Archive for the 'consumers' Category

New Glasses

My new glasses were so inexpensive via Costco and online, I got two pair, since I wear them hard with my frequent travel, commuting, and bedtime reading habits. Here they are:

Burgundy Glasses
These are burgundy wire frames, with earpieces inlaid in white pearlescent metallic. They’re more conservative, perhaps even a little middle-aged? Karen Kane from Costco Optical (awesome quality and service)

Brown Glasses
These are brown, lined with orange. The metal lower half earpiece is copper. They are striking and funky, but perhaps a bit retro and severe? Vogue from Frames Direct online (awesome service and order speed)

I’m working on trying to look more professional and feminine, need to wear glasses a whole lot more of the time now, and would enjoy hearing any honest and constructive feedback.

Posted on Monday, August 10th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: consumers | 8 Comments »

Live and Learn

I am spoiled; I’ve had a cleaning service for the last several years. Upon moving down to Poulsbo, we used an online referral service to find a housecleaner and were matched up with a local business called Cathy’s Cleaning Crew.

Like many such services, they started out strong – high quality and reliable. Over the course of a couple of years, that changed.

In the last year, we struggled with both quality and reliability. One of my more important requirements is that the cleaner come on the day scheduled – not move it around in the week for their convenience. Last minute day changes began happening more and more often, and I instituted a policy of “come on your scheduled day – or don’t come at all.”

We also agreed at the start on a list of items to be cleaned every week, and others every month. The every week items slid to monthly, and the monthly were never done. I shouldn’t have to leave notes asking to have my dining room table dusted or my shower cleaned! When I was working at home, the quality was a little better; when I was traveling or over in the Seattle office it was abysmal.

In late December, the proprietress asked that we (along with all of her other customers) start prepaying for service monthly, on the first visit each month, to simplify accounting. I took exception to this because of the reliability problem; requiring them to come on their scheduled day to actually get paid is powerful leverage. Because searching for a new housekeeper is always a painful process, and this service was relatively inexpensive, I made the lazy decision to try the monthly payment.

It did not go well; unreliability continued to be an issue.

This month, they came the first week while I was in Anchorage, did the usual shoddy job and picked up their check. Last week, they called in sick. I was pretty cranky, told them not to come that day, and that I would no longer be prepaying. This week, they didn’t show and didn’t call.

We tried to contact them, and the number was disconnected – both home and cell. Email bounced. The online referral service told us that Cathy’s Cleaning Crew had stopped accepting new leads several months ago. The service is also attempting to track them down.

We are out the prepayment for 3 weeks of cleaning, and our provider appears to have left town.

Honestly – I have only my own stupidity to blame.

Note: usually I would not name names in a post like this. I’m making an exception here – if anyone ever googles Cathy’s Cleaning Crew, I want this post high among the results!

Posted on Saturday, May 24th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: consumers, Poulsbo | 1 Comment »

Buyer Beware: La-Z-Boy

We have had a frustrating and just plain awful experience trying to buy furniture from La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries in Silverdale.

We ordered our furniture on Dec 1, 2007. While we ordered it in one of the available fabrics for the furniture, it wasn’t the standard color, so they jacked the price up and called it a special order. Understand that La-Z-Boy (and all local vendors) keeps no furniture in stock locally, and all furniture has to be ordered. In fact, the standard fabrics were backordered and we were advised they were not readily available, so, voila… ‘special order’. I stupidly agreed to this, because I wanted it in that color, even though it made no sense and seemed like bait and switch.

La-Z-Boy wanted all their money up front. Uh, I don’t think so! We agreed on half at purchase and half upon delivery.

Estimated delivery time on our ticket was 6-8 weeks, with a clause saying “special orders may take a little more time”.

At the end of January, we called our salesperson to request a status. The furniture was ‘still awaiting production’ but she reminded me of that ‘little longer’ clause.

As a tangential comparison note, we ordered the MINI on Dec 24. We received immediate online updates from the factory and shipping organization, as well as regular updates from the dealership. It was custom-built from scratch for us and shipped to San Francisco on a car carrier via the Panama canal. It was available for pickup on Feb 20 – in eight weeks.

I called La-Z-Boy again at the end of February, after we’d picked up our MINI. The clerk answering the phone indicated that she wouldn’t be able to schedule for delivery until March 6. Hold on a minute… you mean it had arrived? No, but it should arrive the next week and they’d deliver on March 6. Got to love their follow-through.

