Archive for July, 2007

Marvin… Remembered and Revered
July 30, 2007

When my husband and I stopped to eat at our favorite Chinese restaurant tonight, (a restaurant Marvin Zindler frequents so often, the owners named a dish after him) I knew the Channel 13 live truck parked in the lot was not a good sign. During dinner, I felt a sense of dread because I had been planning to sit down and write Marvin Zindler a letter since the day I learned he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately that opportunity has passed; but I do hope this will help you understand my sincere gratitude for the man who has become an icon to this consumer reporter.

One of the first letters I received from a viewer when I started working at KPRC as a consumer investigative reporter was “cc’d” to Marvin Zindler, Wayne Dolcefino and me, Amy Davis. I still have that letter. Being a native Houstonian, I have great respect for Marvin and I felt extremely honored to be in his company, even it was only on paper.

My father died last July at 77-years-old. He was a consummate storyteller, not a broadcaster, like Marvin; but when I think of Marvin, I think of my dad.

He had several stories about Marvin, many of which I’ve always questioned the accuracy. You see, my dad’s stories were not the kind that could be featured on the news. He embellished his narratives so much, it was often difficult to sort fact from fiction. When he was younger, way before I was born, my dad was a reserve deputy with the Harris County Sheriff’s Dept., where Marvin also worked. My dad said that someone called Marvin and claimed that Zindler’s clothing store was falsely advertising the price of its suits. The sign in the window said one price, but when customers went inside, they were charged a higher amount. Zindler’s, was owned and operated by Marvin Zindler’s family. But the way my dad told the story, that didn’t stop Marvin from going in and making a report, warning his own brother that if he didn’t honor the price on the sign, he would have him arrested!

I can’t remember not knowing who Marvin Zindler was. In the third grade, my class took a field trip to KTRK. I remember standing in a single file line, just inside the lobby of the station, when Marvin passed by on his way to a copy machine. A collective audible gasp silenced my otherwise giddy third grade class. One kid whispered just loud enough for our tour guide to hear, “There’s the man with the white hair!” Our guide smiled, and asked “Does anyone know the name of the man with the white hair?” The way I remember this scene, I was the only kid who knew it was Marvin Zindler.

Marvin did come out and greet our class with a big smile. That was the closest I ever came to actually meeting him; but his legacy will always influence me. I’ve always taken great pride in helping consumers, righting wrongs and speaking up for people who have no voice.

Today, with no Marvin to lead the way, I feel an even stronger responsibility to keep his cause alive and going strong, to never lose sight of the importance of helping those in need.

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Consumer Tip of the Day
July 26, 2007

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be a space where consumers could also interact and share tips and stories that might help fellow consumers. Today, I got a tip just like that from Erin Porta on the North side of Houston.

“A tip for your viewers about home security: some security providers
automatically sign you up for additional years after your original
service agreement.

It’s on you to remember to submit a cancellation letter to the company
60 days prior to your original contract termination-and don’t expect to
see a reminder from the company!

Under this scenario I have to pay and additional $300 dollars over the
next 10 months to Protect America (Red Rock) for a service that I will
not be using.

Customer Service agents were adamant that paying for a service I will
not use makes perfect sense – after all I “agreed” to it in small type
over three years ago!

Hope this tip saves your readers some money and frustration!”

Thanks Erin for the heads up! I will make a note on my calendar to write my alarm company 60 days before that contract expires.

Don’t Fall for Fraudulent Fax!
July 24, 2007

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A local business received this fax and was smart enough to stop and think before immediately responding. We called the Texas Department of Transportation. It confirmed the fax is in fact, not from them. TXDOT has now started an Inspector General’s investigation. If you’ve received a fax like this one, call the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General Hotline at 1-800-424-9071. Another attempt by con artists to get your personal information.

Below is the full warning TXDOT is now sending its vendors:

FRAUDULENT LETTER

Attention all DOT current or potential contractors and all contracting personnel

Recently, current U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) contractors and potential contractors have received fraudulent letters purporting to be issued by DOT. These fraudulent letters request that current or potential contractors register in the DoD Central Contractor Registration System (CCR). Please be aware that DOT does not require any confidential information to be submitted to verify CCR registration and that all companies should verify personally that they are sending information to an authorized DOT official before submitting confidential company information.

