Dear Consumer Action:
I lost my wireless Internet card, so I went to a store in New Mexico, where I was in the military, to obtain a new card.
The representative said the card would cost $80. I told him my contract was up Feb. 15, 2008, and he led me to believe my contract would not be extended, but it was for another two years.
Now I am being sent bills for monthly access, even though I am no longer using the card. (I mailed it back to the company with the original box and receipt, and a letter stating the service was not needed.) - F.W., Wildwood Crest
The phone company from which you purchased the card said through a spokesperson that you did not buy insurance on the Internet card, so here were your options when you lost it: Purchase another card at full retail price of about $200 with no contract extension, cancel service and pay an early termination fee of $175, or upgrade the card, extend the contract and pay much less upfront for the Internet card.
He said you elected to take option 3, upgrade the card and extend your contract for two years, taking the cheaper two-year rate.
In addition to a verbal explanation of the terms of the contract, he said you also received a written contract, which you signed, explicitly extending the term two years. You also received a $50 rebate, which brought your cost down to $30 for the card replacement if you filed for the rebate.
Since you signed for the contract extension, there is little we can do to help. It makes no sense that you mailed back the card and contract. We have asked the company to try to locate the card you returned (you sent it to a generic billing address, so it may be lost for good) and contact you about your options now, but we can't help you erase your bill as you had hoped.
Never sign a contract without reading it. If, as you say, the representative verbally misled you, had you read the contract you would have known what you were agreeing to. Remember, whenever you make changes in a wireless contract, terms are likely to be extended. So make sure you understand what you giving and getting when you sign a contract.
Dear Consumer Action:
I have donated to many thrift shops and have noticed that many shops throw away perfectly good items. Why can't the thrifts get together and try to find a way to bring unwanted items to needy people? - E.G., Egg Harbor Township
In fact, thrift shops do everything they can to recycle items. Otherwise, they have to pay to have them hauled away as trash.
We sampled thrift shops in the area and found that most sell stained or damaged clothing and other soft goods to companies that sell it overseas or to companies that recycle the fiber. In today's economy, donations have slowed for many shops, and they are not likely to throw away anything that can be sold.
Here's a list of nonprofit thrift shops in your area that will be more than happy to take donations of items in good condition. All proceeds go toward providing services to people in need: Alcove Thrift Shop, Tilton Shopping Center, 331 Tilton Road, Northfield, 609-641-9100; Bargain Boutique Thrift Store at Family Service Association, 3073 English Creek Ave., Egg Harbor Township, 609-484-8943; Shore Memorial Thrift Shop, Acme Shopping Center, Somers Point, 609-653-8374; Women's Ministries, 1333 New Road, Northfield, 609-641-3357.
Consumer Action will respond to each properly submitted letter about a problem or question, either in this column or by letter or phone. Send letters to: Consumer Action, The Press, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, NJ 08232.