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Jewish World Review April 28, 2000 / 23 Nissan, 5760

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
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Consumer Reports


A full refund after five years? -- DEAR BRUCE: Some years ago my brother ordered a piston for an older car that he was restoring. About the time it arrived, there was illness in the family and many other things were going on that kept him from working on the restoration. Subsequently, he passed away.

I returned the unopened part to the store where it was purchased, but they offered me only $32 -- he paid $75. Even though five years had passed, the package had never been opened. I think we should receive a full refund. I called the Better Business Bureau, but they can't help me. -- N.W., Duluth, Minn.

DEAR N.W.: I was with you up until the time you told me it was five years later. How in the world can you expect anybody to accept an item after that length of time? I think they were extraordinarily generous to offer you anything.

While it's unfortunate that there were family problems, this is of no concern to the vendor. In my opinion you should go back and accept their extremely generous offer.

DEAR BRUCE: We have a retail store that depends, in some measure, on commuter traffic. Awhile ago, the county elected to "improve" the road from two lanes to four, and while I will admit that the traffic is heavy for two lanes, they have taken almost a year for the construction. During that time the traffic has been re-routed, and our business is down to almost nothing.

When we approached the county for some kind of help, they were sympathetic, but they said that this happens in the ordinary course of making improvements. While I can appreciate that, what in the world took them a year to do a project that could have been completed in a couple of months if they applied pressure on the contractors? -- Broke (e-mail)

DEAR BROKE: Boy, I can sympathize with you. Where I own a store, it took the state two years to do a relatively minor road improvement. In the meantime, traffic volume was off dramatically, as was business. I have never understood why government bodies cannot get these projects done with more alacrity. One governor that I discussed this with said that they have to give the contractors a lot of latitude to get the lowest prices.

So, the general public benefits from the lower prices and the people who own businesses on the road suffer great financial strain and possibly bankruptcy. It's a stupid governmental policy that seems to be ubiquitous.

DEAR BRUCE: We own an independent auto-parts store, which, in our part of the world, is on a major road -- although I guess by Los Angeles and New York standards, it's backwater.

The town's fathers feel that it spoils the look of the area to have any type of sign larger then a few square feet, which means that no one knows that we are here. People who were in business before they had these policies have been "grandfathered" in -- they can use their old, oversized signs -- but we were lost in the shuffle. Why should we pay premium prices to be in a high-traffic area when we can not advertise to the people driving past? -- L.P.

DEAR L.P.: Having been a mayor and a councilman in a medium-sized community, I can sympathize with your circumstance. More often then not, people who have no business connection in the community (and sometimes no business experience at all) vote for this no-signage policy so that the road will be "beautified." This is all very well, except that without the signage, people won't know that a business is there.

The argument goes that other advertising will accomplish the same thing, but that argument fails. There is absolutely nothing that supplants the on-site signage. While admittedly it may not be the prettiest thing in the world, there should be a place for every business district where merchants are allowed to use decent-sized signs to attract business. Or as you point out, why in the world locate there?

Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).


