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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida • 41

Tampa Bay Timesi
St. Petersburg, Florida
Issue Date:
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mm THE CONSUMER FAMILY LEISURE THE ARTS section AUGUST 19. 1975 0 ST. PETERSBURG TIMES SB Keeping Don't touch that dial Maybe it's your repairman, not your set, that needs fixing tabs on tab after the top pops By PEGGY PETERMAN St. Petertburg Timet Start Writer Progress often has its disadvantages and that's the way it is with the aluminum beverage cans that we ve been taking for granted for nearly 15 yeare. In time, the American landscape es pecially along roadsides became littered with discarded cans and their pull tabs.

The tabs even found their way into the in testinal tracts of wild and domestic fowl, fish and animals. Environmentalists trying to solve that problem suggested dropping the tabs through the slots before drinking the contents and they inadvertently created another problem. DOCTORS nationwide began report ing cases of patients who swallowed the pull tabs, or parts thereof. Beer and "soda pop" drinkers from pre-school on became inadvertent victims. Emergency rooms at St.

Petersburg hos pitals report no known cases of accidental swallowing of pull tabs, but one emergency room staffer did exclaim, "Oh, that such a ghastly habit dropping the tab in the can. My husband does that!" So far, he has been lucky. Others have not. Three cases, two men and a pre schooler, were reported in the July 28 issue of the Journal of American Medical Associ ation (JAMA). The cases included a 21 When TV repairs are shoddy or fraudulent, both the consumer and honest repairmen are hurt.

Though they are in the minority, unscrupulous repairmen do exist and the consumer had better beware. By CAROLYN NOLTE-WATTS St, Petertburg Timet Staff Writer Judging by the 1,523 gripes about television repairs lodged with the State Bureau of Electronic Repair during the last fiscal year, hardly a day goes by in Florida without an average of four or five consumers becoming angry and frustrated. Even stories like these, which happened to Pinellas County residents, don't surprise consumer investigators: A REPAIRMAN checked out a television at one consumer's house and announced that the picture tube was shot. He estimated that it would cost around $175 to fix it. When the potential customer said he couldn't afford it, the repairmen asked if he had a checking account.

The consumer answered, "Yes," which prompted the repairman to suggest that he write a post-dated check. The money part settled (albeit illegally), the repairman toted the TV back to his shop. He promised to have it fixed by the next Monday, but three days late he called the customer and said he had found more trouble. The set needed a flyback or the TV wouldn't work, the repairman claimed. Tack on $80 to the bill.

Then almost a week later, the customer got another call with more bad news: it seemed the set needed a few more tubes, bringing the grand total to $296.60. Gulping, the customer said he would have to write two more post-dated checks. The repairman agreed and returned the set. But when the owner switched it on, the picture was terrible. "It must have been jarred on the way over, I'll have to take it back to the shop for adjustments," the repairman responded.

THE CUSTOMER claims he got the "run around" for a few weeks, was mad be- cause the set was "all scratched up" from transporting it back and forth, so he picked up the TV himself. A week later, the set went "completely dead," according to the irate con- sumer. The repair shop refused to send anyone to look at the television again. Another consumer took a TV that had good color, a good picture and good sound into a repair shop. She wanted the light bulb behind the channel selector dial replaced so she could read the numbers.

When she picked up the set, she was handed a $213.08 bill. The repairman explained that he performed additional repairs which the TV "really needed." One consumer was watching his 2-year-old color television one night when it "bleeped out, just quit working." He called the dealer who sold him the large console. The dealer picked up the set and said he repaired it, but the owner claims the picture was no good, after the set was returned. Besides that, the color was gone, he claimed. HE AND THE repairman talked numerous times, but the repairman never agreed to year-old man, a 22-year-old man and a 5- year-old boy.

Both adults had been drink ing beer; the child had been drinking a soft drink from a can. ADMITTED to a hospital in Chicago complaining of severe, cramping chest pains, the 21-year-old man revealed he had taken a large drink from the beer can and remembered swallowing the pull tab. The pain started immediately. An X-ray revealed the tab which was removed with an esophagoscope. The patient was dis charged after 48 hours.

