Saturday, April 8, 2017

Oil Change Fiasco and Resolution

A few weeks ago, I found a coupon in my snail mail mailbox offering discounts for car services. One of them was an oil change for $14.95 plus a free tire rotation, which was a very good deal. Other coupons I’ve seen were offering it for $29.99. A few days later, I went to the shop and requested the oil change while I presented the coupon. The service advisor proceeded to tell me that I needed to fill out an application form for a new credit card and membership to Goodyear. I told him, I didn’t need any more credit cards so I walked out of the deal.

I went for a run and when I returned home, I decided to call the phone number listed on the coupon. The person who answered said she was new so she didn’t know the answer, and that someone who knew will call me back. A few minutes later, a gentleman who identified himself as the regional manager informed me that the service advisor was mistaken and that I wasn’t required to fill out an application. He said he would be happy to set up an appointment for me because they wanted to retain me as a customer. I told him I was no longer available that day and that I might return in a few days.

A few days later, I went back at 7:30 a.m. because the store’s website said that they were open at that time. It took another 30 minutes before somebody showed up to open the shop even though another guy who was apparently one of their mechanics was also waiting for the guy who had the keys. That was another strike against them.

After a few minutes of getting set up, they were finally ready to help me. The service advisor whom I talked with a few days earlier was the same person I talked with that day and I told him about my communication with the regional manager. He said he remembered me and that he was aware of it and he apologized for his mistake. I thought I heard him say that the oil change and tire rotation were going to be done for free, but being hard of hearing at times, I thought I just misheard him.

So I went for a run while the service was being done and near the end of the run, my cell phone rang and the call was from the shop. Unfortunately, I was not in a good signal area so call couldn’t connect. When I finished my run and went back to the shop, the advisor met me and talked about a list of repair recommendations. I pointed out to me what needed to be done, because apparently, they also did a complete inspection of the car.
Certified Tire Mechanic Recommendations:
Leaking cooling system hoses. Parts 69 + 8 + labor 70 = 147
Fuel filter = 94
Fuel system tune up = 150
Rear brakes = 60 + 110 = 170
Trailing arm bush broken. Parts 94 x2 = 188 + 420 (for what?) = 608
Grand Total = $1169

I declined their offer to have the repairs done then and there. They finished the paperwork, had me sign it, and I was soon out of there. But not before I learned that there really was no charge! It was their way of making up for the mistake they made a few days before. In customer service parlance, this is called a “service recovery”. So for that, good job Certified Tire Center! Incidentally, I had an oil change done there 2 years ago and I gave them 5 stars on their website for not giving any recommendations and just did the oil change I requested. This time though there was a little bit of gentle pressure to have the repairs done, which I of course declined. Because of their service recovery, I again gave them 5 stars on their website with a more detailed explanation on why. In the meantime, I shall be taking their recommendations to my own mechanic for him to check out to see if they were really warranted. If so, my mechanic charges lesser than the chain stores. But thanks for the free oil change, tire rotation, and overall inspection.

Two weeks hence, I opened up my car hood (I had to open the manual to find out, LOL!), inspected the fluid levels, which seemed ok, checked the hoses and belts, also ok, but of course with an untrained eye. I also looked up on the internet what a trailing arm bush is and how to repair it. The parts were much lesser than what the mechanic quoted and I’m sure my mechanic doesn’t charge $420 for the labor. I may wait until after I return from my vacation in June to have that done, and in the meantime, I hope my car doesn’t fall apart. Considering it is 19 years old, it hasn’t given me any major problems and I’ve been lucky so far.

I just finished pricing the car on the Kelly Blue Book website and it said that if I sell to a private party, I may be able to get $1633 for it because it’s in good condition. If I trade it in for a new car, I may get from $769 to $1164 for it. Oh my, those amounts are pretty close to what my repair costs would have been! However I cannot afford to buy a new car so repairs it is, and hopefully my mechanic doesn’t charge an arm and a leg.

 Follow up: I looked up the symptoms of a failing trailing arm bushing at this website and I have not detected any of them in my car, so it may be another upsell from the service advisor:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

