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Comcast promised gift card after 3 mos. — but it doesn’t arrive

THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU

$1,186,997

Updated: December 31, 2011 1:15AM



Dear Fixer: We signed up for Comcast’s Triple Play online and were supposed to get a $200 gift card after three months of service.

It’s going on seven months and four phone calls and many emails, and we are still nowhere with this. We keep getting told they will look into it, but no one calls us back.

Katrina Crutchett, Montgomery

Dear Katrina: This was quite the mystery. On the one hand, the package you remember ordering doesn’t qualify for a $200 rebate.

But on the other, after you upgraded your order, it would have qualified.

And it’s clear you should have gotten something for ordering Triple Play online and paying for three months of service.

The Fixer asked Comcast to dig back into their records, and over the course of three interviews, we got your best recollection of what you ordered last April.

As it turns out, you ordered a pretty basic version of Triple Play (though you did later upgrade it), which was supposed to come with a $50 gift card. However, because of the confusion and ensuing delays, Comcast has offered you an additional $50 as a goodwill gesture. You’ll see the $100 total as a credit on your bill.

Bon voyage

Dear Fixer: While watching “Wheel Of Fortune” on Tuesday, Oct. 18, we discovered, much to our delight, that our Wheel Watchers number had been selected and the prize was a trip to Hawaii.

We immediately responded via the Internet with all the required info. The last detail said, “Congratulations — a Sony rep will call within three days.”

It has been about nine days now with no call back. We have not been able to reach anyone at Wheel of Fortune. Could you help?

Kathleen and Dan Pool, Elburn

Dear Kathleen and Dan: We’re guessing the only thing more nerve-wracking than spinning that wheel on TV is waiting at home for a call that never comes about your supposed Hawaiian vacation.

But never fear, you two will be off to the Aloha State soon. The Fixer got in touch with a senior publicist at Wheel of Fortune, and within a couple hours you got a call outlining all the details of what to do to claim the prize

Dear Fixer: I purchased a sweater from Spiegel around Sept. 30. I returned the sweater the next business day. I sent it back by UPS, using their package and label. It was received by Spiegel, but I haven’t gotten my refund.

I have tried calling and waiting on the line for more than an hour. The website doesn’t seem to work for sending email.

To make matters worse, they billed my account $81.94, but the invoice enclosed with the sweater said $69 and free shipping. I have been duped. Please help me.

Sandra Austin, Merrillville, Ind.

Dear Sandra: The Fixer was happy to strap on our anti-gravity suit and retrieve your refund from the black hole it apparently fell into. We contacted Spiegel’s parent company and asked them to investigate. They got on it right away, and in a few days they had untangled your account. Spiegel is issuing a check for the full $81.94, which should be arriving any day.

For the rest of us, any time you deal with a call center, make sure you have all your documentation in front of you and get the name, employee number and extension of the rep you’re dealing with. And have a good book ready in case the hold time drags on.

Speaking of call centers

We’ve been hearing from people who work at call centers, and they’ve told us that their job security is tied to numbers, number, numbers — how many calls they can field and how quickly they can get customers off the phone. Reps have told us they barely have time to go to the bathroom. One guy got in trouble for stepping out for five minutes to help bring in training materials.

Here’s the view from L.L., a former rep who says her workplace was “the most depressing place I have ever worked, bar none” with an annual attrition rate of 37 percent: “I hate dealing with call centers and other automated ‘service’ centers,” L.L. wrote to The Fixer. “I know because I worked in one and learned that their structure is purposefully geared to keeping the customer away from decision makers and/or the service and/or manufacturer. Ultimately, many customers give up and never get their refunds, giveaways or repairs.”

Kind of makes you understand why the whole call center process is so aggravating.

If you work in a customer-service call and love or hate your job, The Fixer would like to hear from you, too. Please email your thoughts to szimmermann@suntimes.com with “CALL CENTER” in the subject line.

Black Friday to-do list

Planning your holiday shopping can be like plotting a military campaign — especially now, when household budgets are so tight. The November issue of ShopSmart magazine — published by the nonprofit Consumers Union, the people behind Consumer Reports — has these tips to help you save:

◆ Retailers are pushing Black Friday-style deals earlier, so look online for pre-holiday sales. Last year, some offered as much as 50 percent off even before Halloween. (Just make sure they don’t have a short window for returns and exchanges.)

◆ Check these Black Friday sites: BFads.net, BlackFriday.info, BlackFriday.net and TheBlackFriday.com. And these Cyber Monday sites: CyberMonday2011.com, Cyber.MondayDeals.net, and DealsCyberMonday.org.

◆ “Like” your favorite retailers on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to get insider info on special sales. Follow @DealCyberMonday on Twitter.

◆ Check out Small Business Saturday sales at local merchants.

