Friday, August 29, 2014

Sweet Karma Against Florida Lemonade Stand Foe

In this photo from the  Tampa Bay Times,
T.J Guerrero prepares to sell more lemonade.  
Remember that guy I wrote about the other day who has been fighting tooth and nail against a neighborhood kid's lemonade stand?    

Well, karma has reared its head against the grumpy neighbor, named Doug Wilkey.

As I reported the other day, quoting the Tampa Bay Times, the zoning regulators took a look at the lemonade stand and decided no rules were broken. The lemonade sales can continue.

However, in an update by the Tampa Bay Times, the zoning people in Dunedin Florida found problems with Wilkey. Turns out he's allegedly running a business out of his home without a permit. 

Which means his efforts to go after the kid with the lemonade backfired right onto him.

According to the Tampa Bay Times:

"A tipster contacted the city and pointed officials toward records that show Wilkey, as recently as March, listed his Patricia Avenue home as the principal business address for Bayport Financial Services. 

Planning Director Greg Rice said officials were drafting a letter notifying Wilkey, 61, that all companies operating in the city require a business tax license, which  osts about $45 a year, and that home-based business owners must sign an affidavit agreeing to follow special rules."

It's been a terrible week for Wilkey, because his dislike for the lemonade stand went totally viral, and public opinion is solidly against him. "Grumpy" is one of the most common, and nicest words I've seen this week to describe Wilkey.

Meanwhile, all this publicity is GREAT for T.J.Guerrero, the 12-year-old who operates the stand. Because of all the news lots of people have either bought lemonade from him or donated money.

He took his mother out to dinner with some of the extra proceeds. His mom is setting up a college fund with some of the windfall, and some of it will be donated to charity the Tampa Bay Times says.


Online Store Practically Threatens To Break The Knees Of Customers Who Complain

A scummy online retailer threatened this woman
Thankfully, she's fighting back.  
Consumerist, that web site full of stories about retail and service businesses that don't quite understand the concept of customer service, has really topped itself this time.

They're telling us about an outfit called OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com which has a terms of service rule demanding customers not even threaten to complain about it, or they'll pay, pay, pay and pay. 

That's a new level of ridiculous, and probably unenforceable tyrannical terms of service rules.

Here's the "best" part of OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com's rules:

"You agree not to file any complaint, chargeback, claim, dispute, or make any public foru post, review, Better Business Bureau complaint, social media post, or any public statement regarding the order, our website or any issue regarding your order, for any reason, with this 90 day period, or to threaten to do so within the 90 day period, or it is a breach of the terms of sale, creating liability for damages in the aount of $250, plus any additional fees, damages, both consequential and incidental, calculated on an ongoing basis."

That's right, even if you casually threaten to post something whiny about OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com on Facebook,  or something,  and not even bother to post the complaint, they'll still go after you for $250.

This goes beyond some of the other ridiculous terms of service I've written about.   At least those tried to collect only when somebody actually complained, and one of these businesses backed down when the publicity hit, saying the rules were just a joke. 

Unlike some other outrageous terms of service fine print from other companies, this one from OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com apparently isn't a joke or an empty threat to make people think twice about complaining.

OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com went after a Wisconsin customer, Cindy Cox who was unhappy with them.

Says Consumerist: "The company told her in an email that not only would she be hit for the $250 penalty but that her account would be sent to a collections agency, which would 'put a negative mart on your credit for 7 years and will also result in calls to your home and/or work."

They also threatened her with further billing on an hourly basis. The customer said she had the right to contact her credit card company about the purchase, and these jerks responded that she now owed them unspecified monetary "damages" above and beyond the $250.

The customer also got a threatening email that read in part: "You are playing games with the wrong people and have made a very bad mistake given the legally binding contract we have in place. One we have successfully enforced on many individuals, the same we will do with you."

Gawd, this is worse than a plot line in "The Sopranos."

I have no idea wither OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com has actually gone after people like they said they have, but boy is this company stupid.

You know inevitably one of the customers the company abused would go to the media, or the media would find out, as happened here. This negative publicity can't be helping this bad outfit.

Plus, as they often do in cases like this, Public Citizen is helping the customer sue OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com, which will only drag out the misery for the company, and maybe with any luck, drive them out of business.

Scumbags that they are.

Says Public Citizen: 

"The lawsuit asks the court to declare that Cox doers not owe Accessory Outlet a debt because the terms of sale were hidden on its website, are unreasonably favorable to Accessory Outlet and were never presented to or accepted by Cox when she made her purchase."

I'm not a lawyer, but it sure seems to be Public Citizen and their client have a strong case.

Here's more evidence of how bad OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com is, according to Consumerist.  The company  claims to have endorsements from the Better Business Bureau and Angie's List. However, both organizations say uh-uh.

The Better Business Bureau actually gives Accessort Outlet an "F" rating, and Angie's List doesn't give them any props, because they have no reviews of this outfit to begin with, Consumerists says.

So I think this might be the beginning of the end for OnlineAccessoryOutlet.com, which would be a very good thing, based on what I'm reading about them.

That might be happening already. I couldn't get into their Web site Friday morning. An error message said their site was "undergoing maintenance."





Thursday, August 28, 2014

Puppy Gets Head Stuck In Tire. Love The Name Rescuers Gave Him

Firefighters struggle to free a puppy stuck
in a tire. The dog was later named "Lugnut"  
There were some tense moments for a fire crew in Houston, Texas recently, when a frantic person came to the station with a dog.

The black lab mix's head was hopeless stuck in a tire, says Click2Houston.

The worst part of the story is the dog was found, stuck in the tire, abandoned in a trash heap. Thank goodness the Good Samaritan noticed the poor pup and sought help at the fire station.

And I want to smite the person who left the dog there.

Firefighters tried the tried and true soap and water to get the dog unstuck. That didn't work. They tried sawing the dog out of the metal part of the tire he was stuck in, but the saw frightened the puppy too much.

They then tried the Jaws of Life, that mechanism that gets people out of car wrecks they've been trapped in. That did the trick. The pub is on his way to a full recovery.

And the firefighters couldn't resist giving the dog an approrpriate name. He's now known as Lugnut.

Watch the rescue video:




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

For Once, Town Does NOT Crack Down On Lemonade Stand

T.J. Guerrero sells lemonade in Dunedin, Florida,
which has opted not to crack down on him. Photo
by Jim  Damaske, Tampa Bay Times.  
I've seen a lot of weird news about crackdowns on lemonade stands and such in recent years, as towns decide that lemonade stands are apparently criminal enterprises that will destroy their communities. Or something.  

So I have to congratulate the community of Dunedin, Florida, for letting a kid named T.J. Guerrero, 12, sell his lemonade in peace, despite vigorous and persistent objections from a grumpy, mean neighbor, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The Times says this about the cranky neighbor:

"Doug Wilkey contends that the Palm Harbor Middle School student's year round operation is an 'illegal business' that causes excessive traffic, noise, trash, illegal parking and other probles that reduce his property values.

'Please help me regain my quiet home and neighborhood,' Wilkey, 61, wrote.

So far, Dunedin, Florida town officials have not done as Wilkey has wished, probably figuring it's just a lemonade stand, and also thinking about the wave of negative publicity if they shut the kid down.

"'We're not inthe business of trying to regulate kids like that; nor do we want to do any code enforcement like that,' said Dunedin planning and development director Greg Rice. 'We are not out there trying to put lemonade stands out of business.'"

Which is a nice switch. Because there does seem to have been a nationwide crackdown on lemonade stands by municipalities in the last several years. As far back as 2011, Forbes magazine had a rundown of the various kids' lemonade stands shut down by mean old zoning and code officials. 

The Forbes article called the shut downs "inexplicable" and I agree. It seems many of the code enforcement actions seemed to be an effort by cash strapped cities to collect fees and fines by whatever means and amounts necessary.

Hence the fines and bills that amounted to as much as $500 for parents of kids who tried to sell lemonade.

There's even a Lemonade Freedom web site, fighting back against police and municipal efforts to rid their communities of the "scourge" of lemonade stands. The tag line on the Web site is "Because selling lemonade is not a crime."

So it's refreshing to say the least that Dunedin, Florida is resisting calls to shut down one lowly lemonade stand in the town.

Still, Wilkey is persistent. He's tried saying the lemonade stand attracts misbehaving kids who throw rocks and debris and spew profanity, that they might kill somebody selling contaminated lemonade, and that his neighborhood is not zoned for business.

But authories have not found evidence of lemonade stand misdeeds. A sheriff deputy has been out a couple times. He polled other neighbors, who all said they were fine with the lemonade stand. So at last report, you can still get your lemonade from T.J. Guerrero in Dunedin, Forida.

The lemonade stand might disappear in a couple years, though, when Guerrero will turn 14. At that point, he says, he'll be old enough to work as a bagger at a nearby supermarket, which might be more lucrative for him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marrying The "Least Fashionable Guy" On The Planet Was An Excellent Idea

My husband Jeff greets our niece, Poppy
last Christmas in Yankton, South Dakota.  
Happy Anniversary to my husband, Jeff Modereger!!

We got married exactly two years ago today, on August 26, 2012.

Marrying Jeff was by far the best decision I ever made for a billion different reasons. But I have a disclosure to make about him. Frankly, he's one of the least "with it" guys on the planet.

By that I mean, to him, not everything in life is a financial transaction.

It seems that nowadays, so many people will do something only if they personally gain from it.  Gain financially, gain in prestige. Doing something because it's the right thing to do is totally passe.

Not for Jeff. Nope. He actually thinks he should support and love people because they deserve it, not because any support he offers will make him rich. Can you believe that, in this day in age?

This is how ridiculous he can get: He's a college professor, and when any of his students show interest in the subject at hand and want to learn more, if the student needs support, advice, or a pep talk, he's there, willing to help out any way he can.

When any of his students show success, he's proud. Never mind his students' success doesn't make him a celebrity, or a rich guy, or anything like that.  He does it because it's the right thing.
Our dog Jackson leads Jeff on a walk
while we were out looking at fall
foliage last October in
Bakersfield, Vermont.  

Family is really important to Jeff. He'll move mountains to help them. He relishes the chance to visit with them. He loves telling stories of family lore.

Yeah, I know.  We're all supposed to be go-getters, with no time for family. Thankfully, Jeff never got that memo.

Home life with him is the same thing. All kinds of little things. He notes what kinds of cereal, cookies, drinks, food I like and he goes out of his way to get it when he's out grocery shopping. The dinners he cooks are always excellent.

I told him he should take his talent and win on "Chopped" or one of those Food Channel competitions, and win a fortune, but he says he just wants to make me happy.  And he does.

Jeff doesn't tolerate cruelty, dishonesty, shady deals or meanness. Especially against people, or animals who are most vulnerable. Maybe his kindness is as unfashionable as a 1970s powder blue polyester suit, but that kindness sure looks great on Jeff.

Unfortunately, Jeff's dad passed away recently.

His dad, Don Modereger, was a successful businessman in Yankton, South Dakota. His success meant he lived in a nice house and wasn't really wanting for anything.  (It didn't hurt that Jeff's mom, Lois Modereger, worked really hard with the business, her family and community too.)

But Don Modereger and the rest of the family didn't --and don't -- live extravagantly. That's largely because he gave back to the community, donating time and money to those who didn't have as much as he did.  Don Modereger was thoughtful, and kind, and gregarious. Jeff's like that too.

Jeff eulogized his dad, and talked about how his father thought it was important to support your neighbors, your community, people who could use a helping hand.   Jeff said his father brought people together, and made Yankton a better place, and that is his father's biggest and best legacy.  
Jeff shares a moment with his mom, Lois
Modereger, in Yankton, South Dakota
earlier this year.  

Jeff actually said this in public!! Jeff was actually saying profits and money aren't the most important thing in the world!  That being a decent human being is the most important thing a person can do.

How retro!!

It's funny. I constantly hear so many of his current and former students talk about how much they appreciate Jeff for all his help and support over the years. They tell him his help made them the success they are.  They love him, and think the world of him.

At his father's memorial service in South Dakota, so many people showed up to remember him that it caused a traffic jam outside the funeral home.

Don Modereger's friendliness and generosity and humor,  the kind of template Jeff uses to live his own life, seems to have gotten a huge reception in Yankton and the rest of the world.

As for me, I guess I'm out of step, too.  I don't care that Jeff doesn't have a ruthless bone in his body. That he's not going to step on anybody else to get ahead. That he actually cares how people are doing. That he thinks about other people's perspective before acting. That he's kind, and generous and funny as hell.

Maybe Jeff is on to something.  Maybe he isn't so retro. Maybe Jeff's so called old fashioned approach to life is actually fashion forward. Something everyone wants to, or should emulate.

Jeff makes me suspect that maybe the "Get Ahead At Any Cost" ethos that is the way we're "supposed" to act in this modern world is a sham.  Maybe he's actually a trend setter. I sure hope so.

I do know Jeff's attitude makes me less cynical of the world around me.  With him around, I'm that much less suspicious the world is out to scam me. There are perfect, decent people in the world. Jeff proves that to me every day by being one.

There are a zillion reasons why I love Jeff. His sense of humor, his love, his looks, his intelligence, his quick wit.

But after two years of marriage, the thing I love most about Jeff is how he is slowly changing me, day by day. I watch how he lives, his sense of morals and his decency.  Believe me, I'm taking notes as I watch him, and try to absorb it.

And that's why I think the "unfashionable" Jeff Modereger is actually maybe the most chic person in the world.  I hope everyone adopts Jeff's "look."

I know I'm trying it on for size. It's a good fit.

So Jeff, Happy Anniversary, and I pray for many, many more years together. I'm so lucky!!!



Monday, August 25, 2014

At Least The California Napa Earthquake Improved Skateboarding

Skateboarding on earthquake damaged
streets in California. 
I hate to make light of a disaster like Sunday's earthquake in Napa Valley, California, the one that injured dozens of people and caused such widespread damage.

But there was one teeny, tiny bright side to the quake.

The tremors buckled a lot of streets in the area. On one street, the newly heaved and crooked pavement provided an excellent new skate park for boarders.

Watch:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Great, But Hideous, Illegal And Mean Business Idea: Steal Library Books; Sell 'Em Online

Police say they hope to soon
  catch the moron stealing books
from libraries and selling them
on the Internet  
Here's a business idea for people who have no sense of morals or decency, and don't like little obstructions like breaking the law.  

Some idiot in Pennsylvania has been stealing books from libraries, then selling them online, says Consumerist and CBS Pittsburgh.

CBS Pittsburgh reported at least $6,000 in popular and bestselling books had been stolen from the Cooper Siegel Library in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania.

The books are apparently being sold over the Internet, says CBS Pittsburgh.

The thief has apparently figured out how to bypass library security.

Nothing like denying people the ability to read the books they want from the library if it means fun and profit, no?  Not if there's money to be made.

The thief is a special kind of jerk. If we're all lucky, maybe he's allergic to the ink in the books and will get very sick.

I  can dream, can't I?

Wouldn't people who buy the stolen books online know they were stolen online? Not necessarily, says Consumerist: 

"Libraries get rid of excess and no longer popular books all the time. Sometimes they're sold in book sales, sometimes recycled, sometimes given away. If the thief has a stamp that says 'DISCARDED' and stamped up the stolen books with it, as libraries do when they purge their collections, no customers would suspect anything.

Library books usually contain concealed magnetic or RFID anti-theft devices, and the thief is either removing these or leaving through an alternate exit."

 The good news is police say they think they know who's stealing the books and hope to arrest him soon. The guy reportedly already has a pretty substantial criminal record.