Ed Mandich was going through some paperwork at his East McKeesport home in February when he came across receipts from Macy's for fur storage for 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The $40-a-year storage fee had been charged to a credit card he used to share with his wife, Jean. Mrs. Mandich apparently bought a coyote fur jacket at Kaufmann's in Monroeville Mall at some point and put it in storage in 2004.
It has been there ever since.
"I didn't know she had it," said Mr. Mandich, 83, a retired mail carrier. "I never saw her wear it."
He said his wife may have had second thoughts about the purchase because of anti-fur demonstrations by animal rights activists.
Mrs. Mandich, 78, a retired Bell Telephone Co. employee, suffers from dementia. Her husband said she doesn't remember anything about the jacket.
Mr. Mandich said he called Macy's on Feb. 14, was told the jacket would be sent to the Monroeville store and that he could pick it up there. Sometime later he said he was told the jacket couldn't be sent to that store because it doesn't have a fur vault.
"I couldn't have gone up there to get it anyway because I can't leave my wife by herself," he said.
When Macy's asked for a copy of the receipt for the purchase, he said he didn't have it. He sent a photocopy of his driver's license to confirm his identity and photocopies of the fur storage receipts to prove that the recent storage fees had been paid.
After eight months of unsuccessful calls to customer service representatives at Macy's, he sent me a letter outlining his problem. I called Macy's in Cincinnati and left a message. Beth Charlton, director of issue management for Macy's, got right back to me.
I gave her some additional information about the jacket and followed up with a detailed email. She called me Tuesday morning with good news for Mr. Mandich.
"We found the jacket and we're shipping it to him today," Ms. Charlton said.
"I hope my wife recognizes it when it arrives," Mr. Mandich said. "Thanks for your help."
Gas line update
Tom and Carol Dixon were pleased when Equitable HomeWorks agreed to reimburse them for the $650 cost of a new gas line a contractor installed for them from their house on Lehigh Street in Munhall to Equitable Gas Co.'s main line.
Their old line had failed a pressure test the gas company conducted after it installed a new main line during the summer. They forgot they had been paying Equitable HomeWorks for gas line protection since 2004.
When they realized it after seeing it on their next gas bill, Mrs. Dixon contacted HomeWorks, explained what had happened and asked to be reimbursed for the cost of the new gas line.
HomeWorks refused, saying the Dixons should have contacted the company first so one of its contractors could have done the work. They sent me an email about their problem.
I forwarded it to Scott Waitlevertch, Equitable Gas Co.'s external communications and governmental relations manager. I asked if HomeWorks would reconsider the Dixons' request for reimbursement. It did. It also agreed to send them a check for $650.
Before doing so, however, HomeWorks asked the couple to sign a liability waiver because it didn't authorize the work or have it done. I wrote about the resolution of the couple's problem last month.
They contacted me again when the paperwork arrived. In addition to a cover letter and a one-page "Settlement and Release" form, the envelope contained eight pages spelling out Equitable HomeWorks "Protection Programs Terms and Conditions."
The Dixons questioned one provision that said they had to continue paying for gas line protection for a year. They initially thought it required them to continue paying $4.30 a month indefinitely.
"It doesn't make any sense," Mr. Dixon said. "We have a new gas line. Why should we pay for gas line protection for it?"
It turns out that is what they -- and everyone else -- agrees to when they sign up for the HomeWorks program. It's clearly stated in the paperwork, a copy of which they sent me. After speaking with me and HomeWorks manager Vivian Sabatini, they agreed to sign the waiver.
Their advice to consumers:
The protection programs offered by utility companies to cover gas, water and sewer lines and electrical service are a good idea.
If you sign up for one or more of them, keep the paperwork and remember that you have the protection it provides.
Lawrence Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1895. Include your day, evening and cell phone numbers. Due to volume, he cannot respond to every email and phone call.