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Longer waits for rental cars

Customers had to wait an average of 19 minutes for a ride on a shuttle bus to pick up their rental cars in 2004, up from 11 minutes a year earlier, says J.D. Power and Associates. Nevertheless, only 6 percent of customers say they had a significant problem with their car rental experience, down from 17 percent in 2003, and 29 percent in 2000. Of individual rental companies, Enterprise ranks the highest in customer satisfaction, followed by Hertz and Avis. Payless scored the lowest.

Looking for a really safe car?

The Acura RL is the only 2005 model thus far to earn top safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Acura earned five stars in the rollover test and five stars in each of four front and side crash tests. Other vehicles earning five stars for rollovers are the Chrysler Crossfire Coupe, which earned four or five stars on the various crash tests, and the Ford Mustang, which hasn't completed crash testing. Six vehicles earned five stars on each crash test, and four stars in the rollover test: Chevrolet Equinox 4X2 and 4X4, Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego, and the Toyota Highlander 4X4 and 4X2.

Psst. Here's where to find Amazon.com's phone number!

Have a beef with a service or product, but can't find the firm's address or phone number? Check out the Federal Citizen Information Center's Consumer Action Web site at www.consumeraction.gov. Many of the 650 corporate listings also include toll-free numbers and the name of a person to contact. The handbook even lists a phone number for the customer service department for Amazon.com, which you won't find by scrolling through the online merchant's Web site.

Here's why you should check your credit report

A group of identity thieves tricked an information-collection company into selling them personal information on nearly 145,000 consumers across the country. The crooks got their hands on names, addresses, Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, and financial information from ChoicePoint, which is notifying potential victims and urging them to check their credit reports for suspicious activity.

To check your credit reports, visit a Web site set up by the three consumer credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—at www.annualcreditreport.com.

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