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A charge to the rescue

Charging your cellphone on the road, plus airport parking and the costs of car maintenance.
Image: Cell phone
A man checks his cell phone as he walks in New York City. In a recent poll, thirty-one percent said cell phone chargers were the most important thing they forgot to pack on a business tripRich Kareckas / AP
/ Source: Reuters

A cellular telephone charger can be such a familiar part of the home, car or office landscape that it is easily left behind when a business traveler hits the road.

That has been documented in a new survey of travelers who put the chargers at the top of the list of items they most often forget. Thirty-one percent of those questioned in the Hilton Garden Inn poll said chargers were the most important thing they forgot to pack on a business trip, followed by razors (21 percent) and toothpaste (19 percent).

But even when the charger is left at home and the phone's battery is running down, it may not be necessary to run out to an electronics store to buy an on-the-road replacement. Check first with the hotel concierge.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago, for instance, says it keeps a number of chargers compatible with the most common kinds of phones for such emergencies, for guests to use at no extra charge.

Chief concierge, Jon Winke, a 30-year veteran at the hotel, says he had 42 requests for cell phone chargers from guests during the month of September 2004 alone.

He has a collection of about 40 chargers covering nearly every make and model of telephone. They come mostly from an unlikely source.

“A lot of guests leave their chargers in the room (when they check out),” Winke said. “They go into the lost and found for three months and if they are not claimed, we recycle them.”

Occasionally, a guest has a model that does not work with one of the pool of chargers already on hand, he said. In that case, the hotel will buy a new one for the guest in need, then keep it for future use. Sometimes, it will also sell a charger from the collection to a guest at a reduced rate.

Winke says he is now getting an increasing number of requests for BlackBerry chargers from guests who left those devices at home, too.

Car costs

On another front, employees who use their own car for business travel might want to take notice of a recent report to find out if their reimbursements are truly covering what it costs to keep a car going.

The study from Runzheimer International, a Wisconsin-based business consulting firm, found that the annual cost of having a car varies by as much as $4,000 across the United States, depending on geography.

The report found that Detroit was the costliest U.S. location in which to own and operate a car—$11,114 a year—while Sioux Falls, S.D., was the cheapest, at $7,131.

Los Angeles took the second spot at $10,016, followed by Hempstead, N.Y., at $9,880, New Orleans at $8,957 and St. Louis at $8,600. The costs measured for a mid-sized car were fuel, oil, tires, maintenance and insurance.

High insurance was the culprit behind the figures for the three costliest cities, the report said. Detroit rates for liability, comprehensive, and collision insurance were $4,540 annually, Los Angeles $2,987 and Hempstead $2,925.

The report did not measure every major city, but selected ones that were representative of regions across the country.

Airport parking

In other news, business travelers looking for ways to save money on long-term airport parking might want to check out a service that guarantees a spot in off-airport locations at rates below what airport lots charge.

Tom Lombardi, president of, says leisure travelers have been driving his business but he expects the business travel segment to expand, as air business travel picks up and customers look for ways to avoid congestion around airports.

He already has a couple of Fortune 500 companies among his customers and one major travel management company, he added.

To use the service a customer charges the first day's rental on-line, and is credited for that when parking. In Chicago, for example, a lot being used by Lombardi's service and located a few minutes from O'Hare International Airport charges $8.95 a day or $59.95 a week, which includes baggage handling and shuttle service to the terminal.

By comparison, close-in outside lots operated by the airport itself at O'Hare run $25 a day, with cheaper rates of $13 a day at the airport's more remote lots.