News

A New Debt-Collection Low: Taking Lunch Away From Schoolchildren

school-lunch

A “child-nutrition manager” in Salt-Lake City, notified of an unusually-large number of students who owed money for lunch at Uintah Elementary School, came up with a brilliant plan: take away their lunches. Students with delinquent school-lunch accounts went through the lunch line as usual, but when their card was declined at the register, the lunch-room staff tossed their meal in the trash.

Several parents told the Salt Lake Tribune that they were not notified that they owed money for their children’s lunches. It doesn’t seem like anyone was notified that their children would have their lunches taken away from them, either. The school has said it is “currently investigating to see if [notification] guidelines were followed correctly.”

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McDonald’s Publishes a Guide to Tipping the Help — for its Minimum-Wage Employees

From the Atlantic:

McDonald’s had published an etiquette guide on a company website full of advice from Emily Post on how families should tip their help during the holidays. If you were a McDonald’s worker with a pool cleaner, a personal trainer, or massage therapist, corporate had you covered.

For more budgeting advice from McDonald’s, here’s my earlier post with more ridiculous McDonald’s budgeting tips

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Expert Global Solutions Fined $3.2 Million for Harassing Collection Tactics

Introducing his brief post on the settlement, BoingBoing’s Rob Beschizza says “Intimidation, abuse, deception: everyone knows what debt collectors will do to get paid.” That’s sad, but true.

Perhaps EGS, at least, will clean up its act now that it has been assessed the largest-ever civil penalty against a debt collector by the FTC.

Scranton, PA, Outsources Garbage Bill Collection, Gets Flood of Complaints

Sometimes administrative errors cause real problems for real people. From Consumerist:

Typically, the notices of delinquent bills get mailed in late January to mid-February, but this year there was a transition to a new collection agency, which delayed the process.

That same transition mucked up the city’s ability to easily figure out which property owners still owed some or all of their $178 annual fee for the last 10 years. Instead, the collection company was authorized to use the city’s written records to put together a database of who still owed money.

It sounds like they send collection notices to a lot of people who already paid. Residents are pissed, but the city seems to think it’s no big deal. “If a property owner can produce proof of payment, such as a receipt or canceled check, [the city treasurer] will certify that the fee was paid.” I’m sure that will be great comfort to everyone who has kept 10 years of receipts and canceled checks.

Read “Scranton sends out delinquent garbage bills from 1999 through 2011” on the Scranton Times-Tribune.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/3251886214/)

RIAA Celebrates 15-Year Jail Sentence for 5 Copied Movies and 1 CD

The case, which was investigated by the Attorney General’s office and Hazlehurst Police Department, eventually saw King plead guilty to the sale of the five DVDs and one CD. But despite his apparent cooperation, King received the harshest sentence for a copyright infringement offense that we’ve ever seen.

Judge Lamar Pickard in Copiah County Circuit Court ordered King to serve a total of 15 years in jail to be followed by three years supervised release.

Look, profiting from illegally-copied movies and music may be piracy, but 15 years is absurd. You’d get less time for burglary. Here’s the response from the RIAA:

This sentencing demonstrates that theft of intellectual property is treated as a serious crime in Mississippi and highlights the fact that the individuals engaging in these activities are frequently serial criminals for whom IP theft is simply the most convenient and profitable way they could steal from others.

We extend our thanks and appreciation to Attorney General Hood for his leadership in IP enforcement and to the dedicated law enforcement officers and prosecutors who worked on the case.

It’s interesting to see the RIAA say that movie and music pirates are “frequently serial criminals,” since it also acknowledged that file-sharers/pirates are also the biggest fans of its artists, and spend more money on movies and music, in general. Also felons, apparently.

Read “RIAA Celebrates 15 Year Jail Sentence For Movie and Music Pirate” on TorrentFreak (thanks, Danny!).

Gurstel Chargo’s “Accountability Matters” Campaign

For as often as I represented people sued by Gurstel Chargo or sued Gurstel Chargo for FDCPA violations, I’m shocked at how little I wrote about one of Minnesota’s busiest debt collection law firms. I actually know the marketer (a lovely person, actually) who came up with Gurstel’s current marketing campaign, and I chuckled when I saw it for the first time. Accountability Matters as a debt collector slogan is the height of hubris. I’m just grateful I’m here to see Gurstel take its own medicine.

Here’s what a Gurstel lawyer collector told a disabled veteran:

Fuck you! Pay us your money! You can’t afford an attorney. You owe us. I hope your wife divorces your ass. If you would have served our country better you would not be a disabled veteran living off social security while the rest of us honest Americans work our ass off. Too bad; you should have died.

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A Penny Earned, A Class Action Brought

When “fashionista lawyer” Carolyn Kellman returned shorts she bought from Forever 21 for $14.46, she received just $14.45. And sued. As Scott Greenfield observes, although this looks at first blush like much ado about nothing, it is actually a perfect example of what a class action lawsuit is for: small damages spread out across a huge swath of consumers.

(It’s also possible that Kellman was the only person ever shortchanged, but as the article in the Daily Business Review points out, rounding receipts to make it easier to make change is done at other retailers, like Chipotle.)

All Kellman and her lawyers have to do now is find another 749,999 customers who were shortchanged, in order to make it past the Miami-Date threshold of $15,000.

Senators Franken and Klobuchar Still Co-Sponsoring PIPA, but Interested in “Compromise”

According to the City Pages, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken aren’t quite giving up on the Protect IP Act in the wake of Wednesday’s internet-wide protest. Instead, they say they are interested in a “compromise” that will preserve the bill.

Aaron Rupar from the City Pages calls bullshit, and so do I. Even Michele Bachmann is on the right side of this issue, while Klobuchar and Franken remain anti-internet. Then again, this isn’t Klobuchar’s first piece of anti-internet legislation.

(Representative Keith Ellison, on the other hand, actually joined in the blackout.)

What the 1% Do

Another great infographic from the New York Times showing what the 1% do for a living. (Click to visit the interactive infographic.)

President Obama Plans Recess Appointment for Cordray

As part of their plans to grind Congress to a halt, the GOP swore to block any nomination of a head to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. However, according to the New York Times, the President plans to appoint Cordray while Congress is in recess. The legality of the move is apparently a bit murky, though, so we’ll wait to see how this plays out. (Hat tip to ShortFormBlog!)

Edit: Check out Cordray’s first post on the CFPB blog.