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A Perfect 10!

Posted on May 28, 2019 by Chris Bjorklund

I bet a lot of you have stayed in Airbnbs in the past, so you know how the quality of the accommodations can vary widely. Even when you carefully read the reviews and compare properties, you can still end up renting a real stinker. One time our apartment was in the attic of an old Virginian mansion that smelled like mothballs. Another place looked inviting in the pictures but really needed a deep cleaning. And the worst one was located right next to a fire station! We didn’t sleep too well in Savannah, Georgia.

Mostly though, I’ve had great experiences with Airbnb properties, and my recent stay in San Antonio, Texas was the best one ever. Read more

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Posted in: Consumers, Customer Service, Personal Stories, Savvy Tips
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Seafood Fraud Persists

Posted on April 30, 2019 by Chris Bjorklund

My husband and I try to eat seafood at least twice a week and look for what is fresh at the market. But the labeling can be confusing and is often misleading. In fact, if you eat a lot of seafood, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve eaten mislabeled fish in the past 12 months. Seafood fraud is a common problem, according to the nonprofit group Oceana, which conducted an investigation across the United States last year. Over six months, Oceana collected 400 samples from seafood markets and found that about 21 percent of them were mislabeled. Read more

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Posted in: Consumers, Health Tips, Personal Stories, Savvy Tips
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Lesser-Known Freebies From Your Public Library

Posted on March 26, 2019 by Chris Bjorklund

I was at my public library picking up a book for my book club when I noticed that the woman ahead of me was checking out a pass to the Exploratorium for her family. I asked the librarian for more information and found out that San Francisco libraries and others in the Bay Area have a “Discover & Go” pass, which offers free and discounted tickets to attractions such as the California Academy of Sciences, the Legion of Honor, the Oakland Zoo, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and the Pacific Pinball Museum. You log in with your library card and the listings include details about the conditions and how to make online reservations. The passes can be printed at home. Read more

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Please Give Us More Icing on the Cake!

Posted on February 26, 2019 by Chris Bjorklund

It often surprises me how little it takes to brighten someone’s day. I wish more businesses understood that sometimes even a tiny thing can perk you up or just make you smile.

For example, I was window-shopping at an outdoor mall when I came across free organic lemons outside of a storefront. The owner had more bowls of fruit at the sales counter. This small gesture wasn’t just a conversation starter—I was lured inside to see the merchandise and left with a positive feeling about the place. I didn’t buy anything that day, but I will return. Read more

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Robocalling: It’s Truly an Epidemic

Posted on January 30, 2019 by Chris Bjorklund

Robocalls are out of control at my house. First, the landline rings. I don’t answer because I have Caller ID and don’t recognize the number. Then my cellphone rings with a similar number, and within a few minutes, my cable telephone line also rings. Did I mention my husband often gets a call on his cellphone around the same time? Calls to my landline sometimes start before 7am and continue as late as 10pm. We’ve had as many as 15 calls in a day. I’m not surprised by one estimate that says about one-third of all phone calls are now robocalls and scams.

I’ve done everything that’s recommended. I use the call-blocking feature on my iPhone after getting a spam call. Read more

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Straight Talk Runs Deep

Posted on October 25, 2018 by Chris Bjorklund

I was lucky enough to travel to Alaska recently on a small ship adventure. The Wilderness Discoverer cruised from Sitka to Juneau through the Inside Passage, an archipelago that was created by glaciers. With only 76 passengers and 25 crew members on board, it was an intimate experience. The activities ranged from sea kayaking and bushwhacking to snorkeling and meadow meanderings, all of which provided chances to both see Alaskan wildlife and get wet and muddy. There was even a polar plunge for some!

The Captain spoke to us every day, mostly via intercom, as did the Expedition Leader and Kitchen Steward. We received updates on the itinerary, how choppy the waters might get and why dinner would be late. Read more

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Practice What You Preach

Posted on September 25, 2018 by Chris Bjorklund

Throughout my years as a consumer advocate, I’ve always encouraged people to be both patient and persistent when they have legitimate complaints. I counsel them to write letters, make phone calls, talk to supervisors and/or complain to relevant regulatory agencies. Sometimes I even advise them to publicize their cases through the media or sue in Small Claims Court (when necessary). I cheer them on when they feel like quitting or are just plain fed up by a lengthy process.

Recently, I had my own consumer issue that reminded me to practice what I preach. In October 2017, I booked a flight from San Francisco to London using frequent flier miles through my credit card company. Read more

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