Why I Canceled My Subscription to the New York Times

February 27, 2021

When Trump was elected, I did something that I had never done before: I subscribed (payed money!) to a newspaper. I tried to subscribe to the Burlington Free Press (where I live) but they were technically unable to email headlines to me every day, and their tech support was horrible. I found this to be unacceptable. So I subscribed to the NYT.

I’m sure that every news source has its quirks, but there are three things in particular that have infuriated me about the NYT to the point where I gave up.

I am annoyed that I have to wade through ads after having paid for my subscription to the NYT. And when I clicked on one of the ad links, the ad I was taken to was just crap. It had nothing to do with the teaser in the NYT. It was bait and switch. I expected more from the Times.

The next is how they write their stories. If they have an article entitled “Baker Makes Unique Loaf”, I can promise you that the first 2/3 of the article will be about bakers and baking and loaves. But there will be nothing about the headline. After reading (or skimming) the first 2/3 of the article, the actual subject will be covered. Annoying, inefficient, and a waste of my time. I assume that this … style? … is an attempt to get more eyeballs on their ever-present ads. I guess we know who is most important: the advertisers, not the paying customers.

The final issue is the stridency of their liberal position. I expect their Opinion pieces to be Left or even Far Left. But their “news” articles drip with sarcasm and disrespect in a way that is both unnecessary and offensive. My sense is that they are unaware of this, trapped in their anger and outrage. Anger and outrage are fine, in the Opinion columns. The news deserves to be described dispassionately, and the NYT continuously fails in this regard.

If we are to reduce the political divide, then eliminating anger and disrespect in our discourse seems necessary. The NYT is not helping enough, if at all.

Oh. And I am REALLY tired of the photos that are inserted in articles just because “you have to have a photo in an article”. Like pictures of the ACLU building when the article features the ACLU. How does that picture inform the reader? It is a waste of space. Artistic portraits of the people mentioned in the article. The focus should be on reporting, and it is not.

Oh! Oh! And don’t get me started about the articles that just CRY OUT for a map or a graph and they are nowhere to be found. Complex geography? No map. Financial or Covid statistics? No graph. No one seems to ask themselves “have we portrayed the information effectively and efficiently?”. Are there no standards? No editors?

Fixing the Findster Duo+ Charging System

February 6, 2021

We purchased a Findster Duo+ GPS dog locating system. It works as advertised, but is not as useful as I would like. It shows the location of the start of the walk (good!) and the location of the dog (good!) but not the location of the person who is walking the dog (bad). And it does not indicate how far away the dog is and in what direction, so trying to find a dog in the woods is not helped much by this device (bad). It probably is more useful in densely populated areas where you can see what street the dog is on. We live on 60 acres of forest, and the satellite images are not helpful.

There is a dongle that you wear on your belt, which connects to your phone via bluetooth, and another dongle that attaches to the dog collar. Both dongles can be charged at one time using a special charger, but the dongles attach to the charger with magnets that are far too weak. And each of the three pieces (two dongles and the chargers) need to be at a different height if you want to charge everything successfully. It is a frustratingly finicky system. You push everything together, and all is well. If you nudge anything in the slightest, you have to start over.

So, I designed this charging caddy:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4752263

It allows you to put all of the parts together so that they cannot fall away from each other.

I wonder why Findster did not do this from the start.

Fixing the Power Button on a Sonicare HX5910

January 31, 2021

My Sonicare toothbrushes have worked less and less well over the years. The problem is not the batteries, it is the button/switch that you use to turn the toothbrush on and off. They get harder and harder to press, to the point where you almost fling the thing across the room trying to activate or deactivate it. In addition, the rubber switch coverings get sticky and, well, gross.

I pried the rubber switch cover off to reveal the switch inside.

My girlfriend said “Can’t you just 3D print a replacement button?”, so I tried. Literally 10 minutes later, it was done, printed in flexible rubber.

I added a hole in the center, sealed it with UV resin, and now it even shows the charging status. And it works PERFECTLY now!

Let me know if you need one!

Modern Retro

December 26, 2020

When my mother died, after years with dementia, we found her collections. There were check books in every drawer. She had perhaps 30 new, unused tooth brushes. She had a collection of letter openers (the kind that are the size and shape of a credit card, with a finger pointing along the card, and a razor between the finger and the main part of the card). And she had a huge number of small plastic spoons, all the same size and shape, but different colors.

We gave most of the collections away, but now, 7 years on, I have decided that those small spoons are my favorites. Easy to clean. Never too hot from the food. We had cooking spoons of a similar style, one slotted and one not, but they had cracked over the years. Our attempts to find replacements at Bed, Bath, and Beyond failed. I figured they were all so retro that my only option was to re-design them in CAD and then cut them out of wood using my CNC machine.

Turns out that each spoon has a manufacturer and model number molded on the underside of the handle, and a web search found that the original manufacturer (Hutzler) was still making them. So I went nuts and ordered a whole bunch o’ them (I saved $5 on shipping by buying too many).

The three original spoons are on the left. The yellow one was my favorite shape (and my mother’s); the orange ones are cracked and useless. The new replacement spoons are on the right, bright and shiny.

And here is the entire collection of utensils that I just purchased:

If you like them, you can order them directly from Gourmac.com: just look for the Melamine utensils.

