Saturday

Happier than a tick on a fat dog, says the judge when a case settles unexpectedly

There's a judge in Kentucky who is known for his humorous approach to a serious job at times, Martin J. Sheehan in the Kenton Circuit, and he showed it in his Order filed in a case that settled last month. And the court Order is making the rounds...

On hearing of the settlement, the Judge filed a court Order approving of the good news that included opining that "such news of an amicable settlement having made this Court happier than a tick on a fat dog because it is otherwise busier than a one legged cat in a sand box" and it goes on and on with laugh-out-loud wit that is guaranteed to make you do just that, laugh out loud.

More of it can be read by clicking here to see "Quote of the Day" from David Lat, including the remark about how the jury would be more confused by the case "than a hungry baby in a topless bar" but it concludes (only slightly more soberly) with an instruction that "The Clerk shall engage the services of a structural engineer to ascertain if the return of this file to the Clerk's office will exceed the maximum structural load of the floors"

There's nothing wrong with a little humor is this very serious business. It's probably why Judge Sheehan is rather well liked by both attorneys and his community.

Ronald L. Burdge
Helping lawyers win cases and find a little humor in life once in awhile.

Monday

I will gladly pay you today for a hamburger I can eat tomorrow - prepaid service contracts can be a ripoff

Most car dealers are honest, but some just plain aren't.

We just saw a consumer's sales paperwork from a Cincinnati dealership where the dealer packed into the deal an oil change package at a cost of $624. The oil change package promises free oil changes for as long as the buyer owns the car.

It reminds me of Wimpy's refrain, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" but in reverse. The dealer has got the consumer paying up front a big chunk of money for oil changes that will probably never happen - and of course there's no refund either. It's like free money to the car dealer and a ripoff you need to watch out for.

First of all, the vehicle is a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and according to the factory manual, it will only need an oil change when the car's computer says so. I've got the same kind of thing in our car and it usually says we need an oil change about every 7 to 9 thousand miles. Of course, many folks have grown up hearing the oil manufacturers and car dealers beating the drum that you have to "change your oil every 3,000 miles" but there's at least one long-time industry expert that says it ought to last at least 5,000 miles and even longer if you use the best oil out there. Let's assume the computer is broke and you just change the oil every 4,000 miles. That seems pretty reasonable (although you ought to get that computer fixed anyway).

Okay, what's the average miles driven per year in the U.S.? The federal government says 12,000 but a lot of (mostly car industry) others say it's 15,000. Let's take the middle and call it 13,500 miles.

So, how long does the average person keep their car? One mechanic expert said online that the answer was 4.7 years.

Okay, let's multiple 4.7 years by 13,500 miles ... hummm, let me get out my calculator. Okay, that means the average person drives their car 63,450 miles before they get rid of it, trade it in, or whatever.

If you wait for the computer to tell you when to change your oil, and you are like most of us and just use your car for normal city and highway driving, you'll probably have that computer tell you to change the oil just 9 or ten times. And if you just go ahead and change it every 4,000 miles, then you'll have a total of about 16 times. So the range is going to be 9 to 16 oil changes during your ownership of the car. So what's that cost you if you pay for it when you have it done, instead of up front?

Well, one Cincinnati car dealers says it's $20 to $25 (with a "free" car wash thrown in) - and it's not the Chevy dealer who ripped off the client whose paperwork we're looking at here - and there's lots of other places where the cost will run from $18 on up.

If you get your oil changed just 9 times, that's gonna cost you $225. If you get it changed 16 times, that'll cost you $400. And that "lifetime oil change" deal? Well, that car dealer charged $624.

So, you see, it's kind of like the car dealer saying "I'll gladly let you pay me today for a hamburger I'll give you next Tuesday" or - actually - in about 3 months. It's like free money to the car dealer.

When you go car shopping, just remember. Buying the car is the easy part. Getting out of the finance office financially alive, though, that's the hard part. Don't put up with getting ripped off. Read everything carefully before you sign anything. Scratch out or cross out anything you don't like. Don't buy stuff you don't need and stuff that is of no real value. And think real hard before you buy any of it.

Burdge Law Office
www.CarSalesFraud.com
Helping consumers protect themselves, everyday.

Wednesday

Are you more loyal to your car brand than your Hyundai-owning neighbor? Data shows they are more loyal than anyone

When Hyundai shipped their cars to the US for the first time, they hoped folks would come to like them. Well, it may have taken a while to get there, but there they are.

New data on sales and service is reported to show that Hyundai owners are more loyal to the Hyundai brand than Honda or Toyota or Ford or Subaru, when they go car shopping. Times have certainly changed.

