Saturday, March 18, 2017

Random thoughts

I'm tired.
I'm tired of being tired.
I'm moody.
There aren't enough hours in the day.
Life is short. How do we make enough time for the things that matter?
I'm asking the big three life questions: Who Am I? Why Am I Here? What is My Purpose?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beware of companies with unscrupulous business practices

My mother inherited a 2008 Buick from her aunt and when the title transferred to her, she began receiving dozens of postcards notifying her that the Buick's extended warranty was expiring and she was running out of time to renew. Often the notices read: "Final notice! Your vehicle's warranty is about to expire! Don't go another day without coverage!" 
 
Mom thought perhaps her great-aunt and uncle had purchased an extended warranty on the car  and so she pondered the idea of continuing it. I was skeptical because over the years I've learned that those third-party extended warranties are a scam and that the only reliable warranties offered directly by the automobile manufacturer when you purchase the vehicle. In addition, I just did not buy that my great aunt and uncle aunt would've purchased such a thing. Now mom, who for the most part, is generally pretty skeptical, decided not to go any further with the notion of purchasing an extended warranty and so she tossed all the postcards in the trash -- until one day she received another postcard that just beckoned to her and so, out of curiosity, she called the company: Guardian LLC.

Mom talked to a lady in customer service at Guardian LLC, who had obvious training in persuasion tactics, taking a very personal approach, acting as if she cared and had my mom's best interest at heart. She acted as if she was on mom's side, looking out for her, and persuading her with everything she had that mom could not let herself go unprotected. She either knew or must've deduced that mom was on social security because she warned mom that she would find herself in financial ruin if she did not get the extended warranty. Mom, despite her hesitations (and believe me, she had them) certainly didn't want to find herself in financial ruin over a major car repair and she was still not completely convinced that her aunt had not had this same warranty. When mom expressed concern about the cost of the warranty, the rep lowered the price and then told her if she didn't sign up for the contract immediately ($125 down and $96 per month for five years - for a total price of $5,885), that she would lose out on that rate. Mom, feeling pressured but at that moment, concerned that she could run into major costs for repairs took this woman's advice and signed up for an extended warranty.

Guardian LLC's website autoguardians.com

When mom called me and told me what she had done, I sighed but kept my mouth shut. I'm not in the habit of telling mom what to do as I consider her the boss of her own life and she does a great job of managing her own affairs. I know that if she wants my advice or needs help with something she'll ask but I try to take a hands-off approach whenever possible. I heard her hesitate when she heard me sigh. Then she told me about the warranty she'd just purchased that covered everything and at that point I'd already started googling the company and that's when I found out about their unscrupulous business practices. Mom could tell something was up and so I read to her a number of complaints from a number of websites. They all said the same thing about the company's shady practices. Immediately our concern turned to the fact that now the company had complete access to her checking account and could do whatever they wanted. That night, mom's bank cancelled her debit card but not before the $125 was authorized.

Mom went to the bank the very next day and they told her they would work on her behalf to get a refund. The bank manager checked out the company online and saw they seemed shady and advised mom not to call the company on her own to cancel the policy. However, a few days later, her bank notified her that because she had authorized Guardian to use her debit card, they could not interfere. That's the point when mom called the company on her own to cancel. She tried the number the first woman she'd talked to gave her but there was no answer. She managed to find another number to get through when she finally did, mom informed this second woman that she wanted to cancel her policy. Well, the second woman had mom on the phone for almost an hour using every textbook tactic in the book to get mom not to cancel her policy. It was rude, nasty and completely unprofessional.

When mom told the woman she wanted to cancel, the woman asked why and mom simply said "for personal reasons" but that wasn't enough. Oh no, this woman would not let up. She was relentless, using every fear and intimidation tactic in the book to push mom into keeping the policy. She warned mom that one repair would send her into financial ruin and that relying on her children to help her was not fair to them. It went on and on and all the while mom's blood pressure was steadily rising. The only reason mom stayed on the phone with this woman as long as she did was because she was concerned if she hung up on her or returned the nasty attitude, the woman would not give her the money back.

