PROBE: April 22, 2002

April 22, 2002

QUESTION: I live in Mexicali. I put a stereo on layaway at Discount Stereo in El Centro. When I went to pick it up the store had sold it. The owner told me rudely she would order another one for me and I would have to come back another day to get it.

I went back another day and she said I would have to go to her Brawley store to get it. I refused to go to Brawley because I bought the stereo in El Centro. She said in that case I would have to come back another day.

I returned to the store the third time. She called Brawley and told an employee to bring the stereo to El Centro. By now I didn't want to wait. I wanted my money back.

She refused to refund my money. Instead she went into the back room and came back with a stereo in a box. I didn't want the stereo. I wanted my money. I decided if I took the stereo and I had a problem with it, I would have to deal with this woman to get it repaired. I don't want to deal with her again.


I went to small claims court and got the papers to sue her but I don't want to go to court. Will you see if you can get her to return my money? — No Music, Mexicali

We tried but Fina, who said she is the store owner but declined to give us her last name, adamantly refused to return your money.

However, she said she would waive the $40 installation fee to compensate you for your trouble. But you just as adamantly refused her offer.

Neither of you would budge an inch, so it looks like you will each tell it to the judge. That seems like a lot of trouble for $200.

QUESTION: When I was a kid 50 (or 60) years ago we used to pick up pieces of sand concretions in the rocks along the road on Whitewater grade. The wind and sand had eroded the rocks into strange and wonderful shapes. I don't suppose there are any left these days.

Recently I bought a similar piece in a garage sale. This one looks like a duck swallowing a clam. The Pioneers' Museum has a collection of "concretions." They look like soft balls on spikes or possibly like ice cream cones.

I went on the Internet and learned the spikes are often found near Mount Signal just a few inches under ground. Curiously, the spikes will be lined up in a row with all the spikes pointed in the same direction. Can you still find concretions out there? And can you remove them? — Collector, Silicon Valley

If you find one lying on top of the ground, you can pick it up and take it home for your personal use and enjoyment, according to a spokeswoman at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. You can't dig them out of the ground, so leave your pick and shovel at home.

You can gather up a bucket full of rocks and sand objects for your own personal use. If you want to take large amounts or materials to sell, you will need a BLM permit.

You can collect natural minerals but you can't pick up "artifacts," anything shaped by ancient people to use as a tools or implements, said BLM archaeologist Margaret Hangan.

By the way, a concretion is an object formed by sand clumped by the object of mineralized water. There are still many curious rocks and concretions off the beaten path in the desert.

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