Consumer Protection Guide

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    1. First Course of Action
    2. Health Issues
    3. Receipt Issues
    4. You were ripped off
    5. How to avoid getting ripped off

Feel like you've been ripped off, poisoned, or offended by a business owner? You're not alone and chances are there are other people who've had similar fates. You have plenty of recourse to prevent these acts from repeating, either to you or to anybody.

See also Tenant Rights, and the Restaurant Guide for an explanation of policies from a business owners point of view.

First Course of Action

An unspoken problem is an unknown problem. The best method of making your unpleasant experience known is by speaking up! Sometimes businesses are not aware they're doing something illegal or unethical. If an employee can not solve your problem ask for the manager. In restaurants, depending on the situation, you should not be shy about asking for discounts or compensation when something major goes wrong. Remember, if you don't ask, only the most benevolent of businesses will automatically compensate you. If the kitchen or establishment screwed up, make sure to still tip the waitstaff appropriately for the work they performed.

Health Issues

Bring your problem to the attention of the management and use your judgment to determine whether to take further steps. Finding a violation could be an isolated incident. Alternatively, it could be a symptom of a more systematic problem with maintaining health standards. This is not just a matter of cleanliness, its a matter of personal safety. Call the [WWW]Yolo County Health Department at (530)-666-8646. Take some responsibility— if you don't lodge a complaint about the cockroach in your Tofu surprise, chances are no one else has wanted to either.

The following constitute health code violations that should be dealt with immediately. These are assessed during a health inspection: vermin and/or droppings, non-commercial grade pesticides, toxic chemicals on top of or near food, food stored between 41 and 135 degrees, employees not washing hands, employees washing soiled hands in dishwashing sink, and employees with hand wounds not wearing gloves or "finger condoms." Concerns that may potentially be isolated incidents include meat not cooked to appropriate temperatures, foreign objects in food (e.g., band-aids, hair, etc.), and spoiled food.

See also Food Poisoning

Receipt Issues

Always check your bill to ensure that you are only paying for services rendered. Ask for clarification on illegible receipts and either mark or put a cross through tip and total fields. Businesses such as Gas Stations frequently charge ATM fees, but the legality of such transactions for credit cards is unclear and warrants further documentation. Some [WWW]sources say its illegal to charge fees for credit cards, but [WWW]others say that credit card companies allow "convenience fees" at automated locations, but most do not allow surcharges. Needless to say, the vendor must disclose their convenience charge up front. Contact your credit card directly if you think a violation has occurred, and please share your experience with the Wiki.

Temporary "overcharging" (actually an authorization hold) is done at many restaurants, especially the corporate chain restaurants (Applebee's, Chili's, TGIFridays...) to ensure that once your tip is added onto a bill it won't get declined. So if you swipe your card and go online that evening it will show the amount the server initially swiped for. When the server cashes out at the end of their shift, the correct tip is entered into the computer, and that is the charge that get run rather than the amount held initially. This may take a few days to post depending on the bank.

You were ripped off

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or with the California Department of [WWW]consumer affairs. You might also consider taking the business to Small Claims Court.

How to avoid getting ripped off

Do not be embarrassed to ask how much something costs. For example, upscale restaurants bank on you ordering specials that are listed without a price. They know you're more willing to pay an exorbitant price after you've eaten the meal.

If a server offers you something you did not directly ask for, ask if it will cost you extra. With few exceptions "Do you want rice with that" means the same thing as "Do you want fries with that," i.e. "Give us another $1.50."

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