Category Archives: Budgeting

A Tale of 3 Companies – 2 Understand Customer Service

We are in the midst of renovating our kitchen.

My husband and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary by renovating instead of going to Italy or going on the Power Tour.  So this renovation is a big deal to us.  We are doing a lot of the work but we are also relying on three companies for product and installation.

Two of these companies get customer service, completely.  The 3rd company was and is a huge disappointment to us.  This is the story of these 3 companies.

We shopped around for the granite counter tops and found Troy Granite had the deepest inventory and the best price of any of the 4 companies we considered.  We ordered our granite counter tops from Troy and they threw in a new under mount, double bowl sink, free.

We also found our environmentally friendly floor at Troy Granite which is truly a one-stop shop for renovations of all kinds.  But we picked up the new faucet — VIGO VG02006ST PullDown Kitchen Spray Faucet, Steel  at Amazon.

Countertops and floor taken care of, we moved to the piece de resistance for me (I cook and can and bake, a lot)  — a new Jenn-Air, down draft, stainless steel stove.

We bought our new stove at an appliance store called Hawkins and Sons – the second company of the 3 involved in our kitchen reno saga. Granted our stove wasn’t a Wolf or a Viking but it equaled 25% of the cost of our kitchen renovation — a sizable chunk of our budget and a considerable investment from our perspective.

Hawkins was paid to do the conversion for the stove – gas to propane – then we would pick it up, take it home and put it in place for the third company — Kauffman Gas – to connect the stove to the gas line which was already in place.

Everything was going well until the morning of January 22nd.

The team from Kauffman Gas arrived on time, worked quickly and efficiently and had the propane gas line to the stove hooked up in less than 30 minutes.  So far so good but not for long.

Steve called me to the kitchen.  First, he told me that the appliance company had not completed the conversion that we had paid extra for it to do.  Steve told me he took care of that but…when he fired up the stove, he ran into a huge problem.  One of the gas lines inside the stove was fractured.

Turning on the grill on the left side of the stove, he demonstrated. Flames shot 6 inches out from under the surface and rose a foot above the grill.

Steve, who works with gas-fired appliances all day long, took the knobs off the front of the stove and told his assistant to turn off the gas valve in the basement and the one on the outside tank.

I called my husband; he called Hawkins, immediately.  The reaction he got was less than stellar.

No concern was expressed.  No responsibility was acknowledged.  Not only did they not offer to replace the stove, they weren’t really interested in sending a repair person to the house.  In fact, they made it my husband’s problem by forcing him to meet their schedule — forcing him to take a day off work to let their repair person in to see what was wrong with the new stove they sold us.

Clearly, the words “customer” and “service” are not in the Hawkins lexicon but we had no choice.  We owned a very expensive and unusable stove.

Hawkins’ repair man confirmed what Kauffman’s technician had told us – a factory defect.  Two more weeks without a stove or oven. Still no offer to replace the stove – parts would be ordered and the repair would be done here even though the stainless steel on the top of the stove was warped, even though I had no confidence in the safety of this gas-fueled stove top.

With my confidence in the product gone and no help from the store where we bought it, my husband wrote an email to the CEO of Whirlpool – the third company in this story and the company that came to the rescue quickly, efficiently and effectively.  

Within 4 hours of sending the email, we received a reply.  Whirlpool would be happy to replace the stove.   The new stove would be shipped from the factory in the mid-West.  Whirlpool’s technicians would do the conversion and installation on site and on our schedule.  And they would remove the damaged stove.  No questions, no arguments just a swift and wonderful response to our dilemma.

How sad that Hawkins refused to take responsibility for a problem with an appliance they sold to us.  How wonderful that Kauffman Gas went the extra mile to help us and to ensure we were safe.

And how remarkable that a major corporation – Whirlpool – listened to our problem and resolved it in less time than it took for Hawkins to try to argue its way out or responsibility for its failure.

Thank you Whirlpool. Thank you Kauffman Gas.  Shame on you Hawkins & Sons Appliances.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under arm wresting, Budgeting, Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money, World Changing Ideas

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier! « Pepperbox Couture

I rarely re post anything from any writer as I don’t want to abuse the writer or my readers….but

This is an unbelievable list of tips that really do make life easier, get use and re-use out of what could be considered junk and really, really work!

