Monday, March 13, 2006
Help Me Howard: Pennies
He hired and electrician to do what he thought was a simple job, but it dragged out for months and months. He made dozens of phone calls and says now he wants to put the company through the same frustration they put him through...by paying his bill in pennies. is that legal? Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser has the answer.
WSVN--Jim Anderson moved to Florida from the chilly north.
And may be the only transplant who wishes our temperatures would drop.
Jim Anderson: "I miss winter. I like it cold."
But Florida is his home. After going through a few hurricane seasons he decided to put his electric lines underground.
Jim Anderson: "Because at some point I'd like to put a pool in. During hurricane season, just a safety measure for that as well."
He hired a contractor last June. The job was supposed to be done by August.
Jim Anderson: "It's been quite a learning experience for sure."
To say the least, when summer passed and nothing was done, Jim called the contractor.
Jim Anderson: "They said they would send somebody right out, they're on their way as a matter of fact, and I'd get home and nobody had been here."
Jim has called, sent faxes but nothing got done. However they are polite in ignoring the job.
Jim Anderson: "They seem really sympathetic, understanding the and they apologize for the delays and everything. But nothing seems to happen."
Finally they did bury the electric line... Then disappeared again.
Jim Anderson: "They left their tools. They left the shovel back there and they left these tools here."
Frustrated Jim decided to get the work inspected by the city.
Jim Anderson: "And I called and scheduled that because they obviously didn't do that."
It passed, and now the contractor wants a payment. So Jim decided it was time for the contractor to get a taste of their own medicine.
Jim Anderson: "Without being mean, I just wanted to give them a taste of some of the frustration and disappointment that they've given me."
His idea... pay them the 800 dollars they wanted, in pennies.
Jim Anderson: "Possibly just pay them in pennies just for the inconvenience of the fact."
But he didn't know if that was legal, so Howard stopped by to answer his questions.
Jim Anderson: "Some people say a penny is legal money and anyone has to accept that."
Howard Finklestein: "You're part right. A penny is legal tender. In fact, there's a federal law, and I brought it with me. It's called the Coinage Act of 1965. What it says is that all of these coins, whether they're pennies or nickels or quarters or dollar bills are legal tender."
But while the law says you can pay with pennies, there is no law that says the business has to accept the payment in pennies. However, Howard says the contractor may have to take it.
Howard Finklestein: "I believe that because it's legal tender and they didn't tell you up front that they wouldn't accept legal tender, they have to accept it."
When we talked to the contractor he said Jim could pay in pennies if wants to, but he joked, he prefers that he doesn't. He also promised to finish the job that day.
So Jim got his point across and Howard says a gold star for creativity.
Howard Finklestein: "We get this complaint a lot. People very frustrated with contractors, and this is a very creative way in which to approach it."
Patrick Fraser: "Of course if you want to irritate a business and pay with pennies. Go right ahead. But remember...to gather five or six hundred dollars worth of pennies is alot of work, and may wind up irritating you more than the business."
A problem costing you a pretty penny? Don't be a penny pincher! Call us and get a penny for Howard's legal thoughts -- which his law professors would argue are only worth a penny. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser Seven News.
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