Loyal Customers Witness Implosion of Toyota/Lexus Brand

January 29, 2010

KaboomBy Angie Moreschi:

As part of a family of loyal, long-time Toyota/Lexus drivers, I’m downright angry.  Angry that Toyota screwed up a good thing.

Toyota could have used me in an ad a year ago ( I used to hail my previous Lexus for saving my daughter’s life in a bad accident we had).  But now, I’m left worrying about whether my reflexes will be fast enough to save my children’s lives if I become one of the unfortunate victims of a sticking gas pedal.

Talk about the sudden implosion of an iconic brand… but maybe it wasn’t so sudden. Read on to find out about my unfortunate year as the owner of a brand new Lexus.

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Debt Consolidation Could be a trap

January 28, 2010

debt consolidationYou’ve probably seen the commercials on TV or heard them on your radio.  A debt consolidation company offers to help you settle your debt for pennies on the dollar.  But watch out, these companies could just make your money problems even worse.

Consumer advocates warn that debt consolidation company promises are often too good to be true. Many of the companies charge large up-front fees in addition to monthly payments and a percentage of your debt — all for services that can ruin your credit score, result in a onslaught of collection agency calls and leave you with tax obligations. In many cases, consumers pay thousands of dollars only to find themselves in worse financial shape than when they hired the debt consolidation company.

Click here to read more from business columnist Kathy Kristof of CBS MoneyWatch.

Toyota Replaces One Unsafe Car with Another

January 28, 2010

Toyota recakkBy Angie Moreschi:

“I’ll never forget,” said Jon Newcomer, “Their exact words were: ‘We’re condemning your vehicle.  We’ve deemed it unsafe for the road.'”  That was the unfortunate news this Hudson, New York man received this week when he took his Toyota Tundra truck into his dealership in Kingston, New York to have a brake problem checked out.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the dealer turned around and gave him a 2010 Toyota Corolla as a loaner car.  That doesn’t sound so terrible, except, as it turns out, the Corolla is on the recall list for possible sudden acceleration problems.  Something Newcomer says they conveniently forgot to tell him.

“I’m definitely not happy about it, because I’m putting my wife and kids in this Toyota Corolla,” Newcomer said.  “I’m angry that they replaced my unsafe vehicle, with a vehicle that’s likely even more unsafe.”

Toyota is in the midst of a recall nightmare, because of growing safety concerns about sticking gas pedals that have led to the sudden, unexplained acceleration in several of its most popular models.

From Bad to Worse

It all started when Newcomer began having brake problems with his 2000 Toyota Tundra and took it into his local mechanic.  “He told me it had a serious frame problem that he couldn’t handle,” Newcomer said.  So he decided to take his truck to the dealership.

That’s when Newcomer learned his Tundra was actually part of an earlier Toyota recall for frame rot, which could lead to rear brake failure.  “I was definitely a little stunned, because I didn’t receive any recall notification at all, nothing in the mail.  I only found out about it, because I brought my truck in.”

Newcomer says the dealer didn’t handle the situation well.   They had very little information for him on how his condemned car situation would all be resolved.  They did say, however, they would give him that loaner vehicle until they could figure out what to do.  But Newcomer says, the fact that they gave him a recalled vehicle as a loaner is quite remarkable, if not down right irresponsible. “I’m not happy at all,” he said. “It really upsets me.”

Toyota dealers were first notified last week that the Corolla was on the recall list.  Then, dealers were ordered by Toyota on Tuesday not to release those vehicles from inventory.

Driving an unsafe car

CorollaNewcomer spent most of the day Wednesday trying to figure out what to do with his recalled loaner car.  He says the dealership offered to do an inspection on the Corolla to determine if it’s safe to drive, but he was having none of that.

“The woman on the phone said it’s only affecting 1% of 100  cars and only cars with high mileage.  She said I’d be able to feel some resistance in the gas pedal, if the car was affected.  I told her, ‘Ma’am, that doesn’t make me feel one bit better.'”

Ultimately, they told him to drive the car back to the dealership, and they would give him a different loaner car, not on the recall list.   “So now, I have to leave work early to drive this unsafe car 30 miles to remedy the situation, but what options do I really have?”

Unfortunately, Newcomer, like thousands of other Toyota customers, is stuck.  “I’m disappointed in Toyota, he says, “They claim to be this dependable, long-lasting vehicle, and now we’re seeing that’s not the case.”

Newcomer says the dealership told him they’re dealing with the recalled vehicles on “a case-by-case basis,” which he found unnerving.  “That certainly doesn’t make me feel confident.  Am I gonna be one of the individuals that doesn’t get what’s due to them, or will I be one of the individuals who’s taken care of?”

