What’s for Lunch? – National Consumers League

According to researchers at Cornell University, the average person makes more than 200 food choices a day! Isn’t that, well, nuts?

Most survey participants guessed that they only make 15 food-related decisions each day. What a disconnect! So, not surprisingly, the researchers found that we make many of these decisions – about portion size, for example – unknowingly, and end up overeating without even realizing it.

The Washington Post recently reported on America’s youth obesity crisis. So much bad news on this subject these days – where’s the good news? Here’s some: our LifeSmarts program offers key nutrition facts and resources – as well as tips on a variety of other subjects – to help students make better food choices and to become healthy and responsible consumers. Right now the program’s in “Spring Training.” Check it out!

What’s next for the foreclosure crisis? Reality TV! – National Consumers League


According to U.S. News and World Report, the mortgage and foreclosure crisis is hitting the airwaves, subject of a new reality tv series called The Foreclosure Shoppe. No matter your opinions of the reality tv genre, you’ve got to wonder about whether this kind of treatment will help bring the issue to new audiences or turn people off from learning about the issue.

With millions of Americans — and consumers from around the world — being exposed to the housing crisis, any focus on the issues can’t hurt, right? Here’s some news about consumers being affected by mortgage scams.

Job-hunting teens: Is this summer job right for you? – National Consumers League

May 22, 2008

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, D.C. – Responding to accounts of scams and crimes committed against consumers by traveling sales crews—and risks faced by crew members themselves—the National Consumers League and Direct Selling Education Foundation have teamed up to create educational materials to help consumers and teen workers distinguish reputable door-to-door sales and charitable sales from unethical companies. Opportunities with legitimate companies that follow a code of ethics, such as those provided by Direct Selling Association member companies, are a great way for many young workers to earn income. Unfortunately, as a sluggish economy strains the wallets of consumers, advocates caution teenagers in search of a summer job against accepting offers of employment by traveling sales crews.

“NCL’s long history of fighting for the rights of workers and consumers finds us fittingly warning both workers and consumers about traveling sales crews. Consumers certainly don’t want to buy products from exploited and often physically abused young workers, and those who do are unlikely to receive the very magazines they paid for from these disreputable outfits,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director.

In two separate recent incidents, a 25-year-old magazine salesman was charged with raping a teenager in Durham, SC, and a 28-year-old magazine salesman pleaded guilty to kidnapping a 14-year-old boy on his way home from school with intent to sexually abuse him in Vista, CA.

Many dishonest companies capitalize on the positive reputations of established door-to-door sales companies and the generous response of consumers in supporting charities. Salespeople may seem charming and friendly, offering a compelling sales pitch, or requesting support for a program to help keep kids off drugs or to teach them about entrepreneurship. They may press residents to help them win a trip or prizes. These traveling sales crews quickly sweep in and out of neighborhoods. The companies recruit children, teenagers and young adults to sell products such as magazine subscriptions, cleaning supplies, and candy. They often falsely claim to support programs to help kids or raise money for charity, a religious institution, hospital, or local school.

NCL advises consumers to check that the company or charity is legitimate before responding to its sales pitch. A legitimate, ethical salesperson will:

  • have a solicitor’s permit, if one is required in the city. Most non-reputable companies do not possess a local permit to sell.
  • provide literature, which displays the company or charity’s street address and other contact information.
  • present identification that shows he or she is affiliated with or a representative of the company, charity, or school
  • be happy to set an appointment for another time to discuss their product, which will give the consumer time to research the company or charity by contacting your Better Business Bureau or Attorney General’s office to see if there are complaints against the company/charity.

NCL offers these tips and more in two new brochures (Door-to-door safety for consumers, and Is this job right for you? for teens) produced through an unrestricted educational grant from the Direct Selling Education Foundation, to help consumers and potential workers distinguish between a legitimate company and the scams of a traveling sales crew here. Consumers can request individual copies of the new brochures at https://www.dsef.org/ContactUs/


About the National Consumers League

Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Hitting the Pavement? Choose Sales Job Wisely! – National Consumers League

With summer just around the corner, many teens are on the prowl for the perfect job. NCL has partnered with the Direct Selling Education Foundation to offer advice to young adults considering door-to-door sales jobs. We have created two new brochures filled with tips to help keep teens and consumers safe by avoiding joining or buying from unethical traveling sales crews, which have been known to cause harm to both crew members and consumers!

Teens, be sure your contract spells out the terms of your agreement.

  • How, when, and in what form will you be paid?
  • Will the company pay for your living expenses (food, travel and housing)?  Will this be deducted from your income?
  • What are the working conditions?  Ask about the hours, travel, and living arrangements.
  • If you’re not completely comfortable with the answers, don’t agree to work for the company, it’s not worth the risk!

Want to learn how to spot the difference between a legitimate sales person and a traveling sales crew scam? Read more here.

Stay tuned for more tips from NCL this summer to help millions of teens avoid dangerous jobs.

Good Ol’ Fashioned Spam – National Consumers League

The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that it’s cracking down on deceptive telemarketing operations. Through Operation Tele-PHONEY, the FTC has filed federal district court complaints against 13 alleged bad guys. NCL was recently featured in a story on National Public Radio’s Marketplace about traditional, snail mail spam — something that many of us have come to forgotten with the focus, in recent years, on avoiding email spam and fraud. Read the story or listen to it here.

Sally Greenberg selected for FDA Risk Communication Advisory Committee – National Consumers League

May 19, 2008

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC — Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League, has been appointed to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee.

