Wednesday, January 24, 2007


That's how much Allstate says my car is worth. I expected a lowball offer that I'd have to fight and regretted not taking pictures of the interior to show how good the car's condition was except for the smashed front end. But my Internet research says $3,668 is a fair settlement for a 1998 Nissan Sentra so I'm going to, as Steve Miller once sang, "take the money and run."* That is, if I can find the title of the car to prove that I own it so that they'll write me the check.

Provided that I can do that, the only bad thing is that I probably have to come up with a new car before this weekend. I had hoped to have until Saturday to make arrangements.

I just called my mother and asked her to visit the Toyota dealer near her house and price me a Corolla and a Scion tC. She promised to check a couple of places. I'll do the same for the ones in Tampa.

The cash is available. Much to my happy surprise, the mutual fund checks have already cleared and the amount is now among my "available balance."

May be the best dealer win!

*Actually, he sang it lots of times, what with all those concerts and all.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Plumbers Gone Wild

It seems the hits keep on coming for Chris's Plumbing Service in Riverview, FL. If someone doing a Google search for the company by name doesn't find the story of my unhappy experience, they might try a Google Maps search for plumbers in Riverview, FL and get to read about this woman's encounter. My blog also comes up in that search.

The owner yelling at a customer for asking why it appeared his plumbers appeared to be stalling to increase the hourly charge? Nice! I guess explaining that the technicians he sent out where highly skilled craftsmen working to insure that they did the job right was not an option. Even if it wasn't true, the reassurance might have mollified the customer. Instead she gets the impression that her suspicions were correct. Good job, Chris!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Even Better

During a free moment at work I check my StatCounter and see that someone found this blog by doing an AOL search for tampa topless donuts. Since I'm at work I am afraid to investigate what this person might have been looking for with such a query. I can tell you that this is the blog entry to which the search pointed. I'm almost certain that wasn't it.

I hope he finds what he's looking for. I hope I don't find out how a topless donut causes his sticky fingers.

Search Me

Recent visitors to my blog include people searching for "Concrete things in the parking lot eat my Jetta" and "i need to cuddle"

A lot of people have also stumbled across it while searching for information about Cambridge Who's Who. It's good to see people checking outfits like that out.

A lof of people researching Chris's Plumbing Service in Riverview, FL get to read about my less-than-satisfactory experience with the company. Many also get here from other blogs that cite this one as a lesson to companies who think that disgruntled customers have no recourse against them if they treat a customer poorly.

Chris Hoffman got $282 out of me. And now every single person who types "Chris's Plumbing Service" into Google sees my blog listed higher than Chris's own site. I'm tempted to write to Mr. Hoffman and ask, "Hey Chris. Was it worth it?"

I wanted New Orleans to beat Chicago in the playoffs. Recovering from Katrina and all that. But this isn't a storybook, it's the NFL. But the Colts' comeback in the AFC game proves that sometimes storybook endings happen in real life. After the Patriots went ahead 21-3 I e-mailed a friend that I would have preferred that the Colts win but "the better team usually wins. So does the better quarterback." Maybe that's still true.

During the Colts/Pats game one of those commercials in which the Burger King makes a play in an NFL game aired. BK sacks Matt Hasselbeck and then hands him a serving tray with a burger on it. Cute. Then the fullscreen graphic showing the double and triple whoppers says that cheese costs extra. Not cute. As much as they charge for those things and they're going to nickel and dime you for a lousy slice of cheese? No thanks. Gimme a $1 double cheeseburger from Mickey D's.

I test drove another Mazda Miata Saturday. I'm not going to buy one. Too cramped and too little storage. Oh, and too much money. I might go with a Scion tC. It's made by Toyota, gets decent mileage but has a little bit of pep. I'm going to check out a Corolla first. It's cheap, it works and I'll be able to buy my HD camera with all the extras I want. It must be too early for the mid-life crisis if I'm thinking this sensibly about it.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Since someone asked, my likely cell phone plan will be Cingular (soon to be AT&T again). Only because there's a discounted plan available through my job. But I'm going to hold off. I don't talk that much on the phone. Virgin Mobile is phasing out its per-minute plan, which tells me that it's more customer friendly than the company likes. And there are benefits. I don't have to pay all those taxes and fees every month.

