If you use one of the third-party travel booking sites, you had better be very sure about your plans. Changing plans with one of these sites rarely goes well.

"I called Hotels.com to make a change in my reservation," Ernest, of Columbia, S.C., told ConsumerAffairs.com. "I was told that I would be charged over $100.00 for the change."

Ernest said the agent explained that Hotels.com would be assessed a $100 cancellation fee and there was no way to avoid it. Frustrated, Ernest cancelled his reservation.

"I called the hotel directly and they informed me that the agent was not telling the truth," he said. "I called back five minutes later to keep my reservation. I was told by Hotels.com that I would not be allowed to keep my reservation and must pay the $169.00. Interestingly enough, the cost of the hotel for one night is $89.00."

Travel booking sites make their money by negotiating a low rate with the hotel and charging the consumer a bit more. However, by dealing directly with the hotel yourself, you can often get as good - or better - discount.

Nasty Scam

The scam in which a criminal calls a consumer pretending to be a debt collector, making all manner of illegal threats, is still going strong. Alvina, of Stone Mountain, Ga., says she and her sister have been targets off and on since last October. The bogus claim is familiar - Alvina was accused of not paying back a payday loan and was told she was going to jail.

"When I spoke to him he told me to fax a copy of my bank statement from September showing the money was not deposited into my account and he would have the matter resolved," Alvina told ConsumerAffairs.com. "I did this, however I periodically would receive these calls again from other agents claiming no one name Peter worked there."

Alvina made a huge mistake. By faxing her bank statement to a scammer, she delivered personal information, including her address, the name of her bank and her account number. In many cases, from other complaints we've received, the scammers already have sensitive information about the victims, including social security numbers. There needs to be an investigation into this scam to learn where criminals are getting this information.

Making lemonade

We tend to get a lot of complaints about major appliances, like this one from Bonnie, of Monroe, N.C.

"I purchased a GE Profile Refrigerator approximately three years ago," Bonnie told ConsumerAffairs.com. "It has been nothing but problems. I am looking at about 10 or 11 calls. At this time the repairs are out of hand. I would have taken what they have spent and gotten me a workable refrigerator that is not a lemon.

Bonnie may have recourse. We understand that North Carolina has a lemon law that not only covers motor vehicles, but major appliances too. To qualify, however, some of those multiple repairs must have occurred while the product was under factory warranty. If Bonnie wants to check into this, she should contact North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's office.

Against the merger

We are finally beginning to hear from some of our readers who don't like the idea of AT&T and T-Mobile joining forces.

"I am writing re: AT&T takeover of T Mobile USA," wrote William, of El Paso. "I strongly oppose allowing this merger as it will certainly reduce consumer options and reduce choice. See The Economist, March 26, 2011. I have personally experienced the problems with AT&T services and they are already - pre-merger - an issue from a customer perspective. I just recently had an issue with AT&T services and they were completely inflexible in the response."

William isn't alone, though it's mostly T-Mobile customers who are against the merger. Opponents have set up a website to rally opinion against the deal.