The last two times my credit card number was hacked, I can trace it back to using the card at convenience store gas pumps. The physical card itself was always in my possession, yet small fraudulent charges (under $50) started showing up on my account. Fortunately, I look at my account online almost every day and receive an alert whenever a charge of $10 or more is made. That’s how I caught the problem early before things got out of hand. Still, my credit card account had to be shut down, which meant I had to contact many companies that bill me automatically for payments. I also had to change the credit card number on file for Uber, Read more
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
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
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
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
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
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