Sixteen years ago, John Walker's family moved from Tennessee to North Carolina. He slid a box like the ones we're talking about under the bed in the master bedroom.
There it stayed for the better part of two decades, until recently. Buried inside: a United Airlines $378 printed ticket voucher, dated December 31, 1998.
"Printed," as in, "on paper," and "existing in the physical world." How quaint.
Walker checked the fine print, which said it could, "forever be applied toward the purchase of another domestic non-refundable ticket, for the customer named on the ticket."
Walker says he remembered the circumstances. He'd booked a United Airlines flight from Nashville to Sacramento 20 years ago, but hadn't been able to go.
"Forever," huh? Walker wondered.
Let's pause for a second, and ask you to predict United's response when he called to see if the airline would honor the "forever" voucher.
A lot has happened since the 1990s. Google was brand new then. Mobile phones still seemed kinda neat.
On planes, the average distance between seats in coach averaged 35 inches. (It's as low as 28 inches now.)
And United Airlines isn't even really the same company. Not only did it go through bankruptcy, but it later merged with Continental in 2010.
"No one knew what to do with a paper ticket," when he called, Walker told a reporter at WFMY television. "They hadn't been issued for 10 or 12 years."
Last ditch effort: He reached out to the company via Twitter. And he learned that the voucher, as you might expect, was no longer valid--as summarized on The Points Guy.
[A] customer care associate explained that the "forever" referenced in his letter was no longer under a binding agreement because United went bankrupt ... which meant all debts, including airline tickets such as his, were discharged by the airline.
Then came the unexpected. The stunning decision.
United decided to honor the voucher anyway.
"I think it was just good customer service on their part," Walker said. And maybe a chance for a little good PR. (Something United could certainly use.)
It's a unique situation, the airline explained. They don't really expect a flood of 20-year-old paper vouchers from the Clinton administration.
And maybe somebody at the airline just wanted to see what one of these old paper vouchers actually looked like.
The "vintage" voucher is nostalgic for him now, Walker said, but United wants him to mail in the physical ticket in order to convert it to an electronic one.