Encryption on LawFare

December 22, 2020

I enjoy listening to the various LawFare podcasts, and liked this one in particular:

https://www.lawfareblog.com/lawfare-podcast-government-agencies-really-listen-you-sigint-uk

in which two very experienced UK SIGINT specialists are interviewed.

Towards the end, the interviewer (David Kris) asks about encryption, and one of the panelists explains that the issue is either allow the whining liberals to encrypt everything and enable the terrorists, or allow the government to decrypt anything that the government deems necessary and win the war against terror.

This argument is not new. The problem is that it is naive.

The situation is indeed as described, with one exception. Once an encryption algorithm has a “backdoor” (a way for a privileged entity to decrypt all traffic), there are new failure modes. One is that the backdoor is made available to Bad Actors through traditional human intelligence (turn one person who then reveals the backdoor). The other is that the backdoor is deduced by someone, because it was not crafted with sufficient skill. This has happened repeatedly over the past 100 years.

Once the backdoor is in the hand of the Russians or Chinese or drug dealers or hackers, then the situation is NOT as originally described. Then the issue is either good encryption for everyone, or no encryption at all for anyone, including our government. That is, then we would lose the ability to send encrypted messages within, say, the intelligence community or our armed forces.

Many believe that the Chinese are recording huge amounts of internet traffic, most of which is encrypted, in the hopes that once quantum computers are available, all of that traffic will be decrypted fairly quickly, revealing all of what is now hidden. This is a similar situation.

I wish that the interviewer had asked enough pointed questions that the real lay of the land had been revealed, rather than the perpetuation of the naive perspective as endorsed by real experts.

I would have made this comment on the LawFare forum, except that they do not accept comments. Pity, especially when the interviewer blows a chance to challenge his guests.

Hacking the Orange Crush 35RT

December 9, 2020

The Orange Crush 35RT is a nice small guitar amp, but it lacks some essential features. While you can control the volume for each of the Clean and Dirty channels, there is no master volume control. If you get everything set just right, and then those around you get louder, you have to go tweak both controls to recover. And, while there is a foot switch to select the channel, there is no boost feature to bump your sound level up when you are doing a solo.

So, I invented a box with all of those features.

I use the amp’s Effects Loop Send and Return connections to connect to my new box. The box has two foot switches, one to select the channel, and the other to enable/disable the boost. I 3D printed the box, and the print quality leaves something to be desired, but it took a lot of filament, and I decided to keep it rather than throwing it away.

Controls on the back allow you to control the master volume, and the volume of the un-boosted and boosted signals. The SW connector goes to the foot switch on the amp, the IN connector goes to the Effects Loop Send, and the OUT connector goes to the Effects Loop Receive.

It is simple and it works quite well!

Cactus Juice For Large Pieces Of Wood

December 8, 2020

Cactus Juice (CJ) is a water-based heat-curing resin commonly used to stabilize wood. Over the summer of 2020, I used CJ to stabilize some walnut with live edges and bark for a shelving project (see https://jonbondy.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/cactus-juice-walnut-and-art-glass/). Conventional wisdom is that wood with bark on it will shed the bark after a few years as the wood and bark move differentially with the seasons. We used CJ to try to keep the bark on the live edges indefinitely. You can soak the wood in CJ for a week, or you can put it in a vacuum chamber with CJ for 24 hours. You then bake the wood at 200 F until the CJ cures, which takes anywhere from a few hours to a day, depending on how much wood and CJ needs to be brought up to temperature.

Most of the examples online are for small pieces of wood (pen blanks), but the largest shelf we made this summer was 45” x 16”. This required fabrication of a custom tub for soaking and a custom extension of an electric oven for baking. This fall, we are working with slabs of wood that are about 20” by 7 feet. Bigger tubs, and longer baking.

We lay the wood down on a sheet of plywood and draw an outline. We then surround the wood outline with 2x4s on edge. We then lay down a plastic sheet, and place the wood back in the custom tub. We use ¼” dowels under the wood to ensure that the CJ can soak into the underside of the wood. Since the wood floats, we need to weigh it down, and we also use ¼” dowels to separate the weights from the slab so that the top gets soaked with CJ. We fill the tub with CJ until there is about ¼” above the top of the wood; this often takes 4-6 gallons of CJ, much of which we can reclaim after the soak. We then cover the tub with plastic and wait a week. When the grain is going on the wrong direction, we add dovetail inserts to reduce cupping.

We extended an electric oven with a cavity made out of 2” sheets of Rockwool ComfortBoard 80. Even with an 8’ extension, after a few hours, the temperature at the far end of the cavity is within a few degrees of the temperature just outside the oven (but inside the cavity). We aim to have the entire cavity at about 220, and we bake the wood over night. We support the wood by putting wooden slats along the walls of the cavity, and running aluminum angle iron across the cavity, at a slight angle, so that any excess CJ can drain away from the wood without curing and making a mess while attached to the wood. We line the bottom of the cavity with spare tile, to retain the heat, and then cover the tile with aluminum foil to catch the inevitable drips. We pre-heat the cavity for 1-2 hours before starting the bake. The baking process creates a lot of smoke, so we evacuate the shop during the bake, and clear out the air before re-entering.

