Friday, May 16, 2008

Do Not Call Registry - The Exception Trap for Consumers

In these difficult economic times, sales have slowed and a number of marketers are desperate to make contact with consumers. Many consumers feel secure that the Do Not Call Registry will protect them from these telemarketers. In fact, the Registry is responsible for a drastic decrease in the number of vexing calls people receive at their residences. Nevertheless, consumers must be proactive and cautious to ensure that the next time the telephone rings it's not the dreaded telemarketer.

As many know, the National Do No Call Registry began as a result of complaints from Americans who were harassed with annoying telephone calls from telemarketers selling anything from the hottest security to the newest over the counter product. All too often, these calls were received during quite family time. The Do Not Call Registry gave individuals the right to opt out of receiving sales calls by calling the government or registering on line at The Registry covers personal landlines and cell phones. Once you register with the government, your number remains on the list permanently. If you obtain a new number, you just have to register that number. After you register, It may take up to 31 days for telemarketing calls to cease


As a few have learned, the Registry does not prevent political organizations and pollsters from contacting residential telephones. In fact, Congress specifically carved out exceptions for them.
Charities are also allowed to call numbers on the Registry. In addition, if you want to receive calls from certain businesses, you can remain on the Registry and grant exceptions in writing to the businesses.

The Consumer Trap

Despite recent amendements to the laws, commercial telemarketers have found a way around the do not call ban. One popular way is to invite unsuspecting people to sign up for sweepstakes or raffles for items such as lunches. All too often, the fine print places people on marketers' call lists. Indeed, on one Maryland's consumer site, it specifically warns against contest entry forms where telephone numbers are requested. In addition, the Maryland Attorney General cautions that when completing entry form contests read both sides of the form. See

Also, although Congress carved out an exception for the telephone survey, it does not allow the pollsters and consumer researchers to do an end run around the law in an attempt to sell their goods and services in the guise of taking a survey.

One of the most popular ways to circumvent the law is to establish a business relationship with consumers. This can be done by having an account with a bank or credit card company, purchasing merchandise, or having a product delivered to your home. Once companies establish these business relationships, they may call up to 18 months after the last purchase, delivery or payment, unless you ask the entity not to call again. Other ways to establish business relationships with companies are to make an inquiry to a company about their product or servie or submit an application.

Protecting Yourself

1. Register your number with the Do Not Call Registry;

2. Keep your phone number to yourself;
(including removing them from your checks)

3. When called by a company you no longer want to receive telemarketing calls from tell them to put you on their do not call list;

4. Use *67 before calling businesses;

5. Screen calls and hang up on auto-dialers;

(Suggestions 2-5 came directly from the Maryland Attorney General)

Regardless of the source of the calls, once you tell a telemarketer to stop calling, the company must honor your request. If it fails to do so, it may be subject to a fine. To make a record of your verbal request, however, you should follow up with a letter sent certified mail/return receipt or if you can legally do so, tape record the conversation.

For New York, Maryland, DC, and Georgia residents, in addition to contacting the applicable agency to complain, you can also contact the FTC or bring your own lawsuit against the offending company.

1. New York

2. Maryland

3. Washington, D.C.

4. Georgia
(located under hot topics - "Do Not Call Law")

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Everyday Person's Opinion

This election season has certainly sparked the interest of young, old, rich, and poor. The interest in the outcome of the race is like no other seen in this country's history. Fortunately, those who call themselves journalists don't have a monopoly in publishing their opinions. In fact, I'm a little bit tired of the main stream media's (MSM's) self important tirades and attempts to force us to think a certain way. If you want to be entertained, informed, and frightened go to the web. No, I'm not suggesting that you take to heart the articles on the web from the MSM. In fact, they're no better than what you see on television or read in the newspaper. The treasure lies in the wild west of the comment sections for the everyday folk.

The best site to explore by far is the Huffington Post where there is something for everyone, news, politics, entertainment, and business. Moreover, there is little censorship or time limits to post your comments. The Politico comes in a distant second. However, because it tends to attract the conservative crowd, it is spattered with overstated self appointed "patriots," and offensive language about women and minorities. Sometimes, it's worth going there to see how far the country needs to evolve.

Although CBS News, New York Times, Washington Post, and ABC News have decent web comment sections, they are heavily censored and have time limits for responses. MSNBC and CNN are by far the worst of the lot when it comes to outside opinions. I guess they're thin skinned and don't care to be challenged and criticized in public.

Getting back to the Huffington Post, the discussion of political events is far better than the fare provided by the "experts" on the talking head shows on Sunday (I stopped watching those shows a few weeks ago because I couldn't stand it any longer). For example, for the last few days, there has been a heated discussion on Clinton's nuclear option. This option would entail using her cronies on the DNC rules committee to seat all of Florida and Michigan delegates at the convention. Of course, all of the delegates would be for her. This post was published on May 4 in the afternoon. As of May 6 at 1:00 p.m. there is over 400,000 views and 6,000 comments on the topic. Some of the comments are pretty harmless either way. However, you get a smattering of comic writers that would do quite well on the Daily Show with John Stewart. On the other hand, the jokes comparing Seven Belles and Clinton have been beaten to death.

