Friday, July 18, 2014

"Required" reading

At the risk of sounding like the late Andy Rooney, I have a complaint.

In the mail last week I received this official-looking notice in the mail bearing the image of an eagle with olive branches in one talon and spears in the other. (Read: Oh, oh, it’s from the Feds! The bureaucracy alert!)

Next to said eagle are the letters EMS, which got me thinking “Emergency Management Service” or some such sink hole back in Washington (the letter actually said “Northbrook, Illinois” but stranger things have happened).

Sprinkled across the top next to the bird and the acronym were several official looking numbers of many digits and the word “Notice Date” followed by 06/30/14.

I received the notice on July 12, nearly two weeks after the date…but never mind. Timeliness is not a hallmark of government.

What really got my attention were the words (all caps and in bold type):


Just in case I missed the point, the very same words were repeated along with the date and the same 10-digit code.

NOTICE DATE: 06/30/14

I don’t know what the word “required” means to you, but to me it implies “or else….” As in "or else fines, incarceration, the rack, or the sacrifice of one’s first born."

I was not amused, but I DID read on.

The next words were ATTENTION followed by my name. That seemed redundant. The “required” bit was already a slap across the face.

With the next line of this ominous-sounding epistle, my Kafkaesque fear boiled to moral outrage.

“Our records indicate that you have not contacted us to have your vehicle service contract updated. Please call 1-866-424-3336. You are receiving this notice because your factory warranty will expire or may have already expired based on the mileage and age of your 2007 Toyota Prius.”

Warranty? What warranty?

I bought my trusty Prius used with no warranty.

How can a warranty you don’t have, expire? And what’s all this “required” business. “Required” by whom? Just where does this EMS warranty-conjuring outfit get off “requiring” me to do anything.

I tried to be calm but dunning letters of this sort do test my blood pressure. The frail and unsuspecting might even die of fright.

This letter in trembling, infirm hands could be fatal.

I tried to relax before calling the number. I really did. It was the weekend and I got a recorded message.

With no actual human being to deal with, I took it upon myself to “require” the answering machine to hear me complain, well, RANT actually. “How dare you” etc. As I got into it, I used words like “outrageous,” “immoral,” "scam," “snake oil” etc.

I left my phone number insisting that someone call me to hear me explode in person.

Then I went on-line and searched this EMS outfit. Some folks had actually bought auto warranties and many were not pleased with the service they had received.

Are we surprised?

The Better Business Bureau had reported that, hey, no problem, we’ve looked into this.

Thanks a lot. I don’t know about the BBB, but I have a problem with letters masquerading as government documents and “requiring” me to buy a worthless insurance.

Next stop, the Federal Trade Commission, but I don’t hold out much hope. I’ll keep you informed.

A couple of notes:

Could this be a backhanded way of getting me to support Elizabeth Warren in 2016?

EMS never returned my call, which is probably just as well. I don’t think I could have taken it…nor could they.

As Rooney might say: “There ought to be a warranty against this sort of thing. Required!”

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