Can You Hear Him Now?

In commercials, Verizon has a customer service army. In real life, it's just Craig.

Craig MacBean just wants the calls to stop.

For the last year and a half, his company's phone lines have been inundated by misdirected Verizon customers.

"They're so happy to actually get a real person, sometimes they refuse to believe we're not Verizon," he says.

But MacBean's company isn't Verizon. It's Ostbye & Anderson, a Plymouth-based jewelry manufacturer and wholesaler.

The calls trickled in at first, MacBean recalls, but as Verizon's customer base has grown, so has the deluge. Verizon has sent email to customers listing Ostbye's number and has transferred customers' phone calls to the jeweler, MacBean says.

MacBean says he'd change his company's number, but he fears losing lots of his own customer calls.

Last fall, with about 200 Verizon calls coming in per week, a fed-up MacBean hired a lawyer to send Verizon nasty letters. After that went nowhere, MacBean's company filed a lawsuit last month.

Among other things, MacBean says he's had to hire an extra customer service representative just to keep up with the calls from Verizon. And frustrated cell phone customers, some of whom call back two and three times, have on several occasions cursed out his workers.

"It's hurt our productivity," he laments.

Not even the lawsuit seems to have gotten Verizon's attention. In the last week of January the company fielded 353 calls from Verizon customers—an average of one call every seven minutes during business hours.

City Pages placed two calls to Verizon's lawyers. They weren't returned. —Jonathan Kaminsky


Shocking purchase

The city of St. Paul is set to spend $210,000 on 234 new tasers for the police department. The pending bulk purchase would allow every patrol officer to be equipped with the ability to shock the living shit out of you.

The timing of the procurement has some wondering if the stun guns are preparation for the waves of protesters expected to come to St. Paul for September's Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center.

"The police, who will be protecting the war criminals and their friends, will be well armed against the peaceful protesters," wrote Mac-Groveland resident Nanette Echols last week on the St. Paul Issues Forum. "Tasers are included in that armory."

Police spokesman Tom Walsh says this is nonsense. "It has always been a plan to equip every patrol officer with a taser," he says. "It is an effective way to effect an arrest without using greater force."

There will be a public hearing on the matter at this week's City Council meeting. Don't be surprised if it ends with someone screaming, "Don't tase me, bro!" —Paul Demko


Gargamel's Private stash

Crafty meth cooks have discovered a way around the 2005 bill that criminalized Sudafed and other cold medicines that actually work. It's called "smurfing."

It was simple, really. They started organizing road trips up and down I-90 and recruiting an army of buyers to pick up small quantities of drugs along the way. It was a tactic of money launderers first—the trick of disguising big money movements through a series of identical small deposits. Switch out "deposits" for "insufferable blue creatures from your childhood" to crack the code.

The media and investigators are on to this smurfing business—and the term is uttered often ("anti-smurfing" "smurfing epidemic"), most recently in a South Dakota newspaper report on the tri-state "pharmacy pipeline." Drug enforcement officials, the report says, are on the hunt for "a new generation of smurfers."

Papa Smurf couldn't be reached for comment. A spokesperson for Meth-Mouth Smurf denies any wrongdoing. —Jeff Severns Guntzel


Raccoon eyes

Apparently, deciding on a raccoon logo for a city called Coon Rapids isn't as easy as it sounds.

For the last eight years, the city with a population of 63,000 just 12 miles north of Minneapolis has endured an identity crisis. In 2000 Coon Rapids abandoned its namesake and distanced itself from the furry garbage-eating bandits, changing the city logo from a raccoon to a leaf.

Grumblings to bring back the critter led to a yearlong study that cost $25,000 by marketing firm Tunheim Associates. The study went much deeper than designing a logo, said City Clerk Joni Anderson. Extensive survey work was done to see what people's perception of Coon Rapids was and what it should be.

The earth-shattering conclusion: Coon Rapid's new logo will show a raccoon near rapids.

Totally worth the 25 large. —Beth Walton

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