What we do
in tough times
■ Lessons for kids
■ Phone card alert
WITH HOME VALUES falling and gasoline prices so
high, most Americans have been cutting back all year.
But once the financial crisis became the focal point of
both Washington and Wall Street, people started cutting back even more sharply. Now, with the government launching the unprecedented bailout of the
financial system, consumers’ confidence seems too
fragile for them to loosen their purse strings.
Recent figures show that, from coast to coast,
automobile sales have slipped dramatically, airline
traffic is down, restaurant chains are struggling and
retail stores are seeing fewer shoppers. And it’s no
wonder: Jobs are disappearing as companies lay off
personnel, many folks are struggling to put food on
the table and gas in the car, loans are hard to get and
house prices continue to fall, and the future looks
dim as 401(k) accounts shrink at record rates.
Is anything booming? Supermarkets are, because
more people are eating at home and spending time
with their families instead of going out. That’s one
reason why entertainment and media executives
remain optimistic about sales of movie tickets, DVDs,
games and other holiday items. Experts say that, particularly in dark times, people need escape; hopefully,
our new president will help make the sun shine.
debt, it’s time to remind yourself, and your kids, that
each new purchase brings interest charges, along
with the interest charges on all other purchases that
you have not paid off.
LAST YEAR our small business started using a VoIP
(Voice over Internet Protocol)
phone system. The problem
is getting our phone numbers listed with the local
phone directories and 411.
We’ve basically been blacklisted from getting our information out there unless we
pay for Yellow Pages listings in every directory in
every community where we
operate our business. With
the popularity of VoIP, I
can’t believe that businesses
using these services have
been blocked from getting
their numbers listed!
Lessons for kids this Christmas
Have you ever thought about what your children
are learning from your shopping behavior? Financial
writer Sean Masterson reminds us that kids learn
what they live. In these difficult days, maybe we have
to teach financial lessons a bit more responsibly.
Masterson says that parents’ behavior while
shopping, particularly using credit when the cash
flow is tight, or for impulse shopping, will influence
how their kids approach credit-card use and manage
their financial future. One positive approach is to
talk your kids through what you buy. For example, if
you’re using a credit card at checkout, talk to your
kids about the purpose of each purchase. Explain
that when you are buying routine items, such as food
or household goods, this comes from the money you
budget each month, and that money earned at work
goes to pay the credit-card bill.
Explain how you’ll pay the credit-card bill, and
whether the size of the purchase is supported by your
monthly income, or if you will be using savings to
pay the bill, or if you plan to pay off a certain amount
each month while cutting back on other purchases.
If you are in the habit of running up credit-card
Holiday alert: prepaid phone card fraud
The Federal Communications Commission
and other agencies are getting an earful from disgruntled users of international phone cards, who
are being ripped off by cards that don’t deliver the
minutes promised, and by nickel-and-dime fees
that strip the value from the purchase. Other problems include connection fees on calls that
don’t go through because no one
answers or the line is busy.
According to the Hispanic Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group,
the average calling card delivers only
60 percent of the minutes promised,
cheating people out of about $1
million a day coast-to-coast.
say the problem has grown
because the prepaid calling
card industry has been
subject to very little regulation or enforcement of
the rules that do exist.
However, that is expected to change, according to U.S. regulatory
agencies. We hope
Note: Verizon, the
provider of prepaid calling cards at Costco, delivers
100 percent of the minutes
advertised on its prepaid
calling cards with no connection fees or other hidden
AMY CAN TRELL
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
the Dial-Global Radio Networks. For stations and
times, check the radio page at www.fightback.com.
© 2008 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
When subscribers switch to
VoIP and drop their old land-
line number, they lose their
listing in the directory assis-
supported by the
phone carriers are
based on these
I suggest that you
contact your state
well as the
cations Commission, to
find out what laws may
be in place regarding
inclusion of VoIP sub-
scribers in local directo-
ries. It may be that you
and other businesses must
in fact pay for each listing.
Note: If it is important to
you, check to be sure that
your VoIP provider offers
411 service. Digital phone
service from AccessLine/
Costco does support 411
More in archives:
On costco.com enter “connection”
At Online Edition, search
Do you have a question for David?
Just log on to www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally respond
to your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site. (Costco
members receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers of the greatest
interest to Costco members will be used in this column with the permission of the
contributor and will be posted on www.fightback.com.