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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 18, 2010

This column is saying farewell

By Robbie Dingeman

An exploding microwave, a Hawai'i Kai farmer who sells vegetables direct to consumers, a man who couldn't understand that a store refused to take cash for a small purchase.

Those are just a few topics we've covered in the weekly Are You Buying This? since September 2007.

Hawai'i consumers have generously called and written to share tips, coupons, complaints and anecdotes.

Some of the best columns have come from shared tips. Many readers liked the advice to use vinegar once a month to rid front-loading washing machines of that funky mold smell.

Others bought Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint soap to rid gardenias and other plants of such pests as whitefly and black sooty mold. (That's roughly a five-parts water to one-part liquid soap mix, best if sprayed under and on top of the leaves.)

Stephen Levins, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection, reminds us all that anything that sounds too good to be true usually is. Read the fine print, don't invest in anything you don't understand and watch out for identity theft.

Another scheme showed up this week on the social networking site Facebook: "Dear user of facebook. Because of the measures taken to provide safety to our clients, your password has been changed. You can find your new password in attached document. Thanks, Your Facebook."

Scammers send this sort of message hoping to trick people into sending information.

Don't send personal account information to people claiming to be administrators, the IRS or wanting to deposit money from Nigerian banks or lotteries far away.

I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to write or call to ask or answer questions.

Readers such as Curtis Schryer with the exploding microwave, who showed that persistence can pay off. In his case, he ended up with a reimbursement for the replacement oven.

To Albert Young, who struck a chord with many readers when he described the scene at a Best Buy store when he walked out in frustration after two of the clerks wouldn't take a cash payment from him.

To farmer Ed Otsuji and his friend and volunteer business partner, Norrin Lau, who sell bargain boxes of fresh vegetables to consumers seeking fresh local produce at a wallet-friendly price.

And thanks within the Advertiser office to Alan Yonan Jr. and David Butts, who brainstormed story ideas and edited the column; and to colleague Stephen Downes, who came up with the column name.

Look for the launch of a new column this Sunday, one that profiles Hawai'i's businesses and the people behind those businesses. That begins Sunday in The Robbie Report.