Ben Popken started writing Consumerist in November 2005, right about the same time I started this blog. In the six years since, Ben and his team built Consumerist into the most important consumer website on the internet. Today, Ben Popken announced that he is leaving Consumerist to pursue other projects. Ben doesn’t say why he left, but he plans to keep writing—maybe just not so much as a consumer advocate.
Besides the great work Ben did as a consumer advocate, he was a great writer. I wrote for Consumerist occasionally from 2008–2010, and the feedback he gave me helped me improve and define my own writing. Here’s a summary of his work and his writing from his farewell note:
It’s been my honor to lift up the tales of the little guy and to tilt at the titans by your side. The Goliaths still don’t get how much power you have now that anyone can become a publisher in the time it takes to sign up for a Tumblr account. I hope you’ll keep reminding them. All you need is a good story, perseverance, and cat pictures!
It’s not sad, exactly. Consumerist will continue to fight for consumers, and Ben will go on to work on other—hopefully awesome—things. But this is definitely the end of an era for a very important consumer advocate.
In a completely unsurprising development, the Federal Trade Commission reports that consumer complaints about debt collection are on the rise. Just as they have been for years. Consumerist points out some of the more salient points from the FTC news, such as a debt collector who harassed a 54-year-old woman as well as a parade of family members and exes.
If this has you worried, read How to Avoid Ending Up in Jail for Debt!
Consumerist picked up on the article about debtors being thrown in jail, and a surprising (to me, anyway) number of commenters chimed in to support the debt collectors. For example, one commenter wrote
Not paying your debt = stealing. For stealing you go to jail. I am on the side of the little man, but there is no excuse to run up a debt and then simply choose not to pay it.
My monthly column for Consumerist: Judge Slaps Ameriquest Hard For Selling Mortgage, Then Pretending To Still Own It | Consumerist
It’s tough to follow up on a post about how to make a Black and Tan, but I’ll give it a try. I was inspired to write by an interesting discussion over at the Consumerist about credit card rate hikes and credit line cuts. Many AFFIL members have written to us about this phenomenon, and we’ve also spoken with industry insiders who confirm that the issuers are cutting limits and raising rates even on long-standing good customers. (The Consumerist discussion got started because of this article in the New Yorker.)
Consumers with some financial cushion can probably wiggle around these credit card changes and come out unscathed. If their rate goes up they can pay off the card in full; decline the new terms, stop making new charges, and pay off the existing balance at the old rate; or transfer the balance to a different card.
But there are plenty of consumers who are, in the New Yorker’s words, “captive customers.”
Yesterday, on Consumerist, I criticized an article in the Washington Post for sounding like it was written by debt collectors. Apparently, it was prompted by a dispatch from the Associated Press, which distributed “Six Tips for Dealing With Debt Collectors” on Friday. (The “6 tips” are good tips, by the way, although the WaPo article has serious flaws.)
While I was writing my post for Consumerist, the debt collection trade publication, InsideARM, was complaining about the AP’s “6 tips” article:
[O]ver this past weekend, a new kind of story has cropped up: the consumer-focused “know your rights” story. Long a stable of the mainstream press, this new round of stories is a little more ominous, as they offer specific tips on how to chronicle collection correspondence and how to hide assets from collectors.
(Emphasis added.) There is nothing about hiding assets in the AP article, just sound advice for consumers. InsideARM is just spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This justifies my raised eyebrow at collection industry lobbyist Scott Talbot’s comments in the WaPo article: “There is going to be a consumer protection wave, which we support, that will sweep through Congress.”
(photo: Wikimedia Commons)
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In which a Bloomington auto salesperson asks a customer “What the hell would YOU want with a Jaguar? Really, what are you doing here?”
Alex Stenback of Behind the Mortgage recently posted the LendingTree data breach story seen here [and here], and his posting attracted a provocative comment regarding LendingTree’s lending practices. In short, the commenter alleged that LendingTree does not let banks compete, but has its own internal lending division (Home Loan Center) that does all the “competing.”
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