Standing Up for Consumer Rights

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Commentator Ana Hebra Flaster's mother often asserts her rights as a consumer, most recently at a local car dealership.


Here's a story about an American citizen exercising her rights as a consumer. It's from commentator Ana Hebra Flaster.


My mother has been in a state of red alert ever since she led our family out of Cuba in 1967. She earned the right to hypervigilance and action after waiting in so many lines for so long for so little food. In Cuba, what she hated most, though, was the suffocating feeling of not being able to complain. Now, as a US citizen, she lives alert to the world, fights for her rights and never suppresses her thoughts for long. Every night she calls or e-mails with the latest dispatch about a new danger or injustice and how she will make it right.

Tonight her voice fires out of the receiver in electric waves. She nearly brought down the local car dealership this afternoon, she tells me. Evidently, for the last three weeks, the repair shop had repeatedly promised and then postponed delivery of her car. That morning the shop had called again with the same casually delivered bad news: `Sorry, not today.' Mommy, however, felt anything but casual. She was ready to act. She made a sign that said, `I do not recommend ABC Motors,' borrowed a neighbor's car and drove to the dealership. The stunned salespeople and smiling customers watched as she picketed for several hours on the street. Motorists honked their support. Pedestrians stopped to get details.

At one point the receptionist yelled at her from the safety of the glassed-in entryway: `What you're doing is illegal.' `Well, that is your opinion,' she called back. Later, a salesman ran toward her, tossed her a few threats, some ridicule and a sneer. My mother held her position. No pesky employee could silence her, not after all she had endured.

Finally, a shiny executive came out. He said, `Please come inside. Let's talk this thing through.' Mommy looked him in the eye, `Only if you open your ears to me.' In the cool gray of his office, she opened with a history lesson. `I was not afraid of Castro, of starting over again in a new country. Did you think I am afraid of your little shop?' She chronicled her repair shop tragedies. The exec listened carefully as the little immigrant that could chugged through her story. `How can we make this right?' he asked her. `I need a car.' He produced one within minutes, along with an apology. Then Mommy drove herself home.

NORRIS: Ana Hebra Flaster lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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