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier! « Pepperbox Couture.

ps – don’t try to print it.  It’s 73 pages long.  Just pass it along!!

and Happy Holidays to everyone.

11 Comments

Filed under Budgeting, Education, Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money

Bernie Sanders Storms the Senate Floor and Challenges Congress’ Koch Whores

Please listen to Senator Bernie Sanders.  He is talking about the gap between the very rich – 400 people – and very poor people – 150 million of them.  The gap between rich and poor is widening, rapidly. And the middle class is disappearing.  We are becoming an oligarchy.

Bernie Sanders Storms the Senate Floor and Challenges Congress’ Koch Whores.

If we don’t speak up, fight back, we will continue to lose ground faster every day.  Please share with your friends.

Let our voices join Senator Sanders and tell our elected officials we want it to change.  They work for us.  They should listen to us.

Leave a comment

Filed under arm wresting, Budgeting, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Politics

Scamming the Unemployed – Really?

It’s not bad enough that millions of qualified men and women in this country can’t get a job.

It’s not bad enough that, in Pennsylvania, you have to hire a lawyer to arm wrestle with the minions at the unemployment office to get back some of that money that we have paid into the fund over all the years we have worked — 50 in my case.

Now, unemployed people who are seriously looking for jobs are being scammed, big time.

My first encounter with a scammer came when I answered a Craigslist ad for an Administrative Assistant at a busy doctor’s office.  Imagine my surprise when I received an email from someone named David Marks that said, “Your resume was received and it has been reviewed, I did appreciate it. So I will give this a GO.”

But…he needed a bit more information like my first, middle and last names, my street address including city, state and zip, my cell and home phone numbers, my current occupation and my email address.

Hmmmm….if he had really reviewed my resume, wouldn’t he already know all of this information?  First hint that something was just not right.

Then Mr. Marks described how this would work:

  1. He wasn’t in town often so we would only communicate via email.
  2. He didn’t really have an office so I would be  working from home.
  3. He would pay me $785 a week for a part time job.
  4. Work would include doing personal chores, scheduling flights and making, “…regular contacts and drop offs on my behalf.”

Sounds just a bit off – $785 a week for a part time job working for a man I will never meet and making contacts and dropping off…what…on his behalf.  Second hint that this was not a kosher offer.

The final hint that Mr. Marks was a rat-scammer was this incredibly transparent paragraph:

“What i would want you to do for me this week is to run some errands out to some of the orphanage home, I do that every month. A payment in form of a Cashier Check/Money Order will be sent over to you from one of my clients and i have some lists to email you once you received the funds,You will make some arrangements by buying some stuff for the kids in the Orphanage at any nearest store around you so you can mail them out.”

Really?  I don’t know you, have never met you, work out of my home because you don’t have an office and I’m supposed to …run money for you?  Of course, throwing in the orphanage was a nice touch but hello…Mr. Marks…I may want a job but I am not really desperate or stupid.

Today, a more sophisticated scammer than Mr. Marks (hard to imagine, isn’t it?) sent me an email from an Human Resources department for a company that does exist – LDR Distributions – saying they had , “…reviewed your resume and you’re a great match for this position.”  I was to go online and make a formal application.

Great, exciting but…one immediate problem.  When I tried to apply using the link in the email, I kept getting a pop up asking me to fill in an “anti-spam” survey and offering me a chance at gift cards ranging from $100 from the Cheesecake Factory to $1000 from Kohls.  The hair on the back of my neck started rising.

The other problem with this fairly professional attempt to skim my personal information is the type of business LDR is.  This company is a warehouse and distribution company.  I am a 64 year old woman recovering from shoulder surgery.  Would I really apply for a job with them?  Not!  And, because I keep a copy of every ad I answer along with my submission, I was able to prove to myself that I had not fallen, hit my head and applied for the privilege of packing, toting and shipping large packages.