So, if you are interested in following the election process in an informative and entertaining way, think about heading to the wild world of common folk commentary. It's fun and sometimes addictive. More importantly, it forces you to think and question what "journalists" put out on the air and print for public consumption.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's Race Shouldn't Matter

I wrote the majority of this post right after the South Carolina primary. However, even after the Wright controversy, it's more relevant now.

The stupidity of those in the media was apparent in the weeks leading up to South Carolina and Mississippi primaries. Yes, southern states have significant black populations. However, Iowa, the bastion of black power gave Obama the first victory of this election season and credibility in the black and white communities. If Iowa hadn't stepped up to the plate, Obama may not be in the position he's in now. This Iowa lead-off has resulted in endorsement after endorsement from democratic leaders in red and blue states. A yellow flag, called the Rev. Wright controversy, may have slowed him down a little, but I don't see throngs of people abandoning him. In fact, after all the hysteria of last week, Obama lost only a few percentage points to Clinton in the purple state of Pennsylvania, and Clinton hasn't gained a single super delegate. Indeed, during this media frenzy, Obama picked up extra delegates from Iowa.

For those in Pennsylvania and other areas who see Obama as simply a slick talking black man, they are being short-sighted. In fact, Obama cannot simply be labeled the black candidate. His mother is white, his half sister is Asian, he spent time in Asia, and was raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii. Based upon his background, it's apparent that he can unite many communities. This potential is shown from polls taken overseas where he receives overwhelming international support. If elected president, this support may go a long way in restoring the reputation of the United States, which has been so badly damaged in the last seven years.

However, a word of caution for those in the traditional black community. If Mr. Obama is successful, he won't be the panacea for racism that exists in this country. He admitted this much in his news conference yesterday. Indeed, he will be the President of the United States, not the president of blacks who are in the United States. His presence in the White House won't change the hearts and minds of many who judge on the basis of skin color. His executive position won't help those who are denied jobs and promotions. To cure the ills of work discrimination, we need to revamp Title VII. The present discrimination laws are too easy to evade. In fact, a 5th grader could be taught how to discriminate with impunity, while thumbing his nose at the laws. Also (to be fair), his rise won't educate those who don't want to learn and won't give jobs to those who don't want to work.

Nevertheless, each black, can do something to improve the lot of the collective. Just think of that young forgotten man in Jena, Louisiana who had the nerve to stand up at a school meeting to ask if blacks could sit under what had been designated as a whites only tree. This young man stepped where many blacks (young and old alike) were too "yella" to go. Indeed, what kind of mentality must these black parents have had who knew about this segregation, but allowed their children to be subjected to it year after year, generation after generation?

Yes, it will take a while to change the hearts and minds of a certain shrinking percentage of this country (the racist whites and the coonified blacks). Unfortunately, many of these people have hiring, firing, promotion, arrest, conviction, and sentencing powers. These people won't be eliminated with an Obama victory. However, an Obama victory will go a long way in changing the hearts and minds of the next generation and many who are on the fence. This possibility is clearly shown in the results in Iowa and the current polls that still show Obama as a viable candidate even after all the hullabaloo about his minister.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The True New York Fan

As a long time Jets and Giants fan who suffered through the drought of 1970s and the Super Bowl wins against Denver and Buffalo, I feel like a kid who sees a room full of presents on Christmas morning. I would really love to hear more from the long time Giants fans; but the media will put a microphone in anyone face who says "Go Giants". As a result, I have been subjected to "hanger-ons" who grab on to championship teams every few months. These people go from the Super Bowl, to the Stanley Cup, to the NBA Championship, and end at the World Series.

These "new" people who have found instant love for the Giants late last night are the same people who rooted for Dallas, Green Bay, and New England (up until 0:02 of the 4th quarter) just a short while ago. Many don't know anything about football and show up at Super Bowl parties to be seen. They wouldn't know a punter from a kicker or a safety from a cornerback. Nevertheless, they have all become Giants fans and pontificate about Eli Manning and boast about how they knew in preseason the Giants would win the Super Bowl. To tell you the truth, I didn't think that the Giants would win, but I hoped and prayed for the best (just like I do every season).

As the hanger-ons and the false fans slither away to wait for the NBA champion to latch on, I know the Knicks won't be at the top (all the praying in the world can't help the Knicks this year). So, I'll bask in the glory of this victory; wear my championship hat and tee-shirt with pride, and hope the Mets and Yankees can muster up another subway series.

As a true New York fan, I always have hope for my hometown teams and sometimes victory.