I WILL NEVER AGAIN RENT FROM AVIS OR BUDGET – Part III

(cont. from part 2)

I am going to condense the rest of the story because the intricacies can be mind-boggling.

Since I could not reach him electronically I decided to contact Michael Tucker, Avis Budget’s legal counsel, by writing an actual letter. You know, the kind that involves pen, paper, envelope and a stamp. I explained my story and insisted on payment of what was now $458, including the original $297 plus court costs and my parking expenses at the courthouse. A week later, I received an email from his assistant. This was followed by a phone conversation. That was followed by contact with a paralegal, Ted Kushner, who claimed they had known nothing of my dispute.

“How can that be?” I queried, considering that the company sent a representative to the first trial.

“Why didn’t you have the court send the judgment to our headquarters?” Ted parried.

“Because a California court has no jurisdiction in New Jersey,” I replied. “All legal processes were sent to your agent for service in Sacramento. That’s why you have an agent for service.” Ted responded that he researched my claim and found my complaint(s) to be valid. He promised that Avis Budget would cut me check for the full $458.

“I’ll need to receive it before the next court date,” I warned, “or I will be back in court and you will have more problems with me.” (All quotes in this story are approximate paraphrases as no one in or out of their right mind and claim to come close to exact conversations … ever.)

A few days before the August 18 court date (yes, this had been going on for eight months!) I left messages with both Michael Tucker’s office and Ted Kushner. I warned them that the judge had issued a bench warrant and that they had better send me the check. I received no reply whatsoever.

You have probably guessed it already. Back to court I went. The defendant failed to send a representative but there was no penalty. Why? The nimrod “judge” from the previous court session never issued the bench warrant. This judge, however, said she would.

I was in a tizzy. Actually it was a Toyota. Nevertheless, I was now considering flying to Avis Budget’s Parsippany, New Jersey headquarters to try my hand at terrorism.

The next day a UPS envelope arrived. In it was a letter from Ted Kushner explaining that the issuance of the check had run into some bureaucratic complications and he is sorry for the delay. Enclosed was a check for $458. He could have called two days earlier to tell me this before I went back to court. But n-o-o-o, that would have been efficient, and from my experience I have come to believe that efficiency is not in Avis Budget’s DNA.

Perhaps Avis's clogan should be "We Try Hardly.'

The companies from whom I will never again rent a vehicle. Photo – en.wikipedia.org

Let me add one more bit of proof to that allegation. At the beginning of this story I mentioned Avis had sent me two $25 coupons when I first complained about the rental screw-up. Well, a few days before the last court appearance I decided to use the coupons to rent a full size sedan from an Avis Budget location near my home. Why the hell not? I made an online reservation and received a confirmation. And when I got to the location the next day, guess what. Yep, they had no full size cars, so I had to take an SUV. And when I returned it, there was no one at the counter. After waiting about five minutes I called out. The rental agent appeared from the next room and said, “I’ll be right with you.” I stood there another five minutes. When she reappeared, she was chewing on some food and said, “ I had to finish my lunch.” Really?

Case closed.

And that is why I will never again rent a vehicle from Avis … or Budget.

But wait! This just in. I was reviewing my monthly credit card statement this very afternoon and although the charge for the rental should have been 17 bucks., it was $33.62. I called the rental agency and the very same woman told me it was because I had only put 18 miles on the car and that when customers put on so few miles they usually (my italics) don’t replace the gas. Avis charges $13.99 for each delinquent gallon. When I told her that I returned the car with the same amount of gas as when I took the SUV, she would not budge, saying that I should have shown her the receipt and that I had only 24 hours to make a correction. This, despite the fact that I did not get my credit card statement until a month later.

I gave up on her and called my credit card issuer who promptly credited me for the $16.62 overcharge.

And THAT is while I will never, ever, ever, rent form Avis or Budget again.

