Archive for May, 2009

Texas AG sues Conn’s Appliances
May 28, 2009

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called a news conference today to announce that he has filed a lawsuit against Conn’s Appliances for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Act.  You can read the entire petition.

Many of the issues Abbott says are violations of law we first told you about in an investigation earlier this month.

The calls and emails from consumers who are having problems continue to pour in. I can tell you that when I bump them up to the corporate office, more than half of the consumers tell me that Conn’s has called them back right away and resolved their problem.

I will continue to send your complaints to the corporate office; but the Texas AG also wants to hear from you if you purchased a product or warranty that Conn’s isn’t honoring. You can call the AG at 1-800-252-8011 or fill a complaint form online.  

When we aired our first story, we told you that the Houston Better Business Bureau had already started the process of revoking Conn’s membership. You can also file complaints with the BBB.

You can also file complaints with the Texas Consumer Complaint Center.

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Home Energy Savings Makeover Project – Apply today
May 28, 2009

Last week, we told you about the “Home Energy Savings Makeover Project” with HVAC expert Gary Parr.

gary-on-the-air_radio-showParr hosts a radio show on KSEV 700AM every Saturday from 2-4pm answering consumer’s questions about all things energy-related. Parr gets a lot of questions about how homeowners can improve the energy efficiency in their homes and slash their electric bills.  With that in mind, he decided to show all of Houston exactly how much money we can save by doing things like installing a more efficient A/C, a tankless hot water heater, double pane windows and better insulation.

He will select a home in our viewing area to get a complete makeover absolutely free.  The homeowner reaps the benefits of all of the free work and equipment.  The rest of us benefit by getting all the numbers on exactly how much each project helps to reduce the homeowner’s electric bill.  Then you can decide which of the upgrades, if any, would be right for you.

Your Electric BillWe’ll be tracking the entire project over the next year. It fits perfectly with our continuing coverage of “Your Electric Bill.” The first step is picking a home. If you’d like to be considered, you have to register by filling out the online application no later than May 31st.

After our broadcast on May 18th, Parr received more than 700 applications. Get yours in today!

Paris in the Springtime!
May 26, 2009

You may not have noticed I was not at work last week.  That was the idea… I taped an “Ask Amy”segment before I headed out of town.  Just posting some pics of a fabulous vacation.  Now it’s back to work!

Carnival’s Cruise to Nowhere
May 25, 2009

cARNIVAL1Chavalin Cross said Bon Voyage on April 27th as the Carnival Ecstasy set sail from Galveston headed for Progresso and Cozumel. This was Chavalin’s first cruise ever… and her big birthday celebration. carnival5

Unfortunately Chavalin never stepped foot off the ship at any time during the 5-day cruise. Tuesday night after 27 hours at sea, Carnival informed the passengers they would not be stopping at any ports.  This was the height of the swine flu scare… so the decision not to stop at any Mexican ports is not surprising. Other ships scheduled for the same cruise at later dates were upgraded from a 5-day cruise to a 7-day cruise with stops at other ports.

cARNIVAL3What did Chavalin and her shipmates get? A $40 credit  for port fees. I was a little surprised. Chavalin was carnival6shocked… and understandably disappointed. When she asked me for help, my first question was “What would make you happy?” She did have accomodations and food and entertainment for 5 days… although this was her only view of the ocean.

Chavalin said she would be happy with a discount for another cruise. I called Carnival, explained the situation and got this reply:

“This was a very unfortunate situation and we apologize that we were not able to provide the itinerary that people anticipated. There were 11 Carnival ships on voyages last week with scheduled port of call visits to Mexico at the point the US government advisory was issued discouraging all non-essential travel to Mexico.   Several other cruise lines were affected as well.  When the Ecstasy left port on Monday, we fully anticipated that the ship would be operating its normal itinerary.  Carnival became aware of the advisory on Tuesday and then set about determining what options we had for re-routing 11 different ships, which takes some time.  Unfortunately, in the case of our shorter cruises from Gulf ports such as Galveston, getting to locations beyond Mexico isn’t really an option within the allotted time frame.  This is why we have now been forced to temporarily convert that program to seven-day cruises and also why we were not able to get to any alternate ports on last week’s five-day cruise.   We have a standard protocol for missed ports when an itinerary is impacted by events beyond our control.  This is same protocol followed with regard to severe weather or other circumstances beyond our control that preclude us from making scheduled ports of call (this info is outlined in our brochure and on our web site).  For any port of call we are not able to replace with an alternate port, we provide a $20 per person missed port credit.  This is the protocol that was applied across all 11 ships in our fleet. 

Going forward, Carnival has cancelled all stops in Mexico for all voyages departing between now and June 15.  Additional information is available on our web site.”

Sometimes I can help. In this case, it seems I could not. But just a few days later, Chavalin got an email from Carnival, apologizing for her bad experience and offering a half-off voucher for any Carnival cruise taken before 2010.

Chavalin checked with shipmates she had met on board to find out if they received the same offer. A couple of weeks later, they had. I received this email from another woman on the same cruise:

“I felt like we were being taken advantage of by CARNIVAL cruises. Many of us passengers paid a LOT of money to go on this cruise and to spend some time in places that we have never been,instead we spent 5 days on a ship. ,,it felt like being on a floating prison.  It appears to me that CARNIVAL cruises does not care about it’s passengers as far as giving them what they paid for. They offered to refund $40.00 per person (which were the port fees if we had stopped there) how insulting is that!”

Anyone else out there hear anything more from Carnival? Tell me about your cruise.  

Does Your Tax Office Owe You Money?
May 15, 2009

18297481_320X180When we showed you how the Harris County Tax Office is holding cash that belongs to thousands of taxpayers earlier this week, we immediately heard from you.

Pat in Houston emailed and said she discovered she was owed $148. Another guy called the tipline to say thanks after he found he was owed $1600.

You can check the Harris County Database too.

But several people wanted to know if the counties where they own property have similar websites where they can look for money that is owed to them.

I did some checking. Here is what I found:

Fort Bend County

Has no online database for taxpayers to look for overpayments. The tax office sends a letter when you overpay. If you think you might have missed the letter, you can call to find out if you’re owed money.

(281) 341-3710

Montgomery County

There is no online database for taxpayers to look for overpayments. When you pay your taxes, your receipt should show if you paid too much. You can call the tax office to find out if you are owed money. Be prepared with your account # or legal description of your property.

(936) 539-7897

Brazoria County

There is no online database to check for overpayments. The tax office says they do send out a letter when the overpayment is made letting you know you need to request a refund. If you want to find out if you are owed money, you can call the Brazoria County Tax Office at one of the numbers below: 

Central Brazoria County (979) 864-1320

Northern Brazoria County (281) 756-1320

Southern Brazoria County (979) 388-1320 

Galveston County

There is no online database for taxpayers to check for overpayments. The Tax Assessor-Collector says her office immediately sends back any overpayments more than $5 to the taxpayer.  If you want to find out if you are owed money by this tax office, call (877) 766-2284.

Read the Texas Property Tax Code and what it says about refunding overpayments.