Tips for would be job seekers:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!  Like getting a part time gig that lets me work from home and get paid $785 a week.
  2. DO NOT include any contact information at all when responding to a blind ad on Craigslist or any other job board unless you know for sure they are a legitimate business engaged in matching employees and employers like Monster or Career Builder.
  3. GOOGLE names, businesses, even job titles and include the word “scam” in the search.  You will quickly discover you are not alone.  There are a lot of people being scammed by some truly low people out there trying to make money off our misfortune.

And keep the faith.  Somewhere out there, there is a job for each and every one of us that truly wants to work.

13 Comments

Filed under Budgeting, Education, Life & Death, Saving Money, Work

America: The Land of Lay Offs

So, I’m guessing that just about everyone, everywhere knows at least one person who has been laid off in the last 24 months.

I know quite a few victims of  lay offs — my daughter, her best friend, our friend and neighbor Jim and now, my husband.  I was even laid off – a mutually reached decision as I was months away from turning 62 and turning on the Social Security faucet.  I thought I would have a little time to find another job.  Two and a half years later, I’m still looking.

A Brief Digression on Social Security
This is for  for those of you who think Social Security should…go away.  It’s also  for those of you who are considering the option of slipping peacefully out of the office and into retirement, early.

I have been working since I was 14 and paying into the Social Security fund for 50, that’s right, 50 years.  I paid for the privilege of collecting this small monthly payment so please don’t tell me I’m on the dole or taking a hand out.  If I am doing either, it is from me…to me.

Despite a long and financially draining relationship with FICA, what I get ain’t much.  This faucet only drips less than $20,000 a year — before taxes.  And when I get on Medicare next year, it will drip about $3000 a year less.

I don’t know many people who can actually pay their bills, eat and cover the costs of doctors and medicine on less than $12,000 a year but I worked for and earned the privilege of receiving this money, no matter how small the amount is.

Now, back to gainful unemployment which many of us are currently experiencing.

Of the 5 people mentioned above, not one of us was an underachiever.  Not one of us called in sick just because we could or took long breaks, missed deadlines or just held down the chair and picked up the pay check.

All of us brought the usual stuff to work – the skills,  talents,  and education needed to do each of our jobs, well.  But we also brought dedication, loyalty, passion and a true desire to do a good job not just one day, but every day.  Essentially, we worked for ourselves, for our satisfaction and for the joy of a job, well done.

So, why did we get the ax?  Who knows?

There are dozens of different reasons people lose their jobs. Companies have  “downturns” so downsizing has to happen.  Divisions are moving in a “different direction” and you won’t fit.  Your job is being eliminated so your services are no longer required.

Sometimes the reasons are a bit more personal.  Your personality clashes with your boss’s personality.  Perhaps your politics just don’t fit in with the politics of the organization.  Or, my favorite, the boss’s niece, nephew, grandmother, needs a job so they’re getting yours.

There are, of course real reasons to let someone go.  Employees that are consistently late or frequently absent can hurt the bottom line.  Employees who are belligerent or threatening can upset co-workers and worry managers.  And employees who just sit around all day, missing deadlines, smoking every 30 minutes and going to lunch for 2 hours every day affect productivity and morale.

But what happens when none of these reasons apply, when a good employee is cut from the herd and shown the door?  The reality is dramatic and painful. And no matter what anybody says, being terminated, fired, laid off, downsized is personal.  

Being unable to get another job is demoralizing.  I’m a Master’s prepared, professional with project management, training, leadership and human resource skills in my portfolio.  The only work I can get pays $83 a day — no benefits.  I even got turned down for employment at Lowe’s!

So, here’s my question.  When did America, the land of opportunity, become America, the land of lay offs?  Anyone have any answers to ease the pain of unemployment?

4 Comments

Filed under Budgeting, Life & Death, Saving Money, Work

Life As We Know It Is Over

What makes me strong?  What keeps me from breaking under the load we all call life?

I have been asking that question for a dozen years.  My husband has been hospitalized more than 30 times since 2001.  He had bladder cancer.  He just kept growing tumors and finally they had to take his bladder out and put in a conduit to the ostomy that we now call Fred.

