Latest The Fine Print headlines

Izaz and Irum Haque.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A single inch results in an $850 shipping penalty from UPS

UPS informed Irum Haque that the length of the box she shipped wasn’t 48 inches, as she had measured; it was 49. How much more for one extra inch? $850.

Arnie Greenfield.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Penalized for making a student loan payment early — not late

Arnie Greenfield has no problem helping his children with student loans. But he has a problem being penalized for making an early payment. Yes, that’s right. Not late, early.

Alex Chu modeled his new lacrosse helmet.

The Fine Print | Sean P. Murphy

Lacrosse player sidelined by helmet issue is back on field with new headgear

Alex Chu, the Wheaton College lacrosse goalie sidelined for months because the team couldn’t get a helmet big enough to fit him, is back in goal.

Mark Stepakoff was stymied by a closed website when he tried to renew his real estate license.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Downed website and a botched response from the state

Mark Stepakoff figured it would take only a few minutes to renew his real estate license with the state.

Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe


Lacrosse standout is benched because his head is too big

A former high school all-star, Alex Chu was recruited for lacrosse at Wheaton College. But now he can’t join his team on the field because they can’t find a helmet large enough for him.

Jessie Fire posed for a portrait in her apartment's gym.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A pricey personal training contract with a vulnerable client raises some troubling questions

Jessie Fire signed up for a personal training contract costing $14,400. Pricey, perhaps, but not otherwise an unusual transaction, except for the fact that Jessie is mentally challenged.

Robert Crotty has for months sought a $3,535 refund after he bought a used truck that almost immediately died.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

His truck broke down minutes after buying it. He still hasn’t gotten a refund

Robert Crotty Jr., 18, drove away from the used car lot in his new pickup filled with pride and excitement. Three blocks away, the 2002 Dodge Dakota died.

Lew Cutler.


A counterfeit check causes a real headache

So who takes the loss on a fake check? The first bank that accepted the check or the one that ultimately paid it — Citizens, in this case? Or the accountholder?

L'Espalier restaurant.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Upscale restaurant’s closing leaves holders of gift cards hungry for refunds

At least a half-dozen people say they were stiffed when Back Bay gourmet restaurant L’Espalier closed suddenly.

Salem MA 1/7/19 Pamela Howard and her cat, Muse in her Salem apartment. Pamela adopted Muse in June, but the adoption agency is trying to reclaim him after they saw them on social media because Pamela took Muse into the backyard (on a leash) when that's prohibited under the adoption contract. (photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) topic: reporter:

The Fine Print

A brief frolic outside may cost a woman her cat

In June, Pamela Howard adopted Muse, a blue-eyed, gray-striped, half-Siamese cat who had suffered terrible burns in a previous owner’s neglectful care.

An Airbnb “super host’ crashed through a guesthouse window as MDs Chiedozie Uwandu and Jaleesa Jackson slept; the company coughed up an apology and a sizable settlement only after readers blasted it.

Sean P. Murphy

Want corporations to listen? Speak up

I wrote dozens of consumer columns in 2018. About one-third resulted in some redress for consumers. All of them, I hope, helped ordinary people push back.

Travel sites like Needham-based TripAdvisor often rely on third-party booking sites to arrange your trip. TripAdvisor said it recently suspended its use of HotelQuickly after many of its reservations were canceled.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Beware of those big travel sites offering great deals

Jon Harrington found out the hard way that sometimes the sites rely on smaller, less reliable agencies to do the booking.

Grace Greene and her husband John (not pictured), have had to place about $10,000 dollars on their credit card, after a travel vacation issue.

After winning island vacation in silent auction, family feels taken

When they arrived at the Dominican resort, they were told they owed almost $10,000 more upfront for food and drink and could not check in until they paid up.

Jane Mansbridge just wanted to sit with her husband Christopher Jencks on the way home from Sweden.

