My new treadmill is off track — why won’t anyone fix it?

Stephen O’Donnell’s new treadmill doesn’t work. But the manufacturer won’t take it back unless he disassembles it, boxes it up, and brings it to the curb. And he can kiss that delivery fee goodbye. Is that right?
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Going anywhere this spring and summer? (SURVEY)

It’s that time of year. I’m interested in your upcoming travel plans — and your best advice for a better trip.

Please take the survey. I’ll report the results soon.
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Should companies break their own rules? Yes, and here’s when …

Andresr/Shutterstock
Andresr/Shutterstock

Last week, when I suggested that consumers should sometimes apologize to a company, a few of you thought I had completely lost it.

You believed I’d gone soft or turned into a corporate shill — or both — for suggesting that sometimes you should apologize to a business.

So today, in the interest of fairness, I’ll look at the flip side: when companies should offer a no-questions-asked refund on a product, even though they aren’t required to.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Vermont and the University of Iowa found that retailers with restrictive exchange policies may be losing potential business, a finding that should find some traction among highly competitive businesses.
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When to bend a rule — and when to break it

Kesu/Shutterstock
Kesu/Shutterstock

Rules are meant to be broken, right? Well, you might be forgiven for thinking so if you’re a regular reader of my work.

As a consumer advocate, I routinely help people bend rules when circumstances warrant it. Of course, that brings out the usual chorus of rule-lovers, trolls and haters, who accuse me of threatening the foundations of Western civilization by convincing a company to waive its often ridiculous policies.

But rules are important. Just ask Congress, which is on the verge of shutting down half of the U.S. government because of disagreements over the budget and healthcare reform. As I write this, I’m in Washington sitting next to a government executive who is worried sick that her office will be shuttered tomorrow. It probably will be.

The law-and-order folks have a valid point, once you get past their often angry personal attacks. Some rules are not meant to be broken.

For example, here’s a request I received from Mary Anne Fontaine on behalf of a friend who flies once a year and had found an inexpensive ticket on Allegiant Air.
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Renovation regrets: 6 questions to ask before staying at a new hotel

I’m not sure how a fully inflated beach ball got in my hotel room.

The ornamental blue vase next to the flat-screen TV? Not entirely certain about that, either.

But shortly after we checked in for the weekend, the two met. My four-year-old son couldn’t wait to get to the beach so he could play with his new toy. He pitched it to me, and when I bounced it back — crash! — the blow-up ball collided with the ceramic décor, splintering the vase into a thousand tiny shards. Chaos ensued.

I mention this oopsie because it could repeat itself a time or two during the coming months. It might even happen to you.
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