◆ Find free-shipping deals at FreeShipping.org.

Xheaper energy

Citizens Utility Board on how to save money on your phone, electric and natural gas bills. They’ll help you sign up for CUBEnergySaver.com, a free, award-winning service that has helped consumers cut energy bills an average of more than $100 a year.

Dear Fixer: I purchased three $500 Lowe’s gift cards on eBay on June 13, June 16 and July 13. I paid a total of $1,320 for the cards.

I verified that they had $500 on them upon their arrival. I started using two of the cards and had a balance of $392 on one, $439 on another and the full $500 on the third.

This weekend, we were going to start on a major project on our home. I went to our local Lowe’s and all three cards were at a zero balance.

Lowe’s told me I was scammed on eBay and that they couldn’t do anything about it. Ebay told me they couldn’t do anything since it was past 45 days, and so did PayPal and my credit card company.

As a middle-class, hardworking citizen, I am out a lot of money, and no one wants to take any responsibility.

I have heard you have created miracles, and I hope you can help me. I’m sad and angry and had put these no-expiration cards aside for special home projects.

Elaine Criswell, Michigan City, Ind.

Dear Elaine:

You asked for a miracle worker — you got one! To be honest, The Fixer wondered whether this was a lost cause — with gift card scams not exactly rare occurrences — but the folks at eBay decided to make this right.

Shortly after The Fixer brought this to their attention, Nic Oliphant from eBay’s executive office contacted you and promised that a full refund of $1,320 would be put in your PayPal account.

You told The Fixer you cried at this news — and we were happy to help.

As for the scam, apparently there are a number of things to watch out for when buying secondhand gift cards, whether on eBay or elsewhere. According to AllThingsGiftCard.com, scams can take several forms:

The hot potato: The gift cards were purchased with stolen credit cards. The scammer has to turn over these gift cards quickly, before the stolen credit card is discovered and the gift cards are disabled. If you buy one of these, you’re probably out of luck.

Bait and switch: Instead of mailing the gift card you bid on, the scammer sends a card with little or no value for a completely different merchant. It’s mailed with a signature confirmation required, so the scammer can prove they mailed something. If the victim demands a refund, the scammer will sometimes rely on seller insurance to pull off the scam anyway.

The back door: You get the card and it’s what you ordered. But a few days later, the balance drops to zero. That’s because the seller used a “back door” method to get its value, such as shopping online or reporting it stolen and having it reissued. To protect against this, make sure the card’s PIN hasn’t been exposed before the sale. When you receive the card, check to make sure it’s not registered to someone else, and register it to yourself immediately.

Lost in the mail: You buy a card but it gets “lost in the mail.” This is fairly easy to resolve as long as you complain about it quickly and bought it with a credit card.

Mystery auction: A seller holds an auction for a gift card that’s worth “up to” a certain dollar amount. Once the auction ends, the seller just mails out a card that’s worth less than the winning bid.

It sounds like you were a victim of the “back door” scam.

As of Friday, eBay had more than 23,000 sale items under “gift card” (some of them, oddly, selling for more than the face value of the card). Ebay does have rules surrounding these sales, such as cards must be $500 or less and a seller is not allowed to list more than one gift card at a time (unless it’s an authorized reseller or direct supplier approved in advance).

We asked eBay whether, in light of all the possible scams, they’d consider restricting the sale of gift cards, but we didn’t get a reply.

So, everyone: Consider yourself warned.

Getting the runaround on a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at www.newssunonline.com, where you’ll find a simple form to fill out.

Costly Lesson

A consumer’s tale of woe

With unemployment around 9 percent, it’s no wonder today’s Costly Lesson occurred. There are just too many people hoping for a job, and the bad guys know it.

Gino currently stays at the Pacific Garden Mission, so when he saw an ad in a local publication for a temporary job at a moving business, he responded.

“I am a day laborer — really, a member of the ‘working poor,’ ” Gino wrote The Fixer. “I realized that this work would be intermittent and include heavy lifting, but I needed the money.”

Gino did the work for a week, and even kept a log of his assignments and hours, but then he stopped getting calls. The “boss” disappeared, and Gino and his co-workers never got paid.

“The moving company stole the business name, faked the address and took everybody’s time and money,” Gino said.

Sadly, the money he was supposed to receive would have helped him leave the shelter and move into an apartment before the cold weather arrives.

The Fixer has heard of fly-by-night movers who show up with rental trailers or painted-over old trucks. Now it seems they’ve got workers they don’t pay. We’ve come across other employment scams, such as job ads that promise employment if you’ll pay an application fee (or pay for training) and sham employment applications that are just trying to steal personal and financial information.

Be careful out there, folks. Check out any employment offer to make sure it’s legit and you’ll be much happier in the long run.



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