Besides, I'll be spending enough money for a car soon.

Allstate called me yesterday and asked me to go get the license plate off my car. They're going to inspect it themselves before they declare it a total loss. I took what may be my last look at it this morning. Other than the front-end damage most of the car is in very good shape. The engine was noisier than it used to be but it was still getting between 35-40 mpg. One of the struts was leaking fluid but that had no effect on the car's functionality. The exterior had a few minor scratches but no rust. Inside, the gear shift knob and the steering wheel had some wear. That's it. What a shame.

I test drove a Mazda Miata and a Scion tC last night. The Miata was cool but loud. The engine growls and you need that Bose sound system to counteract the sound of the air beating against the convertible top. I drove a leftover 2006 Grand Touring model with leather interior priced at $23,500. The sales guy just called as I was typing this. I wish I had refused to give a phone number but at least I thought to give him my work line.

I was smarter at the Toyota dealer. The sales woman can't call me. Not that it would do her that much good. She had imigrated from the Philippines and still speaks with an accent so thick she was hard to understand. I liked the Scion a lot. The car I drove didn't have a window sticker but prices start at around $17K. It had surprising pep and a sunroof is standard. It also has more storage space than the Miata. Come to think of it, a motorcycle has more storage space than the Miata. Actually, the Miata does have a trunk. And it would comfortably fit a pair of Shaquille O'Neal's shoes.

But, man, does it look cool.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Liars, cheats and jerks, they are. After muddling along with one of those Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go phones (or, "ghetto phones," as my friend Jess calls them), I had decided to buy "real" cell phone plan last night. A one-hour and 13 minute conversation with the aforementioned friend might have inspired my re-thinking the whole pay-by-the-minute idea.

I pored over the Consumer Reports ratings and checked each provider's web site comparing prices and plans. Sprint won out. Although its service is rated lower than Verizon's and T-Mobile and Alltel and actually every company Consumer Reports surveyed, its basic plan was only $29.99 and its night minutes begin at 7 p.m., which was a big plus.

I picked out my phone. It had more features than I'd ever use. I started the checkout process, during which you go through and choose all the add-on services you want. Nope. Didn't want any. Then I saw the 7 p.m. night minutes option so prominently featured on the Sprint web site was one of the extras! It costs $5 a month! Un-phoning-believable. Actually not. No wonder Sprint has such a terrible rating for customer service. If they'll try to rip you off before you even become a customer, there's no telling the screwing you'll get once you're in a contract with them.

Sprint is eliminated. I don't know what the next step is. In the meantime, I'm still happy to talk to you. Just understand why I'm talking so quickly.

Estimated repair costs on my soon-to-be-deceased Nissan: $3,679. That exceeds the value of the car. The estimator didn't know the price Allstate puts on a 1998 Sentra but his computer knew it was less than 36-hundred bucks. No one answered the phone at my adjuster's office. I'll learn tomorrow how much I'll get for what's left of the car and how long I have to replace it, measured in terms of how long I get to keep the rental.

The timing is important because I liquidated some mutual funds but the check won't arrive for as long as two weeks. I'm not sure liquidated is technically accurate but it seems fitting because it sounds so much like liquified, which is quite accurate metaphorically as I picture a small pile of my hard-saved money going down the drain. I had go go a ways to make that connection but it works, trust me. Speaking of stretching, that smashed pile of crap that used to be my car might have to pretend to be one for a while longer.

See, I'm allergic to financing. I do not like owing people money. I even paid cash for my townhouse. That means I can't buy a new car until the I get the mutual fund money. The mutual fund company sends the check the day after they receive the request. Very prompt, yes. Except I made the request Friday, which means they don't send until Monday but -- Oh, yummy! -- this Monday is a holiday so it goes out Tuesday, after which I'm told it could take 7-10 business days to arrive. Ten business days equals two weeks real time.