Different wood species soak up different amounts of CJ, and they also release different amounts as they drip prior to curing. The resulting wood is always heavier, and sands and finishes superbly. The CJ bonds the bark to the wood, but some of the bark can remain fragile if it is not adequately connected to the main board.

A custom tub filled with Cactus Juice
The slab in the tub prior to filling with Cactus Juice
Tub filled with Cactus Juice with weights in place
Closeup of the weights and dowels
The oven extension with side rails to hold the angle irons
The finished oven extension, sealed and heating up. We used a digital thermometer to measure temperatures at two locations inside the cavity.
Infrared image of the hot oven and extension
Fumes rising
Shop full of smoke/haze
The finished/cooked/baked slabs. Note the angle irons holding the wood in place
A Cactus Juice dribble
Mess at the bottom of the cavity

Coy Koi

December 8, 2020

I moved into my current house in the spring of 2006. A local farmer dug a hole for me and we both hoped that it would fill up with water and become a pond. It did, even though there was no spring to fill it; it survived on runoff. A week later I had a mud hole. Another week and I was deafened by tree frogs. I celebrated by purchasing about 6 large koi and putting them into the pond. I didn’t imagine that they would survive for a long time, because many of them were orange, but they wintered over OK the first year, and disappeared the next. Perhaps they were fished out by mink or otter or heron. I tried brook trout, but they vanished into the pond and I never saw a single one of them again. I settled for what nature provided, frogs and salamanders.

In the summer of 2018, I pulled the body of a small fish out of the pond. A few weeks later, I noticed a flash of orange in the pond, and glanced over to see a koi that was about 4 inches long. After studying for a little bit, I could see more koi, some black, some brown. In the end, I counted at least 50 of them, all fairly small. I took lots of pictures and movies.

And I was puzzled. Could it really be that I had lived next to this pond and never noticed orange fish in the pond for 12 years? Or had a friend decided to play a trick on me, filling the pond with koi just to make my head hurt? I priced koi, and figured that I did not have any friends with both deep enough pockets and a twisted enough sense of humor to have acted on a practical joke of that nature.

So, in the summer of 2019, I waited for the koi to return, excited. And no koi were present at any time that summer. Nor during the summer of 2020.

So now the mystery is even more puzzling. Where did they come from? And where did they go? I could imagine a mink fishing out most of them, but all 50 of them? Really? Hardly likely.

Maybe the koi are like locusts, lying dormant for years and years, and then surfacing for a brief summer of exuberance.

This is not a tale with a happy ending. I have no explanation. It is an ongoing puzzle and mystery.

Read This Carefully Before You Even Think About Purchasing A Car From Carvana

December 2, 2020

Summary

This document has four sections:

1) the summary you are reading now,

2) a summary timeline,

3) the detailed explanation of exactly what happened, with important issues highlighted in bold for easier scanning, and

4) a summary of what went wrong and what Carvana could do to improve things.

On April 9, 2020, I contacted Carvana about purchasing a car. I paid for the car on April 16th. The car arrived here on May 25th, without temporary tags, 39 days after I paid for the car, a far cry from the 10-15 days they claimed. The temporary tags arrived on May 27th;; they were issued in Georgia and expired on July 10th. I received title and registration paperwork from Carvana and returned the signed paperwork on June 1st (46 days after purchase). Registration paperwork was submitted to Vermont on August 18th, 131 days purchase and 39 days after the temporary tags expired. I received the plates on October 23rd, the title on October 26th, and the registration on October 27th, 197, 200, and 201 days after purchase. On December 28th, Carvana emailed me to explain that “your vehicle registration is on hold due to missing documents”, two months after I received the tags, title, and registration! The Vermont DMV said to ignore Carvana: there are no issues with my registration.

My bottom line is this. Carvana is a deeply flawed organization which was unable to deliver a car in under 35 days (not the 10-15 days they advertise), and was unable to deliver tags and title in under 150 days. They communicate poorly, infrequently, and imprecisely. They hide things when they can. They never deliver written documentation of any sort [1]. Their stated policy is that they do not respond to emails. They leave the customer with a feeling of helplessness. I would never do business with Carvana again. To understand why, you will need to read this [long] document.

The Timeline

04/09/20days
first contact with Carvana
04/16/207
I paid for the car
04/24/2015
car moved from North Carolina to Georgia for 2nd 150 point inspection
05/04/2025
car inspected, but they lost the keys
05/19/2040
keys back and pre-transport inspection done
05/20/2041
transport located
05/23/2044
car picked up
05/25/2046
car delivered, without temporary tags
05/27/2048
temporary tags delivered
05/30/2051
sales/transfer documents received from Carvana
06/01/2053
sales/transfer documents returned to Carvana
06/19/2071
they ruin the title, but fail to tell me, and request a duplicate
06/26/2078
they finally tell me they ruined the title and are getting a new one
07/10/2092
the temporary tags expired
07/27/20109
they have “resubmitted” the paperwork: I assume they mean Vermont DMV
08/18/20131
they actually submit the paperwork to the Vermont DMV, but do not tell me
08/28/20141
they finally tell me they resubmitted the paperwork to a 3rd party on July 27
10/23/20197
tags and title arrive
12/28/20260Carvana reports that the registration is on hold due to missing documents; WRONG

The Details

On April 9th, 2020, I saw a listing for a used car that was owned by Carvana. They listed it as being in Utah, but it turns out that it was actually in North Carolina. They said that I should receive the car in a week or two after I paid for it. Before I paid for the car, Carvana showed me that the car had passed a 150 point inspection. This is important, because they then insisted on doing the inspection again, and this caused about a month’s delay. If the original inspection was anything more than a sham, why did they insist on doing it a second time? I infer that they actually did not perform the initial inspection.

I paid for the car on April 16th. Having heard nothing from them, I called on Friday April 24th and was told that the car had been moved from North Carolina to Georgia to be inspected, because they could not perform inspections in North Carolina. They expected the inspection to occur early the following week.

Having heard nothing, I called on Thursday April 30th and was told that they had been trying to get a status on the inspection all week. They said that they knew nothing at all about the car. When I asked whether they had called the inspection location, I was told that there was no way to call that location, that all of their communication was by email, and that the location was not responding to emails. I asked to speak with a supervisor (Team Lead, or TL). Katie (?) said that they had contacted the inspection people and that the car would be inspected on Friday May 1st. I requested a phone call on Monday May 4th to confirm that the inspection had been done. In the April 30th phone call, to ensure that I was a happy customer, I was offered $25/day to compensate me for the delays. The irony of this offer will be clear soon. I insisted that someone from Carvana call me every day until the situation was resolved.

Darnel (?) called on Saturday May 2nd to say that the inspection had not been done on Friday May 1st, and that someone would call me on Monday or Tuesday to keep me updated.

On the evening of Monday May 4th, a woman from Carvana called to tell me that, although the car had finally been inspected, they had lost the keys to the car. It is hard to understand how they could have inspected the car without the keys.

I called on Wednesday May 6th. They claimed to have “done” the 150 point inspection, but cannot “complete” the inspection because they lost the keys. They said they were trying to get new keys made, but had no idea how long that would take. They promised to call me every day, again, and said that she would ask her manager what they could do to improve my “experience”. Again, the irony of this will be clear soon.

They called on Thursday May 7th to say that it would be 2 weeks before the Porsche dealership could deliver new keys. We agreed that they should call me back in a week to see how things were going. The 150 point inspection was complete (how they accomplished this without keys is, again, a mystery, making one wonder about the veracity of some of these statements): once the keys arrive, they will do the pre-transport inspection and start looking for transport.

They called on Saturday May 16th, but I was not around to take the call. They said they would call back, but they never did.

I called them on Monday May 18th. They said they would call back. They never did call back.

I called them on Tuesday, May 19th. They said there is no way for me to call the Push team directly, nor was there any way to call the Direct Delivery team directly. Rather, I had to call the 800 number, wait for someone to pick up, tell them I needed the various teams, and then wait again. They said that they expected that the car would pass final inspection today, and that they would make it a priority to find transportation immediately. Later in the day they tried to call, but we were unable to answer the phone; when I tried to call them back, the non-800 number they had called from was not in service: they spoof their phone numbers. They then sent an email saying that the inspection had finished and they were waiting for news about transport. I spoke with Hannah in Direct Delivery.

On May 19th, they sent an email saying that the car had passed final (pre-transport) inspection.

Hannah called on Wednesday May 20th to report that transport had been located. The car will be picked up on Saturday May 23rd to be delivered roughly on Tuesday May 26th

On May 23rd they emailed me to say that the car was on its way

The driver called on Saturday May 23rd saying the car would be delivered on Monday May 25th, Memorial Day.

The car arrived on the Monday May 25th (Memorial Day) with an odometer reading of 32,984 miles, but there were no temporary tags. I called Carvana and Zee from Post Ops said that they would email me the temp tags immediately. That did not happen. I called 30 minutes later. Another person, Darnell, explained that they could not email tags to me until the next day, because of the holiday. So, Zee promised one thing that Darnell then said could not be done. When I asked why they had not emailed the tags out on Friday, all I received were more empty apologies.

On Monday May 25th I got a call back from an advocate (Kevin), who agreed with me that the tags should have gone out on Friday. He said he would make sure that the tags are emailed to me on Tuesday (the next day). Kevin’s supervisor offered me $200 off of the delivery fee.

On Tuesday May 26th I called Carvana at 4:00 after I had not seen any emails from them. I was told that the tags were being over-nighted to me, not emailed. I asked to speak with Kevin again. And then the email arrived with printable temporary tags. Later that day, the temporary tags also arrived over night.

The car as delivered had the following minor defects:

– tire pressures were: 36, 40, 42, 42 rather than 33 all around

– the oil level was too high, to the point where it triggers alarms every time I drive it

– the front of the car was scraped because the ramps on the delivery truck were too short

– the rear hatch interior close handle was loose

– one of the rear hatch sun shade retainers was detached

They left all of their internal paperwork about the car in the car itself, including what repairs had to be made (including 2 new tires) and their cost. Thus, I now know that their cost was $38,462 + $726.20 for repairs or $39,188.20. The car sold for $43,990 for a profit of roughly $6K. I am certain that they did not want me to see these figures. Another demonstration of how unprofessional they are.

