Book Review of Fight Back by Ellen Roseman

While scanning the new titles shelf at our local library, my eye was caught by the bright red and white colour scheme of Fight Back. I enjoy reading Ellen Roseman’s column in the Star where she battles big businesses (and small) to help ensure customers get a fair deal. So I signed it out and started reading. Here’s my review.

Would I Buy This Book?

Possibly. If I wasn’t already working in a related field: Probably. Even though I’ve now read it, if someone gave me a copy as a present, I would keep it, not exchange it.

Fighting Back is a good source of information and reference and the material should be useful for several years to come.

Guest Authors Have Contributed Topics on Their Areas of Expertise

Rather than try to understand every topic in minute detail, Ms. Roseman wisely invited experts to contribute articles on very specialized areas such as dealing with Telecom companies and car leasing services.

Enlightening Anecdotes Add Interest and a Dose of Reality

Ms. Roseman draws on her extensive personal correspondence with consumers to provide examples of the problems we all face. The anecdotes make great illustrations and add humour and human interest to sometimes dry topics.

New Ideas and Topics to Consider

I expected that I would already have read most of the ideas before in her columns. I was wrong.

I came away from the book learning new things, even about old issues.

For example, I have heard people say they charge everything to a credit card so they can dispute their purchases more easily. I was a bit surprised to read in the book that most major credit cards only allow you to dispute 2 or fewer “unauthorized events in the past 12 months.”

An example of an unauthorized event from the book: A customer paid a deposit for furniture that was never delivered after being made to order because the company went bankrupt.

I found that information useful to tuck away. As with making a home insurance loss claim, I might not want to dispute a $5 credit card charge if I think I might need to dispute a $500 charge next month.

Another example: A Rental Car contract included a clause in its collision damage waiver that said it did not insure against damage caused by striking a stationary object. In other words, if you swerve to avoid a head-on collision and hit a tree instead, you could have to pay all the costs to repair the rental car yourself!

While I don’t have to worry about this type of insurance right now, I have children who may need to buy it in the future. I’ll be warning them to watch out for clauses like this one. (When I first had my licence I did not have a car, nor therefore any car insurance. I always counted on the CDW to protect me. Good thing I never had an accident: I don’t know if I had this clause in my contract or not!)

Useful Reference Information

The book includes tips and various websites to refer to while trying to solve problems. For example, there is an internet forum listed to help find the best telecomm deals for cellular/wireless phones.

Layout and Ease on the Eyes

The book is well designed.

Each topic is covered in about 2-5 pages. That’s an ideal length for reading in quick bursts—while on the subway, while waiting for a spouse to get ready, or while boiling the pasta.

The articles are grouped in logical sections as listed in the table of contents. The titles are useful not just humorous. And there is an extensive, detailed index at the back.

Drawbacks of the Book

Like all paper-printed books, one problem is changing information. For example, the book warns that Aeroplan points have an expiry date. Recently Aeroplan has removed that upsetting limitation.

In general, though, I found most of the articles written in a way that their information will still be useful even if minor changes are made to various programs and policies. In fact, it was kind of nice to realize that some improvements are actually being made thanks to people making organized complaints such as those suggested in the book.

Fight Back: 81 Ways to Help You Save Money and Protect Yourself from Corporate Trickery by Ellen Roseman, Toronto Star Columnist.

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