 

Hospital Insurance Gaps Could Make You Sick

You know those extra charges that hotels sneak into your bills, like resort fees, convenience fees, service fees and the like? Well hospitals and their doctors frequently inflict worse ills upon their insured patients. And you could be left holding the bag, and I’d rather not specify what kind of bag I’m referring to.

The problem is worst in emergency situations. Let’s dissect how this happens. If your in-network doctor brings in a specialist, consultant, or other hospital employee who is not part of your insurance network, your insurer may cover only a portion of that person’s fees, or none at all. And when you’re on a gurney in an ER it could be a bit difficult to question their insurance credentials of the gal who just shoved that thermometer into your mouth.

If you are on Medicare, you’re protected against excess fees. But if you have private insurance there are steps to take to protect yourself:

  • Know where to go in an emergency. Make sure the hospital is in your network and inquire as what percentage of ER doctors and medical personnel are in your network. If the percentage is low, look for another facility.
  • If you are to undergo a scheduled procedure, ask your doctor who else will be involved in your procedure and demand in-network providers unless there is an exceptional necessity for an out-of-network specialist.
  • If an out-of-network specialist is required, talk to your insurer well in advance to see if it will cover your costs. If it rejects your request, try to talk with a person higher up the chain of command.
  • If that doesn’t work, wait until you receive a rejection and then file an appeal.
  • If all else fails, you may try asking your state insurance department or attorney general’s office to intercede.

A bit of careful preparation could save you thousands of dollars and ton of grief.

Source: Interview with Elizabeth Ryden Benjamin of Community Service Society, in Bottom Line Personal, November 15, 2014.

 

I’m Glad my Laptop Doesn’t Have a Built-in Camera

 

This is a detachable webcam

My detachable webcam

In George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother—that is, the omnipresent government—uses hidden cameras inside residents’ homes to keep an eye on them.

Well, in case you were unaware, anyone who is proficient at hacking might be able to do the same to you if your computer is on and it has a built-in webcam.

Ergo I’m glad that my laptop uses a USB clip-on camera for the rare times I Skype.

Hackers who are so inclined can manipulate websites and imbed an invisible permission prompt for the use of the webcam. The nefarious no-goodniks place the prompt on top of a video’s “Play” button, or on another button or link, so that an unaware user gives the hackers permission to start taking pictures through the webcam.

The website www.MakeUseOf.com recommends that folks with webcams download the most recent security updates for their cameras. They also recommend that you regularly scan for malware (better yet, have a security program running on your computer). Of course, you should use a firewall. And just to be sure, watch your webcam’s external light (if it has one) to be sure it’s not on unless you are using your webcam.

If all of this is too technical for you, just place a piece of paper over your webcam when you are not using it.

Now, where the hell did I put my camera?

Love the New Car? Wait! Don’t Drive it off the Lot Yet

When I was a kid in the Bronx, yo-yo “season” would come around each spring and every kid in the neighborhood would be walking around with his Duncan or Cheerio. Nowadays, yo-yo season can be an all-year thing … for unscrupulous car dealers. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, if you are dealing with an unscrupulous car dealership, when you make the down payment on your new car (it could be in the form of a trade-in), the finance guy has you sign a great financing agreement and leads you to believe the deal is final.Be careful before you sign for that loan

So you drive off the lot whistling a happy tune (the epitome of which would be “Whistle a Happy Tune”). Hours or days later, you receive a call from the dealer in which you are informed that the deal fell through. The caller asks you to come in and the salesperson tries to convince you to take a higher-interest loan, by about 5 percent. If you say, “No deal,” the dealer tells you that you have driven the car and informs you of the costs, which may include keeping your down payment (or trade-in) or charging you for wear and tear.

Solution: Never drive a new car off the lot without having a fully authorized financing agreement in your clutches.

**************

The Consumer Gal and I are about to have our book, Enough of Us – which deals with other subject matter – published. In preparation for the big event we need to concentrate on that project. So for the next eight weeks or so, I will be suspending my semi-monthly Consumer Guy full-length blog posts and, instead, providing  a short consumer tip each week (I hope).