I received the sales documentation package (title transfer, registration application, odometer certificate, etc) on Saturday May 30th. Carvana required me to sign an odometer verification statement with the mileage left blank. Carvana required me to sign a Vermont bill of sale without any dollar amounts in place. Carvana dated the documents on April 25th, even though I signed them on June 1st. While I do not know that Carvana committed fraud with these documents, they well could have. I have forwarded the evidence to the Attorney General in Georgia and Vermont.

I sent in (over-nighted) the signed documents via FedEx on Monday the 1st of June

I then began to be peppered with emails asking me to buy a 2nd car, even before I received the tags for my first purchase.

I received a check for $50 on June 11th; no idea why. I was later told that this was sent to every customer so that they could buy some gas and enjoy their car. Ridiculous, given the other facts in this case.

At this point, I expected to receive $200 off on the transport plus $25/day from 4/30 to 5/25, or 25 days * $25 or $625 for a total of $825.

I called Van on Friday June 12th. She confirmed the $25/day and the $200 (the latter from Kevin’s supervisor). She then said that the $25/day usually was capped at $250, which is NOT what I was told. She said that they received the tag paperwork on June 2nd, but they had not done anything for 10 days (pending review). Why did they over night the documents to me and over night them back, only to let them sit for 10 days or more? She said she would call me back at 2:00 about the $625 vs the $250. She did. The limit of $250 stands, despite the promise made to me on the 1st of May. I wonder why they capped the $25/day at 10 days: it gives them no incentive to do anything after 10 days. Ridiculous policy. And I now know that I cannot trust anything that their representatives say.

I called them on Friday June 26th to see what was up with registration. They promised to call back on my land line. I guess they called on my cell phone, let it ring one time, and hung up. I called back and asked them to call me again.

They told me that someone had made a mistake while filling out the title, so they had to get a new title, and that they expected that “shortly”. In the end, they submitted the paperwork to the Vermont DMV on August 18th, 53 days later: I guess that is “shortly”. They claimed that Vermont has allowed a 90 day extension for temporary tags, so I should be all set and do not need another set of temporary tags.

I called on Saturday July 4th to see where the $200 + $250 was. I was hung up on the first time.

The second time, the person to whom I was connected asked that I leave a message, after which I was told that the message box was full and I was hung up on again.

I received a check for $250 on Monday July 6th, 6 weeks after car delivery. The additional $200 is still missing.

I called on Friday July 10th to check in on the registration paperwork, the temp tags, and the missing $200. They were to call me back after 30 minutes. I got a call at 20 minutes, but no one was on the line. I finally got a call back.

The person was from sales, so he tried to get someone from the Post Operations team. That group told him to contact the Executive Resolution group to resolve my problems. The Executive Resolution group told him to contact Post Operations. He told me a team lead (TL) would call me back after he stopped getting “the runaround” from inside Carvana. He seemed both surprised and sorry that I had been treated so badly.

Then I got a 2nd call back. She said she would try to find a TL for me. I spoke with Marisala from Post Operations. She said she would help me with the registration. Then silence for 5 minutes after which I hung up. No one called back.

I called on Monday July 13th around 3:00, and they called back. I asked for a Post Operations TL. Ariana told me that the $200 check is in process. Ariana turned me over to her Pre Sales TL, Sarah, since a TL from Post Operations was not available.

Sarah said she would try to figure out what is going on with the title and registration and tags. After a while on hold she said that she would call me back once she figured out what was going on with the title. At 8:30 PM Sarah called to tell me that she still had no idea what was going on, and that she would continue to try to find out the next day, and that she would call me back then. We agreed that it was puzzling that the status of my title and registration was so difficult to ascertain.

Sarah never called back as promised on July 14th.

I received the missing check for $200, over-nighted, on July 14th. I guess they do some things fast, and some things stunningly slowly.

I called on Wednesday July 15th. One hour and 15 minutes later, I was called back; I asked to speak with Sarah in Pre Sales. I got Eric instead. He promised he would put me in touch with Sarah, but when he put me on hold, there was no music, just silence, so I wondered if I was on hold at all. He promised to call me back if we got disconnected. He finally connected me with Sarah, at which we were disconnected.

Sarah called on my cell, and said that they had been trying to find out what was going with Support, but no one has responded to their requests for clarification. She said that they had asked for a duplicate title on June 19th (almost a month before), and she said that the title should have arrived by now. I asked about another temporary tag, and she said she would look into it. She said it was all very puzzling, that none of it made sense, and she wanted to get to the bottom of it all. I asked about escalating to Executive Resolution. She is off Friday and Saturday, but said that she would call on Thursday (tomorrow).

Sarah called on Thursday July 16th. Carvana sent the title to the external Registration team, who found a [n unspecified] problem with the title and returned it to Carvana around June 19th. This probably happened about a month ago. Nobody knows what is wrong with the title or what is going on with fixing it. A Post Sales TL escalated the problem within Post Sales, and Sarah also escalated to Executive Resolution. Sarah expects that ER will contact me shortly. Sarah is also continuing to explore getting another temporary tag. I will call Sarah if I’ve heard nothing by Monday.

Sarah called on Sunday July 19th to say that nothing had changed, but she was continuing to put pressure on people.

Tristan from “resolution” called on Monday July 20th to say the he was on the case but had nothing to report.

