Funny about Money

Simple Living = Frugality = Peace of Mind: Personal Finance and Stress Control

September 27, 2016
by funny

The Politically Correct Car?

So I spent a fair part of the afternoon leafing through the 564 pages of the new(ish) Venza’s owner’s manual. One of them. It has a freaking library of owners’ manuals!

Godlmighty, it’s like learning to navigate the Starship Enterprise. Actually, most of the stuff is at least vaguely familiar, though tricking everything out in electronics creates an endless learning curve.

  • Set clock, p. 206: press press button to bring up “hour” function, press button press button press button till you get to the right hour; press button to bring up “minute” function, press button press button press button press button PRESS BUTTON till you find the right minute out of 60; thank god it has no “seconds” feature.
  • Reset average fuel consumption, p . 206. Press clock button, navigate function, press reset button.
  • Try to find driving range, p. 206. Press clock button, navigate to function, view number of miles left before you run out of gas. [Really? You couldn’t figure out that if the gas gauge says about an eighth of a tank to go, maybe…just maybe you should fill up? Seriously?]
  • Test headlights, pp. 212-13. Okay, this is pretty normal. Except for the fog lights. And the side lights. And the side mirror lights.
  • Figure out and test fog lights, p. 219.
  • Figure out and test front and back windshield wipers: p. 221, pp. 225-26. Figure out whether windshield wipers are Type A or Type B. (Why???)
  • Find cruise control, p. 227.
  • Figure out how it works, pp. 227-30
  • Try to figure out what VSC is and whether the car has it, pp. 238-39. Whatever it is, it appears to be standard and evidently kicks in automatically. Kicks in what remains to be seen.
  • Try to figure out if the car has “intuitive parking assistance” and what it is, pp. 231 ff. Whatever it is, it’s crazy-making. Try to forget it. Whatever it is.
  • Find the emergency flasher button, p. 430. That was dumb: it’s self-evident.
  • Figure out how to set “dual” and “simultaneous” air-conditioning modes, and WTF “simultaneous” means, p. 289.

(This is INSANE!)

  • Note operation of air outlets’ “mode” turns on a variety of fans to the back seat: pp. 290-92.
  • Find and operate defogger buttons, p. 292-96
  • Reset automatic and defogger modes, p. 294-95.

** Remember to turn air-conditioner’s recirc off before turning car off!!!!! **

  • Find coin holder, p. 318. Coin holder? WTF? The ashtray is a flickin’ COIN HOLDER?
  • Find auxiliary box type B, p. 317.
  • Find auxiliary box type C, p. 319.
  • Find seat heaters, p. 324. Interesting: there aren’t any. The saleslady seems to have…uhm…been mistaken. Again.
  • Find carpet retaining hooks, p. 328.
  • Find cargo and shopping bag hooks, find auxiliary box, p. 330.
  • Find luggage cover anchors, p. 331.
  • Try to program garage door opener, p . 334-35. Need fresh battery.
  • Find compass on mirror, p. 339.
  • Find engine coolant temperature gauge, p. 186. Wait, what? A recognizable car part? On the dashboard? Must have been an oversight…


Coin holder? The ashtray is a coin holder? What?

Google “what happened to car ash tray.”  Learn that ash trays have been phased out of cars over the past couple of decades. Only a few high-end European cars (wouldncha know it) still have them. Why? Political correctness. Trying to discourage the sheeple from smoking, because it’s soooo bad for them.

Well. Yes. Smoking is bad for us. But really. Is it up to a gigantic automobile manufacturer — one whose employees engage all sorts of sleazy and questionable sales tactics — to make us quit smoking? Is it any of Toyota’s goddamn business? In the immediate sense, it’s a lot riskier to fiddle with electronic doodads  than to smoke while you’re driving.

Not surprisingly, this righteous development has an unintended consequence: People who smoke WILL smoke. If there’s no ash tray, they’ll tap their ashes and throw their butts out the window, thereby starting brush and forest fires.

Isn’t that helpful!


