THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT—WHEN HE’S NOT BEING BUSTED
Cruising an electronics emporium for a TV and want attentive salespeople? Take a hint from Ron Kahlow. The Reston, Va., software exec went into the local Best Buy store with a laptop computer around his waist to record prices as he comparison shopped. The sales force were all over him—but the key word was force: They had him arrested for trespassing, and he spent the afternoon in the local pokey. After returning the next day with a pad and pencil, Kahlow logged a few more hours in jail. From there it was to court. Although the charge was thrown out by a sympathetic judge, Kahlow is suing the 285-store chain for $780,000 for malicious prosecution and false arrest. Turning down Best Buy’s offer of $10,000 and an apology he decided that the best bargain was to represent himself. “It’s just a meal ticket for these lawyers,” he says. “If a good and educated citizen can’t come forward, explain to the court what happened and get some justice, we have a problem with the system.” Right on, Ron!
LET’S SEE, WITH FOUR HOTELS ON MY BROWSER…
Microsoft chief Bill Gates is cheating at monopoly, or so charges Attorney General Janet Reno. With his Windows operating systems powering 85 percent of the nation’s PCs, Gates is the 500-pound gorilla of the software world. But Reno says that he is breaking a 1995 antitrust agreement by forcing computer manufacturers installing Windows to plug in Microsoft’s new Web browser, Internet Explorer, as well. In lawyer parlance, this is exercising “improper use of its market power to protect and extend its monopoly,” and Reno asked for fines of $1 million per day (later denied, by a judge). In computer geekspeak, Explorer is a logical and legal “integrated enhancement” of Windows, and besides, Janet, get a life and leave us alone.
HONEY, I SHRUNK YOUR PARTNERSHIP
Lorna Wendt says she had given birth to her first child just eight days earlier when husband Gary’s secretary called to say he was bringing a dozen business cronies home for dinner. And it took 32 years for the pair to land in Connecticut divorce court? Lorna’s 1997 suit contended that as corporate spouse she was an equal partner in Gary’s rise to CEO of GE Capital Services, General Electric’s financial subsidiary, and was entitled to half of what she claimed were his $100 million in assets. Lorna turned down an offer of about $10 mil up front and $250,000 yearly for life. This month, a judge awarded her a settlement worth some $20 million. “We are not happy with the amount,” her lawyer Arnold Rutkin told The New York Times, “but we definitely made the point. Some of the boys in the boardroom will be really unhappy when they read this.” Lorna, not content to join the First Wives Club, has started her own activist group, the Foundation for Equality in Marriage.
AN EX-KENNEDY WRITES THE BOOK ON ANNULMENT
Two years after their 1991 divorce, Joe Kennedy asked Sheila Rauch Kennedy for a Catholic annulment of their 12-year marriage with all the niceties for which the U.S. Postal Service is known. Sheila, an Episcopalian, responded by publishing Shattered Faith, her account of fighting the annulment all the way to the Vatican (where the case is still pending). “I’m very happy the book has gotten people thinking,” says Sheila, the mother of twin sons, now 17, Think they did—and their thoughts about this, and about Joe’s brother Michael’s alleged affair with an underage babysitter, contributed to Joe’s decision to withdraw from the race for Massachusetts governor.
PORN-PLAGUED PILOT PULLS PLUG ON PEEP SHOW
As if smog and stale pretzels weren’t enough, sexual harassment reached new heights in the workplace of Continental Airlines pilot Tammy Blakey—the cockpit of an A300 Airbus. Blakey, 38, couldn’t stomach the pornographic materials that previous flight crews routinely left hanging around. When the airline, she says, ignored her repeated requests for cleaner cockpits, things got hardcore: She filed a lawsuit in 1993 and in October was awarded $875,000. “It was a long battle and really tough,” says Blakey, who lives in Washington with 3-year-old daughter Alexis and hopes to resume flying for Continental in January. “But I have to admit, I hope Alexis is proud of me when she gets older.”
THE MRS. TAKES ON THE MISTRESS
Hell hath no fury—nor sympathetic jury—like Dorothy “Dot” Hutelmyer. The Burlington, N.C., housewife was cheesed at her husband of 17 years, successful insurance executive Joe Hutelmyer, who left her and their three sons for his secretary. Dot, a paralegal, sued other woman Lynne Cox. Employing a 19th-century statute against home wreckers, Hutelmyer charged the divorcée with using a sexy haircut, short skirts and business trips to alienate Joe’s affections. The jury felt Dot’s pain enough to award her $1 million. She doesn’t expect to collect from Cox (now Mrs. Joe Hutelmyer and a full-time student), but her victory, she says, makes her “feel good that I didn’t sit back and accept what happened.”
ROSIE O’DONNELL TO SCOPE: KISS OFF
Ah, the fresh, minty taste of revenge. Scope’s Valentine’s Day survey naming Rosie O’Donnell one of the country’s least kissable celebs became a massacre of bad publicity. Within days, newspapers featured full-page ads from “Your friends at Listerine,” who offered to donate $1,000 to charity for every kiss O’Donnell received on ‘Originally they figured one kiss per guest, three guests per day,” says O’Donnell (with David Bowie, right). “Little did they know the entire cast of Cats would come. Mike Myers kissed me 14 times. Some people wouldn’t stop kissing me.” Three months later, O’Donnell’s For All Kids Foundation, a clearinghouse for children’s charities, was $500,000 richer. “I think it taught [Scope] a lesson in negative advertising,” says daytime’s Queen of Nice. “People don’t like it when you’re mean.”