Entries in New Jersey (13)


NJ Woman Sues CVS for $1M for Racist Receipt

Photo Courtesy Susan Chana Lask(EGG HARBOR, N.J.) -- A New Jersey woman of Korean decent is suing CVS for $1 million after claiming that a store employee used a racial Asian slur on her receipt.

Hyun Lee, 37, of Egg Harbor, N.J., was picking up photos from a CVS, also in Egg Harbor, N.J., when she noticed that the cashier had identified her as “Ching Chong Lee” on her receipt.

According to her attorney, Lee contacted CVS customer relations, but was apparently told by CVS in an email response that the employee would be “counseled and trained.”

“He should have been terminated immediately,” Lee said through her attorney, Susan Chana Lask, to ABC News. “She never got an apology.  She never got anything further after she complained.”

Unhappy with CVS’ response, Lee filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against CVS Caremark Corp., CVS Pharmacy, Inc., CVS, New Jersey CVS Pharmacy LLC and the unnamed cashier on April 16 in federal court in Camden, N.J.

“It appears that the employee is still there,” Lask said. “She will not return to that CVS until that employee is removed.” 

Lask said they do not know the race of the cashier.

Lee is seeking $1 million due to “injury, mental anguish, severe emotional distress, harm, and damages” that she allegedly continues to suffer from the alleged receipt, according to the lawsuit.

CVS/pharmacy is committed to treating all of our customers with dignity and respect,” Michael DeAngelis, spokesperson for CVS, told ABC News. ”We have a firm non-discrimination policy. While the allegations in the complaint are not in keeping with our values or our policies, we cannot comment on a matter involving pending litigation.”

Lee and her attorney believe that CVS’ statement is insufficient.  “If they’re committed to treating all of their customers with dignity and respect, we feel they should have a zero tolerance level for this discrimination,” Lask said.

Other companies have also had to apologize for their employees using racial or ethnic slurs on receipts.

Papa John’s fired an employee last January after a customer received a receipt, which called her “lady chinky eyes.”  The restaurant chain later apologized to the customer.

In Irvine, Calif., a Chick-Fil-A cashier was fired in 2011 after reportedly using “Ching” and “Chong” to identify two Asian-American customers, according to ABC affiliate KABC.

A court date for Lee’s lawsuit against CVS has not yet been determined.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New Jersey Town Gives People Property Tax Break for Shopping

Creatas/Thinkstock(MARLBORO, N.J.) -- The township of Marlboro, N.J., is giving residents a break on their property taxes if they shop at local stores.

“Every local elected official has to do their part to help us get out of this recession and help local businesses,” said Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik.  “We’re doing our part, which we hope will increase the number of customers coming to these establishments.”

Launched in Sept. 2012, the “Shop Marlboro Campaign” allows local businesses to offer shoppers a chance to have a percentage of their purchase go toward their property tax bill.

The town has issued 1,700 reward cards, in conjunction with a consumer financial company called FinCorp and a local bank, Investors Bank.

The 38 participating businesses can choose whatever percent discount they choose to shoppers with the reward cards.  It will cut into stores’ margins, but the store gains a customer, and the shopper saves at tax time.

So far, the participating businesses have offered property tax credits from 2 to 16 percent off shopping bills.

“I have a card in my wallet, and say I have a $100 bill at a store,” Hornik said.  “With a 10 percent break, the retailer will make sure $10 of those dollars are a credit on my tax bill.”

Residents can pick up a rewards card at the Marlboro Town Hall and the local Investors Bank.

There have been 130,000 transactions under the program so far, saving shoppers $8,000 total on property taxes.  The next tax bills in Marlboro are due in February.

Hornik said he believes this is the first program of its kind.

“I think it’s a success and I think it will continue to be a success,” said Hornik, adding that he has personally saved $254 on his property taxes by shopping locally.

He said he hopes the program will continue to grow.

“We have 41,000 residents.  I would like to see the number grow from 1,700 participants,” Hornik said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New Jersey Couple Aids Hunt for Gas with Twitter

iStockphoto/KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images(CHERRY HILL, N.J.) -- Anna Sandler and and husband Michael started the Twitter handle @njgas earlier this year to alert fellow New Jersey residents to cheap gas they spotted in their travels. But after finding they were broadcasting to less than 50 people, the couple gave up.

Fast forward to this past Thursday when it was clear that the lack of power caused by Hurricane Sandy was contributing to a gas shortage in New York and New Jersey. That's when the Sandlers noticed people started following their handle.

"We picked up, like, 500 followers," Anna said. "People wanted to know about gas, but this time it was about where it was and the lines, not how cheap it was."

It was their calling.

