New Consumer Smartphone App looking for funding

Over the past few months we have been blogging about issues of interest to consumers. We have also taken our vision to the next level by creating a Smartphone application. The application is called BlastEm. We at Consumer Angel want to thank all of you who have been following our blog for the last 8 months.

BlastEm allows the consumer to have direct email contact with the senior management of over 250,000 US businesses. The BlastEm user is able to send their communication directly to top management about a problem, a great experience or a suggestion. Additionally, the BlastEm user can copy the press, social media, regulators and business reviewers with their communication AND it can contain photos and videos to emphasize their point.

Consumer Angel, Inc. is excited to be launching an IndieGogo Campaign on Aug. 26, 2013 to showcase our BlastEm application. Indiegogo is a crowdfunding site that provides a forum for small businesses to raise money. We are looking to raise $50,000.00 on the crowd funding site IndieGogo to complete the application and roll it out to Smartphone users around the US.

For any questions contact us at questions@consumersangel.com

On Monday, August 26th find us on http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/smartphone-app-connecting-consumer-to-top-management

#Consumer #ConsumerAdvocate #BlastEm

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BlastEm Successful for Bridget

Last week we blogged about a problem that Bridget had with Met Life. She was charged for a premium without her consent. She had made a number of phone calls over several days period without satisfaction from the Met Life personnel with whom she spoke.

Sunday evening she used the BlastEm App. (which is still in the testing phase) to send her message of dissatisfaction to three people in authority positions: Steven Kandarian, the CEO of Met Life; the Chairperson of the New York State Committee of Consumer Affairs and Protection, and the Superintendent of the New York State Department of Finance. Her complaint was posted on Twitter as well.

The Results:

Within 15 hours, her post received a Tweet from the Social Networking group of Met Life promising their assistance. We are pleased to report that soon afterwards she was refunded $1,886.28 by Met Life.

It is clear by this example, that the Internet and Social media have become powerful tools in getting the attention of businesses. They allow the consumer, who has been wronged, to receive attention by posting their story publicly on the internet. In addition, the BlastEm App. directed her complaint to other interested parties that could assist her including social media.

We have all been stuck where Bridget was. We have all felt angry and frustrated. We have all felt we had nowhere to turn. We at Consumers Angel are confident that the BlastEm App. will be a powerful force in resolving a variety of consumer complaints. Utilizing the App. will direct your grievance to the right parties thereby greatly increasing the chance of a swift resolution.

We will release the first version of BlastEm in the next few months so you can all have the same power that Bridget had.

In the interim, you are welcome to contact us at angel

How MetLife Cheated a Consumer out of $3,200

Consumers Angel is testing a new App called BlastEm. The App helps consumers directly register their complaint with a business that has wronged them in some way. Social media and regulators can also be notified using this App., thereby generating more attention to the consumer’s complaint.

Below is a Blast written by one of our application testers. This is an actual complaint, is it not a made up scenario.

The BlastEm App simultaneously delivered her complaint to the CEO of MetLife, the Chair of the New York State Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, the Administrator of the New York State Department of Financial Services (which regulates both Banks and Insurance companies) as well as Twitter.

We will be following this closely and report the response over the next few weeks.
———
Dear Mr. Kandarian,

I was your customer for seven years with a Group Universal Life policy as a Citibank employee. In addition to coverage, I chose to add a little cash each month thereby building higher cash value which reached the tidy sum of $3,919.56. I am shocked and deeply dismayed by what occurred when I severed from Citi.

My end date was March 12th.

You said Citi notified you on March 26th.

WITHOUT notifying me – you took funds to cover March 13th through the end of the month out of the cash value.

Then you sent me a letter in April, saying that I am now responsible for the monthly premium of $1,926.27 AND, you pulled that from my account, too!

When I phoned, to say, No, Thanks, please send me the $4,000 I had saved, you told me the amount was now approximately $800 because 1) you had taken enough to cover March and 2) you cannot prorate the April coverage, it was already deducted.

So, you can prorate when it suits YOU, but not when I request it?

I had no opportunity to claim my cash – the timing of your notifications (perhaps Citi is partly to blame?) and your cycles stack the deck 100% against the consumer.

You led me to believe that I was creating a nice cushion, doing the right thing – but in fact, YOU were building a little account that you then ROBBED on my way out the door. From $4,000 down to $800 – and no opportunity to prevent to loss.

At best, this is really bad business – but I think it’s also unethical and if not illegal, it should be.