A lot of people are asking that same question.

What’s Next?

As far as his condemned Tundra, the dealer now tells Newcomer Toyota Corporate will be in touch to make him an offer on buying the truck back.  “I feel like I’m left flapping in the wind.  They said it could take as long as one month or even four months.  They didn’t know,” he said.

It’s bad enough being a Toyota owner these days, with all the fear and uncertainty about your car suddenly accelerating and possibly becoming a death trap.  At the very least, you’d think the company would work a little harder on creating better customer relations.

**Click here to see Dow Jones Newswire Columnist Al Lewis’ take on the Toyota crisis and his wry advise for customers.

**Click here for an editorial on how the Toyota brand is being affected by the recall crisis.

Toyota Puts Brake on Sales to Address Safety Issues

January 27, 2010

By Angie Moreschi:

Drivers who own Toyota vehicles are confused and concerned, as the car company struggles to deal with  growing safety concerns over sticking gas pedals. In his first public comment since the latest recalls, Toyota’s President apologized for the situation.  Read more

Deals & Steals: Secrets from the Coupon Mom

January 26, 2010

If you’re trying to save money by clipping coupons, you might want to take a pointer or two from the Coupon Mom.  She’s been saving money for years, and now she can help you save, too.   Click here to watch a profile on the coupon mom from KTRK TV in Houston.

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How to Get Debt Collectors Off Your Back

January 26, 2010

stop the callsA man in Dallas has come up with a simple solution to get debt collectors off his back.  He sues them.  Craig Cunningham calls himself a private attorney general- or in other words, someone who files private lawsuits in the public interest. Debt collectors call him a credit terrorist.

Cunningham has made $20,000 from more than a dozen lawsuits he’s filed against debt collectors for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Read more about his crusade in this profile on him in the Denver Observer.

And in a related story:  “Debt Collectors Consider Trading “Knee Breaking” Techniquest for “Empathy Training.”  Debt collectors certainly don’t want more people like Cunningham to start suing them, as well.  Could this lead to a new kinder gentler form of debt collection?  Click here to read more.

Fun Facts About Your Income Taxes

January 26, 2010

Uncle SamBy John Newcomer:

By now you are starting to get those 1099i’s in the mail.  Yes, those pesky, little forms that let you know you earned a whopping $12.92 interest on your meager savings account.  Just as daffodils signal that Spring is around the corner; your soon to arrive 2009 W-2 means that tax return preparation season is almost upon us.

How complicated is the U.S. Tax code?  The first tax code (1913) was 400 pages. It is now 70,320 pages long! If you placed the pages end to end, the code is more than a 13 mile journey.  It is so complicated that more than 60% of all filers have to use the services of  professional tax preparers to fill out their return.

How about this for Irony?

Back in 1952, when the tax code was a mere 20,000 pages, Joseph Nunan was convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to 5 years in prison.  Joseph Nunan’s previous job was Commissioner of the IRS!  If he could not figure out the income tax code, then what chance does the average citizen have?

Really, come on?   70,000 pages!!!

Existing Home Sales Drop

January 25, 2010

soldAnother blow to the housing recovery.  Existing home sales fell in December by 16.7%.  The drop was much larger than anticipated. It was expected that sales would decline somewhat from November to December, because November was slated to be the last month for the federal government’s $8,000 tax credit for new homebuyers. But lawmakers extended that deadline through April 30th and added a new credit of up to $6,500 for some existing home owners who move. 

Positive Note

The median price of homes sold in December was $178,300, a 1.5% gain over December 2008. That was the first year-over-year gain in the median price since August 2007. Distressed properties made up 32% of the houses sold during the month.

Click here to read more at CNNMoney.com.

Haiti Contributions Deductible for 2009 Taxes

January 22, 2010

Both the House and Senate have have unanimously passed legislation to allow taxpayers to deduct cash donantions for Haiti earthquake relief on their 2009 taxes. Any contributions made between January 12th and February 28th are now eligible for deduction.  Click here to read more on CNNMoney.com.

Does Bundling TV, Phone and Internet Make Sense?

January 22, 2010

old fashioned TVBy Terry Smiljanich:

As we’ve all grown more dependent upon our ever-expanding telecommunication services, we’ve become fertile targets for the companies selling these services.  They’re constantly competing for our business and  trying to entice us with attractive offers to switch to them.

So, when it comes to phone, internet and cable TV service how do you get the best deal?  Does it make sense to bundle your services as the big telecom companies want us to do? And if so, which ones are the best?

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