My retrograde father used to say the surrounding cultures in which our American oil camp was inserted were still in the Dark Ages because their overriding philosophy was “what was good enough for my father is good enough for me.” Well, when it comes to bigotry, he could have done Donald Trump proud (though he had more sense than to vote for a clear and present clown)… But still, despite his rampant xenophobia, he could’ve had something there. If you don’t change, you petrify.

Still… You can’t help but wonder…if it ain’t broke, why fix it? How many ordinary functions in a car really need to be complicated by computers? Do you seriously need a little glowing letter on your rear-view mirror to tell you which way is north? Do you need “intuitive parking assistance” of crazy-making complexity to  maneuver your car into a parking space? Would the Civilized World really regress to the Middle Ages if we never achieved these advances?

September 27, 2016
by funny
1 Comment

In Recovery…

LOL! Literally… Last night I went to bed around 7 p.m., so tired I couldn’t hold my eyes open. Kindly, the dogs didn’t budge until 5:00 a.m.: TEN HOURS of sleep!

Unheard of! These days a seven-hour rest is exceptionally wonderful, and about six hours is typical. Awoke feeling considerably better than I have over the past week or two, the headache much diminished and the overall sense of stress pretty well gone.

So that’s refreshing. Not to say amazing.

Today I’ve done almost nothing. Nothing constructive, anyway. Polished my toenails. Washed the sheets. Inspected the new Venza’s owner’s manual a little more and made a list of the settings that should be made and the things I should learn to do now instead of when they actually need to be done. Read the news. Posted a complaint at Edmunds about the local car dealership, basically the same as the rant I posted here, only naming names. Explored the AG’s website and discovered my son is correct in saying they have a special interest in tactics that take advantage of the elderly and the dazed.

A-n-n-d… Discovered a competition that might fund the Boob Book, from writing all the way through to marketing. Twenty grand!

Dayum. Think of what  $20,000 would buy in the marketing department! And you know…say the words “breast cancer survivor” and carillons begin to ring.

Mwa ha ha!

You have to submit a video explaining what you would do with the cash. Interestingly, I happen to know a videographer: one of my former students. And he happens to be one of my “contacts” at LinkedIn.

Thought I had his direct email address but can’t find it. So sent him a LinkedIn message — hope he gets it. The deadline isn’t until mid-October, though, and since I created a pitch for a group of real-world publishers and literary agents, I can probably put a script together in a day or two.

So I’m watching the email and hoping to hear from him. Soon.

Meanwhile, resting: Making up for the lost “vacation” in one day.


September 26, 2016
by funny

Is the Car Mine Now?

Mine and the credit union’s, that is… We shall see.

I took it upon myself to try to purchase a 2014 Venza through a large local Toyota dealership. Because I was stressing over the increasing unreliability of my 16-year-old Sienna, I just wanted to get this over with. Mistake number 1: Don’t ever get in a hurry to buy a car.

The proposed new car had the lowest mileage of any comparable vehicle I could find within 150 miles of the Funny Farm: 37,350±. The price was just barely under the limit of what I could pay. Sort of. And it appeared to be in good condition. Probably.

I arranged pre-approved financing through my credit union, and presented documentation in the form of a letter of approval shipped directly from the credit union to the dealership.

The dealership’s hustler…uhm, “financial manager”…pressured me fiercely to accept the dealership’s 2.9% financing instead of the 1.9% loan for which I had been approved. I resisted. After “negotiating” (puhleeeze!) most of the day away, they gave me a bill of sale and the keys to the car, and I drove away, thinking I had an expensive used car to park in my garage.

A day and a half later, the “financial manager” called and said the loan had not gone through because they couldn’t get past the credit freeze to pull a credit report from Experian: a flat lie, because they told me they had downloaded my credit report while I was at the dealership, and proving it by revealing they knew my credit score, which is a shade on the amazing side because of my habit of charging everything on AMEX and paying it off at the end of the month. Nor, of course, would they have let me drive the vehicle off the lot without approving a credit report… That notwithstanding: I must hurry back in, he said, to make this right.

This is what is known as a “spot delivery” scam: They pretend to approve you on the spot and let you drive the car off — at which point they take possession of your car — and then they call you back in for more extreme harassment than the hustle you’ve already been through. If you say the deal is off and you want your car back, they tell you they’ve already sold it.

Rather than arguing with the sleazy guy, I called the loan officer I was dealing with. Long story short, he contacted the dealership and arranged for them to accept a check from the credit union for payment in full of the car. I do not know what he said to them, but figure it must have entailed some sort of implicit or explicit threat, because they did NOT want to finance the car at the pre-approved 1.9% rate, and so you may be sure they didn’t want to take a cash payment. Loan officer called late Friday night with instructions to pick up the check at the CU when they opened and deliver it to the bastards.

Over the weekend, I talked my son into coming with me, at considerable inconvenience to him. He has a very heavy workload and did not feel he could take time off today, but seeing the stress the whole fiasco was causing, he agreed to do so.

Also while passing Saturday and Sunday, I downloaded an auto report from Experian’s AutoCheck, which is similar to Carfax. It indeed did show the vehicle had never been in an accident (not a reported one, anyway), and it confirmed the mileage and miscellaneous other details. It also showed that the saleswoman’s claim that it belonged to one ever-so-caring couple was a lie: it had been a fleet/rental/lease car in Las Vegas and was purchased (presumably by Toyota) on September 5 at auction.

Chuck the WonderMechanic had asked me to bring the car up to his shop for a quick inspection when they opened this morning, which was the soonest he could get his lifts free. When I arrived at 8 a.m., they were open and ready to go. Mechanic Harold inspected as much as one could without taking anything apart. He said the vehicle looked to be in good to excellent condition, except for the front brake pads, which he estimated had 6,000 to 8,000 miles left on them. The rear brake pads had been replaced, he said. Everything else that he could easily see appeared to be OK.

From there I flew to the credit union, where I picked up a check for $22,164.83. The manager there, James, had just bought a car at the same dealership a couple of weeks ago and agreed they were difficult to deal with. He also had arranged to pay for his car with a cash advance from the credit union.

Met my son at his office, and we drove to the dealership in his car, lest the bastards try to repossess the Venza.

We delivered the check at about 10:50 a.m.

The “financial manager” did not even remember me! He grabbed the check and tried to make off with it. I said I wanted a receipt. He said he couldn’t give me a receipt: the check clearing the bank would be the receipt.

My son insisted that we be given a receipt acknowledging that we turned the check over to Bell Rd. The guy offered a photocopy. My son said that would be OK if the guy signed it.

He did NOT want to sign it; he would only initial it. My son seemed to think that suffices; I do not, because the scribble he put on it is pretty generic. No one could figure out what it means or who scribbled it.

So it still remains to be seen whether this is going to go through or not.

My son advised me not to contest the $1300 worth of extraneous expenses “financial manager” had tacked on. This is another scam, known as “packed payments“: piling on a shitload of costs so as to drive up the monthly payments. Among the rip-offs were paint sealer I did not ask for or approve and an alarm system that was already on the vehicle, not an add-on ordered by me.

As it develops, the $429 worth of “document fees” may be illegal. Maybe I’ll bring that to the attention of the state attorney general’s office. But maybe not. I’m so royally sick of this, I surely do not feel like ever hearing anything about it again.

So… I have the car, and supposedly the deal is done — though that remains to be seen. Practitioners of the spot deliver scam have been known to badger their marks weeks or even months after the car was transferred. But since it now belongs to the credit union, I doubt if they’ll try any more antics.

Several errors were made on my part:

 1. Let myself get enthused about having that car, rather than being willing to wait, possibly for weeks or months, for some other choice to come up.
 2. Dealt with the sharks one-on-many, rather than bringing someone with me to “negotiate.”
 3. Failed to look up the car on Experian or Carfax myself.
 4. Didn’t read the sales agreement word for word for word for word (because I had a migraine headache and could barely focus on the conversation, much less on a complex fine-print document).
 5. Tried to power through the migraine.
 6. Failed to challenge obvious rip-offs.
 7. Did not know I could ask the CU to advance the full purchase price rather than fiddling with a subcontracted loan deal.

Really…you have to wonder why tactics like the ones that were deployed on me are legal at all.

If I ever have to buy a car again — and I sincerely hope I die before that day comes — I’m bringing a lawyer and a police officer with me.




September 25, 2016
by funny
1 Comment

Car and Scam Update

So… The car flap subsided over the weekend but will start again first thing tomorrow morning.

I have to show up at the credit union at 9 a.m. to pick up a check, which supposedly I will present to the crooks at the car dealership, thereby ending the whole circus. My son has said he will come with me, which is much desired and appreciated given the way these people have taken advantage of me. But that will require me to drive all the way to the CU, then turn around and drive all the way back to his office a few blocks from my house, then drive way to hell and gone up the freeway to North Phoenix.

What a mistake it was to figure it would be OK to do business with SDXB’s ex-girlfriend, from whom we bought a car for my son when he was in high school. She’s lied to me, the so-called “financial manager” has lied to me, and now I’ve learned that what they’re doing is such a commonplace scam it has a name in the industry: the Spot Delivery scam. The goal is to drag you back in, rewrite the loan agreement, and add a ton of other expenses.

Where these people are concerned, they’re unhappy because I arranged my own financing at 1.9%, which they don’t want to accept. They’re trying to maneuver me into their own 2.9% loan, which I am not going to accept.

Typical in the Spot Delivery maneuver, when you show up there and announce you’re not going to do it, they tell you the car they took from you is sold or otherwise disappeared, so you’re pretty much screwed.

They also engaged inpayment packing,” in which the dealer adds as many expensive extras as possible.

The “financial manager” hustler hammered away at me for almost an hour trying to persuade me to buy an extended warranty above and beyond the 7-year, 100,000-mile CPO warranty. I refused. But they did  add to the bill of sale a “theft code” (which I thought was part of the purchase price: $289.90) and a “paint protection” finish (which I thought came with the car’s original new-car package: $195). They also charged a “document preparation fee” of $429 and $395 for an alarm, which according to the owner’s manual is part of the car’s standard equipment.

That comes to $1308.90 extra for items that I wasn’t even aware I was consenting to and at least of two of which were already on the car at the time they put it up for sale. There’s no way they could have applied a paint sealant while I was at the dealership: there wasn’t time for that, despite their keeping me waiting for hours. Nor is there any way they could have installed an alarm system while I was waiting. The saleswoman   told me she was having the car “detailed,” not that she was having it painted and adding equipment.

The credit union’s loan officer procured an agreement from the “financial manager” jerk that they would accept a check from the CU. But it remains to be seen whether they’ll do it. And it remains to be seen how much of our time they’ll soak up in this. My son has an overload of work and says he really can’t afford to take time off his job. But I really don’t have anyone else to help do battle with these people, and since I’m already losing, big time, I don’t feel I can take them on alone.

As soon as this is over, I’m filing a complaint with the state attorney general’s office. But meanwhile, the question is how to get it over.

The car itself is pretty cool. I’ve been reading the owner’s manual like a textbook. It does some pretty amazing things and has some very nifty features. One is, admittedly, left wondering “why?” Who really needs all this stuff? To my mind, electronic tools to accomplish things you can do with a flick of a finger look like more and more stuff to break.

It’s sad, how Toyota changed with success in this country. When they were first trying to get a foothold here — about the time I got my first Toyota, a Corona, and everyone was sick of Unsafe at Any Speed cars and dealers for whom rip-offs were SOP — Toyota’s sales and service were primo. They left American car dealerships in the dirt. But now that they own the market, they behave exactly like US car dealers used to in the 1970s and 80s: dirty.


September 23, 2016
by funny

Car: A short-lived love affair?

{sigh} It looks like there’s a good chance the (not-so) new car is going back to the dealership on Monday.

The sleazy high-pressure finance manager dude at the Toyota dealership called this afternoon, claiming that my loan was not approved. I said of course it’s approved: I was pre-approved at the credit union for 22.5 grand. Videlicet:

Your OneAZ Credit Union loan application has been approved with conditions.
Loan Type: Exclusive Auto Promo Vehicle Year: 2016 Loan Amount: $22,500.00 Interest Rate: 1.90% Term: 60

“We couldn’t pull a credit report because your Experian account is frozen,” said he.

