Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Snow in San Francisco?

The weather service is predicting that San Francisco may get an inch of snow this coming Saturday. Hardly significant for people who are used to snow, but a historic and possibly calamitous event for people who've never driven on snowy streets.

While unusual, snow in San Francisco is not unparalleled. Records show snowfall in 1882, 1887, 1951, 1962, and 1976. (El Cotoro remembers the 1976 storm!)

The photos in this post were taken in 1882 and 1887, respectively, and are now in the public domain.

Friday, February 18, 2011

How I Got Scammed on the Internet!

I'm a pretty informed and cautious web user.

I don't reply to e-mail offering me a million dollars to help someone move their money from Nigeria.

I don't click links in e-mail I don't recognize.

I check the URL and security certificate before entering sensitive information.

Unfortunately, like many people,  I don't pay too much attention to my monthly credit card statement.  Oh sure, I look it over, but if I see a charge less that about $15 or $20, I assume it's something I bought online and skip over it.

But recently, I noticed that a $12 charge had appeared several months in a row.   The company was called Reservation Rewards, and there was an 800 number on my statement, but no other info.

After further investigation, I found that  Reservation Rewards had been charging my card since August, 2009.  (OK, that's embarrassing to admit...  but again, I think the key to this scam is keeping the monthly charge below most people's attention threshold.)

The Reservation Rewards "membership program" offers various discount coupons to members.  But I could not remember signing up for the program.

In fact, I didn't - at least not knowingly.  Back in August 2009, I ordered some flowers at  During the checkout process, there was apparently a box asking if I'd like to receive  discount offers.  The default was YES.  And nowhere did it say that there was a charge for these discount offers.

When I did not "opt out" of the discount offers, FTD passed my credit card information to Reservation Rewards, which began charging me a monthly membership fee.

You may find it unbelievable that a well-known and trusted company like FTD would be involved in a scam like this, but you'll be even more surprised to learn that they are not alone.  Other Reservation Rewards affiliates include,,,,,  and those are just the companies I've been able to identify with a casual search.  Apparently, Reservation Rewards offers a very generous payout to their affiliates. 

The  Reservation Rewards scam is "old news" - online complaints seem to go back to 2005.  But I was not aware of the program, and I bet most of my readers aren't either.

There are two sad lessons from this experience:  check your credit card statements in detail, and don't trust even well-known and "responsible" websites.

As a short addendum:  I found instructions online for requesting a refund from Reservation Rewards.  (Apparently one way ReservationRewards dodges legal action is by making it easy for people to get their money back.)  I am submitting the form, and I'll post back in a few weeks to let you know what happens.