Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let The Tribe of Unethical Businesses Increase!

Ethics must be at the core of every good business. Sadly for the consumers, there aren't many good businesses around. Given the choice between profit and ethics, profit mostly wins out for most businesses.

You only have to look into the record of global businesses, including most of the major brands that the public use, to give you an idea of of how these businesses regard good business ethics as pure garbage. Take a count of the number of major brands that have been fined millions for breaking ethical business laws. You would be surprise of how staggering the number is. Money and not ethics is what rules.

Companies that do not stick by the principles of business ethics and breaks the laws, usually end up being fined. Breaking the anti-trust , ethical and environmental laws is so rampant and while millions of fines are often imposed on companies that break these laws the practice continues. But really, why should these companies worry about fines when fines are just minuscule compared to the profits they make? Why should they care about business ethics when such would just be on their way from amassing billion dollar profits? They should because often the lack of business ethics can place people's lives on the line. But then they would not care because most often the people they harm are invisible or are unaware.

Let us take the case of the thousands of old electronic goods and components that leave the EU for Africa and other destinations in the developing world every day, despite regulations prohibiting the trade in e-waste. Illicit profits to be made by the developed world's traders by dumping their obsolete and hazardous electronics abroad instead of properly recycling them makes them blind to such regulations. Some will be repaired and reused, but many are beyond repair, meaning that they will eventually be dumped in places where no facilities exist for safe recycling.

The poorest people, in many cases children, are put to work breaking apart TVs, mobile phones, game consoles and other electronic items that arrive in their tonnes. With no safety measures, they are exposed to highly toxic chemicals, including mercury, which damages the brain; lead, which can damage reproductive systems; and cadmium, which causes kidney damage.

But then, they are just poor children in never heard of part of the world. Who cares? Let us go let these unethical businesses live or wait until the time they knock on our own doors before we cry foul. That is if they have not already sneaked into our back doors and have made themselves at home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So You Are A Consumer And You Have A Complaint

So you are a consumer and you have a complaint that you want to get resolved or an issue or concern that you would like addressed with a company or government agency. As a consumer what do you do to accomplish your goal?

· First, if you have a complaint be certain that you are legally justified in pursuing your complaint against a company or government agency. For example, read the terms of the product warranty for the product you have purchased or read the terms of service for the service you have purchased to determine whether your complaint is legally justified or not. If after you have read the terms of the warranty or the terms of service you believe that your complaint is legally justifiable, then pursue a resolution of your complaint. If your complaint or issue is against a government agency you need to determine whether what you are seeking is able to be done within the policy guidelines of the agency. If it is then take the appropriate steps to try and get your complaint or issue resolved.

· Before you take the first step to try and get your complaint or issue resolved stop, relax, get calm and focused and think positively about getting your complaint or issue resolved. Believe that you can get your complaint or issue resolved satisfactorily. In seeking a resolution for your complaint any results you achieve will be primarily based on your attitude and not your actions. Yes, the steps you take to get your complaint resolved are very important; however, what is much more important for you to achieve success is your attitude. So, think and be (feel) positive about getting your complaint or issue satisfactorily resolved before you even begin the process of trying to get it resolved.

· So, now that you are convinced that you are justified in pursuing a resolution of your complaint or issue and you are in a positive state of mind take the following steps to get your complaint or issue resolved.

· Determine who you need to call and speak with about your complaint or issue. Do some research about the company or government agency and find out what is the most appropriate department to contact as well as the most appropriate person to call and discuss your complaint or issue with. Most consumers mistakenly call a company’s or government agency’s regular toll-free customer service line and speak with a customer service representative about their complaint or issue only to discover that the person they are speaking with is not empowered to help them resolve their complaint or issue. As a consumer advocate I seldom call the company or government agency’s regular toll-free customer service line. Calling the number, being placed on hold for up to 45 minutes, only to reach a representative who informs me that they can not help me is very frustrating so I generally do not go that route to try and get a complaint or issue resolved for a consumer I am advocating for.