The Fine Print | Sean P. Murphy

British Airways messed up this couple’s seating on a flight. Then it wouldn’t give them a refund

On the way home, a Harvard professor had paid $126 extra to be seated with her husband. But instead they were seated far apart, without an explanation, apology, or refund.

Virgina Newes loved using Zipcar, but then the car-sharing company abruptly dropped her after a minor accident.

The Fine Print | Sean Murphy

Zipcar ended her membership because of a car dent. But was it really about her age?

An 89-year-old Cambridge woman was terminated from the service after a minor mishap in a parking garage.

Bo Abrams and daughter, Rebecca Dowd, blamed StubHub for trying to extract extra money out of them for tickets to Hamilton.

Sean Murphy | The Fine Print

A ‘Hamilton’ ticket mixup, and a $675 StubHub charge

Rebecca Dowd, 17, came home from “Hamilton” last month glowing with excitement. It was a perfect evening, she gushed to her mother. Except that she almost missed it.

Maya and Isak Kayserman.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Eighty-seven, and left by the side of the road by Uber

She and her husband are both 87. But that didn’t stop the driver — in an action undisputed by either party— from asking them to leave his car in the middle of their journey home.

Phil Cronin used the SpotHero app to reserve a parking space three days in advance of a Red Sox playoff game, only to have the company blow off its

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

SpotHero parking reservation is guaranteed — except when it’s not

SpotHero’s CEO defended the company’s decision to renege on a patron’s $10 parking spot near Fenway Park after the Red Sox made the playoffs.

***FOR BUSINESS SECTION *** Joel Knopf sits among some of the damaged boxes of his possessions that he paid to have shipped from CA when he moved recently, at his home in Amherst on Wednesday, October 10, 2018. Knopf paid $290 to have 13 boxes of all his worldly possession shipped from Oakland to Northampton -- but they wound up in places like North Hollywood, CA, and Burlington, Iowa -- or disappeared all together. (Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe)

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

From his bike to his xylophone, Greyhound scattered a man’s possessions across the country

Joel Knopf packed nearly all of his worldly possessions into 13 cardboard boxes and gave them to Greyhound Package Express. “Big mistake,” he says.

Steve and Diane Trask with their son, Brayden, 13.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A dog dies, and his family wants answers

Steve Trask discovered his family’s pet puggle in rough shape at a boarding facility, and then things took a more dire turn.

Chiedozie Uwandu and Jaleesa Jackson.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Airbnb vows to make up for doctors’ night of terror in LA

The couple’s plight was detailed in a Boston Globe column on Tuesday.

Jaleesa Jackson and Chiedozie Uwandu were looking forward to their out-of-town sojourn, but it turned into a nightmare.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

An Airbnb guesthouse of horrors

One Los Angeles rental had excellent reviews and a host who had so impressed Airbnb that he was ranked as a “super host.” Then the nightmare began.

Gwen Larison-Santos. She blames Firestone for damaging her car by improperly installing an oil filter.


Should Firestone replace this woman’s car engine?

What Gwen Larison-Santos wants is an engine in the same condition as the one she brought into the shop for an oil change, not one that may have irreversible damage.

Watertown, MA., 09/12/18, Jack Keating is upset that a truck using an overhead boom to deliver building materials to a neighbor's house pulled down the overhead wires and ripped the electrical service off his house. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

A delivery truck took down wires and power in Watertown. But who’s to blame?

New England Building Supply, whose truck caused the incident, won’t reimburse residents because it says the wires were too low.

Suzi Parks has a complaint about Avis' extra charge for use of toll roads.

Sean P. Murphy | Fine Print

How Avis can charge customers a fee for tolls, even if the driver doesn’t take a toll road

Suzi Parks has no problem paying tolls like everyone else. But she hates that she is charged an extra $3.95 “service fee” each day just because she went through a toll once.

Peter Grinspoon examined some of the extensive damage to his home.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Owners of a ruined house say repairs will cost $400k. The insurer is fighting, offering just $100k.

