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“One of the hardest things consumers face in dealing with large companies is that you never get anyone on the phone who has the power to do anything for you,” Virginia Loeb said.


After flight is canceled, the route to a refund proves to be a long one

Unrest in Beirut scuttled Virginia Loeb’s plans to oversee a program for Syrian refugees. Her credit card company wasn’t sympathetic.

Darlene Lamusta said of her husband: “He used to say, ‘Darling, don’t worry. I’ve got a good pension.’ ”

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A paperwork glitch cuts a widow’s pension payment nearly in half

Darlene Lamusta is alone after her husband — who worked for decades at Logan Airport — was struck down by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. And his pension? She feels cheated out of that, too, or at least a large portion of it.

Leeds, MA - 9/5/2019 - Steve Kallaugher poses for a portrait at his home in Leeds, Mass. on Thursday, Sept. 5. Steve Kallaugher's Bank of America checking account was hacked, resulting in a loss of $18,000. The account is for Kallaugher's charity Young Heroes, which supports AIDS orphans in Swaziland. (Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe) Topic: 09consumerboa

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A year of the Globe’s consumer column has yielded $100,000 in refunds

We were able to leverage the power of the press — and public opinion — on behalf of ordinary people who felt abused by banks, health care insurers, retailers, home security providers, building contractors, airlines, auto rental companies, auto dealerships, financial services firms, package-delivery companies, and state government agencies.

Evan and Jennifer Leitner and their children Max (left, 5) and Alex (18 months), posed for a portrait with their kitchen stove in their home in North Easton.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

After a fire in their house, they’re feeling burned — by Best Buy

A couple who had to buy all new appliances after a fire are at odds with Best Buy over a defective relay board in their new stove.

It’s too late for Judy Murphy, caught in a gift-cards scam, to get her money back, but she hopes new tech will spare others.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A plea from a friend, via a hacked e-mail account, is a cautionary tale about scams

Judy Murphy didn’t think it would happen to her. “I’m a capable person,” she said. And she still fell for a gift-cards scheme.

Judi Meirowitz Tischler's Samsung refrigerator stopped working. Because the failed part was still under warranty, Tischler contacted Samsung, but only received confusing and contradictory communications (if any) in return.

Sean P. Murphy I The Fine Print

Samsung gives customer the runaround when her refrigerator stops working

For weeks, Judi Meirowitz Tischler received confusing and contradictory communications from Samsung’s customer service representatives, and then the company abruptly and inexplicably stopped communicating with her, without agreeing to repair or replace her refrigerator.

Keith and Mary Irvine pose for a portrait in their home in Waltham. The couple waited months for the delivery of a special Neil Diamond plaque.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Neil Diamond steps in and steps up for fans whose plaque wasn’t delivered

Keith and Mary Irvine ordered a special commemorative Neil Diamond plaque in August for their daughter. It was supposed to arrive within 10 business days. But it didn’t — until the singer himself got involved.

Sandy Martin feels she was bamboozled by Frontpoint, a subscription-based home security service that continued to bill her for months after she asked to cancel the service.

The Fine Print | Sean P. Murphy

She canceled her home security service, but the charges kept coming

In April, Sandy Martin called Frontpoint Security to cancel the company’s 24-hour home security service for her Salem condo. Five months later, she realized her account was still open and the credit card used for it was still being debited $45 a month.

Tom O’Brien signed a lease for a new automobile that obligated him until he was past age 97. His daughter thinks the dealership took advantage of him.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Dealer drives a hard bargain with ninetysomething who can’t get behind the wheel anymore

A man in his 90s, living in a assisted-living facility, remains on the hook for about $5,000 for terminating a lease early.

Dr. Jeffrey Lee and son Eathan looked forward to a lush, green backyard at their new home but found that rock was getting in the way.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A rocky lawn crushes dreams of a perfect backyard

Jeffrey Lee purchased a big new house in Dorchester with visions of lazy summer days spent frolicking on a grassy lawn with his toddler. But there was practically no grass.

Deborah and Glenn Davis go over records at their home in Mashpee, following their dispute with Harvard Pilgrim over coverage of her ankle surgery.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A woman gets some bad advice from her health insurer and faces a bill for nearly $3,000

Harvard Pilgrim told her that the total out-of-pocket cost for surgery was $200, she said. But then came a bill for nearly $3,000.

