In my law library we field consumer law questions, as do most librarians in public libraries, law or otherwise. Open up the phone lines to a call-in show on consumer law and lines will light up – for hours if you let them. Everyone has a consumer law question on a full range of topics from odometer fraud, to credit card company tricks, to retail store policies, to bad service, etc. Take a look at this hot list of consumer complaints at the Oregon AG Office of Consumer Affairs to see just the tip of the iceberg. I could write a weekly column on consumer law Q&A and so could most reference librarians. Heck, we could write a daily column as could anyone in the consumer protection business.
There are lots of ways to deal with consumer issues, and they don’t all involve lawyers, and there is a lot of useful advice out there from Consumer Reports to Nolo Press to Shlep to the National Consumer Law Center to HALT, etc. (the list is endless). Consumer advocates and lawyers do not lack a sense of humor but sometimes it can get a little dark and earnest in the Quest for Consumer Justice. Enter Ron Burley. The current AARP Magazine (Mar/Apr 2007) has an article by Ron Burley (author of “Unscrewed: the consumer’s guide to getting what you paid for” – likely at your local public libraries and bookstores) and it will make you laugh and get the wheels turning. Ron’s system may not work for you, but you may still get some good ideas on the best way to solve your own consumer problems. (And, he lives in Oregon!)