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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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What Should Be on Your “Do Not Pack” List

Posted on August 28, 2018 by Chris Bjorklund

A couple of summers ago, I was flying to France to stay with friends who had visited San Francisco in the past and fell in love with our foggy city. I thought I had found the perfect hospitality gift when I bought a fog globe featuring the Golden Gate Bridge. A fog globe is similar to a snow globe, but when you shake it up, instead of snow falling, the bridge disappears in gray fog. Because it was breakable, I carefully packed the globe in a carry-on bag, and that was my big mistake. It never occurred to me that airport security (TSA) would confiscate the gift because it contained too much liquid. I have since learned that fog and snow globes about the size of a tennis ball are allowed if they can fit in a clear, Read more

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Posted in: Holiday Related, Consumers, Customer Service, Personal Stories, Savvy Tips
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The Power of the Pen

Posted on July 24, 2018 by Chris Bjorklund

When was the last time you took the time to write a hardcopy letter of commendation after receiving outstanding service? I always respond to consumer surveys and offer feedback. I’ve written reviews on TripAdvisor and Airbnb. Recently, I received such good service over the phone that I asked to talk to the representative’s supervisor so I could share my appreciation for the employee’s patience and professionalism. But writing an actual letter and mailing it? It’s been a long, long time.

When my husband told me about his interaction with one of the California State Automobile Association’s (CSAA) field offices over dinner one night, we both agreed that the employee should be recognized for her effort. Read more

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