published Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Phillips: Catch hotels, stores in slips on the tab


by Ellen Phillips

Continuing with last week's column featuring the best ways to catch common billing mistakes, I'm still amazed at the number of errors companies make. Whether through intentional thwacks or pure idiocy, consumers come out on the short end of the stick if we're not thoroughly alert.

* Credit cards: No way am I repeating the worlds of previous advice regarding this topic. However, some of the common errors we often fail to catch on our statements bear a recap.

For example, I canceled an insurance policy several months ago that I paid via credit card. If I weren't so fanatical about checking receipts with a fine-tooth comb, I might have missed the quarterly debit my service provider charged me when I was no longer insured.

So at all times check for any credits just in case the merchant failed to hold up his end of the bargain.

Just as experts advise you periodically check your bank accounts online to make certain money's where it's supposed to be, these authorities also urge us to review online credit card statements weekly. By doing so, that old early bird (you) almost always gets Mr. Long-suffering Worm (credit card assurance).

* Hotels: Minibars, in-room movies, telephone calls -- each or all might trip up the traveler if we're not exceedingly careful. Corporate Lodging Consultants (www.corplodging.com) says 11 percent of all hotel bills are wrong and visitors were overcharged an average of $11 per stay.

While many guests might not worry about an occasional eleven bucks (and most never complain), the accumulated amount for all overnighters could quite possibly pay the federal deficit down to a paltry few billion.

Be sure to ask for an e-mail confirmation of the negotiated rate and the employee name and/or ID who agreed to that amount. If you notice a discrepancy upon check-in or checkout, immediately ask to speak with hotel management; if this person doesn't resolve the matter, then contact your credit card company, and, if you're a business traveler, your employer.

* Stores: The most common and most overlooked error at the expense (literally) of our checkbooks is when an object scans for a pricier amount than it truly costs.

I realize when trying to pile on items quickly because the feet of those several customers behind us are furiously tapping doesn't allow much time to check the individual prices as they're passed on down the scanner line. One way to avoid the problem is to shop at stores that guarantee cash register accuracy.

In the event of a mistake, you could earn anywhere from a couple of dollars to the outlay of your entire order. Check price accuracy guarantees online for stores that offer this policy.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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