When the brand first hit US shores they were plagued with what many folks thought bad looks and bad designs and bad reliability. We always thought there were a lot of lemons on that first boatload.

But the company listened and apparently hired new designers intent on making their product "look American." They also pumped up the quality. There's no telling how much of it came from the combining of forces with Kia, who was also striving to increase its quality and sales presence in the US, but both of them have gained substantial sales ground and customer loyalty that industry observers thought was impossible, based on the early model arrivals.

It just goes to show that anyone who pays attention to what the US public wants, and delivers on it, will gain market share. More surprisingly, it all happened at the same time that GM and Chrysler were going down the bankruptcy slide.

Are you paying attention now, Detroit? We hope so.

As long as they make cars, statistically there will always be a bad one somewhere in the bunch. But those bad ones are getting fewer and farther between when it comes to Hyundai, frankly.

It doesn't hurt that they give a ten year warranty too - although Hyundai owners still need to be careful about that warranty. It has a "surprise" hidden inside its terms. They have a little clause that says you can't sue them in court if you end up with a lemon car from them.

Instead you have to go to their "hired gun" private process, where a privately run business (that is paid by Hyundai) decides what, if anything, you should get for your troubles. And the only way out of it is if you send them an email or letter, within a short 90 days of buying the car, that says you won't go along with their private "arbitration" process. Otherwise, your legal rights disappear as you drive the car down the block.

Burying it away in a manual is sneaky of course. Hyundai is counting on you not even noticing the binding "arbitration" notice, or that you won't understand the actual legal impact of it on you.

So, when you buy Hyundai you may well get reliability if you are lucky. But if you get a lemon, you also get the shaft because arbitration sucks for lots of reasons. You can check this web site page for some of them: http://www.arbitrationsucks.com/.

And if you want to "opt out" of the Hyundai private-you-can't-tell-anyone-you-got-a-lemon process that takes away your legal rights? Well, you can click right here to do it - and we STRONGLY recommend you do just that.

You shouldn't have to give up your right to due process in court just to buy any car - no matter how reliable. Until Hyundai and Kia stop sneaking up on customers, and taking away their customer's legal rights to Lemon Law relief, we still say what we said before: Friends don't let friends buy Hyundai.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Monday

Don't let your car dealer steal your car. There's a shortage of good used cars and dealers are promising the moon to get your's, but is it real?

The used car market is constantly changing. But the one constant is that more used cars are sold retail, every year, than new cars. In fact, usually there are at least 3 used cars sold for every new car sold - and that's in a normal year.

With credit gone to pot, solid gold buyers are fewer than ever. "Gold" means a buyer with very good credit. You can check a car dealer's slang dictionary (click here) to see more terms car dealers use (did you know they call customers "Up's"?)

The real thing to watch out for is that many buyers don't realize that the used car market is in a crunch right now. That means that dealers want the metal (your car) and they may not tell you the truth about what it's worth so that they can get it for a steal and make big bucks when they resell it. Be careful or you could get ripped off big time.

And what makes it even worse is that most folks trade their cars every 3 years on average and in 2009 there were a lot fewer new cars sold. Pile that on top of the current credit crunch, with fewer gold buyers, and you've got a situation that is ripe for car dealer fraud.

So how does a car dealer rip you off and how can you protect yourself? Get educated and get careful.

First, watch out for the negative equity claim. That's where the car dealer says that your car isn't worth what is owed on it but they will help you out by "rolling" the loan balance into your new car loan. Watch out for the numbers or the dealer could literally steal your trade in away and effectively pay zero for it by jacking up the new car's purchase price and, with a little razzle dazzle, you may never know even what even happened to you.

Second, don't even go near a car dealer until you research what your trade in is really worth for sure. Check online with sources like KBB.com and NADA.com and AutoTrader.com and elsewhere. Know for sure what your trade in is really worth.

And if you have a specific dealer in mind anyway, then before you go to the dealer check their web site and see what they are selling your kind of vehicle for.

And if it seems like they are being honest with you, then be even more careful. For instance they may give you the right number on your trade in and then jack up the deal by packing life insurance, so-called "gap" insurance, an extended warranty, a maintenance package, windshield "protection", so-called "theft" protection that is really just window scratches, and more - they can end up making more money that way than if they had just stolen your trade in vehicle in the first place. Watch out!

Last, when you get ready to sign the paperwork, be extra careful. Most states have a legal principle that says you can be stuck with what you sign - under the assumption that you read it. And if you didn't read it at all? Too bad, you get stuck anyway.

