting women's items of all seasons at any time. In other words,on an 80 degree day, feel free to bring in calf-length leather boots and North Face parka. "We buy all seasons every day," said Klapperich.
Clothes Mentor COO Chad Olson said that his stores also accept winter items in the off-season but to a lesser extent.They only accept select winter items during the spring summer, based on an item's popularity.
SE's brands include Ann Taylor, White House Black Market, Chico’s, Talbots, Coldwater Creek, Banana Republic, Gap, J. Jill, and The Limited.
The store is located at 1960 Cliff Lake Road, suite 125 in Eagan.
A reader from Plymouth who asked not to have his name used sent me an email in response to my Sunday story about the price of boats.
He went to the NW Boat Sports and Travel show a few weeks ago and was astonished at the prices of boats. They have taken a major jump up compared to the last few years during the recession when he last shopped, he wrote.
Then things got interesting. He remembered that he paid $5,000 for his 1975 Larson Open Bow runabout fiberglass boat with a 115HP Evinrude on it. The boat is in pristine condition and he still uses it.
He was 35 years old making $17,500 per year when he bought it. "It was a time of major inflation and the cost of financing it at the time was negated by the inflationary price increases from year to year," he wrote.
He went on to say that if he bought a comparable 18 ft. fiberglass and aluminum runabout with a 115 HP on the back of it, he would pay $42,000 to $48,000 today.
"Unbelievable," he said. "My $5,000 boat was 28.5 percent of my income at the time. If I use the same ratio to income I would need $168,421 worth of income to buy [an equivalent] boat."
Few 35 year olds with a family and a mortgage in the early stages of a career are making that sort of money.
He concluded that prices have escalated and wages and salaries in the past 30 years have not kept pace, making the fact that boat manufacturers and dealers are struggling not much of a surprise.
My article mentioned that the more affordable $5,000 Sea-Doo Spark is selling out in the Twin Cities and re-setting manufacturers' thinking. Here's a picture of it.
Twin Cities shoppers who want to check out an outlet mall will no longer have to leave the 7-county metro to get there. Twin Cities Premium Outlets in Eagan will open Aug. 14 with more than 100 outlet stores. The center is currently 94 percent leased. More stores are yet to be announced.
It will be slightly larger than the Premium Outlets Mall in Albertville. The Eagan location will have a number of outlet stores exclusive to Minnesota including American Eagle, Asics, Calphalon, Cole Haan, Crabtree & Evelyn, Helzberg Diamonds, Watch Station and White House/Black Market. Highly anticipated stores include Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth, Calvin Klein, Coach, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gap, Hot Topic, J. Crew, Johnston & Murphy, Talbots, Torrid, True Religion, Under Armour and Lucy. .Full list of stores.
The $100 million center, which is located at the southeast corner of Highway 13 and Highway 77 in Eagan, is expected to bring traffic congestion to the area on busy shopping days such as Black Friday. Should the center be as popular as Albertville on weekends in the summer, traffic management plans will need to be in place, according to the Eagan City Council. SRF Consulting Group in Minneapolis has been hired to create plans for high-traffic times.
The oval racetrack design should make crisscrossing the stores easier than in Albertville, which uses a shuttle to get shoppers between the two buildings separated by a street. Even traversing between Polo Ralph Lauren at one end and Nike at the other can be a hike for power shoppers in Albertville. Parking in Eagan will be around the perimeter of the racetrack design. A walkway from one side to the other splits the center of the racetrack for easier access to stores.
There will also be a food court with indoor/outdoor seating, a two-sided fireplace, and covered walkways.
Restaurants and retailers are asking us to celebrate the completion of the 2013 tax year (or at least that's the way I'm interpreting it) with a few bargains. Many sources are putting out the list, including Dealnews, Pocket Your Dollars and the Christian Science Monitor.
Deals can be found at Arby's, Boston Market, Bruegger's, Cinnabon, Famous Dave's, Hard Rock Cafe, IHOP, Office Depot, Papa Murphy's, Perkins, Sonic, White Castle and others.
Add your own if you know of others.
Planet Fitness has opened two new locations in Coon Rapids and Burnsville. Through March 31, anyone can join for $1 down and $10 a month with no commitment. If Brooklyn Park or Bloomington is more convenient, it will only cost $10 down and $10 a month join through April 9. (Roseville is $10 a month plus a $29 enrollment fee through March 31.)
Although those may be among the least expensive fees for fitness clubs in the Twin Cities, even $10 a month (which is deducted automatically from a checking account) is too much if you don't use the account.
Spring, moving at a glacial pace this year, will arrive and you members may lose interest in a club after warm weather arrives. That's why clubs save their best deals for summer when interest is low.
Location, location, location. Make sure the health club is close to home or work, ideally less than 10 minutes away. Consider parking, too. Driving around a crowded lot or street a couple times may send you off to DQ in frustration.
Visit the club on days and times when you expect to work out. Ask about its busiest hours ( Most are busiest from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.).
Questions to ask a salesperson:
What is the ratio of staff to members?
Is the membership transferable?
What kind of certification do your fitness instructors have?
Can I get a free week before I join? (Try to duplicate your weekly estimated regimen at a club
before you join. All clubs will give you one free pass, but you may have to pay for more.)
According to Planet Fitness, it is a gym for all that targets first time or occasional gym users, not fitness fanatics or bodybuilders. The company uses a “Judgement Free Zone” in all clubs and a campaign to eliminate “gymtimidation.” “Lunk” alarms (a purple and yellow siren on the walls of every club) go off if members exhibit poor gym etiquette that make others feel intimidated.