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August 3, 2011     Sentinel Tribune
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August 3, 2011

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SENTINEL TRIBUNE VIEWPOINT Wednesday, August 3, 2011 Page 4 BBB cautions consumers on "Penny Auctions" Online "Penny Auctions" are quickly gaining popularity, and though they claim to offer consum- ers the opportunity to win quality merchandise at low prices, the Better Business Bureaus of Minnesota and North Dakota and Central Florida (BBB) are remind- ing people that purchasing bids only provides consumers the right to bid on an item; they do not guarantee any product in return. The BBB has also noted an uptick in consumer complaints regarding penny auction websites recently. "Penny auctions" typically work like this: consumers visit websites where they&apos;re told they can win auctions and receive products at exceptionally cheap prices, like a new iPad for $80. They then buy "packets" of bids at a particular rate, such as $1 per bid. If a con- sumer buys 100 bids, then that per- son is giving the website $100 straight away, which gives him/her an opportunity to bid 100 times, but does not guarantee any product in return. According to Moneywatch. tom, consumers must pay a fee of 50 cents to $1 each time they bid, depending on the site, and each new bid extends the auction time by fif- teen seconds. So while an eBay auction with two minutes left will end in exactly 120 seconds, a penny auction with 15 seconds left could go on for several hours - as bidders watch their account balances shrink. One penny auction website - - advertises fre- quently through Facebook pop-up ads and falsely claims BBB Accreditation. Complaints indicate Grabswag's website claims to offer ten "absolutely free" bids for new customers who sign up with them. However, while conducting a secret shopping investigation recently, Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, discovered the site required a credit card number and other per- sonal information in order to receive the "absolutely free" bids. Shortly thereafter, Grabswag billed her account for $99, which is the price for a "Starter Pack." When she tried to cancel after noticing the charge, the company's call center (which is located in the Philippines and oper- ated by a third party) refused to provide a refund in full but instead proposed successively better "reso- lutions," going from offering a 50% refund to a 75% refund. Though Grabswag maintained they do not grant full refunds, they eventually agreed to issue a full credit. "The company's terms and condi- tions did not disclose any charge upfront, which is a huge concern," said Badgerow. "What's also con- cerning is that in some Internet browsers the terms and privacy pol- icy do not open or allow the reader to scroll past the first paragraph. People have no way of knowing what they're getting into." The BBB of Central Florida cur- rently maintains the report on Grabswag's parent company, Nextown Technologies, LLC. There is an alert on Nextown Technologies' profile regarding the non-disclosure of the $99 charge, as well as pending complaints with that Better Business Bureau, all having to do with that concern. The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission advise customers to use caution when dealing with pay-to-bid online auction sites and offer the following tips: *Always refer directly to www. for legitimate business rat- ings. Click on any website's BBB Accreditation logo to view their BBB profile; if you are not directed to a BBB profile, the business is claiming false Accreditation. Also, verify the seller's identity and check on their reputation. Some sellers may use a forged e-mail header, making it impossible to contact them if you need to. *When you find a site that you feel comfortable doing business with, watch several auctions with- out bidding as a way to give your- self a frame of reference as to how the site works. It's important to pay close attention to what you're bid- ding on and how much time is left - every time a bid comes in, several seconds gets added onto the end of the auction, so save your bids until it's close to the end. *Remember that bids ONLY pro- vide the consumer the right to bid on an item, and do not guarantee any product in return. *Do not accept any offers to "free" trials that require a credit card number or personal informa- tion. *Be cautious if the seller asks you to pay by check or money order. Some online sellers have put items up for auction, taken the high- est bidder's money and never deliv- ered the merchandise. What's more, consumers who have paid by certi- fied check or money order have had little recourse when it came to get- ting their money back. +Try to pay by credit card. If you don't get the merchandise, you can challenge the charges with your credit card issuer. +Ask about using an escrow agent, or paying by COD. Most escrow services charge a fee, so you may want to consider