Consumer Affairs

By the way, the body shop that repaired my Toyota RAV4 after the goose strike incident is the Four Star Body Shop run by Loukas Pergantas. They’ve been repairing bits and pieces of my cars for about five years now, and they’ve always done a great job. And when it’s something that I’m paying for out-of-pocket, they’ve been good about controlling the cost.

Four Star Body Shop
5424 W. Montrose Ave.
Chicago,IL 60641

Ask for Loukas, and tell them you heard about them from the guy who hit the geese.

One of the most productive posts on my blog has been this Sprint-bashing post from 2005. It’s still the top Google result for “sprint fuckers” and the #2 result for “fucking sprint” and “fuck sprint”. (I should probably be using this to establish my social media SEO cred.)

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of my association with Sprint. I also had Sprint long distance service via a special deal I got when I signed up for the phone. It was actually a good deal for a while, but eventually we stopped using it, since our cell phones have free long distance. At some point, sprint announced that they were cancelling the deal, and the transactions for it stopped appearing on our bill.

Then, a couple of months ago, some collection agency called me to say I owed $52.63 to Sprint. After explaining several times that I wasn’t about to give out my credit card or bank information to a random stranger on the phone, I got the guy to tell me how to pay the bill online, and I told him I’d pay it that day if Sprint confirmed that I owed them money.

Sprint confirmed it, so I paid the bill. Since I pay my regular phone bills, and since Sprint had never sent me a bill for this amount, I can only conclude that some fucker at Sprint thought it would be cheaper to turn over all bills for dropped long distance customers to a collection agency than to develop a business process for issuing their own bills. Either that, or they’re just massively incompetent.

Then today, I got another bill from the fuckers at Sprint. Apparently, Sprint is still my assigned long distance company. I wish I’d noticed that. You see, back in February, my wife accidentally used our landline to make a 25 minute call to Florida. Now how much would you think that would cost? Seventy five cents? $1.75 at 7 cents per minute? Or maybe because we’re not a regular long distance customer, they’d charge something obscene like 25 cents per minute for a total of $6.25?

Would you believe they want $40.66?


That’s over a buck a minute for domestic long distance! No wonder people are still commenting on that last Sprint post six fucking years later! The folks at Sprint are still the same fuckers they’ve always been! I fucking hate those fuckers!


Google offers some fantastic services to users of the internet, but they’re so big that we’re all small potatos to them, which is probably why they seem to avoid giving one-on-one customer service whenever possible.

So when Aaron Greenspan of Think Computer Corporation had trouble getting anyone at Google to explain why they cancelled his AdSense account, still owing him $721, he decided to take the GOOG to court—small claims court in Santa Clara County, California, which is also home to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View.

It turns out that not only didn’t Google explain to Greenspan why they cancelled his account, they didn’t bother to explain it to the paralegal they sent to defend against the suit either.

“What was the reason Google gave you for disabling your account?”

“Beyond, ‘posing a signficicant risk to advertisers,’ they didn’t give a reason.” I said. “I don’t know.”

Google’s Ms. Milani didn’t know either…She claimed that Google could terminate accounts for any or no reason, and that I had agreed to such terms by signing up for AdSense in the first place. She even said that I’d admitted to violating the terms of service when I sent in my appeal form, because I had mentioned that my new domain name was only a placeholder site.

In fact, clause 6 of the AdSense for Content Terms and Conditions does not allow Google to terminate accounts for “no” reason–only “any” reason. Much to my amusement, the judge interrupted her to make a point that sounded familiar.

“But you couldn’t terminate my account because of the color of my eyes, could you? I have brown eyes. You couldn’t terminate my account because of that.”

Greenspan won his $721, plus court costs.

“But it’s not fair!” Google’s paralegal protested. “What if everyone whose account was canceled sued Google?”

Maybe they’ll find out.

Read the whole story of how Greenspan took on the Google and won.

(Hat tip: Philipp Lenssen)

Well, not quite, but this isn’t good. After last year’s problems with lead paint in children’s toys, Congress passed new laws to regulate the industry.

Without changes to strict new safety rules…mom-and-pop toy makers and retailers could be forced to conduct testing and labeling they can’t afford, even if they use materials as benign as unfinished wood, organic cotton and beeswax.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., lead sponsor of the legislation, says toy makers should not worry. Rush points out that the law already exempts products and materials that do not threaten public safety or health.

That’s a great theory, but as usual, Congress punted and left the details to a regulatory agency:

Determining what materials fall under that exemption falls to the [Consumer Product Safety Commission], however, which has yet to issue specific guidelines. With a Feb. 10 deadline for complying with the law, small toy makers say they have no choice but to act as if its rules apply to them or risk facing fines of $100,000 per violation.

This is a great example of why us libertarians don’t like government interference in the market: Even in an area like product safety where we’re willing to tolerate a fair amount of government intrusion, it’s hard for one central planner to get the details right.

It’s worse than mere ignorance, however, there’s also the problem of regulatory capture, where a regulatory agency—or Congress itself—begins to enforce the agenda of the major players in the industry it’s supposed to be regulating.

One European toy maker has already announced it will stop its exports to the U.S. because of the law’s costs and uncertainties. Selecta Spielzeug, a German company, said earlier this month that it will stop shipping its wooden push toys, games and other products to 1,200 U.S. stores after Dec. 31.

