Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rude Business

Wow. It never ceases to take me by surprise when a business is rude to you.

Especially when it was they who did something wrong.

I ordered a t-shirt from a band I like, The Killer and The Star (they're new-ish; lead singer/songwriter is formerly of the band Cold). I paid via PayPal, and my credit card was charged that same day. This was June 25.

Five weeks later, and I still haven't received my shirt. Five weeks - that's more than a month.

I've been patient. I understand shipping takes a while. But I'm starting to think something's wrong. So, as PayPal suggests, I attempt to contact the seller first.

I send an e-mail on July 21 (last Tuesday, three weeks after the order). You know, just a "Hey! Haven't gotten my shirt? Can you help me?" sort of thing.

No response.

So today, I open a dispute with PayPal.

And today, surprise! I receive an e-mail from the seller:

Your Shirt‏
From: The Killer and The Star (
Sent: Thu 7/30/09 4:55 PM

Your shirt is being shipped tomorrow. The website said shipping time was 5 weeks. Please in the future if you have questions about an order contact us instead of opening a dispute with paypal. This all could have been easily avoided with a simple email to us. Please go to paypal and drop the dispute so we can ship out your shirt. The money is frozen in our account until the dispute is resolved.

Thank you.

I have two problems with this - outside of the snotty tone.

1. I did contact you first, bee-yotch! Over a week ago!

2. Wait, I'm sorry - did you ask me to drop the dispute because the money has been frozen by PayPal? How about I get the damn shirt first?

My response:

I guess I didn't really think about how long 5 weeks is; it's rare to wait over a month for something.

I ain't dropping the dispute until the shirt is in my happy little hands.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Car Wars II: The Buyer Strikes Back

Those of you who've been following the drama via Facebook or Twitter know how the story ends: I got the "galaxy gray" Mazda3 from Gainesville Mazda. After they snatched it from under the Ocala dealership's nose and charged me a bit more. But it was still under invoice and I'm very happy with it.

So - pictures!

This is in my work parking lot.

The dealership slipped a "Gainesville Chevrolet" tag frame on (they're a Chevy/somethingelse/Mazda dealership). They also slapped on a "Palm Mazda" sticker (crooked!) on the trunk door. Those will both be going.

Isn't she pretty? And it has extras. While the salespeople tried to impress me with the spoiler and 6-CD changer, the only thing that made me do a little happy dance in my head was the moonroof. I have always (and I mean, always - for years now) wanted a moonroof.

Interested in the dirty little details? Read on.


So I was all set to buy a 2009 Mazda3 s Touring 4-door sedan in white from Palm Mazda in Gainesville, when a salesperson from Jenkins Mazda in Ocala called.

I told her the only way they could steal me away was if they found the exact car in a darker color.

They had. Specifically, they had found a "galaxy gray" 2009 Mazda3 s Touring 4-door sedan. Same exact car - except it also had a moon roof and a 6-cd changer.

It was practically the same car I already knew I loved - but in a darker color - plus it had my "dream car" addition of a moon roof! But I had already put a deposit down on the white one.

I tell her that I love the car, the price is fair, but there's this $500 deposit thing. She suggests I call the Gainesville dealership back, tell them I had found the car somewhere else and simply ask for my deposit.

This was a mistake on her part, turns out.

I call the Gainesville dealership back, and tell him all this. After a significant pause, he asks, "What if we could get you the car?"

Hmm. "Well, sure - I've actually dealt with you, met with you, and I've only talked on the phone with the Ocala people. I'd love to give you my business - but I really like the gray one better."

He says he's going to look into it and call me back.

"Great news! I can get the gray Mazda3 for you!" Then he tells me the price. It's a little more than what Ocala's asking. I tell him this, he argues that the extras . . . I tell him Ocala's cutting me a deal on the moon roof/etc. because I don't really care about them. He argues that he has to pay a driver to get the car . .. I tell him so did Ocala, and they're willing to pay for it. He doesn't sound pleased. He says he'll call me back.

I feel pretty good - either way, I'm getting the car I want, in the color I want, at a fair price. I've never had businesses fight for me - it's nice!

He calls back-only to say, "Sorry - that's the best I can do."

What?! Well, pshaw on that! I call back the Ocala dealership and say, "I'm buying from you." For the first time in all this, she sounds vague. Says she'll have to call me back.

I can't believe I didn't think of this. She calls back and says, "Look, as soon as you told the Gainesville dealership that we had found you this car, they immediately went and found it themselves. While we were waiting for a confirmation from you before going and getting it, they just went and got it."

So THAT'S why he "couldn't" go down on the price! There was only one gray 2009 Mazda3 with manual transmission in the s Touring trim - I gave him all the details, and he went and found it, just like Ocala had. So Ocala can't sell me the car - they don't have it.

I'm pissed. This is unethical, right?

But I really want that car...

I talk it over with Kyle and decide that a couple hundred dollars isn't enough to keep fighting over this. I want something very specific, and they had it. So I bought it.

Car Wars

I'm thisclose to purchasing a car. But damn if it hasn't been a helacious two weeks in between.

