Maybe you've learned this the hard way. You get into a small accident and make an insurance claim - say, one that nets you a couple of thousand dollars after your deductible. The next thing you know, your premium jumps. In the long run, you realize, you may actually come out behind.
One of the small privileges of writing a consumer column - along with an endless supply of "You've got to hear this" tales - is occasionally witnessing something that doesn't fit the script. Sometimes a company will actually come clean about persistent screw-ups, or a competitor will dime out bad behaviors and impose a little market discipline.
Give credit to scrappy open-Internet advocates, Silicon Valley start-ups, and the everyday Internet users that HBO comedy-news host John Oliver summoned into an army of four million commenters to the Federal Communications Commission. Together, they turned the tide on one of the most arcane topics ever to stir the public: Net neutrality.
Pity the beleaguered Comcast phone reps. Sure, their jobs aren't up there with logging or roofing - the kind that usually make lists as the most dangerous in America. Besides, let's be clear: We're talking about call-center jobs that aren't even always in America. Isn't the Internet a wonder?
Nearly everything went smoothly with Louis Moravec and Susan Thauer's holiday-week move from one Philadelphia neighborhood to another. The truck and crew arrived on time to take their belongings from Queen Village to Northern Liberties. The gas and power were functioning at their new home. Even Dec. 30's weather cooperated.
Privacy advocates say they welcome the Obama administration's renewed emphasis on enhancing data security and protecting identity-theft victims, consumers who shop online, and children whose schools sell their personal information.
Imagine a world where you don't have to plug in your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, or even lay it on one of the Duracell charging mats that Starbucks is rolling out nationwide. Instead, your refrigerator sends them power from across the room via a WiFi-like radio signal.
LAS VEGAS - Televisions are getting larger, sharper, and more stunning. Internet devices are getting thinner, lighter, and more offbeat. Everything - from your car to your home to your tea kettle, toothbrush, or belt - is getting smarter and more connected.
Who's responsible when a delivery goes awry? That's been an issue for some luckless consumers at least since the days when Sears, Roebuck & Co. pioneered mail order a century ago, and likely for clients of the Pony Express before that. Recently, it has gained urgency from the growth of delivery-dependent Internet commerce. One day, it may even be an issue when Amazon's drones target the wrong front stoop for a package drop.
Until we all start riding around in Google's self-driving cars, or getting ourselves delivered by Amazon's drones, accident-avoidance systems will loom as the ultimate in vehicle-safety technology. Rather than just protecting people in a crash, such as seat belts and air bags, they hold the promise of preventing crashes entirely.
We love to toast the Internet as an amazing engine for connection, creativity, and growth. We rarely want to dwell on its darker side - the vast cyber-badlands where ne'er-do-wells freely roam. On the Web, you can get away with nearly anything if you have the technical skills to pull it off and the wiliness to stay ahead of the law. Just ask a Nigerian prince - or one of his sorry victims.
Can T-Mobile truly compete on service quality with America's two dominant wireless networks - not just by trash-talking AT&T and Verizon's frustrating willingness to inflict financial pain on customers, but by providing comparable or even better service?
Before driving to work one day last week, I opened Google Maps on my iPhone to check alternate routes. Recently updated, the app requested personal information - my home and work addresses - before warning me about traffic congestion on the Schuylkill Expressway.
Jeff Gelles covers consumer and technology topics for the Inquirer and writes the weekly Consumer 14.0 and Tech Life columns for The Inquirer. He welcomes comments in this blog as well as calls and e-mails about consumers' concerns. Contact him at 215-854-2776 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffgelles.