As I started to get wise to the fact that all my Tee Ball games perpetually ended in gleeful, hug-happy ties, childhood Joe after yet another stalemate putzed over to a coach and squeaked out the burning question: How come someone didn’t win?
“Sometimes people can fail to win while not losing, either,” the coach said. My 9-year-old attention span had probably already shifted on to whether I wanted pizza or a penny candy from the ballpark food stand, so I’d be lying if I said the words that day made a profound impact on the course of my life. But they stuck.
Writing this column has put me in touch with dozens of readers wronged by businesses, taken advantage of by scammers and otherwise disregarded by those who caused and were ultimately responsible for fixing the problems. Calls and emails pour in.
Once a week, the results materialize into a column.
Sometimes the consumer and I share a job well done. Other times, it’s Tee Ball all over again.
An Exeter resident asked me for help after her father received a $6,000 settlement check stemming from a $10 million class action lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
Only her father, thinking it was a sham, scheme or just too good to be true, sent it back.
The resident, who requested not to be named, said her elderly father didn’t understand what he had received and made a mistake. She called the Florida-based firm handling the settlement and hoped it would be simple as having the check sent back. She was told they would be happy to ship it back.
Months of waiting turned into years before she reached out for help. She said her calls, letters and attempts to track down the firm sputtered out. After some digging and a lot of phone calls that led nowhere, I found a website where I was able to submit a complaint to the firm.
It being years since the check was sent back, I didn’t expect to hear from anyone — but I did.
The man who contacted me said he’d reach out to the consumer. He asked for her information and her father’s. He called me “sir.” I felt like things were going to get resolved. I couldn’t wait to hear what happened.
The next morning, I called the consumer to see if her father was on the road to riches yet. No one called, she said. I guess they figured since it had been a few years already, another day wouldn’t hurt. I sent another complaint.
Later, she told me the news. The man representing the suit had called her and told her she was out of luck. In her words, he said: “Don’t bother us, we’re not sending anything. It’s too late now.”
Where the check went is still anybody’s guess. The firm’s website said the suit is long since settled, but why not try? Maybe we could pull off a miracle, I told the consumer. Things didn’t turn out that way.
To her credit, she thanked me for trying when no one else bothered to. She said she didn’t expect to track down the firm let alone have someone contact her.
No problem, I told her. I was happy to go to bat for her.