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Richard"Richard" J.

5 Level 5 Contributor
  • 61 Reviews
  • 259 Helpful Votes
  • 0 Thank Yous

Experience: Computers & Technology, Reference, Business

Member since August 2011

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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.


consumer issues, ethics, single-payer healthcare, peace

61 Reviews by Richard

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.
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.
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.)
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 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.)
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.
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.
Every driver should bookmark this site. It's useful in two ways: (1) It will locate the cheapest local or en route gas sources, and (2) It will tell you what the gas used in a contemplated trip will cost. I use it primarily for (2), and in the process I also learn the number of miles of my trip.

In order to get accurate results, I need to submit an online form detailing what vehicle I drive and its year, and which grade of gas I buy (and of course my starting and ending points). Or I could enter my gas mileage if I know it.

A minor downside is that as of now GasBuddy will not retain information that I give it, so I theoretically could have to spend a fair amount of time refilling the form every time I want GAsBuddy's help for a new trip. In practice however your form filler or password manager (such as RoboForm) should save your data for you and remove that necessity.
As the name suggests, this Web app lets you send free faxes, without a fax machine. There's a heavier-duty paid version, but the free version should be enough for most folks not in business. You can send up to 3 pages in a fax, and up to 2 faxes a day. You get free cover pages also, and there are no ads.

Unfortunately, this site facilitates outgoing faxes only. I'm not aware of a source for free incoming faxes, aside from trials. (eFax still will enable free faxes for its basic customers, but will currently accept only paid subscriptions.)
From the government's Consumer Products Safety Commission, this site provides valuable information on products you own or may be considering buying.
Ebooks are great, but for real books you can't beat Better World Books. I recently was searching without success for an L. A. Thomas Guide map book in the old smaller format. The current editions of these books go for $34.95 plus tax.

I found what I sought here, and my total price for the purchase was $5.03—that's right, five dollars and three cents. This included an optional five cents for "carbon neutral shipping"; shipping is otherwise always free. Described as in "good" condition, I would have called the book's condition "very good"; aside from a few small library stickers on the cover (probably removable), I could hardly distinguish it from a new book off the shelf.

The icing on the cake is the outstandingly helpful and friendly customer service, in sharp contrast to so many customer "service" operations. Hint: Make a note of the customer service number, *******303, which is not easy to find on the website.
This is a deal-of-the-day site like Groupon and Groupon's many imitators. The big plus with ScoutMob is that, unlike nearly all the others, it requires no payment up front. You're not committed in any way. I use Scoutmob's restaurant deals, and I've been pleased with each of the venues.

Since you don't pre-pay, the deals are not for fixed dollar amounts but for percentages off—so they're just as good for singles as for couples and groups. And the discounts aren't piddling; my experience has been 50% off. You can if you like catch the offers with your cell phone.
Web-based scan of your computer for infections, from BitDefender.

In its favor, it's lightning-quick, free, and requires no downloading. The not inconsiderable drawback is that it scans for in-memory infections only (will not see dormant malware).

Good for a second opinion.
As counter-intuitive as it may first appear, you can often get a better deal from a so-called middle-man than you would direct from the supplier. That's the secret behind the success of deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon, and it applies as well to magazine brokers. Both kinds of brokers get you a better deal by delivering new customers to the original supplier, albeit at much less profit.

While the provider clients of deal-of-the-day sites may be motivated by the prospect of continuing after-deal business, magazine publishers benefit from the brokers even without it. That's because the cost to the publishers of each additional magazine copy is so low. (In fact, the only significant cost is that of mailing, for which the Postal Service gives them a special rate.) In practice, however, the publishers often do even better, as less careful buyers renew their subscriptions directly and not via the broker. These considerations explain how magazine brokers are able to offer the huge discounts that you'll see.

Magazines.com is the magazine broker I've used, and aside from the bargain prices its service is satisfactory in every way. You can use it to purchase new subscriptions or to extend current subscriptions. If you change your mind about a magazine, magazines.com will provide a full refund for all undelivered issues. And toll-free customer support is available 6 days a week.

