On the front lines in the battle against ignorance, bullying, & discrimination!

Follow us on:

Twitter: @CorpTerrorism

YouTube: http://www.YouTube.com/institutionalterrorism

Friday, December 6, 2013

If You Want to Spend Lots of Money, Take Your Car to Das Autohaus!

1045 New Jersey Street
Lawrence, KS 66044

Phone: 785-843-9494

As is usually the case, I should have listened to my gut instinct before trusting Dave, the owner of Das Autohaus and the Scuba Shack, co-located businesses literally around the corner from our home in Lawrence, Kansas.  When I stopped by to inquire about snorkeling gear for an upcoming trip to the Caribbean and discuss hiring him as our new mechanic (having recently moved to the area), the price for a mask, snorkel, and fins that go for less than $50 (with free shipping) on Amazon.com were quoted at $99 ... HINT #1 that things to come from Dave would not be cheap!

Being unemployed, we do not have a lot of money and our previous mechanic in Kansas City was always honest, fair, and did excellent work. I knew I could trust him and he never took advantage of us, unlike many mechanics, including, in my opinion, Dave and Das Autohaus.

I took our 2000 Volkswagen Beetle to Dave for a simple check of the battery (which was losing its charge on very cold mornings) this morning, expecting a fair and reasonable estimate.  He told me that it would take about an hour to run some diagnostics. I asked him how much an oil change would be while I was there and he told me, "$60".  I told him that my last mechanic only charged me $25 (including oil, filter, checking fluids, and inflating tires) and that I thought his price was too high (HINT #2 of a rip-off ... I should have walked away right then, but I believe in supporting local small businesses), so I told him not to change the oil.

Three hours later, Dave finally called and told me that the problem was in-fact the battery, which I assumed was the case, and considering the fact that batteries for my vehicle run around $100 (including FREE testing and installation) at any reputable auto parts store, I figured it should run me $160 more or less ($100 for the battery and an plus or minus an hour, to be generous, for labor - diagnostics and installation). I asked him how much it was going to cost and he said, "that comes to a little over $280".  

I thought maybe I had misheard the price, so I asked him, "did you say $280?". He confirmed the ridiculous price and I said, "I can buy a battery for $100 with free installation at an auto parts store, so why do you want to charge me $280? How much is the battery?".  He replied, "$140", to which I responded, "so you want to charge me $140 in labor to replace a battery I can get installed for free anywhere else?" He told me, "that's what it costs.  Do you know how long it takes to install a battery?"  I told him that I do in-fact know how long it takes because I installed the VW battery 4 years ago myself, taking only about 15 minutes. His "I could care less" and aggressive tone of voice ticked me off, so I told him I would be right over to collect my car. 

When I arrived, he insulted me further by saying that the car had not been well maintained and, in an attempt to up-sell someone who was not going to fall for his BS in any event, that I needed to replace the timing belt.  I told him that the timing belt had been replaced less than 70,000 miles ago and that the VW had been well maintained, changing the oil every 5,000 miles even though recommendations are to change diesel oil every 10,000 miles and making all RECOMMENDED and NECESSARY repairs (from our honest mechanic).

He then handed me a bill for $75:

As you can see from the invoice, he not only overcharged me for the labor involved with the estimate, HE CHARGED ME $9.99 FOR SUPPLIES?  What supplies could he have possibly used to test my charging system?

Having spent my Air Force career as a transportation officer and responsible for hundreds of auto mechanics (and the Best Transportation Squadron in the United States Air Force), I know how repair costs are calculated, so I asked Dave how much his hourly rate was. He said, "I work by the job, not by the hour", so I knew he was not on the up-and-up. In comparison, here is a quote from AutoMD.com for the exact repair on my vehicle and as you can see, it is MUCH closer to my estimate than his:

Quote Number # 636221

2000 Volkswagen Beetle GLS 4 Cyl 1.9L
    Parts Selected

    Battery Replacement
    PartsCARQUEST Battery (New)2 yr / 24k mi1$136.05$136.05
    Labor2 yr / 24k mi0.60 hrs$80.00$48.00
    Other Fees
    Shop Supplies$1.84$1.84
    Quote Summary
    Labor0.6 hrs$48.00$48.00
    Other Fees1$1.84$1.84

    He was trying to charge me over $140 in labor for a job that takes 6/10 of an hour, ATTEMPTING to charge me over $250 an hour for labor when the average is $65 to $70 an hour elsewhere ... CAN YOU SAY "RIP-OFF" ... SURE YOU CAN!

