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Here is my response to the people who think I shouldn’t have shared the deal in $200 Flight to Japan with Hidden City Ticketing on LifeMiles Awards:

All deals in the miles world die. If an airline, hotel, or bank offers outsized value in some way such that it thinks it is losing money, it will discontinue the deal.

The question is what responsibility folks who know a deal have to keep that deal secret to prolong its life.

My basic moral philosophy is broadly utilitarian. When facing a choice, add up the welfare (utility, happiness) of everyone affected for each option, and choose the one that leads to the most happiness.

Sometimes keeping a deal secret increases overall welfare, and sometimes it decreases overall welfare. I’ll share a deal when I think it increases overall welfare.*

Let’s look at the LifeMiles deal. A few hundred or thousand readers of various forums and blogs knew about it before yesterday, and a few thousand were added to that number today. Today’s post may have sped up the demise of the LifeMiles trick.

The question, then, is completely empirical: will the new people get more or less value out of their new knowledge than the old people will lose from a possible sooner demise of the deal?

That depends on a lot of factors that we can only estimate like what percentage of people who knew the trick were using it, how much value they were getting from it, what percentage of new people will use the trick, how much value they will get from it, and whether this causes a change to LifeMiles award rules (and if so, how quickly.)

I weighed those things and decided that utility would be higher with the knowledge shared.

The main attack I’ve seen is basically: “You shouldn’t have shared this trick. Only the select few who already know it (or who are willing to spend time poring over “coded” posts on forums) should have this information.”

This strikes me as hypocritical. Unless you noticed LifeMiles award rules on your own, you learned it from someone else.

Maybe you deciphered the code, but I don’t think code-deciphering or how much time you have to dedicate to forums are relevant criteria when determining who should know a deal.

Why do you want the circle of knowledge to end just after you’re inside? Is there a principle behind it or is it veiled selfishness?

I don’t own any tricks–the ones I’ve discovered independently like Free Oneways on United and US Airways awards I’ve given away for free anyway–and I don’t expect any tricks to be immortal. I’ll continue to share tricks when I judge sharing to increase overall welfare.* Sometimes I’ll err, but I’ll always be willing to defend my decision and hear out those who disagree.

In the last post, I broke my normal rule of deleting comments that are personal attacks not germane to the post in order to let people vent. For this thread, that rule is back in place.

*The exception is that if you email me in confidence about a deal that you want to share with me but not the readers of MileValue, I will not blog about it.**

**The exceptions to the exception are several:

  • If I already knew the deal
  • If it’s later posted publicly
  • If something happens later such that I would have found out about the deal independently

then I will share the deal if I think sharing will increase overall welfare.