Thankfully, mom was so pissed off she'd decided she was not giving up. She held firm with the woman and made it clear to her that her personal financial situation was not her concern and that all she wanted was her refund. Somehow she finally got off the phone with the woman, who told her she would receive a refund. Sure enough, mom got an email a day later stating the refund would be issued. 

Of course I'd already decided I was going to write about this crappy company and post it online for the world to see.

I have a habit of writing about companies that rip people off and Guardian LLC is now on the list. I contacted Better Business Bureau and filed a complaint about Guardian's sales and customer service tactics. Days later, Guardian followed up with a carefully worded response below. I will make comments in red throughout their response to respond to and clarify a few things.

Hello, On behalf of Guardian LLC, We first off want to apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused. That is certainly never our intentions.

In response to the complaint that nobody was answering when calling customer service for Guardian. Guardian’s Customer Service is open Monday through Friday 8-5 CST. When this customer called in and requested the coverage it was after 5 pm, 5:53 to be exact. (True: When I read their reply to mom, she confirmed that she may have called them before they were due to close).

The customer was probably frightened because of elaborate, negative depictions of a "sales call" such as this one.  (False: Mom was not frightened during the phone call, rather she felt pushed, rushed and intimidated. She was made to feel fearful that something bad would happen to her car and that she would greatly regret not signing up for the extended warranty.  When I read her the negative reviews about consumers having been pressured into purchasing, she said, "that's exactly what they did to me!")

These notices are NOT sent out or targeted to elderly individuals to try and "SCAM" them. These notices are sent out to anyone with vehicles that may or may not need coverage on them. If Guardian was a "scam" they would not be on the BBB and would not be responding to or refunding the customer. Both of these things have happened. (Fact: Being listed on the BB site means nothing if a business is not accredited. Guardian LLC is in fact, NOT accredited by the Better Business Bureau and they receive a "C" rating on a scale of A to F and a 2.21 out of 5 rating. The reason they are not accredited is because either the business did not seek accreditation or they did and did not meet the accreditation standards.)



Guardian LLC on the BBB page.
When a customer calls in to cancel it is a very common practice of any business to find out the reason for cancellation. (While it is absolutely acceptable to ask, it is not acceptable to badger someone into further explanation. The explanation the customer gives should be enough, they should not be required to elaborate then kept on the telephone for thirty minutes being harassed and harangued into changing their minds. Over and over again, this woman pushed mom to tell her why she was cancelling. Mom said "personal reasons" and the woman continued and wouldn't let up. When my mother tried to shut her up by telling her that her daughters would help, this woman told mom that it wasn't fair to ask her daughters to help her as she would be placing an undue burden on her children. If, at this point, you're asking yourself why mom did not just hang up, it's because she worried if she pissed this woman off, she would not get her refund. Remember, Guardian held the upper hand because they had her money, thus mom had to put up with their crap.) Regardless of the customers answer they were refunded in full. (Again, after having been badgered for more than thirty minutes and putting up with that woman's crap!)  Guardian was simply trying to provide excellent customer service by asking relevant questions. (Guardian has no business asking more than once why a customer is cancelling his or her policy. The answer the customer gives should be enough, they don't owe Guardian an elaboration).  Every customer is important to us, even the ones we lose. Nobody at Guardian has or will attempt to "cheat, intimidate, or bully" any of our current or potential new customers. (Yeah, okay.)

We understand that things can be misunderstood very easily over text. (False: There were no emails or texts involved in the purchasing of or cancellation of this policy with the exception of the final email Guardian sent to mom cancelling the policy in the end. All business was done by phone).  We urge any potential customers to call in with their concerns. (Again, this was all done by phone and there was no misunderstanding on my mom's part that she was being harassed and intimidated). The only business practices used by Guardian are providing customers with FACTS and figures from the automotive repair industry. (Fact: No facts of figures were provided.) We then offer a service that will protect a customers budget from getting hit all at once from potential repairs.

We regret losing this customer. Their policy was cancelled and they were refunded before this complaint was even submitted. (Fact: I filed this complaint on March 6th, it was approved and published March 8th. Mom was sent an email notifying her she would finally be cancelled on or about March 9th and the actual money showed up in her account on March 15th).