· To minimize your frustration as a consumer you want to speak with the person who can help you in the fastest amount of time possible. When it comes to my resolving consumer complaints or issues with a company or government agency for a consumer, I most generally contact the corporate headquarters or agency headquarters and politely and positively ask the receptionist to help me. I ask her or him to please connect me with someone in a supervisory position in the customer service or consumer relations department who can help me resolve the consumers complaint or issue. With some government agencies citizens are provided a caseworker or case manager. In that situation as a consumer advocate I would call or as the consumer representing yourself you would call the case worker or case manager to try and get your complaint resolved. If you can not get your complaint resolved at that level then you would ask to speak with someone in a supervisory position at the agency who can help you. Almost all major companies have a customer service or consumer relations department that provides “expedited” or “complaint escalation” services to respond to consumer’s complaints or issues. In some companies I have heard the departments referred to as the “executive customer relations” or “executive consumer relations” department. You want to speak with someone at the executive level to experience the fastest resolution to your consumer complaint.

· Whenever you speak with someone ALWAYS ask for their name and, or ID number. Also document the date and time you spoke with them. Be polite and courteous. Try to share something positive with them about their company such as a product or service of their company that you like. Or tell them that you have been a satisfied customer of their company, for example for 5 years, but now you have a problem and would they please help you try and get it resolved for you. Even though you might feel angry or frustrated it will not do you any good to take your frustration out on the person you are speaking with. You want them to like you…to want to help you and the only way to do that is by being positive and by treating them kindly.

· If you can get your complaint or issue resolved over the phone as a result of your call then that is a good thing. If you can not get your complaint or issue resolved by the person you are speaking with, or if it appears that the person you are speaking with does not fully understand your complaint or issue, ask them for an email address or a fax number so that you can send the complaint to them for further consideration and action. If you are going to send the person an email or fax set a time frame for them to respond. Inform them if they do not respond back to you within the agreed upon period of time you are going to call them again. And, if they do not respond to you call them back. If you get the person’s voice mail leave a message for them. In your message state that you would like them to respond or to have someone respond to your complaint within a certain time frame and that if they do not you will call them again. Call them one more time and if you get their voice mail or you speak with them personally and do not get your complaint or issue resolved then you “expedite” or “escalate” your complaint personally to the office of the president or CEO of the company.

· Get the name of the president or CEO of the company and call and ask to speak with them personally. In almost all cases you will not get the president or CEO, but rather, an executive assistant. Get their name and ID number if they have one and again document the date and time of your call and who you spoke with. Be polite with them and share with them your complaint or issue. Ask them to please help you as a valued customer of their company to get your complaint or issue resolved. They might want you to email or fax the information to them so that they can review it and forward it to the most appropriate person in the company who can help you. Tell them you will send them the email or fax concerning your complaint and establish a time frame for them or for the appropriate person to respond back to you. Let them know if they do not respond then you call them back for a response. If you get a response back from someone at the company that your complaint has been resolved to your satisfaction send an email or fax to the person you spoke with and thank them for their assistance. Also “carbon copy” to the president or CEO of the company. Expressing gratitude builds good will for the future in case you ever have another complaint or issue you need help with at that company or government agency.

· If you are not able to get your complaint or issue resolved by someone with the company then you want to file a complaint against the company with the appropriate government agencies such as your state’s Attorney General’s office as well as the AG office in the state where the company is headquartered. If your complaint concerning the company is because of fraudulent, deceptive or unfair business practices you would also want to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Visit their website to file a complaint at

About the Author:

Harold Cameron is The Chief of Helping People and Consumer Advocate for HaroldSays and and Ambassador of Positivity for The Be Positive Day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Test Reveals High Level of Lead In Children's Toys

Children's toys carrying the Barbie and Disney logos have turned up with high levels of lead in them, according to a California-based advocacy group — a finding that may give consumers pause as they shop for the holiday season.

The Center for Environmental Health tested about 250 children's products bought at major retailers and found lead levels that exceeded federal limits in seven of them. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage.

Among those with high lead levels: a Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit and a Disney Tinkerbell Water Lily necklace. The group said it also found excessive lead in a Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, two pairs of children's shoes, a boys belt and a kids' poncho.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sent letters to Target, Wal-Mart and the other retailers who sold the seven products, warning that children's goods on their store shelves were found to contain illegal levels of lead and should be pulled immediately.


Think About It

If this can happen in the US where stringent rules are in place to protect the consumers, think about the countries in the Third World where such protection is not available.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Consumer: The Economics Point Of View

Consumers, from the point of view of economics, are individuals or households that "consume" goods and services produced by the economy. Considering that this includes almost everyone, the term is not just an economic term but also a political term the way it is used in everyday speech. Generally businesspeople and economists speak of "consumers" as one who consumes an aggregated commodity item with little individuality other than that expressed in the buy/not buy decision. There here is however an upcoming trend in marketing to individualize the concept. Instead of generating broad demographic and psychographic profiles of market segments, marketers are engaging in personalized marketing, permission marketing, and mass customization.