Since then, the two, who live in Maplewood but have been headquartered out of Michael's parents house near Cherry Hill with their three kids since they lost power, have been taking turns manning the Twitter handle. They have helped clarify the New Jersey gas rationing rules, they have retweeted intelligence about lines at certain gas stations and they've warned those looking to fill up cans that gas stations might turn them away if they don't bring a red canister.

As some in the state have panicked, scrambling around for gas stations with lights on before their tanks hit empty, the Sandlers have been an unexpected comfort to those inconvenienced by the effect of the storm.

"I think we've proven that you don't have to go to Staten Island and other hard hit areas to help out," Anna Sandler said. "We're hoping to make a difference from the warmth of the home we're in."

In just a couple days, the @njgas handle has accumulated more than 6,000 followers, partly because Anna Sandler is good at what she does. She co-owns a social media firm called Sandler Wald that helps out small businesses in New Jersey.

The Sandlers quickly became experts at the science of finding gas and spreading the information. Stop at gas stations in-town instead of at highly trafficked rest stops. Be wary of information, especially supposed news of gas truck deliveries, many of which don't pan out. And don't be afraid to do what most never do, tip the attendants.

The Twitter handle quickly filled a niche.

Besides Hess, which tweeted out gas inventory volume at its locations every two hours, the big brands weren't doing anything to help and clarification about the gas rationing rules in New Jersey wasn't easy to find.

Anyone following @njgas realized that if they had an odd number license plate and gas was allowed that day for odd numbers, they had to make sure they got to the front of the line before the clock struck midnight.

"We tried to make sure that people knew the rules before they waited for hours in line," Anna Sandler said. "A lot of people got on line and didn't realize that they could only pay cash."

The handle also served individual requests by retweeting people looking for help.

"I would follow the thread and sometimes you'd see 10 or 12 people help give that person some information," she said.

After a tense weekend filled with hour-long or longer lines at gas stations across the state, more areas are having their power restored and the gas is becoming more plentiful.

It's possible that there will be no need for @njgas by this Wednesday or Thursday.

Said Anna Sandler: "I'd be thrilled. I don't have time to do this all day."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Superstorm Sandy Relief: Anheuser-Busch Turns Beer Into Water

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- They’re not turning water into wine but it’s almost as miraculous.

They are turning beer into water.

About 44 thousand cases of water instead of brew are heading to the New York/New Jersey area free of charge.

“Personally, for me it does mean a little bit more because I do have family affected by it,” said Anheuser-Busch Plant Manager Scott Vail, who is originally from New Jersey.

It sounds novel, but Anheuser-Busch has been converting beer lines to water lines for disaster relief dating back to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Since 1988, the company has donated 71 million cans of water.

“(It) makes us feel great, a lot of people don’t have opportunities to help, so we look at this actually as an opportunity to help,” said Anheuser-Busch employee Sam McElveen.

Anheuser-Busch is not the only company stepping out their box to help in Sandy relief efforts.

Victoria’s Secret known for sexy ladies wear generated attention for loaning their generators to the National Guard during the storm.

Hess is delivering their gasoline to rival gas stations in need.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Jerseyans Enduring Long Lines to Fill Up at Gas Stations

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Those in New Jersey too young to remember the 1970s were still doomed to repeat one of the worst periods of that decade: long lines for gasoline.

With many filling stations rendered inoperable due to power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy, motorists throughout the state were forced on Wednesday to wait an hour or longer in some cases just to fill up their tanks or gas cans to keep home generators running.

Back in the 70s, gas supply shortages were blamed for the interminable lines.  This time, it's about a shortage of electricity.

The crisis was clearly evident on the Garden State Parkway running north to south through New Jersey as service areas reported lines of cars that stretched for miles.

Most people were resigned to the inconvenience, given all the other troubles New Jerseyans are going through because of Sandy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hundreds of Fake Heinz Ketchup Bottles Discovered in New Jersey

Dover Code Enforcement Department(DOVER, N.J.) -- Hundreds of crates purported to be Heinz ketchup was discovered in a Dover, N.J. warehouse, which officials said may have been repackaged to sell for a profit.

Other tenants who rent the space in a 7,000-square-foot warehouse noticed that bottles of ketchup were exploding.

Heinz said fake ketchup bottles were labeled as Heinz's "Simply Heinz," its premium brand that uses sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, which is found in its traditional version.

Dover Public Safety Director Richard Rosell told the Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey that the ketchup's sugars, mixed with acid from tomatoes and vinegar, had fermented in the heat and exploded.  Tenants noticed the mess, and officials and Heinz were eventually contacted.

Jessica Jackson, a spokeswoman for Heinz North America, said the company "has not discovered any information that leads us to believe that the illegally repackaged product is on the market."

"Based on our preliminary investigation, it appears that the unauthorized operation purchased traditional Heinz ketchup and then repackaged the product illegally," Jackson said in a statement.

