The Girl Scouts see the cookie biz as a chance to give their young charges their first taste of capitalism, allowing them to learn about marketing, management, and how to use one's womanly charms to take other people's money.
But Dee Jones, director of the Western Reserve Girl Scouts, is pushing the envelope of higher learning -- by suing scouts, their troop leaders, and their moms. Take that for hardcore life skills, Boy Scouts!
On August 15, Jones sued 12 people, seeking $9,000 in uncollected cookie money. "We do try to maintain some type of human dignity," Jones says. "There are [other troops] that have people arrested."
In the past decade, there's been a surge of deadbeat parents and troop leaders who take the cookie revenues and run. And since most of the money goes to administrators -- not the girls -- the bosses aren't happy.
But only one defendant showed up to answer Jones' suits. Troop leader Bernie Wright owes $2,975. She acknowledged failing to collect cash from parents. As far as the other no-shows, they could face everything from garnisheed wages to liens against their homes and cars.
At least they'll get a litigation achievement badge.
New York gets it
After buying up bad equipment leases from career New Jersey con artists, National City Bank didn't look in the mirror and call it a loss. Instead, it tried to enforce the fraudulent leases by suing hundreds of mom-and-pop businesses across the country ["Breaking the Bank," July 5].
But while Ohio consumers are protected by The Laziest Man in Law Enforcement, Attorney General Jim Petro, the bank shouldn't have messed with New Yorkers. That state has a real attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, who sued the bank to lay off victims in his state.
National City settled, admitting that the small businesses had been defrauded and that National City had filed its lawsuits in bad faith. It agreed to forgive customers 90 percent of their contracts.
Despite its confession, the bank is still suing people in Ohio, where Petro's idea of an investigation is getting his caddie to search for the ball he shanked on the 18th fairway. He's done nothing to rein in National City or several other banks and financing companies, including the receiver for Brecksville's Preferred Capital, which are trying to extort money from the victims.
"[Petro] issued a press release a year ago, and since then they've let National City and Preferred Capital run thousands of people through the mill," says Dallas attorney Scott Mackenzie, who represents several small businesses that got scammed. "What more do they need?"
Since you asked, Scott, we're pretty sure a five-figure donation to Petro will get him to answer your calls.
Roll-back bomb threats
Wal-Mart is America's top choice for roll-back prices and poverty-level employment. To Larry Felty, it was something more.
After being fired by the Elyria Wal-Mart in late July, Felty took revenge the way any reasonable nutbag would: by threatening to blow up the store.
Eighteen bomb threats were made over a three-week span before Felty was arrested on August 15. No bomb supplies were found in the store or in Felty's Wakeman home, but when the threatening calls were traced to his phone, he admitted placing them. He faces felony charges of creating false alarm and inducing panic.
"What precipitated it and what he was thinking at that time obviously was not based on good decisions," says Elyria Police Lieutenant Andy Eichenlaub, a specialist in understatement. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman declined comment -- she was busy cutting elderly workers' health benefits -- and Felty's attorney did not return calls.
But there's a moral to the story: If you must blow up a former employer, one threatening call is an appropriate courtesy; 18 are considered tacky.
Cleveland the beautiful
Last week, Regis Philbin, the never-aging co-host of Live With Regis and Kelly, had the audacity to go on vacation, leaving Kelly Ripa with guest co-host Chris Isaak. "So, what did you do yesterday?" the blue-eyed beauty cheerily asked the singer.
"I was in Cleveland," Isaak replied. In town for a date at the House of Blues, Isaak apparently stumbled upon Cleveland's dumbest hotel clerk to ask for sight-seeing tips. The clerk naturally directed him to Lorain Avenue. Oy.
Isaak got on his bike and started pedaling. At first, he rode through picturesque Ohio City, but kept venturing west. That wasn't so pleasant, he told Ripa.
First, Isaak saw a few men without shoes. Then he saw some men without shoes and shirts. And then -- this is where the story turns kinda bad -- he started seeing men without shoes, shirts, and pants.
At that point, Isaak decided to turn around. But alas, he told the audience, he was blocked by a heavily tattooed couple on the run from the cops. The good news was that cops were on the way, Isaak thought. The bad news was that the couple had a gun, which was aimed in the general vicinity of his head.
That's when he decided to pedal faster than the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz and arrived safely back at his hotel.
"Beautiful city you got there, Cleveland," he told the audience.
Covering their cans
Last winter, a Rhode Island jury ruled that Sherwin-Williams and other paint companies had created a public nuisance with lead paint and should pay to remove it from thousands of homes. Though the final bill has yet to be determined, Sherwin-Williams is maintaining a brave public face, contending it did nothing wrong.
But things aren't looking good behind the scenes. Lloyd's, its London insurer, is trying to bail out of covering the cleanup, which could top $3 billion. And it's making the same case the state of Rhode Island did: That Sherwin-Williams has known since at least the 1920s that lead paint posed a threat to children and that it should have anticipated paying for the damage all along.