Yesterday, March 4, their delivery coordinator called me and told me that we still had a balance owing on the furniture and they would not deliver until it was paid in full.

I asked to speak to a manager, explaining that we we were very unhappy with the delivery time frame, and per the original agreement with the manager, did not intend to pay for the furniture until it was delivered. The delivery coordinator gave me a number for the manager; the receptionist at that number transferred me directly back to the coordinator again, who indicated she’d talk to the manager and call me back. I did not receive a call.

I called again this morning, only to find that the coordinator was out today and tomorrow. I finally was transferred to the store manager.

I explained the situation to the manager, and he indicated that he would never have made such a deal, that all furniture must be paid for before delivery. At this point, I got pretty cranky. I explained that we were NOT going to pay before delivery, because given the present horrible delivery experience we did not trust them to deliver on time or at all. Given the frequency & severity of BBB and Consumer Affairs delivery and quality complaints, we also wanted to inspect the furniture before accepting and providing payment. I feel those are reasonable requests.

The manager said no deal. In fact, since the order was a ‘special order’, he added that they would not be refunding the initial amount paid if we refused the order.

At that point the call fell apart. We were at an impasse – they were not going to deliver until we paid, and we were not going to pay until they delivered. I raised my voice a bit at that point… told him that we’d be disputing the initial credit card charge, filing BBB and Consumer Affairs complaints, and taking them to court for the initial payment. I also mentioned that my husband is an attorney and well qualified to address issues related to contract law. I believe, somewhere during the course of the rapidly disintegrating conversation, I called them a ‘freaking shady organization’. I also hung up on him with undue force.

It’s a lot of money to risk on principle – the principle of “no payment until delivery of an acceptable product”. I was questioning my own judgment in holding that line until I started researching La-Z-Boy in the BBB and Consumer Affairs databases. After reading the complaints – about broken delivery promises, perpetually delayed delivery, damaged or substandard items, and the near-impossibility of getting any kind of repair or replacement, I’m very sure that this is the right course of action.

I just wish I’d done the complaint research before ordering. Silly me, I assumed that a well-regarded national brand name would do business in a reputable and straightforward manner. It’s an expensive and high-blood-pressure inducing lesson.

Update 5/5/08

Bryan spoke with the store manager a couple of times this morning. The manager’s first statement was an apology. Hey, there’s a concept!

They agreed to the following:

  • deliver to the store first, for our inspection & acceptance prior to payment
  • 5% discount on the furniture pieces, plus a waiver of the delivery fee
  • a written apology

We felt this was adequate, and accepted it. The smug husband is a good attorney, I’d hire him again anytime. ;)

Posted on Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: consumers | 12 Comments »

Maggie the MINI

mini-3.jpgI wrote awhile back about ordering a MINI (yes, the all caps is correct, to distinguish the new MINIs from the older versions, I’m told), and last weekend we picked it up, and I’ve been driving “Maggie” (the first car I’ve ever named, by the way) all this week. I’m in love with a car.

I’m not a car junkie guy. My folks (correctly, in my estimation) made sure I knew how to change oil, fill fluids, change a tire, etc., but I don’t get any kick out of working on them. My car choices to date have been pretty pedestrian (Chevy Beretta, Dodge Intrepid, Ford Taurus, etc.)

I knew the Taurus was going to graduate to be the boys’ car, and I knew I wanted something that got good gas mileage. The Ford F-150 Crew Cab we bought a couple of years ago and rarely used didn’t fit the bill, and ended up being the trade in bait. We would need the Toyota Mini Van for all of us to be in and for road trip, but I didn’t want to commute in it.

At some point, and I don’t know really why, I became intrigued by MINIs. Not because of The Italian Job either…I didn’t see it until after I’d ordered this car. Maybe Austin Powers. So, as noted in the earlier article, I drove MINIs a couple of times, and ordered one a couple of days after Christmas. (Heavy Irony Note: We ordered some furniture from a well-known brand name furniture store in November. It still isn’t here. Our car, built in Oxford, England, came in less than two months. Sheesh.)