We hope the very best for the customer and hopes that this clears up this complaint and that it is dropped. (Fact: Rest assured that anytime I hear or read about someone wanting to do business with Guardian LLC I will warn them against doing so. Not only are warranties NOT offered through the actual manufacturer of the automobile, not worth the money spent on them in the first place but more importantly, Guardian's use of intimidation tactics, especially toward senior citizens, makes this company a bad business deal).

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us. Thank you for your time. 
Mom is a smart woman and probably a bit embarassed about this situation but I explained to her that this happens to a lot of people regardless of their age. These kind of sales people are trained well in the art of persuasion and intimidation. They're masters of the game and if you've ever bought a car, you've witnessed this behavior in action. If you think you've never been there, let me ask you - have you ever bought a car? There are sales tactics designed to wear down and intimidate the consumer so they'll sign on the dotted line just to get it over with.  

Guardian LLC is a scam for many reasons and in this case, because it uses deceptive and unethical business practices. They intimidate and incite fear (especially in senior citizens) which ultimately convinces unsuspecting individuals that they must purchase these products.  

Regardless of age, there's a lesson here for all of us. Be careful who you do business with, check it out before you buy, and never ever give anyone your debit card information or direct access to your checking account. Mom was lucky this company refunded her $125 but other customers of companies like them have not been so fortunate. 

By the way, you can read more about these third-party warranty scams at Edmunds, a trusted and reputable online resource for automotive info that has been around for years.  You should check out their site but here are some helpful tips I found at their site, for your information:
A Few Helpful Tips
Third-party extended-warranty scams are widespread enough that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a consumer alert on its Web site. Here are some of the FTC's tips, along with some of our own.
Stick with the manufacturer's warranty: The best way to avoid extended-warranty scams is to choose coverage with the manufacturer's extended warranty. This way, you deal with the same company you trusted enough to buy a car from in the first place. Almost every car manufacturer offers a factory extended warranty. These warranties will cost a bit more (although they are negotiable), but at least you'll have the peace of mind that your vehicle is in the right hands.
Research the company before you sign up: A quick Google search is easy to do, and will reveal quite a bit about the company. You can also ask about the company on message boards, or look them up on your state's BBB Web site.
Know what's covered and what isn't: This is often the biggest source of confusion when it comes to extended auto warranties. Although they are sometimes called extended warranties, they don't function in the same way that your original bumper-to-bumper warranty does. Think of these as service contracts that minimize your costs in the event of high-priced repairs.
Since their coverage is limited, it is all the more important for you to know what is covered by your extended warranty. You'll want to get an exclusionary policy. These types of warranties more clearly state everything that is not covered, with the understanding that everything else is covered. This way, you don't run into any surprises down the line.

If you get mail or phone calls about renewing your vehicle warranty, don't take the information at face value: Your vehicle's warranty may be far from expiring, or it may have expired already. Take the time to find out exactly when your manufacturer's warranty expires. That way, you won't fall for the trick.

If you're not sure about the length of your warranty, refer to our warranty page, which has a thorough listing of all factory warranty coverage. A dealership can also look up the exact day your warranty expires (assuming you are under the mileage limit) by determining the "in service" date for your car.
Never give out personal information to someone who contacts you with an auto warranty offer: Don't share your bank account, credit card and Social Security numbers, or even your driver license number or vehicle identification number (VIN). A few unscrupulous companies have been known to use your VIN to convince you they can "blacklist" your vehicle so that no one else will cover it unless you sign up with them. Don't fall for this. No such list exists.

Be skeptical of any unsolicited sales from a recorded message: You should be getting fewer of these "robo-dialed" phone calls these days, thanks to the FTC's 2009 anti-robocall rule. But in the event that a company ignores the rule, don't pay any attention to its recording. If you want to get more information about an extended warranty, we suggest that you call your local dealer, ask for the finance manager and inquire about the manufacturer's extended warranty.
Be wary of fast talkers: Telemarketers pitching auto warranties often use high-pressure tactics to gain the upper hand and get you to buy a warranty that day. A reputable company will let you see a copy of the contract and let you decide on your own time. Ask the vendor to fax or e-mail you the contract and take your time going over it. Don't fall for the "limited-time specials" that many companies claim to have. These pitches are made up to create a false sense of urgency.

