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Misplaced decimal point creates explosive headache

THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU

$1,425,904

Updated: December 27, 2012 6:13AM



D ear Fixer: I don’t know where else to turn.

On June 30, I purchased $190.04 in fireworks from Johnny Rockets Fireworks in Highland, Ind. I paid with a credit card. But when I got my credit card bill, I saw that I was charged $1,900.40.

To my horror, I realized I had signed a credit card slip for an extra $1,710 due to an apparent error with the decimal point.

I admit I signed for the incorrect amount. I called my credit card company and Johnny Rockets to try to remedy this error. The credit card company says that I signed for that amount and I’m stuck. Johnny from Johnny Rockets finally answered my repeated messages and told me that this type of mistake is not unusual; he said he would get back to me in a week.

After several weeks of not hearing from him (and repeated calls by me) I finally spoke with him again and he told me he needed to retrieve the video of the transaction. He said he would call me in a week.

After several weeks, he told me he needed the exact time and date of the transaction. I readily supplied this info. He said he would get back to me shortly.

Again after repeated messages left by me and over three weeks later, I got him on the phone again and now the story is they don’t have videotapes from the day in question — only from July 1 on.

He told me he spoke with the cashier, who assured him that he would “never make a mistake like that.”

Johnny said he can’t credit me back on my card because they are in the middle of some type of remodeling and he doesn’t have access to the credit card system. He told me he would have to talk with his accountant but that he is going out of the country and I will have to wait until after the first of next year before he can tell me anything.

As you can imagine, this is a complete nightmare.

Emmett Williamson, Evergreen Park

Dear Emmett: Ohhhh, The Fixer is shuddering, thinking of how many times we’ve quickly dashed off a signature on a credit card slip without really looking at the decimal point in the total. Yikes!

You told us that you and your son had bought ordinary stuff like bottle rockets, firecrackers, Roman candles, sparklers and smoke bombs — not the arsenal implied by a $1,900 credit card bill.

The funny part is you have a graduate degree in finance and handle the books for several area churches.

So apparently, this sort of mistake can happen to anyone.

The good news is we had a much easier time reaching John Panchisin, president of Johnny Rockets. Panchisin said that as a small businessman, he has to be wary; he’s been scammed before by people claiming they need a refund. It’s true that he’s between seasons and is renovating, which has complicated things, he said. He added that it’s impossible to prove what happened by checking inventory records, as the store had many loose sale items during that period.

That said, Panchisin said he believes an error occurred and you weren’t pulling a fast one. He promised to send you a refund for the difference — and he was true to his word, mailing you a check for $1,710. (You said he even offered you the full $1,900 back but you insisted on paying for the fireworks.)

Don’t scam my kid!

So the phone rang at home and the caller ID indicated an “out of area” call. The woman on the line asked for one of the Junior Fixers by name.

“What’s this about?” we queried. “Well,” the caller replied, “there’s a warrant out on her in McHenry County, and we need to serve process . . . ”

You don’t say?

Too bad the scammer didn’t know she was talking about a child — and speaking with a columnist who covers fraud for a living.

If you get a call like this, do what The Fixer did — tell them you’re not interested, and hang up the phone.

Getting the runaround over a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at

suntimes.com/fixer .



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