A giggle, a goof, a wrong righted

CONSUMING INTERESTS

October 09, 2007|By DAN THANH DANG

Buddha once said, "Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others."

Well, let's all dance the little dance of joy, because you have certainly played a big role in the pleasure I get from this gig.

One year ago this week, we launched this column with a promise to help right some wrongs, hold businesses accountable for their promises, and educate you on how to use - but not abuse - your power as a consumer.

We've definitely helped right some wrongs: John Carson got his new television channel guides. Stephen Jackovitz got his $15,000 custom-made kitchen cabinets fixed. Morris Tropper got an apology, a refund and a small credit for the runaround he got while returning a defective cell phone. Joe Clements got his 47-cent late fee back.

Hopefully, we've educated you: Don't respond to strange e-mail. Read your contract. Be persistent and insist on speaking to a supervisor. Read your contract. Use your debit card carefully. Did we mention, read your contract?

And we've held businesses accountable: Dollar Rent-A-Car reminded employees to refrain from bullying customers after JoEllen Armitage complained about being intimidated into buying rental insurance. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield re-examined its computer system after Sharon Nobles alerted them to claims that were being wrongly rejected. Jones Junction Toyota dealership in Bel Air changed its car service check-in practices after L. Bruce Hornstein objected to someone taking his Prius on a 400-mile joyride.

In two cases, we brought people back from the dead.

No, not the rigor mortis kind of dead. We mean the financial kind of dead where credit-reporting agencies mistakenly label living, breathing people among the dearly departed who no longer qualify for credit.

Home Depot chief executive Frank Blake read the column. As a result, certain supervisors had a lot of 'splaining to do about one customer's unhappy experience with the home improvement giant. Or so we were told. (If that's not true, don't burst our little bubble.)

We've been yelled at by a Kennedy. Sorry, Joe, we weren't criticizing your free-oil-for-the-poor program. We were just pointing out some misleading language in your mailings that confused the very people you wanted to help. It wasn't personal.

We have Comcast and Verizon on speed-dial. Or should we say, speed e-mail?

Many a homeowner has welcomed a Comcast or Verizon technician thanks to our diligent contacts at both companies. With that said, if we had a dollar for every Comcast or Verizon complaint that came through here, we could retire.

We've encountered some not-so-endearing businesses. Economy Heating & Air Conditioning in Joppa flipped the metaphorical bird to me and Thomas Park over his complaint about being overcharged for 15 minutes of work.

We've seen great acts of generosity from some businesses.

Thanks to Matthew Bowry, owner of SmartBox of Maryland, for donating use of your storage containers to Stacey Lancaster. It was much appreciated by the future Navy officer from Glen Burnie who discovered that his ezStorage'd belongings had been damaged by mouse poo, and that he had no insurance and no refund.

Ditto to attorney Franklin J. Muher, who offered his legal services pro bono to Charlie Lusco, who was rear-ended by a driver who refused to 'fess up to his responsibility.

We've been accused of being business bashers who are anti-Verizon, anti-Comcast and anti-Wal-Mart. At the other extreme, F.J. Gleason of Bowie accused us of going soft on real estate agents to protect newspaper advertising revenue. (The only time we ever consider our advertisers is when we're debating whether or not to pounce on a shoe sale.)

That we get bawled at from both sides tickles us to pieces. We aim to please - but not one side in particular.

We've been wrong.

Sorry, Gayle Levy of Pikesville. That Verizon phone outage problem you had was bigger and farther-reaching than we thought. In our defense, though, the Public Service Commission didn't think it was a big deal either - at least not until hundreds of customers called them later with the same complaint. P.S. We still don't think you should have gone over the minutes on your cellular contract because your home phone was out.

We've been puzzled by some questions.

A Mrs. Robinson called about a can of tomato soup she opened that didn't look much like tomato soup inside. We're not sure what she wanted us to do since she didn't ask us for assistance. But koo-koo-ka-choo Mrs. Robinson, we hope you didn't eat it.

We've enjoyed a giggle or two with some of you. Like this one about Home Depot:

"I was purchasing a can of interior house paint - Rodeo Red - and when I lifted the can onto the self-help checkout counter, the lid (which has not been properly pounded down) slid off and the red paint poured all down the front of my clothes," Kathy Krampien of Baltimore wrote. "The manager and employee responsible did not offer to help me and they actually had the nerve to laugh like it was some kind of joke."

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