Auto Inspections: A Culture of Lies

I heard recently that 38 states require some sort of yearly auto inspection. Whether that’s a safety inspection or a safety and emissions inspection will vary depending on where you live, but one thing seems to be true regardless of where you look: Lies abound.

It seems that when an individual is forced to buy something by the government, the person selling does everything they can to take advantage of the situation. In this case, people are forced to buy inspections and the people providing the inspections seem to overwhelmingly take advantage of that.

How? Well, inspections require the car to go up on a lift. The only facilities that have lifts are ones that also do auto repairs. From my experience, a good majority of those facilities will tell you something needs to be fixed in hopes that you’ll just get it done at their facility. For example, a friend recently had her car fail because 2 of the tires didn’t have enough tread. The shop offered to replace the tires at a reasonable rate on the spot so she could pass the inspection and get on her way. She didn’t think her tires were bad, but having zero power to question the authority of the shop without getting tagged with a no-drive sticker and paying the inspection fee again, she just agreed to getting the new tires. After all, she couldn’t afford to take a day off of work. Once the new tires were on, she asked to take the old tires home and the shop claimed they had already disposed of them. What? You can’t burn tires or toss them in a trash compactor, so that was just a bold-faced lie and proof that the shop had lied during the inspection to make a quick buck.

This isn’t an unusual story. The state that I live in now has cameras in the shops that are doing the inspections, but a camera on the corner of the wall can’t tell if the tech doing the inspection is lying about the tread left on a tire or whether or not he hears an exhaust leak. Sure, a shop could lose their license if a state inspector goes undercover and brings a perfectly good car in that fails, but the odds of that happening are pretty low. Furthermore, if you get your inspection done at the same place year after year or have kids with you, the inspector can probably figure out that it’s not a random spot check.

Switching to a state-run system, eliminating the no-drive stickers and giving people a more reasonable buffer to get repairs done is usually scoffed at because of the cost. So here’s my plan: Eliminate inspections in every state. It’s much too subjective and puts repair shops in a position to take advantage of low-income families that drive older vehicles. Inspections are not effective at removing truly unsafe vehicles from the roadways, so eliminating them shouldn’t have an impact on the number of accidents. It will, however, boost sales of pre-owned vehicles and help low-income families maintain employment. A win-win for everyone.

5 Tips for Selling Cars on Craigslist

The past week has been a whirlwind. My husband’s car died and it was the type of engine failure where you buy a new car rather than fix the one you’ve got. We are on a shoestring budget and couldn’t scrape together much for a replacement. In our hunt for a cheap car, we found ourselves looking at Craigslist. After scanning literally hundreds of listings for cars and looking at several, I thought I’d put together a few tips for those thinking of selling their car on Craigslist. These tips will help minimize your headaches and get your car sold faster.

1.) Post your vehicle when you plan to be home. New listings get the most views, so post your car when you’ll be around to show it to prospective buyers. Going out of town for a few days? Wait until you get back to post your vehicle. Not available Monday-Friday? Post it on Friday night and show it on the weekend.

2.) Check your messages or answer the phone. However you decide to have people get in contact with you, make sure it’s something you have access to, will check and will respond to. I’d say at least 90% of the ads we responded to either never got back to us or took more than 24 hours to respond. I know you may be flooded with interest, so go ahead and recruit someone else to help respond to messages or set up an auto response.

3.) Include all pertinent information in the ad. If you’re finding yourself flooded with messages to the point that you can’t keep up, you’ve either done a poor job of researching prices OR you didn’t include enough information in your ad. More than once I saw ads that simply had a photo and a year and said, “Contact X for more information”. That’s not acceptable. It takes 5 minutes to write a Craigslist ad. Not sure where to start? Include at least the bare minimums:

  • Year, Make & Model
  • Price
  • Mileage — don’t write 140,000 as 140 in the little form that Craigslist provides because it will screw with the search feature.
  • Any known issues (check engine light is on, needs brakes, power window won’t work, etc.)
  • Any body damage (pictures are helpful)
  • A VIN number so buyers can do a Carfax report
  • Any other important information that you may want to include such as availability to show the vehicle, issues with the tile, etc.

4.) Take new, clear pictures of the vehicle for your ad. I can’t even tell you how many photos of cars were from the wrong season, had kids or animals in them, or were just so grainy that you couldn’t really see the car. I especially liked the nighttime photos that were close-ups of the rear-view mirror or something like that. Were these people drunk when they posted the ad?