    I took my car to Walmart (invoice below) a few days later. They tested my charging system FOR FREE, CHARGED ME ONLY $109.97 FOR THE BATTERY, and INSTALLED IT IN ABOUT 20 MINUTES FOR FREE ... for a total of only $124 and change! Adding in the $75 Dave charged me for doing practically nothing and the grand total came to $200, SO I STILL PAID $80 LESS THAN DAVE WAS GOING TO CHARGE ME even though I should have paid over $150 less if I had been dealing with an honest person.

    Mechanics are notorious for taking advantage of uneducated customers as we have all seen on shows like 20/20 and 60 Minutes, but there are good, honest people out there as our last mechanic proved over the last five years. I assumed, and you know what happens when you "ASSUME" ... YOU MAKE AN "ASS" OF "U" AND "ME", that Dave would be fair and honest, knowing very well that this was the first time I had been there and possibly trying to "do the right thing" by a new customer. In my opinion, Dave obviously has no idea what the "right thing" is or what "integrity" entails, so if you have more money than you know what to do with and do not care how much a service costs, by all means go to Das Autohaus! I did not realize how good I had it with our last mechanic, but maybe it is worth the 40 minute drive not to find out how many crook mechanics there are in Lawrence, Kansas!

    CombatCritic Gives Das Autohaus 1 Out of 10 Bombs ... Bombs Are Good!

    Since this debacle, several people (friends and strangers alike) have come forward with stories of their own about Dave and Das Autohaus. It seems as though he has an unsavory reputation in Lawrence, a reputation I wish I had been aware of prior to trusting him with my car. So I am sharing my story and opinion with you in the hope that I can spare some of my neighbors from a similar experience. Take heed and pass the word along so that others will not be victimized by this unscrupulous business owner.

    UPDATE: 1/27/2014

    As usual, AngiesList did not bother letting me know that the owner of Das Autohaus responded to my review, having just read it:

    Company Response: 

    "This is a false review, we have never worked on a car by a person with the name of [member name removed]. Dave Bach is the only Volkswagen Master Registered Technician in Lawrence. Like any professional, he charges for his work. As a Platinum Pro Diver and Instructor, Dave chooses to sell only quality equipment in his shop."

    My response, which AngiesList does not bother to ask for, another sign that they cater to businesses, not consumers, is as follows:

    This man obviously has no scruples and will lie at every turn. If you want to see the receipt from Das Autohaus for the "estimate", you can find it at this link: above along with the full review and other documentation proving that what I say is in-fact true and Das Autohaus is lying ... THIS IS NOT A FALSE REVIEW!

    I updated the AngiesList review on Das Autohaus with the above information on January 27th, 2014, but whether or not Angie'sList publishes the updated review is a completely different story (as you can read in "AngiesList or AngiesBust ... You Decide!" elsewhere in this blog).

    Key Words: das, autohaus, mechanic, car, auto, automobile, Volkswagen, VW, battery, repair, cost, con, pro, rude, Lawrence, Kansas, InstitutionalTerrorism, institutional, terrorism

    This review is based solely on my opinion and what I believe to be true based on my direct experience with the service(s) in question. Readers should take these facts into consideration when deciding to utilize a service (or not) and that my opinion may or may not reflect the true nature and/or character of the individuals and/or institutions being reviewed.

    Thursday, December 5, 2013

    Redbox Instant by Verizon Delivers Instant Nothing!

    Redbox Instant by Verizon Delivers Instant Nothing!

