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The Internet News

Consumers Union Wants You to Share Your Story 174

dcgirl20006 writes "Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports launched a new site to help consumers across the country who are dealing with phone bills, cell phone contracts, cable packages and Internet scams. Consumers experiencing problems are not alone. The site is searchable and consumers can find one that most closely matches the situation in which they are in. We don't have all the answers to every problem consumers may face, but some consumers have shared solutions and suggestions."
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Consumers Union Wants You to Share Your Story

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  • Taxes (Score:2, Funny)

    by gcnaddict ( 841664 )
    Does this work with IRS tax issues? I'd love to post my issues with the IRS in there
  • poof! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:16PM (#12571548)
    Sharing is bad. the RIAA told me so.
  • Good on them (Score:1, Insightful)

    by treff89 ( 874098 )
    It's about time some larger, collative body steps in to perform something like this. Incidences of telephone companies (as one example of many) charging the wrong price on bills, or not providing a service, and then not fixing it up for the customer are all too common, and frankly current means of fighting these (ie. TIO, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in Australia) , although having some power, are by no means a definitive source on _all_ incidents regardless of industry. This is a good move for the
    • I've always found it interesting that cellphone providers aggressively market themselves and seem to try very hard to sign up new customers, and then treat the existing ones like crap. Memo to cellphone company executives: If you want to have an edge on your competitors (all of them), start offering decent customer service! Since none of them currently do, your company will be the first. Now that people are finally waking up and realizing that there's more to a cellphone plan than a glitzy phone with low pr
      • If they offered decent customer service, they wouldn't have any money left for that aggressive marketing.

        It's been my observation that the heavier a company markets itself relative to its competitors, the crappier its products/services. It's common sense that the money for marketing doesn't just come out of thin air.
      • A new SVP joined our company a month ago, and last week we had a full department meeting. She asked one of the head marketroids for one of our regions why we didn't have a good retention strategy, and instead put every dollar into new acquisitions. The short and sweet answer is that new customers are worth more to the bottom line than keeping and old one. I can only assume it's the same in the telecom world as mine.
    • Bell (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phorm ( 591458 )
      My co-worker just spend about a half-hour going through his Bell cellular phone bill. It seems that every month since he started (about 6+ months ago I think) they've screwed up on his bill, and never in his favor. The main screwups seem to be with "companion phones" which are not supposed to be billed when they call each other, often they'll not charge when B calls A, but will for A calling B. This month he found $18 in errors... go figure.

      How many people don't check their bills, and get screwed to the c
  • Its sites like this that really illustrate just how powerful and useful the Web can be. That and Slashdot [slashdot.org] of course.
  • It seems to be slashdotted.
  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:21PM (#12571595)
    ...can complain early?
  • If it's so new... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:21PM (#12571599) Homepage Journal
    ...why do some of the complaints date to 2004?

    Also, the few I read seemed to me like more of cases where people failed to read the fine print and then got upset when the other party enforced their contract rights.
    • by rootofevil ( 188401 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:23PM (#12571622) Homepage Journal
      being that the site is slashdotted, i cant RTFS.

      however id surmise that complaints would date to 2004 because things sometimes happen in the past. just a guess though.
    • I dunno.

      Would it be so unreasonalbe for the companies to make the fine print a bit bigger? Or to make sure that the terms are so reasonable that there isn't anything that you wouldn't expect in the fine print?

      So the companies involved are technically in the right. They still make a lot of profit from people who aren't fully aware of the terms, that they know are not fully aware of the terms.

      If I treated people like this, then I'd rightfully be considered a complete bastard. Companies are alllowed
    • They finally got the advertising budget to hoist themselves up to the esteemed level of a slashdot story?
    • by Ruie ( 30480 )
      Also, the few I read seemed to me like more of cases where people failed to read the fine print and then got upset when the other party enforced their contract rights.

      While caveat emptor is a time tested principle, it is not perfect for all situations.

      In particular, here are a few issues:

      • Licenses are hard to analyze - they are not formulated in the language friendly to casual reading. Hence, you are unlikely to fully absorb all the implications if the transaction is casual. And you do many casual t
      • The amount of work you do in comprehending a license before accepting it should be proporational to the risk that you place yourself at by not complying.

        If I'm licensing desktop office automation sw fow an entire company, you can bet I'm going to understand the entire thing before agreeing. Not so with buying a DVD or, say, a computer game, because the risk associated with non-compliance is much smaller.

        In general, you cannot change the licenses terms on your cell phone contract. You can, if its that im
        • by Ruie ( 30480 )
          In general, you cannot change the licenses terms on your cell phone contract. You can, if its that important to you, review and select the provider with the least offensive terms, or, if your risk associated with non-compliance is too great, do without a cell phone.

          There is an important exemption to this - one could try to change the license terms through collective bargaining, PR, or just if many people ask for it. This is where websites can be very helpful.

    • Re:If it's so new... (Score:5, Informative)

      by angle_slam ( 623817 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @06:21PM (#12572195)
      Also, the few I read seemed to me like more of cases where people failed to read the fine print and then got upset when the other party enforced their contract rights.Because sometimes, customer satisfaction should come ahead of contract rights. For example, last year, I moved pretty suddenly (I got a job offer in mid-December and was moved 800 miles away by mid-January. Every company I dealt with realized this was an extraordinary circumstance and just let me out of any service-contract that was geographically limited. This included companies who are usually villified, such as the cable company and the health club.

      There was one exception though, the alarm company. Turns out the automatic renewal was a year contract, not a monthly contract. And it had to be cancelled by December 8. I didn't get my job offer until December 15, so I did what I did with every other company--told them I was moving, was completely unable to use their service, and requested to be let out of the contract. They wouldn't budge. "A contract was a contract." So I had the absurdity of having a contract to protect my house that went from January 8, 2004 to January 8, 2005, even though I moved out of the house on January 15, 2004!

      Turns out that is part of their scheme. In fact, a lot of alarm companies do the same thing--they put you on a yearly, automatically renewed contract, but bill you monthly (or quarterly) so you think you can cancel at any time. The reality is alarm monitoring services are 100% useless.

      There was a new commercial that one alarm company had. The smoke detector portion of the alarm went off. Then the phone rang. It was the alarm company asking if your house was on fire. The tag line? "Does your smoke detector do this?" My response--no, but if my house was really on fire, it wouldn't be forcing me to answer the phone in a burning building.

      • That's not absurd, that's a cost associated with deciding to accept a job that's 800 miles away.
        • I understand I had a legal obligation to honor the contract. My point is that other companies put customer service ahead of the contract. I mentioned the health club. (LA Fitness) I signed a 3 year deal with them and still had a year left. AND I prepaid. I wrote them a letter explaining my situation, they said, "mail me a copy of your new driver's license (to show there was no club near my new address) and we'll refund the difference". That's customer service. When they expand to my new area, am I more or l
      • Re:If it's so new... (Score:4, Informative)

        by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:10PM (#12572565)
        ADT, right? Their scam has been going on for quite some time, and several of my relatives have been sucked into it. They try to closely guard the secret about their alarm service, which is that you can get the same thing with $100 worth of Radio Shack parts and a few hours of your time, and with no contract or reoccuring fees.
      • Re:If it's so new... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by gcatullus ( 810326 )
        On some contracts, when the sales drone is begging for the sale, I have just crossed out the offending fine print and initialed the emmendation. This has actually worked twice in my favor, where the company tried to enforce their usual terms and I pull out my copy and ask them to prove that I signed something else.
      • they put you on a yearly, automatically renewed contract, but bill you monthly (or quarterly) so you think you can cancel at any time.

        I agree with you wholeheartedly. It may be legal, but it doesn't mean it's not deceiving [webster.com] (I like the explanation at 'Synonims.')

        Here in Italy pretty much every service does this. ISPs, cell phone carriers, satellite pay TV, you name it. They charge you monthly, advertise monthly rates, and never, ever mention a yearly obligation.

        Burying the clause in their contract doesn

  • Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am ABDULLAH ALI ABULLAH i am from the republic of YEMEN,but live and work in Egypt,i am the acountant general of Arab Bank plc,and i am on a special assignment to Nigeria-Arab Bank for one year,to run the audite programme.

    I have urgent and Very confidential business proposition for you.In august 29 1998, a Foreign Oil consultant/contractor with the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation, Mr.Barry Kelly made a numbered time (Fixed) Deposit for twelve calendar months, valued at US$20,00
  • Consumer Voice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DA-MAN ( 17442 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:24PM (#12571633) Homepage
    Alright! All too often, the consumers voice is lost in the shuffle.

    I attempted to submit questions about a company that bit me on Slashdot, just to see if I was the only one. After numerous rejected stories I ended up writing an article, and submitting it to OSNews.

    http://www.osnews.com/story.php?news_id=10532 [osnews.com]
  • I thought it was CRASH us now... too late

    RP
  • by farble1670 ( 803356 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:31PM (#12571701)
    when i was looking to buy an MP3 player, i started researching my first choice, player A. to my dismay, i found tons of negative feedback about A. i then looked at B. tons of feedback about B. then C ... etc. every player i looked at had a lot of negative feedback. the point is, there are always some number of disgruntled customers. such online reporting cannot be used as an accurate guage of quality. if five people cry foul, you cannot say if it's 5 out of 10, or 5 out of a million.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I actually *like* seeing negative feedback reviews, since they evaluate a product much more critically than positive reviews.

