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The Needle and the Damage Done 

What do you do when you find a syringe in your new van?

This week's Commontary™ comes to us via 27-year-old chef Bobby Tessler. He says the day he bought a $12,000 1999 GMC van from Dave Sinclair Lincoln-Mercury, his nine-year-old stepson discovered a hypodermic needle under the seat. Dealer James Sinclair says he bent over backward to make things right. Take it away, fellas!

Bobby Tessler: We were going through the drive-through at McDonald's after my nine-year-old's baseball game and he picks up this syringe and says, "What's this?"

James Sinclair: I personally cleaned this car myself: I went through this vehicle; several of my workers went through this vehicle. We all missed it. The customer missed it: It took his kid to find it. So I apologized.

BT: I was, like, that's why the syringe was there! They did a rush job. So I said, "Maybe you can detail the car or give me a 30-day warranty." And he said, "I'm not going to give you a warranty on that car; it's a used vehicle. You bought it as-is. You can just come get your money back."

JS: He bought it as-is. There was no warranty. But I said, "I don't care what the paperwork says. I'll refund you all your money" — which he didn't want to do. He kept saying "compensation," and I said, "100 percent refund, how much better compensation can you get?"

BT: I brought the car back so they could detail it. I asked if they could get the stains out of the carpet. I said, "You sold me a vehicle that has stains caked onto the carpet, and you sold me a vehicle that had an exposed needle under the seat." But there was also a noise under the front end of the hood, and the air conditioner needs to be recharged. But he'd just have his guys clean it. All I want is for them to compensate me for these things.

JS: I'm dumbfounded. I could legally say, "You bought the van as-is. Tough luck, have a nice life." But I never do it that way. I want to be able to go the local tavern at night and not have to worry about getting into a fistfight because of how I run my business. If I cross paths with this customer, what do I have to fear? I offered him a 100 percent refund and he didn't take it.

BR: Is this how they stayed in business? This is how they treat their customers? This guy was basically saying: "You're screwed, and I'm done with it."

JS: He's never said anything was mechanically wrong with that van. He's got to call me. If the Riverfront Times has mechanics who can fix it, then that's great. But if I don't know about it, I can't fix it for him.

Ever get the urge to jump up and ____ this damn town? Tell Unreal about it!

Ready for Entry

Never believed St. Louis would be home to an "international image coaching firm"? We too were blown away by a press release from Creve Coeur-based Anatomy of Style, which hawks fashion image coaching and "patented products for style planning."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Gini Linnabery Swancy's company does most of its business elsewhere, particularly Texas. "I am trying to do more closer to home," she said a few weeks ago, calling from her Mercedes Kompressor after work. Unreal loves a gal intrepid enough to drive a convertible under St. Louis rain, so we hung on for a few additional queries.

Unreal: How do you get to a client's inner fashionista?

Gini Linnabery Swancy: I've taken a lot of psychology classes on attraction. I've got a proprietary questionnaire that tests what women do. It drives us toward their personality, which is in line with a certain style. And of course shape is not too difficult. We can figure that out pretty well.

How much does this cost?

It depends on how you do it. I wanted this to be affordable for most any woman. We do lot of group things where it's $55 to come for coffee. If you hire me individually and I come in and do everything, it's about $895 for the whole makeover, and then $150 an hour for shopping.


It's not as fun as you think. That's why people hire me. I take really detailed measurements — everything, like the distance between your neck and your chest, and so on. Then I do a lot of pre-shopping.

Do you ever get uncomfortable measuring?

No. As a matter of fact, I just finished shooting a video where I talk about taking measurements.

So you organized a fashion show for the first-ever Entry Level Women's Conference at the airport Marriott on May 12?

Yes, in conjunction with a great program called Connection to Success, which helps women dig out of the poverty cycle and earn a living wage.

What constitutes an "entry level" woman?

That's really difficult. We didn't want, like, a management-level person expecting a conference geared toward them. These are women who entered the workforce and are looking forward to becoming managers.

Now, a rear-entry woman — would that be similar?


Well, I recently heard the term "rear-entry woman." Not to mention a reference in the RFT last week to a "wine-in woman."

You've got me on that one. If we have them, I don't know about it.

Those are probably racier styles than what you're showing on the runway.


Will you be modeling?

No. I'll be emceeing.

Lest We Forget

In 1997 Bill Keaggy discovered a discarded grocery list in a south-city Schnucks. Ten years later, Keaggy has published his first-ever book, Milk Eggs Vodka, documenting some of the 1,700 grocery lists he has collected since. Last week Keaggy took time off from his day job as a photo editor for the Post-Dispatch to discuss the book.

Unreal: OK, first question: Why?

Bill Keaggy: It started small. I found that first list and thought it offered a little peek into the life of whoever left it. By 1999 I had about 30 different lists that I'd found and made a Web site (www.grocerylists .org). People started sending me lists from all over. You know how the Internet is — once people find something stupid, they want to be part of it.

Are grocery lists windows into our souls, or our stomachs?

I think a little bit of both. I don't want to be too philosophical about it, but I think they do offer a glimpse into private lives. You can tell if someone has health problems by what they purchase, or if they're planning a party and are happy. That said, the book is not intended to be an academic treatise on the deeper meaning of grocery lists. I just think there is a certain entertainment value in this type of trash.

The index lists five alternate spellings for yogurt: yougart, yohurt, yoguret, yogert, yogart. Before beginning this project, did you have any idea people were such atrocious spellers?

No. It's kind of scary. At first I was amused by the spelling mistakes, but deep down it's sad. Of course, that doesn't stop me from making fun of the list makers in my book.

What's next? A book on spam e-mail? Maybe a compilation of waitresses' order pads?

I don't know. I'm working on a portfolio of photos of "sad chairs" that I've found abandoned in alleyways and fields. But right now I'm just trying to get through this. Can you believe that I have twenty radio interviews set up this week to discuss the grocery lists?

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