Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't Scam So Close To Me

Well, I was hemming and hawing about blogging about this at the risk of looking stupid. But I think it might be more important to warn others than to preserve my credibility in the blog-o-sphere. Hah, those two words look silly in the same sentence.

Besides, I'm upset and I've obviously already taken a bigger, stupider risk in the past 24hrs. Here goes.

A little background: I hate my car. It's not really the car's fault, per se - it usually runs well and is a comfortable, fairly new vehicle. But it causes me nothing but strife. To wit: the 4months it took to register in Virginia, the 12months to straighten out said registration because I live in neither Fairfax County NOR the fair state of Massachusetts, and of course, weekly parking issues that have been known to make me cry. The details of this situation are often hilarious (in hindsight only) and add up to me hardly EVER using my car. Which is 2x as expensive as it should be, also adding to my angst. Oh, Pasquale. I didn't even name you well.

For the past two weeks, I've been missing a call from an unfamiliar number. The few times I've gotten to my phone in time, I just miss the caller and they never leave a voice mail. Last night, I happened to be holding the phone in my hand when this number rang through and found myself in a very confusing, frustrating, 40 minute phone call about my car's warranty.

The fast talking dude on the other end of the line knew a lot about me - my full mailing address, name, phone number (duh), and the year, make, and model of my car. He was calling on behalf of my dealership because my warranty was running out. This was my final call because, according to him, I had been sent seven postcards warning me that my warranty was about to default. I've never received these mailings but my mail isn't the most reliable.

It's hard to explain all that went on, but the reason the conversation was over half an hour long was because I was really uncomfortable about what I was being told/sold. The problem is that I don't actually know anything about my car lease, but it seemed unlikely that I would purchase a 4yr lease with a 2-1/2 year warranty. But this was my "last chance" to respond, and I had to decide that night or I'd have no warranty for the remainder of my lease. I'm not very savvy financially and I didn't want to make a mistake. Warranties sound important. So after verifying 3 times that I could cancel within 30 days and not have to pay a dime.....I gave him my credit card information.

Even the idea of having to pay another $100/month on this life-burden of mine was obnoxious. But the impression that I was being swindled made me even more uncomfortable. I searched the company online - American Warranty Services is NOT listed by the Better Business Bureau and their website looks like crap. Their "testimonials" could not be more fake. So, finally making a smart move, I called my car company to ask if they had heard of this warranty company. Major props to Volkswagen, the woman I spoke with was extremely nice and calming. She did some research and called me back within 5 minutes so I wouldn't have to wait on hold.

Unfortunately, warranties go through the dealer, not the national company. So while she didn't have information on American Warranty Services (or Warranty America or Warranty Services), it doesn't necessarily mean that they are a fake company. It just means they don't contract through Volkswagen of America. Next, I called my credit card company and told them I suspected fraud. The charge hasn't processed completely yet - although it is there, and is the same amount they told me - so I can't contest it yet. But I will.

I just called Warranty Services to try to cancel my new policy, and was told a manager would call me back. I'm not holding my breath, but I at least got a name. I'll update this post with the end result. If this company is legitimate, I should have no problem cancelling without paying a dime. If they aren't, I'll work with my credit card company and the Better Business Bureau.

As of right now, it's all very ambiguous. I can't slander this company because I truly have no idea what the straight skinny is - except for the fact that my leased vehicle is most likely not operating with an expired warranty and the pit in my stomach hasn't gone away.

I know this was stupid, please don't bother leaving a post to reiterate that fact. This is just another item I'm adding to my "things they don't teach you in college list" - a post for another day.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring is in the Air - Blech!

Finally, finally March is over. What a terrible horrible no-good very bad month that was. I had problems with my taxes, car trouble, chaos at work...March basically came in like a lion and didn't turn into a lamb until the 31st.

So! I am not taking the month of April for granted. Doesn't the word April even sound better than "March"? March. Feh.

In the spirit of loving April, I walked out of my apartment on Wednesday and took a deeeeeep breath of the new month's air - and almost choked on the wretched stink of fertilizer. Oh my lord, I think Arlington County must have a serious, non-negotiable contract with Consolidated Manure or whomever it is that is putting fresh, stinky dirt all over the city. I was hit with the same stench when I left the gym the other night as well. It's a tough odor to block out, and it's everywhere.

The only thing worse than the smell of fertilizer is the olfactory assault of a Ginkgo tree's "fruit." While fertilizer can be justified as recycling! or step 1 to beautiful flowers!, the Ginkgo tree has no redeeming qualities. It just grows these round, green balls that drop to the ground when they're ripe. And MAN, are they ripe. If you step in one, the stench follows you around for awhile.

(EW! I interrupt this post for this incredibly unexpected and revolting news brief: while searching for an image of the ginkgo tree's stink bombs, I found that people COOK WITH THEM. Good heavens, people - just because you are physically able to do something does NOT mean you should!)


Anyway, I am something of a Ginkgo expert, except I don't think many experts hate the thing they specialize in. What can I say, I'm ground-breaking. I've known their stink since the tender age of 4, when I walked to elementary school and had to dance around the mines littering the ground near the Ginkgo tree in front of the old Victorian house on the corner. This continued every spring and fall until 6th grade, when I took the bus to middle school. But, alas! I walked to high school and passed the very same tree. And now, there is a Ginkgo tree right in front of my apartment building. Just to spite me, I'm sure.

Even though I am considerably older and more mature (at least, I sure hope I am), I still dance around the ginkgo stinkbombs pretty much exactly the same way I did when I was four. I gotta hand it to that tree, it really keeps me on my toes. Literally. And sure my neighbors might stare a little, but at least my sneakers don't smell...on the bottom anyway. Besides, we should all dance in public more than we currently do, even if it is to avoid droppings on the sidewalk. Maybe the ginkgo tree is helping me express my love for this new month and new season by putting me in a dancing mood.

Or maybe it just smells.