Monthly Archives: June 2015

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Complaints Against Cleaners Not A Wash

An angry customer says cheap cleaners left him with an expensive mess. He gets a settlement but only after Fact Finders shows up.

Customer Wayne Hudson says,” I’ve called every day.” Hudson says for two weeks he tried to get Any Garment Cleaners near 120th and Center to come clean on how eight cheap jerseys of his shirts came back with stains. Two damaged beyond repair. Hudson says,” I wonder how? Somebody had to have left a pen in a pocket.”

Hudson took our Fact Finders camera into the store to demand answers. Inside he asks” Is there any other supervisor here now? So you don’t want to be recorded? Okay, I’ll be back.”

Within hours of taking a camera to the cleaners to press for answers about the condition of the shirts, the owner called the customer offering a settlement. Hudson eventually gets a check for three hundred dollars. Hudson says, “Two weeks and no phone calls back but once you showed up then he calls and wants to work something out.”

But the Better Business Bureau has enough other customer complaints to give Any Garment Cleaners near 120th and Center and “F”rating. BBB President Jim Hegarty says,” It’s the non responsiveness and the non cooperativeness of the cleaner that’s most concerning to us.”

The same time one customer confronts employees another says he ripped them after getting back a torn shirt. Papa Mensah says,” I told them I didn’t bring my shirt in your store like this. I asked for the manager and they say he’s not available.”

After finding his 80 dollar European shirt ripped the customer of Any Garment Cleaners near 120th and Center is hot under the collar that he took there to be cleaned.

Our fact finders camera shows a business card being handed to a store manager but so far no response from the owner of “any garment cleaners” near 120th and Center. Numerous phone calls to the business haven’t been answered.

Complaints about automated calls up sharply

WASHINGTON (AP) So much for silence from telemarketers at the cherished dinner hour, or any other hour of the day.

Complaints to the government are up sharply about unwanted phone solicitations, raising questions about how well the federal “do not call” registry is working. The biggest category of complaint: those annoying prerecorded pitches called robocalls that hawk everything from lower credit card interest rates to new windows for your home.

Robert Madison, 43, of Shawnee, Kan., says he gets automated calls almost daily from “Ann, with credit services,” offering to lower his interest rates.

“I am completely fed up,” Madison said in an interview. “I’ve repeatedly asked them to take me off their call list.”

“When I started pushing back they became belligerent every time,” Madison said when contacted this week by Call For Action.

Madison, who works for a software company, says his phone number has been on the do not call list for years. Since he hasn’t made any progress getting “Ann” to stop calling, Madison has started to file complaints about her to the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the list.

Amid fanfare from consumer advocates, the federal do not call list was put in place nearly a decade ago as a tool to limit telemarketing sales calls to people who didn’t want to be bothered. The registry has more than 209 million phone numbers on it. That’s a significant chunk of the country, considering that there are about 84 million residential customers with traditional landline phones and plenty more people with cellphone numbers, which can also be placed on the list.

Telemarketers are supposed to check the list at least every 31 days for numbers they can’t call. But some are calling anyway, and complaints about phone pitches are climbing even as the number of telemarketers checking the registry has dropped dramatically.

Government figures show monthly robocall complaints have climbed from about 65,000 in October 2010 to more than 212,000 this April. More general complaints from people asking a telemarketer to stop calling them also rose during that period, from about 71,000 to 182,000.

At the same time, fewer telemarketers are checking the FTC list to see which numbers are off limits. In 2007, more than 65,000 telemarketers checked the list. Last year, only about 34,000 did so.

Despite those numbers, the FTC says the registry is doing an effective job fighting unwanted sales calls.

“It’s absolutely working,” Lois Greisman, associate director of the agency’s marketing practices division, said in an interview with The Associated Press. But, she said, “the proliferation of robocalls creates a challenge for us.”

Greisman said prerecorded messages weren’t used as a major marketing tool in 2003, when the registry began. “In part because of technology and in part because of greater competitiveness in the marketplace, they have become the marketing vehicle of choice for fraudsters,” she said.

For people trying to scam people out of their money, it’s an attractive option. Robocalls are hard to trace and cheap to make.

With an autodialer, millions of calls can be blasted out in a matter of hours, bombarding people in a struggling economy with promises of debt assistance and cheap loans. Even if a consumer does not have a phone number on the do not call list, robocalls are illegal. A 2009 rule specifically banned this type of phone sales pitch unless a consumer has given written permission to a company to call.

Political robocalls and automated calls from charities, or informational robocalls, such as an airline calling about a flight delay, are exempt from the ban. But those exemptions are being abused, too, with consumers complaining of getting calls that cheap jerseys begin as a legitimate call, say from a charity or survey, but then eventually switch to an illegal telemarketing sales pitch.

Robocalls can be highly annoying to consumers because they’re hard to stop. Fraudsters use caller ID spoofing so that when a person tries to call back the robocaller, they get a disconnected number or something other than the source of the original call.

The best thing people can do when they get an illegal robocall is to hang up. Do not press “1” to speak to a live operator to get off the call list. If you do, the FTC says, it will probably just lead to more robocalls. The caller will know you’re there and willing to answer, and may continue to call.

The FTC says people can also contact their phone providers to ask them to block the number. But be sure to ask whether they charge for that. Telemarketers change caller ID information often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will soon change.

The industry says most legitimate telemarketers don’t utilize robocalls to generate sales.