Tip: Magazines.com does not want you to renew via the publisher, so unless you tell it not to, it will automatically renew every subscription you order. But telling it not to is easy: just phone the site after you order at its regular number *******946).
Chase's website is well designed and easy to use, for bill pay and other purposes. This is the best part of the Chase customer experience.

Chase has taken over several banks, in my case Washington Mutual. The level of customer service I've encountered has deteriorated markedly. For example, Chase now makes it *really* hard to talk with a human on the phone. When you finally get to a human, you're likely as not to reach someone who'll waste your time, and may steer you wrong. You're also likely to receive wrong information in person. The company has also tightened severely Wamu's criteria for free checking accounts.
Gmail is a top-notch (probably the best) Web-based email service, featuring lightning-quick message retrieval and superior spam filtering, as well as many other useful tools. For example, it allows you to receive your emails elsewhere and can send emails as if coming from another address. If you opt for Basic HTML view, you'll encounter no ads at all. Otherwise you as the Gmail user may see inconspicuous text ads, but your recipients won't see ads in any case. The major downside is the lack of direct customer support; there is however an excellent help section and a forum.

For more, see my extensive review at http://notbarter.com/gmail2_.html.
This phenomenally popular bulletin board serves over fifty million online users in the U.S. alone, and, except for modest fees in designated cities for certain classes of ads, all its services are without charge. Its huge popularity makes Craigslist a top choice when trying to get responses, even when compared with paid services.

Beyond its imperfect documentation, however, Craigslist support is essentially non-existent (understandably so, in view of its enormous popularity and the modest size of its staff). Also on the downside, Craigslist will block an ad for any or no reason, simply on the basis of users' flags.

Currently, Craigslist is plagued by "ghosting," which is the inexplicable failure of a posted ad to actually appear. It's hard to say how many posters this affects, as Craigslist will still confirm a posting even if it's ghosted.

For more, see my writeup at http://notbarter.com/clguide_.html.
I won't touch on Google's search service, since as the most widely used search engine it's already so well-known -- except to say that for IE users the addition of Google's toolbar is a great convenience. (At last look the Firefox version had bothersome problems.)

Google offers a vast array of other products, nearly all free, many providing services unavailable elsewhere. Too many of these are overlooked by folks who could benefit from them.

For one example, Google Voice lets any landline-possessing U.S. resident phone anyplace in the country free, and throws in free voicemail, free transcripts, free call blocking, free call forwarding, free conference calls, and much more. A comprehensive link list endeavoring to cover all official Google services (over 100), is at googleservicesguide.blogspot.com. Google's own link list (prettier but less complete) is at www.google.com/intl/en/about/products.

Google's major downside is the absence of direct customer support for its free services. There are however excellent help sections and forums.

For more, see my thorough writeup at http://notbarter.com/google_.html
Lets you see how much money a given doctor has received from (named) drug companies. For example, it shows that Dr. Minh Mach in 2009-10 received $41,594 from four such outfits. Although many drug companies do not disclose this information, the data that is available may give you a good idea of a doctor's bias.
This is primarily a collection of patient ratings for a narrow range of listed practitioners. Amazingly, these ratings may not appear as submitted, and, even more amazingly, the company shows no interest in correcting such errors.

Richard Has Earned 259 Votes

Richard J.'s review of Alice.com earned 6 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of Airport Dining earned 4 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of ObjectGraph earned 2 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of Canon earned 12 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of GotFreeFax earned 6 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of Ninite earned 4 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of BeenVerified earned 15 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of TaskRabbit earned 8 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of MagicJack earned 4 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of Angie's List earned 15 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of Getaround earned 3 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of USP.org earned 9 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of DirecTV earned a Very Helpful vote

Richard J.'s review of PrivNote earned 7 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of Safeway earned 2 Very Helpful votes

Richard J.'s review of Screamin Daily Deals earned 2 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

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