Tuesday, October 7, 2008


It’s not good to write when you’re fuming. Or maybe it is. I’m fuming too much to know for sure.

When you’re fuming, you write with passion and intensity. That can’t be bad. The problem is, fuming keeps me from thinking clearly, and not thinking clearly leads to exaggerations and mistakes, and that’s not good.

Look at this. I’m trying to be reasonable about fuming while I’m fuming. It can’t be done.

Okay, so let me “fume down” a little. Here we go.

Fuming down. Fuming down some more. An upsurge in fuming…no, it’s under control. Fuming down a little more…a little more…almost there.

No. I’m still fuming.

Okay, we’ll have to go with that. Reduced fuming, watching for upsurges, which I may or may not be able to control.

Okay. I’m starting.

The Source of the Fuming

When our daughter, Anna, returned from college in 2005, we got her a car as a graduation present. A 2002 “pre-owned” Saab. Dark blue, with a black convertible roof.

A “pre-owned” car sounds much better than the former label for it – a “used” car. A “used” car sounds used. People used that car. How did they use it? We have no idea.

The word “used” carries whispers of cigarette butts in ashtrays and shenanigans in the back seat. Maybe a body found in the trunk. We don’t know the former “users.” They could have been miscreants.

With a “pre-owned” car, it’s possible – not likely but possible – to imagine that the “pre-owners” didn’t even drive the car. They don’t call it a “pre-driven” car. It was simply “pre-owned.” The “pre-owners” could have bought the car and kept it in the garage. Under a protective canvas cover. Came out on a regular basis to run the engine. Nice people with an undriven car.

Sorry, I digressed there. It’s one of the techniques I use for managing the fuming.

Big tension-relieving sigh.

Back to the story.

The salient factor so far: A 2002 Saab was purchased in 2005.

We write a check for the car. Then the salesperson asks if we’d like to buy an extended warranty. We think, “Hm.” This is a “pre-owned” car. A new car hasn’t been driven, you still like the warranty, because…you never know. With a “pre-owned” car, the “You never know” factor is even greater.

“We want a warranty,” we announce with authority.

“A two-year warranty, or a five-year warranty?”

“A five,” we proclaim.

We want maximum protection. The family’s in full agreement on that – Dr. M, a practical person, Anna, a sensible person, and me, the other person who happens to be around. If Rachel had been there, I’m certain she’d have supported the “Five”, Rachel being the most practical and sensible person of us all.

You have to be levelheaded in such situations. The “pre-owned” car had twenty-three thousand miles on it. So much for my “garage, canvas cover” fantasy.

We now pay a short visit to the “math” arena. Don’t get scared, it’s easy math. You can do it.

You purchase a car in 2005, and on the day you purchase that car in 2005, you purchase a five-year warranty for that car you purchased in 2005. What year would you think the five-year warranty the warranty on that car you purchased in 2005 would be good until? Everybody?


I told you it was easy.

Since five plus five equals ten, ipso facto, a five-year warranty purchased in 2005 would be in force until 2010.

Okay, the fuming’s starting to return. If you get the sense that smoke is escaping from the top of my head, please, find out where I live, race over here, and pour water on me. There’s a chance I could overheat and explode.

Wait, it’s subsiding. I better move on while I can.

Last week – in late September of 2008 – Anna had some serious car trouble. She took the car to the Saab Service Center where they told her the cost of the repairs would be in the neighborhood of fifteen hundred dollars. They also told her another thing.

The car was no longer under warranty.


Because the Saab Certified Warranty Verification clearly states, and I quote verbatim:

“The Saab Certified Pre-Owned Limited Warranty period commences at the time of sale of a Certified Pre-Owned Saab or upon expiration of the applicable Saab New Vehicle Warranty, whichever occurs later, and expires 6 years or 100,00 miles from the original in-service date, whichever occurs first.”

I graduated from college. My daughter, Anna, graduated from college. Dr. M has a Masters in Film and a PhD. in Psychology – she attended college a lot. The paragraph italicized above? None of us is certain what it means.

What it means in practice, however, is that math doesn’t matter. A five-year warranty, purchased in 2005 does not, as you might imagine, remain in force until 2010. Instead, it appears to remain in force for six years from the point that the car originally went in service.

Therefore, according to Saab’s, non-mathematical but nonetheless enforceable calculations, the warranty we believed would protect us until 2010, terminated in 2008.

And my question – trying to remain calm – is:

“How exactly is that possible?”

We bought a five-year warranty, which remained in force for three years. What happened to the other two years? Where did they go? Was the meter running on the warranty running before we purchased the car? Was our warranty protecting the previous owner?

I don’t understand it. If a five-year warranty protects your car for three years, shouldn’t they by all that’s true and just and fair and decent in this world call it a three-year warranty?

Imagine if, instead of buying that “pre-owned” 2002 Saab in 2005, we had bought it in 2008. And at the time of the purchase – in 2008 – we had purchased a five-year warranty. Would that mean that, rather than having five years of warranty protection, which a reasonable person – tell me if I’m wrong – would believe would take us to 2013, we would actually have no warranty protection whatsoever?

According to the Saab Certified Warranty Verification, if you buy a five-year warranty for your newly purchased “pre-owned” Saab six years after its “original in-service date”…

…you’ve got nothing!!!

You buy something. You pay for it with money. But in reality, you’ve got nothing?

What are they talking about?!!!!!

All right. I need to calm down. My stack is beginning to blow.

Keep writing. Okay, I will.

