Wednesday

Bank Ripoff Rivals Car Dealers

Car dealers aren't the only ones who try to rip off consumers. Today let's look at banks, First Premier Bank and their credit card program specifically. Their logo says "Financial Services From a Different Perspective" and boy is that ever true.

These bank guys are really clever.

They've got a credit card program "to help people re-establish their credit" with a low limit credit card, usually $250 to $300. Problem is, the bank charges all sorts of fees up front (and along the way) that take up most of the credit limit they give you, to which they can add interest and late charges to boot, of course!

For the privilege of getting one of their credit cards with a $300 limit, the bank slaps on fees practically every time you seem to turn around. An example: "Account Set-up Fee: $29.00 (one-time fee)" plus a "Program Fee: $95.00 (one-time fee)" plus an "Annual Fee: $48.00" plus a "Participation Fee: $72.00 Annually" too. Just what is an account set up fee, and what exactly are you "participating" in?

Oh, I forgot the late payment fee too (in case the mailman doesn't deliver your payment on time). That's another $25.
And to wire them money to pay your account (if the mailman didn't get there on time) there's another $5.00 charge JUST FOR THEM TO RECEIVE YOUR MONEY. That one's really clever; sort of like saying "give me your money and you have to pay me extra for giving me your money too"

And if you go over your credit limit (which won't be hard to do since you start out with a high balance on a low limit card in the first place), that's another $25 charge. You say you want to increase your credit limit? That's another $25 fee. Want to use the internet to check your account? There's goes another charge on your account, $3.95.

In a stroke of frankness, they admit that "
If you are assigned the minimum credit limit of $250 your initial available credit will be $72 ($52 if you select the additional card option)." But if you want to get a cash advance on your credit card when you get it in the mail (oh yeah, they charge for "express delivery" of your credit card too)? Well you can only get 10% of the available credit so how does $7.20 cash advance sound?

They also charge $3 for copy charges...what's getting copied? Who knows, but you can bet you'll be paying for it.

They get you going and coming...these guys even get you if you stand still!

Oh, and just to make sure the consumer gets nailed to the wall, if you try to dispute anything you are stuck with the bank's binding arbitration clause too. They don't tell you how much it will cost you to use their private arbitration system, but you can bet there's a fee there too! We think that private arbitration systems are a rip off and you can read why by clicking right here.

I'm not the first one to hear bad things about First Premier Bank's program and I probably won't be the last. Check out all the complaints about them at Rip-off Report.com.

This is financial services from a different perspective? You got that right!

But I will say one thing for them: you do get a Gold colored credit card. Good thing that it looks impressive because you'll be paying for it a very long time.

Saturday

Dodge's Demon


Chrysler has been taking a beating lately, what with rumors of a GM take over, but you have to give their designers credit for not giving up. The people who brought you lots of cool cars in the last decade of designers gone wild, have come up with another looker, the Dodge Demon, to be unveiled at the 2007 Geneva International Motor Show.

Some people can say that the bean counters don't know what they're doing at Chrysler, but no one can say that about the design team.

If numbers say anything, the Demon's does. The Demon will have a front engine, rear-wheel-drive setup with 172-hp in a 2.4L I-4 engine. It'll match up to a 6-speed manual transmission which Dodge designers say will generate peak torque of 165 lb.-ft. (224 Nm) at 4,400 rpm to spin those 19 inch wheels wild. And then there's those looks that could kill (for more pics, click here).

If it put this concept car into production, estimates are that the Demon would sell for somewhere just north of $18,000 stripped down. In a market populated with new ’07 Miata cars that sticker for $21,030, that's plenty competitive. Even the Pontiac Solstice – which stole Miata’s U.S. sales crown in 2006 – starts at $21,995, leaving plenty of room to pack a few options onto the Dodge Demon and still compete on price.

The Dodge Demon is a concept that excites and that's what Detroit needs more of nowadays. With great concept cars like these, how come they don't start building 'em?

Thursday

A Human Story

Don't know if it's true, and it could be just one of those internet myths, but it's a great story so I'll repeat it here just as it was sent to me by my brother ...

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Tampa, Florida, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.


One nurse took her copy to Missouri . The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this "anonymous" poem winging across the Internet.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? ... What do you see?
What are you thinking ... when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man, ... not very wise,
Uncertain of habit ... with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food ... and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice ... "I do wish you'd try!"
Who seems not to notice ... the things that you do.
And forever is losing ... a sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding ... the long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse ... you're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am ... as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, ... as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten ... with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters ... who love one another

A young boy of Sixteen ... with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now ... a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty ... my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows ... that I promised to keep.

At Twenty five, now ... I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide ... and a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty ... my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other ... with ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons ... have grown and are gone,
But my woman's beside me ... to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, ... babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children ... my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me ... my wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing ... young of their own.
And I think of the years ... and the love that I've known.

