Some stores across the country are refusing Red Cross-provided hurricane-relief debit cards because they do not approve of the goods being bought.
Responses have poured in since this column reported last week that the cards had been used to buy $800 handbags at the Louis Vuitton store in Atlanta.
Retailer Vicki Haniford said she has begun refusing the cards at her store in Illinois. "[Last] Saturday, I had 14 transactions go through from about six different people totaling a little over $1,000," she E-mailed. "They purchased jewelry and a TV with a DVD player. I called the Red Cross and they said unfortunately these people made bad choices when purchasing, but there was nothing they could do.
"This is totally and morally wrong," she says. "Many hard-working Americans donated money to the disaster victims so they could have food and clothing, not buy outrageous items."
Another reader told me: "My daughter works at an entertainment store in a suburban Atlanta mall. [Last Sunday], an apparent hurricane refugee came in the store and purchased a personal PlayStation and two games for a total of about $360, using a Red Cross debit card.
"They couldn't refuse the sale, but subsequently store policy changed. Everyone in the store was incensed, except the guy using the card, of course."
A Louis Vuitton spokeswoman did not respond to a question about whether their chain would continue to accept the distinctive white debit cards.
A Red Cross rep told me the card could be used to buy anything except alcohol, tobacco or firearms. "Once they're out of our hands, there's nothing we can do," she said.
Ringing out Fashion Week
Fashion Week staffers cleared the corridors for Catherine Zeta-Jones and hubby Michael Douglas as they strode through backstage for the Michael Kors show.
The actress actually turned down the gift of a $50,000 ring by jeweler Judith Ripka, who had a stall inside the Bryant Park tents. (It's up to you whether that makes her more of a diva or less of one.)
CZJ's noticeably bustier look also left some wondering whether she might be expecting baby No. 3. But her rep assures me no congratulations are due yet.
Who Metcalf met
Jesse Metcalf seems to have found something he liked at Fashion Week: a pretty brunette PR gal.
A spy says the "Desperate Housewives" actor met the woman in the W Lounge backstage at the Bryant Park tents. They exchanged digits, but a pal of the Southern belle says she played hard to get.
"He kept calling and persisting to have some downtime with her," says the snitch. "They were spotted at the Rag & Bone after-party on Sunday, and he would not let up. She said, 'I'm not hooking up with you,' and he said, 'But it's my last night in town.'"
New York Minute
Milla Jovovich welcomed guests to her West Village pad on Tuesday to mark the launch of Jovovich-Hawk, her fashion line with model Carmen Hawk. The good news for paparazzi is that the place has a shower on the roof. ... Guests at the Cargo magazine party last week got more, um, goods than they bargained for at midtown's Hotel QT when two male guests got nekkid in the lobby's indoor pool. ... Diddy was backstage at the Audemars Piguet-sponsored Zac Posen show on Thursday, wearing gold grills on his teeth and being followed by a man carrying a bottle of Cristal and two Champagne glasses. ... Backstage at Carmen Marc Valvo, Katie Couric was given bangles worth $5,000 by Tara & Sons, who provided pearls for the show. Just wondering, NBC News: What's your ethics policy on that?
Don't shoot the messenger
Which local politician much in the news this week is remembered by campaign staffers for behind-the-scenes tantrums that included ripping a phone out of the wall and hurling it across the room?
Originally published on September 18, 2005