Dear Readers,

The legions of you begging me for my prediction on the outcome of our imminent presidential election need wait no more!

It’s here.

Regrettably, there is only one factor in the outcome of this election that I can predict with absolute certainty, and it’s not who will move into the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this coming January.

It was to do with our would-be POTUS (President of the United States), Hillary-Cougar-Rodham-Mellencamp-Clinton.

Rockstar John Mellencamp, fans will remember, went by the name “John Cougar” until he made the “big time” and then he transitioned through “John Cougar Mellencamp” to his “real” name of “John Mellencamp.”

Mrs. William Clinton did the same thing in 1992. During the election where her husband was elected POTUS, she was a fairly serious focus of attention.

“Hillary Clinton this…”

and

“Hillary Clinton that…”

or Hillary Clinton’s thoughts on Health Care…

And Hillary Clinton’s role in the Clinton Administration (if elected) will be…

Then the morning after the election, it all changed.

It was eerie…

Like all the press had gotten some cosmic memo.

From the time Mr. Clinton was announced the winner and George I had conceded, none of the press dared call her Hillary Clinton.

It was, from then on, “Hillary Rodham Clinton” and the press never missed a beat. Not one person mentioned the sudden change.

She did it before.

She’ll do it again.

The only reason she went back to using the name “Clinton” was to ride Mr. Clinton’s coat tails, which may or may not prove sufficient to propel her back into the White House, this time working in the Oval Office.

Whether or not she goes with “Hillary Rodham Clinton” again (her staffers refer to her as “HRC”) or goes, cold-turkey, to “Hillary Rodham” is anybody’s guess.

My prediction is that the word, “Hillary,” whether or not she wins the election, will not be publicly uttered again without the word, “Rodham.”

You can take that to the bank.

(And I know, this is not the first time I’ve discussed this subject).

Thanks for reading.

cma

I fired Macy’s today.

His Majesty the King of Thailand passed away yesterday and I am decidedly understocked with black dress shirts (and there is very little chance of finding any to fit me in Thailand).

Over the past couple of years, Macy’s had become my “go to” place for suits and dress shirts because they had several brands that fit my odd size and “Wendell” at the Burnsville store is a real gem and very helpful.

Since I’ve been posted overseas, I have made a number of orders online, most of them cancelled by Macys. A recent order I paid for with PayPal and it was delivered so I assumed that the problem was with the Macy’s Credit Card Account (which I have a zero balance). I have never been told why my Macy’s card (which they pushed hard for me to accept) was so easily accepted in the store but my orders would be cancelled whenever I made them online. No explanation; just “Call us.” which I was never inclined to do until today.

I had paid by PayPal so I was puzzled as to why the order had been cancelled by Macy’s and besides, I really need the shirts.

What follows is the gist of my experience with calling Macy’s. Additional pertinent information is that, in what is apparently purely coincidence, I received an email today purporting to be from PayPal warning me of “unusual” activity on my account. I learned that this was a “phishing” scam. With that in mind, I called Macy’s and the following ensued:

The phone rang, and then was picked up and I could hear lots of voices talking in the background but no one talking to me. This background noise had a distinct “sweatshop” ambiance to it so my antennae were up.

After I said “Hello?” several times, a voice came on and said, “Uh Macy’s, this is Yolanda.”

“Hi Yolanda, this is Carl Andersen calling about an order that was cancelled by Macy’s and I’d like to know why.”

Yolanda then asked for the order number and my name, which I provided. I then asked her to give me some information so I could verify that I was talking to the “real Macy’s.” She said her name was Yolanda and gave me the last four digits of her Macy’s Employee number. I explained that I’m a customer, not the Human Resources Department, and that I have no way of verifying her Employee number.

Could she, for example, tell me products I had ordered?

No, for security reasons, should could not share that with me until she finished verifying my identity. Could I please provide the shipping address: I provided the house number and street, which I assumed would be sufficient to satisfy her need to know that I was actually the one who placed the order. Nope. One item at a time: And the city? And the state? And the zip code?