Roger Horine, at home with his 20-year-old Toyota.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A car sale goes sour when — surprise — the dealership sells the vehicle to someone else

Roger Horine called for days about fixes to a used car he wanted to buy. Then, he was “flabbergasted” to find out from the manager that it had been sold to someone else.

Bill O’Coin showed off the box his chain saw came in at his home in Leicester.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

His chain saw warranty coverage wasn’t cutting it

You may save a few bucks buying power equipment online, but if a warranty issue arises, you may be deprived of an important ally in getting a manufacturer to cover you.

Cynthia Graber at the bike racks at the Davis Square station.


A bike is stolen from a poorly installed MBTA bike rack. And the T says it’s not responsible

When her bike was stolen, Cynthia Graber was stunned and angry to find the racks at the Davis Square station weren’t bolted to the ground.

Steve Kallaugher posed at his home in Leeds., Mass.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Bank of America less than charitable to charity that says it was hacked

Bank of America denied a claim from a charity that says it lost $18,542 when its account was hacked and has only offered baffling reasons for its decision.

Dorchester MA 8/23/19 Jimmy Ashe with his wife Amy and daughter, Bernadette in their home. Bernadette is holding the sign of the locatation of the wedding they attended in Ireland. Their original $2,100 flight was canceled and they were charged $16,874.91 for a round trip ticket. The flight over was business class and their return ticket was in economy.(photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) topic: 26consumeraerlingus reporter: Sean Murphy


A trip to Ireland balloons from $2,100 to nearly $17,000

How a Dorchester family of three paid almost $17,000 to fly Aer Lingus to Dublin and back after their original, $2,157 flight was canceled by the airline.

Tami Furuta’s car was damaged by an Amazon Flex driver, and she struggled to make the giant retailer pay her $500 deductible.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

She was hit by an Amazon Flex driver — and left in the ditch by auto insurers

In the wake of a car crash, Progressive Insurance, Geico, and Amazon failed to step up on behalf of a “little person nobody wants to pay attention to.”

Roxbury, MA - 8/02/2019 - Sean Murphy Consumer Column: Chris Shoemaker paid $200 to have his motor vehicle registration handled by the dealership, but it wasn't done, and six weeks later, Shoemaker was pulled over by the police, beginning a weeks-long ordeal. - (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section: Business, Reporter: Sean Murphy, Topic: 05consumervw, LOID: 9.0.489573295.


A botched car registration leads to lots of trouble

A Rhode Island auto dealership was paid to register the car it sold to a Roxbury man, but didn’t follow through, leading to the man being pulled over and cited for driving offenses.

Stephen Marcus suffers from Crohn's, an inflammatory bowel disease, but when he showed up at a Starbucks in downtown Boston with an urgent need to use the bathroom, access was denied, contrary to the 2012 bathroom access law.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A Crohn’s disease sufferer asked to use a Starbucks bathroom. He was denied, but that’s illegal

The law mandates immediate access to restrooms for sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease, but that’s not what happened at one Starbucks outlet in Boston.

For months, Phyllis Kravetz of Swampscott wrestled with an unreliable security system, getting little satisfaction from her pleas to the company charged with maintaining it.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Home security system proved anything but

The peace of mind of having the system was replaced with stress and frustration for a Swampscott couple dealing with ADT and its business partner.

Kevin Barrett was treated poorly by Avis on a recent vacation in Arizona.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A broken windshield wiper on a rental car and the company’s less-than-ideal response — initially

A complaint about a missing windshield wiper blade on an Avis rental vehicle discovered in a rain storm on a desert road may force the company to better focus on safety issues.

Sandra and Julius Britto went on vacation to the Sandals resort on St. Lucia but came back with a larger bill than they bargained for.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

They turned down a room ‘upgrade’ that fell short and are fighting to get their money back

A couple vacationing at a Sandals resort in the Caribbean declined an upgrade to a fancy villa because it’s not what they expected, but the resort charged them $6,500 anyway.

Jeff Socolow said a supplier failed to deliver and install an awning he ordered for his deck. He is using the umbrella a

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Owner of Gloucester rental property is seeing red over awning dispute

Jeff Socolow paid $3,825 — a 50 percent deposit — in mid-February, thinking his awning would be ready for the spring. It’s late June, and there’s still no awning.

