Skinny Jeans


20160506_093633_001I adore skinny jeans, compression leggings and jeggings – the kind of pants that give a comforting hug to my hiking-weary old legs.

But the current below-waist design of today’s skinny jeans drives me batty. I keep struggling to pull the darn things up, thinking they’ve got a hankerin’ to wander below my butt. And all that yanking threatens crotch chafe.

skinny-jeansThese duds seem designed for croptop-loving women who yearn to show off their midriffs.

Well….It’s gonna take a few thousand more crunches for me to go that route – if it EVER happens.

It seems that those skinny-jean manufacturers expect women my age to be settin’ our fat, blue-haired bodies in front of the daytime soaps. I imagine they think we all wear seersucker, snap-front house dresses.

Perish the thought —

and put some more material at the top of my skinny jeans, PLEASE!

On Writing


Writing is the ideal remote work for boomers and seniors. It takes little upfront expense or hardware to get started. It can be done from anywhere, including an RV. Of course, it takes skill, and if you have some innate talent much can be learned without a huge financial outlay. Best of all, you are totally in charge of what you write.

I have a damn good ear for when something I’m writing is “off,” and when it’s really really good. My practiced ear comes from years of writing but I think it’s been primarily developed by reading voraciously since I first learned to read.

As Stephen King has said: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.”

If my writing is “off” I seldom know why right away. I have to put it aside and read something else – writing tutorial, a good novel, a great blog. Or just get to my best thinking places – hiking trail, treadmill, pool side. Inevitably something will hit me about what I must change and how. Often the insight comes from an unexpected source.

stephen-king-on-writingThis week’s insight about what the hell was wrong with parts of my first e-book came from the wonderful On Writing book by Stephen King. I’m reading his delightful story about how he got started and wham! something he says sets my creative lightbulb to high beam.

Today I’m spending reworking the e-book’s problem areas – thanks to Stephen King.

Can’t hike for a few more days on orthopedist orders, so my break will be swimming – and more On Writing pool-side reading.

If you write or want to write, you MUST read this book. It’s not only full of irreverent stories of his early years – stuff we don’t hear about him anywhere else – but it teaches in an easy-to-read, immensely retainable way, many tips and tools for writing success.

 

Have you Ever Thought about Starting your Own Business?


If you’re not sure what you might want to do, and you don’t have a lot of money to invest,  consider your loves – what you enjoy doing, what gets you so involved that you forget to eat, miss appointments, and lose all track of time. Jot these down somewhere – perhaps a tiny notebook that you carry with you at all times, a sticky note on your laptop, or memo pad on the home page of your smartphone. It might be swing dancing, hiking, writing, volunteering, or baking.

Add to that list your areas of experience and expertise. Think about your jobs and the things you accomplished that make you proud. Were you the first in your department to make a suggestion that came to fruition? Did you design the first “XYZ”? Have you been a mentor or SCORE counselor to someone whose budding business is now worth millions? Did you start as an overweight couch patio and teach yourself to hike 10 miles a day and slim down? Are you an accomplished business plan writer? Pianist? Wood carver? Programmer? Floral designer? What do you know that others might want to learn about?

Now think about what you bring to the expertise table that is unique. If you’re a wood carver, for example, are you lightning fast? Or do you / would you create customized pieces for others? Have you been doing this since age 5 at your grandfather’s knee? Do you have or could you take great pictures of your finished products?

At this point you’ll probably have a hefty list. If not, ask others that know you well to tell you what they see as your strengths, skills and accomplishments.

Now, add to that list your funny, entertaining, heart-wrenching, and / or uplifting stories – the ones that elicit the response, “you ought to write a book” from the friends, colleagues and family that you tell them to for the first time. Perhaps you, a Minnesotan, went hiking in Arizona for the first time with a friend and it got hot, you both got overheated, and had to be rescued, just in the nick of time.

As example, I remember well our family dog Poco developing tumors right after my mother died of cancer, and my sister and I trying to put bandaids on Poco so she’d heal. Dad then took her to the vet and we asked him over and over, “You’re not going to put her to sleep, are you?” and him saying “No” over and over again.

Later that day I returned to the house to find dad burying Poco in the backyard. While I had held it together throughout mom’s funeral and burial this was the last straw. I screamed at dad. I cried for days. I’ve longed to write a book about Poco and what she meant to me, and how she stayed by mom’s side as mom got sicker and sicker. And then Poco died of the same disease shortly after.

clip-art-of-a-chubby-businessman-working-at-a-desk-by-dennis-cox-858So, if friends say, “You ought to write a book” – well, you ought to.

Amazon has a great program with its Kindle division. Anyone can write about anything, and quickly be a published author. I have trained to do so, and am just starting my first e-book, hopefully out Dec. 1. But this isn’t about me, and so I’ll tell you more later. This is about YOU.

If you write well, and are disciplined, you should be able to do this in 2 weeks or less. Just set aside some time each day to write. Then go to Udemy and sign up for a free or inexpensive course on publishing in Kindle. I took two dynamite courses – one free, and one $11, that taught me how to determine if my idea was marketable, how to market it and how to publish.

You can hire someone to do the publishing end of it instead of tackling that yourself.

For inexpensive book covers, and / or publishing help go to Fiverr and hire a freelancer. My book cover is costing me $25, and that includes an extra $5 tip I gave the artist. I am handling the publishing myself.

If you DON’T write well, I would be willing to ghostwrite it, or edit it, for a percentage of its sales, provided you can convince me it has an audience. Or we can work out a fee. You can also look to Fiverr for a ghostwriter or editor.

For success, you must have or build up a strong social following on such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and / or LinkedIn. Amazon lets you keep 70 percent of all sales if your book is priced $2.99 – $9.99. Above or below that and your take is 35%.

While Kindle isn’t the only publishing option, having your book on Amazon is a great way to get your e-book author feet wet.

Sun City, AZ – a beautiful bargain


20160714_090434I’ve been a resident of Sun City for over a year, and I highly recommend it as a place to thrive as snowbird or year-round resident. Yes, it’s a hot hot summer, but within 90 minutes or 2 hours are Arizona cities such as Prescott, Sedona, Payson and Flagstaff that are 20 to 40 degrees cooler. The Grand Canyon is a mere 3 hour drive.

Sun City has 7 community centers, each with pools, hot tubs, fitness centers, meeting rooms, and restaurants.

20160714_081639Two centers have libraries and bowling lanes, racquetball and billiards. Many have outdoor game fields such as bocce ball and miniature golf, and gyms that host dancing parties, free movies and fitness classes.

There’s a park with waterfall, gazebo, lake and pedal boats, a Sun Dial outdoor concert arena, a baseball field, and two 18-hole golf courses.

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More than 200 clubs give residents a chance to get to know each other and pursue their favorite pastimes, from Zumba to politics.

You can buy a house or condo. I own a condo. My HOA is responsible for the landscaping, the roof, air conditioning maintenance, trash and sewer.

Sun City is safe. Security is a prime concern, and the Sun City Sheriff’s Posse – a group of volunteers – work with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office – to watch over the empty homes of snowbirds and make wellness checks on the elderly.

Sun City is an inexpensive retirement place. When I moved from Phoenix my car insurance immediately decreased $15 a month. Because there are no schools property taxes are incredibly low.  I pay $276 a year – yes, a YEAR!

To move in, you pay a one-time $3,000 fee. Annually there is a $476 fee for use of the facilities and free access to concerts, movies and other events. Should a friend or two or three come for a visit they can take part at no charge if with you, or you can buy a 2-week $20 pass for them to go without you.

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Sun City is a fun, economic, beautiful place in which you can feel safe to walk at any hour of any day or night. You would love it here!

Smart Car Shopping – Here are some Tips


Since recently hearing a couple of horror stories about car shopping, I decided it might be a good time to share some tips on savvy car shopping.

If you’re a member of USAA, do take advantage of its Auto Circle program to buy a car at a considerable discount. The program not only  lets you take advantage of negotiated discounts from USAA, but it also lets you head to the dealership with that dealer’s agreed-upon price in hand, and even a guarantee on the trade-in value of your current vehicle, assuming you were honest about it condition. It’s the way I bought my last car and I was pleased as punch. I got online at Auto Circle, chose the car I wanted, got to look at area dealers and the discounted price they had negotiated with USAA printed out my promised price.  Then I filled out the online form about the make, model, year and VIN of my truck, how much I still owed and the condition it was in. They told me what I could get for it on trade-in. With these two papers in hand I headed to Larry Miller Hyundai. Ninety minutes later I had my new car. USAA has a similar Home Circle program for home buyers too, that sets them up with a USAA-approved agent. There are other organizations who negotiate member discounts from dealers, too. I believe Costco is one of them.

