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Posts Tagged ‘Consumer Protection’

GREEN MOMENT: Did You Know: Plastic Bag Manufacturers Sued Reusable Bag Maker ChicoBag For Ruining Their Business?!?

Posted by kristobaldude on January 11, 2014

Dateline: 01/11/14

Here is a win for the good guys. ChicoBag–creator of those collapsible, reusable shopping bags–was sued in 2011 by  the three top US manufacturers of plastic bags. Overall, environmental crusader and founder of ChicoBag, Andy Keller, saw this as a strategic attempt to drive the reusable plastic bag industry out of business. Then the environment polluting plastic bag giants could keep  wallowing in corporate greed and keep polluting the environment with more and more plastic.

The lawsuit was soon settled because the “false advertising” claims that the corporations had made against ChicoBag could not largely be substantiated. Count this as a win for the environment, and for the good guys. Below are some excerpts on this issue. Please click the “source” links to read the original articles and support the truth crusader blogs fighting for environmental justice and bringing you to truth as it happens.

-Kristobaldude

ChicoBag - BabMonster reusable bagChico, California. – The ChicoBag Company, a reusable bag company, has announced it is the sole defendant in a lawsuit filed by Hilex Poly Company, LLC, Superbag Operating, LTD., and Advance Polybag, Inc.; three of the largest domestic manufacturers of disposable single-use plastic bags, on the grounds that ChicoBag has “irreparably harmed” their business.

Keller is a leader in the movement to reduce single-use bag waste and is well known for his “Bag Monster®” character and environmentally themed blog, bagmonster.com. Each Bag Monster costume is decked out with 500 plastic bags, a walking ball of bags representing the average number of single-use bags an American uses annually. “The Bag Monster makes people laugh and realize how many bags they use. Most people are shocked by the Bag Monster and quickly realize they can use significantly less” says Keller. While the Bag Monster is not specifically mentioned in the lawsuit, its success may have made Keller a target of the industry.

The lawsuit against Keller’s company was filed in South Carolina, a state that has no anti-SLAPP laws. A SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

In an effort to understand how this lawsuit fits into the larger strategy of the plastics industry, Keller began investigating the history of industry’s litigation tactics, and uncovered a long and largely untold story of conflict between the public and the now ubiquitous plastic bag. In a recent blog post, Keller published his discovery, helping to put this most recent lawsuit into context.

In response to the industry tactics, Keller stated: “Plastic bag manufacturers and their ‘non-profit’ associations, along with their trade association, the American Chemistry Council, have spent millions of dollars trying to persuade voters and elected officials to vote against single-use bag legislation. They have even funded and promoted ‘scientific’ studiesquestioning the safety and efficacy of reusable bags, fueling sensational news stories across the country, presumably aimed to slow the growth of the reusable bag industry. Sadly, this lawsuit will cost millions and is a complete waste of money. If the plastics industry spent a fraction of the money they have spent on lawyers and lobbyists, actually addressing the legitimate environmental issues, perhaps they wouldn’t have to rely on desperate attacks on small business.”

[Source: Bag Wars | Plastic Bag Giants Sue Reusable Bag Entrepreneur for Loss of Sales (Environmental Community Outraged)

ChicoBag]

TreeHugger.com logoOn the legal side, they’ve sued cities that have banned plastic bags like Oakland, CA, Fairfield, CA, and San Jose, CA, arguing that the decisions were taken without proper environmental impact studies and asking for bans to be taken down.

Unsatisfied with these practices, this business group seems to be taking the next step: filing suits against entrepreneurs that are standing up against single-use plastics. Such is the case of a recent lawsuit that three major plastic bag producers have filed against ChicoBag Company, a pioneering company in the reusable bag movement.

The names in question are Hilex Poly Company, Superbag Operating and Advance Polybag, who are claiming that ChicoBag has infringed in ‘False and Misleading Advertisement’, ‘Violation Of The Latham Act’, and ‘Violation of The Unfair Trade Practices Act‘ for some information included on its website.

[Source: Plastic Bag Companies Now Suing Entrepreneurs: The ChicoBag Case

Paula Alvarado, April 12, 2011]

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Posted in .Interesting Reads & Reblogs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Disconnected: a first-hand look at Sprint’s customer abuse (updated) | Ars Technica

Posted by kristobaldude on June 13, 2012

Disconnected: a first-hand look at Sprint’s customer abuse (updated)

Sprint sucks

Sprint sucks

Surely no one needs to call Sprint customer service 90 times in six months? …

by  – July 13 2007, 8:45am PDT

Sprint got into hot water last week when word began to trickle up the media food chain that the company is booting customers who roam too much (including soldiers stationed in no-service zones) or who call customer service too many times. If you caught the media coverage of this story in everything from the Wall Street Journal to a segment last night on CNN, then you probably noticed a common theme in the online responses and “man on the street” interviews—indeed, you may have had this reaction yourself: booting American soldiers at West Point for excessive use of the “free roaming” service is a big no-no, but anyone who calls customer service 90 times in six months deserves to have their account canceled.