    I ordered Redbox Instant with live streaming video and 4 credits per month for $8 on November 10, 2013.  Since then, the streaming option rarely works on our PS3 even though Netflix works just fine EVERY TIME!  Then there are the 4 "FREE" CREDITS per month, of which I have only been able to use one.  The last two kiosk reservations I made charged my credit card instead of automatically using credits (as their "HELP" FAQs imply is the case) and it is impossible to apply credits to a kiosk reservation either on the website or the iPhone mobile app. 

    The Redbox applications and customer support options are useless as far as credits are concerned and I wasted a great deal of time online and on the phone trying to connect with Redbox Customer Service.  The website and app are obviously not ready for implementation and they must have one customer service rep for the US because every time I call or try to chat online, there is a long wait.

    I should have known better than to sign-up for a service that has anything to do with Verizon (see my article Your Verizon Data Is Vulnerable for more information on how Verizon allowed my identity to be stolen and refused to do anything about it), so I canceled my subscription.  I do not have either the time or the patience to deal with a vendor that obviously could care less about customers and Redbox's affiliation with Verizon tells be a lot about their values or lack thereof.

    CombatCritic Gives Redbox 2 Out of 10 Bombs ... BOMBS ARE GOOD!

    Key Words: Redbox, Verizon, video, streaming, Blu, Ray, disc, kiosk, rental, movie, TV, internet, film, help, problem, customer, CombatCritic, InstitutionalTerrorism

    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    Great idea … bad product! (Defiant 180° Motion Activated Solar LED Floodlight)

    Great idea … bad product!

    REVIEW: Defiant 180° Motion Activated Solar LED Floodlight

    I purchased a Defiant 180° Motion Activated Solar LED Floodlight on-sale ($79.95) at Home Depot less than a month ago.  I read the reviews beforehand and, although mixed, most were very positive and the rating average on HomeDepot.com was well over 4 out of 5 stars, a pretty good bet!  What do they say about gambling?  The house always wins?  I lost this bet folks.

    We have a dark area on the side of our 150+ year-old house and I thought I could save the expense of hiring an electrician to run electricity and install motion-activated floodlights ($150-$200) while being “Green”, saving electricity by utilizing the power of the Sun.  Great idea … bad product!

    After reading the reviews, it was imperative that I follow the instructions to the letter.  Almost every reviewer mentioned charging the battery for a full 4 days prior to installation and that was exactly what I did.  I also tested the unit as instructed and everything seemed to work fine, at first.  The installation was straightforward and took about 15 minutes, not difficult.

    Since then, the unit only comes on 50% of the time.  I return home after dark and park right in front of the light, so a vehicle the size of an SUV should easily trigger the motion sensor.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it does not.  I tried adjusting the sensors to various angles and changing the shut-off delay between two and three minutes (the only two options), but nothing seemed to work consistently.

    When the light does illuminate, it is “adequate”, but being an LED, it has nowhere near the illuminating power of the electric floodlight in the rear of our home.  It is much better than nothing and does provide enough light to help see in the dark, but the light is so dim that it is nearly impossible to tell if the light is on or off when in the kitchen, adjacent to the light’s location.  One of the reasons we wanted the light was to alarm us if someone was lurking on the side of our home, trying to break-in or “peep” through the window.  Unfortunately, the light does not illuminate consistently enough to serve its intended purpose.

    Based on the reviews I had read, I had a 70-80% chance of being satisfied with the product.  Maybe I am unlucky, like to 20-30% of reviewers appeared to be, but this product is a non-starter.  It is cheaply made and at $80 plus tax, not a bargain in the least.  The light, when it works, is dim and inadequate and only having worked half the time, a rip-off.  I am returning the light to Home Depot today for a refund a recommend you do not waste your valuable time or money on a product that, while a great idea, was poorly designed and brought to market before being perfected.  I do not know about you, but I do not enjoy wasting hours of my valuable time buying a product, charging it, installing it, testing it, adjusting it, testing it again, removing it, and returning it to the store where I bought it.  All that for $80?  I have better things to spend my time and money on, like an electrician!