With disgust and anger,

Bridget Thexton

#MetLife #MetLifeTermLifePolicy #TermLifeScam #InsuranceCompanyScam
———

The Power of Social Media

The scandal at Rutgers University has recently flooded our news media. It is but one example of a long standing issue that most of us have had some experience with.  What is acceptable conduct for coaches, educators and school staff?

Moreover, how do we, Consumers of the educational system, have our voices heard when these behaviors warrant the firing of such individuals.  Yes, we are PAYING for the education of our children in one form or another.

We (parents, taxpayers, students) pay either fully or in part for the education of our students (both public and private) either directly or via taxes taken at the state level.  Therefore, one can argue, we are in part “employers” of these educators.  However, unlike other “employers” who are empowered to swiftly and directly eliminate an ineffective, abusive or inappropriate employee, ousting an educator at any level is no easy task.

Who hasn’t heard of or had an educator that has no place in the lives of children?  How many parents have scratched their heads and whispered among themselves; how did that person get tenure?  How many children have been scarred, shamed, and simply NOT EDUCATED by these same emotionally unstable folks?  Why would the administration allow a person with severe anger issues or poor behavior continue to teach year in and year out?  What recourse does a parent/student have if they have been the brunt of this abuse?

Why would Consumers continue to remain quiet in the face of this common problem without issuing a complaint?  Why is it when there is a complaint, often these offenders are allowed to remain in their positions?

Tenure, bureaucracy and the lack of effective review policies often contribute to keeping on staff that has no place in any workplace, particularly in schools where poor behaviors directly impact the lives of impressionable young people.

 When the President of Rutgers university was first shown the tapes of the abusive behavior of Mike Rice (former basketball coach), he opted to send Mr. Rice for anger management classes, hoping to remediate Mr. Rice.  This remediation did nothing to change Mr. Rice; however, he was allowed to continue his employment with this University.  He was allowed to continue to brutalize students.  The parents at this institution were paying over $25,000 per year to allow for a mentally ill individual to Coach and represent their school.

 It is only because videotapes of his sick coaching techniques had been leaked to social media, that this egregious situation has finally been brought to light, and he was terminated.

Social media continues to play a powerful role in catching and forcing those in leadership positions to realize they are not above the law, nor above a moral standard of acceptable behavior.  It is our hope at Consumer Angel that parents and students continue to realize that they are a powerful force for change.  If you are a victim of an abusive person, even in school, the first option is to speak to the Principal or head of the University.  If this yields no results, document all behaviors, words, actions.  Have fellow students and parents cosign and also document such behaviors, if possible.  If you are still being ignored, the power of social media is becoming a fast growing outlet for rapid attention and change.  We no longer need to accept, unacceptable behavior….Particularly when we are paying for it!!

Social media has given us, the Consumer, great power the correct bad behavior no matter where it occurs, whether in the classroom or a retail establishment.

We have the power;  We just need to use it.

#consumer #consumerangel #socialmedia

The endless phone tree

Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of being stuck on an endless phone tree. Phone trees are of two basic types, the voice response tree and the touchpad tree. The voice response tree asks you to respond to specific questions and has a limited vocabulary with which it expects you to respond. For example, if the question requires a yes or no response you can’t say “yeah” or “yup” or “OK”, you must say “Yes” or “No”.

On the key pad phone tree you must respond with the options they provide. The typical choices will include: Do you speak Spanish, Do you want to place an order, Do you want to repeat these options and Do you want to speak with billing. None of these options help, if you are trying to resolve an issue such as a product you ordered not being delivered .

After being stuck in this endless loop many of us just give up. But there is a better solution. If you are on a voice activated phone tree try these unannounced options: “Agent”, “Customer Service” or “Representative”. These will usually get you to a customer service representative with whom you can speak. On a keypad phone tree try “O”, “*O” or “#O” and these will usually get you to a customer service representative with whom you can speak.

Finally, if none of these work you can go to the business’ website which will usually have an option for “Contact Us”. There you can write an e-mail to the company to voice your complaint. This option will usually be successful but may require a longer wait time for a response.

Angel helps not for profit recover money for merchandise not received

A short time ago Consumer Angel offered our assistance with a consumer complaint. We received our first assignment from a small not for profit here in New York. Last year they had ordered tee shirts for their annual conference from Staples. They had only received half of their order and both Staples and UPS blamed the other for the problem. Neither would take responsibility for the issue.