Then he had infections – and more infections and yet again, infections.  Over the last 10 years we have spent our vacations in the most expensive resort in the country – the hospital.  A jail cell really but it’s mostly white with nice subdued drapes and wardens dressed as nurses in navy  blue.

Recently, my husband did hand to hand combat with  melanoma which made a difference in how we spend our time, our money, our personal currency.

Now, he is being laid off.  He will be 60 when the axe finally falls.  He will be too old to employ – too young for social security or medicare.  And he will still be sick, still be in the hospital 2 or 3 times a year and still be the man I love with all my heart.

I am a master’s prepared, professional who is applying for jobs as a receptionist, an administrative assistant., a dog walker, anything to get a job that will help bridge the gap between his layoff and his 65th birthday.

But I can’t get a job.  We can’t sell our house.  And we cannot stop the layoff that is rolling toward us at the speed of light.

How did this happen?  When did we become part of the fringe that cannot sustain itself in this country  – the land of the brave, the land of the free?

Welcome to America – 2012.  Welcome to our country where people work and do a good job and pay their taxes and still get screwed.  This is the land where the rich once again get richer and the rest of us pay for their privilege.

We”ll keep fighting.  We will stay together.  We will find a way, smaller, narrower but still together.  But is this what is supposed to happen to people who have lived a good life?  Worked hard?  Helped out our families?

Who knows? All I know is that this is our lot.  And this we will face together — until death do us part.

Leave a comment

Filed under Budgeting, Life & Death, Love and Marriage, Politics, Saving Money

The Gift of Life

It’s the holiday season so I know you get them too.  Appeals for money from every possible type of charity there is.  Who do you share your post tax income with?  How do you choose?

Before being laid off, we gave to many of these charities every year, often without reading about them, without knowing where the money was going.  We still give to charities but, since 2009, our criteria for giving have changed.  We’ve had to be more careful about what we give and which charities get the nod.

Here are the 4 groups we support and why:

  1. Heifer International– Heifer’s gifts aren’t fruit baskets or silky scarfs or fine wine.  They are grounded, living gifts that help indigenous people become self-supporting, able to feed themselves, their families and sometimes, their whole village.  This year we donated enough money to buy three flocks of chicken and two honeybee hives for people in other countries.  These gifts will keep on giving for years after they arrive in their new homes.

    Give a gift of life through Heifer International.

    A gift of chickens can feed a family or a village or both

  2. Sunday Breakfast Mission–  The Sunday Breakfast Mission started small – feeding holiday dinners to homeless and jobless men in Wilmington, Delaware.  Last year, this charity served more than 200,000 meals to hungry men, women and children and provided shelter for close to 300 people . Sitting in my warm home, with my full refrigerator and my full life, I know that this is one charity I have to support, no matter what.

The first two charities support people.  The next two support the planet.

  1. The Audubon SocietyAnsel Adams once said, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”   I’m not ashamed to admit that I support this organization precisely because it does fight our government; it does insist that our elected officials and the 1% of this nation that continues to get wealthy off the entire country’s resources be held accountable for the damage they are doing to our planet. If we don’t stand up for this world, the ecosystems, wildlife habitats and the birds and animals who live in them, with us, who will?
  2. Nature Conservancy – this organization fights to protect ecologically important land and water in every state in this country and in 30 other countries around the globe.  Donate to Nature Conservancy and help buy endangered land and waterways, help to build coalitions between governments and between and with the residents who live in the area.  Their work is rooted in science, their conservation projects are practical and their outcomes are there for every one to see and enjoy.

There are other charities we support in smaller ways, like the Ocean Conservancy and the Sierra Club.  We still drop money in the Salvation Army buckets and give gently used clothing to the Goodwill but we like the 4 charities listed above because their work will live long after our money is gone and our lives are over.

If you have a little extra cash burning a hole in your pocket this holiday season, you might want to think about sharing it with charitable organizations like these and with people who need food, shelter, and livelihood a whole lot more than they need a new car, a new phone or a new toy.  You might think about giving the gift of life.

7 Comments

Filed under Budgeting, Gardening, Life & Death, Saving Money