That means I better buy some rope to tie the hood down to the chassis. And then buy some more rope to hold the chassis together. Let's hope the new "crash fashioned" front-end ventilation openings will compensate for the fact that not much of the radiator is left. I'm sure only two or three of the original four cylinders still work so that's gotta help keep the heat down.

Let me pause for a moment to pass along a little wisdom from the road here. Car hoods might seem heavy when you slam them on your fingers but they're no match for a headwind at highway speeds. This I learned as I tried to nurse my car home the day of the accident. I had not even completely pulled onto I-75 when I heard a bang and saw black. The hood had flipped up, open, and all the way back onto the windshield, which amazingly did not crack.

I planned for the Sentra to last a couple more years. That way its retirement would coincide with my mid-life crisis. Now I feel like a golfer "in between clubs." The 8-iron might leave me short of the green but the 7-iron could put me in the woods behind the hole. I still have enough of my hair and my erectile function that I don't need my car to compensate for them. But if I buy a Toyota Corolla now there's a chance I could begin feeling inadequate long before it's time to replace the car. That would be a mid-car crisis. It would stunt my development to middle age, I think, and that wouldn't be healthy.

If I opt to begin my mid-life crisis early, a new Mazda Miata will cost about $25K, which also happens to be the true monthly cost of a Sprint cell phone plan. I could buy used but the 2007 has a convertible hard top, which previous model years don't. Of course.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What Kind of Car Should I Get?

Since someone crashed into mine today. Figures I'd get into an accident. I was trying to eat lunch. In our office's conference room. I was taking my first bites out of a turkey and cheese sandwich when a woman who works in the mail room came into our office and asked if anyone had a tan car. Nope. I'm good. Now let me eat. But the woman persisted. "Where did you park?" I was safe. Our office is near a side door but I had parked around front. "Near the hair salon?" Actually, no. The hair salon is on the other side of the parking lot, separated from ours by those concrete things that sit at the heads of parking spaces. Why do you want to know anyway?

Someone has jumped those concrete things that sit at the heads of parking spaces and hit two cars on our side of the parking lot, she said. They found the owner of one of the struck cars. The other car, well, "it could be tan, it could be silver," she said. Tan or silver? With eagle eyes like that, how could she tell there had even been an accident? But my car being silver, or maybe tan, got me curious enough to look.

Sure enough, someone had parted the front of my Nissan down the middle. I keep my digital camera in my car just for such an occasion with the idea, of course, that there would never be such an occasion.

Emergency workers tended to the driver in the lobby of a doctor's office a couple of doors down from the hair salon. She was fine. "Don't ask me what happened," she told me. "I don't know." She thought maybe her foot had slipped off the brake onto the accelerator. Then when she jammed on what she thought was the brake, the car just shot forward again, she said. "I'm sorry."

My car starts but the fan is damaged. I don't know if it drives. I do know that now that I've opened the hood to look inside, it won't close again. The repair cost will be higher than the car's value. All three of us involved have Allstate insurance. Now we find out how good the hands we're in. I have already called to file a claim. An adjuster is supposed to call me back.

I'd rather be spending money on a new camera rather than a new Camry.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Scammers Who

Seems the suspicion I mentioned a couple posts below is correct. This Cambridge Who's Who outfit collects names and phone numbers so it can call people and give them a high pressure sales pitch. The letter I got says "there is no cost to be included" but Cambridge would prefer that you pay $600 or more for the privilege.

It finds its candidates for this exclusive honor by buying magazine subscription lists. (Thanks Esquire. Was that your parting gift to me for not renewing?)

This link details one person who also got the exciting invitation to participate in a scam.

Click on this link then scroll down to read the comments of others who got the Cambridge Who's Who experience.

And, finally, This link goes to the company's record with the local Better Business Bureau in its home area of Uniondale, New York. (Hint: It's not good!)

Remember, kids, it's not paranoia if everyone really is out to get you.