      As a case in point, I was looking on Amazon for a MP3 player -- one product had tons of good reviews, and I was seriously considering buying it, but I found a few negative comments that noted that the player's shuffle capability was notably erratic.

      Bottom line: Complains may not be an "accurate gauge of quality", but they *will* clue you into faults that appear post-facta.
    • I usually look at the negative comments in reviews, and look at why people complain. If it's a problem I can overlook or ignore, then I don't factor it in.
    • Oh hey no problem. The marketing guys said it's ok to buy A.

    • Right, but for each product you can look at the ratio of negative feedback to positive feedback. You can tell if it's 5 negatives and 10 positives.
      • I often wonder who writes these positive reviews. The only time I have contact with customers after a sale is when there is a problem, I don't often hear that the product is wondeful and works as advertized, I hear "this hunk of shit failed after just four years, I want my money back"
        If things go well that doesn't get people to make action. Happy people tend to do nothing.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I was about to dismiss online negative feedback based on your post, when I realized that there will always be disgruntled reviewers of online feedback, and so I can't give any weight to your negative feedback on negative feedback.
    • True enough - the things I often look for in reviews is if A) it seems like there are rampant quality control issues, and B) if the undocumented specifications don't match what I need.
      Often, I can disregard a good number of reviews as I don't care about that "problem" (i.e. "it doesn't come in hot pink! what at terrible company"). Using all caps and too much foul language also decreases a review's credibility.
    • the point is, there are always some number of disgruntled customers. such online reporting cannot be used as an accurate guage of quality

      Actually, I've found it to be quite good. Unfortunately, I've found out things about products I have bought after the fact. My Linksys WRT54G wireless router. Bought it a little over a year ago mainly because it had Linux on the inside, and I thought that it was a decent product. Wrong. It needed resetting about once a day if not multiple times a day about when the
    • Where are you looking that you find so many negetive reviews... perhaps you're just looking in the wrong place(s). I tend to check sites such as Epinions [epinions.com], wherein many of the projects have a nice mix of good and bad reviews. And when reading bad reviews... pay attention to the comments. If somebody is bitching about how an mp3 player doesn't have "as much capacity" as others (which people do, even though the capacity was stated before purchase) you can disregard it... if they're regularly bitching that the
  • Unfair (Score:5, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:31PM (#12571703) Homepage Journal
    This kind of witch hunt is totally unbalanced! We need a Corporations Union (independent of Congress) that has a list of consumer tricks to get out of paying bills. Like bankruptcy - they're liable to claim that getting sent to Iraq is making them pay their bills too late to keep their spouse and kids heated through the Winter. Post your list of corporate concerns, like not enough return on campaign bribes, below.
    • Re:Unfair (Score:1, Funny)

      by bprime ( 734645 )
      Dear Sir,

      I regret to inform you that the Enron execs are currently...indisposed, and unable to reply to your post.

      With love,

      Bubba
  • Too bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by under_score ( 65824 ) <mishkin AT berteig DOT com> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:35PM (#12571756) Homepage
    They didn't figure out a way to leverage what epinions [epinions.com] is doing and just promote that. I know that epinions is business oriented, but it is almost exactly the same concept.
    • It can't hurt to have MORE of these kinds of services; commercial, not-for-profit, or whatever.
      • While I agree that there's nothing wrong with more sources (this is more business oriented, epinions is more product oriented), keeping things too spread out, or unlinked, can definitely hurt. Why? Because then there are large gaps of information missing. I love epinions... when they have a review of something. Often they don't. If it's popular enough, sure, but then you can go anywhere to find reviews.
    • The CU site seems to focus more on services, as opposed to products. (Yes, I know Epinions rates services, too.)

      CU is the publisher of Consumer Reports, which is the largest general-consumer product review magazine (they test TV sets, refrigerators, cars, and other things.)

      What I wonder is, are they going to do anything meaningful with the opinions they collect? Normally, CR conducts random-sample surveys, which are a little more objective than simply collecting everyone's rants.
  • Like customers in tech support who still look for the "any" key, people at large cannot even deal with the basic entanglements they willfully get themselves into. Now we share our stories and knowledge about them?

    I wonder how our parents ever got along not having this sort of Internet phenomenon. How ever did they pay the electric bill and understand their furnace service contract without this? Well I pay my cell phone bill and cable bill online by bank card, manage and modify my services by the same web
    • the customer was just too stupid to read their contract, if not too stupid to live

      You remind me of a guy I knew long ago who ended up in marketing for awhile. He was explaining his ethics to me one evening at the bar, and they went something like, "Well, if the customer can't figure out that we're misleading them, they deserve to be taken. Anyway, if we don't do it, someone else will."

      Yeah, dumb people sure are a pain. And I know for a fact that people who can't even spell "various" are mentally def

      • Nowhere does the grandparent say that he should personally exploit the stupid people of the world, he is just exasperated that they persist in blaming the "world" for their stupidity. I can totally share that exasperation. At work there is a phone card machine, in large letters right above the bill acceptor, in both Spanish and English "This machine cannot dispense change - EXACT CHANGE ONLY". (Not knowing Spanish I am just assuming that it is correctly translated) Weekly someone says that they "got screwwe
        • Nowhere does the grandparent say that he should personally exploit the stupid people of the world

          No, of course not. Nobody has suggested anything as offensive as that. The original comment was merely letting off a bit of steam by suggesting that certain people might be "too stupid to live."

          My response was that by the same logic, people who can't spell should be exploited, or if you prefer your terminology, "screwwed." But if you would rather that they be left to die, I think that would be logically

  • by Deep Fried Geekboy ( 807607 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:43PM (#12571825)
    Oh no! It's their servers igniting!

    I expect to see a severe downgrading of the reliability of whatever brand it is they use in the next Consumer Reports, or at least the addition of a column for 'Slashdot survivability'.

    Perhaps someone should post a helpful article on their site, when it finally comes back up.
  • My story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @05:57PM (#12571942)
    I bought a phone at Verizon that said it had a battery life of 110 hours. When I actually used it, it lasted 48 hours or less. Now I understand that they fudge it a little, but less than half? So I went down there, and they had the audacity to tell me that the battery life listed was for when the phone was turned off!

    So then the phone says "change battery" and I went to tell them that I needed a new battery since the phone was under warranty. They said that "change battery" just meant charge battery. So I said, "so you mean its just broken, and it means charge the battery instead of change the battery?" and they said, "yeah." So I said, "Well then THAT MEANS THE PHONE IS FARKING BROKEN" in front of their entire store full of customers, and everyone started cracking up. They kicked me out of the store, and I was planning on coming back that night and torching it but I pussed out.

    • What do you do to deal with a company that won't respect their warrantees. I've had plenty of people state they bought product X, it broke, and the store was either a pain in the ass or outright wouldn't accept the return. Personally I'm dealing with the local Canadian Tire because the brakes rotors they put in my car keep shuddering something fierce on hills (likely warped rotors)... but they claim it's not their brakes at fault but bad calipers (replaced calipers myself, still shudders, go figure).

      Are
      • I don't know about Canada, but what about the Better Business Bureau?
      • I know, OT, but what use is a forum if you can't give out useful information.

        Its not warped rotors [stoptech.com].

        While they should stand behind any changes they made, if you go elsewhere to get it fixed, its good to know what the problem may or may not be, and warped rotors isn't it. Its possible its pad deposits, but it would be very rare to see that problem on a normal unabused car.

        Changing pads and checking things like suspension bushings, alignment and wheel bearings are a better bet. You could have bunged up pads
  • Since there are more countries in the world than TheOneCountry, and Slashdot refers to the global internet community, I think it is better to specify for which country you're talking about the next time. Thanks
  • After what the Consumers Union did to Suzuki, I'm not inclined to trust them.
  • by grolaw ( 670747 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @06:15PM (#12572137) Journal
    Has anybody actually read CR recently? Better still, who has compared the CR from the 1970's with the 2000's? The evaluations and the NEGATIVE reports have been supplanted by mostly happy-talk and non-substantive reviews of major manufacturers products.

    The on-line CR has even less to recommend itself. Now they are putting the public out-front to eat the defamation actions where the old CR would have done the research and published the dirt.

    I blame the CR board member Burnele Powell, a law professor and law school dean. Who better to blame than the lawyers?
    • Sorry, but I haven't noticed CR/CU getting softer, and I've been reading since the early 80s. I think a lot more cars are rated Not Recommended now than previously (this is mostly because of the rollover test which CR designed and which NHTSA finally implemented after years of CU bugging them. I would agree that fewer non-automotive products are getting Not Recommended, but I think that's caused primarily by manufacturers producing fewer unsafe products, not by CR getting soft. Hug a trial lawyer today (OK,
      • I agree with you that the on-line version is the same as the print content.