GPS Watches Review: Soleus SG100 and Garmin Forerunner 25

          Comparisons between these two brands have been written about ad nauseam as evidenced by a Google search, however, allow me to put in my two cents' worth, if you please.
          In the middle of 2016, the rubberized button of my previous decade’s Garmin Forerunner finally melted to the point where I couldn’t turn it on anymore. So I researched and looked for a replacement GPS watch on the internet and came upon a brand called Soleus. I had seen the brand before and I think they even sold it in Kohl’s Department stores. They were cheap as far as GPS watches go and I found the most basic Soleus SG100 on Ebay for $35. $35???!!! I don’t run much anymore so I don’t need a device with fancy schmancy bells and whistles, just something to measure time, distance, and pace.
          When the product arrived, I set it up, had it connect to the GPS satellites, which it did within about 30 seconds, then read the instructions. I took it out for a run a few days later and it seemed to function pretty well. What I had a hard time remembering was how to save the workout and turn off the GPS. It was months later when I finally figured it out somewhat (press the buttons in a counter clockwise direction). For the first few runs, I trusted the device like I used to trust my old GPS watches, but one time I plugged in the numbers in an online pace calculator and the Soleus measured about 30 seconds slower on the pace. I did that several more times with similar results. I emailed Soleus customer service and the response I got was basically when I stop running and turn the timer off, the device will continue measuring another 1/10th of a mile, resulting in the discrepancy between watch measurement of pace and the online pace calculator. So after every use of the Soleus, I would recheck the pace online and log the online pace in my exercise log instead. So Soleus: low price, lousy pace calculator. I don’t know if their higher end devices are any better.
          I wasn’t planning on buying another GPS watch anytime soon, but somebody gave me a $10 Amazon gift card for Christmas so on to the website I went and found a Garmin 25 for about $93, so the gift card took care of the taxes and the shipping was free. When I received the device, I set it up as usual and found that it was more intuitive or maybe I was more intuitive to its functions. It even had a step counter and a sleep tracker to boot. And it was much less bulkier than my 2 previous Garmins and it connected to the satellites much quicker.
          I tested it on a run and it tracked distance and pace as expected and after comparing it to the online calculator, the results were exactly alike. At last! Charging it via the USB plug launched a setup screen, I downloaded the software and signed up on the Garmin Express website. On my initial login, the system updated the software and as a result, also deleted my first run. Fortunately I had already written it in my exercise log. Subsequent logins and even a change in computers automatically recorded my workouts.
          One day, I was going to do my workout on the recumbent bike and I had a thought. Since the Garmin had a step counter, why not strap it to my ankle and see if counts how many pedals I did. Indeed it did. It counted about 4000 steps on one leg so that probably means I did 8000 pedals in a 45 minute workout. I’ve been strapping the device to my ankle ever since while doing a recumbent bike, spin bike, stairmaster, or treadmill walk workout at home. I hope that’s not considered cheating because I’m still doing an activity after all.
          All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the Garmin because it meets my needs. I have no idea what to do with the Soleus though.
          Oh, I forgot. The Garmin has an interval run/walk timer while the Soleus does not.
Here's an update: I finally downloaded the Soleus Sync software, signed up with Strava, and uploaded my runs to that website. First, I didn't recognize the last 2 runs that were uploaded because I was already using the Garmin by then, and it was a faster pace than what I'm capable of. The rest of the log showed the elapsed time of my runs were always a few seconds shorter than my actual time. For example, an hour run showed 59:49 and a 50 minute run showed 49:54. So in addition to the inaccurate pace, the watch logged some ghost workouts, and inaccurate time as well. How does that happen? And did you notice the photo above? How can the Soleus say it's March 14th when it's just February 11th, and I hadn't made any adjustments to it since I last used it? So I guess, buyer beware and read those ad nauseam reviews first.

Monday, January 2, 2017


HAPPY NEW YEAR and HAPPY NEW STATUS!!! After working since 1980 as a behavior specialist, behavior analyst, behavioral health worker, substance abuse technician, mental health worker, caregiver, and now a relief intake coordinator/behavioral health worker, I have decided to cut down on my work hours and try my hand at semi-retirement. Prior to that, I was a physical fitness instructor in the Philippines for 2 years. If anyone is counting, that would be 38 years of working full time except for a brief 6 month stint of being unemployed after being laid off in 2013.

Why just semi-retirement and not full retirement? Well, there's this thing called medical, dental, and vision insurance that I still need from something called a job, and I am reducing my work hours to the most minimum required to still obtain the insurance benefits, although I have to pay more for them. By the way, if it at all matters, I'm 59 and a half years old and 5 and a half years away from qualifying for Medicare.

Since November 2016, I had been considering cutting back on my work hours. Our full time schedule calls for three 12 hour shifts a week, and in the past 5 months, I particularly, had been assigned to work 2 nights a week on the psych units as a behavioral health worker with the patients, and 1 night a week as a relief intake coordinator in an office (which pays slightly more). I had been waiting to see how much of a pay increase I would get which I found out at the end of November. It was decent enough so I started calculating my monthly expenses against my possible income based on the lesser working hours, taking into account the taxes which would be taken out automatically from my paycheck. Based on this, I figured I might be able to survive with still a little leeway for unforeseen expenses, without dipping into my retirement nest egg.

Finally, a month ago, I emailed my Nurse Manager with a request to change my status from full time to part time, effective New Year's Day 2017. My last shift working full time was New Year's Eve.

I haven't figured out what to do with my free time between nights off yet and that's something I'll have to ponder. I've been having insomnia lately so maybe I'll be able to maintain better sleep patterns. Whatever happens in semi-retirement, it's going to be a new journey.
New Year's Eve at work