Protect your rights. In this Consumer Reports story, I investigate the disturbing trend among companies to add binding arbitration clauses to their consumer contracts, requiring buyers to surrender their right to sue in court. Say no to rent-to-own. Using advanced Excel functions, I find that some rent-to-own deals have effective interest rates of up to 311 percent. Get it fixed right. Seeing many online complaints about product repairs, I proposed this Money Adviser story, which provides advice on how to find a repair shop and what to do if a repair goes wrong. Beware of rebuilt wrecks. In this Hartford Courant investigation, I find wrecked vehicles that were poorly repaired and then sold to unsuspecting motorists. Don't be lured by penny auction promises.My Consumer Reports Online investigation reveals that few visitors to penny auctions sites get the great deals these sites advertise. And bidding can be expensive. Are your donations costing that charity money? In this AlterNet story, I reveal how some major charities conduct fundraising campaigns that they know will cost them tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they'll raise. Beware of these advertising tricks. Seductive half-truths or outright deceptions are common. I present some interesting examples and offer tips in this Consumer Reports story. Comparison shop for a mattress. This Consumer Reports story is one of several I've written with tips on beating the mattress industry's efforts to discourage comparison shopping. Watch out for fake sales. Periodically, I'd check stores to see whether I could find sale items that were no bargain at all, including for the ShopSmart story.
Consumer and Finance
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Here are some of my favorite investigative, enterprise and feature stories.
Along with appearing in Consumer Reports, The Hartford Courant, and freelance publications, much of my work has been distributed to newspapers subscribing to various wire services, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Newsday, The Boston Globe, Star Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Plain Dealer, St. Petersburg Times and many more.
Choose the right car financing option. Putting my mathematics skills to use for this Consumer Reports Money Lab piece, I compare financing a car purchase with leasing, taking into account low-interest loans, rebates and lease specials. Save big on eyewear. When I took over coverage of this subject at Consumer Reports, I developed a shopping strategy that can save hundreds of dollars, resulting in my being interviewed by Inside Edition, Yahoo Finance and others. Get the lowdown on leasing. Leasing is poorly understood by consumers and journalists. As Consumer Reports' subject expert, I’ve written many leasing stories, been interviewed by major media outlets and instructed the auto writers and statistics team on lease theory and calculations. Take on your bank. For this Consumer Reports story, I take an in-depth look at the banking industry's increasing reliance on charging fees. Send money abroad wisely. Because money-transfer services combine exchange rates and fees, finding the best value is difficult. For this Consumer Reports Online story, I present a system that consumers can use to make comparing easy. Know your consumer rights. Whether it's warranty rights, the federal mail order rules or anything else, consumer law is my top area of expertise, which I put to use in this Money Adviser feature. Tune up your finances. Review your insurance coverage, update your budget, reevaluate your investments and more. This was one of the best-read Money Adviser stories in 2014. Understand your warranty rights. One of my top achievements at Consumer Reports was introducing the staff and readers to the important, but little-known, legal rights that typically accompany the sale of consumer products. Spot counterfeit products. In this Money Adviser feature, I explain how to tell if it’s a fake and what to do if you end up with counterfeit item. Don’t fall for these scams. I'm always saving examples of scams and other important consumer issues to assemble into comprehensive stories such as this lead Money Adviser piece. Don't pay extra for do-nothing ingredients. I wondered whether vitamins and other exotic ingredients in expensive hair care products provided any benefit. So I contacted industry chemists for this fun Hartford Courant story. Be a squeaky wheel. I based this Consumer Reports story on a fascinating consumer research paper finding that companies reserve their best customer service for those who insist on getting satisfaction. Save on a funeral. Some funeral homes take advantage of people in grief. In this Money Adviser feature, I explain how people can protect themselves. Pay more at this going out of business sale. While checking out the Circuit City liquidation, I found a weekly sales flier the chain would have used had it not gone belly-up. Amazingly, many of the flier prices were much lower than those people were paying at the liquidation. Blame it on Blake. Why do cars now have plastic bumpers? And why are so many other products “improving for the worst?” In this fun blog, I theorize that it’s all due to an inexperienced engineer named Blake.
Avoid long-term car loans. With the average car loan now 66 months, I wrote this blog to demonstrate how much costlier and riskier long-term loans can be. The New York Times interviewed me on this subject.
Think it's free? Don't count on it. For many people, the word “free” is like a drug. So merchants use the term whenever they can, even when a product or service isn't really free at all.
Does this look clean to you?
This 2007 Acura MDX, described on the Web as a "ROLLOVER; ALL OVER," received clean history reports from Carfax and other services.
Don't trust used car history reports. I consider this investigative story to be my best work at Consumer Reports. I discover that Carfax and other services gave "clean" history reports to many wrecked and seriously damaged vehicles.
Clicking the titles below will open PDF versions of the stories in a new browser window
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