In standard microeconomic theory, a consumer is assumed to have a budget which can be spent on a range of goods and services available on the market. Under the assumption of rationality, the budget allocation is chosen according to the preference of the consumer, i.e. to maximize his or her utility function.

In time-series models of consumer behaviour, the consumer may also invest a proportion of their budget in order to gain a greater budget in future periods. This investment choice may include either fixed rate interest or risk-bearing securities.

Concern over the best interests of consumers has spawned much activism, as well as incorporation of consumer education into the school curriculum. One non-profit publication active in consumer education is Consumer Reports.

Within many selling companies "consumer" has come to be a derogatory term. Meaning "purchaser of products who is not very intelligent." This is in contrast to the meaning of customer. Which is defined as an intelligent purchaser who has power in the purchasing relationship between buyer and seller.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I’m thinking to myself while walking down the street: everywhere I go lately, I encounter advocacy. At the intersection of a one-way street and a two-way street, there is written on the sidewalk at the corner, in bold purple chalk, in front of an old white clapboard house, this sentence, “Be responsible for your own life.” I imagine that here lives a philosopher, and an advocate of responsibility. I wonder if the philosopher/advocate’s dinner was burnt while he or she kneeled on the sidewalk scratching out the message.

An SUV scoots past me advocating a lifestyle. It roars up the one way street with a variety of environmental stickers covering its bumper. An unkempt house with a lawn in the middle of the block displays a sign that advocates for a fringe mayoral candidate. A gang member advocates in hieroglyphics on a trash can left overnight on the street. Advocacy does not appear to be limited by age or by economic status. Advocates are everywhere.

Much of the media is dedicated to advocating. It advocates for liberalism or conservativism or humanism or consumerism, for animal rights, for a healthy lifestyle or to abolish a disease. Some advocates wear ribbons on their clothing, to each cause its own color. Men in suits hold Bibles wandering from house to house knocking on doors. They advocate for salvation or for membership in a church and sometimes for both.

Some advocates advocate against other advocates citing flaws in their doctrine. Some may call these finer points of debate unimportant; yet to be an advocate, one must cling to the fine points which define their correct position. Small or large these differences count and are therefore worthwhile advocating for. It is important to be right.

Advocates become fluent in the data and/or rhetoric supporting their side of an argument. Advocates are frequently deaf to data or rhetoric of the opposite point of view. It is after all time-consuming simply listening to one side. Listening to both sides is often too much of a commitment. Should there be a third side to an argument it is traumatic enough for some advocates to simply swap their ribbon for a simpler shade.

It is after all difficult to get off-message with a linear understanding and a scripted line of reasoning. Like a one-way street where all cars go in the same direction, it is dangerous not to go in the right direction. It is the responsible thing to do. However when an advocate suddenly turns into the two way traffic of an argument, what are they to do? They may be unable to negotiate skillfully guided arguments aimed in the opposite direction. It’s safer to stay in the flow, safer to steer straight ahead.

An argument can’t get out of hand on a one way street of thought. Advocates don’t want to be lured into a two-way street, the signs and arrows have told them the correct direction in which to think. A wrong turn onto a two-way argument is confusing and could spark original thought and unwanted wrong-way leanings to uncomfortable logic.

I’ll never learn how the street philosopher would define an advocate’s responsibility in life. I doubt that the sidewalk scribe would assert that advocates are singly responsible to travel in one direction for their own interests. Perhaps the philosopher would assert that responsibility requires skillful advocacy with full understanding of opposing arguments; one-way streets are seldom sufficient to arrive at a destination.


A wise man sent me this quote from by another wise man in reference to this post:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." Aristotle.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Scams And Fraud Protection

If you are like most people, then your idea of scams is likely of crooked swindlers conning elderly victims. We tend to think that these types of things can only happen to "other people." We often think "That can't happen to me because I would never give out sensitive information to someone on the phone." Or "I would never buy a product like that." Maybe you wouldn't ever do these things, but everyone has a weakness. Whether it is greed, vanity, or even compassion, the scammers will prey on and exploit that weakness and try to defraud you.

