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5 Ways Big Companies Rip You Off (And What You Can Do To Stop It)

5 Ways Big Companies Rip You Off (And What You Can Do To Stop It)

Companies aren’t known for having the little guy in mind. The United States has a number of consumer regulations, guidelines and safety protocols in place to protect customers from being taken advantage of by major corporations. Unfortunately, many of these regulations are poorly enforced, not widely known and difficult to prove.

Large companies will frequently take cost-cutting measurements to save on profits and try to sneak it past the consumers, charging a similar price for less or lower quality products. Some of the biggest culprits, in fact, are companies that provide critical and necessary services. Here are five ways big companies have ripped you off you may not have noticed.

  1. Putting unjustified fees in your bills

Some companies are notorious for inserting unjustified, inapplicable or unsolicited fees into customer bills, relying on customers to either not notice or not care about a small additional charge and supplying significant profits to the company. Internet provider Time Warner admitted to overcharging its customers approximately $2 million in 2016, according to a report drafted by a U.S. senate investigation into the cable industry. The report concluded that multiple cable companies overcharged for equipment, overcharged for services, added unnecessary fees or intentionally failed to reimburse overcharges. “Time Warner Cable and Charter made no effort to trace equipment overcharges to their origin unless customers specifically asked them to and did not provide notice or refunds to customers,” the Senate report said.

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Customers looking to protect themselves from this should be diligent about examining fees on their bills, comparing offered prices with charged prices and following up with companies about an overcharge. Don’t assume a company will charge you an agreed upon price without checking your bill first.

  1. Lying about the lowest priced option

Companies are also fond of lying to customers about the cheapest options available. Cable companies are once again top offenders in this scam, often hiding or entirely failing to include the cheapest plan from customers until they believe a customer may cancel their service entirely. Other companies do this in smaller ways—for example, all Starbucks stores have an 8 oz ‘short’ size cup available behind the counter for hot drinks that is unlisted on the store’s website and menu options.

Keeping this information from customers forces them to choose from the offered, more expensive options, believing that they have no cheaper option even if it meets their needs.

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  1. Giving you less than you think you’re getting

Companies will shortchange customers in creative and inventive ways. Many bars have begun using thicker beer glasses that carry 14.5 oz of beer or less, rather than the full 16 oz of a pint, but without alerting customers to the quantity change. Other tactics include making ‘ice cream’ airier and more whipped, relabeling the carton ‘frozen dairy dessert’ (because it fails to meet the minimum fat content required by the Food and Drug Administration to be classified as ice cream) and selling it to customers without announcement. Breyer’s ice cream has been notorious in recent years for decreasing the size of their pints as well as the fat content of their ice creams.

Even Starbucks perpetuates this scam, admitting that their cups are not even realistically capable of carrying the amount of liquid claimed without filling it to the brim. Many of these companies have been successfully sued in court for fraud claims, but new scams pop up regularly.

  1. Ignoring customer requests

Many companies, with cable companies once again topping the list of notoriety, will flat out ignore customer requests to cancel a service, remove a charge or offer a clear final price they will be charged. Using intro rates with unclear terms, relying on customers failing to double check a bill or bank account, or purposefully training customer service to redirect or ignore customer requests, all top the list of ways companies will attempt to dismiss customer requests for information or service changes.

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  1. Using insurance negotiations to lie about pricing

Health insurance companies are notorious for arranging misleading prices within the healthcare industry. Frequently, insurance companies will negotiate a unique contract for cost per pill, per dosage or per product for customers insured under them, but the contract cost doesn’t have to have anything to do with the cost of creating the pill, and your co-pay may be higher than a medication would cost if you paid for it out of pocket instead. In addition, different pharmacies will have similar deals, which means medication that can cost less than $50 in one store can cost over $200 in another.

Many of these scams have been outed by whistleblowers and are no longer in operation. However, you can do your part by vigorously price comparison shopping, calling a medical service provider and asking for an itemized list of charges and closely examining your medical bills and insurance plan information.