I'm now an old man ... and nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age ... look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles ... grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone ... where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass ... a young guy still dwells,
And now and again ... my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys ... I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living ... life over again.

I think of the years ... all too few gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact ... that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people ... open and see,

Wednesday

Is GM Buying Chrysler ???



Hold on to your hats, folks...

Automotive News is reporting that DaimlerChrysler may be negotiating with General Motors for GM to acquire Chrysler. That's a reversal of what DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche said just last fall. Is DaimlerChrysler that desperate to shed the Chrysler product line? Apparently so.

Last fall DaimlerChrysler's Chief Financial Officer had said that he wouldn't rule out a sale of the Chrysler "arm" of DaimlerChrysler, only to have the corporation itself issue a press release the next day saying Chrysler wasn't for sale. Well, maybe it is after all.

CEO Dieter Zetsche's statement resurrects the speculation from last fall, which followed on the heels of Chrysler group's dismal third-quarter results, which included a $1.48 billion loss. Perhaps someone in Germany finally looked at the numbers and said "we're bleeding all over the floor here folks" and maybe someone finally believed it1

When pushed for comment, Zetsche would refused to comment on Germany's Manager Magazin report that DaimlerChrysler was negotiating to sell Chrysler to General Motors. Manager Magazin didn't name its sources but said the talks were "in full swing."

Zetsche's reaction? "I cannot and will not go into any further details." Meanwhile a General Motors isn't talking. Typically, when two big companies are talking about one buying the other, the response that both give is very often not to say anything at all.

The "gotta sell" mentality probably wasn't helped by today's posting of a $7.28 billion operating profit by DaimlerChrysler for 2006 after the Chrysler group posted its own loss of $1.47 billion.

As Everett Dirkson said once, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money."

Who knows what all this will mean for American consumers...we'll have to wait for the dust to settle.

Saturday

The Hottest Car in Hong Kong

Recently we heard some rightfully deserved bragging by Buick that Buick's sales in China this year were higher than its US sales. China?

Okay, so I wondered: what's the top selling car in China, anyway? And what's the hottest car selling in Hong Kong?

Just what's going on in the Asian car market anyway and why should the US care? Well, there are two very good reasons.


The Asian car marketplace is inside the triangle formed by Australia to the south, Korea to the north, and India to the west. Inside that triangle are India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillipines, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Australia.

Population is the first reason to pay attention to the Asian car market. It matters because more people = more car sales.


People generally know that China has the largest population of any country on the planet with 1.3 billion people. What you may not know is that India has just over 1 billion. The other 11 have a combined population of about 700 million. That's a total of 3 billion people.


No one can ignore a market of that size. It's certain that Asian car makers aren't ignoring their own market and neither are the Europeans. Some American brands aren't either, as seen by the fact that Buick sold more
cars in China in 2006 than they sold in the US (listen up, Ford, Henry wasn't so myopic either).

Who makes the most money, according to the "purchasing power parity" per capita international standard? Hong Kong ($33.4k), followed by Australia ($30.9k) and with Japan ($30.6), just beating out Singapore (at $28.3k). Okay, compare that to the US per capita wealth of $41.4k. Yeah, the US is ahead, but not by all that much. So, if US residents can have two or three cars per family, then why not Asia?

Okay, Asia has people and Asia has money. So what are they buying?

What is the hottest selling car in Hong Kong (and everywhere else)? Here's the scoop from Segment Y, a Dutch company that monitors vehicle sales in the emerging Asian marketplace...

The top car in Taiwan? Toyota's Corolla with a 9.4% market share there. That shouldn't be a surprise. The model is known worldwide for its high reliability and high miles per gallon. 30 million have been sold since its launch in 1966. Corollas are currently manufactured in Japan, the United States (Fremont, California), the United Kingdom (Sunderland), Canada (Cambridge, Ontario), Malaysia, China (Tianjin), Taiwan, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, Thailand, Venezuela and India.

The hottest car in Hong Kong? The Corolla again, with a 5.2% market share. Singapore: Toyota Corolla (11.9%). Thailand: Toyota Soluna Vios (25.1%). Indonesia: Toyota Innova (25.0%). Phillipines: Toyota Vios (22.0%). Vietnam: Toyota Zace (19.1%) . Hong Kong: Toyota Corolla (5.2%). Taiwan: Toyota Corolla (9.4%). Japan: Toyota (31.7%). Coincidence? Hardly.

Here's the breakdown for the biggest players in the region:


China: Tianjin Xiali with 6.2% of the market. 6.2% doesn't seem like much, but also consider the fact that there are over a hundred motor vehicle manufacturers in China now. Most of the multinational car makers are building in China too, with sedans by Honda, GM minivans and Toyota suv's. With a billion-person market to split up, it's no wonder.

And then there's India. Here the Maruti Alto has a16.8% market share. In fact, different Maruit models (there are eleven) take 4 of the top 6 India market spots. With a rising economy and a rising demand for automobiles, it's no wonder the market for new car sales is rising too. Most of the multinational players are joining the sales fray.

