Forget Those Booster Seats When Flying

FLYING SAFE: For several years now, parents have been using government-approved booster seats to keep toddlers safe aboard airliners. But safety experts now say the boosters can be dangerous; United Airlines and the Assn. of Flight Attendants are urging parents not to use them.

Boosters are hard platforms that toddlers sit on. They have lap belts but no seat backs, unlike automobile safety seats designed for babies. In an accident, experts said, aircraft seat backs will collapse forward on the child sitting in an elevated booster. A child’s head or torso could be crushed.

While a child not using a booster can also get hurt, researchers believe the booster increases the risks. “We don’t like the way it appears to sandwich the child,” said Frank Deweese, a Federal Aviation Administration researcher involved in testing the seats.

The FAA said it permits boosters on planes--despite its own research--because it automatically certifies any child restraint that the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration approves for cars. The boosters are safe in cars because automobile seats do not collapse forward.


And since the boosters are government-approved, every major airline permits parents to use them. “The FAA is supposed to protect passengers,” said Chris Witkowski, health and safety director for the Washington-based Assn. of Flight Attendants. So why, he wonders, does the agency allow children to use booster seats?

CHECKING IT OUT: California financial institutions boosted checking account fees last year while trimming rates paid on interest-bearing accounts, a new survey has found.

Consumer Action of San Francisco said that a third of the 38 financial institutions surveyed raised fees, while many of them slashed rates paid on checking accounts with balances of $1,000 or more.

The survey found that 30 institutions now pay 3.25% interest or less; last year, the same 30 paid 4% or more.

Consumer Action Executive Director Ken McEldowney said the survey supports his long-held contention that banks and savings and loans, “desperate for ways to offset bad business decisions,” are bolstering profits at the expense of their customers. Janet Lamkin, a spokeswoman for the California Bankers Assn. commented: “That’s just rhetoric.”

You can get a free copy of the survey by sending a stamped (52 cents), self-addressed business-size envelope to Consumer Action Checking Survey, 116 Montgomery St., Suite 233, San Francisco, Calif. 94105.

TRADE-INS: Anxious to boost sluggish sales, some retailers are offering discounts to consumers who trade in old clothes, electronic equipment and other items.

This month, for example, some Macy’s stores are offering customers who trade in old video cameras $100 off the price of a new one. Chicago-based Hartmarx Corp., operator of Silverwoods and other high-end apparel chains, is taking $50 off the price of new garments for customers who trade in old clothes at stores in Chicago, New York and other eastern cities. And AT&T; is offering 15% off the price of a new phone to people who trade in an old one at its phone centers.


Phil Johnson, a retail consultant with Leo J. Shapiro Associates in Chicago, said trade-in deals aren’t likely to boost sales much. “People realize these stores don’t offer the best prices in town,” he said.

UPDATE: Six weeks ago we told you about Conrad Germain, a self-styled West Hollywood astrologer who disappointed some customers by failing to provide them winning lottery numbers for a $10 fee. Germain’s lawyer, Stephen C. Phillips of the Century City firm of Shapiro, Posell & Close, said it is Germain’s policy to provide refunds to dissatisfied customers. Germain, he said, wants to hear from them.

This should come as good news to the 272 people from as far away as Virginia, Indiana and New Jersey who complained to U.S. postal inspectors in Los Angeles that Germain owed them refunds totaling $2,258.