Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Public-school reform," July 26, 2003

It doesn't matter whether ex-customers are right

The retail adage that "the customer is always right" is often hard to live with-so Filene's Basement discount chain decided the best way to deal with a couple of always-right customers was to ask them to become former customers. Two Massachusetts sisters-who say they are longtime (and happy) patrons-apparently made one too many complaints. They received a letter saying they were banned from the company's stores. "Given your history of excessive returns and your chronic unhappiness with our services, we have decided that this is the best way to avoid any future problems with you and your sister," wrote David E. Sherer, vice president of loss prevention at Value City Department Stores, which owns Filene's Basement. The company claims no single incident spurred the ban, but that staff spent too much time handling the pair's issues.

Fighting for their rights

More than 3,000 law students in India protested official policies against cheating. They were upset at a policy that bans copying on exams, according to Australia's Courier-Mail newspaper. Things got violent after police were called to help confiscate all their cheat sheets. Some students blocked a highway and started burning tires. They claim copying answers is a tradition that authorities must respect. "We found almost all students carrying books and photocopied notes hidden on their body," education official Radhanath Mishra told the paper. "We asked them to hand over all the illegally smuggled study materials. But they did not listen to us."

Your sin will find you

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Imagine the shame: You try to rob a beauty shop, but the owner shoves you out a door and locks you out. As the Boston Herald tells it, that's what happened at the Wanda Beauty Salon last week. Police say Ronald Johnson brandished a weapon and demanded cash. The quick-thinking owner said the money was out the back door-and as the would-be thief got close enough, the owner shoved him out, shut the door, and locked it. Police say a witness saw Mr. Johnson throw his gun into a car and drive off. The vehicle was spotted a day later. Police arrested him on suspicion of many other robberies. A little bit south of Boston, in Rio de Janeiro, Anderlei Moriera da Silva is facing charges that he stole a car and a cellphone at gunpoint. Rio police last week said his big mistake was answering the hot phone-triggering a series of events that unraveled the crime. The purported victim said he called the phone number and negotiated an agreement to pay Mr. da Silva $345 to return the stolen property. But not wanting to be caught during an exchange, Mr. da Silva allegedly provided his bank account number so his victim could wire the funds. Bad move. Police traced the account: Investigator Jose Bezerra told Reuters, "It was no Swiss account so we quickly found him."

'How many are Your works'

The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Phoenix in the 1960s placed three bronze plaques quoting Psalms 68:4, 66:4, and 104:24 at popular viewing areas in the Grand Canyon. The verses inspired countless visitors. But under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Interior Department ordered the National Park Service to remove them. However, officials decided that Bright Angel trail can retain its name, as can the canyon's formations named for Hindu gods.

It's the thought that counts

They say character counts, especially in politics. But what about characters who can't count? Florida Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham distinguished himself in a field of contenders trying to score points on the White House uranium flap. A reporter asked Sen. Graham whether he thought President Bush lied in his State of the Union address: "I would not use the three-letter word. I would use the five-letter word: deceit. That he deceived the American people by allowing into a State of the Union speech.... " Out of respect, we'll let readers do the math.

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