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Fight back Friday: Money-saving tips

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(CNN) -- Hundreds of JetBlue travelers were stranded for hours last week on parked planes. Additionally, more than 1,000 flights were canceled. Is the consumer powerless to do anything about it?

We're calling Friday's show "Fight back Friday." Correspondents Greg Hunter, Ali Velshi, and Gerri Willis will tell you how to fight back if you think you're being mistreated as a customer. Here are some tips that could save you money and aggravation:

Car maintenance

Engine oil flushing: If you get your oil changed regularly, you don't need this.

Fuel injector cleaning: All gasoline sold in the United States is required to have fuel injector cleaner in it already.

Fuel-saving devices or additives: Environmental Protection Agency testing over decades has shown they actually don't save fuel.

Cell phone tips

Billing: Be diligent about having your voice heard. Once you have a customer service representative on the phone, find out if they have the authority to make the change to your billing concern. If not, keep asking to be transferred to someone who does. Also, if within minutes of talking to customer service, you feel this person isn't sympathetic to your case, or isn't being helpful, politely hang up. Call back, until you find someone who sounds like they're willing to help you.

If your provider refuses to assist you, or if you are unhappy with the outcome, file a complaint with proper federal and local authorities:

The Federal Communications Commissionexternal link
State utility commissionsexternal link

And here's another guide on what to do in this situation:

Consumers Union (publishers of Consumer Reports)external link

Service/Dropped calls: Consumers generally have little idea how reliable their cell phone service will be when they buy a phone and sign a contract. The best information comes from word of mouth or from Web sites such as:

Dead Cell Zonesexternal link
Cell Receptionexternal link

These sites list specific dead spots, organized by wireless provider and location.

Breaking contracts: Wireless phone companies must let consumers keep their phone numbers when they switch mobile phone providers. In most parts of the U.S., customers are able to transfer their home phone number to a cell phone, meaning you can change providers and keep the same phone number. But if you are fed up with your provider and want to break your long-term contract without paying hefty fees -- you have two options:

First, your contract may have a loophole to get you off the hook. More specifically, any time your carrier makes a change in its prices that affects your plan, you can ask to be let go. In the past, this has meant increasing a fee or other monthly charges that would add to your bill. The key when looking for that loophole: Check your contract. You'll only have a certain number of days during which you can try to leave the contract.

You may also be able to transfer your contract to someone else. Usually, sticking your family or friends with your undesired contract isn't an option. But there are Web sites that will connect you, for a fee, with people looking to take over your plan.

Contractor problems and solutions

In addition to the cost, time and energy spent in renovation projects, a host of other concerns accompany this work. To avoid problems with contractors, you may want to read the following advice:

Problem: Making sure the contractor is legitimate.

Solution: Before you hire a contractor, you should make sure he or she is licensed with the state. Go to your attorney general's Web site to find the state licensing board. You can usually download a simple contract off their Web site. Additionally, don't forget to check references. While you're at it, if you're hiring a general contractor, ask for references on the subcontractors they use. After all, you need to know that the plumber, floor guy and electrician are all on the up and up too.

Problem: You're worried that your contractor will run off in the middle of the night with your money and leave the work unfinished.

Solution: Don't pay them all at once. Fork out as little as possible to start. Put down an initial deposit of 10 percent to 25 percent. Check with your state license board to find out the minimum and maximum deposits allowed. Then, time your payments to the completion of major systems like plumbing or electric. Also, don't hand over the last bit on the final day. It's called retainage and you should keep it for 30 extra days to make sure everything is working the way you like it.

Problem: Your contractor ran off in the middle of the night with your money and left the work unfinished.

Solution: Contact the license board and ask for help; if you're not satisfied with their response, go to small claims court. It usually costs $30. You don't have to pay for attorneys. You simply present your case to the judge and the contractor will have his turn. If the judge finds in your favor, go back to the licensing board and ask for their help in getting your money. They can pull his license if he doesn't comply.

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Engine oil flushings are unnecessary, according to Mark Allen of the magazine Popular Mechanics.

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