Question: With the rapid proliferation of video rental stores, I have a question that may be of interest to many of your readers who rent tapes. When a store uses my credit card as a deposit against a rented tape, how long should I retain the receipt proving that I returned the tape? Surely there must be some kind of time limit on when a merchant may no longer charge a customer for a tape which was returned, but which for some reason the merchant failed to enter that return into its records.
I have not had this problem as of yet, but I have a stack of receipts dating back at least six months just in case one of the rental stores does forget to log in my returned tape. Am I being overly cautious in keeping these receipts for so long?--J.H.
Answer: The consensus: Yes, you are. A 30-day hold should be adequate, especially because both MasterCard and Visa have an appeal process for cardholders who feel that they have been bilked.
Another consensus: You're renting your tapes from a store that has either had a horrendously bad experience with pilfered tapes, or is a sucker for paper work. A spot check of a few video stores found no one else prepared to go as far as your dealer does in filling out an entire charge slip for an isolated tape and giving you, the customer, the cardholder's copy--just as if you were making an out-and-out purchase of the tape.
Far more typical, according to Isralea Nahmias, a co-owner of Video Journeys at 2730 Griffith Park Blvd., is an arrangement in which the customer fills out an application "either to rent tapes or join our club where we note the name, address, telephone number and his credit card number. Then, if he doesn't return the tape in 10 days, he's automatically bought it, and we call it in to the card company."
The only time Video Journeys actually fills in the credit card form, "is when someone rents a VCR. And then, when he returns it, we simply give the whole packet back to him. I really can't see anybody actually turning the charge in--and then canceling it--when it's simply a deposit."
At Music Plus in Glendale, according to first assistant manager Sean Palumbo, essentially the same policy prevails: A membership form is filled out (and membership here is obligatory for tape rentals), the customer's card number and expiration date are noted or, in lieu of that, a cash deposit or check is stapled to it and returned when the tape comes back.
"The deposit is rounded out as close to the price of the tape as possible--$80, for instance, for a tape selling for $79.50. But after 10 days, we phone before we deposit the money, because we'd really rather have the tape back in stock."
Ten days usually is the magic deadline after which you become the proud owner of "Rambo, First Blood"--and, if that thought doesn't light a fire under you on Day 9, then you're beyond hope.
But why, oh why, do these people you're dealing with go to such lengths? Why don't they just hang onto the entire form and, when you return the tape, give the whole kit and caboodle back to you instead of loading you up with handfuls of tissues?
Q: I live in a small apartment complex in Westwood that was built 20 years ago. The outside has not been painted in all those years. The building is an eyesore and, despite tenant complaints, the owner refuses to paint.
Literature from the Rent Stabilization Board does not address this problem. Is there an L. A. city ordinance requiring rental housing to be painted periodically?--R.H.
A: And, unfortunately, there are also people who find it distasteful to bathe except during full moons. And that's why rent stabilization literature doesn't address itself to what the law defines--in the words of Barbara Zeidman, director of the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Program--"as matters of aesthetics."
In other words, your landlord, in his tackiness, is threatening neither your safety nor your health. He's simply offending your taste.
"If the interior paint," Zeidman continues, "were in such a state that it was crumbling or hanging down . . . falling down and getting in her food . . . then a health case could probably be made."
Your landlord, however, could be cutting off his nose to spite his face. If the apartment is stucco, for instance--"then the exposed stucco is going to deteriorate and, eventually," she adds, "he's not only going to have to repaint it but restucco it as well."
Here's one possible course of action suggested by Zeidman: If you can find out who your landlord's insurance carrier and/or lender is, both of them should be extremely interested in how the landlord is letting the property go to pot--property in which they also have a strong financial interest.
"Of course," she adds in turning to the other side of the coin, "if he does repaint the building, then he can file for a capital improvement rent increase."