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About Me

A resident of Glendale, California, I founded and ran for over 30 years NotBarter.com The Los Angeles Skills Pool, which enabled folks to obtain quality services from each other at no charge beyond the membership fee.

How I Can Help

I've been giving advice and help on consumer matters for many years. A good part of each of my member newsletters was always devoted to these concerns.

Interests

consumer issues, ethics, single-payer healthcare, peace

59 Reviews by Richard

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USP.org

USP.org

10/8/11

This review is of the "USP Verified Dietary Supplements" page, which you can reach directly at www.usp.org/USPVerified/dietarySupplements/supplements.html.

We all want to be sure the nutritional supplements we buy are acceptably pure and potent. To this end some shell out $33 a year to ConsumerLab.com for results of its periodic surveys. In most cases, however, a wiser course is to get completely reliable information here at no charge, from the venerable U.S. Pharmacopoeia. A plus is that you can also find out where to buy the listed products.

(It's true that USP charges the companies for its seal. The fact is, however, that some very inexpensive brands, e.g. Nature Made and Kirkland Signature, carry the USP seal.)

Better Business Bureau

Better Business Bureau

9/29/11

This review of the Better Business Bureau (of particular interest to SiteJabber followers) concerns the BBB's service in reviewing businesses for consumers. You can get to that service directly at www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews.

As a result of outside pressure, the BBB claims it no longer considers BBB fee-paid "accreditation" in its ratings. However, the review pages for each non-accredited business will include three (3) prominent mentions of that status, which you should ignore.

Considerations that the BBB says it does apply include BBB complaint history, business duration, government actions, and questionable advertising. BBB will also downgrade if a company fails to provide to the BBB complete information, if the BBB has revoked accreditation, or if the nature of the business is suspect.

The BBB also has a link for consumer reviews (not to be confused with consumer complaints), which do not seem to figure into its ratings.

BBB ratings are a helpful resource in evaluating a company, but should not be relied on exclusively. ConsumerSearch (see my separate SiteJabber review) reflects a huge number of consumer reviews from across the Web, and would be a good supplement to BBB ratings.

LowCards.com

LowCards.com

9/24/11

Those thinking of switching credit cards or adding one will find this well-organized comprehensive site an excellent place to get the "low" down. Covers over 1050 cards. (Note: Removing a credit card will usually have a negative impact on your credit rating. Adding a new one will have a similar impact at once, but over the long haul may raise your credit rating as a result of your lower utilization of available credit.)

MyGroceryDeals.com

MyGroceryDeals.com

9/22/11

Where will you get the best deals on your favorite groceries? You don't have to visit the stores or even phone, to find out. This site will instantly compare current prices for you, by individual items or by category. It'll at your option send you email alerts of price reductions, and provides product nutritional information and coupons.

HealthCare.gov

HealthCare.gov

9/22/11

This is the government's attempt at a one-stop healthcare destination. It includes highly readable information about over 5,000 plans, public and private, and covers other issues, like prevention and facility comparisons. There's a section on free and low-cost care. The site is probably the best source to learn about the changes (current and future) resulting from the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law fostered by Pres. Obama.

BlackboardEats

BlackboardEats

9/20/11

This is a variation of sorts on sites like Groupon and SocialBuy, which let you pay within a short time frame for substantial local bargains, usable then at your leisure. With all such sites you can order what you like from the various restaurants' menus. The big advantage of Blackboard Eats is that it requires no money up front, so you never have to use your bargain at all; you arrive at the restaurant not with a voucher but with a coupon. Other differences are:

1. As you might guess from the name, Blackboard Eats is only for restaurant meals. In my experience they are for higher-end restaurants exclusively.
2. Blackboard Eats may be more suitable for lone diners, as its bargains are always percentages off. With the voucher sites you pay a fixed amount for food that may be worth twice as much, typically enough for two.
3. Blackboard Eats's bargains, usually 30 percent off, are not as impressive as those of most of the voucher sites or even those of competitor Scoutmob.

To receive Blackboard Eats's emailed notices, sign up at the site.

