How Do You Decide Which Stories To Run?

Like your high school guidance counselor, our door is always open. Drop your gripes, story tips, musings, rantings, or fabulous ideas in the box at tips@consumerist.com. Unlike your counselor, we will help you get into college. The college of good consumerism.

We read every tip, and as long it’s about something exploding, we post it. The other tips are subject to a severe review process, which for at least for the editor, consists of meeting some of the following:

Is it set in America?
Is it interesting?
Can others glean useful information from it?
Is it about a big company?
Is it about banking, cellphones, cable companies, insurance or HMO’s?
Is it funny?
Does it have a cool, big, picture?
Is it a source document?
Is it AOL related?
Does it expose a facet in a current site discussion?
Does it allow us to make potty jokes under the guise of consumer activism?

Inside, all the stories last week that met these stringent criteria, along with those that tickled Brownlee’s quixotic glands.

Bank of America Ruined My Credit
We Reprimand a WalMart Manager
Capps Rental Bilks Katrina Relief Volunteer
Joey’s Med Grill Lets Reader Off The Rack
Budgets Bills For Hypotheticals
Camp Stove Runs Completely On Innuendo
Dell Recalls 4.1M Exploding Laptop Batteries
The Truth About ‘5’
Alamo Passes On Charges for Imaginary Parking Tickets
The Ubiquity of Broken Electronics Pilfering by the TSA
Finally! This Site Covers A REAL Consumerist Issue

Comments

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  1. Nifle says:

    Gosh, next thing you’re going to ask is for us to make our comments interesting and relevant too!

  2. Jupiter Jones says:

    Not interested in stuff that happens to us dirty Canuck hosers, eh?

  3. Hawkins says:

    or us filthy bedwetting English types?

  4. Demingite says:

    I hope this passes your criteria. There are no explosions involved except maybe that of a neuron or two overstimulated by perturbance.

    I bought something via a credit card recently at a Micro Center store. The clerk told me that it was required that I give her my address, which she would enter directly into her register computer, as an anti-fraud measure. (She didn’t even ask to see my driver’s license, she just wanted me to give her my address.) Some gas pumps now require that you enter a zip code with a credit card payment as an anti-fraud measure, but this is the first experience I’ve had of being asked, and ostensibly required, to enter my full address.

    I complained. Fortunately, the clerk called her manager and I was excused from providing my address.

    Is there any chance that their “requiring” an address for “anti-fraud” purposes is a half-truth, and that the greater truth is that they want to harvest my address, to the point of inventing a “requirement”?

    On my receipt it says: “Micro Center uses customer information to direct communications of interest to you [and of no “interest” to Micro Center?], including our Sales Flyers. To enhance your computer experience with us [no relevance to money-making on your end?], we may sponsor on a limited basis, relevant offers from a very limited number of carefully selected [can I trust Micro Center and their honesty and their judgment at this point?] partners who have agreed to strict confidentiality.” [Just like AOL. See, there, I worked AOL in.]

    (Reminds me of the “H2NO” campaign at Olive Garden restaurants where servers were trained to push sugary sodas (major $ margin, in an immediate sense only) over water (no $, in an immediate sense only) to “enhance the customer’s experience.” Right. I would argue that enhancing the customer’s experience would involve (1) reducing the amount on the customer’s bill, and (2) promoting the customer’s health.)

    Again, I find myself suspecting that anti-fraud is not Micro Center’s real, or principal, concern. If anti-fraud is their concern, they can ask to see my ID. And they did not.

    I resent both their apparent dishonesty and their treating me as “a future sales prospect” without their having earned that right. Forcing me to supply my address is not “permission marketing.”

    They had me by the gonads last time because of the time sensitive importance of the item I was buying, but I will not be returning to Micro Center soon.

    Someone who could do a whole riff on companies that use euphemisms like “enhance your experience” to mean “we want to make as much money off your ass as we can get away with.”

  5. Demingite says:

    I don’t know if you’ve ever written anything about grocery store “club cards,” but that’s a gold mine of anti-consumer BS (and incredible contortions of euphemism from stores that have these “programs”). See http://www.nocards.org. At least one elected government official somewhere has proposed laws against these things, but I don’t think anything has come of it.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    Sorry, though we appreciate your company, not really so much posting of the out of States material.

  7. amazon says:

    Not even if they are filled with innuendo allow for many potty jokes?

