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PSA: Infant seats and tables don’t mix!


Please keep your baby buckled at all times in your infant carrier and be very careful if you must set it on a table or other high surface!

Ebay Madness


I quit using ebay regularly almost 4 years ago, when a scammer tried (and failed) to blackmail me into giving them a partial refund for an item they claimed arrived in a damaged box.  Ebay supports this sort of scam, by not allowing sellers to leave feedback for buyers and by not supporting the sellers who pay the fees in such disputes.  So, I closed my seller’s account and haven’t sold an item since then.  I’ve stuck to buying a few things here and there over the last 3+ years, but nothing in the last year. Until recently, when eBay claimed they missed me and lured me back with a 10% off one item coupon.

That’s a pretty good deal, and I knew what I wanted.  It was a near-commodity item, so pricing is well established by past sales and buying guides.  Yet, this particular seller seemed to think their particular coin merited 3 times the fair market value.  I assumed it was just an over-inflated Buy-It-Now, hoping someone who hadn’t looked up the values would be suckered in even though their last listing failed.  So, I took advantage of the “Best Offer” option, entering a reasonable starting number.   They quickly counter offered, cutting their BIN price in half.  It was still almost 50% above past comparables, though.  But close enough that I sent a message asking for better images of the item, since the included ones were not that great.

Apparently they took offense to that simple ask.  They retracted their counter offer and sent me a wall-of-awful-text in response.  It was all lower case with a mishmash of punctuation and poor grammar.   They refused to send images, saying I was wasting their time when I could have bought the item and returned it if I wasn’t satisfied(!).  How’s that for a red flag?  I was surprised to see it signed by someone with “Customer Support” in their signature.  I wondered how you could run a business without fundamental communication skills.  But apparently they do, with over 5000 feedbacks at 99.8% and only 1 negative in over 700 from the last 12 months.

In proper ebay fashion, I was compelled to reply to counter their ridiculous claims of  how they couldn’t find any record of a sale for near my offer.  So, I included a link to the most recent one, and a couple others as well.  The next wall-of-awful text claimed prices have mysteriously shot up since the previous sales, though no such trend has been noted by anyone in the industry.   What they said to impress me was that the upscale address of their office somehow made them more knowledgeable about current pricing than everyone else.   What was actually impressed upon me was that they were paying too much in rent and probably paid way too much for the item in the first place!

I ended up using my coupon on a similar item.  Not my first choice, but I paid less than fair market value with zero hassle.  Plus, it gave me motivation to write this boring blog!  My lesson today is that you can learn a lot by reading the feedback sellers leave for previous buyers.  Had I read some of those first, I wouldn’t have even made the offer!  Well, enough of my eBay saga.  Anyone out there bought or sold carseats or kids gear or anything on eBay recently?  Any horror stories or encounters with people that haven’t mastered customer service?


Throwback Thursday: Reckless Rudolph vs. Sensible Sam


Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 2.56.03 PMScreen Shot 2014-08-08 at 2.56.31 PMStep into the time machine and buckle up (of course). It’s time to head back to 1935 for an informative film about safe driving.

“We Drivers” combines simple, kitschy animation with live action to show the “devil” (Reckless Ralph) and “angel” (Sensible Sam) who sit on our shoulders and encourage us/egg us on while we drive. Reckless Rudolph wants us to drive fast through the school zone, but Sensible Sam reminds us that there might be kids around. Reckless Ralph wants us to push through to the next town even though we’re sleepy. Sensible Sam tells us to get a motel room (even if that means Sensible Sam shares a bed with us… Really, that’s in there.)

Besides awesome vintage cars, a lack of seatbelts, and predictably bad acting, there’s also a rather terrifying giant-human personification of momentum. In other words: It’s a must-see!

A Rental Car Adventure


We sometimes rent a minivan while on vacation.  Most of the time, it’s uneventful.  Rent.  Drive.  Return.  No problems, no hassles.  A year ago, we flew to Sarasota for beach time at our favorite vacation destination on Anna Maria Island.  We got a good deal through Costco from a popular rental car enterprise.  But last year, it went differently.  Rent.  Drive. Return.  Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle. Hassle.  Hassle.  12 months of Hassle.

It’s a very, very long story, but I’ll try to make it just plain long.  When we returned the van, an agent with amazing eyesight spotted a small paint scrape under the coating of dirt.  It was literally less than the size of a dime on the front bumper, likely from someone getting too close in a parking lot.  He deemed it to be over $250 to repair, therefore they would need me to go to the counter for an hour to fill out forms in triplicate and pay the deposit.

The next few months spawned an epic in incompetence by the rental car agency’s “Damage Recovery Unit”.  I was eventually assigned a case manager, “Jeff”.  His job was apparently a pretty easy one: to ignore almost all correspondence completely.  I imagine the case manager at my credit card company had the same issue, as they’d often tell me I needed to make sure the rental car agency had received their information and payments because they could not get any response.

The best part was when the all powerful DRU sent photos to my credit card company.  It was obviously an entirely different vehicle, as the damage was extensive all the way down to the lower ground effects on the front end.   Since I had no proof, I opted not to make an issue of it and hope the credit card insurance would handle it.  They did.  Ultimately, they paid $800 to the rental car agency, presumably negotiated down from the requested amount.  I thought it was over.

Months later,  I received a check for $250 from the rental car agency.  I had no idea what it was for.  I emailed a few times, but no response from the case manager, as usual.  A couple months later, I cash the check.  A couple months after that, I finally hear from my case manager at the DRU.  He demanded $250 from me, claiming I owed a return of the deposit refund check I had been sent.  He says the credit card agency had contested the original deposit and never paid it.  I wondered why they even sent the check so many months later if they knew this.  So, I asked for any proof of the charge and reversal, along with an invoice that indicated the claim would be paid in full and closed upon my payment.  You guessed it.  No response.  I emailed again a couple weeks later, no response.  Then again, this time, with “Urgent Status” and “Return Receipt”.  I did get the receipt, but never a response.  And again a few weeks ago for the last time.

I didn’t want to get on the rental car black list (Google it), so the last email was copied to the “claimfeedback” email included in their auto-responses.  I was quite surprised that I quickly received an apologetic email and a phone call.  This agent was friendly and responsive and within an hour had confirmed I owed them no money and emailed me a letter indicating the claim was paid in full.  She apologized for the obvious lack of communication from the other agent.

caravanSo, yeah.  Told you it would be long.   But at least I did learn something.  Even if you have primary credit card insurance that pays before your own personal auto insurance, don’t dismiss the rental car agency’s damage waiver if it isn’t too expensive.  It’s widely regarded as a waste of money, and I’m sure that is usually true, but $10 a day for a few days could save you a huge amount of time and hassle.  Which, of course, is what they want.  Second, take good quality photos of your rental car, when you pick it up AND when you drop it off.  If the rental car company decides to lie and charge you for damage that wasn’t there, you’ll have what I didn’t have: proof!  And don’t worry that it might inconvenience the agent at pickup or dropoff for a few minutes if you want a video, too.  Because if you have any damage, I assure you the DRU will have no problem making it an inconvenience for you!

If it’s any consolation, apparently I’m not alone.

This year we rented from another company that my wife uses for work.  They barely even glanced at the van when we returned it.  I did take photo and video, though, but never needed them, thankfully.  I didn’t buy the damage waiver.  At $40 per day for 7 days, it was just too expensive.