The Checkout

Archive: August 2006

Verizon Drops Controversial Fee

The customers have spoken, at least according to Verizon. On Wednesday, the company said it was dropping its new supplier surcharge that I wrote about last week. Here's an excerpt from the company's press release: Verizon Communications today announced that, effective immediately, it is dropping previously announced plans to impose a supplier surcharge for DSL-based Internet access service on its retail customers. A small number of customers who have already been billed for the surcharge will receive a credit. "We have listened to our customers," said Bob Ingalls, chief marketing officer of Verizon Telecom, "and are eliminating this charge in...

By | August 31, 2006; 10:36 AM ET | Comments (11)

Reward Card Challenges

Today, there are rewards credit cards for just about anything. Just by using your card you can earn cash or discounts for buying books, gas, cars, toys, pet supplies, crafts, trips, coffee, etc. But sometimes, consumers have complained that these cards are just not very rewarding. Cardweb.com, a Web site that monitors the credit-card industry, reports on a new survey by Disney Rewards Visa (another rewards program, of course), which found that while 41 percent of moms have rewards credit cards, 53 percent of this group have not redeemed their points. Why? The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that...

By | August 30, 2006; 7:01 AM ET | Comments (25)

Shredding for the College Set

Fellowes Inc. makes shredders. So, it's no surprise that it recently issued a press release urging college-bound students to include shredders on their back-to-school shopping lists. Here's some of what the company said in a recent e-mail release: "Credit card offers, communal dormitory garbage cans and unsolicited mail make college campuses an identity thief's dream," said Kristen Gehrig, senior marketing manager at Fellowes. "It's frightening how careless college students can be with their personal information. However, by shredding personal documents before throwing them away, college students can significantly decrease their risk of becoming a victim of identity theft." My first...

By | August 28, 2006; 9:26 AM ET | Comments (13)

Verizon Value Update

It didn't take long for federal regulators to react to Verizon's new supplier surcharge. Reuters and Wall Street Journal Online report that the Federal Communications Commission will send a "letter of inquiry" to Verizon, seeking an explanation for the new fee on its DSL customers. The fee replaces a government Universal Service Fund surcharge that ended this month. Both Reuters and WSJ Online said Bell South will also receive an inquiry letter. While that company has not imposed a surcharge, it is continuing to charge $2.97 a month, equivalent to the old USF fee, on high-speed Internet service. FCC...

By | August 25, 2006; 4:05 PM ET | Comments (2)

Verizon Value? One Fee Off; Another On

Verizon gives back with one hand, then takes away with the other. That's the best way to explain what the telephone giant is doing to its DSL customers. Just last week, Verizon Online said it would stop charging the federal Universal Service Fund recovery fee, which ranged from $1.25 a month to $2.83 a month, for its DSL service (Verizon telephone customers still have to pay that fee). But then, in an e-mail to its "valued" online customers, Verizon Online said it would start charging a new fee to DSL users--this one is called the Supplier Surcharge--beginning Aug. 26....

By | August 25, 2006; 6:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

Another Computer Battery Recall: This Time Apple

The Consumer Product Safety Commission today announced another recall of lithium-ion batteries, with components made by Sony. This time, the recall affects batteries for Apple computers, specifically certain iBook G4 and Power Book G4 notebooks. About 1.8 million batteries are affected, including 700,000 battery packs sold outside the U.S. Apple has received nine reports of batteries overheating, including two reports of minor burns from handling overheated computers and other reports of minor property damage. It is, however, unclear if these batteries ever caught on fire. When asked about that, CPSC spokeswman Julie Vallese said, "companies have the authority to...

By | August 24, 2006; 1:27 PM ET | Comments (3)

Generating Safety

Every summer, just before hurricane season starts, the government issues a safety alert about portable generators, warning that their misuse could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and death. The alert is usually repeated after every major storm. But these warnings don't appear to be sufficient based on the climbing number of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators. Between 2000 and 2005, there have been at least 216 such deaths, of which 64 occurred last year. That was the highest number ever, but not surprising given last year's horrific storms as well as the growing sales for generators. Now,...

By | August 23, 2006; 8:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

Veto Halts Curbs on Credit-Card Policies

Last week, New York Gov. George Pataki vetoed a bill that would have made his state the first to take action against the credit-card "universal default" policies. Consumer groups have been trying to get legislation passed in the U.S. Congress as well as state legislatures to restrict a credit-card company from raising interest rates on its customers, even those who are current in their monthly payments, because those customers may be late in paying other creditor (such as another credit-card company or utility) or have taken on so much debt that their credit scores drop. So far, all their...