Apparently, this new toy safety law is hurting foreign and independant toymakers, both of which will now provide less competition for major domestic toy manufacturers. How did that happen? Did it have anything to do with the $850,000 worth of lobbying by just Mattel and Hasbro during the last election cycle?


Woman of the Law has a really good rant about a customer service nightmare with Sallie Mae, her student load provider.

I’m hoping the links in this post will improve her search engine score for the phrase “nightmare with Sallie Mae“. Or maybe I should link to it with the more traditional “Sallie Mae sucks,” or my personal favorite, “Fucking Sallie Mae!

In any case, I wish her luck in her efforts to smear a major corporation on the web. I’m sure they have it coming.

I just threw away the 12-page manual that came with my small desk fan, including 2 pages of IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO PREVENT INJURY.

So if I suddenly stop blogging, you’ll know what went wrong.

I was just visiting the Consumer Reports site to look something up, and for the fun of it I decided to see what they had to say about my Nikon D200.

Here’s every digital SLR camera they rated:

  1. Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT
  2. Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
  3. Canon EOS 20D

That’s it. No Nikon DSLR‘s at all. The Canon v.s. Nikon argument can go either way, depending on your needs, but you can’t argue that Nikon has some important cameras out there. The D70 is legendary for starting the whole DSLR revolution. Even more damning, the article is dated July 2006, but they haven’t rated the three hottest DSLR‘s of the past year—the Nikon D200, the Canon 5D, and the Olympus EVOLT E-330.

Suddenly I’m not so comfortable using Consumer Reports to make buying decisions…

I was installing new hardware in a friend’s computer today, and I discovered I needed an internal power supply cable. This is a four-wire cable with white nylon connectors at each end. I figured I could just run out to good old Radio Shack to get one.

When I got there, however, the sales clerk didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I looked around a bit, but they didn’t even carry parts like that.

The PC industry has been using these for at least 20 years now. Here’s a picture of one at MicroCenter. Radio Shack is a shadow of it’s former self.

My wife’s Toshiba laptop was having trouble a couple of weeks ago. Using my limited hardware knowledge, I figured the problem was some part of the communications path between the CPU and the hard drive. This could be the circuits on the hard drive, or it could be the controller on the motherboard. Either way, it was beyond my ability to diagnose further.

I was sure our warranty had expired, so all Toshiba had to offer was their depot service which takes about 10 days. That was too long for my wife to be without her laptop.

Instead, I called Precision Computer Services in Moline, Illinois. They’re listed on Toshiba’s web site as a Premier Service Provider, meaning they can fix Toshiba computers fast. The person I spoke to looked up the part number and serial number and confirmed that it was out of warranty. They told me it would take 3-4 days to repair (unless they needed special parts) and gave me a service order number.

I packed up the laptop and sent it via UPS ground on Tuesday for delivery Wednesday. The technician called me on Friday and we discussed the problem (bad disk) and my options. I called back to tell him I wanted to get the old disk so I could try to get some more data off of it. I called him back again to tell him that if it worked I’d like him to send it back with Saturday delivery so we could restore the data over the weekend. For each of these calls, I was able to speak directly to the technician working on my computer.

I got the laptop back on Saturday morning. It works fine. I hooked the old disk up to my desktop computer and was able to recover all the data. (I had it packed in ice to keep it cool.)

They charged me $185 for the disk drive (a slight markup), a $100 labor minimum, and $50 for Saturday return shipping.

My only peeve is a small one: I had sent the computer packed in the original Toshiba box, and they sent it back in a generic laptop shipping box. I think I can live with that.

So, if you live in the Chicago area, or anyplace else in easy shipping distance of Moline, Illinois, Precision Computer Services was fast, flexible, easy to deal with, and not too expensive.

No SprintI’ve fucking had it up to my fucking ears with those fucking fuckers at Sprint! Fuckers through and through! Fucker-coated fuckers with fucker centers! Fuck! I fucking hate those fuckers!

Ahem…Sorry about that. There’s something about cellular rate plans that just pushes me over the edge…

I’m about 15 months into my 2-year contract with Sprint when my wife’s phone starts to crap out. Sprint will get me a free phone if I sign up for a new 2-year contract. If I don’t sign up, a new phone will cost my about $150. Or, I can quit Sprint and switch to a 1-year contract at Verizon and also get a new phone. Then Sprint will charge me $150 for a new phone. Either way I have to pay $150 dollars to get my wife a new phone without renewing with Sprint, but the second way gets me out of the contract 9 months sooner.

So, done. Got the bill today. $150 as expected. But, oops, I forgot something. My phone and my parents’ phone are still on the plan, but now that my wife is off it, I don’t need 1400 minutes per month anymore. I’ll lower it to just the 500 minute plan.

So I call Sprint, and the nice person on the phone tells me that he’ll be happy to provide “excellent customer service” (so they say) by doing that, but I’ll have to restart the 2-year plan again. I tell him thank you and hang up. For some reason, I had been under the impression that I could change the number of minutes. Apparently, not only do they charge you for taking a phone out of the plan, but they want to exact a penalty for lowering your plan to compensate for the person no longer in the plan.

I do the math: Finishing out the current plan will cost $40/month more than switching to a new plan. Over 9 months that’s $360. Leaving Sprint right now will only cost $300 in cancellation charges. Looks like Sprint is going to pay me $60 to drop them.

Well, no. I’m going to have to pay Sprint $450 to get out of this stupid, stupid plan. I’ve just figured out a way to avoid paying them $510.