Bamboozled: Special delivery

BB brandingThe kids at Camp Louemma are having their mail delivered again.

Earlier this month, we told you that the new postmaster at the Sussex Branch Post Office was refusing to deliver mail to the sleep-over camp’s office, as the postal service had done for 72 years.

You see, the camp, located in the Glenwood section of Vernon Township, usually receives mail to a roadside mailbox. But during the six-to-seven week camping season, mail and care packages for more than 200 campers didn’t fit, so the carrier would bring it down the camp’s road to a camp building.

But the new postmaster said it was too far. While postal regulations allow “exceptions” and delivery for a one-mile round trip, the turnaround the carrier would have to make upped the mileage to 1.1 miles.

The day after our story ran, camp director Hal Pugach met with a rep from the USPS district office. The rep also brought along a USPS safety rep to examine the condition of the camp road.

“We surveyed the road which the safety director himself found perfectly suitable,” said Pugach. ” I then showed them the one-tenth mile turnaround and gave them a copy of the regulation allowing for one mile from the road delivery.”

The meeting was very productive, Pugach said. The parties agreed the camp would install a small mail shed in its parking lot. It would allow for easy delivery for the carrier and give a quick turnaround.

72913Later that afternoon, Pugach received a call from the district rep.

“[He] was nice enough to suggest that with all the camp has been through, he would advise the postmaster to deliver to our office until we had a chance to purchase and erect the shed,” Pugach said. “This resolution will provide a permanent solution that will can be implemented no matter who the postmaster is.”

Pugach said he’s thrilled with the compromise, and so are we.

Thanks to the district office for being reasonable.


Last year, we shared a series of stories about Al Demola, a man who was tied to several waterproofing companies that allegedly took customer money and ran, or performed substandard work, on homes in New Jersey.

One couple we profiled had a court victory.

In August 2011, two massive rainstorms in two weeks’ time flooded a finished basement in the Freehold home of Aleta and Jack Heir.

With warnings about Hurricane Irene coming, the couple hired a company called Water Shield Waterproofing of Bridgewater to dry out the basement, repair the damage and fix mold problems.

The couple agreed to the $26,000 cost, paying half by check and half by credit card.
When the job was ongoing, more work was needed, the couple said they were told, for another $5,000.

The work was finished just in time for Hurricane Irene, but, it didn’t hold up. The floor and walls were wet, and even though the work was “guaranteed,” no one returned the Heirs’ calls for help.

Bamboozled identified the Water Shield rep who dealt with the company as Al Demola, even though he used a different name. The confirmation came from an advertising company that took ads for Water Shield and the two companies Bamboozled previously linked to Demola: Aqua-Dri and Thrifty. The ad company identified Demola, who it knew from Aqua-Dri and Thrifty, as the owner of Water Shield.

The Heirs decided to take Water Shield to court, but Water Shield never answered. Earlier this month, a judge entered a default judgment against Water Shield for nearly $200,000.

“The judge considered not only the amount that Water Shield charged us, but also the costs of ripping out the basement because Water Shield destroyed the studs and walls and failed to waterproof the foundation,” said Aleta Heir. “The entire cost of dismantling, repairing, waterproofing and cleanup was added to Water Shield’s charges and trebled under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.”

The Heirs have already repaired their home. They hope to track down the company owner, but they don’t have high expectations. They’re also talking to Water Shield’s insurance company, hoping a settlement can be negotiated.


Whenever we write about the state’s sales tax story, we receive lots of emails from consumers who say they’ve experienced businesses who have made errors in how the tax is calculated.

Reader Larry Mandel told us about his experiences with wrongly charged sales tax when it comes to coupons, and we thought his experience was a good learning moment for us all.

Mandel ordered a one-topping pizza from a local joint, handing over a $2 coupon. The cost, before the coupon, was $14.30. The merchant then calculated sales tax of $1, then subtracted the coupon, for a grand total of $13.30.

That was wrong.

The coupon value should have been subtracted from the price, and the tax should have been applied to the discounted total. The total should have been $13.16, with a total tax of $0.86.

Mandel paid the amount and went home, but he returned the next day to explain the calculation mistake to the manager.

“He denied any wrongdoing and became very angry with me, saying they have been doing this for the last twenty years,” Mandel said. “In that case, they have been mischarging their customers for that long as well.”

Mandel is correct, and the pizza guy was wrong.

How the tax is calculated depends on the nature of the coupon.

If it’s a “seller’s coupon” or “store coupon,” like the one from the pizza place, the value of the coupon is supposed to be subtracted before the sales tax is calculated.

If it’s a “manufacturer’s coupon,” such as ones you might get for a specific brand of pasta or toilet paper and use at your local supermarket, the sales tax is calculated first. Then, the value of the coupon is deducted.

“I am not accusing any business of doing this on purpose, but they need to know what the state tax laws are,” Mandel said. “It’s not like they will be losing any revenue. By this change, they may actually benefit. Customers will think the prices are actually going down!”

The Division of Taxation’s Publication A9 details exactly how sales tax should be calculated using different types of coupons.

If you think a business is making an error, try explaining it to them, as Mandel did. Show them this column. If the business doesn’t respond favorably, you can report them to the state. You can file an online complaint on the Taxation’s Citizens
Against Tax Cheats
 web page or by calling (609) 292-6400.