Millions upon millions of seamless commercial transactions — interactions between consumers and business — take place every day. But sometimes, something goes wrong. Your package arrived broken. You’ve been billed for a service you cancelled three months ago. You were called something rude by an employee. Whatever it is, it’s a problem, and you need to complain about it. [More]
The Department of Transportation has updated its consumer guide to air travel, which provides a quick summary of what to look for when buying a ticket, and what protections you have during travel. It’s also a good starting point when you have an airline-related problem and need more information before deciding what to do next.
A water leak on your line can run up your utility bills, plus it wastes water. But before you spend money on a plumber, there’s a few things you can do yourself to try to locate and stop the leak. Wikihow has a good DIY guide, from listening to toilets to checking hose bibs. Even if all you can do is find the leak, you can save money if you’re able to tell the plumber where it is and he doesn’t have to go looking for it.
How to Find a Water Leak in Your House [WikiHow]
This “Recalled Baby Products 2009-2010” graphic from the website hugamonkey is massive, and it shows how many types of products were recalled over the past 16 months. You can use it as a reference tool to see if there’s anything in your home on the list, or to remind yourself why you’d rather have a houseplant.
We all like to think we’re basically scam-proof, and that our reason and skepticism will protect us from even the most talented hustlers. More likely, we just haven’t encountered those hustlers yet.
Here’s a free handbook that’s full of the sort of stuff we spend all of our time discussing on Consumerist. Sections include how to be a savvy consumer, how to file complaints, and a directory of organizations and agencies to contact when you have a problem. You can view the contents online or download a PDF copy, and you can also request a print version for your doesn’t-go-online relative (although you’ll have to wait for a reprinting).
HomegrownEvolution.com is sort of a simplified Instructables for people interested in “mead making, beer brewing, bread baking, urban poultry raising, container planting, pirate gardening, foraging, pickling,” and more, according to Cool Tools. We have a feeling “pirate gardening” isn’t as fun as it sounds.
Last May, we reviewed which fast food and chain restaurant websites were sharing nutritional information with customers and which ones weren’t. Red Lobster has always been stingy about nutritional info, so we’re happy to report that they’ve finally changed their ways and now offer an online and downloadable nutrition guide. The only thing we can’t figure out is how their “1 1/4 lb” steamed lobster is only 45 calories—that works out to about 1.5 ounces of actual lobster. (Thanks to zlionsfan!)
Stephanie writes, “I’m guessing I’m not the only Consumerist reader to ever get a sewing machine hand-me-down or buy one from a garage sale sans operating manual.” In fact, there are all sorts of devices that require some level of instruction before you can get the maximal use out of them. The problem is, people lose manuals, and companies don’t always make them available for download once they’ve been pulled off the market. Stephanie almost paid $35 for a digital copy when she decided she’d try asking the company directly.
You know, the coming switch to digital TV isn’t exactly rocket science, but we’re betting plenty of people are still going to end up feeling confused and angry come February of next year.
If you’re entering the work force for the first time (although this probably pertains to lots of older employees too), all the details of insurance, taxes, and 401(k)s can be daunting/boring/confusing. Ron Lieber at the New York Times has pared away the extraneous bits and created a “primer for young people starting their first job,” including helpful advice like why it’s important to get health insurance, how to fill out your W-4, and why it’s good to take advantage of the built-in “raise” that comes from a company-matching 401(k). Sure, this is all basic stuff, but that’s the point. Ya gotta start somewhere.
If you’re going to buy an air conditioner unit this summer, remember to pick the right size. [Energy Star]
An anonymous tipster sent us AOL’s 153 page internal collections guidebook for prying money out of delinquent account holders. The guide shows that AOL is following some of the debt industry’s most egregious collection tactics by encouraging agents to deceive and lie to customers. After the jump we present AOL’s scare tactics, tricks to negotiating a substantial discount, and the full collections guide.
If you’ve got a baby and you’re concerned about buying unlabeled products that contain Bisphenol A or BPA—which some studies have indicated may lead to adverse health effects in humans—the website Z Recommends has just launched a free text messaging service that lets you query their database of companies while you’re standing in the store. They’ve also got a printable wallet-card you can carry with you, which serves as both a cheat-sheet for the text service and a quick reference source for major companies.
You’re busy: you don’t have time to shop, or to read magazines, or to look at magazines for ideas to guide you when you go shopping, which you’re not going to do because you’re too busy. Luckily Slate has pre-digested the gift guides from ten magazines including Vogue, Maxim, Consumer Reports, and Gourmet, then barfed them up like an HTML mama bird for your shopping convenience.
Save some money by re-using your existing strings of light this Christmas—even if they’re currently acting all wonky. Here are some handy guides on how to repair dark strings of Christmas lights, whether they’re LED or the classic incandescent type. They’re fairly detailed, with a sort of techy “how things work” vibe, but contain a lot of useful information. For example, just because a string of incandescents has an AC outlet at the end, that doesn’t make it an extension cord—the more power you pull through the cord, the greater the current and the higher the risk of shorting out bulbs.
Ah, holiday tipping, that peculiarly American pastime that erupts into an orgy of envelopes and awkward “thank you”s at the end of every year. Kiplinger tries the impossible: putting together a guide for who to tip and how much to give. Even they admit that it’s nigh impossible to create a definitive guide—they suggest “handing out end-of-the year tips for one to three people who have given you exemplary service during the year.”