Beware of the temptation to prioritize completing a task and crossing it off your list rather than double-checking that it has been implemented and completed properly.

I know this…very well. And yet, I was confronted with this lesson again last night when I accidentally overpaid for plane tickets by 20% because I tried to do it in what seemed to me the easiest way.

Thankfully, as usual, my husband had me check my premise…and as usual, he was right. (Have I told you lately how grateful I am for him in my life? We all need our loving challengers.)

Here’s what happened…

I was booking airplane tickets. My husband and I need to go to Colorado in a few weeks for family reasons. In the midst of that trip, I also need to go to California for a week. My itinerary is complicated, so it seemed simplest to book separate reservations for myself and my husband—Ron for simple round-trip New York to Denver…me on a multicity adventure that included arrival in one California city but departure from another. After nearly an hour of Internet booking, I proudly shared the flight schedule with Ron. I had great flight times, and I thought the price was pretty good. And we would be able to be on the same flights with nearby seats for the New-York-to-Colorado legs.

I was excited to cross this off my list in what I thought to be an acceptable fashion, but Ron asked two questions…

  1. What would the price be on a different airline?
  2. Why didn’t I book my ticket as two separate trips—New York to Denver…and then Denver to California?

Ugh…I hate when that happens. Don’t you? You just got something done…you feel proud of the accomplishment and are relieved to cross that item off your list. And now…you may have to do it all over. How annoying!!!

Regarding the first question about price, I am very loyal to United Airlines. They have been good to me with schedule, price and service, and so I never check other airlines for our frequent New York to Colorado trips. Nonetheless, Ron checked prices. United was a few dollars cheaper and offered a better schedule. Validated!

As for the two separate trips…Ron “wins.” I checked prices on booking my trip as two separate reservations—New York to Denver…and then Denver to California. Lo and behold, the total price would be $80 cheaper—20%!! A big difference. As inconvenient as it was, I canceled my multicity round-the-country ticket and rebooked. End result: Money saved, and better seating for the New York to Denver legs.

Relative to the many big things going on in the world, this is a small story. But the lessons apply to all levels of problem-solving in both your personal and professional life. Among the lessons…

  1. Never be so arrogant that you can’t hear feedback and consider alternates. There are many “right” solutions. Rarely is there only a single one. But by not being open to additional input, you limit your learning and potentially the effectiveness of your solution. Ideally, it’s best to discuss or think through assorted options before implementing a solution…but, as I know all too well, that doesn’t always happen. In that case, don’t let arrogance or pride get in the way. My plane tickets were not “fatal.” But what if a rushed or shortsighted decision caused me to overlook critical information that affected my or a loved one’s health or safety?
  2. Measure twice and cut once. I ended up “cutting twice” on my airline tickets because I didn’t check all the options. I did what I was comfortable with and what was easy. Fortunately, the cancellation of my original itinerary was refundable, and it cost me only some extra time and sleep to resolve. But the next time it could be far more costly.
  3. Information provided often is unbearably confusing—sometimes intentionally. Airline pricing has always been complex. But in the land of the Internet and comparison-pricing, price “transparency” has made it even more so. It takes commitment to research large purchases for home… cars…even travel. For instance, even though new laws have been enacted to force hospital-price transparency, hospitals are intentionally hiding their pricing information with special coding that suppresses the information in search engine results. Drug pricing is similarly rife with contradictions. When it concerns just a few dollars, it’s easy to slough it off…but those few dollars add up into large differences. It’s worth a few minutes of effort to ensure that you’re in the ballpark.

And the biggest lesson…don’t repeat behaviors that we know are self-defeating. I’m talking to myself here as well. Even if it’s cutting corners and going for the easy way out, as I unintentionally did with my plane tickets, always check yourself. Take that extra moment to be sure you’ve reviewed the options and chosen the right path. It could save you in more ways than one.

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life. 

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