Category Archives: Consumer Affairs

More and More U.S. Clothes Are Made by Bangladeshi Workers Earning Pennies an Hour

by Categorized: Business, Consumer Affairs, Data, Employment, Finance, Politics, Poverty Date:

U.S. consumers horrified by the tragic building collapse in Bangladesh might want to check the manufacturer’s label on the clothing they’re wearing; data show the compact nation is now the fourth-largest source of apparel imported into the U.S., delivering $4.5 billion a year in goods.

That’s more than double the amount imported from Bangladesh a decade ago, and in that same time frame, Bangladesh’s share of the U.S. apparel market has nearly doubled as well. In 2003, Bangladesh ranked 10th among nations supplying the United States, with 3 percent of all apparel imports, Department of Commerce numbers show. But as manufacturers have sought ever-lower labor costs, that figure has jumped to 5.8 percent.

The shift in manufacturing to Bangladesh comes as wages are rising slowly in other apparel-producing countries, including China. Pay in Bangladesh increased three years ago as well, but the minimum wage for garment workers in the country is still about $38 a month.

Efforts to increase that amount have met resistance from factory owners and government officials, who fear even a small uptick in wages will lead Western brands to look elsewhere for suppliers.

Claim Check: Did Sales Really “Soar” over Black Friday?

by Categorized: Claim Check, Consumer Affairs, Data, Finance, Media Date:

“Black Friday weekend sales soar 13 percent to $59B” – Boston Herald

During election season, that Claim Check logo up above usually indicated another politician flooding the airwaves with another questionable ad. But with the votes tallied, we return to using Claim Check to analyze – and occasionally debunk – claims found in the media, in scientific studies and in the wilds of the Web.

Today, we’re piggy-backing on excellent work done by Barry Ritholtz, CEO of Fusion IQ, who writes the popular financial blog, “The Big Picture.” For years, Ritholtz has pleaded with the media to report skeptically on Black Friday sales projections made by the National Retail Federation. He’s made inroads, but plenty of work remains.

The Boston Herald headline above is representative of stories that appeared in hundreds of media outlets. But don’t believe it. Continue reading

Connecticut Gas Prices Tops in Continental U.S.

by Categorized: Consumer Affairs, Data, Politics Date:

As my colleague Samaia Hernandez reports, Connecticut has the highest retail gas prices in the continental United States this week, as measured by AAA, using data from the Oil Price Information Service. Connecticut’s $3.82 a gallon for regular and $4.09 for premium top every state in the nation except Alaska and Hawaii. (For Diesel, New York edges Connecticut by 2 cents a gallon.)

The sortable chart below shows average gas prices for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Click on the name of any state to see historical prices and click here for national figures. And for gas prices in metropolitan areas of Connecticut, click here – and learn, for example, that gas in Fairfield County averages 11 cents more a gallon than the rest of the state.

Oil Price Information Service

GlaxoSmithKline: From Pharmaceutical Powerhouse to Sophisticated Criminal Enterprise

by Categorized: Consumer Affairs, Health, Legal Affairs, Science, Technology Date:

News outlets across the country dutifully reported a week ago that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline had struck a deal with federal prosecutors, agreeing to pay $3 billion to settle criminal and civil charges related to its illegal promotion of various drugs.

Such deals have become sufficiently commonplace – Big Pharma has paid nearly $10 billion in the last 3 1/2 years to make federal authorities go away – that there may be a bit of fraud fatigue in reading such stories. But lawbreaking by pharmaceutical companies kills people and puts countless others at risk, so it’s worth revisiting the depth to which GlaxoSmithKline fell on its journey from respected pharmaceutical powerhouse to sophisticated criminal enterprise. And it’s equally worth noting that its crimes could not have been committed without the aiding and abetting of physicians and university scientists.

Continue reading

Buyer Beware: Used-Car Scammers Still Rampant on Craigslist

by Categorized: Consumer Affairs, Finance, Legal Affairs, Public Safety, Technology Date:

The showroom-clean 2004 Toyota Avalon offered on Hartford’s craiglist site may seem like a steal at $2,135. But that stealing, sadly, will come at the expense of any overly eager car buyer willing to fork over the money.

The craigslist ad is a fake — one of scores of bogus car ads that continue to pop up every day on the popular classified-ad site. Last October, I wrote about the craigslist used-car scam, describing the clever methodology crime rings in Romania have perfected to steal nearly $50 million from more than 15,000 victims.

Six months later, the scammers show no sign of letting up, as illustrated by a spin through Hartford’s craigslist offerings. The 2005 Acura TL for $2,617? Fake. The 2007 Lexus IS 250 with air-conditioned seats for $2,350? Fake. The 2006 Nissan Altima “Janice Johnson” is willing to let go for the same $2,350? Fake, fake, fake. Continue reading

The New Gold Rush: Kevin Hunt Looks at Who Pays the Most for Your Precious Metals

by Categorized: Consumer Affairs, Data, Finance Date:

For his The Bottom Line column and blog, the Courant’s Kevin Hunt toted two gold coins and a silver bowl to a dozen pawn shops, jewelers and gold-and-diamond exchanges to see how widely prices varied in the booming market for precious metals.

We’ve all seen the ads for Good Ole Tom’s and Fast Eddy, as well as pitches from more-staid buyers, including tony suburban jewelry stores. With gold prices rising and a recession squeezing consumers, it’s a growing business.

So who ponies up the most money? In his column, Hunt said the pawn shops and gold-and-diamond exchanges he visited generally offered more than jewelry stores. But his top advice: Do your homework and know what your goods are worth before shopping for offers.

The chart below shows what various stores offered to pay for Hunt’s bounty, with the highest offer more than 50 percent above the lowest. Click the image for an interactive chart with more figures.