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Action: Verify that contractor is properly licensed

Q: On July 12, 2007, we signed a contract with Omega Granite and Marble to remodel our two bathrooms. To date, the last 10 percent of the job hasn't been finished despite numerous contacts with the owners Jenny Pham and Michael Nguyen.

One of the workers asked for full payment when they finished the work, which we paid. We were promised that our areas of concern would be addressed.

They never have been.

We filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of West Florida. They merely processed the paperwork and provided no assistance in actual resolution.

The issues needing attention include everything from an improperly cut and fitted toe kick to damaged drawers and doors, to large gaps between the granite countertops and cabinets.

Marsha Schmitt

A: Action contacted the owners of Omega Granite and Marble, Jenny Pham and Quoc Hung (Michael) Nguyen, but we got no response.

Preliminary research showed the company wasn't licensed in Pinellas County for tile and marble work or for cabinetry.

Digging deeper, I discovered the state's attorney has brought charges against Nguyen for unlicensed contracting. The offense dates to October 2006. Their trial date is May 7.

If you're interested in contacting the prosecuting attorney, call the Criminal Justice Center at (727) 464-7000 to identify and get contact information.

Connie Garriques-Sang, an investigator for the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, said her agency also has the ability to bring criminal charges against a contractor found to be working without a license.

The agency doesn't investigate until a formal complaint is filed, she said. None has been, but you can contact PCCLB at (727) 536-4720 or pcclb.com.

Yours is a vivid reminder of the importance of checking the license of any contractor you're preparing to hire. Had you done so, your cost and frustration might have been avoided.

Closures complicate request for refund

Q: I requested a refund from Paragon in Westerly, R.I., a month ago because it couldn't fill part of the order I placed.

First I tried calling the toll-free number provided in the mailing I received. I got a recording saying there was no one there to take the call.

Then I wrote to the West Virginia return address on my letter.

It's been more than a month, and I still haven't received my refund.

Gail Haslinger

A: I'm afraid you're out of luck for the time being.

According to the Journal of Martinsburg, W.Va., Paragon's parent company, BlueSky Brands, closed its doors at two call centers and AB&C Group, its fulfillment center, on March 14.

The catalog company's toll-free number has been disconnected and its Web site is down.

A class-action suit was filed March 25 by the laid-off and unpaid workers. On March 31, a Jefferson County, W.Va., judge ordered seizure of the company's funds and property to cover employees' wages.

If the company files for bankruptcy, you may be able to file a claim as a creditor. You'd have to do so in the circuit court in which the bankruptcy is filed.

At deadline, that had not yet occurred.

Jeweler lingers over ring repair

Q: On Oct. 17, we took an 18-karat gold, citrine and diamond ring to Friedman's Jewelers at Coastal Way Shopping Center in Brooksville to have it resized. Friedman's couldn't do the work on site, so it sent the ring to a jeweler in Temple Terrace.

Shortly thereafter, Friedman's informed us the citrine had been cracked and a replacement stone was being ordered. It advised we might not have the ring back for two or three months.

We have been unable to find out if any work has been done. The manager at the Coastal Way location refuses to give us a time frame of the ring's repair or return. She'll only say she's in touch with her home office and it would contact us.

That was weeks ago, and we still haven't heard anything.

An e-mail to Friedman's customer service outlining the problem generated a response that the district manager would have the final say in resolving the problem. He has not contacted us.

We've repeatedly called Friedman's customer service number. We get a message that asks us to leave a name and number and someone will return the call.

No one has.

We want this ring returned to us in its original condition and will gladly pay Friedman's if the ring is resized.

Charles Dietrick

A: You're a very patient man. Apparently that patience has paid off, since you notified us that Friedman's had resolved the matter to your satisfaction.

You didn't elaborate, nor did Friedman's respond to Action.

That's not surprising considering that the 88-year-old company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late January. Liquidations have begun at 377 of the jeweler's retail locations, including two in the Tampa Bay area.

An additional 78 stores are under negotiations to be purchased by a third party, according to a company press release.

Jewelry can be a hot-button issue. Not only is it valuable, there is often a great deal of sentimental value attached.

The Jewelers Vigilance Committee is a resource that consumers can tap, both before and after a piece is purchased.

The nonprofit trade organization was founded in 1912. It provides information on a variety of jewelry- and gem-related topics, and it also investigates complaints for a fee.

Call (212) 997-2002 or visit jvclegal.org for more information.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. Write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call (727) 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request. Complaints can only be accepted by mail. Send only photocopies of personal documents. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Action: Verify that contractor is properly licensed 04/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 3:38pm]
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