“I am honored to join this Advisory committee, which was mandated by Congress, and look forward to further working with this prestigious group of experts to advocate for a robust system of information and proper warnings on drugs. I am especially interested in the Committee’s work on getting critical risk information to special populations of consumers who might not have access because of age, language barriers, low literacy or disability. The bottom line is that consumers need and want to know about the risks and benefits of the drugs they are taking and the medical devices they are using,” Greenberg said. “We hope to enhance consumers’ ability to get access to and understand this information.”

The committee’s 15 members are charged with advising FDA on communicating the risks and benefits of FDA-regulated products to the public, in order to enhance consumers’ use of these products. Greenberg joins the committee of independent experts and public members, who have backgrounds in areas including: risk communication, health literacy, behavioral and social sciences, as well as consumers, patients, caregivers, and health care providers’ rights.

“The National Consumers League has long advocated for consumer safety in the use of both over-the-counter and prescription drugs,” said Greenberg. “I commend FDA for its rapid response to this Congressional mandate, which the NCL believes will play a critical role in shaping the debate as we review and recommend effective methods for communicating with and educating consumers on the safety and effectiveness of the drugs and products they use.”

The National Consumers League provides consumers with resources on affordable health care, direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs, and tips on communicating effectively with their health care providers. The League staffs and runs the SOS Rx Coalition, which is committed to ensuring outpatients’ safe usage of medications.


About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Free Lunches? Nope, Still Don’t Exist – National Consumers League

Ever been invited to one of those investment seminars, followed by a fancy free lunch? It’s a popular tactic that so-called “experts” use to lure consumers to hours-long pitches for their investments or insurance products. They try to persuade potential suckers with impressive charts and handouts or glowing testimonials from other consumers who were “smart” enough to invest early. If that’s not enough, they resort to false promises of “your profit is guaranteed” and pressure tactics like “this offer is only available today” to bully consumers into paying.

Here’s some advice that you can count on:

  • Learn more! Sponsored by AARP and the AARP Foundation, to help consumers learn about safe investing.

Glitch Over Allergy Meds – National Consumers League

Itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing aplenty – do these symptoms sound familiar to you? Allergy season is here, and people are suffering! The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently issued the nation’s new top 100 “spring allergy” capitals, and Washington, DC, where NCL is based, is ranked 51st.

One of our colleagues recently hit a snag at the pharmacy when she requested a refill of her allergy prescription in advance of a business trip. Upon returning home, and running out of her meds, our staffer realized that the refilled pills were a different color and size – she had received the wrong drugs! The pharmacist was extremely apologetic, and issued the correct pills on the spot. Fortunately, since our colleague hadn’t taken any of the wrong pills, or had to suffer without them, all ended well.

This is a lesson for us all though: whenever taking drugs of any kind, prescribed, behind-the-counter, or over-the-counter, we need to pay attention! If something seems off to you—with the drugs themselves, if you notice any new side effects, or if you have any questions—talk to your doctor or pharmacist!

Have you experienced any hiccups at the pharmacy? Are you a fellow allergy sufferer? Feel free share your story here!

So long, and thanks for the memories! – National Consumers League

I am wrapping up my spring internship here at NCL. Three months flies by in the world of consumer rights! I feel like I just got off the plane from San Diego only to hop back on to return to law school.

I was fortunate enough to observe the NCL staff from the planning stages of consumer events and advocacy projects all the way to their implementation. Not only did I get a behind the scenes look at the League, but I was also able to participate in host of different forums. Here are a few highlights:

  • I dropped by Capitol Hill on a couple of occasions, to participate in a National Consumer Protection Week fair with hill staffers, federal, state, and local government agencies, and national consumer advocacy organizations, and to show support for testimony on the need for greater car safety.
  • I attended a symposium on women and African-Americans in the workplace at the National Labor College.
  • I sat in on a Child Labor Coalition meeting and was present at a conference sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America.

I also managed to squeeze in some research and writing for an article Sally Greenberg is writing on the unintended consequences of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Phew! I had a blast and learned more about consumers’ issues in three months at NCL than I could have in three years of law school.

Most importantly, I know that NCL is fighting for my rights as a consumer on a daily basis. As for me, who knows? Maybe I’ll be back to pitch in for the NCL cause. With all the talk of “change” in Washington, I hope NCL’s hundred year-old commitment to fighting for consumers’ rights stays the same.

Thanks, NCL!

Do Yourself a Favor: Read Your Bills – National Consumers League

by Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

I’m one of those consumers who always assumes there’s a mistake — and not in my favor — in the bills that arrive in my mailbox. I’m not always right about that, but mostly it turns out to be true. When my wireless phone bill arrived this month, my eyes popped out. How the heck did I rack up these charges? Upon more careful examination, I noticed that the higher rate for international coverage for my Blackberry that I needed when I went overseas during the holidays had never been changed back to normal, despite my request — the day I arrived back in the U.S. — that it be done. I also noticed that my son had racked up 850 text messages sending inane one-word notes to his friends umpteen times a day. Hey, but I thought I had signed him up for unlimited texting?

I called the company and can report that my story has a happy ending. They had on record that I had called in January to change my service, so they credited me the extra charges, plus the hefty taxes, and they changed my son’s cell phone over to unlimited texts retroactively, so we didn’t have pay for the extra 500 texts. (Turns out that hadn’t been an overcharge after all; my son really had only 250 free ones coming, which explained the $64 extra on my bill.) I saved nearly $140 by taking the time to call!

What worries me, however, is when consumers don’t call and question charges on their bills, utilities companies are only too happy to keep their money. I worry about consumers with limited English, the elderly, or people working two jobs who just don’t have the time it takes to challenge the kind of charges I saw on my bill. As sure as day turns into night, the corporations who send out monthly bills are making millions from consumers who cannot or do not challenge unfair charges. Should companies have people on staff who routinely review consumer bills to see if there are unfair charges? I think that would be great PR for any corporation.