If your reaction to the news of Sprint booting people for excessive customer service calls was, “Good for Sprint… people are whiners,” then I’d urge you to rethink that attitude.

ZDNET blogger Russell Shaw, who has been following this controversy in a series of posts, reportsthe following experience of a Sprint customer named Rene:

“The vast majority of my calls were to fix errors Sprint made,” Rene tells me in her latest email. “Most of the calls were transferred numerous times, disconnected (forcing me to call back) or they told me to call a different #. “That’s why the actual “call #” was so high.”

I can personally vouch that Rene’s account isn’t at all far-fetched. As a long-time Sprint customer who has had major problems trying to recoup massive overcharges from a generally incompetent and unresponsive Sprint customer service department, I can tell you from first-hand experience: if Sprint owes you $300 or more (like they did me), then you’d better be prepared to dial customer service again and again and again if you want your money back.

I was promised follow-up calls, refunds, and all sorts of other things that never materialized. And every time I made a call to customer service, I had to bring a new agent up to speed on my apparently baffling and peculiar case history. (The language barrier between me and the typical Sprint rep didn’t help, either.) Over the course of about a month, I got disconnected, transferred, and generally jerked around until finally, at long last, a sympathetic … (Read more here)

Posted in .Interesting Reads & Reblogs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are CNET.com & DOWNLOAD.com Software Reviews Even Credible or Reliable Anymore?

Posted by kristobaldude on February 14, 2011

Unreliable? Untrustworthy?

Unreliable? Untrustworthy?

So I have been using Acronis True Image Home 11 since 2009, and have been using other incarnations of the software since 2004.  Acronis has always proven a very reliable (and free) option for backing up and creating hard disk drive images in my own personal experience.  In fact, the only problems I’ve ever had with a given version was when a new media format was released (SATA, USB, 1TB DRIVES, etc…), which is understandable because they don’t have crystal balls to predict the future.  The solution in those cases has usually been to upgrade to the newest version – Voila – no problem!

Such was the case (Version 11 recognized my 750GB external drive, but not my new 1TB external drive, both by Western Digital), that prompted me today (2011.02.14) to search for what the new consensus for best “disk imaging software” was.  The actual search I issued was “disk image software review”.  I knew TopTenReviews.com would pop up of course, and probably CNET and PC Magazine, all of whom are known for their reviews on software and hardware products.

Now, I generally lean toward the advice given on Top Ten Reviews because A) I have been able to verify their findings on my own in the past & B)  CNET/DOWNLOAD.COM (same company) has been really slacking for the last few years, and their reviews have shown less-than reliable.

TOP TEN REVIEWS

Top Ten Reviews

Top Ten Reviews

Nonetheless, I saw that TopTenReviews had rated Acronis True Image Home 2011 as it’s top pick, noting “Acronis True Image customer support is top–notch; when we filled out a technical request, we received an answer within two hours. Telephone customer support is available too.”  First, let me say that the brevity and lack of detail should throw up a red flag and is a good indicator that this review may be un-thorough at best and biased and deceptive at worst.   SO WHAT you filled out a request and got a response back … who cares, if the response wasn’t relevant to the problem, or was relevant but didn’t provide an applicable solution???  By the way, this is a frequent problem with outsourcing – getting back cookie-cutter responses from script-monkeys who don’t have the ability nor the inclination to think outside the scope of  what answers they have been taught to parrot back to unsuspecting customers who were desperately seeking real help.  As you can probably tell, I have been dis-serviced by customer NON-support (from various companies using overseas outsourcing) many times, and it has left it’s mark on me.

DOWNLOAD.COM

Download.com

Download.com

I decided I’d check out Download.com to see what they had to say.  Their imaging programs were in the “Backup Software” category.   When I first looked, Acronis was the top choice.  Then I noticed that in an opaque gray (making it hard to see if you’re not looking for it) the image said “Sponsored Match

"Sponsored Match"

"Sponsored Match"

, which I could then figure out probably means “SOMEBODY PAID US TO PUT THIS ONE FIRST or at least HIGH ON THE LIST”.

