Let us look at lettuce

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The Cd’A Press as well as other print and electronic media outlets have done a good job alerting us to the E. coli hazard connected with eating romaine lettuce. Unfortunately, not everyone always listens carefully to the news or reads all the information in print media.

E. coli is especially dangerous to those with weakened immune systems, the very young and the elderly. I began receiving calls from readers almost as soon as the stories about tainted romaine lettuce hit the news. I immediately called the grocery store where I regularly shop and spoke to the manager of the produce department. The store had already removed all romaine lettuce and as a precaution, all lettuce that had been displayed adjacent to the suspect greens.

Store personnel, using a special disinfecting process, then cleaned the racks and any surfaces that may have come in contact with the suspect salad fixin’s, thereby eliminating the chance a consumer could inadvertently become infected by buying romaine now.

WARNING: There is still a danger to consumers who bought romaine just before the announcement, and still have it on-hand. Dump it — now. With the modern miracles of food, packaging and sales, combined with consumers having modern refrigerators, you may still have some in your icebox. Just because it looks green and fresh doesn’t mean it may not be tainted. Get rid of it now and thoroughly clean the veggie drawer or surface where the romaine was stored. I threw out the entire contents of my vegetable drawer — just to be safe.

E. coli is nothing to mess with. It not only might make you sick — it could kill you.

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DOOR KNOCKERS and DOOR KNOCKERS: A very professional woman who owns a respected, well-known newcomers welcoming service called me and expressed concern that people might confuse her service with other door-to-door sales people who MIGHT be engaging in tactics in the “gray” area of sales. First of all, the welcoming service gives newcomers a package of useful coupons and offers available through local merchants. This package is FREE; there is no charge — hence no license required.

MY ADVICE: Throw out the bathwater — keep the baby! If you have any questions about a door-to-door sales person, call me.

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YARD SERVICES: A consumer called me after talking with a purveyor of yard services. He represented himself as a “certified arborist.” The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certifies those who seek the ISA credential. To qualify for the ISA’s Certified Arborist credentialing exam, candidates need at least three years of experience.

In addition to making sure the arborist is licensed and the consumer has a good contract to do the work specified, the homeowner should obtain a copy of the tree trimmers certificate of liability insurance. Don’t sign any contract until you have it all in writing, including the scope of work, timeframes and evidence that he carries insurance on anyone working on your property.

The insurance coverage is very important. There’s about a zillion ways for a person to be injured with power tools and/or climbing trees. One slip of the chain saw and a giant tree could come crashing down a few feet off target. This actually happened to a friend of mine. A 90-foot tall tree needed to be removed. It’s always easier to chop it up into sections once it’s on the ground. (If you’ve ever watched a team of experts take down a tall standing tree from the top down, you know what I mean.)

In this case, the tree was felled in one piece. Instead of hitting the landing spot, as it fell it veered off to the right about 15 feet, took out two sections of very expensive wrought-iron fence and then proceeded to do the real damage. The giant fir tree crashed into about 20 feet of the corner of the neighbor’s house and only stopped when it was level with the ground. The master suite of the neighbor was located in that corner of the home. The center point of the crash was the toilet in the master suite.

Fortunately, the neighbor was not at home at the time (and not sitting on the “throne”) AND the arborist had adequate liability insurance.

QUICK HINT: Don’t do business with yard people who will not immediately haul away all debris. It is next to impossible to economically hire someone to pick up another contractor’s garbage.

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DON’T PUT MEDICAL DEBT ON YOUR CREDIT CARD: Medical debt is now the No. 1 reason for personal bankruptcies. A visit to the emergency room and a couple nights in the hospital can easily rack up bills in the range of tens of thousands of dollars.

It may seem easy to “put it on the card,” but there are some very important factors to consider: medical debt may have little or no impact on your credit scores; medical providers almost always have lower interest rates than credit cards; it’s usually (almost always) easier to negotiate interest rates, payment schedules and write-offs with medical providers than with a credit card company.

MY ADVICE: Get through the medical situation or emergency, and then think about how to structure/pay the debt. (I know about this one, as someone who ran up over $500K in medical expenses in less than a year while fighting “Agent Orange” cancer.)

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DON’T LOSE IT OVER LOST LUGGAGE: The latest reports I’ve read indicate that the rate of lost airline luggage is the lowest since 1987. Unfortunately, the airlines have had some success in “adjusting” the statistics by being allowed, by the Department of Transportation, to exclude reporting all baggage that was only “delayed.”

If you’re flying domestically, your airline’s liability under DOT regulations is $3,500 per passenger. To collect, you’ll need to fill out two forms, including an initial lost-luggage form and a second claim in which you show proof of your loss. The claim process can take weeks.

If your checked or carry-on bags are damaged while in the care of airline personnel, the carrier is generally responsible for repairing, replacing, or compensating you for the bag, at their discretion. In the meantime, if you need to replace essential items that were in your bags, like toiletries, the airline should reimburse you for those costs as well.

Common-sense precautions, like labeling your bags or just packing light and carrying them on board, is another way to avoid lost bags.

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REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at 208-699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksAdvocate@gmail.com (#GoGetEmBillBrooks) You can follow me at www.billbrooksconsumer advocate.com. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate and the broker and owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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