If you've been burned: If you lose money to a third-party warranty, there are several agencies you can turn to. This will vary based on your situation. Since you signed a contract, your first step is to try and get it resolved with the company. If that doesn't work, file a complaint with the BBB. "Eighty-five percent of the grade we give a business is based on consumer experience," said the BBB's Thetford.

Be careful out there and be sure to share the experiences you've had so that others may learn.

Friday, March 10, 2017

To Noritake or not Noritake?

I have this beautiful set of Noritake china we found in my great Auntie Nina's cupboard when we cleaned out her house a few months after she passed away last year. When I unpacked them, there were only four of the 110 pieces that did not make it. The large bowl with handles and lid on the upper right (the backside had broken off), one small dish and two small saucers. Aside from that, I have 106 beautiful pieces remaining. Only a couple have minor chips and one small piece appeared to have been broken completely in half and glued back together.


I researched the set, not for the value but for the history. I find it interesting where things like this were made and when. I found a great site on Noritake and learned a lot. For example I learned that all goods imported into America after 1921 had to have a country of origin label. I don't think this set was made before 1921 because this exact stamp with the Komaru and Nippon Toki Kaishu was not used together prior to that date. There is also no stamp that matches this one after 1921.  The next best answer is that the set was manufactured in Japan but not for export, which would explain the Komaru and the lack of export mark. So, if that is the case, when was it manufactured? Before or after 1921?

If they were not for export, perhaps someone visited Japan and brought them back. To my knowledge Auntie Nina & Uncle Virgil never visited Japan and Uncle Virgil was stationed in Europe during the war. However, Auntie Nina remarried in 2006, two years after Uncle Virgil died. Her new husband, Bill, a retired USN Master Chief was stationed in the Pacific during the war. It's quite possible that he brought the china back with him sometime during his tour of duty or that he and his first wife Adele had traveled to Japan and brought them back.

Fortunately I was able to contact Noritake via Twitter and I sent them a pic of the china and the stamp. They're researching it for me and will get back to me. In the meantime, I have them packed away. It's a shame though because china is meant to be used, not packed away and yet I have no occasion to use them. Maybe I should create one?

Friday, March 03, 2017

Looking for Fair and Balanced News Sources?

This is the best and most accurate map depicting bias in the media that I've found so far.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Whether we like it or not, Trump is our President.

I'm listening to all the hype right now about the inauguration and all I can say is whether we like it or not, Donald Trump will be our new President this Friday. You can shout all you want that he's an illegitimate President because he lost the popular vote but we do not choose Presidents using that method. Don't like it? Change the law. Until then, there was no real indication of voting fraud and it seems this man won the electoral vote and --- well --- he is our next Commander-In-Chief. I didn't vote for him but protesting his legitimacy is such a waste of time. I feel that instead of griping and calling for a halt to the inauguration (like THAT's going to happen!), we should be using our time and talents doing something constructive to make America, and the world, a better place. Don't youthink this is a far better use of our time?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sleep is King.


I've been tired and in pain for a long time. I could not figure out what was wrong with me until I visited a Rheumatologist who did all the tests and confirmed I do not have RA, MS, or any other debilitating disease. He said, in no uncertain terms, "You need to get enough sleep". That's right. He told me that a lack of sleep is causing all my problems. If I had enough sleep, I wouldn't be so tired during the day, would have more energy to exercise and would have a better attitude.

*She says as she writes this at 9:36 p.m.*

Go To Bed, Jess!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Antique watches I can't place...

Would love to find the history on these. Part of my great aunt's extensive collection of antiques and jewelry we inherited after she passed away. 

Sussex seven-jewel ladies lapel watch. Seems more 1940s. The backside is glass, you can see the inner workings of the timepiece through it.