Don't sign anything until you understand every number and what every thing on it means.

And watch out for the five finger close. That's where your friendly finance manager helps you sign by using one of his/her hands to hold the paper still for you. That's just a trick they use to use their hand to actually cover up numbers and stuff they wrote on the sales contract, getting you to sign without realizing what they are doing to you.

And what do you do if you realize you've been had? Immediately go back to the dealer and demand they make it right. And if they don't then you should immediately go see a car sales fraud lawyer. You can find one near you by checking this free online 50-state list of Consumer Law lawyers who handle cases like that.

It's your money so remember to be careful. We've represented ordinary folks like you who were ripped off by car dealers for over 25 years. And also remember that it isn't your fault. Lots of folks who thought they were too careful to get ripped off also had to hire us. That includes doctors, lawyers, sheriff deputies, and judges who were ripped off and didn't even realize it until later. If it can happen to them, you know it can happen to you too.

Burdge Law Office
and
Helping people protect themselves, every day.

Wednesday

Ford wants handheld cell phones in cars banned, do you?

Cartoon from http://whatisacellphonejammer.com/cell-phone-jammer-car
Ford Motor Company is the first manufacturer to say they approve of banning handheld cell phones in cars on American roads. That idea is in a bill now before Congress, which could end up being law, according to TheDetroitBureau news reports.

There's a new study out from the Governors Highway Safety Association (didn't know there even was such an outfit) that says in 80% of car crashes "the driver had turned away from the road at the time of impact." Well, of course - that's what you usually do when you see an impact about to happen. Of more validity may be the finding that drivers are four times more likely to wreck while using a handheld phone than drivers who don't talk while driving at all. Focus, folks, focus.

Meanwhile, Congress is planning hearings to determine if there ought to be a federal law that makes using a handheld phone illegal if you are driving. NY Congressperson Carolyn McCarthy has a proposal up that would ban it in all 50 states. Ford backs the idea, according to a Ford VP, Pete Lawson.

Not by coincidence, Ford is also in the "beta" test phase of an in-car system like the GM OnStar system that has been around for years and which other manufacturers are now launching too. Of course, they charge for that, so there is the obvious incentive to them to get a federal ban in place so consumers might be more encouraged to subscribe to their in-car service.

Some states already have a ban in effect but so far no one is talking about whether those help, or hurt, the crash statistics.

Of course, all of this assumes your car is running right anyway.

Monday

Why should your social security number be kept private and what it tells about you

What the numbers in your social security number say about you and how it can identify you is easier to understand than you may think. One thing can lead to another and the next thing you know, someone has stolen your identity and run up thousands of dollars of debt in your name. It can happen even if all they have is just your SSN and your name. It is just so very easy for it to happen to you.

Each number in the SSN sequence represents a specific bit of information about a person that is unique to them.

For instance, the first three digits can tell someone what state you were likely born in. Let's start there. If a thief gets hold of a valid SSN, they can figure out where that person was likely born just from the number alone.The name, of course, is easy because that is printed right on the SSN card.

Okay, so they have a name and an SSN. You'd think they would need more to open up a charge account in your name right? Maybe, but that depends on the company giving out the credit. More importantly, getting more info on someone is pretty easy. Check the internet (I won't tell you where) and with only a little digging around you can come up with the street address for just about anyone. I did.

Social Security Number Source Chart
But wait - suppose there are several folks by that same name. For instance, there are at least 8 people named "Ronald Burdge" in the US. So how does the thief know which one of them he has the SSN of? Well, he starts with the first three digits of the SSN. If it is between 400 and 407, then he probably has the SSN of the Ronald Burdge who lives in Kentucky. A few more clicks and the thief can see this Ronald Burdge lives in Henderson in an area where the average home value is $135,000 and he is a white male.

One more click and he learns the middle initial and approximate age of that Ronald Burdge, that he's married and a republican born between July 22 and August 23. There's even a picture of his home and the address on the internet. His wife is Kathy, who is a few years older than him, and they have one child, Eric, who is in his 30's and who also lives there in the same town. He loves reading and drives a truck and donates to charities and other good causes, including the local hospice home, where a family friend passed away (I know the fellow's name too).

And the thief can find out a whole lot more for free. And if the thief is willing to pay a few bucks on a couple of web sites, he can learn even more, but he probably won't need it to open up that Sears charge card or get that internet loan, etc.

So protecting your social security number is extremely important. Never give it out to anyone for anything in life unless you absolutely have to. Your social security number is the key to knowing everything about you or any other person. In the wrong hands, it can ruin your credit and your life.