I hate Saab, and I want them to die.

Well, that wasn’t good. I don’t want them to die. That was over the top. But I do want them to be very unhappy.

Wouldn’t it be great if I had clout? Wouldn’t be it wonderful if among my millions of readers, one of them was the President of Saab, who read this post in Sweden while munching on some herring and proclaimed,

“Py Yiminy, that little Yewish fella is right! We’re cheating de customers with de misleading wording in our Certified Warranty Verification. We shouldn’t be doing dat. We’re Swedes. We care about people. You break your hip, we give you a new one for nothing.

“Find me dat little Anna girl. Tell her her warranty’s guaranteed till 2010, yoost like she t’inks it is.”

Just to be fair, let’s read it again.

“The Saab Certified Pre-Owned Limited Warranty period commences at the time of sale of a Certified Pre-Owned Saab or upon expiration of the applicable Saab New Vehicle Warranty, whichever occurs later, and expires 6 years or 100,00 miles from the original in-service date, whichever occurs first.”


Tell me I’m wrong, but doesn’t the second part of that sentence – the part that begins with the words, “and expires 6 years, etc…” – cancel the guarantee in first part of the sentence? If you purchase a five-year warranty at the time you purchase the car, isn’t the company giving you something in the first part, and taking it back in the second?

How can they do that?

Excuse me, Earl. I hate to interrupt, but yesterday, your post went on and on about the disreputability of attorneys.

Well, I actually didn’t write that, Italics Man. My Uncle Grumpy did, though I can’t say I disagreed with it.

Okay. Well, today, having a problem with your little contract there, you might just benefit from the services of an attorney to defend your position.

I get the irony, Italics Man. It’s true. We could benefit from an attorney to protect us from the Certified Warranty Verification.

Feeling a little remorse then?

Not at all.

Why not?

Because some other attorney concocted the Certified Warranty Verification in the first place!!!


rms said...

I don't know about not writing when you're fuming, that's how most of my horror stories get written.

A pox on Saab for their ridiculous warranty. I can understand you didn't mean it when you said you wanted them to die; you're a comedy writer and a nice person. I, on the other hand, am a horror writer. I'll get to work writing a suitably nasty story, on your behalf.

Sorry it won't fix the car though.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dad,
Thanks for standing up for me, my Saab, and my warranty. No calls from a Swedish guy yet, but I'll keep the phone near by today.

Maybe I can get Ted or Carl or Adam to call you from Sweden and pretend to be the Saab guy, would that make you feel better? Let me know and I can make it happen.


dentednj said...

Oh this is a doozy! So say, if you had bought the 2 year warranty, it would have covered the 2 years BEFORE you actually owned the friggin' car!!! So you bought 5 years worth for only 3 years of coverage in your ownership. Methinks it's time for a lawyer. A good lawyer. Or if its under a certain amount, you can take it to court without a lawyer. Let me go look up some sources I saved and see if I can find something about that. When you fight large corps, they would rather settle than send someone to represent them for a smallish amount (in their eyes).
If I can't find anything, I wish you good luck and revenge.

leeza said...

Maybe if you call the Saab dealership and offer to buy a new vehicle, they'll honor your daughter's five year warranty. Be sure to tell them the reason you bought the Saab in the first place is because of its excellent reputation for quality and safety, the warranty was simply for your daughter's peace of mind. I'd love to hear a happy ending.

John said...

The last time I bought a extended warranty for a car, I was told that it was a bumper-to-bumper warranty.

The car was brand new. We had it for over a year when we started to have trouble with the brakes. A brake cable needed to be replaced.

Yay! The warranty turned out to be a great idea. When I went to pick it up there was a $300 charge. In the fine print, there was no mention of a brake cable being covered. NEVER AGAIN.

On the other hand, I bought an extended warranty on a plasma TV at Best Buy and when the TV started acting up, they replaced it without any argument.

About.Com Used Cars Guide said...

Earl - I am the guide to used cars at About.Com. Something doesn't smell right about your dealership experience. The dealer sold you an extended warranty. There is no additional cost for warranty coverage for a certified pre-owned vehicle from the manufacturer. It is included in the price of the car (which, granted, is more expensive and actually pays for the certification). You need to review the original paperwork to ascertain the distinction. The language you quote is correct for certified pre-owned, but doesn't jibe with extended warranties, which are actually insurance policies sold by dealers. If you like, I can forward a link to the appropriate PR person at Saab, who might be able to point you in the right direction. My email is usedcars.guide@about.com.

Anonymous said...

I second the note from About.com. I've worked in car dealerships all of my career (35 years) and I've heard an awful lot of nonsense from salespeople. I am fortunate that I now work for people who feel that staying in business requires always telling the truth (all of it). I would also try calling Saab's customer assistance number. There is an 800 number on their corporate website. They may direct you back to the dealership, but they will be in contact with the dealer, too. And will expect them to resolve the problem. About.com is absolutely correct about the terms and costs of an certified preowned warranty versus an extended warranty. If you need an advocate just email me at diannmg@aol.com. I don't work for a Saab dealership, but I do know how to talk with car people and their corporate counterparts. I am truly sorry that you have had such a bad experience. I wish more people in my line of work subscribed to an ethical code. But, sadly, it's changed very little over time.

Auto said...

With car values remaining strong, owners know that their investment will not be going to waste. Indeed, classic Saab owners will continue to see a strong price point for their cars with the rarest models fetching a premium amount at auction.

Saab Service