Utility bill deal creates concern Dec. 3, story
Amscot did not approach the city
On behalf of more than 2,000 Amscot Financial employees and more than 2-million customers, I would like to clear up the misperceptions left in this Times article.
First, our agreement with the city of St. Petersburg to collect utility bill payments came after we responded to the city's request for proposal. Contrary to the Times report, no one at Amscot approached the city with this proposal.
Second, with regard to unfortunate and false characterizations, allow me to say that Amscot operates under the most stringent regulatory framework in the country. The net effect of the rules contained within Chapter 560 of Florida statutes is that our customers can go about their lives — pay their bills, meet their obligations — at times and places of their choosing.
Prior to the passage of these laws in 2001, there were well-documented abuses of consumers in Florida. Seven years later, with the law and regulatory agencies firmly in place, those abusive practices have been virtually eliminated from Florida. Amscot continues to be a leader, on a local and state level, to uphold these strict laws.
It is a mistake to assume that Amscot deals only with low-income customers. One out of every three people who live in the Tampa Bay media market conducts business with Amscot each month. All of our cash-advance customers have a checking account; they have to write a check in order to receive an advance.
Finally, allow me to make clear that, in addition to small cash advances, Amscot offers a wide array of convenience-oriented financial services, such as check cashing, tax preparation, free money orders, bill payments, wire transfers, ATMs and prepaid debit cards.
Notwithstanding the mistaken perceptions of Amscot reported in the Times, we are very proud to have been selected by the city of St. Petersburg to act as an agent for collecting utility bills. As we have done for nearly 20 years, we look forward to serving the citizens of St. Petersburg.
Ian MacKechnie, founder and CEO, Amscot Financial, Tampa
Although I am saddened that BayWalk is not doing better than it is, I can understand one of the underlying causes of its struggle.
Until a year ago, my wife and I looked forward each weekend to an enjoyable dinner at one of the fine BayWalk restaurants, followed by a stroll through some of the shops and then a movie.
Parking was not an issue. The walk from the parking structure was not a problem. Even the "rowdy teens" were not an issue for us.
What was an issue, and the reason that we have not returned to BayWalk in the past year, was the gantlet of sharp-elbowed, radical demonstrators that we were forced to endure in order to enter the BayWalk complex. What we purchased at BayWalk can be obtained in any number of places, and just wasn't worth "running the gantlet."
Jerry Rigby, St. Petersburg
One Mahaffey flaw
On Nov. 23 my mom treated my partner and me to a live performance of Garrison Keillor at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.
The theater itself was beautiful! The seats, the acoustics and the sheer beauty of the main theater are a real treat! What was not a treat was the way the parking was handled. Everyone in both directions on First Street S had to enter single file to the parking garage.
No offense, but the parking lot staff performed as if it were the first day on the job. We were concerned whether we would be in our seats by the start of the show at 7 p.m. We made it, and enjoyed the show.
However, if we thought getting a parking space (on the ramp to the third level) was bad, when it came time to leave, we sat in the car on that ramp for more than 20 minutes, because everyone on the first floor, then the second, got to exit first.
I know there is more than one entrance to the garage on Fifth Avenue SE. Why was that not available at least to let us exit? And to think we got to pay $6 for this privilege.
I loved the theater itself. It was my first (and sadly my last) time as a patron.
Scott Kjeer, Riverview
Saturday Morning Market
A friendly place
I am a vendor with the Saturday Morning Market. I already knew we had great vendors and wonderful customers and visitors, but an experience two Saturdays ago proved it.
The day started quite nice, and then around noon strong, gusty winds started taking their toll on tents and products. I was fortunate to have customers in my area when one strong gust came through. No one stepped away; they automatically grabbed the tent (which was weighted down), shelves and treat containers, which were blowing off the tables. One couple stayed for at least 15 minutes to make sure everything was okay.
When the vendor next to me opened her money box and bills started to fly out, her customers and people passing by started grabbing the money and returned everything to her.
On the way home, thinking about the day, tears came to my eyes with the realization of what a wonderful place the market is and how, when help was needed, friends, customers and visitors all helped. Thank you to those who helped not only me but also other vendors. This is what the market is all about — friends.
Robin Wood, St. Petersburg
New homeless: families in bind Dec. 2, story
I also live at a shelter and have for about two months. I came to the Touched By An Angel Ministries after I got out of prison. It hasn't been easy starting my life over. But thanks to Pastor Jeff and Vonda Polhill, I have hope. Thanks for doing the story and God bless.
Jaren Miller, St. Petersburg