“They give a bad name to telemarketers and hurt everybody,” says Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at Direct Marketing Association, a trade group.

Cerasale says the do not call list has resulted in telemarketers making far fewer cold calls to random people. Instead, he says, marketers have shifted to other methods of reaching people, such as mail, email or targeted advertisements on websites. That, he said, could be one of the reasons that the number of telemarketers checking the registry has dropped so sharply.

In light of the increased complaints, the FTC is stepping up efforts to combat robocalls. It recently released two consumer videos to explain what robocalls are and what to do about them. It also announced an October summit to examine the problem and explore the possibility of emerging technology that might help trace robocalls and prevent scammers from spoofing their caller ID.

Enforcement is another tool. The FTC has brought cases against about a dozen companies since 2009, including Talbots, DirecTV and Dish Network. The cases have yielded $5.6 million in penalties.

The agency said this month that it was mailing refund checks to more than 4,000 consumers nationwide who were caught up in a scam where the telemarketer used robocalls from names like “Heather from card services” to pitch worthless credit card rate reduction programs for an up front fee. Checks to consumers range from $31 to $1,300 depending on how much was lost.

Madison sent the FTC a tweet telling the federal agency about the calls he receives. The agency responded stating it is cracking down on this illegal practice. also received a link to learn more about robocalls and file a complaint.

Complaint filed in Niagara Falls over anonymous political robocall

The former head of the Niagara Falls Republican Party has joined local attorney and former Falls School Board member Johnny Destino in filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission about an anonymous robocall that criticized Destino and his bid to secure a position under Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration.

Former GOP Chairman Bob Krause and Destino filed a formal complaint with the FCC last month. They requested that the agency look into the source of the call and the funding behind it. Krause described the prerecorded message as the latest in a recurring pattern of similar anonymous political robocalls dating back several years.

The prerecorded call, placed to area voters in April, questioned Destino’s interest in a $62,000 per year director of information management systems position inside city hall.

The telephone message, placed by an unidentified caller, said:

“Niagara Falls has major problems crumbling cheap jerseys roads, no jobs and even residents who can’t simply turn on a faucet and get water. Our city is going to pieces. But rather than fixing the problems, Mayor Dyster is wasting $62,000 on a patronage position in city government that he had just eliminated a few months ago. Worse yet, according to the Buffalo News, failed politician Johnny Destino appears to be in line for the cushy job. That’s right, Dyster would rather take care of a crony like Destino than make sure people have water in their houses.”

The message encouraged listeners to call the mayor’s office to make sure Dyster spends tax dollars on “fixing problems, not for friends like Johnny Destino.”

In response to questions from the Niagara Gazette, a spokesperson for the Federal Communications Commission said current federal rules require callers to be identified at the beginning of a prerecorded message and that a telephone number for the caller should be provided during or after the message. The rules apply to all prerecorded calls, regardless of content and would include political calls, according to the FCC representative. (See sidebar.)

Krause believes the Destino robocall was in violation of FCC standards, adding that it is only the latest in a line of similar calls made without attribution to area voters for several years now.

Krause said he could not be certain who was responsible for the call or any of the others, which is why he and Destino sought help from the FCC in getting to the source.

“They have attacked other people in the same way,” Krause said. “Whoever they feel they can abuse, they do.”

The Destino robocall followed allegations made publicly by the Falls Republican Committee that the MIS position inside city hall was political in nature. Falls Republicans suggested the job was created by Dyster’s administration specifically for Destino as a favor to the former Republican turned Democrat who took on current state Sen. Rob Ortt, R North Tonawanda, in an unsuccessful senatorial bid last year.

Dyster has insisted that there was no favoritism displayed during the interview process for the MIS director job, noting that several candidates were considered, including Destino. Last week, Dyster’s administration announced the appointment of Joseph Morock Jr. as the city’s new director of management information services.

Current Niagara Falls Republican Party Chairman Vince Sandonato said his committee “had nothing to do” with the Destino robocall. Sandonato acknowledged that the committee has conducted robocalls in the past, adding that he believes they serve a purpose in allowing candidates or committees to provide voters with information on issues of importance.

He insisted all prerecorded calls coordinated by his committee have included references to them being funded by either himself as party chairman or by the Falls Republican party as a whole. He characterized the filing of a complaint with the FCC by Krause and Destino as an attempt to “score cheap political points” in an election year.

“It’s just finger pointing at this point,” Sandonato said.

Destino received confirmation on April 20 that his complaint had been received by the FCC.

The response indicates that the “complaint provides the commission with valuable information” that is used to “spot trends and practices that warrant investigation and enforcement action.” It also indicates that the FCC does not provide individuals who file complaints with any additional updates when it comes to information about specific complaints.

Prerecorded calls continue to be commonly used by candidates and campaign committees not just in Niagara County, but across the country. They are generally inexpensive, often costing just pennies per call.

Locally, robocalls that are political nature have been something of a mixed bag with some including attribution and call back numbers and others lacking in either one or both areas.

Dyster said criticism comes with the territory when you are running for office, however he believes those who are being critical should be expected to play by the rules.

“It’s obvious to me that there’s been a lot of money flowing around Western New York politics, and Niagara County politics in particular, that never gets attributed to a source,” Dyster said.

“I think these people are bold and arrogant and act with impunity as if they can’t be punished and I hope they are wrong,” he added.

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