March 2, 2013


Fight Back coverFight Back; 81 Ways to Help You Save Money and Protect Yourself from Corporate Trickery is a tough book to read. It's filled with example after example after example of businesses behaving badly  towards their own customers. Unfortunately, this isn’t a work of fiction.

Author Ellen Roseman has an unusually good sense of what goes on in real life. She’s a consumer advocate for readers of The Toronto Star and her On Your Side blog.

Repeat When Necessary

My brain gets overwhelmed when shown 81 ways of doing anything. I start looking for patterns and principles that usually work. Here are five steps to fight corporate bullies:
  1. Read before you sign (and ask questions)
  2. Keep records (including steps you taken with the company)
  3. Follow up
  4. Stay calm (and polite)
  5. Be persistent
The first step is a big problem. Who reads before they sign? The terms and conditions are difficult to read and understand. They might change later. Take-it-or-leave-it. Even worse than fine print is what’s left out. You can’t evaluate what’s missing unless you know what ought to be there. Even a pizza flyer isn’t straightforward. At least you’re not signing a multiyear contract with cancellation penalties.

More Is Less

Fight Back has multiple authors and 81 tips. Both lead to some overlap. Sometimes I felt I was reading what I’d already read. Though, that helps show how widespread basic problems are.

Perhaps Ellen means for us to read the section that matters to us at the time. For instance if your current concern is your high phone bill, you don't need to read tips on fighting your bank just yet. Perhaps you use the book as a reference.

Very Different

Normally, a business wants you to keep you as a customer since that’s more lucrative than finding a replacement. When new customers are enticed with incentives, they are less profitable. Maybe they’ll leave when the normal terms take effect. Your “loyalty” (or inertia) gives you leverage — if you ask.

Life and health insurance is very different (and outside the scope of Ellen’s book). If you cancel your coverage, the insurer makes money. That's because you've been paying premiums and didn't get any back (though you did have peace of mind). New products come with new conditions and higher rates.

With offerings like banking and Internet service, you experience what you're buying regularly. You can detect changes in performance and price. Even if you don’t, others might. That’s an advantage of buying a commodity-like offering. Combined voices are more powerful when singing in harmony. Social media spreads outrage quickly, which helps get results. Look at what we’ve achieved as Internet users through

With insurance, you get the financial benefits at the time of the claim ... which may never happen. If you cancel your coverage, you may face big penalties (much larger than for mobile phone contracts). If you buy again, count on paying more since you're older. Depending on your health and finances, you might not even qualify.

With insurance, the key is getting your claim paid, should you have one. You increase your odds with the right purchase since changes may not be possible later.  Each life/health insurance case is unique and subject to privacy issues. It's difficult to show widespread problems and get mass support. In many ways, you’re on your own.


Imagine living in a world of trust where the sellers put our best interests first. Until then, buyer beware. Thanks to Ellen, for fighting on our behalf for years and now giving us tools to fight back on our own.


Podcast 209

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PS How do you fight back?

1 comment:

AwaraRock said...

Thank you for the tips really helpful.. :)