5.) Do not be misleading. If you post in your ad that the car has no problems and drives great, it should actually have no problems and drive great. There was one vehicle in particular that we were told had no problems, so we went to see it. After driving an hour to see the car, we found out that it didn’t start (needed to be jumped), had a history of not starting, had problems that would prevent it from passing a safety inspection, needed brakes, needed tires, had a very loud engine noise when driving and probably should have been in the junkyard in the sky. We were upset that we had wasted so much time and gas going up to see the car. If the owner had been straightforward, we wouldn’t have wasted our time or his. Granted, with all of those issues listed, nobody would want to see the car at the price he had it listed at. It was a parts car at best.

Basically, include pictures, include an abundance of information and be available to respond to interested buyers and to show the vehicle. Look at your ad before posting and ask yourself if YOU were looking for a car, would your ad answer all of your questions? If you went to see the car based on your ad, would you be severely disappointed?

Update on Neighbor From Hell

I haven’t updated about the neighbor from hell in quite a while and I thought today would be a good time to do so.

First, I’ll say that a fence WELL WITHIN our property boundaries was one of the best investments we ever made. We lost about 5 feet of land on all sides, but geeze it’s nice to have a physical barrier that keeps him, his guests and any town officials he has over at least a short distance from our house. Seriously folks, fences make the best neighbors.

Now that’s not to say that the fence has solved all of our problems – it hasn’t. Said neighbor is bipolar or something and every now and then he likes to be a jerk. I’m 99% sure he has a camera pointed at our back deck so he knows when we’re outside because every time we set the table for an outdoor meal, he has to mow the lawn or weed whack. Right along the fence that’s closest to the table. For hours on end. He weed whacked the same stretch of 50 feet for 3 hours the last time we attempted dinner outside. That’s not being particular about lawn care, that’s some serious effort at being a jerk. I should mention too that he also has a lawn service, so there’s no reason for him to mow or weed whack in the first place.

Then there was the time he decided to run the gas out of his snow blower next to the fence at midnight. He stopped long enough to refill it. We could have called the town on him, but we chose to be the bigger person and ignore it. We figured if we called the town it would give him some sort of justification in escalating his behavior and quite frankly, he has bought the town off in the past and I’m sure he’d just do it again.

I’ll tell you what, his behavior is annoying at times, but I just remind myself that he’s 30+ years older than I am and odds are that he’ll die first. And when he does, I’m sure hell will throw him a homecoming party.

Money Saving Tip: Double Check Dental Bills

You hear stories all the time of people being ripped off by hospitals by being charged for services they didn’t receive, but did you know the same thing happens at the dentist?

Today, I saved $100 on my daughter’s dental work with basic math skills and knowledge of my insurance coverages. $100!

Here’s what happened. When they told me that my daughter needed a cavity filled, I asked for a quote in writing. They provided one and even included my deductible in the price. I went back to have the work done and the new price was $50 more than what was originally quoted!

I questioned it. They got mad that I questioned it and tried to silence me and tell me that I was wrong and that my insurance downgraded back fillings, but I knew I was right so I stood my ground. If I were a new patient or hadn’t spent so much time on the phone with the insurance company, I might have believed them. I didn’t though, so I put up the stink and argued it. They called the insurance company and I was right!

Once that was straightened out, they re-did their calculations — and I double checked them! No shame in my game! And guess what — they were wrong again! They were still calculating my portion at the wrong co-insurance.

So, it pays to be an informed consumer. I just saved myself $100 and I cringe thinking about how many people just assume the office is always right. In my experience, they’re rarely right, so check those bills people!!

Home Depot: An Unlikely Source for Small Appliances

I took a trip to my local Home Depot this past weekend to get some funky little halogen lightbulbs for my kitchen light. They don’t sell them at Walmart, so I figured Home Depot was probably my best bet. What should have been a trip totaling under $15 quickly skyrocketed to over $100. Why? Small appliances.

Home Depot, you never fail to amaze me with your selection of random items at sometimes spectacular prices.

This week they had a display of small appliances in the lighting aisle / main aisle. They had Ninja blenders for $49, air fryers for $49, electric pressure cookers for $39, 3-pot crock pot buffets for $30 and more. It was like Black Friday pricing, but probably a little better.

I made my selections, then came home and took to the internet to see what else other stores may have. It’s July, so it’s perfectly acceptable to start looking for Christmas gifts, right? The electric pressure cookers are priced at $49.88 on Home Depot’s website, which is still pretty good since they go for $85 on Amazon. The better deals are definitely in-store, but if you don’t have time or don’t live near a Home Depot, the online prices aren’t too shabby either.

