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New York City is currently enjoying a radiant reputation for a drastically reduced crime rate, safe subways, and a clean, family-friendly Times Square. But that hasn't stopped a few Manhattan shopkeepers from continuing to rip off tourists.
Since the March 1991 report on the proliferation of fraudulent electronics stores in midtown Manhattan, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has issued more than 8,000 citations for such violations as holding false going-out of-business sales, selling used goods as new, pricing items above the manufacturer's suggested retail price, and altering credit card slips.
During a three-week sweep last holiday season, 30 stores citywide received a total of 1,100 citations. Marquis Galleries on Lexington Avenue topped the list with 102.
Unfortunately, the fines themselves have not increased. One store settled with the DCA for $65,000 and has been out of business ever since. But that's an exception: Rarely do fines bankrupt a store.
Says Shonna Keogan, a spokesperson for the DCA, "As we inspect more stores, we discover new types ofviolations, and new ways to prosecute." There are some rays of hope: Thanks to the department's stricter licensing practices, phony going out-of-business sales have virtually disappeared. A more personal victory for Stop Press: All nine stores mentioned in out last article either have had their licenses revoked or have gone out of business for good.
To be sure, unscrupulous merchants were cheating their unsuspecting victims long before "caveat emptor" was first uttered. And just as certainly, naive shoppers will forever ignore that advice. In every souk, mall, agora, and grand boulevard there will always lurk a swindler or two, waiting for the next out-of-towner he can scam. And o Stop press continues to repeat its buyer-beware mantras: Use a credit card; learn how to haggle; know how much "duty" really costs.