If you’re a woman who doesn’t feel comfortable about car buying, look for a woman-certified dealership. These dealers have been trained to know what women want in a vehicle, the questions they might have, the information they typically need, and have been certified as being honest, reliable dealers who take care of their female customers. There are two sites that specialize in training and certifying women-friendly dealers. They are AskPatty.com, and WomenCertified.com. Head to either site if you want a female-friendly auto dealer or repair shop.

Edmunds.com recently put out a helpful announcement about how to shop smart for a car. I’ve posted it in its entirety below.

Edmunds.com Shows Shoppers How to Buy a New Car in Less Than a Day

SANTA MONICA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Shoppers who know the right path to car buying can seal a deal faster than they ever imagined, even in as little as a few hours, says Edmunds.com, the premier resource for automotive information. And while Edmunds.com highly recommends that shoppers take as much time as they need to make such a big purchase, Senior Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed shows how buyers in a pinch can easily start and complete the process in less than a day.

“Break the task into the steps listed here and you’ll save time and money and still get the best car for you.”

“Even though a car is a big-ticket purchase, you can do it quickly and with little stress,” says Reed. “Break the task into the steps listed here and you’ll save time and money and still get the best car for you.”

Assuming you already know which model you want, Edmunds.com lays out the following three steps to expedite the buying process and still get a good deal on a new car:

Step 1: Locate Your Car

Use Edmunds.com’s New Car Inventory page or a local dealership’s own inventory tool on its Web site to find the color, trim level and options you want. Call the dealership and ask to speak with the Internet manager to make sure the car is still on the lot.

Step 2: Make a Deal

Ask the Internet manager for the dealership’s best price and see if any incentives or rebates are available. Hang up the phone and compare these figures to the Edmunds.com True Market Value (TMV®) price of the car. If the price quote you get is at TMV or below, you’re in good shape; if it’s higher, call back to negotiate a figure that meets the TMV® price. If the Internet manager won’t budge, contact other dealerships in your area or a neighboring city. And before you agree to any salesperson’s offer ask for an “out-the-door” price that includes all taxes and fees. Make sure the fees are legitimate using Edmunds.com’s guide at http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/what-fees-should-you-pay.html.

Step 3: Arrange Delivery

Before you say yes to the deal, say that there’s one condition: The dealership has to deliver the car to you. The salesperson should oblige and arrange to have the car driven to your home or office. Inspect the car to verify it is the year, make and model you want and make sure there are no dents or scratches and all the equipment that’s supposed to be there has been included. Next, review the contract. Make sure the amount matches what you were given as an “out-the-door” price and that the down payment and monthly payment is exactly what you expected. Assuming all is correct, you will give the Internet manager your payment and he will give you the keys to your new car.

More details and additional tips on how to pull off a new car purchase in just one day can be found at http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/buy-a-new-car-in-one-day.html.

About Edmunds.com, Inc.

At Edmunds.com, we’re committed to helping people find the car that meets their every need. Almost 18 million visitors use our research, shopping and buying tools every month to make an easy and informed decision on their next new or used car. Whether you’re at the dealership or on the go, we’re always by your side with our five-star Edmunds.com iPhone and iPad apps and our Edmunds.com Android App. Our comprehensive car reviews, shopping tips, photos, videos and feature stories offer a friendly and authentic approach to the automotive world. We’re based in Santa Monica, Calif., but you can connect with us from anywhere by following @Edmunds on Twitter or by becoming a fan of Edmunds.com on Facebook.

Update – Mark Mitsubishi not making good on problem sale, friend says


I just got a call from my friend – the one whose 80 year old mother replaced her car because of a safety recall that never was. Well, turns out GM Dylan has told me to “Watch out. My attorneys are watching you.” Seems I wasn’t to have used the word scam in my blog post. Actually I called it “alleged scam.” Glad to know I’m rattling cages, though.