Mrquery

Mrquery

9/20/11

With one search box this site will initiate any of 12 Google searches plus 127 others (more promised). Especially useful for folks who like a particular search engine but don't want to be limited, or may want to see different sets of search results, which can in fact vary quite a bit. Note that a recent study by the Hitwise marketing service indicates that Bing users achieve a "success rate" substantially higher than Google users, even though Goggle continues to be the most popular search engine.

(Mrqery references Bing under its old name of Live.)

Apology Letters

Apology Letters

9/15/11

Three dozen types of personal and business apologies, including an all-purpose apology letter. Copy and paste, then modify to suit.

NudgeMail

NudgeMail

9/15/11

Since I check my email many times a day I find that the best way to schedule upcoming tasks and events is to receive the reminders in my inbox. Of course I could send myself an ordinary email, but I couldn't arrange future delivery.

I've tried numerous email reminder services, and Nudgemail is the walk-away winner. You don't even have to sign up. You just specify the date and/or time of arrival in the To line, to end with @nudgemail.com. And of course if you want to put off a task further, you need only forward the message with a new To line. Use the "Snooze" function to be reminded in an hour, or any of various other options. Unlike some of the free competition, the message will arrive with the subject of your choice (often a subject will be all you need).

Nudgemail's major drawback is that your reminders aren't editable. It's simple however to delete a reminder: just send back your confirmation email with "Remove" in the subject. And you can easily re-send with a modification.

Opencongress.org

Opencongress.org

9/13/11

Nonprofit and nonpartisan, this site endeavors to disclose the "real story" behind what's happening in Congress, using sources like government data, news coverage, and public comments. Especially handy for researching bills, tracking votes, and emailing your representatives.

ConsumerSearch.com

ConsumerSearch.com

9/12/11

SiteJabber followers who value reviews and ratings not of websites but of products will want to bookmark this site, owned by About.com, in turn owned by The New York Times Company. From across the Web ConsumerSearch considers professional and user reviews both, and then analyzes the reviews and ranks the products according to stated criteria. Users can read the reviews, except those restricted to subscribers of the reviewing sites. ConsumerSearch uses reviews to rate the sellers as well.

The main failing of reviews is the danger of bias in a particular review. The huge number of reviews considered here, from so many sources, really eliminates that concern.

Getaround

Getaround

9/9/11

If your auto is cooling its heels parked much of the time, you might want to help it pay its way by renting it out. Getaround brings local car owners together with local car-deprived, for an hourly or longer fee that includes insurance. You can register your car with brief information and a photo.

Weather.com

Weather.com

9/8/11

There are many weather pages on the Web, but this is the only one to my knowledge that offers hourly forecasts. Weather.com a.k.a. The Weather Channel has a page that will let you see at a glance the predicted temperatures and weather conditions for the various hours coming up. And tabs will let you check weather for tomorrow, for the next 5 days, for the next 10 days, and even for the next month.

If this is of interest, you'll want to create a bookmark from the following template: www.weather.com/weather/hourbyhour/graph/xxxxx, first substituting your 5-digit zip code for the xxxxx.

You might also want to compare today's weather with that of yesterday. Weather.com has a page for that as well. Use this template: www.weather.com/weather/pastweather/xxxxx, as above substituting your zip code for the xxxxx.

GiftZip.com

GiftZip.com

9/8/11

This site lets you choose an eGift card from a large variety of major retailers, browsable by category and searchable. You help save the environment by foregoing an actual card, and there's no physical product to lose. (You or the recipient can reprint the "card" as necessary.) You pay the retailer's regular price.

You could probably buy the electronic card direct, but this is usually easier, and gives you more choice.

eHealthInsurance

eHealthInsurance

9/8/11

Enables quick and thorough comparisons of medical and dental insurance plans, and will sign you up online. Represents close to 200 companies (without raising their prices). Commits to go to bat for you in case of any problem.

Airportdining.net

Airportdining.net

9/8/11

It's often convenient to enjoy a meal while awaiting your flight. Use this site's Advanced Search to zero in on your preferences, and consult reviews. Covers airports throughout the world, and a free mobile app is available. Reviews are currently rather sparse, but should proliferate with time. (You could always look to Yelp.com for reviews, but as I've cautioned in my Yelp review, don't rely on Yelp's star ratings, and seek out Yelp's "filtered" reviews.)

