Articles by Russ Van Arsdale


Tips for following portable pool safety practices this summer

By Russ Van Arsdale on April 28, 2012, at 3:55 p.m.
With warmer temperatures coming, our thoughts are turning increasingly to outdoor activities. For children, that includes some time in swimming pools. The message today is to keep our youngsters safe, especially before and after swim times. Adults are usually hypervigilant when children are in the pool; it’s the times when …

Uncut bills: Ad or news?

By Russ Van Arsdale on April 01, 2012, at 10:35 a.m.
On reading the full-page ad in Wednesday’s Bangor Daily News, I reacted with confusion, disbelief and a bit of outrage. I knew I would have to question the editors on this and expected they might respond defensively; I did not expect they would be contrite. The ad in question offered …

Beware of scams offering to help with scholarship applications

By Russ Van Arsdale on March 25, 2012, at 11:01 a.m.
Postcards offering help with scholarship applications, but containing hidden fees, are landing in mailboxes across the state. Phone solicitors who offer help for a fee simply may be trying to scam consumers. The above are from news stories in Georgia in the summer of 1995. The Attorney General there was …

Latest HUD information could help mortgage holders

By Russ Van Arsdale on March 17, 2012, at 4:34 p.m.
Over the past week or so, Northeast CONTACT has heard from two Maine consumers who have mortgage problems. They represent a large number of people facing life-changing financial situations. The bad news is that a lot of mortgage holders have been mistreated by lending institutions. The good news is there …

The true price of credit card convenience checks

By Russ Van Arsdale on March 03, 2012, at 1:19 p.m.
You may think your credit card company is doing you a favor by sending you blank checks, letting you fill them out and paying the recipients after you’ve filled out the checks. That seems pretty convenient, but it’s convenience for which you may pay dearly. Convenience checks, as they are …

Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2012

By Russ Van Arsdale on Feb. 25, 2012, at 4:02 p.m.
If you file your federal income tax return early, good for you. If the Internal Revenue Service informs you that it received two tax returns with your name on them, you have been a victim of the most frequent kind of tax scam. The IRS has just released its “Dirty …

Saving week and a correction on Bumbo seats

By Russ Van Arsdale on Feb. 19, 2012, at 12:39 p.m.
The advice to consumers this week is about not spending money. It is America Saves Week and, for service people, Military Saves Week. The goal of the educational campaign is to get all of us to think about ways to save for the future. While it may seem more difficult …

Are Bumbo child seats safe?

By Russ Van Arsdale on Feb. 12, 2012, at 4:08 p.m.
When the Bumbo International child seat came on the U.S. market in 2003, many parents were excited: here was a seat designed to hold a baby upright, a baby who until then was able to hold only his or her head up. The manufacturer — Bumbo International Trust of South …

Elder financial and investment abuse

By Russ Van Arsdale on Nov. 13, 2011, at 4:44 p.m.
Some readers may have taken part in a nationwide call-in last Thursday. The event was a concerted effort to highlight the growing problem of financial abuse of older people. The problem is huge, probably on the order of billions of dollars. It’s estimated that one in five senior citizens in …

Looking at oil tanks before failure could save money

By Russ Van Arsdale on Oct. 16, 2011, at 2:49 p.m.
Maine people who rely on oil heat may want to take some time to look at their heating systems before the really cold weather sets in. Real estate and insurance professionals know that most people consider these systems only when there are problems or when they’re moving. What’s not broken …

A lesson for consumers of information

By Russ Van Arsdale on Oct. 08, 2011, at 1:16 p.m.
“Author, author!” Ah, the adoration of admiring readers … the real reason ink-stained wretches everywhere got into the writing business in the first place. Well, maybe it was the vast riches that await the wordsmiths who toil at their keyboards … no, that’s certainly not it. OK, it’s a calling, …

Don’t buy extended vehicle warranties offered through mailings

By Russ Van Arsdale on Aug. 13, 2011, at 1:15 p.m.
There are several interesting observations worth making about some mailings most of us have received at one time or another; they offer extended warranties on our motor vehicles. And just to put an end to the suspense right away, we’ll urge most people in most cases not to buy. On …

When all else fails, complain

By Russ Van Arsdale on Aug. 07, 2011, at 11:11 a.m.
As consumers, we often can resolve disputes with retailers or manufacturers simply by explaining a problem. Many times, the seller or producer of goods we use is eager to keep us happy and loyal; otherwise, we might turn grumpy and complain, not only to them, but also about them. However, …

Card member services or not?

By Russ Van Arsdale on July 31, 2011, at 7:57 p.m.
Phones have been ringing all over Maine in recent weeks. Every time, the message is the same. “This is Rachel from Card Member Services …” Most readers can probably recite the rest of the message by heart. Rachel is calling to assure you that nothing’s wrong with your credit, but …

Investigators looking into unlicensed investment sales

By Russ Van Arsdale on June 12, 2011, at 8:15 p.m.
We’ve urged caution in the past when making investments. Now, as the economy remains less than vibrant, some sellers are cutting corners and hoping that their promises of large, quick returns will overpower our common sense. The old adage still applies: if it sounds too good to be true, it …

Ethanol and small engines

By Russ Van Arsdale on May 15, 2011, at 4:21 p.m.
If you had more trouble starting your lawn mower this year than in the past, you’re not alone. People who deal with small engines say such troubles are becoming more and more common. For the reason, they point squarely at the fuel. Most gasoline we buy today is 90 percent …

Youth financial literacy

By Russ Van Arsdale on May 08, 2011, at 6:04 p.m.
A recent study found that four-year college graduates from Maine have school loan debts averaging $29,000. Talk with a young person who’s fresh out of school and just starting an entry-level job, and you might hear a comment like this: “Some days I feel like I’m never going to be …

On Earth Day, think globally, act locally

By Russ Van Arsdale on April 17, 2011, at 2:51 p.m.
Earth Day is coming right up, and we’re certain to hear lots of reminders to “Think globally.” Here are some reminders of things savvy consumers can do to “act locally” and help the environment. We’ve urged consumers in the past to be as wise in disposing of their unwanted goods …

Travel insurance worth a hard look  

By Russ Van Arsdale on April 10, 2011, at 7:21 p.m.
I’ll admit, I was surprised. After last week’s column on air travel, several people wrote to say that they have had it with the overbooked, overcrowded, and overhassled system that has taken every ounce of joy out of flying. Surprised, because the figures I cited on increasing numbers of passengers …

Airline PR seldom covers flight delays

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director, Northeast CONTACT on April 03, 2011, at 5:32 p.m.
There’s a small category of humor involving airlines. A favorite involves the prelanding announcement: “Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than West Jet Airlines.” …