Win some, lose some

Some problems are hard to resolve. No-name movers that exceed their estimates and hold your stuff ransom drive me crazy. So do home renovators who demand payment in full and don’t finish the work or do it poorly.

Another area where I rarely get results is roofing. Shingle manufacturers offer 25-year warranties that mean nothing if they deny claims or pay a pittance in compensation. Check this Busted segment of CBC Marketplace and Con Borg’s complaint below.

I’m also frustrated to hear about investment salespeople who fill out documents characterizing you as a high risk investor when you’re not, only to make their poor choices stand up in court. Read Mark’s comment, which I’ve posted as well.

Still, I can turn around many complaints in a jiffy when I connect companies with unsatfisfied customers. I call them one-day miracles and I’m finding they’re more frequent, maybe because of this blog.

In that category, check out Ken’s complaint about Petro-Canada’s restrictive rain guarantee for car washes. I helped him make a deal, despite the denial of his claim at the beginning.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

12 thoughts on “Win some, lose some”

  1. We have problems with BP CDA Construction in Lasalle, Que. Last August, my sisters noticed evidence in the ceiling of a room that water had leaked onto it.

    I went up to the roof to investigate and noticed that the shingles, mostly the ones above the area, were shot. Also, the rest of the roof shingles were getting into very bad shape.

    Unfortunately, the company that originally put on the shingles was out of business. However, the person that used to own it was working for another roofing company.

    We asked him to come look at the roof and he confirmed they were BP shingles. He had heard of other people now complaining of the same problems.

    He said the shingles were only tarred cardboard and this was confirmed by other roofers, who we asked to look at the roof and give second opinions. They also agreed that they were BP shingles.

    We contacted BP, which sent us paperwork to fill out. They asked us to take pictures and we sent in all the documents. We later got a letter back, declining to do anything about the problem.

    They said the shingles were of good quality. They didn’t want to send anyone to look at them; they blamed the problem on water falling off of the antenna.

    This, of course, was rubbish. Our antenna only covers a tiny area of the roof. After all, this is Canada, and we do have adverse weather conditions.

    The shingles had a 25-year warranty and one roofer said they were just trying to get out of any warranty claims by using excuses. He said antennas wouldn’t cause the problem he saw. He said we had a valid claim.

    I faxed them another letter, using the roofer’s name. I even emailed them to make sure they got the letter. I asked them to confirm they received my letter and they did not. I later called them and they said they had received the letter I sent them in November.

    They told me the case was under review. Okay, I gave it some more time and I called a few weeks later. They gave me the same reply.

    I asked if I could talk to someone higher up and they wouldn’t give me any names or phone numbers. This was the same story every time I called.

    I asked them how long it would be before I heard anything; they said March would be the earliest. I told them this was just a stalling way of getting out of doing anything.

    I told them that I was going to go to great lengths to see what could be done about this problem. They told me to go ahead. That is what I am starting to do.

    My mother can’t afford to put on another roof that should be covered under warranty. I called small claims court and they told me I would have to go out to Quebec to file everything and then again to attend. We can’t afford all this expense.

  2. I recently visited my bank to talk about the train wreck that is my retirement investments.

    Some context first.

    I’ve been work-focused all my life to the exclusion of most other things including investments. A classic workaholic.

    A few years back, I realized that at just short of my 55th birthday I needed to pay some attention to the little bit of RRSP money that was languishing in an interest account and be more aggressive.

    I went to the bank and laid out my case. The adviser and I agreed (I thought) that I needed to take a fair percentage of this money and expose it to the chance of making more than zero in interest.

    He recommended a blended portfolio based on my answers to questions he asked about my goals and situation.

    Aside from being financially naive, I was becoming a little frantic about impending eventual poverty and problems at work were all-consuming. I just needed something positive done in a set-and-forget mode, as that was all the participation I could realistically manage.

    Of course, it was exactly the wrong thing to do and I was right to be worried about work — I lost my job in October 2008 and my RRSP investment is now about 4/5ths of what it was when it was just sitting there.

    In any event, this past week I decided to swallow my fear, overcome my avoidance factor and find out what I could do to re-animate my finances… at least until my continuing unemployment forces me to liquidate some of it.

    I was quite surprised by the investor profile the adviser showed me — the one that supposedly reflected my intentions.

    While the fund correctly described what I thought I was getting — moderate acceptance of risk and “to generate long-term capital growth with moderate level of interest and dividend income — my profile essentially magnified my willingness to risk for growth to “high”.

    This is not what I remember — certainly not as an accurate reflection of my initial discussion.

    What’s more, when I asked how come no one bothered to help me after the markets went to rat%@#, the bank said they couldn’t do anything because my profile forbade it. I was basically locked into a path by the answers in the profile come hell or high water.

    As far as the bank was concerned, their hands were tied. There was nothing to be done (accompanied by a metaphorical, if not literal, shrug).

    Now as much as I despair of the the fact that investing just ain’t what it used to be — when I was s kid I was investing my paper route money in Canada Savings bonds at 19% and that money purchased a third of the house I (mostly) own — I’m not trying to abrogate responsibility. This is in large measure all my fault.

