After-school care, previously considered an important -- if not urgent -- issue, has become a top-shelf topic for a majority of Americans. According to the findings of a nationwide poll released today, 92 percent of adults surveyed believe there should be some type of organized activity or place for children and teenagers to go every day after school; and 91 percent said it was important to them "personally" to ensure access to after-school programs in their communities.

Conducted at the end of July for the Charles Mott Foundation and JCPenney, the survey also found that respondents specifically wanted quality programs that would provide kids with a safe and structured environment with adult supervision, give them tutoring and homework help, teach them respect for people different from themselves, and practice ways to resolve conflicts with other children. Sixty-five percent of Americans said there aren't enough after-school programs today and 75 percent said they believe after-school programs could have some impact on preventing tragedies like that at Columbine High School in Colorado.

What does this have to do with the average consumer? A growing trend in consumerism is to track the good deeds of corporations and, all things being equal, count them in their favor. Carol Cone, CEO of Cone Inc., a marketing firm in matching corporations with long-term commitments to causes, reports that the specter of corporations taking up good causes has turned the corner for consumers.

Not only do consumers now expect it, and have a more positive image of companies that do it, they also are more likely to be loyal customers of those companies. In the after-school care survey, for instance, 71 percent of adults said that expanding quality after-school programs is an issue that businesses in the community need to address.

Enter JCPenney, which announces today its commitment to quality after-school care for all children who need it with the start of its JCPenney CAN DO Afterschool.

The new initiative will partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and public schools to expand and improve quality after-school programs nationwide.

Oops! Spill a drink on your computer keyboard? Despite a general consensus on Internet sites and at computer store service centers that this is a technological travesty, all is not necessarily lost. Most advise to replace the keyboard -- especially since new keyboards aren't that expensive. A couple recommend shaking it upside-down, or using a can of compressed air to blow out the liquid. But soft drinks are sticky inside keyboards -- as the unworking, sticky keys suggest.

My 6-year-old recently elbowed a cup of soda onto our new Microsoft Natural Keyboard. The computer's error alarm is enough to make you unplug the keyboard immediately, but you need to do that anyway if you're going to take the thing apart. Three cleanings of the plastic-sheeted circuitry inside with plain water didn't work, but something else did: Auto parts shops sell circuit contact point cleaners -- about $17 a can. Radio Shack sells its "Radio Shack Cleaner-Degreaser" for about $12. Spray it on the gummy contact sheets and carefully wipe them dry, then reassemble to keyboard.

Got a consumer complaint? Question? Smart consumer tip? E-mail details to or write Don Oldenburg, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, 20071.