Delevan Drive-In theater dilemma

Posted at 7:16 PM, Jan 16, 2017

Some angry patrons of the Delevan Twin Drive-In, located in Cattaraugus County, have taken to FACEBOOK to express their frustration about the drive-in operators taking so long to process summer credit card purchases - some being eight months old.  

"This has caused quite a turmoil in our community," said Gina Wright, a regular patron.  Wright said many people were wondering who was holding their credit card information and how was it secured to prevent identity theft or credit card fraud over the past few months.

According to Dr. Michael Dibella, owner of the drive-in, the problem started when he was unable to have a phone line installed during the Verizon strike in 2016.  The drive-in then swiped credit card numbers using a manual, sliding imprinter that made two copies.  Customers were given one copy while Dibella said he kept the others with plans to submit them for payment.

"The number of slips was thirty.  The amounts ranged from $3.53 up to $21 that was the maximum charge," explained the owner.  

However, Dr. Dibella said he was so busy working in area hospitals and running the drive-in theater that he didn't get around to submitting the receipts for payment until now. 

"There was no fraud involved.  We did not overcharge.  It was just a mistake on my part not to submit these earlier," added Dibella.

Dr. Dibella told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that he apologized to his customers for "any annoyance or inconvenience."  The doctor said he will be calling the credit card companies asking them to refund the recently charged amounts as a sign of good-faith to his customers.

For those who still have concerns about the doctor having imprinted receipts with credit card numbers, Dr. Dibella said he will return the receipts to credit card owners if they come to the drive-in when it opens for the season in May.

There are very few operating drive-in theaters left in New York State.  The billing mix up is discouraging, explained the doctor, who said he is trying to save a piece of American entertainment culture for future families.

"I love the movies and always wanted to own one."

Dibella said he hopes his efforts are not tarnished as the Buffalo-area doctor is planing to invest more money this year for signage, bathrooms and snack bar improvements at the Delevan Drive-In.

According to 7 Eyewitness News legal expert Florina Altshiler, the theater is entitled to its money but the question is how long it take take to submit for it.  Altshiler said usually there is a six month time limit, but she added that every credit card company has different rules. The one thing that is consistent, explained Altshiler, is credit card companies want requests for payment processed quickly and business can be assessed fees for what is called "late presentation" of charges.

Ed Reilly has more in his report.