Their house badly damaged, a Newton family expected Providence Mutual to help them get back on their feet quickly. That didn’t happen.

Neil and Maureen Ferris sought to be reimbursed about $1,500 by Norwegian Air. They were offered $54. “I really expected them to reimburse me,” Neil Ferris said. “It feels like a case of mistreatment.”

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Should airline reimburse couple who waited for lost luggage?

Neil and Maureen Ferris planned a two-week trip of a lifetime in Europe to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. But they did not plan that the airline would lose their luggage.

“I just wanted my day in court,” Al Lepera said of a remote citation he was issued for driving without an inspection sticker. “I wanted to give my side of the story.”

The Fine Print

With his inspection sticker missing, this vehicle owner drives into trouble

Al Lepera opened the envelope from the RMV to find a citation for driving without the sticker. It could cost him as much as $1,000 in fines and insurance surcharges.

Arlington, MA - 7/19/2018 - Jackie Moquin-Vaudo inadventently paid Comcast $18,200 for a $182 monthly bill. For Sean Murphy consumer column. - (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section: Business, Reporter: Sean Murphy, Topic: 23consumer, LOID: 8.4.2592923946.

SEAN P. MURPHY | The Fine Print

A few extra zeroes cause a big headache

Somehow, instead of paying $182.36 and $92.60 via her online account to Comcast and T-Mobile, Jackie Moquin-Vaudo paid $18,236 and $9,260.

Thelma Kaminsky in 2016. (Family Handout)


Denied a chance to say goodbye to an old friend

When Thelma Kaminsky died last month at age 87, no friends gathered in her building to grieve and pay their respects. The managers of her building wouldn’t allow it.

The Fine Print

Pay attention to the tiny type when opening — and closing — a money market account

Let’s say you open an interest-bearing money market account with a $10,000 deposit. Two weeks later, you close the account. Question: How much is the check for?

Jonathan Scott says would-be renters showed up at his home in Provincetown four times last year.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Ripped off by phantom rentals on Craigslist

For almost a year, a parade of would-be vacationers has arrived at the front door of a lovely two-family house in Provincetown.

Sharon, MA - 6/12/18 - Barry Arntz talks about the $119, 425.61 bill of deferred taxes and interest due to the town of Sharon, for his mother's home. Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff Topic: 18consumer Reporter: Sean Murphy

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

An inheritance damaged by delayed property taxes

Barry Arntz thought he and his sister owned the house passed down to them by their deceased mother “free and clear” — no mortgages, no liens, no encumbrances of any sort.

Zhongmei (left) and Gunnar Vincens have gotten the runaround for almost a year.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Apartment management won’t return security deposit? That’s just one problem at this Revere complex

Gunnar Vincens simply wanted his $1,700 security deposit after he moved out of Water’s Edge in Revere. At first, he got lots of assurances he’d get his money. He’s still waiting.

Wendy Dodek said that while her experience has been frustrating, “maybe it can serve as a warning to your readers.”


Fidelity sent back a $6,500 IRA payment because the postmark was smudged

Fidelity said Wendy Dodek missed the deadline to invest in her IRA because the smudged postmark from the post office was illegible.

Many funeral homes now sell merchandise adorned with the fingerprint of the dead. (Legacy Touch)

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Sneaking a fingerprint of a dead body to sell tokens

A couple days after his father’s death, a grief-stricken man named Eric escorted his 87-year-old mother to a Malden funeral home that specializes in cremations.

No matter what the paperwork said, it was clear Vivian Murphy had been scammed.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

With promise of $1.5m prize, scam artist bilks woman out of nearly $28,000

A Worcester resident who was falsely told she’d won a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes is sharing her story.