Customers must be vigilant to avoid being ripped off by major corporations. All the regulation in the world won’t stop a company if no one offers a serious enough punishment, which means it frequently comes down to the consumer to protect their money or take the initiative to identify a problem.

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Featured photo credit: Mainstream via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 23, 2018

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

My mother was a great knitter and produced some wonderful garments such as Aran sweaters which were extremely fashionable when I was young. She also knitted while my father drove, which caused great amusement. I often wondered why she did that but I think I know the answer now.

Knitting is good for your mental health, according to some research studies. The Washington Post mentions a 2013 survey of about 3,500 knitters who were asked how they felt after a knitting session. Over 80% of them said they definitely felt happier. It is not a totally female occupation as more and more men take it up to get the same benefits. Harry Styles (One Direction) enjoys knitting. So does Russell Crowe although he does it to help him with anger management!

The Neural Knitwork Project

In Australia, Neural Knitworks was started to encourage people to knit and also become aware of neuroscience and mental health issues. Knit-ins were organized but garments were not the only things created. The knitters produced handmade neurons (1,665 of them!) to make a giant brain. The 2015 project will make more neural knitted networks (neural knitworks) and they will be visible online. You can see some more examples of woolly neurons on the Neural Knitworks Facebook page.

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While people knitted, crocheted and crafted yarn, they listened to experts talking about mental health issues such as addiction, dementia, depression, and how neurons work.

The knitting and neural connection

The human brain has about 80 billion neurons. Learning new skills, social interaction, and physical activity all help to forge neural connections which keep the brain healthy and active. They are creating networks to control movement and make memories. The knitters learn that as they create the woollen neurons, their own neurons are forming new pathways in their brains. Their creations are mimicking the processes in their brains to a certain extent. At the same time, their brains are registering new and interesting information as they learn interesting facts about the brain and how it works. I love the knitworks and networks pun. What a brilliant idea!

More mental health benefits from knitting

Betsan Corkhill is a physiotherapist and has published some results of completed studies on her website, appropriately named Stitchlinks. She conducted some experiments herself and found that knitting was really helpful in reducing panic and anxiety attacks.

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“You are using up an awful lot of brain capacity to perform a coordinated series of movements. The more capacity you take up by being involved in a complex task, the less capacity you have for bad thoughts.”- Betsan Corkhill

Knitters feel happier and in a better mood

Ann Futterman-Collier, Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University, is very interested in how textile therapy (sewing, knitting, weaving and lace-making) can play an important role in mood repair and in lifting depressive states.

She researched 60 women and divided them into three different groups to do some writing, meditating and work with textiles. She monitored their heartbeat, blood pressure and saliva production. The women in the textiles group had the best results when their mood was assessed afterwards. They were in a better mood and had managed to reduce their negative thoughts better than those in the writing and meditation groups.

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“People who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a ‘stressor’.” – Dr. Futterman Collier

The dopamine effect on our happiness

Our brains produce a chemical called dopamine. This helps us to feel happy, more motivated, and assists also with focus and concentration. We get a boost of dopamine after sex, food, exercise, sleep, and creative activities.

There are medications to increase dopamine but there are lots of ways we can do it naturally. Textile therapy and crafting are the easiest and cheapest. We can create something and then admire it. In addition, this allows for a little bit of praise and congratulations. Although this is likely not your goal, all these can boost our dopamine and we just feel happier and more fulfilled. These are essential in facing new challenges and coping with disappointment in life.

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“Sometimes, people come up to me when I am knitting and they say things like, “Oh, I wish I could knit, but I’m just not the kind of person who can sit and waste time like that.” How can knitting be wasting time? First, I never just knit; I knit and think, knit and listen, knit and watch. Second, you aren’t wasting time if you get a useful or beautiful object at the end of it.” – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.

If you thought knitting and textiles were for old ladies, think again!

Featured photo credit: DSC_0012/Mary-Frances Main via flickr.com

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