Well, it’s hard to have faith in a review that was paid for by the company being reviewed – just drops the credibility of the reveiw and reviewer like a hot potato!  But, I decided to read further anyway and see what customers had to say about why it was so bad.

There were many problems with Download.com’s review of ATIH 2011 and it’s reviewing process in general. They include:

  • Heading is for the 2011 version, but the Editor’s review is for the 2010 version – Very misleading to the average consumer
  • Every single review for the current version (2011) is 1-star out of 5 (meaning really poor)
Acronis 2011 on Download.com

Acronis 2011 on Download.com

DOWNLOAD.COM MOST HELPFUL CUSTOMER REVIEWS

(NOTE: These are excerpts of the reviews that show up first for the “latest version” of the product, as of 02/14/11)

It failed midway in the restore process. I actually tried restoring from this software on three different occasions, each with issues. I was only able to restore an older full backup image – it fails miserably with incremental backups

‘Customer No-Service’ provided by a very polite Indian call center. Sadly, they were not empowered by Acronis to help fix any problems!!

Bought Acronis to use with my work computer. It did not install properly. It was a nightmare trying to get support from ACRONIS & I tried unsuccessfully for 2 1/2 months. Please think twice before buying any product from ACRONIS!!! Horrible experience

After installling Acronis I could not see or access network shares or printers. 2 hours of unsuccessfully rebuilding networks; finally a search on error codes pointed to Acronis as the culpret. uninstalling Acronis fixed the network issue instant … Critical bug at least in XP. Some sites refenced 7 havign same is

When you install Acronis True Image Home it replaces the Windows Backup interface with its own interface.There are options to return to the Windows Backup interface in both backup and restore (via Control Panel), as well as the main Acronis interface but these functions don’t work.I discovered this when Windows began doing a backup that had been scheduled before I installed Acronis.Not only was I unable to restore the Windows Backup interface to change the settings but I couldn’t restore it even after uninstalling Acronis.Windows erroneously continues to indicate that a backup is in progress when it clearly isn’t and no amount of restores and restarts will now fix it or allow a return to the original interface.It appears that the only way to solve the problem is to reinstall Windows.I’m out a pile of money and faced with huge hassles trying to recover my system.Don’t go near Acronis and their product

I got no response from two requests for technical assistance. When I try to run a backup, I just get a message that says ‘the product has stopped working’

I purchased the product from a big box retailer. Initial install produced errors and was told by Acronis website, that it was a known issue for my particular ‘build number’ I was unabale to figure out how to get to the support people as I coudn’t get past their ‘suggested resolve’ site. I did get to the live chat page, but couldn’t get a response on their end. Finally figured out the install issue ( i had originally chose the wrong install option) and was able to get the upgrade. First 3 bakups failed on one PC. (Backup was corrupt) and I am still working on it. I suspect I will eventually resolve these issues but it has certainly been painful… and without support

Quick qualifier: I’m very experienced with computers and with imaging. I have nearly a B.S. in Computer Networking, A+ certification, fairly high IQ, blah blah. Yet I could not get the backup onto DVD!!! Now, I would like to know what the F%$# is wrong with Acronis that they can’t insure that the most basic functions of True Image will work? Well Acronis???? Why couldn’t I get the image onto DVD????

FINAL WORDS

If Acronis True Image Home 2011 is “an unreliable piece of junk” as one user states in his review, this portion that follows echoes my sentiments exactly: “[ATIH 2011] has gone from a product I used to enthusiastically recommend to friends to one I’m embarrassed by ever having said a positive word about. I would add that CNet’s review of this product confirms my impression in recent years that CNet is no longer a reliable source of reviews. The editors obviously didn’t test this product in any serious way or they would have given it no more than one star

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

So, What Do You Think people?

  1. Is Acronis a good option for Windows XP users?
  2. Can reviews at Download.com or TopTenReviews.com be trusted?
  3. What Disk Imaging software do YOU trust?

Let me know where you sit on these issues by leaving a comment below!