To date there have been two letters. One dated “1st of September 2002” signed by a “John (no middle initial) Duncan, Senior Procurement Officer” and another dated “October 3, 2002” signed by “David J. Litman”. Please DO NOT complete the requested CCR worksheet that is attached to the letter and DO NOT release any information to the facsimile number cited in the letter.

The CCR is a legitimate government system, however to register contractors should go directly through the CCR website not through a third party. There is no requirement to send information directly to DOT. For information on how to register in the CCR, please visit website http://www.ccr.gov or http://www.ccr.gov/index.cfm

What you see vs. What you get
July 13, 2007

With the ease and convenience of logging onto the web, selecting a floral arrangement and hitting send to make a delivery, I’ll admit I use services like 1800flowers.com and proflowers.com. But I have often wondered how similar the arrangement your loved one receives is to the one you picked online.

Cindi Gilmore answered the question for me. Check it out. She paid 1-800-flowers.com $79.95 for these flowers for her mother’s birthday:

But she says this is the arrangement that was actually delivered to her mom:

When Cindi contacted 1800flowers.com to complain, they offered to come pick up her mother’s flowers and deliver a new arrangment. Not wanting to inconvenience her mother or let her know she was requesting a refund on her birthday flowers, she refused. Then she got this response:

“We apologize for all of the problems you are having with your order. Unfortunately we are not able to issue you a full refund as long as you refuse the florist to pick the arrangement up. We are able to issue you a partial credit in the amount of $15.80. This will be back on your card in 3 to 5 business days. “

So I called the company, based in New York. In less than 24 hours, Cindi got an apology, a full refund, a fresh arrangement of the Daisies she was expecting delivered within 2 days, and a $20 gift certificate for future use.

A 1800flowers.com spokesperson told me they take every customer issue very seriously. While the company’s website does state that the flowers you receive “may be a substitution” and not identical to the ones in the picture, if you are not happy with the substition, you can call the company back and they will send you a new arrangement. 1800flowers.com says it is their policy to get the first arrangement back so that they can guarantee quality assurance.. by looking it over with the florist who sent it.. to find out why it didn’t look like the one that was ordered.

And with that.. have a great week! Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.. err.. daisies!


July 9, 2007

He looks like a nice guy, right?


Apparently one Katy mom doesn’t think so.

Check out her e-mail to this blog:

HI, I am writing to you because i recently moved to a new community in Katy a block from an Elementary school. It was my surprise to find a Registered Sex offender lives there too (walking distance to the school). His offense was with a 11 year old.
Is there a LAW that Prohibits these individuals from get close or at least to keep certain distance from Places that gather kids???
I tried KISD police,the school principal, Constable office and no one seems to care , much less have an answer for me.The elementary School is Rylander and the subdivision I live in is Katy Creek Ranch.
I will apreciate any info you can give me.

We did some checking and found that Mr. Jermaine Pipkins is free to live where ever he wants.
He got 5 years for sexually assaulting a 14 year-old, but his time was up in 2005. While Pipkin is required to register every year so that this woman and everyone else will know of his previous crime, in just about every other aspect, he is a free man.

It’s a common misconception among Texans that sex offenders are never allowed to live near schools or playgrounds. Here’s how the Texas Department of Public Safety answers the frequently asked question on its website:

Q. Are registered sex offenders allowed to live or go near places frequented by children such as schools and playgrounds?
A. The Texas Sex Offender Registration Program itself does not prohibit registered sex offenders from living or going near places frequented by children. However, Texas probation and parole law requires the imposition of a “child safety zone” on a sex offender placed on community supervision (probation) or released on parole or mandatory supervision if the offender’s victim was a child. A “child safety zone” prohibits sex offenders on community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision from supervising or participating in any program that includes as participants or recipients persons 17 years of age or younger and that regularly provides athletic, civic, or cultural activities or going in, on, or within a specified distance of a premises where children commonly gather (i.e. schools, day care facilities, or playgrounds). A violation of the “child safety zone” can result in the revocation of a sex offender’s probation or parole and, consequently, incarceration. This “child safety zone” lasts for as long as the sex offender is on community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision.


Want to find out if there are sex offenders living in your neighborhood?
Log onto the Texas DPS Sex Offender Registry and type in your zip code here: https://records.txdps.state.tx.us/DPS_WEB/Sor/index.aspx