Natasha Seaman stood on her third floor, pointing out the reflection of the water-filled gutter on the roof of her home.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A gutter still gushes water after it was replaced

Water gushing over a “repaired” gutter prompts a Jamaica Plain homeowner to demand that a contractor respond to her complaints.

06/06/2019 Canton Ma- Fran Carleton (cq) and her husband John, paid Sears $635.00 dollars to fix their refrigerator, but one day later, it stopped working. They want a refund from Sears. They are photographed in their kitchen. They no longer have that Sears refrigerator. Jonathan Wiggs GlobeStaffReporter:Topic:Sears

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A broken refrigerator and the store that took too long to make things right

A Canton couple spent three months chasing Sears for a refund on a $635 repair job that didn’t actually repair her refrigerator.

A crack marred one of the spindles of the Torah.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A damaged Torah and a fight with UPS over fixing it

A sacred Torah damaged by UPS en route to a Milton synagogue leads to questions about who’s responsible for paying for repair.

When Alanna Ludley was looking for a company to move her belongings from Abington to Hanover last fall, she found Monster Movers. After her piano was damaged in the move, the company accepted responsibility and agreed to pay to restore it. But then it ghosted her.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Movers damaged her grandmother’s vintage piano, and she’s fighting to get it repaired

She obtained a small claims judgment for $600 for damage done by her mover, but can she enforce it without a valid street address for the company?

Doug MacDonald in the home he rents in Scarborough, Maine.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Home Depot makes a wrong delivery and for weeks refuses to make things right

The home improvement store chain made an appliance delivery to the wrong address in Maine — and then demanded $600 from the tenant who innocently let them in.

Caron Welch (left) and Robbin Wilson scoffed at Alamo’s theory that they took their rental to an inferior car wash.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A rental car debacle and a recommendation: Shoot a video before leaving the lot

Alamo Rent a Car demanded $1,075 after accusing customers of returning a vehicle covered in chemical stains from a car wash.

“It just disappeared,” David Lettvin, Denise Lettvin’s husband, said of her John Hancock monthly annuity. “We had no idea why.”

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

An annuity check arrived every month for nearly 40 years. Then it ‘just disappeared’

An annuity set up decades ago by Denise Lettvin’s mother vanished last year without explanation from John Hancock, which managed the fund.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Michael Coomey said when he was told what he owed in sales tax, penalty, and interest.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

RMV overcharges man — by more than $10,000

A man’s dream of putting his lovingly restored 1956 Triumph on the road hit an $11,232 bump in the road at the state Registry of Motor Vehicles and Department of Revenue.

Don Smith has cancer and his wife, Deborah, was not allowed to go with him to purchase medical marijuana.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

‘It felt wrong and ridiculous’: A caregiver was banned from joining her husband inside a dispensary

Dying of cancer, Don Smith needs medical marijuana to deal with his nausea and pain, but he and his wife encounter road blocks when they try to access both cannabis and expertise from a state-regulated dispensary.

03/22/2019 Hopkinton MA- Drew Lane (cq) left and his mother Linda Lane (cq) right are disputing a insurance bill. Jonathan Wiggs /Globe StaffReporter:Topic:

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

This woman’s polite request may have saved her $12,000 in surgery costs

Linda Lane was told her son’s surgery was covered, then, $12,000 later, that it was not.

Izaz and Irum Haque.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A single inch results in an $850 shipping penalty from UPS

UPS informed Irum Haque that the length of the box she shipped wasn’t 48 inches, as she had measured; it was 49. How much more for one extra inch? $850.

Arnie Greenfield.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Penalized for making a student loan payment early — not late

Arnie Greenfield has no problem helping his children with student loans. But he has a problem being penalized for making an early payment. Yes, that’s right. Not late, early.

Alex Chu modeled his new lacrosse helmet.

The Fine Print | Sean P. Murphy

Lacrosse player sidelined by helmet issue is back on field with new headgear

Alex Chu, the Wheaton College lacrosse goalie sidelined for months because the team couldn’t get a helmet big enough to fit him, is back in goal.

