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Insider Tips

How can we be of service? Let us count the ways. We actually mean service – unlike those who have promised it before and didn’t show up when it counted most. Consider these insider tips your key to consumer affairs.

What do films, hotels, appliances and now food all have in common? They have a star rating system designed to help us make better choices. And while sitting through a mediocre film does little more than waste our time, the star rating system on packaged foods has promised better health. But can a simple label on packaged food be the answer to rising obesity? The recently introduced system has got its detractors. For starters, how does a system rating healthiness give a better score to hot chips than greek yogurt? We'll get to that shortly.  And how can we make best use of the labels despite their limitations?

Spring is in the air, finally. It’s time to come out of hibernation and peel off the extra layers of clothing. If, like me, you’re now lamenting those extra serves of sticky date pudding, then your mind is searching for ways to reverse the months spent under a blanket rather than outdoors being active. Walk through any major shopping strip and you’ll be met with fit and charming sales staff trying to lure you into signing up to the local gym and personal training sessions. And the offers will be tempting… more than 4.6 million Australians are members of a gym. A staggering $1.4 billion will be spent on fitness this year. What starts with the good intention of getting back into shape, sometimes results in heavy sales pressure and lock-in contracts. The final blow – you might be stuck paying for an expensive membership that doesn’t get used.

If you’re not paying for a product, then you might be the product. Wise words to consider next time you're thinking of joining a loyalty program. We love a freebie, but loyalty programs offering everything from free coffees to discounted flights aren't actually free. Businesses increase their profits with loyalty programs in two ways. A loyalty program encourages you to shop with those participating outlets more than you would otherwise. And the other way is to sell your data, either to market research companies or to other companies that then send you unsolicited emails, instant messages, SMS or MMS also called SPAM. So are these programs worth the effort or are we being suckered into giving up our personal information for little return?

You'll spend 36 whole days planning your wedding. You'll cross your fingers and hope that your big day runs exactly to schedule. But despite your best efforts, there's bound to be something that goes wrong on the day. A UK survey revealed that nearly one in five couples were unhappy with at least one of the services at their wedding, but most did nothing about it. Australian couples are forking out an average of $36,000. If you think that’s a staggering sum, some bridal publications claim the average is as high as $65,000. So when you're spending that much money, it's important to know that when things do go wrong, you can do something about it! We've compiled the following tips to minimise wedding day dilemmas and what you should do if they occur.

Is it a case of a horror movies come to life - are our everyday items out to get us? Last year, there were 670 product safety recalls  – up 12.4 per cent from the previous year. We better get accustomed to more recalls. Brands are worried about what happens to their reputation if they don’t do a recall, so you better start paying attention. In an episode from Tales from the Darkside, a babysitter entertains a bunch of kids by inventing a creature that eats sounds. Things turn nasty when the vacuum starts eating everything and everyone in the house. In real life, we’ve had:

  • chocolate laced with plastic,
  • washing machines catching fire,
  • furniture falling on kids, and
  • cars rolling away when left in 'park'.
This year, we’ve had more cars recalled than ever before. There are plenty of disgruntled car owners, some even taking to youtube or kickstarter to raise awareness to what they perceive as a ‘lemon’ car.

You've decided you want a new or near new car. It's easy to get carried away with all the excitement; you might be tempted to buy on impulse. And the car dealerships know that. But don't get carried away. For most, your car is the second biggest investment you’ll make in your life (after your house). Doing some homework, getting savvy to dealer tricks and learning to negotiate can save you thousands. Before we give you the vital tips to getting the best deal, let's talk about the biggest waste of money to avoid - a 'junk' insurance policy. This is the add-on the dealership sells you for hundreds or thousands of dollars but offers no real benefit, in your moment of weakness and excitement.