Sunday, December 17, 2017
Business

Naughty or nice? Con­sum­er Reports calls out businesses for slimy practices, good deeds

A lot of industry watchers talk a good game but Consumer Reports just put its money where its mouth is and listed which companies in 2015 were Naughty or Nice. A dozen corporations earned a naughty designation while 14 were identified as nice. The full list appears below (with more details at consumerreports.org) but we'll first focus on just a few whose actions have inflicted particular pain, or gain, on the Tampa Bay and Florida markets.

First to those who were naughty:

• Allegiant Airlines, whose ever expanding flights of tourists from second-tier cities has pretty much turned St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport into a 1-airline airport, gets panned for its "nickel and diming." Consumer Reports identifies nine fee variations that combined might win some new award for excessive gouging. My favorites? The 3.2 percent processing fee for purchasing your ticket with a credit card, the additional $14.99 fee for booking your ticket using the airline's own call center and the up-to-$80 charge for a seat assignment. What Consumer Reports does not mention, but the Tampa Bay Times has covered multiple times, is the frequency of Allegiant problems in 2015 resulting in delayed, canceled or flights forced to turn around or land elsewhere due to potential safety concerns. None of this, it should be noted, prevented Allegiant CEO Maurice Gallagher this month from being named at a St. Petersburg event as the 52nd winner of the Tony Jannus award for high achievement in commercial aviation.

RELATED: Allegiant Air continues explosive growth despite the bad press

•FedEx and UPS are about to enjoy a banner holiday season of record shipping business. But why are both companies still imposing fuel surcharges when energy prices are so low? FedEx adds a 4.25 percent surcharge for ground shipping services. The UPS surcharge is even higher at 5.25 percent. Can somebody deliver a lump of coal to these two?

•The name Turing Pharmaceuticals may not ring a bell but the actions of its 32-year-old CEO Martin Shkreli will. He's the guy who purchased the prescription drug Daraprim only to increase its price 5,000 percent to $750 from $13.50 per tablet. The drug is used to treat potentially life threatening parasitic infections in people with compromised immune systems. Now that he's been slammed by everyone from presidential candidates to Congress, Shkreli is considering a 50 percent cut in the drug's price. So that would mean only $375 per tablet?

•How could we fail to call out Volkswagen for one of the more underhanded deceptions in recent years? Circumventing the emission control system on half a million diesel VWs sold in the United States with software may have sounded clever in somebody's corporate playbook. But now VW's trust among many consumers is in the cellar. There may be a few other auto makers there already, so I hope they can make room for VW.

Lest we get too Grinchy, let's congratulate a few companies who made Consumer Reports' Nice list.

•Kudos to Nomorobo, the cloud-based app and winner of the FTC Robocall challenge. It analyzes caller IDs and disconnects suspicious calls. So far it has blocked 40 million calls, according to Consumer Reports, which can only be good news to the 200 million Americans who signed up to be on the Do Not Call list only to find it does not help much.

•Two airlines won praise. JetBlue was credited for offering free Internet broadband (called Fly Fi) on flights at a time when most airlines charge an arm and a leg. And Southwest got high-fived for providing the most frequent-flyer award program trips of any big airline.

Bravo to those Nice-listed companies for going the extra mile. And to those on the Naughty list: Incessant gouging of consumers probably is not a sustainable business model. Get over it.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

Comments

Bitcoin futures begin trading on CME, price little changed

NEW YORK — Another security based on the price of bitcoin, the digital currency that has soared in value and volatility this year, began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. The CME Group, which owns the exchange, opened up bitcoin f...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a host and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and they de...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Published: 12/15/17
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Published: 12/15/17
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Published: 12/15/17
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Published: 12/15/17
St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, under construction since 2015, is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2019.The five-story, 137,100-square-foot building will house businessman and collector Rudy Ciccarello’s...
Published: 12/15/17
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17