It is starting again. International traveling, while fun and exciting, is often a logistical nightmare. Being both Scottish and frugal (that does sound redundant), I like to take charge of my trips and eek out every dollar of value. Generally, my thriftiness has paid off-but at a price. The price is endless and anxious hours surfing the Internet.

However, my squeezing the last cent out of my limited dollars can cause problems. The University of St. Francis asked me several months ago to put together a course that I would teach here and in China. The experience of developing a course, picking a textbook, and writing a syllabus was fun and fulfilling. The university, for its part, did all the hard work of recruitment and dealing with the travel agent. All that was left for me was to get a new camera and purchase a roundtrip connecting flight from Chicago to Los Angeles.

After getting the course setup, I then turned my attention to the acquisition of a new digital camera and airline tickets. I went online to look for the camera that I needed and found the perfect one. Needless to say, it was more than I wanted to spend. So, I looked for deals from hundreds of online camera stores. I came across a deal that was too good to be true--$600 less than the average listed price at dealers. I ordered it along with an additional lens and flash. When it came, the company had substituted the two lenses and flash for an off brand. That was enough to irk me, but they charged me $500 more than what the online price. After an hour of arguing with two customer service representatives and the manager, we agreed that I could return, at my expense, the lenses and flash. They would replace them. However, I waited and waited. Finally, I had had it. I returned the camera body and asked for a refund. Several days later, the store called saying that they had gotten the camera body but the lenses and flash hadn't arrived. Well, now I was burning, because I was looking at the print out of the delivery slip that the carrier had sent me confirming delivery.

I called the delivery company, and they started an investigation and found out that had been delivered. Finally, a month after this nightmare began, the camera store called to say that they had the lenses and flash and would credit my card at once. It has been a week now, and the card still has that charge. In the meantime, I returned to the Internet to find another inexpensive camera and accessories, which I did. Now, I have two expensive cameras on the same credit card.

To make matters even worse, I then followed up my Internet search with one for cheap roundtrip airfares between Chicago and Los Angeles. After plodding through the very cheapest and absolutely rock bottom discount fares, I settled for what I thought was the best offer. I filled out all the endless online questions. All that was left was to enter my email address and "voila", I would be finished. I submitted the request and got back a denial because my email address was wrong! I thought how could I miss type my address-I've had it for a decade! So, carefully, I retyped it and then typed it over to confirm it. Again, came the emotionless denial. However, my emotional level was increasing. I searched throughout the site to find out whether they had a toll free number to call. After scouring the web site, I finally found a telephone number that rang in some call center in South Asia. Patiently, I explained my problem to which a women half a world away assured me that I had nothing about which to worry. She would take down all the material that took me fifteen minutes to type on the application. We started with my name. Being from another country, she knew how to spell my name the way they do in her country. I would nicely correct her with the correct spelling to which she would repeat back to me-again incorrectly. We did that dance with every line of information that she keyed into her computer. She said the name of the departing and arriving airport. I replied "ord" and "lax". She responded, "Okay, you will be flying out of Orly Airport, Paris and flying to Los Angeles." I quickly corrected her.

This miscommunication continued throughout the call. I spelled and respelled everything several times. I know what Chinese people must think when I attempt to speak their language, but at least, I am not in customer service. After giving the sales person my credit card number (the same one that the two cameras were on), the sales person started to review the information. After making the third or fourth spelling error, I finally said to cancel the order, and I hung up.

I returned to the Internet to look for another discount ticket agent but nothing came close to the price and times. Then a troubling thought entered my already frazzled brain-what if the transaction went through? If I find another company, I will have two sets of cameras and tickets! Sheepishly, I called the discounter again, hoping to get a person more fluent in English. Fortunately, I found one who entered the information flawlessly.

I waited a couple of days before I called the airlines to confirm my flight. To my surprise, the automated voice has two tickets awaiting my arrival. After hours of having my underwear all in an emotional knot, all is now well. I have even received the camera and my tickets are set.

Alls well that ends well-even though I had to spend $50 to ship the camera stuff back. I learned a lesson-again. Being cheap can be expensive.