this option only for larger purchases. Ask how you'll get follow-up ser- vice, if you need it. Many sellers don't have the expertise or facilities to provide service for the goods they sell. Is this important to you? +Avoid impulse bids and pur- chases. Online auctions may be enticing, but always research the product before bidding to under- stand a fair price. +Ask about return policies. Returning merchandise to an online seller may be difficult. For more information about online auctions, visit the FTC's web site on the Internet at AI Bart... "Stories from the Bag: Cave" In my room The Beach Boys are coming! The news of their approach brought back memories of bygone days when the Beach Boys sang of a world unfamiliar to me. They were southern California surfers. I was a south- ern Minnesota farm boy. We didn't have much in common. Surfing? Where would I surf? I suppose I could have taken my mother's ironing board to the sewage ponds but it was difficult to catch a wave there. Besides, to me a wave was something done by a hand. The Beach Boys sang of California girls. Those girls sounded nice, but I was much more interested in Minnesota girls. The Beach Boys hung out at beaches. I was familiar with only two beaches--one at St. Olaf Lake and the other at Beaver Lake:There were no surfers at. either. The closest thing to a surfer we had was a farmer who rented a rowboat at St. Olaf Lake and claimed to be a serf working for the man. The lyrics to "In My Room," one of the Beach Boys' hits, went something like this, 'q'here's a world where I can go. And tell my secrets to. In my room. In my room. In this world I lock out. All my worries and my fears. In my room. In my room." Who says there hasn't been any good poetry written since Yeats died? It was during a part of my life when things took their own sweet time. It was when seeing an out- of-state license plate (other than Iowa or Wisconsin) on a car was reason for wonderment. I'd finish the chores, inhale supper, and head to my upstairs bedroom in our elderly farmhouse. It had the requisite "Keep out" sign on the door. My room was a place where I could be myself--who- ever that was. I never had to adjust the tem- perature in my room. There was no thermostat. It was too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. I couldn't change that. When dance fever hit, I remained healthy. I had no ste- reo that I could play loud enough to kill the neighbor's marigolds. That was a setback, but I made do. Cradled in the comfort of the familiar, I grabbed reading mate- rial from a stack of books. Before I read a single sentence, I flipped on the radio. It was an old, bat- tered AM radio the color of my friends, even if they didn't know it. Disc jockeys played records, told me how to be cool, and said things like, 'Tm playing stacks and stacks of groovy wax." They said "groovy" a lot, which I thought was groovy. My radio had pictures. They were in my mind. With my imagi- nation carried on the wings of radio, I could go anywhere. I listened to as much music as I could stand. Sometimes the Beach Boys provided it. They sang of surfing, cars, and romance. They had 36 top 40 hits and 56 top 100 hits. The Beach Boys sang tunes like, 'Vouldn't it be nice if you don't worry baby and help me Rhonda, Barbara Ann, California girls, and Sloop John B to have fun, fun, fun while I drive my little deuce coupe with a 409 with good vibrations as I get around decaying peaches<: : ..... :.:. Kokomo .on a surfin' safad as I The night sky filled with radio waves. I sat alone in my room and listened to radio stations doing countdowns of the top 40 songs. The hits just kept on com- ing. I listened to WDGY during the daytime but I dialed in the 50,000-watt powerhouses at night. KAAY (mighty 1090) out of Little Rock, KOMA (1520 on the dial) located in Oklahoma City, and WLS (890) in Chicago kept me company. Dick Biondi of WLS is credited as being the first in the US to air a Beatles song when he played "Please Please Me" in 1963. I did not know Biondi or the other voices, but I gave them my ear because, in a way, they were try to be true to your school and wonder why do fools fall in love, do you love me Surfer Girl, and do you wanna dance?" The Beach Boys are not com- ing to my room. Where would I put them? Where would I put the beach? They are coming to the fair. I canff decide whether to see the Beach Boys in person or to listen to them on an old AM radio in my room. AI Batt 2011 71622 325 St. 1-1, MN 56042 Subscribe to theSentinel Tribune Mission Statement The Sentinel Tribune serves the residents and business community of Cottonwood, Redwood, Murray and Lyon County and southwest Minnesota by apply- ing its available resources to accurately and consis- tently produce a quality newspaper which thoroughly covers the news of the area, stimulates thought and conversation, delivers advertising messages in a time- ly manner, and provides information of general value to its public. 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