Later, Tristan called again and basically had nothing useful to say other than that he was ‘handling’ my case and would be in contact at least twice a week. No news about the title, and no way to get news. It will appear when it appears. I asked for temporary tags, and he said he would get in touch with Vermont (which will be a hoot, since they know nothing about the car). Temporary tags did not appear, nor did anyone from Carvana ever mention this again. It simply vanished as an issue.

It appears that Carvana has no mechanism for issuing a 2nd set of temporary tags when they screw up. Tristan’s thought to ask Vermont for temporary tags is laughable, since Vermont has no record of the car at all: Georgia does. This illustrates a deep misunderstanding about how things work.

On Monday July 27, Tristan emailed me to say that my “registration” had been “resubmitted” on July 24th. One can only assume he means submitted to the Vermont DMV. Perhaps I will see tags and title before August 24th.

I called on Friday August 28 to see what was going on. Darnell transferred me to Jenna in Post Sales. Jenna explained to me that when Tristan said “submitted” he meant “submitted to a 3rd party vendor”. That vendor took another 3 weeks before the papers were submitted to the VT DMV on August 18th.

Carvana appears to not understand at all that when Tristan said “resubmitted”, he created a false expectation that I would receive my tags and title before August 24th. Now Jenna tells me I might receive them before September 18th. Carvana let me down again, and this could have been avoided if Tristan had just been clear. Again, and unsurprisingly, unprofessional.

I mid September I contacted the Vermont DMV to see what was going on. Ali Thurston volunteered to give me a direct email address for her, and she ensured that things moved smoothly and reliably after that. I received the plates on October 23rd, the title on October 26th, and the registration on October 27th.

On October 28th, Carvana emailed me as follows: “Carvana is actively working on completing the final step in registering your Porsche Cayman. As we know you still need to get around, we are providing you a 30-day temporary operating plate. … please verify if Carvana is still waiting on any additional documents on your behalf to complete your registration.” They did the same thing again on December 1st. They are a whole bucket of stupid.

And on December 28th, Carvana reported that my “vehicle registration is on hold due to missing documents” and “The Vermont DMV has made an error while processing the registration”. This 2 months after I received the plates, registration, and title. The Vermont DMV said that they could see nothing wrong with my registration, that they had not contacted Carvana in any way, and that I could ignore Carvana. Happy to do so.

On December 30th, Carvana emailed me to say “As of today, your registration is on track to be completed before your Temporary Operating Plate expiration date. Your registration paperwork is in the hands of our trusted 3rd Party Vendor that works alongside the DMV directly to complete your registration. As soon as the 3rd Party Vendor and DMV have completed the registration process on your behalf, we will keep you in the loop via email and text!” First off, my Temporary Operating Plate expired on the 10th of July. Secondly, the registration process was completed on the 23rd of October. Carvana is a ridiculous comedy that keeps on giving.

I keep thinking that this is over, but Carvana is an endless trove of stupid. On December 31st, I received an email stating “Due to the ongoing pandemic, Ohio has extended the expiration date of temporary operating plates. If your expiration date on your temporary operating plate is between March 9, 2020 and April 1, 2021, the expiration date has been automatically extended and will remain valid until July 1, 2021.” Well, first off, the car that I purchased was in Utah, then North Carolina, and then Georgia, but never in Ohio. The temp tags were issued by Georgia, not Ohio. And the temporary plates expired in July (something Carvana should know). So none of this is applicable to me!

Then they said “You may continue to legally operate your vehicle while Carvana finishes processing your registration”. Of course, Carvana finished submitting my registration to Vermont back in August and I received all of the materials from the Vermont DMV in October. So, none of this is relevant and/or true.

In late February, 2021, I received a letter stating, in part “If we do not receive the missing paperwork in a timely manner, we will have no choice but to pursue any and all legal remedies available to us for your failure to provide the necessary documentation.” So, they are threatening me with legal action because they are clueless. They also said “This is our final notice to you regarding this matter.” Why don’t I believe them?

General Problems With Carvana

Carvana rarely sends out emails and Carvana never reads emails. You can speak with them, but they will never put anything in writing for you. You will never be able to create a paper trail because of Carvana’s business model. Whether this is intended to make the customer’s life difficult is unclear, but it makes keeping track of progress and facts the responsibility of the buyer.

What Carvana does put in writing is mostly wrong. The original contract which they required me to sign was titled “Retail Purchase Agreement – North Carolina” and the dealership had an address in Georgia. The agreement stated that “We agree to transfer to you and you agree to accept title and ownership of the Vehicle in the state of the Dealership Address listed above” (which, of course, was ambiguous). When I said that I wanted and needed title in Vermont, I was told that I would receive title in Vermont, and Carvana said that I should ignore the contract, but that I still had to sign it. When I asked for an accurate and correct contract, I was told that was not possible.

When I received the paperwork to register the car, I was instructed “Please DO NOT cross out or write anything on these documents. If you do this, it could VOID the specific forms and in turn delay your registration.” The forms were already dated April 25 2020, even though I actually signed them on Monday June 1 2020 (having received them on Saturday May 30th). While many of the fields in the paperwork were filled in, the odometer statement left the odometer reading blank and the registration paperwork left the sales price blank. I was required to sign incomplete paperwork with an incorrect date. I normally would refuse to sign such a document, but Carvana left me no choice. I do not know that Carvana intended to commit fraud in my name, but they set things up so that this was a possibility. I have forwarded these documents to the Attorney General in Georgia and Vermont.

Carvana does not stand by its word. When the delays piled up, I was offered $25/day for my trouble. It seemed like a pittance, but I agreed to this. The car was delivered 25 days after the offer was made, so I expected to receive $625 for the delays. When I asked to be paid, they claimed, retroactively, that this offer was capped at $250 (10 days). When I explained that this was not the offer that had been made to me, I was told that no exceptions would be made. In essence, you cannot trust anything that a Carvana representative says, because they can and do override such statements.

Carvana does not provide direct numbers to contact either individual customer service personnel or groups within Carvana (Pre-Sales, Post Sales, Push, Direct Delivery, Post Operations, Executive Resolution, etc). Thus, you will deal with a different person every time you contact Carvana. And calling the 800 number, waiting for a representative, and then waiting to be transferred is time consuming.

Carvana calls back less than half of the time that they promise to.

Carvana is a terrible communicator. No one reached out when the car needed to be transferred from North Carolina to Georgia (2 weeks); when the car keys were lost (2 weeks); or when the title needed to be fixed (4 weeks), to explain that a delay was about to occur: I had to drag that out of them. And Tristan misused the term “submitted”, creating another 3 week delay, and pissing me off again, unnecessarily. Much of what went wrong could have been moderated by careful and professional communication. You will get none of that from Carvana. They have no idea how to manage a customer’s expectations and make a customer feel heard and cared for.

Write down everything, and question everything. Don’t assume that things will go well. Be prepared with facts when necessary.

This process could have gone much more smoothly if Carvana had chosen a single individual to be my consistent point of contact during the process. I could have established a trusting relationship, rather than learning that I cannot trust anything that I am told, because Caravana goes back on what their representatives have said. And that person could have reached out as problems occurred so that I was not blindsided by them.

Carvana appears to use 3rd party vendors for most of their operations. I know that they use them for inspections, review of title/sales documents, and submission of title/sales documents to DMVs. I also heard repeatedly that they were unable to successfully contact these 3rd party vendors, that the vendors were unresponsive, and that Carvana was helpless to understand what was going on with their 3rd party vendors. This is just bad business management, but it is pervasive.

[1]: they did deliver the contract, and wrote 4 personal (not promotional) emails to me over the 6 month period

Problems with CostCo and Innovell Logistics Home Delivery

December 2, 2020

Note that Innovell Logistics has been purchased by CostCo, and is now called CostCo Logistics. Another name for the company is XPO Logistics. They are a delivery organization, similar in concept to UPS and FedEx, only customized for large (freight) items from a small number of large stores (CostCo, Sears, etc).

On Thursday November 26, 2020, I ordered a mattress from CostCo, because it could be scheduled for delivery on Wednesday December 2, less than a week later. Every other mattress I found could only be delivered in January, much later.

Having heard nothing further, on Tuesday December 1st I called CostCo’s Concierge service to find out how and when I would be contacted about the delivery. After spending 2 hours on the phone with them (most of it on hold), it turns out that while the mattress left the manufacturer on November 27, it was not yet at the Innovell location from which it would be delivered. They hoped that the mattress would arrive sometime before the 5th, at which point the mattress might be delivered on the 8th; if not then, by the 15th. So 1 or 2 weeks late at the very best. As you will learn later, “arrive” is a complex verb when in the hands of Costco and Innovell. And almost none of the above was true.

At the end of the phone conversation, I was instructed to send some “feedback” to CostCo using the blue flag on the right side of their web site. The first thing I was asked was whether I wished to provide web site or warehouse feedback. Of course, neither option is appropriate. I was trying to provide shipping feedback. So that failed immediately. I clicked on Warehouse and a popup appeared. Under Chrome, opinionlab.com is listed as a phishing web site, so I was done with that attempt at feedback. CostCo needs to figure out why their feedback collection organization is flagged as a phishing site.

That evening I received one email saying the mattress would be delivered on the 2nd between 12:45 and 2:45; another email saying essentially the same thing; and a third email allowing me to track my package. When I tracked the package it said that it would arrive between 7 AM and 9 PM on December 2nd (different timing than the other two). It further said that it had left Pennsylvania at 8:30 PM on November 26th, and was due into Vermont at an unspecified time and date. It also said that at 6:18 PM on the 1st it had shipped from Cross Dock (whatever that is). So much information. But what does it mean?!? As you will learn later, all of this was misleading.

On the morning of Wednesday the 2nd, I received two email reminders about the impending delivery (at 6:30 AM and 8 AM), as well as a text at 8 AM.

By 9:30 AM, the situation had changed. I received one text explaining that the delivery would not take place (but pointing me to a web page that claimed that the delivery would take place as scheduled!), and then a phone call saying that the delivery would not take place. No one knew when delivery might be possible. The people making the calls had little or no information about what was going on.

At 11:15, I received another email saying that the delivery would be delayed. It pointed me to a web site to reschedule the delivery. The tracking information on that site said that the mattress arrived in Colchester, VT, at 7:55 the morning of the 2nd, so it is hard to believe that it was not available for delivery on the 2nd. As you will learn later, this information was false.