        I believe that you started reading 10 years after CR made their name. They were the "non-commercial" answer to the UL Labs.

        Today, you must admit, CR has dropped the number of testing criteria and the number of products tested.
    • I think in aggregate CR doesn't pull punches, that said their evaluation criteria may not match yours and in their framework of evaluations perhaps overall products have improved since the 70s. As a simple hypothetical to illustrate this latter point, the TV of 1971 and the TV of 2005 are very different beasts (even in the older "analog" tube variety). I would say that probably uniformly the worst 2005 TV is probably more passable than some of the best 1971 TVs...
      • In the early 70's through the early 80's CR had a grid of 6-12 criterion for each product tested and the grid was published for EACH product.

        Today they don't cover as many products, they aren't as comprehensive in their testing and they have become lawsuit-shy.

        I'm open to evidence to the contrary, but I became disgusted by the dilution of their "mission" after almost 30 years as a member.
    • CR has been increasingly neutered by corporation who abuse the courts to protect their defective products. CR does provide reasonably independent reviews on how a product might reasonably function with an average consumer under reasonable conditions. Although I have disagreed with some conclusions, I have seldom found thier methods truly suspect.

      Most reductions in quality are probably due to fact that the courts are becoming less a protector of individual freedom, and more a tool to insure corporate pro

      • Now we get to the subject: publishing comments from the public. The original CR was a bi-monthly publication and the room for public comments in the magazine format was greatly limited. From my own observation the entire "critical" letter section did not exceed 12 column inches a year. You can rest assured that they edited the comments very well, indeed. Certainly no more than 24 letters were published in a year, and usually many fewer.

        Now CR has decided to provide unlimited bitch and moan space, but
    • I noticed that back in the 90s when CR would always recommend Sears Kenmore products which for the most part are a steaming pile of dung. They couldn't possibly be the best in their category, but CR always scored them highest. I know the official policy is to not accept advertising or sponsorship from a corporation, but perhaps Sears was rewarding them in some other indirect way. I've always been suspicious of this magazine ever since, but they do serve a good purpose overall. And luckily they don't just ro
    • I've been reading CR since the 70s and have found that though there have been some changes over the years, the basic mission and role is more or less the same. I don't have the on-line version so I can't compare that but the magazine (having gone through many facelifts) does a reasonable job of comparing things. As another poster points out, sometimes their perspective is nit-picking and sometimes they don't do such a great job on products that I know more about than them (bikes, computers...) In general
    • Has anybody actually read CR recently?

      Yeah, but I let my subscription lapse. Basically, their values have drifted away from my values to the point that their reviews just weren't very meaningful to me anymore.

      For example, if they were comparing two home theater systems, they might recommend the one that's pretty much inferior in every way except that it uses $2 less electricity per year. I really wish I could say that was a joke or exaggeration, but it's not.

      Since I started their emphasis on effic

  • with a suspicious movie endorsement [img278.echo.cx]

    Oh well, at least my lawn didn't turn into lava.
  • I have a complaint (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    How about people who submit stories about websites to Slashdot without identifying themselves as being personally involved with the site? How trustworthy can this website be when one of their staff, Morgan Jindrich, submits the story without mentioning his own relation with the organization?
    • We don't have all the answers to every problem consumers may face, but some consumers have shared solutions and suggestions.

      How excatly is he concealing his involvement with the site?
  • walmart told me so.
  • 1) Let everybody know about problems and share solutions. Build big database.
    2) Once the site is actually useful, switch to a subscription model.
    3) Profit
  • Rebates (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vrimj ( 750402 )
    Consumer Electronics Rebates should be one of the topics. I have had more trouble over 30 and 50 dollar rebates then I ever have had with my cell phone provider.
  • Wasn't there something called planetfeedback.com which was supposed to do something similar? Are they still around?
  • Eh.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:05PM (#12573864)
    Not much to this site. Mostly a great place to bitch and make businesses look bad. One thing I do notice is there is no way to reply to a story, which is awfully convienent because leafing through what's posted I realize lots of the stories are:

    * People who didn't read the fine print on contractual agreements.

    * Customer's who don't understand economics of scale (i.e. one person having troubles with cell phone reception in a given area of town does not justify the cost to put in a new tower for the company).

    * People who are blaming the wrong person
    (i.e. a la carte cable)

    Don't blame Comcast because you can't buy channels one at a time. Comcast can't buy their stations from Viacom, ect like that, that is why they don't offer it to you. If you hate this arrangement, talk to TimeWarner (Entertainmant) or NBC Universal, not Comcast.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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