Hampton Bay Fans: A Harrowing Home Depot Hassle

Earlier, I wrote about what a hassle it has been to try and take the glass globe off of my Home Depot Hampton Bay Sovana model fan.

A quick update:  Since I could not get the glass cover off (similar to lots and lots of other Home Depot customers who also made the unfortunate decision to buy a Hampton Bay fan), I will now be forced to break the glass in order to replace the light bulb.

I tried calling Hampton Bay last week, was told by a customer service person that they don’t have the part, and the manufacturer would get in touch with me.

Today, I received an email from said Home Depot/Hampton Bay customer care representative, telling me to call a woman named Belinda.  I tried calling Belinda at the number provided, and the operator answered with the name of a random company that was neither Home Depot nor Hampton Bay.

Belinda apparently does work for Home Depot (not sure in what capacity) and was able to help me a little bit by giving me the model number and explaining that the information I received last week was inaccurate.

So, I’m now paying Home Depot $27 for a replacement globe because I’ll have to crack open the glass to get this one off.

Home Depot- this is not a great way to treat your customers.  😦

Hampton Bay Fans from Home Depot: A Cautionary Tale Against Buying Them

Does your home have ceiling fans?  They can be a great, cost-effective way to cool your house, but as I’ve discovered, getting the wrong brand of ceiling fans (in this case, the Hampton Bay brand offered at Home Depot) can make your ceiling fan into a time-sucking nightmare when the light-bulb goes out.  In fact, based on my experiences with Hampton Bay today, I would strongly recommend you buy almost ANY other brand other than Hampton Bay.  And if you look at these reviews on Home Depot’s own site for another Hampton Bay fan, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The back story:

My wife and I had lived in our house about two years when we decided to get ceiling fans in two of our bedrooms. We purchased two Hampton Bay fans (the Sovana 44 inch model, it’s item #184-595, Model 14412), and had them installed in our house.  So far, so good.

However, the first time the light bulb went out, I discovered why some customers (including me now) hate Hampton Bay fans.  The glass over that goes over the light bulb is incredibly difficult — if not impossible — to remove.

In theory, it twists off.

In reality, getting it to twist off can be incredibly hard to do.  And, you’re not alone.  Try googling “Hampton Bay Fan remove light” and you will see the stories of hundreds (probably thousands) of other customers who have also make the mistake of purchasing a Hampton Bay fan.

There are tips on YouTube (and in the YouTube comments), such as using duct tape and making loops on the glass so you have something hard to pull on, or using a toilet plunger.  I think these might have worked for me previously, but as of right now, my kids don’t have an overhead light in their room because I can’t get the Hampton Bay fan light cover to come off.

Hampton Bay Ceiling Fan Hack

So, after trying looking at the owner’s manual (not helpful) and looking online, I thought perhaps I’d try the customer service line at Home Depot/Hampton Bay (can’t tell if they’re the same company or not).

That was a colossal waste of my time.

After waiting on hold for 9 minutes, I was given helpful advice such as “try turning it counter-clock wise, and hard.”

People ask why I’m skeptical of corporate America, and I will now point to Hampton Bay ceiling fans as exhibit 1.  Home Depot clearly knows that its customers are having problems with this product, yet it continues selling it, probably because the profit margins are high.  In other words, sorry customer, we know you’re going to lose hours and hours trying to replace a simple light bulb, but we at Home Depot just don’t care enough to fix the problem.

So, save yourself hours of pain, and get a fan from a company other than Hampton Bay!

Has Budget Car Rental Also Tried to Upsell You?

Earlier this month, my sister and I traveled to Denver, Colorado for a mini family reunion.  Because we were planning on doing a tour of Denver with one of our taller relatives, I made sure to reserve a Full Size rental car from Budget Car rental (using Travelocity, which I’ve used for years) so that he would be comfortable.

Budget rental

When we arrived at Denver International Airport, we took the Budget Car Rental shuttle to pick up our car.  While it did not offend us, it did strike us as odd and perhaps off-putting that the shuttle radio was playing Christian rock music.

Once we got to the Budget Car Rental counter, the “upsell” began.