    Key Words: Home Depot, home, depot, Defiant, LED, motion, activated, solar, floodlight, energy, efficiency, efficient, product, faulty, poor, light, CombatActivist, institutional, terrorism, InstitutionalTerrorism

    Saturday, November 16, 2013

    No Friend Ever Served Me ...

    We were recently forced to put our beautiful lakefront home on the market because the Department of the Interior had my $50,000 contract cancelled in February THEN had the gaul to insist that the prime contractors BLACKLIST me, ruining my business. 

    They did that because I filed a complaint of fraud, waste, and abuse against the government contractor I have been subcontracting for since January 2012. The contractor is fraudulently wasting HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ... EVERY YEAR!  I tried to DO THE RIGHT THING and was punished severely for it. THAT MY FRIENDS IS CALLED WHISTLEBLOWER RETALIATION AND IT IS ILLEGAL!

    Our house was just leased for three years by an Army lieutenant colonel at Fort Leavenworth, giving the market time to recover and, hopefully, sell our home in three years and NOT TAKE A $50,000 LOSS ON IT as we would have if we had sold instead of leasing.

    I am a half-full kinda guy ... Everything works out for the best in the end. 

    As a Roman general, Lucius Sulla, said: "No friend ever served me, no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full".

    After filing an inspector general complaint with the Department of the Interior in February, they are the folks who are supposed to protect citizens from unlawful retaliation, particularly whistleblower retaliation, they ignored my pleas for an update. I received a letter last week from the Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Interior Business Center, the boss of the woman who retaliated against me, stating that the Inspector General had turned the case over to him ... Can you say "fox watching the henhouse?" ... SURE YA CAN!

    In his letter, he stated that MY complaint had no justification and that the reason my contract was cancelled was because of "substandard performance"!

    Substandard performance?  Where is the justification for that? Why was I never informed about this substandard performance, particularly during a conversation with the contracting officer, the woman who I had complained to and responsible for cancelling my contract, when we spoke on the phone JUST FOUR DAYS PRIOR TO MY CONTRACT BEING CANCELED? Why did she not mention MY SUBSTANDARD PERFORMANCE DURING THAT CALL ...WHICH I RECORDED BY THE WAY (the recording of conversations is legal in the State of Virginia, where the contracting officer works, if one party gives consent, that party being ME)?

    She also informed the contractors, the people who do or do not subcontract work to me and my service-disabled veteran-owned small business, of my alleged "substandard performance", ensuring that I receive no additional contracts in the future ... ALL WITHOUT A SHRED OF EVIDENCE, ANY FACTS, AND WITHOUT DUE PROCESS! 

    I fought for our freedom, the freedom of the pencil pushers who now retaliate against me, and now MY GOVERNMENT slanders and defames me, ruining the business I have built from scratch and pays our bills? Really? Can that happen in the United States of America? I am telling you as someone who is experiencing it directly, IT CAN AND IT DOES!

    As I described in a recent post, the vast majority of lawyers only care about one thing ... MONEY!  Most likely, the only way I will get justice is by receiving national media attention. Then, and only then, will a "selfless" attorney step forward to represent me "pro bono" ... How unselfish and magnanimous they will appear, even though the only reason they would do it is to get 20 minutes of national media exposure when 60 Minutes calls for an interview.

    I sent my response to the defamatory letter from the Department of Interior, certified US Mail, with certified copies going to President Obama, Congressman Sam Graves, the Secretary of the Interior, and the author's boss, Mr. O'Neill. Do I expect a response, assistance, or justice? Honestly, no. The only reason I spent $30 I cannot afford is so that when this DOES all come out eventually, I will have the documentation to prove what these people, these protectors of the Constitution, DID OR DID NOT DO when confronted with evidence of illegal, immoral, and unethical behavior by a government contractor and government employees. And I do ... HAVE HUNDREDS OF PAGES OF EVIDENCE, DOCUMENTATION, PROVING WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT THAT WHAT I AM CLAIMING IS THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH!

