Dear Heloise: I have read the many letters advising on what to do to avoid telemarketer calls — specifically about blocking or ignoring unknown numbers. Also, I read the hint from a doctor’s office about making sure they are listed in your known numbers.

But here’s another cautionary word: If you are listed as a contact for a friend or relative who has a medical alert system, those systems do not show that the call is coming from a medical alert system. My mother had one, and she listed a neighbor and a nearby cousin as her first contacts. I was listed third because I lived an hour away.

When she fell one day, she told the alert operator that she did not need an ambulance; she just needed help to get up. I received the call, because the first two contacts did not answer. I told the operator that I would leave right away, but to call an ambulance, so mom would not be on the floor for an hour.

Fortunately, when I arrived, the ambulance had come and gone, and she was in a chair and doing OK. It turned out that both the neighbor and cousin had been home and heard the phone, but did not recognize the number. So, they didn’t answer. I only answered because I had made a call to an agency that morning and thought they might be calling back. There was no ID on the number at all.

It is my understanding that these calls can come from various numbers so you cannot put them in as recognized numbers. You’ll just have to answer the phone. — K.M., via email


Dear Heloise: Just read the hint about getting ripped off by a plumber. Poor John. He should have refused to pay anything other than an hourly rate. He should contact the Better Business Bureau and file a complaint. If the state of Washington licenses plumbers, file a complaint there as well. And don’t forget to use Yelp or other rating services. If the plumber was an employee, contact the business owner.

This situation hints at elder abuse, but we don’t have enough facts. It should not go without resolution. John has at least $1,400 coming back. — M.F.


Dear Heloise: Today’s suggestion to destroy books is a terrible idea! Donate books to libraries, hospitals, senior citizen homes, a neighborhood book swap or a book fair. Don’t cut them up. There’s enough concern over banning books, so please don’t encourage cutting them up. — Cathy N., Dallas


Dear Heloise: I have been reading hints in your column for cleaning oven racks or storing them outside the oven to keep them clean. My method is to put a rimmed cookie sheet under any dish that might spill over.

If I think it will get really juicy, I put a piece of foil on top of the cookie sheet under the dish. Then, I don’t have to clean the dirty cookie sheet either. With this method, I never have to clean my oven racks. — Jacque G., Jewett, Texas


Dear Heloise: Mustachio showed up in the neighborhood in Bluffton, Ohio, one summer. She has a lovable personality and made a great addition to our family. — Linda Garrett, via email

Readers, to see Mustachio and our other Pet Pals, go to and click on “Pet of the Week.”

Do you have a furry friend to share with our readers? Send a photo and a brief description to — Heloise

— Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to I can’t answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.