  8. Triteon says:

    Demingite– You did the right thing by refusing and asking for a manager. In my area the larger of the regional supermarket chains (Schmuck’s, in the vernacular) began asking for customer’s ZIP code about two months ago and I always refused. Either enough other people complained or refused, or the marketing push ended shortly after. In any case the blanket accumulation of data went away. Fight the marketing!

  9. Demingite says:

    Triteon: I’ve assumed that the requirement to enter a ZIP code at an automated gas pump is a security measure to make it less likely that people will use a stolen credit cards at such a people. (But if someone steals your credit card *and* knows your ZIP code, the security measure will fail.) People in retail stores who ask for your ZIP code — no matter what payment method — are usually trying to gather marketing data. I hate that, too. I decline a lot of the time, or say “whatever ZIP code this place is” — I never actually give them my ZIP code. The ZIP code I live in is none of their business. If they were to pay or compensate me for giving them marketing data, I’d consider it. But otherwise it’s an intrusion and it adds delays to the check out process.

  10. Triteon says:

    For both the gas station (ID) and the retail store (marketing research) you are right. I like to test the retail machines to see if the ZIP is for security (I’ve found for K-Mart, Target and various grocers the answer is no).
    Here’s a fun story– I go into Border’s a few months ago and proceed to write a check; I’m asked for my phone number, no ID needed. Question the clerk, question the supervisor…neither can offer me a reason why no ID is needed beyond “we don’t require it.” So go to Border’s, kids, and break into a car– steal a checkbook and look up the victim’s phone number…free books!
    Oh, and I work in advertising.

  11. amazon says:

    Service and retail places ask for your zip or postal code so that they know where to send flyers and where to open new chains.

  12. Demingite says:

    amazon: Two more reasons to not give them the gift of your zip code. You’ll get more junk mail. And I once told someone who asked for my zip code, approximately, “The last thing I want is for there to be a new strip mall built in my zip code.”

  13. greenbe says:

    Lowes: The deal was to have kitchen cabinets et al installed in 7 weeks; it’s now 4 months (without a working kitchen)…They sent in an installer with a record of incompetence (later they fired him)who botched the job and have been dragging things out ever since. They have a system, where it’s impossible to contact them by phone (they have neither voice mail nor email); I’ve been in “Please Hold Prison” for what amounts to four full days of work)..and the Lowes (800 44 LOWES)”headquarters” sends you back to the store giving you the problems to begin with. The details are grotesque: Yours without charge! Interested?

    Thankyou
    Gershon Greenberg

  14. Guzziman says:

    I was recently brushed aside by the Beltone company for asking them to stand beside a hearing aid that fell apart in my ear. I was sure they would do the right thing, apologize for the inconvenience and fix it right away. Hell No! It could be fixed for $450. Infuriated I looked closer at the hearing aid industry and discovered it should be wide open to exposing a huge ripoff. They are exploiting a huge and growing number of people with hearing problems and deserve to be publicly hung. Their cheaply made Chinese electronics are surrounded with a marketing hype using fear and family related emotional tactics to charge high rates for nothing but air. When I looked inside the magical hearing aid and saw what they are selling for $1500 to 8,000 I got suspicious. IMO $200 would be the maximum, $5 is more like it and either way costs are coming down. Beltone personnel are supposed to be professionals but at what? Look closer. They do not have medical degrees. Where do they receive the education needed to say, “Can you hear that”? The huge profit margin is their target, not helping people as they purport. About 80% of the costs appear to be on the marketing side, not the manufacturing side of the equation but they will deny that. Hearing aids are medical necessities, not luxury items to be bantered by market forces. They are priced out of sight for many who need them just to live a normal life. Stop buying their hype and put them out of business. They are better suited for sales with AOL and other areas than for the pseudomedical bullcrap they spew now .

  15. Amelie says:

    I love your 95% of your stories. The only ones I don’t like are the obvious advice articles that would be found in a second-rate women’s magazine.

    Anyway, I would really like Consumerist to make us able to rate comments. There are too many clowns who clog comments with their pathetic attempts at humor. Maybe these yahoos would stop when the score next to their profile – or better their name – was a negative 120.

  16. comopuedeser says:

    Another suggestion: Could you offer the ability to be notified when someone comments on your comment? You could put this in the profile area as something that is a user “opt-in” function so that only those who want this can have it.

    Another way to do it would be to make it so that when you click your username at the top, it would show you the comments of others to your comments.

    Both of these would be much easier than having to go wade through the different posts trying to see if anyone responded.