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Cargo hold stowaways

A friend who just returned from Hawaii feels she may have brought back live souvenirs _ cockroaches _ in her luggage.

Can these insects survive in the cargo hold of a plane from Hawaii to the mainland? T.O.

Response: They would not only survive in the cargo hold, that may be where your friend picked them up.

According to Carl Kole, a spokesman for United Airlines, most airlines don't like to talk about it but bug infestations in passenger cabins are common for planes that land in warm climes like Hawaii or the Far East (or Florida). And it is not unusual to find them in the cargo holds, he said.

Bugs board the plane along with luggage and other freight or even with the passengers. Serving food on the planes adds to the problem.

When an employee reports seeing a cockroach, the plane is sprayed on its next overnight layover, Kole said. In fact, he said, the big issue in places like Australia and New Zealand, which don't want people bringing unwanted pests into their countries, is whether airplane cabins can be sprayed while the passengers are still on board.

Insects can survive trips in a plane's cargo hold because the hold is pressurized and kept at temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees, Kole said. Otherwise animals couldn't travel there. Neither could fresh flowers or other sensitive cargo.

Sad sod

On May 3 P/C Miller Inc. of Spring Hill installed 2,800 square feet of Floratam sod on my lawn. It cost me $588. The sod was kind of brown and dead-looking but the man assured me that with good watering it would be green and grow well.

After four months the yard is full and green _ but what I've got is 75 percent weeds and 25 percent unidentifiable sprouts.

I took a section of it to the Hernando County Agricultural Center to be analyzed. They said it was dove weed or dove grass, which is similar to carpet grass. I was told it was not Floratam.

I complained to P/C Miller on Sept. 15. Emerson McCobb came and inspected my yard. He said the company could not be responsible because I had waited too long before complaining. He said there was nothing he could do.

I am 73 and don't have much to live on. I can't afford to have the yard redone. Is there anything you can do? Kenneth J. Webb

Response: You tell us that in response to Action's letter, Phillip Miller, president of P/C Miller, looked at your yard and later said in a letter that his company is not responsible for your weeds.

You were satisfied with the sod when it was installed, he told you, and gave no indication of a problem until over four months later. During that time weeds had sprung up. You did nothing about them until they had taken over the yard.

You said Miller told you that customers have some responsibility in maintaining the sod once it is laid but you had neglected to have the weeds treated in a timely manner.

We asked Pinellas County horticultural agent Opal Schallmo whether good quality Floratam grass, if properly planted and watered, would keep weeds choked out over a four-month period. She said it would.

She said weeds could take over if the grass was thin and poor to start with or if you did not water it enough during the first few crucial months.

She suggested that when you buy new sod you get something in writing to the effect that you can have the sod replaced if it is not looking healthy by the end of the warranty period _ usually 30 days. Don't wait four months to complain.

She also said you might be wise to have a neighbor or friend show up on the day it is delivered to be a witness to the condition of the sod when it is laid. You might also have a neighbor act as your witness to how often and well you keep it watered _ just in case you run into problems later on.

Showboat back?

Our anniversary gift from the children was tickets to the Showboat Dinner Theater. I understand it went bankrupt under Chapter 11. Does that mean the tickets are no good?

I tried calling _ no answer. Maybe I can use them at another dinner theater. G. Leone

Response: The Showboat Dinner Theater has been reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Employees began last week to assess the season's schedule. Owner Jack Bell said the first show is expected to open in November. All previously purchased tickets will be honored, he said.

Call the box office this week for more information.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our voice mail system; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Upon request, names will not be published.

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