Category Archives: Consumer Alert

Merry Christmas from Allstate?

Hi Thomas,

I have always had Bob XYZ as my agent, but you are now listed on the website as my agent when I login, so I am now contacting you.  In addition, I will be sending a copy of this email to Bob XYZ and posting a copy on my website.  I was not able to find a general customer service email for Allstate that I could also involve.

I cancelled all three of my Allstate policies effective midnight 11/1/2011.  I had paid my renters (renewed 08/11) and motorcycle (started 07/11) policies in full, but was making monthly installments on my auto policy (renewed 08/11).

When speaking with Bob regarding the cancellation of my policy, we went over the fact that there would be “penalties” for cancelling my policies, and discussed the refunds I would receive on the motorcycle and renters policies, as well as the bill that would be due for the auto policy.

Within a week of cancellation, I started receiving significant amounts of “spam” mail to my home from Allstate.  I understand, but do not appreciate, these aggressive attempts to win back my business.  With equal swiftness to the spam mail, I received an invoice for the outstanding balance on my auto policy.  It has been less than 60 days since my policies were cancelled, and I believe I have received 2-3 notices for my outstanding balance.

Continue reading Merry Christmas from Allstate?

WTF is “Natural Flavor”?

Checking out the pantry, I discovered a jar of Planters Five Alarm Chili natural flavor with other natual flavor Dry Roasted Peanuts.  Such an interesting byline to put on the front label of your product.   Now I’m wondering, wtf is natural flavor anyway?… and why are they mixing it with “other natural flavor”?   Here are the labels: 

So, on the back of the label under ingredients:

They have things you would probably expect: peanuts, sea salt, brown sugar, dried onion, dried chili pepper, dried garlic and dried tomato.  But, you won’t find them in that order.

They sprinkle in things that sometimes seem silly, for example: cornstarch and modified cornstarch..  are they disguising their secret ingredient in corn starch?

There are those things I only vaguely understand their purpose: gelatin, dried corn syrup, and gum arabic.

Things I completely don’t get, such as: maltodextrin and autolyzed yeast.

Then, there are these two seemingly intentionally vague phrases to describe ingredients: spices and natural flavor.

Well, I don’t see the “other natural flavor”.  Why is it on the front, and what is natural flavor.    I wonder what other people think.  I”m going to find out and come back to this.

Continue reading WTF is “Natural Flavor”?

Where DVDs Go to Die: Writable DVDs Often Don’t Disclose Life Expecentancies

Let’s face it – ever since the advent of the digital camera, you got a little bit trigger happy. Why take only 1 picture of the cheesy statue you saw on the family road trip when you could take 40? Of course you need to take a picture every day of your baby’s growth for the first year (and, come on, you know it is going to take at least 5 snap shots to get it right). Like most consumers, eventually you realized you don’t have time to go through every picture, and don’t want to throw them away – so how do you store them?

Many consumers have turned to the now almost ubiquitous writable and rewritable DVD technology (DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM) to store these massive quantities of images, songs, family movies, documents and whatever else they are trying to clear from their desktops, phones, and cameras. But unfortunately, many don’t realize that these storage devices don’t offer perfect protection.

So, How Long Do DVDs Last?
I wish that we could give an exact number, but unfortunately there is a huge range. Let’s start with those factors that can impact the life expectancy of a writable or rewritable DVD.

  • Type of Disc: Writable discs tend to last longer the rewritable
  • Manufacturing Quality: Buying the cheapest disk might mean a shorter life span
  • Condition of Disc Before Recording: How clean was the disc? Had it already been sitting on a shelf for 3 years when you got it? Unrecorded, the shelf life of many dvds is only 5 to 10 years.
  • Quality of Recording: Was the disc professionally recorded, or did you burn it on your home computer without error checking?
  • Handling and Maintenance: Has this disc been stored away for safe keeping, or have you been using it in your car stereo?
  • Environmental Concern: Has this disc been sitting in your air conditioned home or stuffed in a box in the garage? Heat and humidity can wreak havoc on optical storage

Given all of this, what is the real life expectancy of a DVD? Well, manufacturers would like you to believe that a DVDR will last you anywhere from 30 to 100 years while DVDRws will last up to 30 years! Well, the good folks at have looked a little more closely (if you haven’t guessed, archiving is pretty important to them). Their “experiential life expectancy” which is a measurement of how long the storage is still readable is closer to 2 to 5 years.

How Do I Make My DVDs Last Longer?
There are several steps you can take to make the disc last as long as possible

  • Only handle the disc by the outer edge and center ring. Never touch the shiny surface either before or after recording.
  • Store at 62 to 70 degrees Farenheight and 35 to 50% relative humidity. Do not allow the temperature to fluctuate more than 2 degrees or humidity more than 5%
  • Store them in their specific “jewel case”
  • Store the “jewel cases” in plastic or steel containers

The best solution, though, is to have multiple back up plans and semi-annually transferring data to new discs while keeping the old discs as copies. There is safety in redundancy.


This guest post was provided by a staff writer at

Gateway LX 6810 Desktop PC

I recently purchased a refurbed Gateway LX 6810 Desktop PC on a pretty sweet deal <500.  I’m not a fan of buying a built desktop, but this one had a lot of great components and a few features I was looking for:

  • Gateway PC OverheatsNvidia GT120 Graphics Card with 1gb video RAM.  DVI, CRT, and HDMI output.
  • Intel Quad Core processor
  • 8gb RAM
  • HD TV Tuner Card
  • 7.1 Dolby surround
  • Built in memory-card reader
  • Free 64-bit Windows 7 upgrade
  • Expandable
  • Slick looking case (living room friendly)
  • Keyboard, mouse, speakers, etc..

Anyway, the one thing it is lacking are case fans.  There are 0 when you buy it.  There is a CPU fan and a fan on the video card, but thats it.  If you buy this computer, you will need to install at least one 120mm fan in the back of the case… I recommend adding an 80mm in the lower front.  It will cost you about $15 and 10 min, but it will save you all the trouble an overheated PC offers.

Talk Fusion: Great Idea but a Terrible Business Model

UPDATE 6/4/09

I have been advised to make some changes/updates to this post.  I will be editing any/all instances where one could construe my opinion for fact, and placing the word alleged, or allegedly in a very clear manner.

Furthermore, I do apologize if anyone in the course of reading this article took my opinion as fact.. Please note that the only fact is that after watching the video, my first instinct was to do a google search for Bob Reina Scam or Talk Fusion Scam which turned up enough results for me to be concerned for my friend who paid for this service and was trying to get me to join.

Here is a list of things you should consider checking into before purchasing/joining the Talk Fusion solution/team.  In no way am I insinuating that these questions are representative of fact… you should ask yourself these types of questions before making a decision to purchase any type product, or becoming a business “partner” with any company!

  1. Do they accurately represent their product in their selling points?
  2. Does their refund policy provide me with any protection if I do not like the service?
  3. Does the Patriot Act require me to give out my Mother’s maiden name?
  4. Does this company have a solid reputation?
  5. Can I really make a million dollars if I do this?
  6. What would Jesus do?

Continue reading Talk Fusion: Great Idea but a Terrible Business Model