Tom Martino in Studio
|Residence||Denver, Colorado, US|
|Occupation||Broadcast Artist "The Troubleshooter Show"|
Tom Martino (born 1953) is a consumer advocate and American talk radio host. His nationally syndicated show "The Troubleshooter Show" airs from KHOW, based in Denver, Colorado. His show format focuses on callers who give him specific complaints about businesses; he also provides business advice to listeners. Martino investigates the complaints by contacting the other party in disputes when possible; he then gives advice and solicits comments from callers. The show began more than 30 years ago and was syndicated nationally around 2001. Martino says that over the years, he has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, merchandise, and services for consumers who contact him.
Martino's career began at the Catskill Daily Mail, a newspaper in his native New York, where he wrote a consumer-oriented column. In 1976, he began working in radio and television. He continued to write columns for the Rocky Mountain News, but now writes columns only for his own website.
Martino brought his consumer advocacy to television, first at several stations in the Eastern United States. In Denver, he spent 18 years at CBS station KCNC. His most recent television position was with Fox Broadcasting Company affiliate KDVR in Denver, which dropped his show from the schedule in 2011.
Martino is known for his bold style. If he believes a businessperson is acting unethically, he does not hesitate to call that person a liar or a cheat on air. If he believes a business is failing to respond to his investigation, he sometimes broadcasts the business’s phone number and encourages listeners to contact the business.
He is also known for letting consumers know when they are in the wrong and aids them in rectifying the situation and avoiding it in the future.
On April 24, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion affirming the dismissal of a libel suit brought against Martino by an Oregon watercraft dealer. A customer of the dealer had called Martino's show to describe the problems she had with a personal watercraft that she bought from the dealer, and in the course of the on-the-air conversation, Martino said "they're just lying to you." The dealer sued Martino for libel and interference with business relations. The federal district court in Portland granted Martino's anti-SLAPP motion, dismissed the dealer's case, and awarded attorney fees to Martino against the dealer. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, saying that Martino's statement was a statement of opinion protected by the First Amendment. Gardner v. Martino, Ninth Circuit No. 06-35437 (April 24, 2009).
Martino operates the "Troubleshooter Referral List," a list of businesses endorsed by him. In order to be a member of the Referral List, a business must agree to an code of ethics, including an agreement to abide by Martino’s decision in the case of a dispute with a consumer. A business can pay to have Martino personally endorse their product or service on air, though critics say that Tom Martino's status as a consumer advocate is compromised by the money he receives for his endorsements. Martino's website has a lengthy disclaimer stating that he is not liable for the quality of service received from the companies he endorses. However, It is the only form of advertising that offers recourse to consumers through, arbitration, public testimonials, media exposure and public censure and suspension of members who do not measure up.
On his website, Martino states: "Although the Referral List is paid advertising, no members can "buy" their way onto the list nor can they remain members unless they adhere to our strict code of ethics."The Referral List website also addresses the member fee structure, stating, "Members of the Referral List are charged fees commensurate with the feedback and complaints generated in their fields of endeavor. Since we handle any and all complaints about members, it stands to reason that those categories that generate the most work for us will be charged more than those that hardly ever generate feedback... Current members pay anywhere from $1,200 annually for a tiny business in a single category all the way up to $16,000 annually for a large businesses covering many categories with several locations."
Martino also began Liberty Bell Telecom, a telecommunications company, and sold it to Dish Network in 2010.
He was also a real estate developer and a private helicopter and airline pilot.
On 2 September 2011, Tom Martino filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He had borrowed heavily to invest in real estate, and became insolvent when real estate prices dropped. Martino said that he owed about $36 million, although his creditors put the figure at $78 million. The filing was contested when some creditors accused Martino of improperly transferring property into his wife's name, which he denied. After a thorough investigation, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court dismissed the lawsuit tied to Martino's personal bankruptcy and lawyers from First Citizens Bank & Trust acknowledged, "no fraud or false pretenses" on Tom's behalf. After a series of court proceedings, the bankruptcy was settled in March 2013.
On 21 December 2013, Martino was arrested by the Denver police for investigation of disturbing the peace and domestic violence. The assault charge was dropped due to a lack of evidence and Martino plead down to disturbing the peace, which is to be expunged from his record after a year's probationary period.
- Referral List: About Us. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
- Denver Post, "Troubleshooter Tom Martino says he's suing Fox31", 30 Sept. 2011.
- Westword Blog.
- Referral List: FAQ. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
- 9 News, Troubleshooter Tom Martino in bankruptcy dispute.
- Tom Martino's wife loses bid to keep property out of his bankruptcy, Denver Post, 10 May 2012
- Tom Martino arrested in Domestic Violence Charge, Denver Post, 22 Sept. 2013