Posted in .Kristobaldude's Posts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

How to Clean Milk Stains In A Car or Vehicle

Posted by kristobaldude on June 5, 2010

Hint:  Vinegar seems to be the best overall answer, although the issue really has not been conclusively resolved. 😦  Review the links below for more info:

(EXCERPTS FROM: http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf974245.tip.html)

RE: Cleaning Milk Stain In Car

By Harvey (Guest Post)

My granddaughter spilled some milk on the rear seat of my car. I wasn’t aware of it until a few days later because it went down the hole where the seat belts come out of and onto the mat that is between the bottom of the seat and the metal car floor. By then the smell was gross. I pulled out the rear seat and spread baking soda on the mat and let it sit overnight but it didn’t help. A co-worker of my wife informed her that she had the same problem in the past and here’s what always worked for her – Coffee Beans! Just spread coffee beans over the area and let it sit overnight. It smells great and absorbs all the sour smell. I spread coffee beans over the mat, replaced the seat on top of the beans and kept it there for three days and then vacuumed them up. It works. The car smells great. You have to use beans, not ground coffee.

Editor’s Note: Ground coffee also works well. 

Posted in AUTOMOTIVE, HOUSEHOLD | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Your General Motors bonds aren’t worth much any more … (or WTF is MTLQQ & Where The F*** Is My Money?)

Posted by kristobaldude on June 5, 2010

(Fearing this article will disappear, I have copied it from http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/columnist/krantz/2009-07-24-general-motors-bonds_N.htm  All credit for the article goes to Matt Krantz), though the image is sourced from a different site.)

Q: What’s going to happen to my $300,000 of General Motors bonds?

A: I’m afraid I don’t have good news for you.

First, you no longer own General Motors bonds. You own bonds of Motors Liquidation Co., which is the name of the company formerly known as General Motors. After GM teetered on on the brink of collapse, the company entered bankruptcy to restructure. In the process it left behind some assets in Motors Liquidation Co. (MTLQQ) as the new General Motors emerged with most of the company’s assets.

All the publicly traded shares of the old GM and the bonds issued by the old GM were moved into the Motors Liquidation Co., whose fate, and the fate of your bond investment, is going to be determined in bankruptcy court.

Mostly likely, the company will sell what assets it has, and the proceeds will be paid to creditors, including bondholders. Its extremely difficult to know how much bondholders will get when this is completed. It’s fair to suspect that what you get will be well below what you invested, but I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess on how much lower it will be.

You can read answers here to frequently asked questions about the bankruptcy and what it means.

You can keep up with bankruptcy proceedings here.

In the meantime, if you don’t want to wait to see what the recovery will be, you can contact your broker. There’s a chance the broker might be able to sell some of the securities at a significant discount if you need immediate cash.

But this might incur too much of a loss for you, and you might have difficulty finding a broker who can do it for you at a reasonable commission.

Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY and author of Investing Online for Dummies. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at mkrantz@usatoday.com. Click here to see previous Ask Matt columns. Follow Matt on Twitter at: twitter.com/mattkrantz

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EXAMPLE: Compliment/Recommendation/Testimonial for Exemplary Customer Service.

Posted by kristobaldude on May 17, 2010

Customer Service

Customer Service

(NOTE:  I wrote this letter of commendation for a Mediacom representative in 2007.  I’m not saying this is a great letter, but knowing how hard it is to find decent recommendation letter exaples online FOR FREE, I am posting this so perhaps it can help a few of those folks gets some ideas to help write the perfect compliment/testimonial letter.

If you found this example helpful, please leave a comment! :))

02/07/07

To: [Representative’s Manager]

Re: EXEMPLARY CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Dear Mr. [X],

You should hire more technicians like Jermaine!  I spoke with this gentleman recently (02/07/07), regarding a technical problem I was having with my network.  I told him I wanted to speak with someone who has a high level of network connectivity knowledge, mostly because I just wanted to get to the “meat of the matter” and not waste time speaking to underlings who then have to escalate the call higher and higher because they don’t know anything that’s not on their script.  As a customer engineer with Hewlett-Packard, I deal with all kinds of service and technical representatives on a daily basis.  They range in competence from the entirely incompetent, to the hard-to-communicate-with, to the passably courteous.  Jermaine does not fit into any of these categories.  To the contrary, he is one of those rare individuals who demonstrate EXEMPLARY CUSTOMER SERVICE!

Let me briefly detail what makes Jermaine someone who I will gladly spend my valuable time writing this email for (Please excuse any spelling mistakes as I am tired as I write this):

1)  COURTESY, PROFESSIONALISM, and a SUPERIOR SERVICE ATTITUDE:  When the first thing I said was that I wanted to talk to a highly technically competent network connectivity specialist, he didn’t falter.  He, in one breath gave me the option to speak with a supervisor, (but told me that he would have to find one for me), or if I liked he would be happy to try to help me.  I really appreciated that he gave me OPTIONS.  Customers like options!  I chose to give Jermaine a chance.