The representative started by telling us that it was supposed to snow that weekend in Denver and we should really consider getting an All Wheel Drive SUV (instead of the full-sized sedan we reserved).  He explained he could do it for “only about $20 more a day.”  (It did not actually snow that weekend).

We declined that, and he said he had to go back and talk to his colleagues.  He came back a few minutes later to announce that, “good news, now we can have the SUV for the same price as the car we had reserved.”  You know where this story is headed, right?

So, I asked “You don’t have the car we reserved, do you?”

And he admitted that they did not.  So, you can imagine how I felt that Budget Car Rental was trying to make more money off of the fact that they did not have the car ready that I had reserved.  Not only are you wasting my time, but you’re also trying to profit off this?

Because we wanted to get going (and this was wasting our time), we took a quick look at the SUV he was pushing us to take.  However, it was clear to us it would not have been as comfortable as the full-sized sedan we had originally reserved.

So, we returned back to the rental counter, and explained to him that this wouldn’t work for us and that we wanted the car we had reserved.

Unfortunately, on that particular day, it appeared only one computer could be used to determine which cars were available (I don’t know if that was a problem just that day, or if it’s like that every day you rent a car from Budget in Denver).

So, after about 30 minutes of extra back and forth with the representative, they were able to track down the car we had originally reserved.

Once we left the Budget Car Rental location, we discovered that the car was low on washer fluid (which is dangerous in Colorado during the winter) and that the windshield was fairly pitted (possibly because the car had almost 40,000 miles on it).

Budget Car Rental Low on Fluid

We returned the car to Budget early.  Isn’t it funny how rental car companies charge you an arm and a leg if you return it even an hour late, but they don’t give you money back if you turn it in a few hours early?

I contacted both Travelocity and Budget Car Rental to share my experience with them, and I was less than impressed with their responses.  Travelocity offered a $25 credit, whereas Budget Car Rental offered me a $10 credit- but I’d have to log-in to their system, create an account, give them my email, etc.  Hardly worth $10, right?  And I’m guessing they were counting on that.

Have you had an experience of a rental car company trying to upsell you a more expensive car after they made a mistake and didn’t have the car you reserved?

I’d love to hear about it- you can contact me by leaving a comment.

Share your Valic Retirement Stories with Me

Valic Retirement

Work at a nonprofit and planning to retire? You should read this.

Do you work at a nonprofit, and is Valic your retirement provider?

I’ve had Valic at two of the nonprofits I’ve worked for in San Francisco, and in both cases, it was a bad experience where over-priced retirement products, unclear information, and costly fees slowed down my retirement progress.

As I’ve shared with Valic, their costly products are especially problematic in the nonprofit world.

That’s because nonprofit employees often have lower salaries and so it’s even more important that their retirement money is growing- instead of being sucked away by their retirement company charging fees.

As somebody who works in the nonprofit world, and who knows that decision makers often have limited time, I am going to share my Valic experience to help other nonprofit employees and decision makers.

If you are in charge of HR or Operations at your nonprofit, I would strongly encourage you to find out what sorts of fees your retirement provider is charging, if your employees are aware of these fees, and of course, whether or not there are better companies that will help your employees achieve their retirement goals.

During my most recent experience with Valic, here were some of the issues I encountered, and I’d love to hear if you have had these “challenges” with Valic as well:

1) Valic helping itself to 5% of my retirement money. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I divert money out of my paycheck to put into my retirement accounts, I’m doing that because I want MY money to grow so I can retire one day.  So, imagine my surprise when my account finally got rolled over, and the rollover paperwork included a column that said MVA ADJ/Charges ($) $70.51. I didn’t know what this $70.51 was for, but I did know that my final rollover check was for $70.51 less than I would have expected it to be.  After about 30 minutes of phone calls and getting a manager on the phone, I was finally informed that Valic was charging me a whopping 5% fee to close my account because I hadn’t had it open for five years.  That is not a misprint. A whopping 5% fee!  Luckily for me, that five percent fee was only $70, but can you imagine if I’d had $10,000 in that account and Valic helped itself to 5% of my retirement?  Or $20,000?  Or even $30,000?  Ouch!