Thinking we were done, I then asked again for some information, such as the products ordered. No I’m sorry, sir. Can you tell me what you ordered and then I’ll confirm it for you?”

No. That may help you verify MY identity but doesn’t help me verify YOURS.

OK, can you please give me your billing address. No. You need to establish YOUR bona fides before I give you any more information.

“Please hold.”

Five minutes later, she comes back on and says, “I’m still working on it. Please hold a little longer.”

“No, Yolanda. If you cannot satisfy yourself, based on the information I’ve already given you (order number, name, address), then we’re done. Can you please put me on with your supervisor?”

“Please Hold.”

Two minutes later, “I’m transferring the call now.”

I get more terrible music on hold and five minutes later, Lucy comes on. My 30 years of listening to Asians speak English tells me Lucy is in the Philippines.

I explain again to Lucy that I received an obvious phishing email purporting to be from PayPal shortly after I made the order so I need to be sure I’m really talking to Macy’s and not some scammer. I tell Lucy that I will not be providing any more personal information until she provides me with some information that verifies FOR ME that it’s really Macy’s on the line. I suggested, again, that simply telling me what I ordered would do it. She says, “Oh that’s fine, Sir. You ordered three Van Heusen dress shirts in Black, is that correct?

“Yes. Thank you. Now, why did you cancel my order?”

“We tried to call you on the number in your account and got voice mail, so we had to cancel it.”

“You called me, to verify an order for which you had ALREADY BEEN PAID, didn’t reach me on the first try, so in the interest of security, you cancelled the order and refunded my money. Is that correct?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“OK, how do we resurrect the order.”

“We would need to be able to reach you on that number, Sir.”

“I already explained to you that I’m overseas a the moment. I’m the one who called you and provided all my identifying information and the ONLY way you can verify my identity and the validity of the order is to call me on the phone?”

“Yes, Sir. That’s my policy.”

“Well you know, Lucy. Macy’s is already making it way too difficult for me to order online. Even if I was in the USA at the moment I would not want to receive a phone call from you to verify an order that I paid for with an outside service like PayPal. You received the money. I don’t understand the problem.”

“Well that’s my policy, Sir. I’m sorry.

“Well, here’s my policy, Lucy. I’m overseas and urgently need these shirts but I’m not going to replace my business sim card with my personal sim card just so I can sit around and wait for someone at Macy’s to call me to ask me if I made this order.” So you either need to figure out another way to satisfy yourself with my bona fides or I’m going to have to find my shirts somewhere else.

“I’m so sorry, Sir. There’s nothing I can do.”

“You know, Lucy. In the last two years, I’ve spent over $3000 on clothing at Macy’s. At least some of that was an order where you shipped it WITHOUT having to call me to verify. Funny thing is, all if it was brands I can buy elsewhere, often for less money. If you can’t help me with this order, and it appears I’ll continue having this trouble ordering from Macy’s, then can you please just cancel my account?”

“Please confirm, Sir, that you want me to close your Macy’s account.”

“I confirm. Close the account. I have no more need to do business with Macy’s.”

And lickety split. She closed the account before we hung up, without asking me for any more information.

In the interest of MY PROTECTION, she could not send me the less than $100 worth of shirts I ordered after a nearly 20-minute discussion about it.

But with EXACTLY THE SAME information, she closed my account in 15 seconds.

I now understand why Macy’s has been closing so many stores.

If they keep on like this, their transition to online sales is not going to end well either.

vwlogoSince the Volkswagen TDI Diesel Emissions defeating scandal hits me very personally, I thought I would address my concerns to Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. CEO Michael Horn here on the Daily Diatribe.

So here goes:

19 Octobler 2015

Michael Horn
President and CEO
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

SUBJECT:  My 2014 Passat TDI SEL Premium

Dear Mr. Horn:

Earlier this year, I bought a very low mileage 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium from a local Volkswagen dealer.

I love this car!

The dealer told me that it was a former Volkswagen of America executive car.  Perhaps you drove this car yourself?

