'NYT' Discretionary Piggy Bank Endangered by Travel & Entertainment

Hot New York Times memo action! In an attempt to curb the newsroom's insatiable appetite for placing heavily surcharged direct phone calls from hotel rooms, assistant managing editor William Schmidt drops knowledge on how to use this Internet thing everyone's talking about to actually save money on travel. The first tip is to ignore the red-flagged "Out of Policy" notices on the NYT's own travel-booking portal, since someone finally realized that Expedia & co. have been gleefully reaming the paper by disqualifying some of the cheapest flights. "Ignore those little red flags and other warnings!" declares an insouciant Schmidt. "Common sense should prevail, not policy guidelines." But really, coach travel only? And what about Cathy Horyn's ros per diem? Full memo after the jump.

From: William Schmidt
Date: Aug 21, 2006 1:08 PM
Subject: Further Counsel on Expenses and Spending


To the staff,

A few months ago, we offered some ideas on how we could reduce discretionary spending and help control costs during a period of financial angst for our company and our industry. Since then, you have responded admirably, helping us bring down travel and entertainment spending across the newsroom in ways that do not limit our ability to consistently turn out Times-quality journalism.

One bit of advice back then was to encourage you, whenever possible, to shop for best value by going to travel websites, including the company's own Expedia and American Express RezPort websites, to directly book your flights, hotels and rental cars on-line (there are links to both of those Web sites on the left side of the Navigator page, along with some handy travel tips.)

Since then, a number of you have pointed out that when using Expedia and American Express, you sometimes notice that the sites red-flag certain flights or hotels as being "out of policy" or not preferred, even though the rates or fares are less expensive that those designated as within policy.

Ignore those little red flags and other warnings! You should feel free to select the lower or more advantageous fare, even if it is red flagged. Common sense should prevail, not policy guidelines.

Corporate is now reviewing a number of its arrangements with preferred airlines and other vendors, as the nature of on-line travel booking has changed. While they acknowledge that certain things will continue to be red-flagged — business class airfare without advance approval, for example — the way flights or hotels are now marked in or out of policy simply is not keeping up with the reality of today's travel market.

Meanwhile, as a reminder, here are a few of the points we made in earlier memos:

— If you need to talk directly with agents at American Express or Garber travel, you may of course do so. But please avoid calling them outside of their normal business hours — 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Eastern time — to book discretionary or non-deadline travel. We are billed a surcharge for every phone call they handle outside those hours. Use them after-hours only if you are on deadline or must deal with a travel emergency.

— To access either the Expedia and Rezport websites, you will need to open an account to access the sites; please get in touch with [redacted].

— Whenever possible, book flights well in advance, and - if you have the time - comparison shop for the best rate, beyond our own websites. You can often do even better price-wise by using discount Web sites like Kayak or Travelzoo (they are on the Navigator page as well ) or by going directly to the Web sites of airlines like Jet Blue or Southwest.

— In booking air travel, please remember you can often reduce your airfare if you are able or willing to take a one-stop flight rather than a nonstop, or are flexible in the airport you use in the Manhattan area. A flight from Newark to Miami, for example, might be less than a flight from LaGuardia to Miami. And remember, coach travel only.

— When traveling, do not make direct dial calls from your hotel room telephone. Most hotels add very hefty service charges to these calls. Use your cellphone or your company calling card, if you have one, or purchase a prepaid phone card.

Finally, a reminder to department and section heads. As you know, we maintain an inventory of furnished corporate apartments, near The Times. If you are bringing in a job candidate, or if you have an out-of-town correspondent visiting Gotham, please check first with [redacted] before you book a hotel, since we may have an apartment available.

August 21, 2006

_______________________
William Schmidt
Assistant Managing Editor
The New York Times