"H.W.C." on the face of this watch pendant. There are two chains that lead to one chain which holds the pendant. The numbers look rather old, I'm thinking early 1900s to 1920s. There was a pocket watch company called H.W.C. but on their website all the watches have serial nunbers, this clearly does not.  Believe it or not, this still ticks. In short spurts. I wind it up, it ticks awhile then stops. Needs cleaning on the inside no doubt then it'll likely work.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Therapy is a necessity in life

Therapy is great, everyone should try it. If anything, it teaches you to be stronger. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that having to go to therapy is a sign of weakness. No, admitting you need help is an incredible sign of strength. Family and friends are great to talk to in a pinch but they're no therapists. They can't be objective and let's face it, what you need when you're pouring your heart out is objectivity.

So, go see a therapist today.

Monday, January 02, 2017

It is true, you can't take it with you...

My great aunt passed away in November at the age of 93. A wonderful woman we all loved dearly, she was my grandmother's only sister and her death came unexpectedly eighteen months after our beloved grams. We had fully expected to spend Thanksgiving with her but alas, it was not meant to be.

My great aunt had two very good friends, a married couple and the husband is the executor of her estate and my mom, her sister, my sister and I will be meeting them next week to go through my great aunt's things and bring home those things we want.  

I'll admit it feels weird to go through someone's things after they're gone. It just feels like an invasion of privacy. My great aunt, if she was still here, would laugh it off. She was one of those individuals who felt very strongly, "You can't take it with you". Her Catholic faith was far much more important to her than any material object. She often asked us what of her things we wanted, and we just had a difficult time with that because well...how do you tell someone "I want this..." and "I want that...". However that's how she was and she was very close to the four of us and of course she adored her only nieces and wanted my mom and my aunt to have the things she cherished most as well as anything she possessed that they could use or would make their lives easier.

Most important to us above all are the family heirlooms, things that were passed down from my great grandmother and her family before her, items that came over from Sicily when my great grandmother emigrated to NYC in the late 1890s. These are things that mean a lot to us. And then comes the usual--kitchen items, garage, linens, furniture, odds and ends. My great aunt had a beautiful home and she and her husbands (her first, my dear great uncle died from Alzheimers after 58years of marriage and the second was Bill, a retired Navy Chief and dear man, who died of cancer a few years ago) had very nice things. And of course they could because they never had children! Seriously though, beautiful things don't mean anything to me. I'm more about sentimentality and functionality. I take great pride in things passed down through the family and I'm all about things you can use for your household, things that don't just look nice, but are functional. My great aunt, who was a very social woman who loved to host dinner parties, believed in both beauty and functionality and she was a very practical woman. She didn't believe in an item going to waste. She would want the things she used every day to go on and be used again and again until they were no longer functional.

Of all the things I could have of hers, what I really want---besides family heirlooms and her craft collection (my great aunt was a naturally-gifted artist!), the wall-mounted flat screen and a few other kitchen items and linens is her....

...bright red toaster oven and matching coffee pot!

Sounds crazy, right? Every appliance in her kitchen was bright red and I have not a single red appliance to my name. And that lipstick-red toaster oven and coffee pot (a red so bright it matched perfectly that red lipstick she and grams wore most of their lives) will look so completely out of place in my kitchen and yet every time I see them that I can't help but think of her.  I'll think of the exact shade of toast she preferred, how precise she was about making the perfect cup of coffee, how meticulous she was about keep her appliances cleaned and maintained. Whatever other red things I can bring home, I will. And eventually I will probably wind up decorating my entire kitchen around those appliances.

And I'm sure my great aunt would've approved!

We all miss her very much and I've been dreading this trip because she died at home and the last time we saw her there, she was alive and then there's the awkwardness of dividing up her things. But I just have to keep in mind that yes, they are just things and if she could read this right now she'd laugh and dismiss my silly notions and reassure me as always,"you can't take it with you."

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Do your part...

If every person in the world did their part, looked out for their neighbors, treated others with kindness, helped those in need and became better stewards of the earth, a lot of the world's problems could be solved. We don't need politicians to solve the biggest problem we have---which is just getting along.

Put aside your differences and figure out a way to work together. Be a good person, treat others with kindness and compassion, be generous and help people and animals in need, and treat the earth like it's your home--which it IS. Do the right thing.

One more thing...think before you speak, before you act, walk away from trouble when you can. Don't instigate, don't confront, just let it go. It could save your life and someone else's too.

Congratulations on making it another year.