I was so happy to get this car because I had been “TDI-less since I had sold my 2004 Jetta TDI Wagon, of which I was also especially attached.  My earlier experience with the Jetta made me very fond of the cars, but not all that fond of Volkswagen of America.  One of the issues with that car was overheating of the heated seats.  It was clearly a manufacturing or design flaw that eventually Volkswagen of America  admitted and issued a recall.  It was a tedious process where VW avoided the issue for as long as possible, forcing some of us to pay for the repair ourselves while we waited.

Your company did not cover itself with glory in its handling of the defective heated seats but I bought another Volkswagen TDI because I like the car, believe in the technology, and trusted the integrity of Volkswagen Germany.

Today I’m writing to give you some advice:

Don’t follow the same strategy with the current TDI crisis that you did with my overheating seats.

What’s the difference?  The heated seat problem was clearly an honest mistake.  Your company’s handling of the solution was obstructive and disingenuous, but not surprising.

The current crisis is not an honest mistake.  There’s nothing honest about it.  Even the letter you sent me about it is not completely honest:

…Earlier this month, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., and Volkswagen AG received notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice, and the California Air Resources Board, informing us that those agencies had determined that certain 2.0L 4-cylinder TDI vehicles do not comply with emissions standards… 

Your letter implies that the first your company heard of this was from the EPA and from the State of California but you know that this is not entirely true.  I don’t pretend to know who at Volkswagen on either continent knew what about the illegal modification but it’s a pretty good bet that somebody did.

Whether my car, and all the other affected cars was fitted with a device to defeat the emissions testing regime (and, obviously, improve performance and fuel economy) as a result of a policy from company leadership or as a result of a few “rogue” employees is irrelevant.  Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen of America are responsible.

Your company sold me an automobile on a fraudulent basis.  There it is.  The word so many people have been unwilling to say.

Fraud.

Your company committed fraud.  You defrauded the public and you defrauded me personally.

With clear intention and malice aforethought, Volkswagen cheated me.  I paid something like $6000 extra for my TDI when compared with a similarly equipped gasoline version.  I paid a premium to get the car you said was both clean and efficient because I expected it to be clean and efficient.  I believed in you and I believed in German engineering but what I believe doesn’t matter.  It appears that Volkswagen learned for themselves that you can’t have both, at least not at the scale you were claiming.

And then Volkswagen decided to lie about it.

That’s called false advertising, fraud, and a number of other uncomplimentary things.

To say that  my trust in the integrity of Volkswagen has been shaken would be an understatement.

How can you fix it?

I can tell you it goes well beyond just “adjusting” the software of my engine computer.  If my engine is adjusted to meet the emission standards, then as sure as night follows day, my fuel economy will suffer.  Please don’t insult me by trying to pretend that is not the case.  If this was not the case, what would be the point of installing the defeat device in the first place?

When that happens, and I am equally certain that if I keep the car, I will be eventually forced to submit to the modification required, I will then be in possession, ownership, and debt to purchase a car I never agreed to buy.  Assuming current fuel prices and a 7 mile-per-gallon drop in efficiency, that alone would account for additional fuel costs over the life of the car in the thousands of dollars. Add to that the increased number of fill ups wasting time, just this cursory look shows a significant increase in cost to me, the owner, the buyer, your customer.

In addition, we should consider the drastic drop in resale value, not to mention the extra $6000 premium I paid for a “clean diesel.”

Again, it’s simply not the car I agreed to buy.

This problem you created is costing or will cost me money and time.  You are responsible for that.

You are not getting off the hook by simply reprogramming my engine computer.  You are going to get off the hook by making this right in every way 100%.

So here’s my proposal.  Choose one of the following:

1.  Buy back my car for the full price I paid for it including tax, license, extended warranted, etc..  Don’t haggle with me over the couple thousand miles I’ve put on the car since I bought it.  Just write me a check.

2.  Replace my car with a 2016 or 2017 Passat V6 Premium, equipped the same or better, including my 7-year extended warranty (no haggling over the few months I’ve had the car), and of course in exterior and interior colors I like.  Refund the premium I paid for the “clean diesel.”  In short, you give me a new V6 gasoline version equipped exactly the same as my car without me spending one penny, and compensate me for the premium I paid for a TDI. 

