America’s Health Care System at the Bottom of the Heap

August 15, 2011

By Terry Smiljanich:

We all know health care expenses have risen dramatically, not just in America but around the world, as more sophisticated and expensive medical procedures become available. America has, however, the most effective health care system in the world – right? Wrong. Compared to eighteen other major economies around the world, the United States comes in almost dead last! We spend the most by far for what almost ends up being the least effective health care.

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One Day Late with Mortgage Payment – BB&T Forecloses

August 4, 2011

UPDATE: August 5, 2011 — BB&T suspends foreclosure.

In a much needed reminder that standing up and speaking out publicly against wrong can have an impact, BB&T has decided to reconsider its foreclosure action against a small business owner in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Yesterday, the St. Petersburg Times and CWN (see story below) reported on the mind-boggling action of big bank BB&T to foreclose on gas station owner Saji Mathew.  Mathew was stunned when BB&T began foreclosure proceedings on him, after he missed a mortgage payment on his gas station by just one day. He made several attempts to continue paying and  made a $50,000 offer in court to settle the case, but the bank refused.

The power of bad publicity apparently shook some sense into the corporate executives at the bank, especially since they try to promote a business “friendly” reputation in their advertising.

BB&T’s Vice President of corporate communications David White told the St. Pete Times that BB&T regrets the situation has accelerated to this point.  “This issue was reviewed at the highest level at BB&T,” White wrote in a statement.  “(We) are prepared to work with Mr. Mathew to resolve this. There is more to this story than we are able to discuss, due to client confidentiality.”  White is apparently referring to another property that Mathew owns, which has nothing to do with this one.

We’re glad to see some common sense being put forth by BB&T, even if they were forced into it.  The problem is BB&T is not the only bank using these tactics, and Mr. Mathew is far from the only property owner who continues to be subjected to the big bank run-around when they try to fight foreclosure.  It defies logic that a bank would turn down mortgage payments when someone wants to pay, has the means to pay and is doing whatever they can to save their property.

BB&T’s original push to foreclose on Mathew even baffled the judge who was handling the foreclosure case.  “All the people that understand anything about mortgage foreclosures need to know this stuff,” Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge Amy Williams said in court.  “This is the idiocrasy of this stuff. This is why we’re in a worldwide financial crisis, because there’s no business sense any more in the foreclosure industry, none. And it blows my mind. Totally blows my mind.”

It’s time for all homeowners and property owners to stand up and speak out, just like Mr. Mathew did.  The banks might not listen to you, but apparently they listen to bad publicity.

Original story:

One Day Late with Mortgage Payment – BB&T Forecloses

August 4, 2011, St. Petersburg– A gas station owner  in St. Petersburg, Florida was one day late on his mortgage payment.  When he tried to pay the very next day, he was sucked into the big bank foreclosure run-around, which CWN has reported on many times before.  BB&T is trying to drive this small business owner into foreclosure, rather than accept his multiple attempts to pay his mortgage and even a lump sum payment of $50,000.

BB&T didn’t want the money.  It wants the gas station. This is the same BB&T Bank that runs slick commercials saying “We support businesses of  all sizes with personal service and advice.”   Looks like another case of saying one thing and doing another.

The insanity of it all left a Circuit Court judge hearing the case flabbergasted.  “This is the idiocrasy of this stuff. This is why we’re in a worldwide financial crisis because there’s no business sense any more in the foreclosure industry, none. And it blows my mind. Totally blows my mind,”  Judge Amy Williams said in court.

The gas station owner’s attorney, Brian Gray of Fort Lauderdale, told the St. Petersburg Times, “The bank would rather drive (Saji Mathew) into foreclosure. There’s got to be some financial incentive for them to not work with my client. This is disturbing, especially in this economy. It is really wrong.”

It is wrong. And it hurts not only the gas station owner, but the entire community.  BB&T tries to claim it’s the “Best Bank in Town” here to “serve” the public.  It’s time to call these fakers out.  If you use BB&T Bank, let them know, this kind of behavior is not okay with you.  You can always take your money someplace else.