There was no facility for rescheduling on that web page, despite their saying “Please visit <the web site> to reschedule”. So I was back on the phone once again, listening to loud and distracting music, punctuated with apologies. The phone number to call for assistance on that web page is different than the phone number in the email. Which is right? Who knows.

After 75 minutes on hold, I spoke with someone. They said that the trucks are pre-loaded the night before, so the fact that the mattress arrived on the morning of the 2nd meant that they could not deliver it on the 2nd. But that also means that they knew, the previous night, that delivery would be impossible. They sent all of those emails and texts announcing the delivery at a time when they knew delivery was already impossible. What a stunningly flawed system!

A week later, on Tuesday, December 8th I received a text announcing the impending delivery on the 9th. On the 9th I received another text. On the 8th I received two emails announcing the delivery. And during the day on the 9th, two more emails. A lot of communication, some from CostCo, some from Innovell.

So, you can guess what happened. Yep. They decided to not deliver the mattress. Since they only deliver to this area once a week, it would be another week’s delay, not another day’s delay.

I asked if I could borrow a truck and pick up the mattress, but they said that would not be possible (this, too, turned out to not be true). They would hold onto it for another week and try again. Note that their web site says that if they cannot deliver within 10 days, the order will be canceled (also not true).

After having been told that the delivery would be pushed out another week, I received another email saying that I must reschedule using the web site (which, as you already know, does not work) or by calling. I spent 80 minutes on hold, after which I simply gave up. The first email (from Innovell) said that it had been rescheduled; the second email (from CostCo) required me to reschedule the delivery. Very confusing and un-coordinated.

Through the intervention of the local CostCo Warehouse manager, I finally managed to get Innovell to agree to let me pick up the mattress myself. I went to the local facility, in Colchester, on Thursday the 10th. I learned a lot during that visit.

The address I was given to go to was 4 Acorn Lane; in fact, the correct address is 113 Acorn Lane. Neither CostCo nor Innovell actually know the correct address of their facility.

When trying to deal with this situation, on the evening of the 9th, CostCo personnel had given the order number to the Colchester personnel, to try to identify the shipment. But the items that the Colchester folks have, and the documentation that they are given, do not include the order number. The fact that CostCo has no idea what is going on at the shipping location is just one sign of how disorganized things are.

Here is a screen shot of the tracking information for my mattress. Note that it appears to have first arrived in Colchester on the 1st at 7:15 PM, the night before it was originally due to be delivered. But at the Colchester facility I was told me that the mattress in fact only arrived in Colchester on Tuesday the 8th. If you look at the tracking information, there is no information for the 8th at all! It appears that there is a larger warehouse in Kingston, New Hampshire, and that location is mislabeled as Colchester, Vermont, in the tracking information. Thus, the tracking information is useless to the customer. None of the assumptions I had made about the location of the mattress were correct, because I was given false information. And that led to misunderstandings and frustration. Needless to say, the tracking information needs to be correct and accurate.

I live in Fletcher, Vermont (although the USPS forces me to say [falsely] that I live in East Fairfield). The adjoining town is Fairfax, Vermont. While Innovell only schedules delivery to my town once a week, the Colchester organization (Innovell) delivers to Fairfax every day. So, while CostCo and Innovell were apologizing and explaining that I would have to wait another week, the Colchester organization had already offered to both CostCo and Innovell management to deliver the mattress the next day; but neither CostCo nor Innovell made that offer to me. Why would CostCo and Innovell go so far out of their way to inconvenience a customer? Both shocking and puzzling.

Part of the problem is that all deliveries in Vermont are scheduled in California, by people (and software?) who/which has/have no understanding of the geography. Often, the Colchester delivery people are asked to make a series of deliveries that are virtually impossible; they have to juggle deliveries every day in order to compensate for the unworkable orders that they receive from California.

I was given the phone number of the regional Innovell manager (Shannon) at the Kingston location after I did a lot of shouting. But no one ever suggested that I simply speak with the Colchester organization. They have no problem with speaking with customers. In fact, I was given their contact information, in case I needed it again (and, ironically, I needed it, for a friend in a similar situation, within hours). Other people tried heroically to help me over the past few weeks, but the one group who could have helped me was never involved.

None of this had to be so complicated. If the mattress arrived in New Hampshire on the 1st or the 2nd, then it could have been in Colchester on the 3rd and delivered on the 4th. I would not have minded such a minor delay. But I’ve now spent 2 days at home, waiting for deliveries that never came, an afternoon paying for and renting a truck and picking up the mattress, and over 4 hours on the phone trying to figure out what was going on. An enormous wast of my time. All for “free delivery”.

Even on the day that I rented the truck and picked up the mattress, the Colchester organization would have been happy to deliver it the next day. But no one told me that this was possible, because everyone else had already decided that it was impossible.

CostCo and Innovell need to clean up their act. They need to reduce call wait times: at the moment, they are intolerable. They need to reduce the thick bureaucracies that prevent customers from reaching local management. They need to stop trying to impose ridiculous constraints on local people, who actually know how to do their job better than the higher-ups a continent away. And they need to focus on getting the job done, delivering the packages.

Oh. Yeah. A week later, the emails and texts started again. I guess they will try to deliver another mattress on the 16th. Ridiculous. Their system is broken.