"As a company dedicated to food safety and quality, Heinz will not tolerate illegal repackaging of our products and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who engages in such illicit behavior," Jackson said.  "As the world's leading manufacturer of ketchup, Heinz has stringent manufacturing and packaging practices in place to ensure the safety of consumers.  Our quality assurance systems also ensure traceability to the factories where Heinz ketchup is manufactured and packaged."

The space was leased by Wholesome Foods, LLC, who could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mayor of NJ's Capital City Arrested for Alleged Kickback Scheme

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(TRENTON, N.J.) -- Over the years, New Jersey politicians have gotten into some scrapes with the law and the latest to face possible jail time is Tony Mack, the mayor of Trenton, the state's capital.

At a news conference Monday, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced that Mack, his brother and a business associate allegedly sold land owned by Trenton to investors at bargain basement prices for kickbacks worth $119,000.

According to a criminal complaint, Mack "used code words and limited discussions of the scheme over the telephone" to try and fool investigators who might be listening to his calls.

Evidently, the system failed since the mayor is now charged with conspiracy to corrupt commerce by extortion that alone carries a maximum 20-year sentence upon conviction.  Mack was released Monday on $150,000 bond.

The FBI built its case against the mayor and his co-conspirators with two informants, including one who was wired to record conversations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Top Six States Facing Major Financial Stress

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new report by the State Budget Crisis Task Force paints a chilling picture of what's ahead for U.S. states, even long after the 2008 recession officially ended.

The pessimistic analysis identifies major threats to fiscal sustainability, including out-of-control Medicaid spending; reductions in federal state-aid; underfunded state retirement plans; an eroding tax base; and laws that allow states to use gimmicks to hide their fiscal troubles.

The co-chairs of the Task Force -- former Fed chairman Paul Volker and former New York State Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch -- say state governments are coping with the "unprecedented challenges" in their attempt to keep providing "established levels of service with uncertain and constrained resources."  States' ability to continue to meet their obligations to their own employees, to their creditors and to their citizens, say the chairmen, "is threatened."

The report's recommendations include the following:

  • Reduce budget gimmickry.  States should, for example, replace cash-based budgeting with modified accrual budgets, so that legislators and the public can see how revenues earned in any given fiscal year relate to obligations incurred in the same year.
  • Enact forecasts and plans that extend at least four years into the future; encourage independent review of these forecasts.
  • Strengthen state 'rainy-day' funds.  Examples of successful funds, such as those created by Texas and Virginia, should be copied by other states.
  • State pension systems need to account more clearly for the risks they assume and for the potential shortfalls they face.  States should create mechanisms to ensure that required contributions are paid.
  • The federal government should shore up states' eroding tax bases by making it easier for states to collect taxes on goods and services sold over the Internet.

The report examines in particular the health of six states -- California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Virginia -- because, say its authors, these account for more than a third of the nation's population and almost 40 cents out of every dollar spent by state and local government.

Here's a sampling of the challenges facing these six states, which the report says face major threats to their ability to provide basic services:

1. Illinois -- Medicaid Spending
Medicaid, says the report, is the single biggest spending category in most states' budgets and is growing faster than both the economy and state tax revenues.  If trends of the past decade continue, the gap between Medicaid spending and state tax revenue growth will increase by at least $22 billion annually within five years.  Illinois, by the end of the current year, will face accumulated unpaid Medicaid bills estimated to total $1.9 billion.

2. New York -- Reduced Federal Aid to States
When the federal government gets around to taking significant steps to reduce its budget deficit, predicts the report, "such action could wreak havoc on the states."  Even a 10 percent cut in federal aid would cost states a collective $60 billion, the equivalent of eliminating all states' spending on libraries, parks and recreation.  Such a cut would cost New York and California more than $6 billion each, but New York's cut per capita ($316.5) would be highest of any of the six states.

3. California -- Underfunded Retirement
Under current actuarial assumptions, says the report, state and local government pension funds are underfunded by approximately $1 trillion.  Despite that shortfall, California and other states have continued to sweeten pension benefits, some retroactively, on the basis of assumptions that in hindsight were too optimistic.  California's unfunded liability, based on the current market value of its fund's assets, is greatest of the six states: $135.8 billion.  Illinois is next, at $92.5 billion.

4. Texas -- Eroding Tax Base
The report calls states' sales tax revenues "volatile and eroding."  Reasons include a nationwide shift in consumer spending away from goods toward more lightly-taxed services.  An increase in cars' fuel efficiency has reduced revenue from fuel taxes.  Texas' situation is complicated by the fact that it has no income tax, and so relies "far more heavily" on the sales taxes than do most states.  Sales taxes, says the report, have been diminishing relative to the economy.  "A 1 percent change in personal income now produces only about an estimated 0.7-0.8 percent increase in sales tax revenue," the report says.