3.  I keep my TDI after you make the modification but you must compensate me for the loss of resale value, additional fuel costs over a 200,000 life of the car, and other reasonable foreseeable expenses related to “error” on the part of your company.  You will remain responsible for any unforeseen maintenance issues that come up as a result of the problem or the solution.   

I think any of these three would be reasonable.  You’ll note that I’ve made no mention of “punitive” damages.  I have no interest in punitive damages or punishing Volkswagen, yet.  I grow tired of the litigious American society and besides, I think the circumstances and the various costs involved are punishment and lesson enough for you, provided your company acts decisively to make this right with me.  I can’t speak for other customers but I for one am willing to accept one of the three solutions above on one simple condition:

You make it happen by Christmas (2015!).  I won’t even discuss joining any of the growing class-action lawsuits, provided you make it right by Christmas this year.

You can go a long way with me, and I expect with other Americans, by being decisive and painfully (to VW) fair.  I’d even go so far as to say that if you offered a deal and a choice like this to all affected customers in exchange for an agreement not to pursue punitive damages, a large number would take you up on it.  Those that remained would have difficulty claiming they continued to be inconvenienced by the recall after they passed up the offer of a very fair deal.

Of course it will hurt.  Of course it will cost a lot of money.  You’re not going to avoid that.  It’s out of your control.  What is in your control is how you look when you come out the other end.  Act decisively and appear contrite and generous in your solution, you’re going to be on your way to restoring the VW brand.  Dig your heels in and fight and, well, I think you know the end of that story.

There you go, Mr. Horn.  You now know my thoughts on the matter.  You have a chance to get started restoring Volkswagen’s good name and reputation, but don’t delay.

Der Schwerpunkt ist hier und jetzt.

Sincerely,

cmasig1

Carl M. Andersen
Passat TDI Owner

Below is an excerpt from my best-selling book, “Honest Money” and is a subject I feel is very important to understand.  Please have a look and see if you don’t agree.

The First Bank

Image courtesy of Jimmy Haagenson

Image courtesy of Jimmy Haagenson

Back in the Middle Ages, they didn’t have banks. People either carried their money with them or else hid it in their houses. Some people who wanted more security for their personal wealth sought out a safe place to keep it, but the only people who had vaults or safes were goldsmiths because they naturally had a supply of gold and needed to keep it safe from robbers and thieves.

Goldsmiths started storing other people’s gold for a fee. People would pay them a certain amount per month or year for storing their gold in the vault. The goldsmith would issue a paper receipt, stamped with his personal seal, for the specific items or amount of gold on deposit with him. This was the first use of what became known in the bullion business as a “warehouse receipt.”

When people wanted to spend their gold, Continue reading

CarlFBPicOne of my rules for life is:

“Never underestimate the capacity for stupidity in your fellow man.”

A corollary to this must, following simple logic, therefore be:

“Never underestimate the capacity for stupidity in yourself.”

So here’s my story.  As many of my readers know, I live in Thailand.  What you may not know is that my wife and I bought a house in Minnesota last year.  We still live in Thailand but we’re keeping the home in Minnesota for that dreamed-of day in the future when we move back to the land of the sky-blue waters.

I also have a storage bin of possessions (from the “BH” or “Before Helen” period of my life) that are still in the storage bin I rented several years ago.  These items are not all moved into the new house because, well, there’s a lot of stuff there and I don’t want to just dump them in the new house because then I’d spent my painfully short vacations going through stuff and I’m not ready to do that yet.

In aviation, we say that an accident is usually the result of a chain or series of mistakes or poor choices, and I think that’s true in all endeavors.

First mistake:  Take the keys to the storage bin to Thailand. Continue reading

1 2 3 8

Newsletter!

Sign up for the free Daily Diatribe Newsletter!
(But don't worry; The Diatribes might be "daily" but the Newsletter is not more than "Weekly." I promise!)
* = required field
Which of Carl's books have you read?



Recent Comments