Prime Day Bust

Today is Prime Day. Amazon is boasting that they have more deals than Black Friday, with new deals being released throughout the day. Excited for the bargains, I went to their website and took a look.

What a load of junk. No, literally. Dog leashes, kindles, various supplements, yoga mats and towels. Not really any of the big-ticket items people go for on Black Friday.

If you read my Groupon review, you know that I sent back my Ninja 4-in-1. I saw that there was one on the Prime Day deals, so I took a look. Any color for $84.99 refurbished. That’s worse than Groupon where they’re currently $69.99! That’s not a deal! The same thing is true for the Instapot they have one sale. The Prime Day price is not a bargain at all compared to other sites.

So, my final ruling: Prime Day is a bust, at least, for me it is.

Did you manage to find any bargains?

My First Groupon Goods Purchase & Return: A Review of Groupon Goods

I’ve been stalking the Ninja 4-in-1 deal on Groupon and when my birthday rolled around in June, I decided to go for it. The unit arrived 9 days after I ordered it, which is a lengthy time for shipping, but ok. I opened the box and pulled it out.

My heart sank.

The cooker was severely damaged. Like much more than you would expect from a refurbished item. Most refurbished items are like new with little signs of wear. This had a huge dent on the side and the bottom didn’t fit back together properly. It looked like it fell off the back of the truck. The box was in perfect shape with a ton of extra packaging, so I know it was shipped that way. I was duped.

ninja damage

I contacted Groupon. They have a 14-day return period and this item was not excluded, so I hurried up and had them send me a return shipping label. I packaged it back into the box it came in and I sent it out the next day with the mail. The return carrier picked it up from the post office at 5am on Friday, June 30th. It’s now Saturday morning and their website still says it has not yet been received. It was. More than 24 hours ago.

I Googled the return carrier. They are known for their poor service and lengthy return times. Hooray. Way to choose a bargain-priced carrier, Groupon. One more nail in that company’s coffin as far as I’m concerned.

To add insult to injury, I left a review of the Ninja at Groupon letting others know that the unit was so damaged that I had to return it. Sort of a buyer beware warning if you will. They have rejected 4 versions of my review with no explanation as to why. I asked a chat representative if Groupon doesn’t accept 1-star reviews and she ended the chat without answering. I asked another representative the same question and they ignored it, then referred me to email support.

That leads me to believe they don’t accept 1-star reviews. My faith in Groupon was totally shattered by this transaction. I just want my money back so I can go buy a cooker from a more trustworthy site like Craigslist. Yeah, I just wrote that — I trust the weirdos on Craigslist more than Groupon.

Buyer beware.

My Take on the Michelle Carter Texting Suicide Case

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about Michelle Carter – the girl that encouraged her boyfriend via text message to commit suicide. He did wind up killing himself and now she’s on trial.

Am I the only one that thinks we’ve all lost our damn minds? Yes, she’s a sick, twisted piece of shit for encouraging a mentally ill person to kill himself. I’ve heard that she has something wrong too and was medicated at the time. Somehow the media is making his mental illness out to be more legitimate and  important than hers. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for him and his mental illness, but not for her. We’re supposed to hold her responsible for his actions, not him. He’s sick, after all. Oh wait… so is she.

Can I just say for a minute that I’m SICK AND TIRED of people using mental illness as an excuse? If you’re so screwed up that you can’t be responsible for your own actions (like killing yourself, killing a partner or shooting up a school full of little kids), you should not be allowed into society. Maybe we’re coddling these killers who also happen to have a mental illness a little too much. I keep seeing these horrible crimes committed and it’s always with the excuse of mental illness. I’m sick of it!

I’m not saying mental illness isn’t real, obviously it is and it’s an issue. I’m just saying that we need to stop giving people a convenient excuse to kill others. In a few cases, I’m sure the killer really didn’t know what they were doing, but in a lot of cases it seems like the defense just jumps to the mental illness excuse as a way of absolving their client of any responsibility. We need to hold people accountable whether or not they have a chemical imbalance in their brain. We keep looking for ways to pass the blame. A mentally ill person kills a bunch of kids in a school, we blame the illness. We blame the mother for not keeping better track of him. We blame the doctor. We blame everyone BUT the person that pulled the trigger. We’ve turned people with mental illness into victims and I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. We’re seeing more and more of these horrible crimes because we’re addressing the issue incorrectly.