Ninite

Ninite

9/7/11

For the good number of heavily used programs it supports, this Web app saves me from having to fiddle with original and update downloads, installations, and setups. And I needn't worry about accompanying junk like unwanted toolbars, or wonder whether I have the latest version. I click just once after selecting all the programs or updates I want.

Ninite will succeed where a standard installation may fail, although in some such cases you may have to pursue extra steps.

AllExperts

AllExperts

9/7/11

SECOND REVISION (2/28/16)

AllExperts is a useful service that's unfortunately badly compromised by poor administration. I speak as both a user (asking questions) and an expert (providing answers).

Well organized by nearly every conceivable subject area, the site facilitates users' inquiries to individual experts selected by those users on the basis of displayed qualifications as submitted by the experts. The experts' answers are rated by the users receiving them, according to knowledgeability, clarity, and politeness. The expert base is considerable, allowing users in many cases to choose from multiple experts. New experts are linked to a complex set of rules (not ordinarily seen by the users) and encouraged to email questions to site administration.

There are serious problems for both experts and users. The first two points relate to customer service:

1. Despite the encouragement alluded to above, questions by experts seem uniformly to be ignored. Using the special experts' channel, I've emailed many successive questions to the site (and reminders), all without response.

2. The same appears largely to be true of users' questions to the site (not to the experts). My correspondence to the site as a user--before I was registered as an expert--got one reply, but other questions were entirely ignored.

3. The system allows experts to easily pass over questions they don't want to bother with. An expert can choose a canned non-answer to be sent to the user, and even if the expert does nothing there is almost always no penalty. It is theoretically possible for an expert to be eventually dismissed for repeatedly ignoring questions, but the expert would probably have to be dead before that would happen.

4. When a user does not choose to rate, the expert's rating on each attribute defaults to 10 (the highest). Successive ratings for each expert are averaged and those averages are prominently displayed--but unbeknown to users and probably many experts, there is as buried in the material sent to new experts a practice that outlier ratings are ignored. These facts, together with those in point #3 above, result in average ratings that are essentially meaningless.

* * * *

In sum, AllExperts can be a good resource for finding answers--certainly better than the undeservedly popular Yahoo Answers--and many experts supply excellent responses. Don't expect too much, however, from any particular expert, high rating notwithstanding.

(Feel free to ask me a question. I'm Richard Johnson in the General Writing and Grammar sub-category.)

Service
Brown Paper Tickets

Brown Paper Tickets

9/7/11

If you're fed up with the Ticketmaster experience, you might be as delighted as I am with Brown Paper Tickets.

First of all, the per-ticket surcharge is tiny: only 3.5% plus 99 cents -- except that for the many free events, there's no service fee whatever. (You can easily search for free events and others that are heavily discounted.) And five percent of net sales go to a charity of the patron's choosing.

Tickets are refundable, can be resold, and can be sent to your phone. The site provides extensive event information, with maps. There's 24/7 toll-free customer service.

GiveAwayOfTheDay

GiveAwayOfTheDay

9/7/11

Giveaways are often the cheapest way to advertise and can be useful for getting feedback; and these opportunities can be a boon for consumers. Giveaway of the Day offers free software from well-known companies, that otherwise would cost you. You can sign up on the site for alerts by email or RSS.

Richard Has Earned 227 Votes

Richard J.'s review of BeenVerified earned 13 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of Screamin Daily Deals earned 2 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of USP.org earned 4 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of Time.is earned 3 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of BlackboardEats earned 5 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of Better Business Bureau earned 3 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of Magazines.com earned 3 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of UPS earned a Very Helpful vote
Richard J.'s review of TaskRabbit earned 7 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of TaskRabbit earned a Fraud Buster vote
Richard J.'s review of PrivNote earned 6 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of GasBuddy earned 3 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of GotFreeFax earned 5 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of AllExperts earned a Well Said vote
Richard J.'s review of GiveAwayOfTheDay earned 3 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of AllExperts earned 5 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of Angie's List earned 14 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of airportdining.net earned 2 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of Avvo earned 11 Very Helpful votes
Richard J.'s review of BetterWorldBooks earned 5 Very Helpful votes
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