It’s not unusual for a reporter’s mental inbox to become cluttered with all sorts of information. Fortunately for me, I have a column that I can use to dispense with some of this excess but relevant material.
The following are some information and observations that have come my way lately but didn’t make into story form for one reason or another.
The owners of small brick- and-mortar businesses are seeing their bottom line increasingly affected by consumers who are shopping with mobile devices.
Keith Girouard, the head of the Berkshire Chapter of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center in Pittsfield, reports that consumers who shopped with mobile devices accounted for $24.8 billion nationally in 2012, an 82 percent increase from the year before. And that’s just the beginning.
That number is projected to reach $38.8 billion this year, and $71.1 billion by 2015, he said.
Who is Dollar General, and why is this company suddenly so interested in expanding massively into Berkshire County?
I normally don’t like to engage in speculation, but something tells me that someone in Dollar General’s corporate headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tenn. took a look at Berkshire County’s statistics, noticed the significant discrepancy in income here between the well off and the rest of us, and decided this area of Western Massachusetts would be virgin territory for their kind of product.
Dollar General’s building push is part of a franchise expansion plan the company announced in 2011 that includes the opening of 625 new stores. The company’s annual revenue is $13 billion.
It’s understandable why residents of some small Berkshire municipalities don’t want a discount store in their town, but here’s some sobering news. Until an employer comes to the Berkshires that offers good paying jobs, or the median income in the county rises, discount chain stores are the kinds of enterprises that are going to be attracted to this area (See William Stanley Business Park, Pittsfield). Foliage is great, but it doesn’t put groceries on the table.
State Attorney General Martha Coakley is cautioning residents to beware of companies that demand money to obtain a copy of a deed for a home.
For some reason, this issue keeps resurfacing in the Berkshires. In November 2012, former Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. asked the Attorney General’s Office to stop a company known as Secured Document from providing deed services after it had solicited a county resident.
Then in February, two different companies solicited notices in the Berkshires. One notified homeowners that for a fee they might be eligible for a special modification on their mortgage. The other offered homeowners a copy of their deed and a property profile for a fee.
The two companies who solicited the Berkshires last winter were Consumer Advocacy Services (mortgage modifications), and Property Transfer Service (deeds). The Attorney General’s Office did not name any companies in its release.
Most of these "deed collection services" offer to sell deeds to homeowners for somewhere between $50 and $90, according to the Attorney General’s office. In February, Property Transfer Service offered the deed and property profile combo to residents for $83.
Don’t be fooled.
For the record, homeowners in Massachusetts can obtain a copy of their deed for free or for a nominal fee, by visiting their local Registry of Deeds office in person, or by going online (connections to the each Registry of Deeds office in Massachusetts can be found at masslandrecords.com). Berkshire County has three Registries, in Great Barrington, North Adams and Pittsfield.
If you’re a consumer who has a complaint, you can contact the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry & Assistance Center Hotline at (617) 727-8400. You can also file a complaint on the Attorney General office’s website by going to www.massgov/ago.