CONSUMER ADVICE: Buy cheap meat but avoid the ’bot

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In the past, a bunch of U.S.-produced meat was routinely shipped overseas to hungry markets. With the advent of current trade wars, that meat can only be sold to U.S. consumers. For example, China has slapped a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork, and Mexico has applied a 20 percent tariff as well on U.S. pork.

With the arrival of tariffs and trade wars, consumers may notice a significant reduction in the per pound cost of meat and meat products. Time to stock up and fill the freezer. Specifically, so far, approximately 2.5 billion pounds of meat is piling up as production grows and exports slow.

Beef, pork and poultry producers are beginning to cut back. Once they do, the cost of meat and poultry will slowly start to rise again. Cheaper prices will only be temporary.

ADVICE: If you find a bargain price — stock up and buy now. The dip won’t last long.

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SAMSUNG SERVICE — DOES NOT COMPUTE: Remember the story about the round robot vacuum cleaner, the Roomba? Well, it seems a number of companies have jumped into the robotic vacuum cleaner market. Samsung is one such company.

One of my regular readers received one from her son as a gift. Turns out it never worked correctly. Not only that, but Samsung required HER to pay to have it shipped back to them each time it crapped out. Pretty soon, the cost of the shipping almost equaled the cost of the bad vac, not to mention the turnaround time, once the defective machine arrived at Samsung, was measured in months.

I tried writing a certified letter to the head of the service department at the national headquarters but Samsung refused to give me the name and the title of the person in charge.

MY ADVICE: Don’t buy any appliance like this from Samsung. If a company won’t quickly, efficiently and courteously service what they sell — consumers shouldn’t buy them.

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CANCER & ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS: In a new study, researchers have found a correlation that suggests cancer patients who seek alternative treatments to various cancers often forego or postpone routine conventional treatments. As a cancer survivor, I can tell you firsthand, had the cancer in my leg been discovered 18 months earlier I would be significantly less disabled today.

If you’ve got a lump or a bump or unexplained “night sweats,” go see your doctor — now.

One consumer called me because she found a small marble-sized bump behind her knee. I suggested she see her doctor immediately — just to be on the safe side. It turned out she had the same deadly type of soft tissue sarcoma that almost killed me. In her case, she didn’t require chemotherapy, only a small surgery and minimal radiation of the tumor site. She missed a week of work and now she’s almost back to normal. She and her doctor will follow up with routine checkups every 90 days just to make sure they got it all.

We have great medical care available in Kootenai County and only a short plane ride away is the Hutchinson Institute, part of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

LESSON: Cancer, while a potentially lethal disease, is no longer a certain death sentence. Taking care of yourself includes not only exercise, eating right, losing weight and quitting smoking — it’s also regular checkups and knowing when to go to the doctor.

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VOMIT FRAUD: Yeech! Not only does the description sound nasty, the actual practice is worse.

It seems that out-of-towners are specifically targets in this new scam. A consumer recently returned from a wonderful vacation in the Miami area. (I’m fantasizing about stone crab claws at Joe’s.) What happened was this:

The consumer, in an attempt to save a little green, took an Uber from the airport to her hotel. So far, so good. She paid the fare using a credit card.

Upon her return home, she found an extra $130 charge added to her Uber ride. She immediately contacted Uber to question the charge. She was informed that the charge was added by the driver, who insisted she had “lost her lunch” in his car and he had to clean up the vehicle. She said she did not vomit in the car.

Upon investigating the matter, Uber found that this driver had added the extra charge to a number of recent fares. (He no longer drives for Uber!) Her money was refunded with apologies from the company and all is well.

LESSON: Like our consumer, use a credit card, NOT a debit card, and CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS CAREFULLY!

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AVOID CRYPTO CURRENCIES: Unless you have money to gamble, stay away from crypto currencies.

I’ve talked to a number of local consumers who have lost hundreds of dollars trying to cash in on the fad of buying Bitcoins and similar products. While currencies like this are not frauds, they are easy targets for the “pump and dump” crowd. Many celebrities, early on in the craze, were promoting various crypto currencies as the next Bitcoin.

Well, Bitcoin has tanked and the celebs have fled the scene. The way many of the less reputables promote their favorite currency product (which often causes a rise of the cost of the currency, once a target dollar amount is reached), they immediately sell all their crypto currency holdings, leaving other buyers “holding the bag” (which is often, by that time empty).

MY ADVICE: Stick with tried and true investment strategies.

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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 brookshomes@gmail.com. You can follow me at www.billbrooks.us. 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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