So what's going on in the Asian car market? They're building, selling and driving new cars. Oh yeah, and there's another reason US car makers should care. Actually, 3 billion of them. But if they don't get their "US act" together, it won't matter. Oh yeah, one other thing, even China has lemon law. Granted it's not as strong as US lemon laws, but it's a start.

Thursday

Abbott & Costello Running Ford?


Who's on first, what's on second, and I don't know's on third, said Abbott and Costello. You have to wonder if the same thought process is happening at Ford.

Just last week Ford continued its bragging about how successful the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego and Ford Freestyle models were and how they were planning on doing even better with the 2008 models. Now, in a verbal turnaround that probably left their advertising department spinning, those three model names are gone.

Ford has announced that, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the Taurus name is back. So is the Mercury Sable. And there's a new Taurus "X" model. Oh, these aren't new cars really, they just new names for vehicles already made and called the Five Hundred, Montego and Freestyle. Apparently Blue Oval HQ tossed the chromed labels in the trash can and ordered up some new versions. The old model names are going on the same vehicles they were already building under the new model names. After all, iron is iron.

The Ford Five Hundred will be called the Taurus. The Mercury Montego will be called the Sable. The Freestyle "crossover" will be called the Taurus "X" vehicle. But Ford says it won't be cutting any prices.

"Honestly, we never should have walked away from the tremendous equity we built in the Taurus and Sable names," said Mark Fields, a Ford corporate office. The Taurus nameplate first came out in 1985 and the model was a top seller from '92 to '96, then dropping off steadily as the Toyota Camry picked up steam. Finally, in 2006, it was only built for Hertz and other fleet sales and all production stopped in October. But they must have a lot of chromed Taurus nameplates left over...

The part that's puzzling is the continual shifting of marketing strategies at Blue Oval HQ. After investing millions in the new nameplates, trying to build brand recognition and customer appreciation for its new models, a light bulb comes on ( a "better idea" ?) and management decides to switch tracks. Of course, others have also wondered why Ford's advertising department spends money the way they do.

You can almost hear the board room conversation. "Let's dump those new names and resurrect the old ones. After all, people still remember them and it doesn't really matter what piece of metal we slap it on! Metal's metal and money's money!"

Why didn't someone think of that before they spent millions of dollars advertising some names that would only end up in the trash can? Ford doesn't have that kind of money to throw around anymore and if this board of directors doesn't realize that pretty soon, the stockholders may find someone else who will.

Maybe Abbott & Costello really are running Ford. It sure looks like it from the street...

Wednesday

Is Ford's Ship Sinking?


How do you cut costs? "Encourage" your employees to jump ship?

Massive restructuring of Ford has resulted in some 8,000 hourly employees jumping ship in January after taking Ford's buyout offer. With a net loss of $12.7 billion (that's with a "b") in 2006, and losing more of its share of the market to boot, you have to wonder who's in charge when Ford's president says everything "is going very smoothly." If this is smooth, what happens when they think they've hit a bump?

Ford's goal is to close 16 plants and axe 45,000 jobs in its massive triage effort to turn around the remnants of the "once upon a time" auto giant. We hope so. The US economy won't be helped by the influx of unemployed workers that the "big 3" have let go in the last six months. After all, the thought that we might all end up driving cars from China is more than a little bit frightening.

The China car market is a whole new ballgame but at least they have a Lemon Law --- it isn't as strong as US Lemon Laws, but it's a start!

Tuesday

Milwaukee Could Teach Detroit Something

Well Ford's numbers are in and they look pretty dismal. Gm isn't doing all that great and Chrysler is sulking along.

Maybe what they need is a little humor in their advertising. Sleek and shiney and horsepower (not counting Bud's, of course) isn't what scored points in the Superbowl ads, certainly. I'm not the only one to say it was humor. Make 'em laugh, Detroit, and they'll remember you and think better of you for it. At least Chevy knew that when it ran its Superbowl ad.

You can put horsepower in any engine. With enough polish, any car can look shiney. Sleek is just a matter of design. New cars that look like every other new car just plain don't sell. If the cars aren't different, then make the customer feel different about the product. Differentiating the product can also mean adding an emotional element to the process and no money-related emotion is stronger than laughter and humor.

Toyota learned that lesson well and has applied it all across the world in their ads, like Bugger on YouTube. A little humor, added to a lot of quality, and people buy. It really can be just that simple.

Humor even works for power tools, too, as Milwaukee Tolls has learned recently with a great Nascar-like ad, just one of a series. You can find more adds on the Milwaukee Tools website, and the newest and best one is right here.

Coincidentally, I own two power drills and one is a Milwaukee. Their ads are right ... it's not a lemon.

If your car is a lemon, contact us. Getting rid of lemons is what we do. Every day.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Since 1978 in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and California.