I started with the assumption that I would want a Honda Civic or used Accord. What I did not realize is that there are very few cars available in manual transmission. Either they are stripped-down models, or they're expensive sports cars. I suppose about-towners such as myself are supposed to prefer automatic transmission.

Back at the office, I started doing some research. For what I want out of a car (affordable, four-doors, side-curtain air bags, gas-efficient), a couple models kept getting mentioned as comparisons to the Civic: the Honda Fit, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Accent, and the Mazda3.

They all came in under $20K (unlike any Civic I found - the Fit has taken its place as Honda's "cheap" car), and came with varying levels of extras.

Corollas bore me to death for some reason, so I planned to test drive a Honda Fit, and a Mazda3 - a maker that I've never considered. I just don't think about Mazda - except when I think "tiny little convertible" (the Miata). But it kept getting these rave reviews, and one recurring phrase especially caught my eye:

"Fun to drive."

I drove the Fit first. Very cute, lots of fun, comes in a stick. And cheap! (Under $17K.) But you get what you pay for: not much going on for extras. But still - it's a Honda, so you know it's made well. And it's a lot roomier on the inside than you'd think.

(I also drove an '08 MINI Cooper for the thrill of it. But they're so small...)

I head over to the Mazda dealership. They've got two Mazda3's with manual transmission on the whole lot. That's it. One was a 2009 in the nicer "s" trim, the other was a newer 2010 in the lower "i" trim, plus it had the updated Madza3 look, complete with the "Joker grin" grille.

I drove both, but really liked the 2009. As fun to drive as a MINI (if not as "cool"), but much roomier, and with a lot more extras than the Fit. Its only failing was that it's white (blah!) and overpriced.

After a lot of mental hand-wringing, and encouragement from my husband (his exact words: "Go with your gut. And don't be so frugal!"), I decided on the Mazda3. I called the dealership and told them my research showed the car was overpriced. Being the last of two 2009's on the lot (and an un-popular stick), he didn't pause much when he offered it to me at invoice, plus $2K cash back (a Mazda promotion for '09s).

Whoo hoo! I gave him my credit card for a deposit. Great price, and so what if it's white? I'll be on the inside, right?

I'm getting a car!

And then Ocala Jenkins Mazda called . . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Farewell, old girl - you served me well.

The Sentra is dead.

I've had this car for twelve years. I leased it brand-spanking new in 1997, and start paying for it outright three years later. I've driven that little tan car (official color "champagne") all over Florida, putting 208,000 miles on her.

She's been good to me - one major repair, and only a couple minor ones. Sure, the visors fell off five years ago, the "check engine" light came on six years ago (and has never gone off), the headliner is drooping, and faulty wiring causes my left brake light to go out regardless of how many bulbs I put in there, but she got me from point A to point B nicely, without using too much gas.

She's been through an entire relationship with me. Seen me buy two houses, move to a new town and job, get married.

When she started acting "funny" a year or so ago, I tried not to think about it. Over that time, the engine has gotten quirkier and quirkier - to the point where I stopped driving out of town: past dark at first, and then stopped driving out of town altogether.

So when the inevitable finally came to pass, I wasn't really surprised. Wished it hadn't happened after work, in the middle of a busy intersection, in the pouring rain. But not surprised. One second the engine's rumbling along, the next: nothing. No sputtering, no slow-down. Just on, and then off.

Kyle took it to a trusted friend who happens to also be a mechanic - whatever the problem is (something to do with timing chains and sprockets, maybe), it would cost twice as much to fix it as the car's worth.

So the old girl is done for. She's served me well - I definitely gotten my $17,000 (plus a shamefully huge amount of interest) out of her. Rest in peace, Sentra.

It's time to look forward. Ugh, car shopping.

My 1997 Nissan Sentra, a long, long time ago

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Some very minor bragging

I subscribe to Budget Travel magazine's e-newsletter. I did so initially to research California and Yosemite for our honeymoon, but I like it and thus have kept my subscription.

They had a contest where you're entered into a drawing for a trip to Punta Cana if you submit a travel photo. So I submitted one of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and another of Yosemite Falls.

They've included my photo of the waterfall in their "Readers' Best National Park Photos" slide show. I can't help but feel a little tingle of pride - somebody likes my pictures! Granted, it's a slide show of readers' photo in Budget Travel, but still.

The slide show

The photo:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Puppy Hell

Our puppy is a vampire!

Miss Murphy is slowly draining the life out of us. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: How the hell do parents of real-life babies do this? Kyle and I are exhausted and cranky, and all we've got a dang dog.

A dog that won't sleep at night. That chews on everything except the toys we give her. Whose teeth are like tiny ceramic razors. Sigh...

I'm not sure if I've even blogged about getting a dog, now that I'm thinking about it. Kyle's been wanting an Australian shepherd for years, and I've been putting him off. First a house, then a wedding, then the dog. I can only handle one major life-altering event at a time.

So Miss Murphy Brown was born May 1, and we picked her up June 27. That's right - a little over a week, and we're in despair.

I don't think Kyle really thought about how time-consuming this stage of puppy-hood is. You have to keep an eye on them at all times or they're all over the place, leaving a path of destruction in their cute, fuzzy little wake.

But she's pretty dang cute: