Chris's List of the Best and Worst Companies, People, and Products

I've found a lot of companies and services in this world that are excellent, and found quite a few that are crap, some even thieves.  I won't try and classify every company I deal with and put them in one list or the other, and I won't put any company that just manages to screw up on the "bad news" list.  But if a company is truly exceptional in their services or products, or they appear to me to be consistently and seriously awful, they go on my lists.

No suggestions please, these are exclusively my experiences and judgment.

The lists will grow with time, started June 11, 2001.

Excellent Companies & Products

Data Realm -- Also known as, they host all my web sites.  There are a lot of very bad companies in that business, this one is one of the best. -- Excellent prices and top notch customer service.  They had both replacement and factory batteries for my phone.  I bought a Motorola battery and it died a week later (so much for factory quality).  Now what, I thought, they'll make me try and contact Motorola, right?  Wrong!  They immediately sent me a replacement battery via Priority mail along with a prepaid pre addressed box to send the old one back in!!! -- Disposable email addresses!  Stop spam in its tracks!  And it is free! -- Voice mail, email, and fax on the Internet.  Get email, get faxes or voice mail at your own toll-free number.  Read or listen to all three on the Internet, or hear your voice mail or emails via the toll-free number.  Will page you when you get stuff.  It will even page you or call you on your cell phone to remind you of appointments and much more.  It will track you down at a number of phone numbers, even different numbers for different times of day.  Messages have the calling number even if caller ID is blocked.  The only service I found that can do about anything.  One warning -- they do not really have any customer service; if you have any questions or problems you are on your own.

Long Life Food -- Best prices, good product, shipping included in price -- I hate that when a $35 order turns to $47 after shipping!

Bad News Advanced Power Conversion makes UPS's and other computer power devices, perhaps the biggest brand.

First I had an APC surge protected power strip that caught on fire and lit my whole kitchen on fire.  If I wasn't Mr. Pyro and didn't have multiple water-foam extinguishers ready to grab, I would have lost the house.

Then a few months later I started noticing a burning plastic smell in the lab.  Looked around and the metal cover of an APC UPS was so hot it was melting the USB hub sitting on top.  The middle cell of the internal battery was swollen and almost on fire, lucky it didn't go off like a bomb.

Then two months later a burning smell was present again.  Another APC power strip was close to smoking, I had missed it during the Great APC Purge.  One of the surge absorbers was hot enough that it was melting its way through the side of the strip, and the plastic had bulged out and had turned brown and was about to burn.  This time I sent the whole strip to UL labs.  They looked it over and wrote me it was "normal end of life" for the strip and nothing was wrong.  (So much for UL)

So I use only Tripplite UPS's -- they are real pains in the ass, have the most confusing power switch, but they don't light on fire.  The kiosks I program also use the Tripplite units.

But, alas, some units turned out to be undersized when the units got in the field (not my math) so the customer replaced them with a bigger unit bought locally -- an APC unit, top of the line with LCD status display.  We would have to work with them, which I told everyone was a shame since, one, I had a software driver for the Tripplite and, two, they catch on fire.

So the local kiosk company bought two of the units, one for my test bench and the other for a kiosk they hadn't shipped yet.  They took one unit over to the test bench, plugged it in -- and smoke poured out and it caught on fire.

So, if you have an APC product of any type in your house -- unplug it right now and recycle it in the nearest dumpster.  I suppose you could build an air-tight fire resistant cabinet for it, a freon fire suppression system, or perhaps a small brick house outside away from your house.  Put it in with the dog in the doghouse to keep him warm? I was very impressed with their store, products, and pricing.  But then this digital tire gauge I bought didn't work, and I had to use their Customer Service.

They have this Help system where you submit a help request and it stays open till they help you.  Mine was open for almost a month, not a word.  Then I tried the same kind of system to ask for an RMA.  No reply.

So I directly email, ask for an RMA, paste the order right in the email.  They write back and ask for the order number and item, which are still sitting there at the bottom of the email.

I write back and they send me an RMA -- for a different product on a different order.  I wrote back asking for an RMA as I had requested.  (This is all one, long email, if you can read you can see exactly what I asked for.)   No reply.  I gave up.  $40 wasted.

Staples-- The office supply place.  They keep talking out of both sides of their mouths.  Went to buy a #10 HP Cyan ink cartridge.  They have a deal -- if we don't have your cartridge in stock, we'll give you a coupon for a discount on the next one.  Of course, you need to order this one and then wait.  Probably have to wait again for the discounted one.  But here is the real Catch-22 -- they do this only if they are out of cartridges they stock.  Yes, you read that right.  And since they didn't stock my #10 Cyan, they didn't have it, and offered no coupon.  It was in stock at Office Depot.

"Tomorrow, tomorrow, you'll get it tomorrow, it's only three days away."  Yes, order the stuff online and get delivery tomorrow.  Unless you order too late in the afternoon.  Then tomorrow is two days away.  But we will use UPS drivers to drop it off at about 7 PM after your business is closed.  So tomorrow is really three days away. -- They show a "photo" of each and every gem for sale -- you can even click on it to see it bigger, in more detail.  Too bad the photos are not of the gems they are selling.  Just some generic photo they dig up for each.  Yes, I'm sure they'll say it would be sooooo hard to take real photos -- but then why do you pretend you do?  I bought one gem from them and sent it back for a refund.

Update 12/02:  I gave them one more chance, and they sent yet another stone that didn't resemble the picture.  I have been trying to buy "fancies" -- colored diamonds.  And the actual color means everything in the world.  Generic photos don't cut it.  A yellow diamond is not an orange diamond.

I've found I'm not alone here.  Many people like Mac read this and write:

I have a comment about Nuntiya Care Stone aka Thaigem:
The item descriptions and pictures are 100% false.
He sent this interesting link:

Apparently they think they can save themselves using mumbo jumbo like "chrome-color"  tourmaline vs. "chrome" tourmaline, "clean" vs. "flawless."   And the fine print on each eBay item now states:

Please Note: The picture of this item may not be as attractive as the original item.
Bottom line - they are trying to sell over the web a product in which appearance is of the essence.  And they don't show accurate images.  Beware!

Zone CMS -- This is a telephone long distance company at sites like  Yes, they are a true deal.  But they are part of the new wave in web-based companies that simply don't offer any customer service.

Sign-up pages like have a "customer service" number, but all they "know about" is how to sign up.  Any problems are referred to their web-based help system.  You send them a message, they reply -- if they feel like it.  If they don't, they just mark your question "closed."  Bottom line -- if you can get what you want out of their web-based account pages, fine -- if not, tough s__t.  Yes, I guess it is how they keep costs low.  But good luck if you ever need help.

Update 12/02:  I finally had to give up on them a few months back.  They couldn't charge my card (expiration date had passed) and without a word to me, stopped my service.  I gave them a new card number, they charged to it, said I'd be back on within 72 hours.  Then the days passed, then the weeks.  After a month of no long distance and 14 letters, I dumped them.

I had switched my Mom over to them before I realized they had no Customer Service and -- surprise! -- she just had a credit card problem with them and her service is off.  Don't worry, they said she'll be up within 72 hours.... -- These folks are bad news.  I ordered flowers for my Mom.  They sent her some lame, wilting ones.  I complained, and they'd the nerve to write back that they didn't send the flowers themselves, a local florist had, so they couldn't be responsible!  Seriously!  Gave me a coupon for 10% off my NEXT order.  Ha!

accessoryexport -- Seller on eBay.  Can't seem to understand that people are going to use eBay messaging to contact him.  He's trying to change the word, and screwing about 3 or 4 of us a day with bad product, then no communication, then retaliatory negative feedback.

eBay Power Sellers -- Be very wary of them, check their feedback very, very carefully!  One -- eBay gives Power Sellers certain freedoms to break or ignore eBay rules, screw over the occasional customer.  They make eBay big bucks,  so they let them do as they please.  Two -- even a feedback percentage that looks good can be a thousand angry customers when you sell in big volume.

"Crooks, Liars and Thieves" (also) -- They supposedly let your transfer funds from a credit card to various types of e-money.  They got my card information, they were all set.  Then they decided they a copy of the card and my driver's license.  I told them to cancel.  Then it was OK.  Then they wanted a copy of my passport.  I checked, and they were just stalling me while they stole $500 from my card in bogus charges in London!  Thieves!!!