First, bring it on. My friend needs all the publicity about this horrible situation as she can get. One correction, however – which I’ve already posted in the auto dealer DealerElite discussion forum. I had it wrong – her mom didn’t go alone, she went with her granddaughter who had never bought a car before. So, at least there was a witness. Glad of that.

Oh, and my friend just told me that GM Dylan told her they would not be offering any compensation, return of money, or change in sale or contract whatsoever. It seems, that bogus recall or not, she signed the contract so oh well.

Even the other auto dealers on DealerElite are astounded by what one of them called “outrageous” behavior. And no, it isn’t just competitors taking advantage. I didn’t name the dealership, and they’re not just local.  And, attorney, I’ll tell you what my attorney can also tell you later. I am a journalist and I know the law. I said “alleged scam.” If my readers want to decide that the fact that both a Google search and Mitsubishi corporate verify no recall of the braking system, and yet your sales rep said she couldn’t keep the car because the recalled braking system couldn’t be fixed, (it couldn’t, right? You never tried to sell it later,. right?) and sold her a new more costly one, is a scam  – well, I didn’t tell them that. Your behavior did.

Oh, and you want to know what other dealers had to say? Take a gander on DealerElite. net.

From now on I’ll let my friend, her mother, their attorney, and all their social network friends and followers deal with this. But the next time I buy a car, guess where I am NOT heading? In fact, I should give my favorite, honest, reputable, reliable local dealer and service firm /body shop a plus. Larry Miller – You have done right by me time and time again. Were that they were all like you.

Lost Money ? You CAN Get it Back


So much is discussed online and elsewhere about scams, especially scams on seniors. There are safeguards and non-profit and governmental organizations that warn folks about the latest scams, and how to avoid them. What no one talks about however, is how to retrieve or save your dollars when you inadvertently make a mistake that costs you money, or when a legitimate or not-so-legitimate firm simply takes advantage of the fact that you missed the fine print. Or when the company is legitimate but the person representing the firm is not.

There are a few key points to remember:

  • The squeaky wheel does, indeed, get the oil
  • Social media is a powerful must-have tool for resolving complaints and getting refunds
  • When they say they can’t , they really can
  • There is NO such thing as a no-refund or no-return policy
  • NEVER accept the negative response of the first person who answers the phone. If you don’t like what you’re hearing ask for the supervisor, and the supervisor’s supervisor. Find key executives on LinkedIn or the company’s website, or by Googling, and reach out to them. “We don’t, we can’t, we won’t, or it’s not our policy to” really mean, “I don’t have the authority and I can’t be bothered getting you to someone who does.” DON’T accept that. You don’t have to.
  • Record (when legally allowed) all business calls. With regard to the legality of recording there are two kinds of U.S. states – one-party and two-party. In a one-party state only one of the people taking part on the call has to know it’s being recorded. In other words, you can record without telling them you are doing so. In a two-party state you cannot. The state we’re talking about is the state in which THEY reside, not you. So you have to first determine that.  That’s easy – simply ask them at the beginning of the call. Don’t assume because the company is in Iowa, the person you’re speaking with is.   As of right now, what I am finding is that there are only 12 two-party states: CA, CT, FL, IL, MD, MA, MI, MO, NV, NH, PA, and WA. This means that in most states you can record any conversation without telling the other party that you are doing so. Here’s my approach: “I’m sorry but I have a mild cognitive disorder and I like to record my business calls. It helps remind me, and if I’m later confused my son can listen and help me as well. You don’t mind, right?” If that person minds and it’s a solicitation, end the call. If you are trying to resolve an issue and he or she declines your recording, you cannot record but you certainly are letting that person and firm know that you are serious about following through on your complaint. Keep talking, or ask for a supervisor and then ask the supervisor if you can record, but before you ask that ask the supervisor where she or he is. Many virtual companies or multi-location firms will have supervisors who reside in states other than those of the rep who originally answered the phone. You may start talking to a rep in a two-party state and end up talking to a supervisor in a one-party state. Then you won’t have to ask permission.