We received the request for help with this a week ago Sunday along with the specifics. We sent an email to several executives at Staples including the CEO explaining the problem and requesting help. The email was:

Senior Staples Executives,

Last August we ordered T-Shirts for an event from Staples and only half of them were delivered. We have been pushed back and forth between Staples and UPS. Since we purchased the product from Staples and we have never received it, I believe it is only reasonable that we receive a refund from Staples.

A summary of the issue is below. Is its Staples practice to decry responsibility for delivering products purchased from them? What do you propose to do if anything about this issue? Please feel free to contact me directly.

Here’s the bottom line: A single box was delivered to the person who was to receive the package at his door. He happened to be getting married that day. Each year the order is the same, one box. The customer did receive one box and put it aside to prepare for his big day. He did not open and inventory the box. He did not sign for the shipment.

He brought the unopened box to the conference and it was then he discovered only half the shirts ordered were delivered.

He contacted Staples. He was told he had to take it up with UPS. He took it up with UPS (see fwd’d claim dated November) and they referred him back to Staples. He took it up with Staples over a lengthy series of emails. Despite these efforts, there has been no resolution to date. He stopped pursuing this in December because he felt it was useless and would only get the runaround.

Staples has said they had a ‘ record ‘, that the box was signed for (but cannot tell him by whom). They also suggested he ask one of his neighbors if they took the other box of 60 t-shirts. Not impossible, just highly unlikely.

Attached is a copy of the order.

Your speedy response will be appreciated.

Sincerely,

Consumers Angel

The Angel received a call from a Staples’ executive who said she would look into the problem and have the person who handled the account get back to us. After an hour we received a call from the person at Staples who handled the sale. She was not happy. She said she remembered the problem and had eventually passed all the information along to her boss so it would take some time for her to get all the paper work together. We told her that this was no problem and we understood that some time had passed and we appreciated her efforts.

We received several emails over the next few days each offering a reason why it was not Staples’ fault and suggesting our client was at fault, should ask his neighbors if they had taken the box and that the UPS web site showed that the two boxes had been delivered. We continued to respond with an email like:

XXXXXXX,

What I see is a delivery but no signature. Is that correct?

Also, why do I see a second tracking number in the section called Packages in this shipment which you can see in my prior email?

Sincerely,

Consumer Angel

I did not go that far in this time to see who signed for it.

Since 2 boxes were delivered and XXXX received the one they would be together.

You can click on the details to see that information.

That second number is when the inquiry is made for a tracer. Thanks!

Sales Coordinator,Staples Channel Support

After several emails like this where we just insisted on discovering who signed for the delivery we finally received this email:

What sizes were missing-the 2X and 3X are a different price than the smaller sizes.

Do you want the tees replaced or a credit issued? Thanks!

Sales Coordinator,Staples Channel Support

We sent the specifics to Staples and they issued the credit.

What is important to note in this whole process is that we needed to be persistent; we made sure top management had been notified; we always maintained a civil attitude; and we had a legitimate position to defend. In this case, our position was that the boxes were never signed for and that only happens if the shipper, in this case Staples, has checked the box that says no signature is required. This was not authorized by our client. Staples knew all this but hoped we would not pursue the issue persistently. Once they saw we would they were ready to settle. We started this process on a Sunday and it was resolved by that Wednesday, it took 4 days.

Most companies automatically reject your claim even when it is legitimate because they know that many people will give up. We are happy to have recovered $349.50 for our client. Unfortunately Staples has lost a customer because they took the position of not being responsible in the first place. We believe it is good business to treat your customers fairly and when an issue arises be fair because they will remember that and keep coming back.

Should I have a YouTube account?

Should I have a YouTube account?

Yes, because this will allow you to create interest in your issues and to develop a following of people who have had similar problems.

Additionally, YouTube allows you to post videos you have taken about any situation that you find disturbing and immediately get a large audience. This will provide you with significant leverage in dealing with a business that has behaved poorly.

If you are being treated rudely by customer service at a business, a video of the event posted on YouTube is a good way to get satisfaction. All you need is a smart phone and the camera application will allow you to take videos as well as still pictures. On an iPhone when you bring up the camera application you will notice a slider in the lower right corner. Push the slider to the right under the square with the triangle on its right and you will be taking videos.

Setting up a YouTube account is easy. Go to http://youtube.com. At the bottom of the left most column you will see a gray box and just click on Sign in >. In the upper right corner of the next page there is a red button CREATE AN ACCOUNT. Click on that button and you will be prompted as to all you need to do to create your account.