11:07 AM EDT, May 28, 2012
To purchase a copy of the book:
What's Your Problem?: Cut Through Red Tape, Challenge the System, and Get Your Money Back
Billy Goat Tavern
430 N. Michigan Avenue
Resolve to fight bad service
Don't let big corporations kick you around. If you've been overcharged, demand a refund. Check all your utility bills, your credit card statements, and your bank account regularly to ensure there are no erroneous charges. It happens more often than you think.
Don't hand over your hard-earned cash to just anyone
If you're hiring a contractor, check his or her credentials and reviews online before signing a contract.
Read all contracts, no matter how mind-numbingly boring
Know what you're getting into before you agree to pay anyone or any business anything.
Get all promises in writing
If the cable company says it's going to give you three free months of HBO, make them send you an email or a letter confirming it. A promise over the phone is hard to prove later.
Avoid long term contracts with hefty cancelation fees
I hate those and you should too. If you get locked into a two-year contract with a $200 early cancelation fee for your cell phone or cable service, you have no power to leave if things go bad. Your greatest tool is a consumer is the threat to take your business elsewhere. You abdicate that tool if you sign a long term contract.
Keep your paperwork, warranties and receipts in a safe place, so you have them available if there is a dispute
Shred all documents you no longer use -- scam artists will literally rummage through your trash to steal your credit card number or bank information.
Never give out personal or financial information over the phone or in an email, which are not secure communications
If you enter your credit card information online, make sure the website is secure, meaning there is a "s" before or after the "http" in the web address and a padlock symbol at the top or bottom of the page.
Never give your Social Security number to someone or some business you don't know
It's the key for scam artists to steal your identity.
Reward good companies by giving them your business and punish bad ones by taking your money elsewhere.
If a business treats you badly, write up a review online so you can warn others as well. We're all in this together.