    However, I’d be surprised if many investors like me — those with other major focuses in life — would have understood the consequences of our answers to the questions asked by these investment advisers and the potential warping of our intent by what I suspect are the multiple-choice expressions in the form…. even if none of us should be surprised that the bank would employ such a document to avoid responsibility to us and effort on our behalf.

    The kicker for me was that I was asked to sign a printout of this profile (adjusted to say I now earned less than $25k) with no changes to the rest, even though I was clearly there with a much different mindset.

    I refused, of course, particularly when doing so would just validate the absurdity.

  3. Petro-Canada advertises that with its premium car wash you get a rain guarantee. If it rains or snows within 48 hours of your wash, you get a free rewash. This is featured in large print on their signage.

    I had my car washed on a Monday at 3 pm. On Wednesday morning, it was snowing. I stopped by the station at 2 pm on the Wednesday to get my voucher for a free rewash. It was still snowing at that time.

    I was told that the rewash had to be used within 48 hours of the origional wash. Doesn’t make much sense to me to rewash the car when it’s still raining.

    Sure enough, in magnifying glass print it does say this. I called their customer service number and voiced my concerns to an attendent, who said someone from head office would call me within 72 hours. A week and a half later, I have not received a call back.

    If they are offering a free rewash if it rains or snows within 48 hours, then what should it matter when you use it?

    It seems they are using this to get people like me to spend a couple extra bucks on a wash. They know they probably won’t have to honour their guarantee.


    Thanks, Ellen. I heard from a lady at Petro-Canada yesterday. She defended the policy, but did offer to credit my Petro points account with enough points for two free washes.

    That makes me happy. I’ll just never pay the extra for the premium wash again.

    I still think it’s very misleading and it’s going to make other people unhappy, but that’s their call.

  4. I’m currently trying to get some money back from one of those movers (many names, many addresses, etc.). I’ve contacted them several times, reported them to the BBB and contested the credit card charge. What else can I do?

    I used the company before and was happy with the service – I even recommended them to a colleague! 8 months later, I’m mad, out $200 more than I should be and I can’t get anyone to return my calls.

  5. All you have to do is read some of the stories above to know that Ellen does a great job for so many people. Often times, she helps people recover money when they’ve given up all hope that it’ll ever happen.

    As a way of showing thanks, I think people should consider donating some of their new-found money to charity.

    I’m going to even start it off. Even though she didn’t even help me collect anything, in Ellen’s name, I’m going to donate $100 to one of the two charity funds run by the Toronto Star.

    Fresh Air Fund

    Santa Claus Fund

    (BTW, in case you’re wondering, these are good long standing charities and The Star absorbs all the administration fees.)

    Ellen, thanks for all the work you do!

  6. Got our Bell phone bill yesterday, noticed some changes.

    Network Charge increasing $1/month starting May 1 to $6.95. This is a charge just to be given the right to make a long distance call.

    Interest on unpaid bills: 3%/month, but 42+% per year. The math I know would say that the annual rate would be 36%.

  7. I can relate to the roofing example. I have seen co-workers retire and go on to build their dream home and have to return to the workforce because the contractors could not agree with the original quote due to things that came up ‘along the way’.

    Sometimes, at least when buying a home that’s already up, you know what you’re paying for in a lot of ways.

  8. First time here… and something you said rang a bell. Those crazy know your investor questions that don’t really help any investment advisor get to know anyone. What a waste of paper and time.

  9. Buyer Beware!! Our bad experience with BP Canada:
    My father purchased BP Canada shingles with a 25 year warranty. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. This is the letter we sent to them in May 2010 to which we have had no reply:

    “New shingles were installed on my father’s roof by B&B Siding & Roofing Ltd on July 30, 1999. For the past two years, my father has been dealing with B&B regarding his defective shingles (pictures were attached showing the shingles clawing and deteriorating). After frequent requests, a visit was made by representatives from your company, one of them being (name removed). My father was told that a sample would be taken and sent to your laboratory and he would be advised of the results. December 8, 2009 a letter was sent indicating the lab results showed that no deficiencies were found. As there was a slight language barrier, I have now taken over dealing with this issue. On May 11, 2010, I contacted BP at the 1-800 number provided on the card requesting to speak with (name removed) and was told that he was unavailable. I was also told that if I provide the file number, the person on the other end of the phone would try to assist as best as possible. Upon providing the file number, he advised that the file indicated a sample was supposed to be taken and sent to the lab, but wasn’t, and that a message would be relayed to (name removed) to address this matter and to return my call. This information completely contradicts the December 8th letter. This is very unprofessional to say the least. To date, I have not as yet received a return call. Regardless, as you can see from the pictures, these shingles would not be acceptable by anybody’s standards.

    Please accept this letter as a demand to have these shingles replaced and installed at today’s market value. If not resolved by June 30, 2010, legal action will commence.”

    We never received any response.

  10. Change of any kind is a challenge. The outcome is uncertain, the family must be replaced by the unknown and they have not disappeared, the old ways is likely to have at least some of the benefits.

    Embarking on the change involves short-term discomfort for more than short-term gains.

    For example, take someone interested in learning to play tennis, improve their form and expand their network to join a tennis club. Even a change like this, with relatively clear and immediate benefits, can create many problems – the demands of learning a new skill, meeting new people, the physical effort of a new exercise on the body.

    A more complex change undoubtedly creates even greater challenges.

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