2) Unclear expenses and retirement options: My Valic representative had a very hard time telling me what my options were in terms of the mutual funds I could invest in- and what their costs were- until after I had opened an account. If Valic were truly interested in supporting nonprofit workers having a secure retirement, then they would make this information clear and easy to get to- before you open your account.  The reason I wanted to know about the mutual fund options and their expenses (before I opened the account) is because when I had Valic previously, all of funds I could choose from were wildly over-priced compared to their peers.

3) Mis-leading and inaccurate information when I tried to roll over my Valic retirement account. After leaving my job, I wanted to roll over my Valic account into my IRA, where I would have access to far cheaper retirement options at Vanguard.  However, the instructions for rolling over my Valic 403B account were contradicted by the customer service people at Valic.  These were things like whether or not my wife needed to sign the paperwork.  Or whether the program administrator needed to sign the paperwork.  Call me pessimistic, but I have to wonder if Valic does this intentionally to make it harder for people to get their money rolled over.  Have you had the same experience where Valic’s written instructions are contradicted by their customer service people?

I’ll be writing more about Valic and some of the legal issues it has faced in the coming weeks, but I’d also love to hear from other people who have used Valic.

Want to share your Valic experience?  Leave a comment on this post.  And, at the top of the post, let me know if I can share your experience, and if so, how you’d like to be attributed. For example, I’m happy to use your full name and city, just your initials, or just a description like “A Social Worker from Oakland.”  Or if you’d prefer I don’t publish your experience, that’s okay too.

Here’s some questions to get you started:

  • Do you know what the expense ratios are on the funds you’re invested in with Valic? And do you know how they compare to some of Valic’s peers?
  • Have you ever been hit with a 5% surrender fee by Valic?
  • Tried to roll over your money out of Valic? How did it go?  Did you get clear instructions?

Keep Your Home California Program is Over

This blog featured a number of posts about the Keep Your Home California program and how its various programs could help homeowners in California who were possibly going to lose their homes.

In case you missed the announcement in August, 2018, the program is over and is no longer accepting applications. (More here)

More than 82,000 Californians benefited from this program.  You can learn more by reading The Economic Impact of Keep Your Home California: A Statewide and Regional Analysis.

Also, quarterly reports about the program are available on its website under the reports and statistics section.

If you’re a homeowner who used the program and have questions, there are still representatives available to answer your questions.

Wells Fargo in the News For Overdraft and Foreclosure Lawsuits and Settlements

Wells Fargo

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Wells Fargo Bank!

On April 4, the LA Times reported that the US Supreme Court declined to hear Wells Fargo’s appeal of a class action lawsuit against the bank that it lost.  After losing this lawsuit, Wells Fargo was ordered to pay $203 million related to overdraft fees it had charged Californians from 2004-2008.  Read more here: Supreme Court upholds verdict against Wells Fargo on overdraft fees in California

Then, on April 8, Courthouse News Service broke the news that the City of Oakland’s lawsuit against the bank can proceed:  Wells Fargo Must Face Oakland’s Lending Suit

And, last Friday, April 8, Wells Fargo agreed to pay the federal government $1.2 billion related to FHA mortgages the bank had underwritten (rather poorly, it turned out).  The irony is especially rich on the heels of a recent Paul Krugman article which suggested that main street banks hadn’t really played a role in the mortgage meltdown.  Or, the Op-Ed from GE’s CEO, lecturing Bernie Sanders about “creating jobs.”  Just don’t remind GE’s CEO about GE’s role in creating the mortgage meltdown with its lender, WMC Mortgage Corp.

David Dayen on CitiGroup’s Late Independent Foreclosure Review Payments

David Dayen has a great new piece (Weak Justice for Wall Street: How a Twisted Double Standard Saved Citigroup Millions) on CitiGroup failing to pay $20 million under the Independent Foreclosure Review:

Did Citigroup have to pay interest or make a late fee on two years’ of missed payments? No. Was its credit rating affected? No. Did it have a lien placed on its headquarters or bank branches, as would many debtors who failed to pay? No. Did the OCC call them in the middle of the night and threaten to garnish their tax refund? No. Were they in any way treated the way “deadbeat borrowers” are in this country? Nah. In fact, they got to use that $20 million for two years, and profit from it, without punishment.

Read the whole article here: Weak Justice for Wall Street: How a Twisted Double Standard Saved Citigroup Millions