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Angry consumers have found creative ways to seek satisfaction from companies that have mistreated them.

By Karen Datko May 21, 2010 8:36AM

This guest post comes from "vh" at Funny about Money.

 

The other day, Budgeting in the Fun Stuff remarked on Frugal Scholar's rant about the excruciating customer service emanating from Virgin Mobile. Both bloggers asked readers which corporations are best and worst in the customer (dis)service department.

Apparently, they touched a hot button. They each got a slew of responses. Among them, we see that Comcast is roundly hated. Free Money Finance is locked in combat with that worthy organization -- as his saga unfolds, it's hard to tell whether Comcast is merely incompetent or deliberately obnoxious.

 

Later, what should I hear on NPR but this interesting story. It suggests a new tool for hacking through thickets of bad customer service, at least in some instances:

 

Most people don't overdraw their bank accounts, so why should they sign up for overdraft protection?

By Karen Datko May 20, 2010 8:42PM

People hate paying bank overdraft fees -- you know, the $35 the bank slaps on you when that cup of coffee you bought with your debit card exceeds the amount in your account. Most people would rather have their debit card denied instead.

They'll soon get their wish. Beginning this summer, banks can no longer charge overdraft fees unless customers "opt in" for what's long been inappropriately called overdraft "protection." Under new federal rules, banks can no longer automatically enroll you without your consent.

 

Banks made an estimated $38 billion on overdraft fees last year, so -- watch out, folks -- they're coming up with incentives to get customers to sign up. One of those incentives is a reduction in overdraft fees.

 

If you opt in, that $2.50 cup of coffee will now cost you an extra $10, rather than $35 or so.

 

Greek debt crisis is keeping U.S. rates lower than expected, but rates won't stay below 5% forever.

By Teresa Mears May 20, 2010 1:12PM

Remember all those predictions that mortgage rates would rise above 6% in 2010?

 

So far this year, the trend has been just the opposite. Rates on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell again this week, to an average 4.84%, the lowest rate this year.

We're back to flirting with historic lows, perhaps harking as far back as the 1950s.

 

Thank the Greeks.

 

Kelly Clarkson, the show's first winner, has probably earned about $40 million. Many who didn't win the top prize are doing very well.

By Karen Datko May 20, 2010 12:24PM

Just how much of a boost is the iconic TV show "American Idol" to the financial success of formerly unknown performers? It's big, according to a report by CBS MoneyWatch.

 

"You can rest on having been on 'American Idol' for years," Joel Peresman, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, told MoneyWatch.

Of course, lasting fame and fortune are not guaranteed. For some, the trappings of winning -- a recording contract and instant celebrity -- didn't produce huge earnings -- but that's OK, too. "Ten years after finishing as a runner-up to Kelly Clarkson in the show's first season, curly-haired Justin Guarini is still doing live events and parades that likely earn him thousands of dollars a pop," MoneyWatch says.

 

Here's our abbreviated rundown of earnings compiled by CBS MoneyWatch for a post called "American Idol's biggest winners":

 

I won't save nearly as much as I expected, but having a TV-free life has many benefits.

By Karen Datko May 20, 2010 10:42AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.

 

Over the years, I've made a strong case for abandoning television watching as a good move for financial and career success.

 

Not only does TV offer up a lot of advertisements glorifying unnecessary material stuff and rampant consumerism, but many programs glorify it through product placement within the programs. Many programs exist solely to promote an expensive materialistic lifestyle as well.

Add on top of that the amount of otherwise productive time devoured by television watching and you have a strong case for doing without.

 

Over the last few years, I've slowly been paring down my TV watching. I've stopped channel surfing, turning on the TV only to watch specific programs. I've gradually pared down the number of programs I regularly watch.

 

As of May 1, I ceased all TV watching at home (except for "Lost," which ends for good this Sunday).

 

You've gone online and gotten the best possible deals on your airfare, rental car and hotel. Think your costs are covered?

By Stacy Johnson May 19, 2010 6:21PM

This post comes from partner site Money Talks News.

 

Online search engines are great for seeking the lowest rates on anything travel-related, from plane tickets to rental cars. That's why when vacation time rolls around, the first trip many people take is to the computer.

There's only one problem: The base price you compare while searching and the final price you actually pay are often vastly different.

 

What government giveth, government can taketh away.

By Karen Datko May 19, 2010 2:27PM

Isn't there some sort of moral statute of limitations on this: About 180 employees of a Georgia county have been told to return a total of $39,690 they were overpaid -- in 1994.

 

Is this another sign of how desperate some local governments are because of the recession?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains the situation this way:

The payroll anomaly dates back to Sept. 30, 1994, when the county adjusted employee pay cycles.
 

No apology, and a credit blot from collection remains. Will our cell phone companies ever change and let us trust them?

By Teresa Mears May 19, 2010 1:21PM

The St. Germain family of Dover, Mass., got some good news this week: Verizon will no longer try to collect the $18,000 phone bill the family has been fighting since 2006.

 

The wireless company stopped short of forgiving the bill. The collection effort will remain a black mark on Bob St. Germain's credit report.

 

But the family is off the hook for the $18,000 in data-download charges Brian St. Germain, then a college student, ran up when he tethered his laptop to his cell phone after a two-year promotional period offering free data had ended, The Boston Globe reported. When Bob St. Germain called to complain, the company offered to reduce the bill to $9,000, and sent that amount to collections when he refused to pay.

 

"Nice to see Verizon dismiss all the charges," Bob St. Germain told The Globe. "But it's still on my credit report. Someone has to take the next step."

 

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