The 5-year-old boy had removed the St. Petersburg Timet JOE TONELLI pull-tab and dropped it into the can, but evidently it had separated into two fragments because the ring remained within the can. There seemed to be no pain and the tab was visible within a gastric air bubble in the boy's abdomen. After a wait of four days and another X-ray, it was not visible and presumed to have passed from the body. ment" of the entire repair industry and he says "it's still a small percentage," the dollar amount that phony TV repairs costs Pinellas consumers could be quite high.

IT WAS REPORTED by some of the local news media that evidence showing more than $l-million in phony TV repairs had been turned over to the state attorney's office, but Lindgren says this is incorrect. He explained the $l-million figure was "just shop talk," and it's impossible to really tell how bad it is because "a lot more investigating is needed." "The $l-million figure could be a conservative estimate for the rip-offs in Pinellas, we just don't know yet it could be more or it could be less," a BER inspector explained. No matter what dollar figure is finally revealed, the BER investigation emphasizes the need for consumers to choose television repairmen carefully. A BER inspector said there were approximately 270 TV repairmen in Pinellas. correct the problems.

The repair bill was almost $200, and the owner says the TV doesn't work properly to this day. These consumers were mad enough to contact the Pinellas County Consumer Affairs Department. Their complaints were passed along to the Bureau of Electronic Repair, (BER) a state agency established in 1970 as a watchdog over the electronic repair industry. The two BER inspectors working out of the Tampa office are former repairmen. "It's pretty hard to fool us," one inspector said (the inspectors don't want their names used because they think they can do their jobs more effectively if they remain anonymous and keep a low profile).

Because of the large number of complaints referred to the BER by the Pinellas consumer office, two inspectors recently spent nine weeks intensely investigating Pinellas County. Their investigation paid off and they were able to gather strong enough evidence to support criminal charges against several Pinellas TV repairmen. TWO CRIMINAL charges were filed last week against A. Hugh Walker, who operates Discount TV at 8644 49th St. in Pinellas Park, for allegedly charging customers for parts or services that he did not supply.

He could be sentenced to a maximum of 60 days in jail andor fined $500 if convicted of either of the two misdemeanor charges filed by Pinellas-Pasco State Atty. James T. Russell. Other investigations have been turned over to Russell and "there may be others down the road," according to Richard Lindgren, Pinellas County director of consumer affairs. While Lindgren emphasizes that these charges do not amount to a "blanket indict- The 22-year-old man was admitted to a hospital complaining of pain in the left side of the chest.

He had recently been pinned between a forklift truck and a wooden rack. After tests, a lung scan was performed and pictures were also taken of the bronchial tree. Tissue was removed and physicians found the triangular portion of a pull-tab, the sort that covers the slot in a beverage can. The ring of the tab was not attached. UNDER questioning, the young man revealed he had engaged in many beer-drinking escapades in Vietnam where the common practice in the military was to drop the pull-tab into the can to prevent litter.

The JAMA article revealed that it's not easy to identify an aluminum ring tab on X-ray. Drs. Lee F. Rogers and John P. Igini suggested that beer and beverage drinkers start developing the habit of disposing of the can and tab separately.

"The pull-tab could be placed in a pocket, or, if that is not possible, the ring-tab could be put around a finger and then later dropped through the slot of the can, after the contents have been emptied," the doctors suggested. Knowing your rights the best protection A written estimate for a specific job, if an estimate is requested. Consumers should ask for an estimate. A revised esti mate (which may be oral) must be given if actual repair charges will exceed the written estimate by more than 10 per cent. A rea sonable fee can be charged for making an estimate.

A detailed claim receipt for items accepted for shop repair. A detailed invoice of work done and parts supplied. Return of replaced parts excepting those exempt by regu lation (exceptions are usually parts that must be returned to the factory for the dealer to collect on a warranty). shops don't charge anything. Be sure to ask.

MANY EXPERTS advise if the estimate for the repair is 30 to 40 per cent of the value of the television, consumers should carefully evaluate whether the set is worth fixing. If it's possible for you to deliver your TV to the shop, rather than having it picked up and delivered, the consumer can save a lot of money in service charges, Stone said. Some 40 dealers have voluntarily joined the TSDA, according to Stone, and they display a membership sign in their shops. Stone explained members were screened by checking with other dealers about their reputation and talking to the television distributors. Perhaps the most valuable service to consumers, however, is the TSDA's willingness to check out any complaints against a member.

