What’s up, Chuck?
The Chico car dealership of Chuck Patterson Inc. has been slapped with $8,050 in fines and two years of probation after pleading guilty in Butte County Superior Court to seven misdemeanor counts dealing with false advertising.
A local Department of Motor Vehicles investigator noticed ads that ran in the Chico Enterprise-Record, in direct-mail fliers and on the radio in which Chuck Patterson advertised cars for sale for as low as $199 but illegally used the word “wholesale” and didn’t list vehicle identification numbers as required, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey related. “Basically, they were doing a false-advertising scheme that involved some bait-and-switch.”
Oroville attorney James Berglund, who is representing Chuck Patterson, said the violations were “very technical in nature” and appeared after the dealership contracted with a Southern California advertising firm. “As soon as [Chuck Patterson] found out there were violations, they took appropriate steps to make sure that would not happen again.”
Berglund said the family-owned dealership “is a very responsible company” and pointed out that the violations were back in July 2000. “The D.A.’s Office sat on this a long time before they acted on it.
“My hope would be that any judge that looks at the case will realize that the mistakes that were made were very technical in nature and nobody was harmed in any way,” he said.
Ramsey said the DMV is going before an administrative law judge this week seeking to get the dealership’s license suspended. In 1991, Chuck Patterson Inc.’s license was suspended for 30 days and the dealership was shut down for three days for “odometer mileage misrepresentation,” according to a DMV press release. Also, the District Attorney’s Office is pursuing the company civilly in hopes of getting cash as punishment for each occurrence of the ads.
Touch and go
Several representatives from Lifetouch Inc. showed up at the April 2 Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, hoping to convince the board not to approve a fund-raising request by parents who want to take Marsh Junior High School pictures themselves and sell them for much less than the about-$40 Lifetouch charges.
Lifetouch’s efforts failed. The board voted for the idea 4-1, with Steve O’Bryan voting no because he was bothered by the idea of schools taking away business from private industry. Trustees were skeptical the parents could keep the effort going long-term but were willing to give them a try—providing it doesn’t rely on teachers and students to make it work.
Dave Peterjohn, Lifetouch’s vice president for business development, who was visiting Chico from the company’s Missouri headquarters, said Marsh indeed gets a cut of the action: as much as $2 per photo package—probably $1,300 or $1,400 last year.
But more than the money, Peterjohn said, the board should consider the quality of the operation. “[Lifetouch employs] people who have experience with photography and kids,” he said, along with equipment and privacy-protection measures. “We’re professionals at what we do.”
“We want to make sure that those memories are captured correctly,” said John Vagner, the Chico-area territory manager for Lifetouch. “The school picture industry is a sacred industry, in that we are working with the most precious things that we can work with, which is kids.”
The Pillsbury Road Albertsons will soon be no more.
“The store is closing on May 1,” confirmed Stacia Levenfeld, spokesperson for Albertsons’ California stores. Levenfeld said the location, which used to be a Lucky’s, was not profitable. “We’ve been looking for other projects in the area,” she said. “We’re not leaving the market by any means.”