Cancer Treatment Centers Of America -- Where hope doesn't run out till your insurance benefits do.  They have been forced by the FTC to put on the top of the screen on TV commercials, "You should not expect these results."  And you won't get them, you'll live or die just the same, just with a lot less money.

Here is what the FTC thought of these leeches (vultures?):

IGIA.COM-- Not much they sell that isn't a complete fraud, from the cell phone antenna "boosters" to the teeth whiteners that show the same photo for "before" and "after", just touched up on a computer.  At least that's what I think, or as the fine print on their newest phoney-baloney ads say "Opinion of person."

Update June 2002:  They have been moved from the "Bad News" section (above) to this one.  I have found out that they are over billing people, ripping people off, and their products have physically injured scores of people.  There are even support groups set up for the survivors!  Check out these links about this pond scum company:,2941,100444-53-0-0-20-0-fb_date-desc,00.html -- Serious scammers, beware, you will be ripped off.

If you have Gold or Silver or Platinum to sell, try -- Looks like a first rate outfit, has the money for TV commercials, but not to hire Customer Service staff.  As of 5/2001, their customer service response time -- promised at 24-48 hours -- runs 3-4 weeks -- yes weeks.  They hold my personal record for the worst customer service on the Internet.  How long would you like your site, your email to be down for?

Update 8/2001:  One of my sites went dead again, and this time (after 5 weeks of looking into it)  they told me they are canceling my use of the domain name, someone else wants it, so tough sh_t.  Oh yes, they will keep my money too.  This company is the biggest turd on the Internet.

Glen Burger -- a coin dealer who used to sell at eBay as gcburger and was suspended.  He stole $204 from me; over two years have passed, all sorts of letters and calls and many promises -- no coins.  "Thanks for believing in me.  I am one of the largest error dealers in the nation . I would never rip anyone off."

(410) 239-6425
Angelo Maimone -- This was a guy who as "wesellcameras" dutch auctioned two sets of seven time lapse VCR's on eBay, mine was Item #802559910.  I suspect he never had any to sell, not one buyer I saw ever gave him any feedback that one had been received.   PayPal shut him down, then his charge card processor, then eBay.

I specifically told in writing to not charge my card till he was about to ship.  He just charged it right away.  After some time I asked him when he was going to ship?  He wrote and claimed he had sent my card a refund, but he lied.  I asked my credit card to get me a refund from the fraud.  They tried once and were "refused", what ever that means.  After 5 months of fighting with my bank  (Provident Bank) they finally gave me $290 from their fraud protection program.

So that was my introduction with Mr. Maimone.  The facts:

  1. Ebay suspeneded him
  2. PayPal suspended him.
  3. He was specifically told to not charge my card until he had the VCR in hand and ready to ship.  He immediately charged the card, didn't have the VCR.
  4. He claims to have issued a credit to my card, but has not been able to show me any receipt.  Those charge machines issue a paper receipt for credits just like for charges.  Seems like a businessman would hang onto those receipts carefully -- but none has been shown to me, and no credit from him every appeared on my card.
  5. He no longer responded to any emails sent to him or letters sent to him.  I didn't hear from him till months later when he found an article about him on my website.
  6. He first claimed that it couldn't have been him, he hadn't sold on ebay since 1999.  This is a very bold lie for someone who sold me a VCR on 11/19/2002 and went through several more ebay ID's after that.
  7. He then claimed it must have been some rogue employee at one of his compainies, another bold lie.  I sent him a copy of his correspondance to me, and he admitted it was him.
When someone lies so boldly to me -- and I get reports of the same from others -- they lose all credibility with me,

To read more about Mr. Maimone, click here.

Michael Bellesiles --  The Columbia University's Trustees have voted to rescind the prestigious Bancroft Prize awarded last year to Michael Bellesiles for his book "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture." A panel of scholars for Emory University, who reviewed the book, concluded that the author was "guilty of unprofessional and misleading work," some of which bordered on "falsification." Bellesiles subsequently resigned from the university. In revoking its award, Columbia announced "his book had not and does not meet the standards ... established for the Bancroft Prize," and that Bellesiles had "violated basic norms of acceptable scholarly conduct." The school also wants the $4000 prize money returned.

I've never understood why -- if they really have such a strong case -- the "anti-gun" advocates always need to make things up, or misstate things.

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