State laws require repair shops to register with the state. The registration certificate should be displayed in the shop and the registration number should be on invoices and receipts. IF THE CONSUMER discovers that a shop is not registered, he should think twice about doing business there. The Electronic Repair Act of 1970 says a customer is entitled to: Experts agree that consumers should follow certain guidelines in selecting TV repairmen, and suggest they familiarize themselves with consumer rights, established by law, in that area. Guy Stone, president of the Television Service Dealers Association (TSDA), said the first thing consumers should do in deciding upon a repairman is check with the Better Business Bureau (443-3217) and the county consumer affairs office (441-8976) to see if any complaints have been lodged against that particular dealer.

STONE SAID consumers should be careful when they shop around for the best price. The old adage "you get what you pay, for" is generally still valid, he said. "If a dealer advertises something for nothing, it could be a plot to get into your home, although that isn't always the case. If the price sounds too low, I'd definitely check on the dealer's reputation," Stone said. The charge for a service call, for example, ranges between $12.50 and $25, Stone said.

Some service call prices only get the repairman to your door, while other prices include the actual work the repairman does. Ask for specifics. Fees also vary for minimum charges and for estimates. Some IF YOU THINK your consumer rights have been violated you should contact the Bureau of Electronic Repair. Their hotline number is toll free: 800-342-2177.

Or you can write them i at: Room 207, Johns Tallahassee, 32304. For the bureau to process your complaint correctly, consum ers must get documentation of all repair work done. Without an invoice of work done and parts replaced, inspectors say it's very difficult for them to act. 5 You should also lodge any complaints with the county con sumer affairs office and the Better Business Bureau. defects, or the defect-history of a newly purchased used car, consumer briefs which is why the experimental hotline is planned.

THE TELEPHONE NUMBER and the 12 states that will A I have access to it will be announced by October. Baking soda for pools 'oversold' i 1 1 1 I The district attorney of Sacramento, has accused man ufacturers of Arm and Hammer Baking boda ot raise ana misleading advertising in "overselling" their product for use in swimming rrwla In a suit filed in Sacramento Superior Court last week, the district attorney ottice said its investigation in conjunction wim a. i I 1 the State Department ot consumer Atiairs louna many pooi own ers who experienced problems after using baking soda. St. Petertburg Timet TONY LOPEZ After you've popped the top of our pop top can, doctors warn you not to drop the tab into the drink.

THE COURT COMPLAINT listed these specific Arm and Hammer claims which the district attorney contends are Motorcycling claim has brakes applied The makers of Yamaha motorcycles have agreed to stop claiming their bikes are safer than cars and to warn old customers they run "a substantially higher likelihood of accidental death or serious injury," the Federal Trade Commission has announced. The case grew out of Yamaha International 1973 advertising campaign which claimed with proper training which Yamaha said it offered motorcycles could be operated as safely as cars. The FTC said statistics contradict that claim. Under the negotiated settlement the company will send letters to 140,000 persons who took Yamaha up on its advertising pitch and joined "Learn To Ride" courses run by the company. THE COMPANY LETTER will tell cyclists "it is important to correct (an) erroneous and potentially hazardous belief." The letter continues: "No matter how thorough your training, in the event you become involved in an accident you will be less safe from injury while riding a two-wheel vehicle weighing several hundred pounds than when riding in an enclosed four-wheel vehicle of 1-2 tons." Auto hotline planned Consumers in 12 states soon will be getting a hotline tele- inside false: That a pound of baking soda per 10,000 gallons each week was needed to achieve claimed benefits.

The suit said smaller amounts of baking soda achieve the same results. That baking soda will control chlorine and promote efficient chlorine use. The suit said baking soda reduced the germicidal effectiveness of chlorine. That baking soda will prevent corrosion of filter systems. The suit said properly maintained pools do not corrode and the statement "attributes non-existent chracteristics or benefits" to baking soda.

Deputy District Attorney Jeff J. Marschner said that for Church and Dwight Co. manufacturers of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, the television and newspaper advertising was "an example of over-promotion of a good product." Women designers becoming fashion forces, 2-D Top Value stamps suffer major account losses, 3-D Film version of James Whitmore's portrayal of Harry Truman to be shown in Suncoast theatres, 5-D St. Petersburg Time Yamaha has agreed to warn customers of motorcycle hazards phone service to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Dr. James Gregory, NHTSA administrator, said citizens often need "instant response" to questions concerning product recalls or.

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