Click here to read the story in the St. Pete Times.

Brainwashing Citizens to Kill Consumer Rights

July 29, 2011

A new HBO documentary takes an eye opening look at efforts to stop consumers from being able to find justice in court.  Many Americans have bought into the notion that lawsuits are out of control and the judicial system needs to be reformed.  The film “Hot Coffee” contends  terms like “lawsuit lottery” and “greedy trial lawyers” were actually planted in the public psyche and repeated over and over after being word-smithed and focus-grouped in a public relations campaign by corporate America.  “Hot Coffee” reveals how this well planned, well funded crusade has been very successful in stopping consumers from gaining access to the courts when they’ve been harmed, physically or financially.  Click here to watch a Bloomberg interview with the documentary’s director, Susan Saladoff.

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Don’t be Fooled by Bargain Deals at the Grocery Store

July 29, 2011

We all like a good bargain, especially in these tough economic times, but don’t be fooled into buying more than you need by so called “special pricing.” When you’re grocery shopping you see them all the time. Those little signs that say “two for $4” or “two for the price of one.” Sounds like a great deal if you buy two, right? Not so fast. This is an old advertising trick to get you to buy more product. Buying more doesn’t really save you more money per item.

It’s a given that grocery stores want to encourage people to buy more than one of every item in order to increase sales and profits. When you see “bargain” advertising for what seems to be a special price if you buy more than one, you’re probably tempted to do just that– buy more, even if you don’t really want two of the same item, or three of them, or whatever the sign indicates. That can result in buying unneeded extra items that may go to waste, but at least you’re saving money, right?

Well, not exactly. More likely than not, if something is advertised as “two for $3,” and you decide to buy just one, the cash register will ring up $1.50, exactly half of the “special” price. You really didn’t need to buy that extra unneeded item. Try it sometime, and you will see that “two for . . .” sales in grocery stores are nothing more than a way to encourage you to buy more than you otherwise might. So just buy what you need, knowing that the actual price is just half of the “two for . . . ” special.

There have, on the other hand, been some stories of pricing scams that truly are completely misleading. Some stores might advertise an item as “$3 -or- two for $5,” indicating that there is truly a dollar savings if you buy two instead of one. Yet, if you do just buy one, the register rings it up at $2.50, half of the “two for $5” price, instead of the misleading $3 advertised price. If you see such a practice at a store, call it to the manager’s attention that their signs are deceptive.

The moral is, when grocery shopping, don’t be fooled by signs indicating that if you buy more than one you will save money. It may well turn out that you’re falling for a marketing scheme to get you to buy more than you actually need.

Homeowner Demands Lender to Produce the Note

July 21, 2011

The battles continue between homeowners in foreclosure and their lenders. A California homeowner litigates over the rightful owner of his home with his current lender Wells Fargo. He is not alone when it comes to homeowners asking their lenders to “Produce the Note“. Click here to read more.

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A Slamming Nightmare – Caught Between Bright House and Verizon

July 20, 2011

By Terry Smiljanich:

Ever been the victim of “slamming?” That’s when someone switches your telephone company without your permission. The FCC has rules protecting the consumer from such practices, including the inability of the slammer to charge you for its unauthorized telephone services. But one consumer recently found out that these protections aren’t enough to prevent you from suffering adverse consequences, including the temporary loss of your telephone services and endless bureaucratic nonsense.

Jan Brown, a resident of Tampa, Florida, recently received a marketing flyer from Bright House touting its bundled (telephone, internet, television) services. She was currently receiving telephone services from Verizon. She called Bright House simply to make inquiries about its offer, and a Bright House representative described its services and prices. In the process of the discussion, the representative took down the telephone number of Mrs. Brown, who said she would think about the offer and call them back.

End of the story? No. A few days later, people trying to call Brown received endless busy signals, and her telephone services were completely shut down. At first Verizon offered simple solutions such as rebooting battery backups, etc., but eventually told her that Verizon had received an order from Bright House to have all telephone numbers in the household ported directly to Bright House. Brown had never given permission for this to be done, but Verizon had simply agreed to the request by Bright House.

Bright House apologized for the problem, telling her that a sales representative had made a mistake. Unfortunately, said Bright House, according to FCC rules it could take up to 30 days for Verizon to get the service back.

So, free telephone service for the interim? Not quite. Bright House stated that since a “third party authorization” had not been completed by the Brown family, the telephone numbers could not be brought on line. But wasn’t that the point? The Browns had specifically not authorized the Bright House service and didn’t want it, so why should they “authorize” it? Sorry, said Bright House, it’s Verizon’s problem now since they had informed Verizon that the Bright House service was being cancelled. Talk to Verizon.

You can imagine the rest of the story – endless telephone conversations back and forth, waiting for uninformed supervisors to enter the picture and promise a resolution, etc. etc. In order to accomplish a “third party authorization” to get the numbers ported back to Verizon, the Browns had to go through an automated process (you know – press one if . . ., press 2 if . . .). It took several attempts, and several more telephone calls to get the whole thing straightened out.

In the process, the Browns were without telephone services for 8 days. They still have to deal with Verizon regarding a credit for the time their services were completely out, plus the fact that during this time they had to make considerable use of their cell phones to get everything straightened out, resulting in higher bills to AT&T.

Obviously something is wrong with the whole process.

  • How can a simple demand from a Bright House sales representative cause Verizon to immediately start porting all calls to the new company?
  • How can Bright House demand that a victim of its slamming “authorize” the unauthorized services while waiting for the problem to get resolved?
  • Why can’t two technologically advanced companies like Bright House and Verizon not just pick up the telephone between themselves and work out the problem in an instant?

The lesson here to all consumers is to be very careful when inquiring of a telephone company about switching services. Don’t give out your telephone number, and be sure to insist at the end of the call that you have NOT made a decision and that your telephone services will remain with your current company. It shouldn’t be necessary to state the obvious, but in light of the above story, it can be all too easy to find yourself caught between clueless supervisors and automated machines.

Why Women Must Take Charge at the Medical Doctor

June 28, 2011

A new study from the medical journal, Cancer, reveals that women with breast cancer often don’t get the treatment they need. It’s part of a bigger problem in the health care industry that affects all women and men. To get good care, you must take charge and ask questions. ABC News medical director Dr. Richard Besser gave some great advice on how to do just that and not feel bad about it. Click here to watch Dr. Besser’s tips.

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Increased Skin Cancer Cases Incites Stricter Sunscreen Labeling

June 15, 2011

Beach days are back again, as well as the cancer causing UVA and UVB rays. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration imposed new regulations starting next summer for sunscreen products protecting consumers against the harmful rays of the sun. These new labeling guidelines come only after 30 years of inaccurate and loosely regulated sun protecting creams and lotions. Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News Chief Medical and Health Editor, reports on the new sunscreen guidelines here.

Legalized Corruption – The Comcast Merger and the FCC

May 31, 2011

By Terry Smiljanich:

In one of the most blatant examples of just how corrupt politics has become in Washington, D.C., the head of the Federal Communications Commission, just a few months after voting to allow one of the largest corporate mergers in history, has accepted a high paying job at the new giant NBC/Comcast media company. This raises an interesting question: can we call it corruption, if it’s all perfectly legal under current rules?

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You’re Paying A LOT More Out-of-pocket for Health Care

May 31, 2011

It’s not your imagination. You’re paying alot more out-of-pocket for health care.  The average out-of-pocket health care costs for a family of four with insurance have ballooned from $3,634 in 2002 to $8,008, this year.  The statistics come as part of a new study released this month by the industry consulting firm Milliman.

And that’s for families who get coverage from their employers. If you’re paying COBRA premiums like Schaub, or buying on the individual market, the costs are often much higher.

Click here to read more in this article from the St. Pete Times.

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