CALPIRG’s Ultimate Summer Tip Guide

Summer is here! To help you enjoy the season a bit more, CALPIRG compiled these handy tips to make sure you and your family stay safe and healthy this summer.

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Sander Kushen
Public Health Advocate, CALPIRG
Sander Kushen

Author: Sander Kushen

Public Health Advocate, CALPIRG

Started on staff: 2019
B.A., Dartmouth College

Sander is based in Sacramento and works with California decision-makers, the media, and coalition partners to further CALPIRG’s legislative priorities. He represents CALPIRG members across the state in efforts to protect public health and consumer interests. Previously, Sander worked for two years with CALPIRG Students as the Campus Organizer for UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley. In that role, he recruited and trained hundreds of student activists to register voters, ban unnecessary single-use plastics throughout the UC system, and advocate for an expedited transition to 100% renewable energy. In his free time Sander enjoys karaoke, science fiction novels, and hugging his cat, Arthur.

Teresa Murray
Consumer Watchdog

Author: Teresa Murray

Consumer Watchdog

 

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., Kent State University

Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers' health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist and columnist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio's largest daily newspaper. She's earned dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, Best Business Writer in Ohio, and National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis. Among the accomplishments she’s most proud of: A journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected at least 15 million customers nationwide. Her work caused Verizon to reach an $80 million settlement with the FCC, the largest ever imposed at that time. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.

School’s out and summer is here! Millions of Californians will be hitting the beaches, blasting their air conditioning and visiting their friends and families across the state and country. But it’s not all fun and games. As we all take some time to recharge our batteries, it’s important to keep in mind the realities of our time: skyrocketing prices, counterfeit goods on the market and the inevitable ebb and flow of COVID cases that could potentially throw a wrench in peoples’ summer plans. 

To help you enjoy the season a bit more, CALPIRG compiled these handy summer tips to make sure you and your family stay safe and healthy this summer. We organize our tips by category, and link to our full reports where you can read even more.

How do I keep my summer plans under budget?

While record-setting inflation and high gas prices are making almost everything more expensive, we know many are still itching to go on that well-deserved vacation, albeit on a budget. And no matter what you do or where you go this summer, saving money is always a good idea. Here are a few tips to stay under budget:

  • Combat inflation at the grocery store. This includes eating from your stored dry/canned foods, making sure you are not wasting food you already own and buying cheaper “ugly” foods (foods that are of the same quality but reduced in price because they don’t meet the same aesthetic standards as their fellow fruits and vegetables).
  • Know your food labels. The best way to save money on food is not to waste the food you already have. That means getting familiar with the differences between “Best-By,” "Sell-By," and "Use-By." Our guide will help you discern what is and isn’t safe and save you money.
  • Drive less, live more. Not only is transportation now America’s No. 1 source of carbon pollution, rising gas prices have made it incredibly costly. Take advantage of carpools, public transportation, bikes and scooters when you can to save money and reduce pollution for driving.
  • Buy and give used items. A fun summer day doesn’t have to be expensive. Opting for used or refurbished items instead of brand new ones can reduce costs, and there are many hobbies or experiences that don't have to be bought at all. Our guide walks you through fun gifts and experiences that are less expensive and better for the environment. 
How do I avoid counterfeits and knockoffs this summer?

In our rush to order the pool toys, lawn chairs and other supplies we need for the summer, we may be vulnerable to counterfeit and knock off goods. While not every counterfeit product is dangerous, they are more likely to contain dangerous chemicals or not meet U.S. safety standards.

One example of a dangerous summer product you may encounter is counterfeited sunglasses and eyewear, which made up 24% of the health and safety products seized by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in 2020. Without adequate UV protection, these sunglasses could lead to someone suffering serious eyesight damage.

Here are some tips to avoid dangerous counterfeits:

  • Be careful when shopping online. Online shopping for pool toys, sun lotion and other summer knick knacks could inadvertently lead you to counterfeit items. Be sure to click on the seller’s information, and look the seller up on the internet before you buy anything. Be wary of misspellings, mislabelings and blurry/pixelated images. And generally, know that if an item is unreasonably cheap and sold out everywhere else, you might not be able to trust the listing.
  • Be on the lookout for fake online reviews. Fake reviews are a common tactic used to trick consumers into buying a fake or faulty product. Look at the dates of the reviews (a diverse range of dates is generally more trustworthy) and check the reviewers themselves. If they have generic names and have only reviewed the one product, it may be a fake review.
  • Report any bad experiences. If you believe you’ve purchased a counterfeit or knockoff product, you can report it to www.saferproducts.gov or call the CPSC at 800-638-2772.
How do I avoid recalled items this summer?

