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Steps to take on the trail of an elusive contractor

Q: I developed a leak in my skylight. The company that installed it no longer makes repairs but referred me to a former employee, Robert R. Hesse with R & R Maintenance and Building Repairs of Holiday.

He came to my home May 12 and gave me an estimate to replace or reseal the screws on my roof and caulk the skylight for $1,091.40. I gave him $400 down, and we agreed he would call me in June to set up a start date.

In the meantime I received notice that my homeowners insurance would increase substantially. Hesse called May 22 and said he would begin work the next day. I called him right back and explained I could no longer afford the entire job. I asked if he could just caulk the skylight. He said no and hung up.

I sent him a certified letter, return receipt requested, but it was returned unclaimed. A complaint filed through the Better Business Bureau yielded no response.

What would be my next step?

Estella Daywalt

A: File complaints with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (727-536-4720), Pasco County Building Development, Contractor Licensing (727-847-8797) and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (850-487-1395.) Robert Hesse holds a valid license in Pasco County, where his business is located. He does not hold one in Pinellas County, where you live. Contractors licensed by the county may perform work legally only in the county where they're licensed.

You may also wish to contact the Attorney General's Seniors vs. Crime agency. Storefront offices, staffed by Senior Sleuth volunteers, allow any senior who believes he or she has been victimized or otherwise taken advantage to come and speak to a peer. Call toll-free 1-800-203-3099 to find a location. The Senior Sleuths are often able to prevail in situations where more conventional attempts fail.

Action tried contacting Hesse by regular and certified mail. He ignored us just as he ignored you and the BBB. We were also unable to reach him by phone.

We're sorry for delay

Q: I took advantage of a special promotion to new Times subscribers that offered a $15 gift card to Target with a 26-week paid subscription for delivery Monday through Sunday. I filled out the correct form, called twice when the card wasn't sent and received sincere promises of immediate action.

No action.

I wrote a letter.

No action.

I cannot believe a newspaper as prominent as the St. Petersburg Times is refusing to send the gift card. It seems as if it has taken our money and forgotten about us.

Please require them to do the proper thing and make good on their promises.

David Crosse

A: There's no excuse for not keeping promises. For that, the Times apologizes.

I sent your complaint to the Standards of Accuracy desk in Circulation Customer Care. Representative Andrew Smith said he spoke with you Dec. 6 and was able to confirm you had finally received your gift card.

Yours was not the first complaint Action received about the gift card promotion, so I called Charles Doucet, deputy director of consumer marketing for the Times. He explained that there had been an excellent response to this promotion, which caused high demand for the gift cards. Despite ordering cards weekly from retailers, the Times' fulfillment company experienced a delay in getting them out to subscribers.

Doucet also pointed out that customers aren't eligible to receive the cards until their subscriptions have been paid. Depending on which option they choose, this may take up to eight weeks.

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, (727) 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request. Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; calls cannot be returned.

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