    Let's face it, I am a 50-something white man, so there is likely little, if any, chance that I will receive national media attention (there is no sex or murder involved), legal representation (I am broke), or justice. Justice you say? What a concept ... what a country ... WHAT A SHAME!

    CombatActivist ... OUT!

    Self-Centered People Got No Reason ... (Sung to tune of Randy Newman's "SHORT PEOPLE"

    I have collected numerous photos of self-centered people whom obviously care about nobody but themselves. It is either that or these poor souls have the parking expertise of Helen Keller and even she could have done a better job than these folks:

    I have many more photo and video examples of such rudeness and will continue to post photos as I encounter them, which seems to be often. 

    DO US ALL A FAVOR FOLKS, learn to drive and/or think about someone else for a change!

    CombatActivist ... OUT!

    Saturday, November 9, 2013

    Let Me "Summit" Up: Disrespect, Indignity ... Do Not Let Appearances Fool You!

    The Summit Downtown (Fitness Center)
    901 New Hampshire
    Lawrence, KS 66044
    Phone: 785-856-7979

    Hours: Mon-Thur: 5am - 11pm; Fri: 5am - 9pm; Sat: 7am - 7pm; Sun: 9am - 7pm

    A severely disabled Veteran and retired (2005) Air Force lieutenant colonel, I try to take care of the body I am left with after 20 years of austere environments and over 4 years in combat zones (Operations JOINT ENDEAVOR, ALLIED FORCE, SOUTHERN WATCH, AND ENDURING FREEDOM.  I cannot do as much as I used to or as I would like, but the gym is one of the few places I can relax and, beside the golf course, a safe haven where I can cope with the stresses of life. I spent most days of my 20-year career in military gyms and have been a YMCA member for over 10 years, but when we moved to Lawrence, Kansas in August of this year, I was disappointed to find that there was no YMCA in Lawrence. A town of 90,000 and no YMCA?

    I bought a Groupon for a 6-week trial at Genesis Fitness for $20, expecting to join if I liked the facility. I did not. The facility was filthy, the sauna never worked, and when I spoke to a manager about joining, he insisted I must pay a $75 “joining fee” and sign a contract for 2-3 years if I wanted their best monthly rate. Hard-sell gym tactics, contracts, and application fees went out with the 20th Century, or so I thought, so I told the man that I would take my business elsewhere. He could have obviously cared less.

    I decided to try The Summit, a modern facility in a relatively new building just five blocks from our new Lawrence home (it is actually over 150 years old and a historic home) due to its proximity and a four-month “Fall” special for $150. Not a fantastic bargain ($37.50 per month – I paid less at the Kansas City YMCA which is much nicer, larger, and with many more fitness options). The facility seemed clean and the staff appeared to be friendly and helpful, or so it seemed, so I signed-up for the special (with no initiation fee) with the understanding that I would pay $41.00 per month if I decide to continue.

    I liked the facility for the most part, documenting my experiences along the way on Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter. Here are a few:

    The Summit 10/16/2013
    “The bench in the men's locker room is wonky and the TV on the first machine didn't work, but it's cleaner than Genesis by a mile!”

    The Summit 10/19/2013
    “The only concerns thus far are the saunas, which never seem to be hot enough, and the fans (the kind with blades), which always seem to be on, even on the coldest days. Yesterday was cold (45 degrees) and it was cold inside, but they still had the fans going full blast. When I asked if they could be turned down/off, the young lady behind the counter said "no". Being one of just three customers at the time, I do not think it was an unreasonable request.”

    The Summit 10/24/2013
    “I like the proximity and cleanliness, but the fans, sauna, and locker room benches leave MUCH TO BE DESIRED”

    The Summit 10/28/2013
    “I spoke to quickly in yesterday's check-in. Fans are going full blast today and it's freezing in here. Yesterday must have been a fluke ... They aren't monitoring social media after all and that's going to cost them that 4th star!”

    The Summit 10/31/2013
    “Can't tell if it's chance coincidence or if staff read my comments...today the fans are off and there's a real bench in the locker room...THANKS!”