“No, it’s not: I unfroze it from C***’s phone (C*** being the saleswoman) and arranged for it to stay unfrozen through September 24.”

“Well, we couldn’t get a credit report. You need to call Experian and unfreeze it.”

I call C*** and ask WTF? She had come bouncing back into her office with the credit report in hand and exclaimed “You are a banker’s dream!” She’d just discovered my credit rating: 807.

So I say, D** (the gent in question) says you didn’t get a credit report from Experian. She now says — hang onto your hat — that actually that credit report was from TransUnion, and they have to get reports from each of the three credit bureaus.

That, alas, is a flat untruth.

a) If that were true, she would have said so yesterday;
b) I am dead certain it was Experian, because the system emitted the usual “welcome to Experian” robo-chatter; and
c) Transunion, Equifax, and Experian each provide unique passwords – the PW for Experian would not have gotten me in to Transunion and therefore I could not have lifted the freeze there.

I didn’t bring the passwords for TransUnion or Equifax; Experian’s is digits from an ancient and irrelevant phone number and so easy for me to remember. Far be it from me to say that C*** is lying…but…uhm…maybe not that far.

What’s going on here is that the dealership is trying to corral me into accepting their 2.9% loan; they will make less on the 1.9% loan through the CU – possibly they will make nothing, since the loan is not through them but through the credit union. The guy tried to pressure me into taking the 2.9% loan yesterday, but I declined. He also tried to high-pressure me into buying an expensive extended warranty on top of the “Certified Pre-owned” feature. It took four refusals over the course of an hour or more to get him to knock it off.

So I call the loan officer at the credit union, T****, who says he can’t see what their problem is, since the loan has been approved and the dealership has received the letter of approval, which the CU has also sent to me. There’s a direct and an indirect way of buying the car, he explains. The present and most typical strategy is “indirect,” whereby the loan is routed through something called CUDL.  If it doesn’t work, then they will arrange for the “direct” method, which involves my traipsing to the credit union to get the documentation and a check. But he says there’s NO reason they shouldn’t be able to do this in the normal “indirect” manner. He said he would call D** and propose that they accept a “direct” loan.

At the time, I also ask T**** if the “year: 2016” means the loan applies only to new vehicles. He checks and says no, as agreed earlier, it covers 2012-2016 models.

Somewhat after 5 p.m., T**** called to say Bell Rd had agreed to do the “direct” method. This entails my driving to the credit union, picking up a check, and delivering it in person to the dealership.

With some hassle — the password was the last four digits of my SS number and they had entered the wrong characters — I filled out the required “signature” form, turned it in, and downloaded it to DropBox and to disk.

So on Monday I’m supposed to drive to the credit union Monday morning to pick up a check and then shlep it to the dealership.

That is going to blow away at least half of another day, probably more.

If I get one more scintilla of aggravation on Monday, I’m going to return the car, demand my car back plus any gasoline they’ve consumed, and tell them I expect them to fix anything they’ve broken on it.



September 23, 2016
by funny

Car as Archaeological Dig

A 16-year-old car is a slice of history; excavating its contents is like going on an archaeological dig. Here’s what I came across when I went to shovel out the Dog Chariot before forking it over as a trade-in.

  • A disintegrating Ziplock bag filled with quarters, for use in pay phones
  • A dime dated 1971
  • A fistful of city and state road maps. MAPS! Remember those?
  • One nonfunctional flashlight, sealed shut by battery corrosion
  • Two tire gauges, never used; one dates to the Early Devonian
  • One wing corkscrew for emergency wine bottles
  • Two pair of nonRx shades
  • Several emery boards
  • Half a roll of Rolaids, age unknown
  • One forgotten comb
  • One rarely used hairbrush
  • One fold-up umbrella

The new car has TWO big storage compartments between the front seats. These will more than accommodate the junk I carry. The van, alas, had nothing to speak of in that line, and so I had two flat cardboard boxes and a basket in which I carried around things like shades, antacids, a notepad and pen, packet of glasses cleaner, junk, junk,  junk, and more  junk.

It’s going to be so tidy inside that car, it’ll look like…like it belongs to someone else! 😀

Have you ever excavated a car? What did you find in it?