As we turn the page to 2019, we wanted to look back one last time at our favorite Don’t Waste Your Money segments of 2018.
It was a year of helping consumers in need, finding the best products, keeping Cincinnati families safe from hackers and spying eyes and trying to find out what big surprise Kings Island may soon have in store for us.
Surprise medical bills, again and again
2018 started with a new baby and an unexpected $1,000 medical testing bill for Sarah Hayes of Anderson Township.
"I could not believe it," she said. "I owed them $1,175 for a test."
The bill was for a newborn hearing screening test not covered by her insurance. Hayes said she would not have approved the fee.
After WCPO got involved, we were able to get the hospital to drop the $1,000 charge and advised new parents to dispute any unexpected charges, instead of accepting them and paying the bill.
Charlene Rack of Monfort Heights was also hit with an unexpected medical bill: a $300 fee for a "free" mammogram in a mobile mammogram van.
"I figured I was OK because of the advertising, of the word free and no strings attached, no small print, nothing," she said.
However, Rack doesn't have traditional insurance. She belongs to a Christian health share ministry, and the provider would not recognize her as insured.
We were able to get her $300 bill dropped and cautioned everyone that although Christian health sharing groups can be a good option for families and may save money compared to traditional insurance, they may not cover routine checkups.
Car complaints, we got 'em
Next to medical billing, car trouble was our viewers' top complaint of 2018. Unfortunately, WCPO receives so many auto repair complaints (often involving a used car that broke down soon after the sale), that we have to refer many people to the Better Business Bureau for help.
However, when it is a serious safety issue, we try to step in. Among those with a safety problem who we assisted: Alecia Grant of Harrison, whose 2016 Ford Fusion started rolling on its own with her two young children inside.
"I went to put my car in park, and my car started to roll backwards," she said.
Fusions are under recall for defective shifters, but her dealer didn't have substitute parts yet. After we visited the dealer, they agreed to give Alecia a temporary repair at no charge.
Consumer investigations: 5G towers, spy cameras
Our 2018 consumer investigations included a look at the controversy over the 5G mini cell towers that are popping up on telephone poles across the country, in some cases right outside bedroom windows.
Andrew and Anna Steele are among those fighting 5G towers in Greenhills, Ohio, north of Cincinnati.
"For me, I'd rather not be the guinea pig," Anna said. "That would be horrible. Also, do we really even need it?"
Greenhills officials could not even find out who was installing the towers and where they are going. Recent FCC rules allow for very little public input.
We also investigated spy cameras in vacation rentals after reports of some Airbnb owners setting up hidden cameras in their homes.
Cincinnati-based electrical engineer and micro camera expert Brandon Schamer showed us how mini cameras can be hidden in an air conditioning vent, a plant and even a stuffed animal in a bedroom.
He now scans bedrooms with his cell phone flashlight to look for tiny lenses as soon as he checks in, taking a very close look at smoke detectors and motion sensors for alarms.
It gives him peace of mind when he rolls down the covers for a night's sleep.
Great deals and savings
We also helped viewers save money with many stories, including our annual Black Friday preview reports, where WCPO.com was one of the first media outlets in the nation to post the Best Buy and Walmart Black Friday ads, moments after their release in November.
The most enjoyable money saving report for everyone at WCPO was our $99 wedding dress test.
We found some $100 wedding gowns at JCPenney that made our producer Sarah look like a princess.
"I didn't know it could be just $100 and still look like this, still look like a nice dress," she said, while modeling the inexpensive gown.
Kings Island changes
Finally, the most clicked on Don’t Waste Your Money stories of 2018 were our series of reports on possible changes coming to Kings Island.
We were first to report that Firehawk would most likely be coming down, possibly to be replaced by a giant new coaster.
We showed how that land -- if Firehawk would be removed -- could then be combined with the old Dinosaurs Alive exhibit space right, resulting in a a huge area of land to build a giant giga coaster (300 feet tall, higher than Diamondback). Coaster enthusiast forums say Kings Island is likely planning to announce a new coaster in the next 12 months.
Kings Island confirmed our suspicions about Firehawk coming down a week later, reported in our story, a farewell to Firehawk.
As for a new giga coaster, the park has made no announcement yet, but stay tuned in 2019.
The new year
So what is coming in 2019?
It's up to you. We rely on viewers to supply most of our consumer ideas and suggestions.
Feel free to get in touch with WCPO.
Although we can't help everyone who calls and emails (typically getting 20 requests a day for consumer assistance), we are always happy to offer tips and suggestions. That way, you don’t waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
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