2) EMPATHY:  I talk to “script robots” every day in my job repairing and diagnosing computers for Fortune 500 companies.  These are the type of representives which, (unfortunately) are very ‘representative’ of the majority of phone support out there.  Script robots are telephone representatives who either follow a script, or a written troubleshooting list, but lack the ingenuity and adaptability to be able to think “outside the box” and answer questions that aren’t on their list.  They also are unmoved by your background information which is supposed to be able to help them to see things from your point of view.  Jermaine was definitely not a script robot.  I told Jermaine that I had some how and why questions and that I was looking for good technical explanations.  He immediately empathized with me and was able to put himself in my shoes, and because he appeared to care sincerely about helping me get my questions answered, I started to feel confident that Jermaine would do his best to help me!  One thing that turns many customers (including myself) off is somebody who reads a script, exhibits zero enthusiasm, and doesn’t really sound like they care about the customer’s problem.  Jermaine is a shining example of someone who knows this and I would not be surprised to find out he is responsible for saving your company lots of money by empathizing with irate customers, thereby keeping you from losing their business.

3) ABILITY TO DEAL WITH DIFFERENT CUSTOMER TYPES:  This is more crucial than many managers seem to realize.  And, unfortunately many service representatives are not taught how to deal with different customer types.  Some common customer types are: Complainers, Fearful, and False Know-It-All’s.  The Complainer type tends to whine and complain a lot.  They are best dealt with by empathizing, and then saying something like “I understand this must be causing you a lot of trouble.  Let me see what I can do to get you back up and running.” 

The Fearful type is someone usually with little technical understanding who is afraid to mess things up, and often has trouble understanding highly technical explanations.  This type can be treated similarly to the complainers, but you must realize that when the customer is clicking and typing, etc., they will periodically become afraid of doing something wrong and you then need to take a reassuring attitude with them.

Finally, the “False Know-It-All” is a customer who often speaks with a holier-than-thou tone, and knows a little more than the average person, but gets most of his information from his neighbor/friend, etc.  A good technician can easily identify this customer simply by the way he will state something that he knows “for a fact”, but that the trained technician recognizes as incorrect.  You cannot be blunt with this customer and tell him he doesn’t know what he is talking about.  This type must be dealt with very subtly.  You kind of have to lead him a long so he discovers for himself that he is wrong.  When he realizes he is wrong, his ego will be hurt so you must not say anything like “Remember, this is what I told you to do in the first place”, (This is very disrespectful and does not help you with the customer).

Jermaine easily identified my customer type — the Logical, Rational, Technical Customer.  This customer type is often the best to work with because a lot of the questions you have to ask a newbie can be safely bypassed when dealing with this customer.  The TECHNICAL customer will give you facts and background up front so that you know what level they are dealing from, and to give credibility for what they are about to tell you.  They will often tell you the exact details and circumstances of their problem up front, as well as detailing the exact resolution they are seeking.  Once you have identified this customer, it is best to deal as a fellow technician, because these people are often Engineers, Computer Specialists, Math Wizards, etc.  Since most customers possess only passing technical competence, it is often safest for the majority of customer types to be dealt with as such.  However, it is a grave mistake to treat the LOGICAL customer in this manner; more often than not you will only succeed in making him/her angry.  Technical customers get right to the point and don’t appreciate having their time wasted.  Jermaine demonstrated a strong grasp of the subtleties of this particular concept, resulting in his ability to deal with me on my level and provide the answers to my questions without wasting my time.  Jermaine answered my questions in less than 5 minutes!

4)  COMPETENCE:  This is a real interesting characteristic.  Congratulating a technician for being technically competent is like awarding someone for cleaning up after themselves, using manners, or watching their own kids; this is not going “above and beyond”, these are things YOU ARE JUST SUPPOSED TO DO!  Notwithstanding that, there is such a lack of competence in the technical support field these days that it is quite refreshing to speak with a technician like Jermaine, who demonstrated a high level of technical competence, yet did not feel the need to speak in a condescending manner (as is often the case with techs who are faced with the TECHNICAL customer type).

Jermaine is a rare jewel among telephone technical representatives!  Unfortunately, I have as recently as 2 months ago had several unsatisfactory interactions with your company (Mediacom)’s representatives, regarding a wide variety of technical & service issues.  Many of your representatives could learn a thing or two from his exemplary performance.  I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Jermaine for a Service Excellence Award (your company probably has a similarly titled award) based on his embodiment of the 4 personality traits listed above.  These, once again, are: Superior service attitude, Empathy, Ability to deal with various customer types, and Technical competence.

Sincerely,

[Your Name, etc.]

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