Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Would Honest Abe Have Done Differently?

I went through the mail yesterday and found a check from the local Joe Myers Toyota dealership, the one where we’d bought Lucy’s Solara three years ago. It was a refund for $3.75; apparently they’d over charged on the vehicle safety inspection which was done routinely to every new car before being sold.

A letter accompanied the check which explained that the error was “brought to their attention” and that we might have trouble depositing the check since it was more than 90 days since the check was issued; that’s when I looked and saw it was dated 07NOV06. Why would they hold the check half a year if they knew they’d over charged us from three years earlier?

A couple of items come to mind; the first is knowing that when you purchase a new vehicle there are going to be additional charges that spring out of nowhere and end up on the invoice, secretarial fees for typing invoice, dealer preparation fees to remove all the stickers glued to every window, tire inflation fees to remove toxic air imported from outside the US and exchange that toxic air for toxic home grown air, and any other fee that can be thrown onto the deal and be ignored by the buyer since these minor annoyances are microscopic in comparison to the total price of the new vehicle and will be spread out over the next 5 years as monthly payments; I almost ran out of breath trying to get all that down in one sentence.

Why does a brand new vehicle have to go through a mandatory State of Texas Inspection; I meannnnnnnnnn, in my best Arlo Guthrie imitation, I meannnnnn, how many brand new cars fail to pass the inspection? The State of Texas wasn’t satisfied with gaining 8 percent of the sale through sales tax and they needed $21.75 to make ends meet? The State of Texas couldn’t supply new car dealerships with a special sticker to place on the windshield, one that indicates to law enforcement officers the fairly obvious fact that, “da!”, it’s a new vehicle and won’t need to be inspected until a year later? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how much money the State of Texas hauls in from mandating inspections of every single brand new vehicle that gets sold, $21.75 a pop times however many units sold; that’s a lot of pop!

My guess is there’s a special rate for inspecting brand new vehicles that don’t really need to be inspected; slightly less than inspecting vehicles which might really need inspecting. I’ll go a step past that and guess that the difference between inspecting vehicles that don’t need inspecting is $3.75 less than inspecting vehicles that might really need inspecting; kind of a discount for not having to do anything other than say you did something which was required. So, Joe Myers Toyota was charging $3.75 more than the State of Texas considered acceptable when fleecing the public for an inspection which really didn’t need to be done except that it was more money for the State of Texas general fund and who’s going to notice $3.75 that Joe Myers Toyota could put towards their own general fund; is that about how you see it too? Well, somebody noticed and forced the issue.

Next on the list is, “How come the check was issued last November and just now being sent out?” Once again you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that while one check for $3.75 may not seem like much; try figuring out how many vehicles Joe Myers Toyota sold in the past three or four years, inspected those brand new vehicles that didn’t really need to be inspected except the State of Texas wanted more money, over charged each customer $3.75 to put into the Joe Myers Toyota general fund and then got caught and had to refund all of that money. If you were the financial manager of a considerable amount of money that was in a bank drawing interest; would you think it wrong to continue drawing interest on all that money until such time as you had run out of excuses not to refund all that money?

I remember reading about Abraham Lincoln having over charged one of his customers a nearly insignificant amount of money; something like a half penny, and walking over to that customer’s house immediately upon recognizing the error to repay the amount owed. I don’t think Honest Abe would have made it as the financial manager at Joe Myers Toyota; he understood what integrity and honesty meant.

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