In the last several years there have been numerous times when I was overcharged, signed up for something because I forgot to cancel before the end of the free trial, purchased something I regretted buying, or paid money for something that turned out to be unacceptable. In EVERY SINGLE CASE I got my money back, and in a timely manner. In some of these cases, they had a no-refund policy, or told me the error was mine. In most of the latter cases they were correct. But in every case I got my refund. I never took advantage of a company – never asked for money back on a good product that was used by me and found useful. Nor do I suggest that you do so. But when I wasn’t getting my money’s worth I complained, and got my money back.

You can too. I’m about to tell you how, but let me first give you a few examples.

The first example really was a scam, or rather a scammer. The product was solid, but the seller was dishonest. It was embarrassing because I’m a licensed life and health insurance agent and I got taken by a health insurance agent. But I don’t focus on individual medical policies, and had to turn to someone else who did. Self-employed, I recently left a part-time employer that was providing benefits. So I either was going to have to pay for COBRA or find adequate individual coverage. I was looking for something under $400 a month that would accept one pre-existing condition. No easy task.

I looked online, which prompted a number of unsolicited calls and emails from insurance brokers. I answered few of these. One, however, left a message that seemed legit. He was good, I have to give him that. I told him flat out I was NOT interested in an indemnity plan, but rather needed major medical coverage and, if possible, pharmacy, and if possible a few doctor visit copays. He told me he had a PPO that was going to be about $100 a month less than my COBRA. After getting his assurance and an email that confirmed it was a PPO and not an indemnity plan I gave him $399 by credit card over the phone. Then my INDEMNITY plan arrived in the mail. Over the course of many phone calls and conversations in which he insisted that he had explained what it was, and finally suggesting that I write a request for a 30-day cancellation (in other words, I wouldn’t get my original money back) I advised him that I would be going to the insurance carrier and the state department of insurance and he should be concerned about his license and his livelihood. Then he stopped taking my calls.

I got online. I discovered that his firm’s parent company was owned by his father, and it was local to me, here in Phoenix. And, he had a LinkedIn profile. I left the father a LinkedIn message, and called his office. I explained that while I really didn’t want to take the time to go down to his office in person and very loudly in his waiting room ask for the money back that was SCAMMED from me, I would do so if I didn’t get my money back in full within 72 hours. I then called the carrier, who confirmed that they only sold indemnity plans. I told the rep that I needed my money back within 72 hours because I had to pay for my COBRA before expiration, had to pay my mortgage and car payment and could not do all this with another $399 having been spent, and she said we can get you a refund but it will take up to 10 days. I said that is not acceptable and asked for a manager. I told her that I was reluctant to go to the state insurance department but my money was scammed from me and I had to have it back in 72  hours. In the meantime the broker, having heard from both the carrier and his father, was calling me several times a day, leaving messages about how he was sorry for the “misunderstanding..” I did not take his calls. The carrier’s manager called me back to tell me the money would be deposited back to my credit card account within 48 hours. It was.

In another situation I signed up for an online training class, for $239. The website posted a NO REFUND notice in at least a couple of places on the site. The class turned out to not be as advertised. I complained and was reminded of the No Refund policy. I found the CEO of the firm on LinkedIn, sent him a message, explaining that I hated to involve the many thousands of my LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest and Google+ friends and followers, but I felt an obligation to let them all know that all was not as advertised at this firm. He called me that very day. I got my money back that week.

On three separate occasions this year I have had problems with various companies because I signed up for a free trial and failed to cancel prior to the first fee being charged to my credit card, or I had an ongoing paid account which I had not been using for awhile, meant to cancel before the next billing and missed the deadline. In every case my money was refunded when, after they denied the refund on the phone I found the company’s Facebook page, Liked them, and posted the issue to their Facebook page. In each case, they replied on their Facebook page that they were sorry that happened and “here’s how to go about getting your refund.”

In one very difficult case I had to get multiple executives involved before I got my money back – and I did so. I joined the company’s LinkedIn group, messaged several key executives on LinkedIn, and sent an email to them all. I made sure to include their media relations director and their marketing director. The issue was resolved in my favor.

