Archive for the ‘General Thoughts’ Category

It’s been an interesting couple of days dealing with Toyota’s service policies and the failure of a replacement part 12 months and 26 days after it was installed by an authorized dealer.

Back story: in June 2010, the liftgate handle cracked while trying to open the back. The internal workings of this part are made of plastic. But as it had lasted 11 years, we really couldn’t complain. A few days and a couple hundred dollars later, and the part was replaced and everything worked great.

Fast forward to July 26, 2011. While opening the liftgate, I heard that familiar *snap* of the mechanism. No problem, as I’m sure that the Toyota dealership (Hiland Toyota Scion in Moline, Illinois) would honor their work and take care of it. In fact, they wouldn’t. They cited the 12 month/12,000 warranty, and stated they HAD to charge for the repair (full price, full labor, of course). As I needed a working liftgate, I grudgingly paid it.

Later that evening, I contacted the service department of Hiland, as well as Toyota USA, with the following:
Today, the handle assembly on my back hatch broke internally, rendering it unable to open. This part was replaced 12 months and 26 days ago. The original part lasted 11 years, while the replacement part lasted not quite 13 months.

I was told by the service department that the part could not be covered under warranty due to both time and mileage since the previous replacement (6/30/2010). While I understand the need for rules and policies, I am frankly offended by the inability of the service staff to view this as a HUMAN issue. This is not a part that can be unusually stressed or abused. If it broke after 13 months, it is because either the part or the installation were substandard.

I own a service business, so I understand the need to manage liability. But I also understand that sometimes, you simply take care of the customer. We do it all the time. Sometimes it costs us to do so. But it’s the decent thing to do. I do not know if the inability to be decent lies with Hiland Toyota’s service department, or with Toyota policy. Frankly, I do not care. What I do know is that I have paid nearly $200 TWICE for a plastic part and installation in the past 13 months.

What I want is to not have to pay for this repair a second time. I hope that Toyota can do something about this. If you do, I’ll certainly be thankful. If not, I’ll have to rethink my attitudes toward the Toyota brand, as it seems you are unwilling or unable to stand by your work.

You have my contact information with this email, and I look forward to hearing from you regarding this issue.

Craig Wiggins

I received a call from the Service Manager at Hiland, who was clearly lacking a grasp of the facts of MY case, and who reiterated the policy. Now mind you, it was less than a month out of warranty on a part that had originally lasted 11 years. He then stated he would get back to me. That was several hours ago.

Now, I have received the following from Toyota USA:
Dear Mr. Wiggins,

Thank you for contacting Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

We apologize for the concerns you have experienced with back hatch handle assembly on your 1999 Sienna.

The Toyota Service Part Warranty is in effect for 12 months, regardless of mileage, from the date the part(s) was installed on the vehicle or the remainder of any applicable new vehicle warranty, whichever provides greater coverage (with the exception of batteries).

Your vehicle is currently outside these warranty parameters and we are unable to assist with the cost of this repair.

We appreciate the opportunity to review your request.

Please review our Warranty Coverage FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) regarding the warranty parameters for your vehicle,

Your email has been documented at our National Headquarters under file #1107271362. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us,

Tiffany Harris
Toyota Customer Experience

Well Tiffany, as a matter of fact, I am NOT happy with your response. In fact, I’m so UNhappy, that I shall post it on Facebook, Google+, and wherever else I can find so that people I know will know that Toyota is a company more concerned with “policy” than with doing the right thing, and that they do not stand by their “quality” products or workmanship one minute past when they are required to. But no worries Tiffany, you probably won’t need to deal with me in the future, as Toyota will be dropped from consideration of my future vehicle purchases.

As for you all, friends and family, feel free to do what you will with this information, but should you decide to depend on the quality of the Toyota brand, or on their willingness to stand behind their products, be forewarned: your trust may be misplaced.


UPDATE 8/1/2011

Received a call from Jim Bullock, the Service Manager at Hiland Toyota today. Odd, I didn’t get the promised call from Dawn Wheelbarger, the Customer Relations Manager. Regardless, it seems someone HAS found the money to pay for the part. I’m still waiting to see if that includes the labor.

But this really hasn’t changed my opinion of Toyota’s, or at least Hiland Toyota’s application of company policies. Ultimately, the only reason I’m getting any relief is because I’ve made a bit of an embarrassing stink online about the whole situation. I see no indication from my most recent interactions that the same thing would not happen again- to me or to some other person.  The issue is  still one of humanity.  Let me offer a contrasting story that occurred withing 24 hours of my Hiland Toyota encounter.