Sometimes, even legitimate items can end up being recalled due to safety defects. 

We’ve seen this before in our summer products: Last year, several types of Johnson & Johnson sunscreens were pulled off shelves because some samples contained traces of benzene — a cancer-causing agent. Here are some resources to make sure that your summer products and snacks are safe for you and your family:

  • Shop at grocery stores that notify you about recalls. Amazingly, stores are not required to notify consumers directly when they buy a product that is later  recalled. Until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strengthens its guidelines about how stores must notify us, you can check out our new report to see the best and worst grocery stores for notifying you.
  • Know where to look up if a product has been recalled. Meat products, products such as bicycle helmets or toys or electronics, and everything overseen by the FDA all have different resources to look up the status of recalls (linked here for your convenience). 
  • Stay vigilant, especially when shopping at bargain outlets, flea markets or other locations where the chance of finding recalled products is higher. Sign up for free recall alerts with the FDA or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and pay attention to some type of national news for info about major recalls.
If my flight or event is canceled, how can I get a refund?

Whether you are visiting relatives and friends, taking that long-deserved vacation or traveling for a concert or festival, many of us will be flying or driving. But in the case of another COVID-19 flare-up, many of us may consider postponing these plans. Here’s how to make the most from your refund and avoid scams during your trip:

  • Make the most of vouchers and credits from airline companies. If an airline cancels your flight, you should immediately ask to get a refund (even if your airline initially offers you something else instead). If it doesn’t give you one, the linked guide informs you how to navigate the travel and cancellation policies for the top 10 domestic airlines in the United States.
  • If your in-person event gets canceled, know your rights. You might not always be able to get your money back, but there are a few key steps you can take to increase the chances of that happening. They include checking if the event was “canceled” or “postponed,” and reviewing your vendor’s refund policy. 
How do I protect my financial information and avoid scams?

It’s hard to sit back and relax during your summer vacation after losing money or sensitive information to a scam. You can avoid these headaches by being vigilant with your information and following our tips below: 

  • Know the pros and cons of different payment methods. Pay for your summer plans in the way that works best for you. For example, peer-to-peer payments such as Venmo and Zelle can be convenient and easy, but they’re almost impossible to reverse if you make a mistake. Meanwhile, checks can be mailed and offer proof of payment, but they also give vendors quite a bit information about you, including your checking account number and signature.
  • Avoid fake rentals when booking your vacation. Sadly, many rental listings online are actually nothing like they are advertised, with many even being coordinated attempts to scam you out of your money. To avoid this, be suspicious of urgest requests for immediate payment, and get a copy of the contract before sending money. Grainy images, super cheap rates, and suspicious reviews are some other major red flags.
Sander Kushen
Public Health Advocate, CALPIRG
Sander Kushen

Author: Sander Kushen

Public Health Advocate, CALPIRG

Started on staff: 2019
B.A., Dartmouth College

Sander is based in Sacramento and works with California decision-makers, the media, and coalition partners to further CALPIRG’s legislative priorities. He represents CALPIRG members across the state in efforts to protect public health and consumer interests. Previously, Sander worked for two years with CALPIRG Students as the Campus Organizer for UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley. In that role, he recruited and trained hundreds of student activists to register voters, ban unnecessary single-use plastics throughout the UC system, and advocate for an expedited transition to 100% renewable energy. In his free time Sander enjoys karaoke, science fiction novels, and hugging his cat, Arthur.

Teresa Murray
Consumer Watchdog

Author: Teresa Murray

Consumer Watchdog

 

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., Kent State University

Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers' health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist and columnist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio's largest daily newspaper. She's earned dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, Best Business Writer in Ohio, and National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis. Among the accomplishments she’s most proud of: A journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected at least 15 million customers nationwide. Her work caused Verizon to reach an $80 million settlement with the FCC, the largest ever imposed at that time. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.