Waltham, MA - 5/2/18 - Linda Abrams (cq) took a picture of the booth. Instead of a chance at the $500 Whole Foods Market shopping card she thought she was signing up for, Abrams realized she had filled out a slip for a hard-sell vacation time-share company. (She dug through the box and retrieved her slip.) The booth was set up at a sheep shearing festival in Waltham. Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff Topic: 05consumer Reporter: Sean Murphy

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Beware of that free raffle: It may be something else

Linda Abrams’ eye caught the familiar logo of Whole Foods. But the raffle had nothing to do with the grocer — only with a time-share telemarketer.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Government demands back $1,600 it paid to a quadriplegic while he worked as a summer intern

The government claimed Jared Coppola owed the money because he earned a few thousand dollars as a summer intern in 2014, disqualifying him for benefits during those months.

Elijah Botkin has refused to pay a renewal fee that appears to be illegal in the state.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Watch out for fees when renting an apartment

Elijah Botkin did something few tenants would dare to do: He refused to pay a surprise charge sprung on him by his landlord’s agent.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

At Downtown Crossing Roche Bros., skipping the longer line can cost you

It’s quicker to pay upstairs at the Downtown Crossing Roche Bros. Market, but you may end up paying sales tax on items that, under the law, are simply not taxable.

When Albert Pierce ordered a new key fob for his Nissan, it cost him $347 for work that he expected to be around $100.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Why a new car key might cost you $1,000

In all likelihood, replacing the fob will cost hundreds of dollars — maybe even more than $1,000.

Paulette Renault-Caragianes feels cheated by the RMV. She renewed her old-style license last month, not knowing the Registry was about to unveil its RealID.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

RMV letter offered convenience but led some drivers to miss out on Real ID

Drivers who renewed early at the urging of the Registry of Motor Vehicles will have to pay a $25 upgrade fee if they want the new licenses before their current ones expire.

Patti MacDonald held up a copy of her credit card statement showing a Starz charge from Amazon.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

This Amazon one-click can easily leave you on the hook for $8.99 each month

It has become more and more confusing to order and pay for the video entertainment that comes into our homes.

The towing contractor who stored the ruined car of Nick Attella (above) also happens to be a Sturbridge selectman.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Tow company’s unfair bill has driver on hook for $7,000

Sturbridge officials said a man owed more than $7,000 to the towing contractor — who also happens to be a selectman — who stored his ruined car.

Lower Mills, MA - 02/28/18 - Tom Donahue (cq), who wound up in detention in Rio de Janeiro after Delta Air Lines gave him bad information about visa requirements. He is pictured in his home in Lower Mills. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff) Reporter: (Sean Murphy) Topic: (03consumer)

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

Trip to Rio tripped up by Delta’s bad info

When Tom Donahue landed in sunny Rio on Feb. 17, he was greeted by two grim-faced, uniformed officers who escorted him into a small, windowless room where he would remain for 14 hours.

A package from Amazon on a UPS truck in New York.

The Fine Print | Sean P. Murphy

Amazon customers frustrated by company’s response

Two recent Globe stories about Amazon customers receiving packages they never ordered generated tremendous response from readers who have experienced the same thing.

sean p. murphy | The fine print

‘I just want it to stop’: Women get sex toys in packages they didn’t order

Nicole Slotterbeck wasn’t just annoyed by the “mystery” packages that kept arriving from Amazon. She was frightened. First was the bra — in her size. Then came even more intimate merchandise.

Last month, 11 years after a horrible sledding accident and now old enough to have expensive implant surgery, Victoria Crovo got a new smile.

Sean P. Murphy | The Fine Print

This woman’s restored smile came at a hefty price

After a sledding accident in 2006, Victoria Crovo has required extensive dental surgery. But her insurer is denying coverage for much-needed implants.

Mike and Kelly Gallivan in their Acton home, where they have received more than 20 packages from Amazon — but they ordered none of them.

The Fine Print | Sean P. Murphy

This couple keeps getting mystery packages from Amazon they didn’t order

At first, it was fun to rip open the mystery boxes. Then they kept coming.

The Fine Print

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Sean P. Murphy is the Globe’s consumer columnist, and he’s here to take your queries.