Mark Stepakoff was stymied by a closed website when he tried to renew his real estate license.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Downed website and a botched response from the state

Mark Stepakoff figured it would take only a few minutes to renew his real estate license with the state.

Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe


Lacrosse standout is benched because his head is too big

A former high school all-star, Alex Chu was recruited for lacrosse at Wheaton College. But now he can’t join his team on the field because they can’t find a helmet large enough for him.

Jessie Fire posed for a portrait in her apartment's gym.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A pricey personal training contract with a vulnerable client raises some troubling questions

Jessie Fire signed up for a personal training contract costing $14,400. Pricey, perhaps, but not otherwise an unusual transaction, except for the fact that Jessie is mentally challenged.

Robert Crotty has for months sought a $3,535 refund after he bought a used truck that almost immediately died.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

His truck broke down minutes after buying it. He still hasn’t gotten a refund

Robert Crotty Jr., 18, drove away from the used car lot in his new pickup filled with pride and excitement. Three blocks away, the 2002 Dodge Dakota died.

Lew Cutler.


A counterfeit check causes a real headache

So who takes the loss on a fake check? The first bank that accepted the check or the one that ultimately paid it — Citizens, in this case? Or the accountholder?

L'Espalier restaurant.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Upscale restaurant’s closing leaves holders of gift cards hungry for refunds

At least a half-dozen people say they were stiffed when Back Bay gourmet restaurant L’Espalier closed suddenly.

Salem MA 1/7/19 Pamela Howard and her cat, Muse in her Salem apartment. Pamela adopted Muse in June, but the adoption agency is trying to reclaim him after they saw them on social media because Pamela took Muse into the backyard (on a leash) when that's prohibited under the adoption contract. (photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) topic: reporter:

The Fine Print

A brief frolic outside may cost a woman her cat

In June, Pamela Howard adopted Muse, a blue-eyed, gray-striped, half-Siamese cat who had suffered terrible burns in a previous owner’s neglectful care.

An Airbnb “super host’ crashed through a guesthouse window as MDs Chiedozie Uwandu and Jaleesa Jackson slept; the company coughed up an apology and a sizable settlement only after readers blasted it.

Sean P. Murphy

Want corporations to listen? Speak up

I wrote dozens of consumer columns in 2018. About one-third resulted in some redress for consumers. All of them, I hope, helped ordinary people push back.

Travel sites like Needham-based TripAdvisor often rely on third-party booking sites to arrange your trip. TripAdvisor said it recently suspended its use of HotelQuickly after many of its reservations were canceled.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Beware of those big travel sites offering great deals

Jon Harrington found out the hard way that sometimes the sites rely on smaller, less reliable agencies to do the booking.

Grace Greene and her husband John (not pictured), have had to place about $10,000 dollars on their credit card, after a travel vacation issue.

After winning island vacation in silent auction, family feels taken

When they arrived at the Dominican resort, they were told they owed almost $10,000 more upfront for food and drink and could not check in until they paid up.

Jane Mansbridge just wanted to sit with her husband Christopher Jencks on the way home from Sweden.

The Fine Print | Sean P. Murphy

British Airways messed up this couple’s seating on a flight. Then it wouldn’t give them a refund

On the way home, a Harvard professor had paid $126 extra to be seated with her husband. But instead they were seated far apart, without an explanation, apology, or refund.

Virgina Newes loved using Zipcar, but then the car-sharing company abruptly dropped her after a minor accident.

The Fine Print | Sean Murphy

Zipcar ended her membership because of a car dent. But was it really about her age?

An 89-year-old Cambridge woman was terminated from the service after a minor mishap in a parking garage.

Bo Abrams and daughter, Rebecca Dowd, blamed StubHub for trying to extract extra money out of them for tickets to Hamilton.

Sean Murphy | The Fine Print

A ‘Hamilton’ ticket mixup, and a $675 StubHub charge

Rebecca Dowd, 17, came home from “Hamilton” last month glowing with excitement. It was a perfect evening, she gushed to her mother. Except that she almost missed it.

Maya and Isak Kayserman.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Eighty-seven, and left by the side of the road by Uber

She and her husband are both 87. But that didn’t stop the driver — in an action undisputed by either party— from asking them to leave his car in the middle of their journey home.

The Fine Print

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