So, here are the steps you can take if you’ve been financially wronged:

  • Join Facebook and build a following of at least a couple of hundred people. This is a nice thing to have anyway.
  • Join LinkedIn, even if you’re retired or just job-hunting. There are many reasons for being a LinkedIn member beyond refunds, like career moves, job search, finding new clients and so forth. Build up your network to 500+
  • Set up a Twitter profile, and start following folks, who will follow you back. You need at least a couple of hundred people here at least.
  • Buy an inexpensive recording device for your phone – one that can be turned on or off at will. It can be digital or the old-fashioned tape variety. It doesn’t matter. You just want an affordable device that doesn’t take up a lot of space and is easy for you to use.
  • Start with a call or email or live chat with a first-line customer service rep. That might be all it takes. If that doesn’t work, ask for the supervisor. If that doesn’t work, ask for the person who supervises that supervisor.
  • If you still get no satisfaction, complain on yours and the company’s Facebook page, and go to LinkedIn and find key executives and message them there.
  • Go to the company’s website and find key executives, including marketing and public relations. Don’t choose one, message them all, or call them all. Be a thorn in their side. Do it once a day until someone responds positively. Your response whether by phone or email is “Here’s my complaint. Here is how I tried to resolve it before contacting you. If you don’t resolve it I hate to take this to my thousands of social followers as well as yours, as well as your clients, but I will. I am determined to get this resolved in my favor in the next 72 hours. “
  • Find out if the industry has a regulatory agency or requires its sales people to be licensed. If so, threaten to go to the regulatory agency, or, if needed, do so.  Insurance and real estate practitioners must be licensed, for example.
  • On the company’s website you’ll probably find a client list, testimonials or case studies. If you must – only as a last resort – start contacting these folks. “Hi, I see you’re a client of X company, who wronged me. I was wondering if you’ve had the same sort of difficulties with them?” That client is sure to let the company know that you sought them out.
  • Do NOT give up. When the company realizes that you will not, you’re going to get your refund.

So, how do you find out who the key executives are? And how to reach them?

It’s very difficult to find a direct phone number, but it’s often easy to find an email. First, head to the company’s website and its about us page. If nothing else, you’ll probably find the names.  You might find the emails, or a feedback form to use.  You might also just Google. In the search field simply type “marketing director X company” and see what turns up. You can also email sales@ or media@ or press@ or info@ or pr@. Those usually work.

If you do not find the email address but find the name, you have about a 75 percent chance of reaching that person by email. First find the company email format. if you can’t find an info@ or advertising@ or customerservice@ or some address that tells you that the company email ends in companyx.com, for example, assume that it ends in the URL. If the company is SmithAppliances.com, chances are the email is @smithappliances.com. Now, let’s say you want to talk to Joe Smith at Smith Appliances, but you can find no email for him. Send the email to JSmith@SmithAppliances.com, John.Smith@SmithAppliances.com, JohnS@SmithAppliances.com, John@Smithappliances.com, Smith@SmithAppliances.com, and John_Smith@SmithAppliances.com.  Then watch for the mailer daemon that says “email delivery failed” or some such. It will tell you which did not go through. That will tell you which did. You now have that person’s email address.

Another important point is that you give them a deadline. Tell them, “I need my money desperately for x reason. You must send it back to me within 72 hours.” DON’T let them tell you it takes 30 days, or you have to mail something.  Tell them to decide today and overnight it if they must. In the case of the insurance firm that didn’t want to pay me I told the supervisor to take out her own credit card and credit me back and then wait for the company to pay her back. I didn’t expect her to, but she did get the message I was NOT going to wait.

Another slight segue – if you are trying to cancel service, do it by email. Don’t call. Email provides written backup, and it’s faster and it  allows you to avoid the “I can offer you such and such instead, or I would like to know why you’re cancelling”  annoying time-suck phone conversation. Email them that you want to cancel,  and require email confirmation that it has been done. When they tell you that you must call to do so, reply, “I don’t accept that. I know you can do this. I am not going to get on the phone with a person whose job it is to talk me out of cancelling. I want this cancelled NOW and I won’t be calling you. What I WILL be doing is advising my bank that if you take any more money from my account to keep this active it is in violation of my written orders to you.” They’ll cancel it.

Again, keep in mind that the squeaky and social-media-focused wheel gets the oil. If they say they can’t refund your money, do NOT believe it. They can. And they will, if you’re persistent.