The Checkout

Archive: July 2006

How Good Are the Goods?

About 17 years ago, we bought our first gas grill. It lasted about 10 years. The next one lasted about five, and the inner parts of the third one -- only 2½ years old -- just disintegrated. In other words, each new version seems to have a half-life of its predecessor. Whatever happened to technology? I thought it was supposed to make products better and better. But some products barely last a year, if that. Consider telephones. I can't tell you the number of telephones we've recently purchased that lasted only a couple months before the buttons start to...

By | July 31, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Store Clerk's Perspective

We all gripe about customer service, especially inattentive, surly store clerks. But have you ever considered the rude customer? I didn't think about it often until my daughter started working in a retail store. Every night she'd come home with stories about nice customers and impudent ones--the customers who valued her help and even approached her as someone who had expertise as well as the customers who demanded her immediate attention, threw their money on the counter and talked on their cellphones as they were being checked out. I asked Alison to give me her perspective from the other...

By | July 28, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (65)

Borrowers Beware of Credit Card Offers

Before you sign up for that latest, greatest credit-card offer--you know, the one that promises a low- or no-interest rate on a balance transferred from an existing credit card--make sure you're aware of what you may be getting yourself into. A lot of fine print in the offer could make it unattractive. That's the advice of two credit-card experts who have been reviewing the latest solicitations flooding your mailboxes. First, even if the offer is for low interest or zero percent interest on the transferred sum, nearly all have a fee for making the balance transfer. It's typically 3...

By | July 26, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

FDA Demands Lead-Free Lunchboxes

The Food and Drug Administration is urging makers of soft vinyl (PVC) lunchboxes to stop marketing any products that contain lead. The move is an abruptly different course than the one taken by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has said that vinyl lunchboxes don't pose a health risk. Last week, the FDA sent a letter to manufacturers and suppliers, saying it was concerned that the lead in these lunchboxes could leach into foods. "Because neither lead nor lead compounds are authorized for use in the manufacture of PVC food-contact articles such as lunchboxes and some migration of lead...

By | July 24, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Advergame, Advercate, Advertise!

Imagine Nestle Push-Up frozen treats popping up all over the place. At kids.iceream.com, you--or more likely your kids--can bop those treats down again and again. Or your kids can visit candystand.com and bowl with Lifesavers "to discover the refreshing flavors." If that's not their game, there's Chips Ahoy! Soccer Shootout, Chuck E. Cheese's Tic Tac Toe, Pop-Tart Slalom, M&M Trivia and lots more. Advergaming (online games) are by no means as extensive as traditional TV advertising, but they have been designed to be more engaging--and for longer periods of time--than traditional ads. Online, kids can return again and again to...

By | July 20, 2006; 9:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

New Scam Twists

Do scamsters ever sleep? Probably not--at least based on the number of alerts that continue to be issued about one pernicious scheme after the other. I hope that also means Americans may be less gullible and notify law enforcement agencies about the scams when they see them. But I doubt it. Here are two of the most recent alerts: * The Internet Crime Complaint Center says consumers need to be wary of unsolicited cellphone text messages thanking you for subscribing to a dating service. The cost is $2 a day, which will be billed automatically to your cellphone bill. Of...

By | July 19, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

Document This!

For days, I listened to my husband, Gary Anthes, complain about the difficulties in setting up his new computer. And for days, I said, this needed to be posted in my blog. So, at my request, Gary (who is a senior editor at Computer World), wrote up his tale. Here it is: People are always kvetching about their personal computers, and for good reason. With the possible exception of Apple's Mac, they are a disgrace, by far the most problematic, frustrating, baffling consumer products on the planet. Maybe off-planet as well. But while people are apt to bash Microsoft for...

By | July 17, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (34)

Kite Tubes Recalled

Less than two weeks after the Consumer Product Safety Commission first issued a safety alert about an increasingly popular new water-sport--kite tubing--one of the makers has decided to withdraw its product. Sportsstuff, having received reports of two deaths in the United States and a variety of serious injuries, is voluntarily recalling about 19,000 Wego Kite Tubes, the CPSC announced this morning, The agency said it is aware of 39 injury incidents with 29 of those resulting in medical treatment. Those injuries include a broken neck, punctured lung, chest and back injuries and facial injuries. According to the CPSC press...

By | July 13, 2006; 9:08 AM ET | Comments (2)

Debt Collectors: The Good, the Bad...

Debt collectors are good for you--and the economy! I bet you didn't know that. Neither did I until I read the latest study from ACA International, the association that represents debt collectors. Normally I would throw such a study away, discounting it as self-serving dribble. But the study's findings are so intriguing I had to share them. And of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on them: According to the study done for ACA by PricewaterhouseCoopersLLP: * The number of employees in the third-party debt collection industry has grown from 70,000 in 1990 to 150,000 in 2005. * The...

By | July 12, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (44)

Faulting Universal Default

For consumers, "universal default" has to be one of the most aggravating policies practiced by credit-card issuers. Now, New York may become the first state in the country to do something about it--at least if Gov. George Pataki signs a bill passed by the state legislature last month. What is universal default? If you don't know, consider yourself lucky because it probably means you've not been affected. Under universal default, a credit-card company monitors the credit histories of its customers, even those who are current in their monthly payments. If a customer is late paying another creditor (such as...

By | July 10, 2006; 9:50 AM ET | Comments (41)

Say What You Mean, Round 2

Last week, I posted an item about my Canada trip, mostly discussing the things I read on the trip. I want to revisit that item for a couple of reasons: 1. As I noted on a comment I posted late in the chat, I stand corrected about my criticism of the tree nut allergy warning on peanuts. I appreciate all your notes and comments and realize that those allergic to walnuts, pecans and other tree nuts, could wrongly assume that a bag of peanuts may be safe because they are not grown on trees. 2. Many of you also commented...

By | July 7, 2006; 7:43 AM ET | Comments (50)

This Phone Bill Charge Was No Joke

Reader Luke Currano of Columbia, Md., recently sent me an e-mail about some extra cell-phone charges that really angered him. I wonder if any of you have had similar experiences. Here's his tale: He added a cell phone line to his Cingular account for his younger sister. His next bill included an $8.69 charge on the new line for "Direct Bill Download Detail." It turns out, his sister had been getting "stupid, unfunny jokes text messaged to her phone for several days,"--79 cents for each joke, coming two to three times a day. Currano said this was not something she...

By | July 5, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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