FEARLESS- Shoving U: South Lawn snafu ousts tenants

A lot of history is going to be demolished when UVA makes way for its South Lawn project– specifically, many of the apartments on Brandon Avenue. I have my own memories of the place; I lived in one of the "Carolinas" when I moved here in 1982. Those memories came back in force when I heard from Robert Stilling, who's being compelled, against his will, to move from his apartment at 415 Brandon.

In his emailed account of the dispute, Stilling states that tenants were notified last November that Wade Apartments had sold the building and that tenants would have to relocate.

"My neighbors and I resigned ourselves to moving," he writes, "and several of us signed new leases with Wade at apartments elsewhere."

He signed a lease for an efficiency on Wertland Avenue, but four months later, in March, he received notice on behalf of new owner UVA that tenants would, in fact, be able to renew their leases.

"I, for one," Stilling writes, "would never have signed a new lease with Wade had I known, four months earlier, that we had the option to renew."

Stilling complained to Wade and asked them to release him from the new lease. "I'm a poor graduate student," he claims, "and can't really afford to move if I don't have to."

I spoke to Wade Tremblay, general manager of Wade Apartments, who said that he could understand Stilling's dismay. Still, he claims, he would be "opening Pandora's box" if he were to let Stilling cancel his new lease, since other tenants might follow suit.

Tremblay lays blame on the University Foundation, UVA's real estate wing, which now owns the building and, he says, was slow to decide what they wanted to do with the Brandon Avenue properties. When they finally decided to keep them as apartments, at least for the next year or so, Tremblay says, the Foundation asked whether Wade Apartments would care to manage them, and Wade declined.

Tim Rose, Foundation CEO, says he wasn't aware of the situation with Stilling, but promised to look into it.

So it looks like Stilling will indeed be packing to move. Let's hope that UVA does a better job of deciding and communicating its plans for future residents.

Sears joins "culture" club

I got more reader emails about two recent Sears columns ["One ringy-dingy," March 23, and "Don't call us," April 6] than I've gotten in a long time. I also got a call from Sears district manager Rob Held, who was paying a visit to the local store and wanted to talk.

My columns focused on employee reluctance to answer phones that started ringing whenever I showed up to buy yet more appliances (which I've been doing since September, when I began remodeling two apartments in my house). Held reported that Sears had already launched an overhaul of customer-service practices on the national level.

First, he says, management will have "culture conversations" with each associate, in which they'll sign an agreement to greet customers with a smile and thank them for their business; they'll also present a "clean and professional" image: and answer telephones after no more than three rings.

Each store will have a "culture experience manager" who will cruise the store to be sure customers are being waited on properly. Finally, the manager on duty will carry a cordless phone at all times, and unanswered calls, to all departments, will roll over to it.

So, readers, what do you think? Have you noticed an upgrade in customer service at Sears?


In my first Sears column, I attributed two lines of poetry to "Maude Muller," when they were written by John Greenleaf Whittier. Thanks to Rey Berry, I now know that Maud (not Maude) Muller was the heroine of the eponymous poem, not its author.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at Box 4553, Charlottesville 22905.