Thursday, October 08, 2009


Last summer I flew from Utah to Seattle for a friend's wedding. The returning flight was overbooked and since I had nothing scheduled for the next day, I volunteered to get bumped. This meant that I became the proud owner of a $350 travel voucher that is good for any Southwest flight during the next year. I plan on using this voucher to help pay for my flight back to Spokane for my sister's wedding and Christmas. However, I have encountered a small obstacle. For some reason Southwest claims to keep no record of the voucher number and accompanying security code. I know this because in the process of moving from Utah to New Jersey I have lost the credit card sized slip of paper that has both of those number written on it. I thought I would lose it, which is why I emailed myself the voucher number soon after getting back to Utah in July. However, at the time I didn't realize that the security code was also necessary.

I've called Southwest twice and both times been told that they don't keep a record of the numbers and therefore cannot help me. I know this is false. How could I type in the numbers online and receive credit for the voucher if there wasn't some sort of record floating around on their system somewhere? The real reason is that they know that a good number of people like me will lose the tiny shard of paper and be unable to claim what is rightfully theirs. I refuse to allow this corporate giant to prevail.

So here's where I currently stand. I have the voucher number from my email. I don't have the security code. However, I know that it is a 4 digit number. That means there are a mere 10,000 possible numbers that it could be. And, unlike many bank websites, doesn't boot you from the site if you type in the wrong security code after 4 or 5 attempts. So what is the next logical step. Of course, try every possible number. Now, any economist reading this would be likely to suggest I review the principles of opportunity cost. I reply that this is now about much more than money. Its about beating the man, and nothing is going to be more satisfying than when I get that number.

I'm currently 1000 numbers into the series and have yet to find the right combination. It takes about 20 minutes to type 100 numbers and I keep a spreadsheet with all the numbers I've tried. Lucky for me I live in Princeton, New Jersey where there is absolutely nothing to do, so typing numbers while listening to music for an hour each evening is actually more exciting than the available alternatives. I figure at 200 per day I have a 50% probability of getting the right number in 25 days. As long as I finish with enough time to book the flight before Christmas I'm set. So I will periodically keep my reader updated as to my progress on the "Southwest Problem", and expect a big post when that fated day of victory arrives. I'm hoping its sometime before Halloween, but as luck would have it, it will probably be the last number I type.


Ash said...

Are you sure it hasn't expired?

Bruce said...

If you want some help in your fight, I'd be happy to write a small computer program to try all of the numbers. I'm all about sticking it to The Man, especially The Mans of the airline or telecom variety (see 1, 2 3)

April said...

Did you figure it out?