5. Virginia -- Local Government Fiscal Stress
"Fiscal stress rolls downhill," says the report.  Suffering states have tried to pass their troubles down to cities, towns and counties -- for example, by cutting aid to primary and secondary education.  Such moves, however, result in no net reduction of a state's fiscal stress: The pea is just hidden under a different walnut-shell.  While laws in some states prevent local governments from raising property tax rates to offset those housing-bust declines in value, Virginia's towns and cities can raise taxes all they want, and some are doing so.  What good is achieved?  Says the report: "This kind of compensating mechanism only turns potential stress for local governments into actual stress for property owners."

6. New Jersey -- Laws and Practices That Hinder Fiscal Stability

Short-term budget gimmicks, says the report, only serve to destabilize a state's long-term finances.  One of the most notorious gimmicks, it says, is capitalizing future revenues to produce a balance in a current year, borrowing cash "not just from the year ahead but from many years into the future."  An obvious way to end the practice is to put in place "a multi-year financial and capital plan linked to the annual budgeting process."  Multi-year planning has been practiced successfully by many states, says the report, but New Jersey isn't one of them: the state has no such plan in place.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NJ Woman Sues Matchmaking Service After Date of 'Horror'

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Jeanne McCarthy, 65, thought she would meet a "quality" man when she paid $7,000 for a professional matchmaking service.  Instead, she said she got one date with a man with three drunk driving convictions and an outstanding criminal warrant.

McCarthy is suing her local Lawrenceville, N.J., branch of Two of Us, a brick and mortar matchmaking service with 15 offices nationwide.  Instead of the online dating services, like eHarmony, Two of Us "promises to arrange 'matches' with another member for the purposes of arranging a dating relationship between those individuals."

Two of Us "would merely collect a fee from anyone who signed up and would simply match members at random," the suit states.

McCarthy, a technical writer living in New Jersey, learned of Two of Us through its advertising campaign and went to the local office for a consultation.  The advertising stated that the company screens its members and performs a criminal background check, according to McCarthy's lawsuit, filed on June 4 in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Mercer County.

She said she was told by a representative that "Two of Us would provide quality matches at the rate of one or two during every two-week period."

McCarthy and her attorney, David Knapp, declined to comment.

McCarthy is suing PMM Inc., which is doing business as Two of Us in Lawrenceville, for breach of contract, fraud and consumer fraud, and requests her money back plus unspecified punitive damages.  The suit states Two of Us breached their agreement by failing to "provide one or two matches over a two month period as promised and by failing to adequately evaluate and screen the matches" referred to her.

On Jan. 13, 2011, McCarthy signed up for a membership agreement for a non-refundable fee of $7,000.  The agreement states, "Two of Us provides for the initial member interview, member testing, background checks and overall evaluation and screening..."

But she said Two of Us provided "only two matches over a five month period which yielded only one date."

"To her horror, [McCarthy] determined that this one date involved a man with three drunk driving convictions and [an] outstanding criminal warrant in Arizona," the suit stated.

Her date was a 73-year-old widower from Arizona who told her he received the convictions after his wife died and was moving to New Jersey so he could get a driver's license, according to The Trentonian.

McCarthy wanted a man 58 to 67 years old with an active lifestyle like her, according to the newspaper.

McCarthy "terminated the agreement and demanded an immediate refund of her fee.  Despite repeated requests, [Two of Us] has refused to do so," the suit states.

Ethan Baker, Two of Us' vice president of operations and general counsel, said the company has not been served yet and could not comment on the specific allegations of the lawsuit.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


American Express Pulls Gift Cards from NJ over Expiration Law

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- American Express is no longer selling gift cards in New Jersey because a unique law allows the state to claim the money from unspent gift cards after two years. 

There are similar laws elsewhere, but only New Jersey wants merchants to collect zip codes at the point of sale, and American Express says it is “not able to ensure compliance with that part of the law.”  The measure would classify gift cards unused after two years as “abandoned.”

When it first proposed the law a couple years ago, the Christie administration said there may be $79 million worth of unused gift cards, money orders and travelers checks languishing in drawers and wallets.

The law is currently the subject of litigation so it hasn’t been enacted. And retailers have been fighting it.  

John Holub at the N.J. Retail Merchant Association says gift cards never expire: “They’re as good as cash and they’re good forever.” 

If a customer comes into a store with a gift card after two years, he explains, the merchant would honor it and then apply to the state to get the money -- an administrative hassle.

Once the zip code portion of the law is set, Holub expects many retailers to follow in American Express' footsteps.

“You’re going to see a lot of other major retail brands pull their gift cards from New Jersey,” he said.

The law applies to retailers that sell more than $250,000 worth of gifts cards a year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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