04/25/00: Get a homeowner's title policy!
04/24/00: Beware of errors in your favor
04/18/00: $10,000 limit on gifts
04/17/00: Invest or repay student loans?
04/13/00: Beware of Internet auctions
04/11/00: Six percent is a pittance
04/10/00: Married couples should share windfall
04/07/00: How not to blow an inheritance
04/06/00: Get genetic screening for Tay-Sachs
04/05/00: Beating the look-back period
04/04/00: Providing for retirement
04/03/00: Readers disagree on time shares
03/30/00: The road back to good credit
03/29/00: Pre-tax dollars in IRA taxed later
03/27/00: Gambling on business ventures
03/22/00: Old cars as hobby, not investment
03/20/00: Tax on foreign gifts?
03/16/00: How to buy government bonds
03/13/00: Buying treasury instruments
03/09/00: Subcontractors must pay S.S.
03/08/00: Real-estate lawyers are essential
03/07/00: Don't expect compensation for ideas
03/06/00: Too rich for a Roth IRA?
03/01/00: Is time-sharing a scam?
02/29/00: Paying for nursing-home care
02/28/00: Rely on a real-estate lawyer
02/23/00: Keeping child's money safe from divorce
02/16/00: Just how important is a 401(k)?
02/14/00: Shaky partnership buying house
02/11/00: Protection by residential zoning
02/09/00: Benefiting from a reverse mortgage
02/07/00: Ensure your insurability
02/04/00: Absurd community zoning laws
02/02/00: Money or securities?
02/01/00: Can we KO a custodian?
01/31/00: Why sell a home you love?
01/26/00: Everyone needs a will
01/25/00: Will splitting stocks affect rollover?
01/24/00: Should early retirees contribute to SEP?
01/21/00: Strategies for paying off debt
01/20/00: Is 15-percent growth achievable?
01/19/00: Selling a second home
01/18/00: Running from a time-share
01/14/00: Don't be a spendthrift!
01/13/00: Who gets the house?
01/11/00: It all depends on size of estate
01/06/00: Check references before hiring an advisor
01/04/00: Savings bonds a bad investment
12/31/99: Out of state ain't that great
12/29/99: Warranty rip-offs
12/27/99: Checking up on investment handlers
12/23/99: Options good only when company's strong
12/20/99: Capital gains tax sometimes best
12/17/99: Don't give up your nest egg
12/15/99: Small-claims court no panacea
12/13/99: Termite company not liable for termites?
12/10/99: Services provided must be paid for
12/06/99: How do we minimize house-sale gain?
12/06/99: Maximize your tax shelter!
12/02/99: My neighbor won't maintain even a modicum of civility
12/01/99: Long-distance rentals a bad idea
11/29/99: Mortgage strategy A-OK
11/18/99: Students can work and learn
11/16/99: Value is what will sell
11/11/99: Y2K: No big deal for real estate
11/08/99: Real life is tough luck
11/03/99: The right time to cash a savings bond
11/01/99: Slow road for savings accounts
10/29/99: What do you want from insurance?
10/27/99: You have a right to see your tax forms!
10/25/99: Why own a house at 65?
10/22/99: Online fine, but CDs?
10/20/99: Love, honor -- and separate credit
10/18/99: Find the value of your stocks
10/15/99: Property lien prevents trade
10/13/99: Clear up debt, only then tie the knot
10/11/99: If it ain't broke...
10/04/99: Should I stick with the company IRA?
10/04/99: Get a financial education!
10/01/99: Insurance: Not much one person can do
09/30/99: Lost tickets are lost cash
09/29/99: Trusting only one financial planner
09/27/99: Adult children should help out
09/24/99: Tips for first-time home buyers
09/21/99: Use the rule of 72s!
09/17/99: Legal strategy can be a pain
09/15/99: Teen drivers drive up insurance
09/13/99: Always use an attorney!
09/10/99: Whose taxes are they, anyway?
09/08/99: How do I roll over my 401(k)?
09/03/99: How can I work out my IRS payments?
09/01/99: When your company can't pay you
08/30/99: Beware of shady viatical investments
08/26/99: Landlords vary on security deposits
08/25/99: Educational IRAs must be spent on education
08/23/99: Finding out the value of old stocks
08/20/99: How to get an FHA refund
08/19/99: 100 percent financing is a scam
08/16/99: Will I have to pay a capital gains tax?
08/16/99: Thinking about PMI
08/13/99: Short-term mutual funds a-OK
08/11/99: It's your job to shop around
08/10/99: Sometimes, roots need to be uprooted
08/09/99: 'Pre-approved' doesn't mean a thing
08/06/99: Only you can determine your investments
08/04/99: Bank IRA the lowest-risk option
08/03/99: Reverse mortgages good for the elderly
08/02/99: Get the survey BEFORE you buy the house!
07/28/99: Get a lawyer -- it's worth it!
07/27/99: If it ain't broke...

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