By | August 21, 2006; 9:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

Warrantless Wireless Bills

Here's just a small sample of the e-mails I've gotten in the past few weeks about what seems to be a very troubling pattern: unwanted charges on a cellphone bill, particularly for what's called SMS service. (That stands for Short Message Service--for text messages such as horoscopes or jokes sent to cellphones and PDAs.) * "I have been charged over $60.00 in the past month for a service I did not sign up for. I have contacted Sprint. ... I was given a credit of $9.99 but had to pay the other $21.00. I am mad as hell ... and...

By | August 18, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (19)

Cracking Down on Gift Cards

Finally, the government is doing something about gift cards. Trying to head off consumer complaints, especially about expiration dates and hidden fees, two federal agencies are cracking down to make sure the terms and conditions of the cards are clearly disclosed to both card buyers AND recipients. Consumer advocates applaud the efforts but say they may not go far enough as they support a complete ban on expiration dates and inactivity fees. This week, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates the nation's banks (which usually issue Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover gift cards), posted a...

By | August 16, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (20)

Customers Happier With Google Than Yahoo

When it comes to keeping online users happy, simplicity and constancy are better than clutter and revisions, particularly when those changes don't necessarily improve anything. That, in a nutshell, is the conclusion of latest quarterly American Customer Satisfaction Index from the University of Michigan's Index being released today. And that conclusion helps explain why Google has tightened its hold as the leading online site, while Yahoo has seen a dramatic drop in customer satisfaction, said Larry Freed, president of ForeSee Results, an online customer-satisfaction company that sponsors the index. For the first time since 2002, Yahoo saw its customer...

By | August 15, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Dell Recalls Sony Laptop Batteries

In the largest recall ever for the consumer electronics industry, Dell Inc. is recalling 4.1 million lithium-ion batteries for laptop computers. The problem: The company knows of several incidents in which the batteries made by Sony Corp. burst into flames and damaged other properties. Read more here. Click here to see if your battery is part of the recall and to get a replacement....

By | August 15, 2006; 8:39 AM ET | Comments (4)

Fine Print Hide & Seek

The ultimate in fine print arrived at my house earlier this week: a letter from Verizon touting its FiOS TV service. Now that my county, Arlington, has given its approval to Verizon to offer its TV service as a rival to Comcast's cable system, Verizon promotions have been arriving almost daily at our house. The one that really caught my eye came in a big 8-by-11 envelope stamped "priority delivery" and "important information inside." It looked like an urgent, overnight delivery. Needless to say, that envelope didn't get automatically thrown into the trash. Inside, there was a letter about...

By | August 11, 2006; 7:10 AM ET | Comments (38)

Whose Line is This TV's Anyway?

I went to the beach for an old-fashioned vacation last week and got a glimpse of the future: Checkout TV at the supermarket. Now that TVs are in every corner of every airport and even in a growing number of elevators, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see them in the grocery store. But I was. As I approached the checkout, there it was: a very loud TV promoting one supermarket item after another. And when the line was long enough (which it was a couple of times), I even got to listen to some entertainment news,...

By | August 9, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (27)

Making Loyal Customers Pay

New Yorker Stacy Cowley recently wrote to complain about her annual renewal battle with Time magazine. It's a "tale of consumer injustice that gets me cranky every year," Cowley said. The problem, Cowley says, is that when it comes time to renew, loyal subscribers are asked to pay far more than new customers. Cowley has written about her frustrations on her own blog. Here's the shorthand version. When it came time to renew this year, Cowley visited Time's Web site, which offered a year subscription at $29.95. "That's been the subscription price for at least two or three years,"...

By | August 7, 2006; 9:40 AM ET | Comments (46)

Profiting from Bad Customer Service

For the first time in years, I recently flew on Northwest Airlines. I had been dreading it because my last trip on Northwest several years ago was so bad that I had vowed never to fly the airline again. You know: delayed, then cancelled, flights; surly employees; total disregard and downright rude treatment of passengers. But I figured Northwest had to have changed; besides it offered the best schedule and, of course, the best price. Indeed, this trip was better this time around (anything had to be.) The flights actually left early, all connections were made and all arrived on...

By | August 4, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (118)

Kids, Listen Up--or Maybe Not

Is Bus Radio "a low-grade form of child abuse" or a clever way to protect schoolchildren from inappropriate, sexually-loaded advertisements? I guess it all depends on whom you listen to. BusRadio is a start-up company in Massachusetts, the latest brainchild of the kids-marketers who gave schools free book covers full of bold, colorful ads for Kellogg's, McDonald's, Calvin Klein, Nike and other major national advertisers. Now, Michael Yanoff and Steven Shulman want to create a private radio network that plays music, public-service announcements, contests and, of course, ads, into school buses. As BusRadio's Web site explains: "Every morning and every...

By | August 2, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (287)

 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company