The Michelle Carter case is just one more problem. Someone with a mental illness kills himself and we blame the girlfriend for encouraging him to do it. For being a bully. She didn’t pull the trigger. She wasn’t even in the same room as him. It’s words. He could have turned his cell phone off. He could have said no. He could have shown someone the messages and gotten reassurance from them if that’s what he really needed, but he didn’t. And in the end HE took his own life.

Yet Michelle sits in a court room on trial for her words. If we can convict this girl for text messages, can you imagine the slippery slope we’ll be on? What about controversial books, political posts or random tweets sent in anger? I know a lot of people say the difference is that the recipient in this case had a mental illness. Do you have any idea how many people you pass on a daily basis that have a mental illness? It’s rampant and a lot of those people are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. They’re completely unbalanced as this young man was and any small slight — whether it’s intentional or not — could be the straw that breaks the camels back and makes them do something horrible. You never know. By convicting her for her words, we’re setting ourselves up on a path where we’re all criminals. Where censorship is real and where you can be jailed for your thoughts, words or actions because they could offend the wrong person.

Is Michelle Carter a horrible, evil, vile person for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself? You bet. But at the end of the day HE killed himself, not her. I think I’d rather let God sort Michelle one out than set the precedent that the wrong words at the wrong time are now a criminal offense.

Darling VoxBox: First Impressions

Recently I received a Darling VoxBox from Influenster. The box is packed full of FREE products and samples to try out in my home. The catch? Well, there really isn’t one. With Influenster, you receive FREE products and samples to try at home, then you just spread the word and let people know what you think. It’s that easy.

So, back to the box. What did I get? A full-size bottle of Nature’s Bounty Energy Gummies, a sample packet of Duncan Hines Perfect for 1 Chocolate Lovers Cake, Live Clean Baby Gentle Moisture Tearless Shampoo & Wash, Live Clean Moisture Baby Lotion, a coupon for a container of Country Crock butter and EVA NYC Surf’s UP! Texture Spray. Not a bad haul.

At first I couldn’t really see the connection between the items. VoxBoxes usually have some sort of theme. Then I realized this is really all “mom” stuff. Butter is a household staple, every mom needs some cake once in a while, baby products are self-explanatory as are the energy gummies and the texture spray is to combat the dreaded mom hair.

Aside from the butter, none of these products are things I would have necessarily tried on my own. I tend to stick with baby products that I know and love (or have been recommended by friends) and I don’t generally linger in the baking aisle at the store with my kids to see what’s new (moms know this is dangerous). As for my hair? Well, that hasn’t been styled in about 7 years, so I definitely wouldn’t have picked up the texture spray at random.

I’ve already dug into the butter and the energy gummies (which I may or may not have chased with an iced coffee), but I’m pretty excited to see how the other products work out. I’m saving the chocolate cake for Monday to enjoy with the Bachelorette, but the texture spray is going to go for a test drive this weekend as will the baby products. My “baby” is 3, so lets just hope they don’t make my ovaries explode. Wish me luck!

Not Sure What to Do

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for over 7 years. For 6 of those years I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter to earn a little extra money. However, I’m not earning enough money to keep up with rising costs — you see, my husband hasn’t gotten a raise in over 6 years. He’s also unwilling to change jobs because he hates being the new guy, so the burden of making more money is on me. I can’t just “write more” because there’s only so many hours in the day and freelancing doesn’t pay very well.

So, I need to get a real job. I need to put my youngest baby in daycare and go back to work. I make more than minimum wage with my writing, so working at Walmart isn’t going to cut it.

Before kids I worked in a laboratory and I have a science degree. I’ve thought about going back, but those jobs don’t pay very well around here. I’d be making less money after accounting for daycare. I need something that pays at least $50k. Oddly enough, in-house copywriting positions seem to pay what I need. I think. I’m not completely clear on how much before and after school care for the older kids and full-time daycare for the younger kid will cost. I know it’s a lot, but I’m not sure quite how much.

I’m overwhelmed at the idea of going back because on top of working full time again, getting the kids to and from their various programs will be 100 percent on me. Even if I get a good paying job, my husband is going to be making more money, driving farther, etc. so it’s all on me to not only find a way to bring in more money, but to also work it out with the kids.

I’ve thought about teaching, but I’d need to get a license and right now I just don’t have the money for the licensing exam, especially if I need to take it more than once.

I’m so stressed out trying to find a way to make everything work financially. I wish my husband would look for a new (better paying) job, but he won’t. He hasn’t had a raise in 6 years and hasn’t left the company, so I don’t think his employer for feels like it’s terribly urgent to give him more money. At the same time, regular expenses (like water and electricity) have doubled. I’ve put off doing something about it for too long and I hope I can find a solution soon.