Consumers Corner # 24



By Jim Murphy

The first time I noticed a “New Voice Mail” message on my phone while I was sitting right next to it, I was surprised.

Twenty minutes later when I got another one on my still-silent phone, I knew something was up. I quickly googled The New York Times and got my answer: ringless voice mail.

It’s the latest way telemarketers (and debt collectors) are trying to sneak through our defenses. As the New York Times describes it: “The calls are quietly deposited through a back door, directly into a voice mail box — to the surprise and (presumably) irritation of the recipient, who cannot do anything to block them.”

Pro-business groups and providers of this new technology claim these messages should not qualify as calls. Others are concerned our voice mail boxes will be clogged with automated messages, blocking calls we really want or need, especially emergency calls.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was scheduled
to decide on ringless voice mail sometime after June of this year

Of course, the commission received many comments on this hot-button issue, both pro and con. And it became a political football. The Republican National Committee was in favor of the ringless voice mail, calling it a freedom of speech issue. The Democrats excoriated it.

Suddenly, on June 20, 2017, All About the Message, LLC, withdrew its petition to exempt ringless voice mails from Do Not Call rules. But rest assured, this matter will come up again. And again. Too many marketers want it.

In the meantime, I’ve only gotten one more ringless voice mail – from my health care insurance provider. I hope that is the end of this silent interruption  … at least for now.



It could be deadly

Predicting flu is like predicting snowstorms. It’s a dangerous game for both TV weather forecasters and vaccinologists alike.

But one often-good predictor for the U.S. comes from Australia. Its winter runs before ours – from June to August.

Australia was hit hard by the H3N2 virus during its winter, says the Wall Street Journal. That virus often causes more deaths and hospitalization than the other common type A influenza, H1N1, and more illness in the elderly.

CNN says Australia’s infection rate was 2 ½ times higher this year than last for the same period

The Center for Disease Control and Preventions recommends annual flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older by the end of October. It takes about two weeks for your protection to build up.

Under 50% of us get flu shots

Nationally, slightly less than half of the eligible U.S. population received a flu shot. But I can tell you this: the people I know who got the flu last year said it was horrible, and would not want to go through all the suffering and lost time again.

You’ve been warned.



Make sure you compare drug plans
before the December 7th deadline

 One way most of us can save big on Medicare costs is to pick the right drug plan.

The problem is: it’s confusing. You can choose Part D (drug coverage) as a standalone plan that supplements original Medicare (Parts A and B), or as part of a Medical Advantage Plan (Part C).

And choosing the wrong plan can be very costly.

Here’s why:

USA Today says that the Senior Citizens League compared the price of the 10 most prescribed drugs among 23 plans available in one single ZIP code.

The average difference between the highest and lowest prices on that list was an astounding $593 a month, or $7,116 a year. So comparing plans and your prescriptions can be a huge moneysaver.

Joe DeAngelis, an area Medicare insurance advisor, suggests you enter your personal list of drugs, dosages and frequency on the site and save them.

That way, you can go back more than once to calculate your costs – without having to take time to re-enter your data. With the right choose of plans and pharmacies, your savings can be substantial

But remember, the deadline for selecting your plan is Dec. 7. So you have to move quickly.


3 Awards

That’s how many prizes local organizations took home in the Neighborhoods USA 2017 printed newsletter competition. The Society Hill Reporter took the top prize in the country for the second straight year. QVNA Magazine won second place for its second year in a row. And On The House, the internal publication of the Hopkinson House Owners Association, was a finalist. In all, Philadelphia took three of the six prizes awarded across the country.

3 Billion

The number of accounts actually affected in 2013 by the breach of Yahoo’s user accounts. That’s three times higher than the company initially reported.

6 Seconds

The length of a new ad format Fox is trying out. You can see nine of these mini-ads on the Thanksgiving Day NFL game between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Viking, says AdAge.



Did you know Maryland’s northern border is 15 miles below what is now South Street in Philadelphia? This unusual border was set by the Mason-Dixon line, ending a long and often-violent land dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland. In William Penn’s time, the current South Street was called Cedar Street.


Photo Credit

Jim Murphy


Jim Murphy is a direct marketing copywriter who has run his own consulting business since 2004. For nine years, he wrote and edited “Choices,” an award-winning credit union magazine with a circulation of 80,000. Jim is also a certified member of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guide and writes historical articles for the Queen Village Neighbors Association magazine.

Any comments made are Jim’s opinion, and not necessarily those of the Old Pine Community Center.





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