During our drive out to the Midwest, the van started making rumbles from underneath. It turns out that the resonator had become disconnected from the exhaust pipe. These things happen.  I took it to the Midas shop in Champaign, Illinois. The manager was professional, courteous, and decent. He took me out into the shop to visually verify the exact problem. He didn’t have the part that day, but promised to have it by 8:00 the next morning. Sure enough, I returned at the appointed time, and the part was there. The aftermarket part is different from the OEM part, and some additional installation work was required, as well as additional parts. The addition to the estimate he gave me the day before?  Zero dollars.  It wasn’t the shop’s fault that there was a difference in the part and that the mechanic needed to commit additional parts and labor to finish the job. But it was the decent thing to do to FIX the problem, and not make an additional issue of it. It made a good impression, and I would recommend working with the Midas in Champaign, Illinois.

Both shops are in the auto repair industry. Both were dealing with an out of town, likely single visit customer. Both knew that my problem needed fixed, and that I really couldn’t leave it unfixed. One religiously adhered to policies and procedures, and would have left things that way had I not gotten aggressive. The other did a solid, and has a fan writing about them right now.  Is it really that hard?

Sorry Toyota, your policies STILL suck. But thank you for making them suck just a little less in my case. But if you want me back, some things need to change…



Well, Hiland Toyota finally came through… mostly.  I received a copy of a credit to my card over the weekend. They credited back the part + tax. Of course I was still on the hook for the labor, but that was the smaller portion of the bill.  I’m still not a fan of Hiland, nor of Toyota in general, for reasons already noted above. But for those who’ve kept up with the saga, this is the end of it.

I’m not a psycho. And I’m pretty sure I could find at least one counselor or even an MD who would agree with that assessment. But wow, I’ve sure been on a bout of crazy the last few days.

My poor dead Benz

It all started back on May 10th. I crashed my beloved (well, okay it was more a love/hate thing) Benz into the back of a sizable truck. The car took my beating, and left me with only a slightly sore nose from the airbag. They sure don’t build them like that any more.

My history with this car is a bit sordid- it began its time in my life with a couple thousand in “must have” repairs, including an unfortunate incident where the injector pump stopped working with the car was at the local Mercedes dealership for service. If you’ve ever owned an older German auto, you know they’re rock solid when they work, but quite pricey when they need fixed. Hence the love/hate thing.

But I cracked it up good. No texting while driving for me. No talking with my BFF while cruising down 202. Nope, I was just hungry and distracted. Thankfully, the truck fared much better, and no one was hurt.

A good friend was kind enough to let me drive his truck around for awhile. It’s big, older, a gas hog, and cost me nothing in rent. Good friends are a good thing, and I’m thankful for one who let me use his truck while I scoured craigslist and ebay for a good deal on a replacement vehicle.


But back to crazy…  Last week, I got in touch with a young woman in Easton who was selling this  ’96 Montero. All largely went well with the communications, the test drive, and the money discussions. I put down a deposit, and planned to close the deal by the end of the week.

Now begins the crazy… I picked up a comment made by one of the sellers on Facebook. While not altogether flattering, I probably read WAY more into it than I should have. I started an email thread with them about the issues they raised in the FB comment. I huffed and I puffed. I questioned their integrity and tried to pressure them into a lower price, though the one we agreed to was certainly fair enough. Ultimately, we did the deal, and I drove home with my new Montero.

Shortly after, I discovered a problem- one that will have my new car in the shop this week. Is it possible the seller knew? I think so. But not necessarily. Now mind you, these folks have met my previous concerns with additional work, and even got the car inspected prior to closing the sale- something they didn’t need to do, as the inspection stickers still had a couple weeks on them.

How do I respond? I threaten to report their mechanic shop for failing to do a proper inspection. It would certainly get them investigated. It might even cost them their inspection licence.  Did they gloss over some things? Maybe. But probably no worse than any other shop does- especially when dealing with someone they know and regularly work with.  Could or should they have found this problem? Maybe.

But it’s all about MY attitude- first toward the sellers, then toward their mechanic of all people.  I was plotting ways to ruin their lives and businesses. I was enjoying the idea that I could totally nail them with costs and troubles that would FAR outweigh whatever perceived wrong they might have done to me. Would it make it right for me? Probably not. And that’s the crazy.

See, they may actually BE what they seem to be. Decent, hard working people selling a truck they loved to someone they hope will enjoy it as well. Are they perfect, and completely forthcoming? No, but probably not the scoundrels I’ve imagined in my crazy state. And even if they ARE those scoundrels, it’s not MY vengeance, or even justice to dish out.  Over the past few hours, I’ve been touched (more like head smacked) by the words in Romans 12:19 – New Living Translation (©2007) Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.

If they’re decent, I’ve planned to harm the innocent. If they’re not decent, then my faith tells me to leave the judging to God. Either way, I’ve spent some time in crazy land. And I KNEW IT. I’m not that guy. Or maybe I am. But I don’t WANT to be that guy.