Coming to terms with the fact that scams can happen to you is the first step in fraud prevention and identity theft protection. Most of us go through life either hoping that we will never be the victim of fraud or not really thinking about the consequences. The horrid fact is that they do happen and everyone should try to use good fraud protection techniques. Begin protecting yourself by knowing the types of frauds that are being committed and then making a conscious effort to avoid those situations. Spend some time learning about identity theft protection as many frauds and scams are designed to get your details.

Not only do their elaborate cover-ups make it difficult to notice anything suspicious, but it also makes it even more difficult to expose the crimes and report fraud, leaving them free to move on and adjust their scams and tactics, so that it will be even harder to be "found out" by the next victim. Those wishing to commit frauds will go to extreme lengths to put their criminal plans into action. It should be important to individuals to take strong measures to protect themselves against those wishing to make them a victim.

The scams are countless in today's society. The internet is an endless playground or in this case "prey ground" for scammers and frauds, making their victims much easier to access and their fraudulent dealings harder to expose. However, if you are aware that they exist, then you will be more likely to suspect and even accept that it could happen to you or someone you love. Realizing that these situations are out there and that you should practice fraud protection techniques is a huge step in your protection, online and off.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tips to Avoid Scams on Craigslist by InfoMofo on Flickr No matter what stage of moving out on your own you’re at, you’re probably using Craigslist: finding a job, finding an apartment, finding furniture for your apartment, selling your junk to pay for food… all can be done with the awesome power of the ‘list! Not to alarm you or anything, but there are SCAMMERS on Craigslist, and they want your money! Or your stuff (for free)! Or your identity!
Not everyone on Craigslist is a scammer – in fact, most people aren’t. You can continue to use the ‘list for all of your classified needs, safely, if you just pay attention to these simple tips:
  1. An offer that’s too good to be true… is. Look, if someone had the awesomest job ever that you can do from home and earn $75,000 per year… why would they be posting it on Craigslist? That’s not to say legitimate jobs aren’t posted on Craigslist, but awesome, well-paying, AND totally easy jobs aren’t. If a job is really that good and pays that well, they wouldn’t need to put up 10 ads a day about it.
  2. Don’t pay up front for anything. Yes, you’re searching Craigslist to do some sort of legitimate transaction, but don’t fork over money up front. There are several scams that rely on you giving over your money and then getting nothing for it. For example, you shouldn’t have to pay for a credit check before you even see an apartment. And for a job listing, you shouldn’t have to pay anything at all.
  3. Beware strange forms of payment. Can you mail this package to my son in Argentina and I’ll wire you the money? No. Can I pay you via Western Union more than I owe you, and you give me half of the extra money back? What?!? No! Can I pay you buy Canadian check (er, cheque)? Only if we’re in Canada! (Actually, you probably shouldn’t take a check at all, or pay with one, unless you’re dealing with an apartment security deposit. For everything else deal in cash, if at all possible.)
  4. Meet in a neutral place for small transactions. Don’t invite someone over to your house to buy an iPod from them. If they’re picking up a couch, that’s one thing, but for stuff you can carry easily, meet someplace neutral, in public, and bonus points if you can find somewhere with security cameras. Take a friend with you, especially if you have someone who is kinda tall and menacing. When I sold my iPod, I took a male friend and met the buyer in a mall food court. Oh… and meet during daylight, please!
  5. Keep an eye out for pictures that don’t make any sense. Fellow personal finance blogger MapGirl recently got scammed on Craigslist, and she noticed this dead giveaway for a scam: “There was one ad that shot a kitchen view in two directions, but the cabinets weren’t the same color in both pictures. (Laminate white vs wood)”
  6. Avoid super-vague listings. Job listings that tell you absolutely nothing about the job? No thanks. I think it’s great that you’re looking for “energetic self-starters!” and all, but I need to actually know something about the job/apartment/item before I’m going to contact you.
  7. Make sure there’s some form of contact information. Yes, a legitimate listing might use just the anonymized email address that Craigslist offers, but most will give some other form of contact information. Look for a phone number, real email address, or link to a (legitimate) website.
  8. Familiarize yourself with Craigslist’s Scam Tips and Personal Safety Tips. And report any scams you come across, before anyone else gets scammed. The details of suspected scams should be emailed to and if you’re sure a listing is a scam, the Craigslist Scam Tips page has information you need to contact the Federal Trade Commission (or the Canadian PhoneBusters hotline).
Remember: the majority of people on Craigslist are normal people just trying to complete a transaction. But there are a few scammers and they can be, at times, unfortunately clever. Keep a weather eye on the listings and you’ll be fine!