If you would like to learn more about our book that deals with issues of ethics and procreation, please visit our other website, www.enoughof.us. Many thanks for your interest.

Package for You? Yeah, a Pack of Pain

The US Postal Inspection Service reports a scam in which you receive an email informing you that the US Postal Service (USPS) had trouble trying to deliver a package to your address. All you have to do is click on the enclosed link arrange for delivery. If you click on the link you will download a

USPS Office of the Inspector General

An exact replica of your nonexistent package

malicious virus that can steal information from your computer. So…how can I put this?…Oh yeah, DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK! In fact, never click on any link in any email that resembles an email like this.What to do? Forward spam emails that involve snail mail to the USPS Inspection service at spam@uspis.gov. If there is a package waiting for you, the mail carrier will leave a notice in your mailbox.

**************

The Consumer Gal and I are about to have our book, Enough of Us – which deals with another realm – published in a few weeks. In preparation for the big event we need to concentrate on that project. So for the next eight weeks or so, I will be suspending my semi-monthly Consumer Guy full-length blog posts and, instead, providing  a short consumer tip each week (I hope).

If you would like to learn more about our book that deals with issues of ethics and procreation, please visit our other website, www.enoughof.us. Many thanks for your interest.

 

Cleaning Your Ductwork Could Mean Getting Cleaned Out

According to Consumer Reports Money Adviser, having your home’s ductwork cleaned may clean out your heating vents … and your checking account. Unless, when you poke you head into the vent you see mold, there is no evidence that spotless ducts will make your life any easier or cleaner.

And according to the Environmental Protection Agency:

Airducts diagram (EPA)

Structural diagram of an air duct (EPA)

“Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces …  air ducts are only one of many possible sources of particles that are present in homes. Pollutants that enter the home both from outdoors and indoor activities such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, or just moving around can cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. Moreover, there is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate matter in air ducts poses any risk to your health.”Money Adviser also warns that poorly trained workers might damage your heating system. Companies that offer free “tests” will claim to find mold and then hike the initial cleaning price quote.If you decide to have your ducts cleaned after an inspection, ask the sales rep to show you exactly what he found and to put into a written contract what process the company will use to do the job. Before you sign on the dotted line, check with your local Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), Yelp!, and your local consumer protection agency (it might be your state’s attorney general’s office).

 **************

The Consumer Gal and I are about to have our book, Enough of Us – which deals with another realm – published in a few weeks. In preparation for the big event we need to concentrate on that project. So for the next eight weeks or so, I will be suspending my semi-monthly Consumer Guy full-length blog posts and, instead, providing  a short consumer tip each week (I hope).

If you would like to learn more about our book that deals with issues of ethics and procreation, please visit our other website, www.enoughof.us. Many thanks for your interest.

 

 

 

So-called “Convenience Checks” are Convenient . . . for the Banks

You know those “convenience checks” that come with your monthly credit card statement?

Convenience checks

Convenience check promotion with an low introductory rate

They’re for suckers. Here’s why. When you use them you’re usually charged the daily cash advance interest rate of 12, 15, or even 20 percent. Often they come with a 3-4 percent fee. When you make purchases with them you don’t usually accrue the benefits—like airline miles, cash back, and the extended warranty benefit —that come with credit card purchases.The low introductory interest rate may quickly disappear and if using one of these checks causes you to exceed your credit card limit, it could cause the check to bounce and to hurt your credit score.Shred any checks that you receive. Better yet, resist temptation, as I have done, by calling your card issuer and telling it to stop sending the checks.

**************

The Consumer Gal and I just had our book, Enough of Us – which deals with another realm – published. In order to concentrate on that project I will be suspending my semi-monthly Consumer Guy full-length blog posts and, instead, providing  a short consumer tip each week (I hope).

If you would like to learn more about our book that deals with issues of ethics and procreation, please visit our other website, www.enoughof.us. Many thanks for your interest.