7 lessons consumers learned in 2011

2011 was quite a year, wasn’t it?

As the economy struggled to recover from the Great Recession, consumers felt as if they had great big targets painted on their backs whenever they went to the store. That frustration led to the “Occupy” protests that took root in many American cities this fall.

What did we learn from 2011 and what does it mean for this year?
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Is this a scam? Are airlines really giving away “free” flights?

Dick Jordan became suspicious when he received the first postcard offering “two round-trip airfares to anywhere Southwest flies.” He’s a loyal Southwest customer, but this seemed too good to be true – and he thinks it might be a scam.

After Jordan received the second postcard offering the same deal, he decided to contact Southwest Airlines. Maybe they were rewarding him for his continued business? After all, the postcard had the trademarked logo on it, so it seemed legit.

Instead of dialing the “888” number on the card, Jordan contacted a customer service representative at Southwest, who quickly informed him that this was not a deal offered by Southwest Airlines.
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Time to get political? Yes, and here’s how

Consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren is running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts and across the country, the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken hold as a grassroots consumer movement. Of course, there’s also Ralph Nader, who has made two unsuccessful presidential bids.

Add it all up and you can’t help but wonder if the time has come for consumers to get political.

Before I give you the answer, let’s consider a few facts about how businesses influence the legislative process. Corporate America and other special interest groups, including unions and trade groups, spent a record $3.51 billion on lobbying in 2010, according to OpenSecrets.org, which is more than twice the $1.56 billion spent just a decade earlier. That’s a whole lotta money.
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12 things you shouldn’t do in 2012

They say 2012 is the year of the apocalypse, and while preventing the end of the world is beyond the power of this consumer advocate, there is one disaster I can definitely help you avoid: The apocalypse of your bank account.

Shady businesses are coming for your money, and they are developing more sophisticated ways of extracting it from your wallet and purse. I know because I spent most of this year researching a book about consumer scams.

Here are 12 things you should never ever do as a consumer if you want to avoid having a scammer or an unscrupulous company clear out your bank account.
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Amazon offers fastest holiday purchase refunds, study says

The returning of gifts is almost as time-honored a tradition as Christmas itself.

Merchants are quick to take your cash, but they sure take their time with a refund — unless you’re doing business with Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, or LLBean.com. They were the three fastest online retailers, according to a new study by StellaService, issuing refunds within about four days.

The slowest? That would be Dell.com, which took two weeks, and Avon.com, which still hasn’t returned Stella’s purchase (naughty, naughty!).
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7 unbelievably good reasons to order Scammed right now

You need to get Scammed now. Otherwise, you could get scammed.

My new book, Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals is available online now and arrives in bookstores Dec. 27.

You can get your own copy now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes. It’s being offered at an amazing 39 percent off the list price on Amazon and B&N. What a deal!

Here are a few more reason you need to order Scammed today:

It’s the book they don’t want you to read. Corporate America would prefer that you didin’t have the information I reveal in Scammed because it will give you the upper hand in every purchase you make as a consumer. Many shady businesses want to keep you ignorant — and buying their scammy products.

The reviews are really awesome. Critics have called Scammed “eye-opening” and “inspiring.” One reader, who just finished the Kindle version yesterday, said, “you can read chapter after chapter without wanting to put it down.”

I explain why you’re being scammed. Why are we so unhappy with certain businesses, like cable TV companies and wireless carriers? Why do we always seem to be the losers in every transaction? I investigate what’s happening behind the scenes when a company tries to pull a fast one. You’ll be shocked.

I’ll tell you how to avoid it. The most exciting part of Scammed is that I have the space to share my insider tips that will ensure you won’t fall for the scams perpetuated by many businesses. It’s information unethical companies would do anything to prevent you from reading.

I’ll help you be a better consumer. My life’s mission is to make sure you’re never, ever scammed again. And so Scammed is full of never-before published tips on how to stay out of trouble, no matter who you’re doing business with.

I’ll tell you all my secrets. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I became a consumer advocate, you’ll want to get your hands on this book. I tell you about all the times I was scammed, and how it turned me into a crusader for customers. These are extremely personal stories that I won’t be writing about anywhere else.

You’ll be supporting more consumer advocacy. By buying Scammed you’re casting a vote for more consumer journalism. Isn’t that reason enough to order your copy now?

Here’s how to order Scammed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes. Remember, it’s being offered at 39 percent off the list price on Amazon and B&N during the holidays.

The smarter consumer: 7 qualities of a winning customer

I spend a lot of time harping on customers who screw up. Sometimes I can’t help myself. Not only are the cases interesting, but they’re also instructive.

For example, one reader who will remain nameless recently visited an airline website with a “best fare” guarantee. She assumed she wouldn’t have to shop around, because if she found a cheaper fare elsewhere, she could just invoke the guarantee.

She made her purchase, but later found a better fare. The airline denied her claim.

If you’re wondering why, just check out the fine print on your average “best price” guarantee. They are maddeningly complicated, and ultimately worthless. All you have to do is read them to know why.
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What’s your problem? Not seeing a refund from Globaleyeglasses.com

Question: After researching every online eyeglass site, I selected Globaleyeglasses.com for new lenses for my own $400 Oliver Peoples frames.

It was difficult to find a site that would put new lenses in my own frames. I needed progressive bifocals, sent a copy of the prescription and ordered Varilux polycarbonate Essilor lenses which the company assured me they had at a cost of $164, including $6 for shipping and $5 insurance.
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