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Company just handles plant orders

A flier that came in the Times advertised strawberry plants. I thought it would be nice to get some, but, instead of sending for them, my wife and I decided to drive to Palm Harbor on U.S. 19 and get them ourselves.

We were expecting a nursery, but, when we found the address, it was a locked office building with no name whatsoever on it. What I want to know is whether this is a legitimate business or not? George Mathews

Response: The Palm Harbor address is for a mail order company that does not maintain inventory on the premises. Many mail order companies function mainly as order takers, passing along the orders to other companies that have the items.

However, mid-March seemed a bit late to us to be planting strawberries in Florida, so we spoke with Bob Albanese, a horticulturist at the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension Service. He told us that the recommendations from the Food and Agricultural Sciences at the Univeristy of Florida are to plant short-day varieties, grown as an annual crop, in the fall.

This does not mean that you absolutely cannot plant them now, he said, it will just be a lot more work for you. Strawberries don't take well to our summers.

Late payment charge

Last October, my wife and I purchased $863 worth of new living room furniture from a local store. We took advantage of a special offer of three months without interest/finance charges. I planned to pay off the balance on or before Jan. 6, the first due date.

I was mailed monthly statements in November and December that I glanced at to make sure no interest charges were being applied to my balance. I did not take notice of the statement that payments could no longer be made at the store.

On Saturday, Jan. 4, when I drove to the store to pay off my balance and learned that in-store payments could no longer be made, I immediately mailed the check. I also called the customer service department to let them know I had done so.

My next statement did not reflect the payment I had made. It did show a charge of $70.65 for the deferred finance charges anddeferred insurance charges. These charges posted to my account on Jan. 9, the same day my check arrived in Columbus, Ohio. I don't feel that I should have to pay these charges since I tried to pay my account in full two days before the due date. James Welch

Response: We're sorry we cannot help you get your finance charges deleted. You said that your statements included the information that in-store payments would no longer be accepted even though you did not notice it. While banks will sometimes reverse finance charges, they are not obliged to do so.

In hindsight, sending your payment by Fed Ex or overnight mail would have guaranteed delivery by the due date.

Unsanitary restaurants

Is it the duty of a newspaper to report on unclean, filthy restaurants and let customers know it doesn't meet the code of cleanliness even while the newspaper does business with the restaurants? Joe Suarez

Response: Individual newspapers make their own decisions on whether the results of restaurant inspections are newsworthy or not.

To maintain credibility, good newspapers strive to keep newsreporting separate from the business decisions they must make. The Times "Standards of Operation," for instance, states that the newspaper "cannot compromise with the integrity of the news." Thus, buying an ad does not buy a business immunity from an unfavorable report of facts, nor does it buy coverage where none is warranted.

Restaurants are regulated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Customers who have a complaint regarding the cleanliness or safety of a restaurant should call their public health department and the Tampa office of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 272-2200 or (800) 880-7753.

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, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; 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. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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