    Having studied diet and exercise extensively over the years for my own benefit and that of my clients (I am a licensed professional counselor specializing in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy - CBT), I understand the importance of a combination of aerobic activity (running, elliptical, etc.), resistance training (weightlifting), and flexibility (stretching).  I normally use the elliptical machines because they are easy on my knees and back, stretching and meditating afterward to complete my workout.

    I had been stretching and meditating most days at The Summit because they had a wonderful thick red mat that was comfortable enough to meet my needs. Because of my disabilities, I find it painful and difficult to use the “Aeromats” (small, individual foam mats) most gyms provide for stretching because they do not provide enough padding, causing discomfort while I lay or sit on the ground.

    When I went to stretch the other day, I noticed that the red mat was gone and replaced with mats similar to the Aeromats I dislike so much, so I asked Tanner (an employee) why my favorite mat was removed. He was very kind and helpful, explaining that the mat was worn on the bottom and had been taken away. He explained just yesterday that there was a similar red mat to the one I had been using in the “training” area of the facility and told me that his boss had said that I could use it to stretch if I chose to. I thanked him for his concern and kindness and went about my workout.

    After completing my elliptical workout, I noticed that the training area was nearly empty and the red mat was not being used, so I entered to finish my workout with a good stretch and a few minutes of relaxation. As I moved to the mat to sit-down, I noticed one of the trainers (there were more trainers than “trainees”), a blondish 30-something woman with several tattoos on one of her arms, hovering around the area, stalking me like a security guard on a shoplifter. No sooner did I sit-down did she approach me stating, “Who are you working with today”.  I told her “nobody” and she told me that I was “not allowed in the area, it’s for personal training customers only”.  I told her that the owner had said that I could use the area to stretch, as Tanner had told me just a couple hours before, noticing one of the owners standing behind her like a back-up cop waiting to pounce on a criminal. She said, “Oh, you mean him” and I stated I did not know who, but that Tanner had told me just hours before that I had permission. Before I get the words out of my mouth, both she and the co-owner said “this area is for paying personal training customers only” (well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me!) and at that I got up and left the area as ordered!

    I believe in treating all with dignity and respect and as a business owner myself, particularly customers.  The Summit apparently does not hold the same values.  I found it extremely embarrassing to be stalked and thrown out of a facility I pay $40 per month to use and in such an unprofessional manner.  I have suffered many indignities at the hands of rude, self-centered people over the years, but never have I experienced such rude, unprofessional, and humiliating behavior in a place of business as I did at The Summit last night.

    Now I feel anxious and stressed just thinking about returning to The Summit this afternoon, not knowing how I will be treated.  I am considering asking for a refund of my remaining fees, but there are few fitness options in this college town of nearly 100,000 other than Genesis, The Summit, and the University of Kansas (KU – where I can use their “world-class” facilities for just $20 per month), so I think I will wait until my trial period expires to find a suitable alternative. 

    My disabilities, including a great deal of pain, and mood are eased by exercise and a clean, safe facility is very important to me.  Except for the filthy air intakes (see photo), The Summit is very clean, but I DO NOT FEEL SAFE any longer.  It pains me that one of my respites, a safe haven in which I can de-stress and take care of a body ravaged by time and combat, the gym, is now a place that causes me stress.

    Veterans Day is next Monday, a day on which we show our appreciation for the men and women who have served our great nation.  Instead of feeling appreciated, I feel abused, but then this is not the first time I have been made to feel less than welcome in a public setting in recent years and, I am afraid, it will not be the last … unfortunately.  If you like being treated with INDIGNITY and DISRESPECT, YOU WILL LOVE THE WAY THEY TREAT YOU AT THE SUMMIT IN DOWNTOWN LAWRENCE!

    Key Words: The Summit, SummitDowntown, fitness, center, gym, gymnasium, workout, exercise, elliptical, trainer, dignity, respect, combat critic.CombatCritic, TravelValue, Lawrence, Journal-World, Kansas