Dolphin Silver Linings | Tailpipe | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Dolphin Silver Linings

First of all, Tailpipe would like to put to rest those rumors about the New Times curse. Sure, Daunte Culpepper was ignominiously benched by the Dolphins after gracing our cover. And whatever happened to Marlins Manager Jack McKeon (to say nothing of that cute Asian lady we featured in a story on women's billiards)? But there were other factors involved, including other publications working their voodoo. Let's not forget Satan's apprentices over at Sports Illustrated.

As for the disappointing Dolphins (1-6), there's also a big, pillowy pile of positives to consider. As cornerback Travis Daniels said recently, "I don't think we're the worst team in the NFL by a long shot." The Dolphins, of course, have exclusive rights to anything Daniels says. Hence, a shiny new slogan: "The 2006 Dolphins: Not the worst — by a long shot!"

In the same spirit, Tailpipe has compiled this list of Dolphins not-by-a-longshot silver linings:

Jeez, at least they beat the Packers, right? Oh, wait.

Miami's cutting-edge attack may someday be enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame as the Virgin Offense, which eschews (almost without exception) the scoring of touchdowns.

There's a lot more room for Steelers fans at the bar.

Orange-and-teal fashions are now irretrievably passé.

As it turned out, no dirty bombs ever exploded at Dolphin Stadium. But the mere suggestion indicates that at least someone is thinking in terms of radical solutions.

Unlike other South Florida football teams, the Dolphins have yet to stomp, punch, helmet-hammer, or body-slam any opponents in a sideline-clearing brawl. Then again, the Jets come to Miami on Christmas, so there's always a chance.

Publisher's Scamminghouse

When Connie Gunter got a call in June from a grandmotherly lady around dinnertime, telling her that she was a runner-up in the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes, she didn't hang up. Why should she? The caller told her she had won a "diamond gold watch" and three free magazine subscriptions. Hooray. Of course, for shipment purposes, the caller needed Gunter's credit card information.

"At this point, my daughter's looking at me kind of funny," says Gunter, 47, a resident of Ghent, Kentucky.

What the heck — Gunter gave the woman her debit card number and hung up, expecting a packet to come in the mail with her free watch. The next day, she got a follow-up call.

"A man called the next day to verify," Gunter says. "He talked 50 miles a minute. He was so fast. At one point, he did tell me this was nontransferable and noncancelable, but at that point, I'm still thinking I won this. I won these magazines and the watch, and this is all still legit. So I go ahead and give him my debit card info again."

Next, Gunter received an invoice notifying her that $59.80 had been taken out of her account and that she would eventually owe about $700 more for the several un-cancelable magazine subscriptions she had agreed to. Realizing she'd been had, Gunter called the company listed on the invoice: the Community Reading Club of Tamarac, a corporation with offices on Commercial Boulevard in Broward County. The woman answering the phone was belligerent, Gunter says.

"She kept insisting that they had me on tape, that I gave my credit card info willingly, and that my subscriptions were non-cancelable. I've never in my life heard of a magazine subscription you can't cancel."

Gunter refused to pay and asked her bank to dispute the charge. But, hey, there was her consent on tape, and there was nothing the bank could do. So, down $60, she closed her bank account and canceled her debit card, determined that the Community Reading Club of Tamarac wouldn't get any more of her money.

But the magazines kept coming: Elle, Wired, Redbook, Rolling Stone. In September, Gunter got another call from the Community Reading Club of Tamarac, this time from its collections department. "We're just calling to remind you that you're three months behind on your payment," they told Gunter before threatening to ruin her credit.

Gunter began contacting Florida authorities. She wasn't alone, it turned out. The company, under several different names, has chalked up 45 complaints to the local Better Business Bureau of Southeast Florida in the past three years. Most of those complaints remain unresolved. The state's Division of Consumer Services and the Broward County Sheriff's Office have handled complaints about them too. But it took getting the state attorney general on her side for Gunter to make Community Reading Club of Tamarac blink.

"A complaint came in from the state attorney," acknowledges Melissa Sentz, president of Personal Periodicals Inc., which does business as the Community Reading Club of Tamarac. Sentz insists that her company canceled Gunter's account two days before the attorney general contacted them. "From June to September," Sentz laments, "[Gunter] received three months' worth of magazines. We lost money for it, and we're not going to bill her for anything more." It was just a sad, costly case of "buyer's remorse," Sentz explains. "We've been in business for 19 years, and sometimes customers complain."

Well, what about those scores of other unanswered complaints on file at the Better Business Bureau?

"We just heard about those last week," Sentz says quickly, though the bureau routinely calls businesses to respond to complaints. "The person that was handling those complaints was not handling them properly and was terminated."

So remember, kids: When the Community Reading Club of Tamarac calls, you've already agreed to pay them, your subscription is noncancelable, and they'll happily cancel your subscription if you have a letter ready from Charlie Crist. Now that's customer service.

30 mph with Blinking Hazard Lights

So you think it's a roller-derby riot out there on the South Florida interstates. What if you were a five-foot-tall septuagenarian in a modest compact?

Phyllis Arick participates in an AARP program every three years or so to help her cope with the young-buck motorists, who, she says, don't see beyond her tuft of white hair when she's behind the wheel. The aggressiveness, the rudeness, the sheer recklessness — it ain't pretty for the elderly, says Arick, a delicate-looking, Brooklyn-born woman who lives in Hollywood and who says she'd rather not give her age.

Like a lot of senior citizens, Arick's an old hand at dealing with the Young and the Clueless. Most recently, it was in a shopping-mall parking lot when a youthful motorist followed her out onto the highway, sideswiped her, gave her the finger, and screamed "Fuck you." (Arick repeats the words with teeth-clenched disgust.) All Arick did to annoy him was to beep once as a warning, because the guy nearly backed into her while both were pulling out of parking spaces.

Arick says she tried to get his plate number but couldn't. "I got nothing from him except the finger," she says.

The man who schools South Florida seniors on driving learned to do it himself on a Model-T Ford. This is Louis Kleinman, whose father taught him in the streets of Queens when he was 11. Now he's 88 and has been leading the eight-hour AARP-sponsored "Driver Safety Program" every month for seven years.

His doctor recently told him his larynx was giving out, so future participants will have to take the class in two four-hour sessions.

Tailpipe, a longtime connoisseur of automotive behavior, sat in the other day as Kleinman conducted his monthly class in a conference room at the Memorial Senior Center in Hallandale Beach. The class earns discounts on rising insurance rates (seniors and teenagers face the highest premiums), and it goes into the nuts-and-bolts details of how to adjust driving habits as the aging process takes its toll on vision, hearing, and reflexes.

"We teach them to know when they should stop driving," says Kleinman, who still plies the highways himself. His class teaches drivers defensive and coping techniques as well as "knowing ourselves" — learning to recognize the symptoms and driving dangers of cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

One big hurdle to overcome, many of the 35 people taking the class last week suggested, is how they're perceived by other drivers.

"They seem to think we can't drive properly or we drive too slowly," says Arick, who moved to Hollywood from Brooklyn 35 years ago.

Slow is legal; too slow can be deadly, Kleinman says sagely.

"The only time we get a bad rap," Kleinman adds, "is from driving too slowly." For future reference, all you non-oldsters: Driving 45 mph on I-95 or 50 mph on I-75 is legal and perfectly fine. But 30 mph with hazard lights blinking? Er, too slow.

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