Since I ordered Maggie, I was able to enter the order number onto MINI’s website and follow her progress as she was being built. Very cool. I also heard periodically from the dealership, Northwest Mini in Tacoma about the car’s progress.img_1179.jpg

Now, a word about the dealership and our contact (:::ahem::: “Motoring Advisor”, I’ll have you know, thank you very much) there, Jay Hammon. Best. Car. Buying. Experience. Ever. And honestly, I’ve had some good ones, because most of the time on the bad ones, I walk out. Jay was super nice and super patient and super accommodating. They made the whole thing easy. No BS, no silly dickering, no “what will it take to get you into this car today”. It was like “Hey, we have a pretty cool product. Drive one, if you like it, we’ll hook you up with the one you want, the way you want it. Have a Coke, too.” They gave us more than book for the truck. We never even dickered a bit there. It was a nice truck, and they played fair. How cool is that?

They made the whole buying and financing thing easy. They sent me the forms in advance, I filled them out, and we had our deal in about 15 minutes from when I handed them to Jay. Diane Steeves, the finance manager, was so nice I was stunned. Usually at that stage they are trying to up sell you to death, and act like you’re a moron if you don’t buy every little warranty. They had some deals, they were decent, and we said we’d think about it. Finis. Not a problem, no pressure, lots of laughing, and we were treated like sensical adults, for gosh sakes. Sign the papers, here’s your keys. Nice.

img_1190.jpgJay spent a good deal of time showing us how to use the car, especially to convertible top and radio, stuff I could have figured out eventually from the manuals, but this was much easier. Easy to read manuals, though. Oh, and here’s a nice new small road atlas. Here’s a book showing all of our dealerships, where your warranty is good. We have to work on the car more than 3 hours, we give you car to use. You come in for an oil change, we’ll drive you to the mall. We pay for the oil change for 3 years too. And brakes. And wiper blades.

Like I said. Best. Ever.

Now about the car. MINIs are special. They’re quirky. They’re cute. They’re designed by Germans (BMW, specifically) with British style. The car is well thought out. The controls are in reach and make sense. The top works great, and you can retract it with the key fob. It will retract partway to be a moon roof.

The front is comfortable for two. The back seat is a joke, but you know what, Jeri and I went to Costco today in the MINI, and loaded it all up ok. I could even see out the back.

I got a manual, and it works fine. I like manual transmissions on small cars, it adds an extra dimension of fun. This one shifts easy and has plenty of zip for a small four cylinder. It’s easy to turn and park because of the size. I’ve driven it 300 miles…there’s still a little less than 1/2 a tank left.

The radio is a Harmon Kardon, and is very nice. I added an Ipod connector, and while it isn’t as functional as I’d hoped, it is nice and it charges the Ipod as well.

Overall, it is a kick to drive and I look forward to driving her every day. So, I’m officially hooked to a car. If you’re thinking about an economy car, MINIs are well worth a look.

Posted on Saturday, March 1st, 2008 by Bryan
Under: cars, commute, consumers, MINI | 8 Comments »

Mini and Me

I’ve never been a huge car person. I like them. I enjoy long drives, even, but I’m no Speed Racer. I’ve never liked to work on them, though my parents (correctly, in my view) insisted that I learn enough to take care of one when I was a younger.

At some point in the last couple of years, I sort of had a thing about Mini Coopers. In spite of my big size, and the (obvious) smallness of the make, I wondered what they’d be like to drive. We even stopped by the Mini dealer here in the Seattle area, and I took a quick spin in one. Fun. Very fun, and very cool. “Someday,” I thought. I went to miniusa.com and built one, for fun too.

Then of course, quite recently, I blogged about how silly commercials showing folks getting cars for Christmas are. Get real, I said.

bryansmini.jpgSo then Jeri surprised me with a Mini. Well, a model Mini, a keychain for a Mini, and an appointment with the dealer to order it.

So the picture above what it’ll look like; yes, its a convertible. :-) They are a kick in the pants to drive (I’m getting a manual 5-speed), very low to the ground but sturdy. Nice and roomy in the front, but the back “seat” is a joke, and pretty much an admitted one. they get great reviews, hold their value well, and get super good gas mileage…not like a hybrid, but very good. It has a nice package of options, including a very nice stereo system my Ipod will hook to.

Anyway, I’m psyched, and I’ve been showing off the pics and the model at the office enough that I’m sure everyone hates me now.

bryansmini2.jpgHere’s another pic of one that’s pretty close to the one I’ll be getting that was at the dealership. Mine gets here in March.

So here’s to my wonderful wife for having us do something fun and getting the Mini for me. This one might also get something I haven’t done to a car…give it a name. Any suggestions?

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007 by Bryan
Under: cars, commute, consumers | 4 Comments »