So who is that guy? It’s me. Maybe not the me I want to be. Certainly not the me I ought to be. But it’s me. We all spend some time in crazy. But I think I’m done being there for this episode. For now, I just want to get the car fixed up right, and enjoy my new vehicle. Oh, and I’ll try not to skip lunch and drive hungry down 202 🙂


Good Morning Amman

Six months ago, I expected to be seeing this right about now. It’s morning in the Al Rabieh section of Amman, north of Fifth Circle.  I was going to spend a couple days in the city, connecting with new and old friends, then take a ride up to Ajlun to meet up with some good friends.  I was really looking forward to it, and some of those friends were counting on it.

But life throws us curves. The unexpected happens- sometimes “good unexpected” and sometimes disappointing. Instead of waking up in Amman right now, I’m preparing to go bed in Pennsylvania. Instead of arid air, city sounds, and clear blue skies, I get humidity, the smells of farm country, and rumbles of thunder. Disappointing unexpected.

But instead of time with good friends in a faraway land, I got a long weekend with my family. Instead of exotic shopping, struggling to find the right words in another language, and white knuckles from adventurous taxi rides; I got multiple get-togethers with friends all around the area, fantastic conversations with many of them, and relatively calm drives on mostly empty roads. “Good unexpected.”

We go through life and we make plans. We pray for God’s blessing on our plans and somehow expect that because WE prayed for it to happen, that it must be Divinely ordained. It’s a silly sort of arrogance in the best light. Something far worse in any other.  Reality crashes in on even the most seemingly “good” plans and dreams and presents us with a picture far different than the one in our minds.

In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans.”  The question for use, for me specifically, is what do we do with reality? Do we curse it and rage against it for not conforming to our “better” plans? Do we begrudgingly accept it, silently pouting about “what might have been”? Or do we recognize that the Divine Mind might actually have knowledge and perspective that is beyond our own, and that this disappointing reality might really be the opening to something far greater?  In other words, will we not just ACCEPT our reality, but relish in it?

I’m going to miss seeing my friends in Jordan this week. I’m going to miss serving them, sharing meals and tea with them, spending long evenings talking with them. I’m going to miss their kids, who have been a real delight in my life the last couple years of visiting them.

But I won’t waste the reality I have here. I’m going to enjoy my kids. I’m going to share meals with my family, and hopefully coffee with some of my friends here. I’m going to talk long into the evening with my wife and others about the dreams in our heads, and how this reality might be taking us there.

We’ve already started, sharing some of our thoughts and dreams with friends at one of our several get-togethers this weekend. As it turns out, they have similar dreams of their own, and might be able to help make our dreams a reality. Now isn’t that funny?  At that moment, I could have been sleeping in Amman. Instead, we were very awake, eagerly discussing “what might be” instead of “what might have been.”

How about you? What reality is crashing in on your dream?  What are you making of it? I’d love to hear about it.

Get ready…

April 15th, 2010

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For some months- okay, probably much longer than that, I have had a sense of… something.  I’ve had a feeling of restlessness, and it’s one I haven’t had for a long time.  The last time, I started a business.  Before that, I moved to a state I had only visited once.  Both have been profoundly transformative events, and I wouldn’t trade them.

It’s tingling again.  Life is much more complicated now, of course.  There is family.  There is a business. There are some deep community roots- I have lived longer here than anywhere else in my life. There is a mortgage, bills to pay, a path to a good and satisfying future on this present course.  There is nothing wrong with the life I have right now. Any changes I would make are fairly mundane.

But there is this sense.  Up until a couple days ago, I couldn’t quite put it to words- something very frustrating for someone who loves language and usually struggles more to stop the words rather than start them.  Then it hit me yesterday.  “Get ready.”  Ready for what?  When?  How? No answers there, just “Get ready.”

What does that mean?  Inquiring minds want to know, and the answers are pretty thin right now.

But here’s what we’re doing:

  • Reduce.  We’ve acquired a lot of stuff. We need a lot less stuff.  You want any of our stuff? Turns out several local thrift shops and consignment stores do. You better hurry.
  • Review. What do we hold dear? What’s really important to us? How do we demonstrate that?
  • Reconnect. Over the years, we have formed some great friendships that we’ve let go by the wayside.  Over the past few months, we’ve been reconnecting to some of them. What fun!
  • Relax. Seriously. It’s the toughest thing, especially when feeling restless. But if the next few months or years look like that last couple times I got restless, there will be plenty enough stress and change to come.

So for now, we get ready.  Tune in for more.

Rosetta Stone

March 17th, 2010

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The Rosetta Stone was created in 196BC, as a document declaring tax free status for temple priests in Egypt and ordering construction.  It was discovered by the French in 1799.  So what?  The Rosetta Stone was written in the three languages- Greek, Coptic, and Egyptian Hieroglyphic.  Before its translation in 1824, with the first English translation in 1858, no one in the modern era had ever read or understood Egyptian Hieroglyphic.

It’s a fascinating history lesson, but what does it have to do with the theme of this blog?

This week, I wrote out some content for the blog of a friend.  She’s a photographer who writes under Catching Memories.  Part of the post deals with diverse spheres of relationships, and how funny it is when those worlds collide.  For most of my life, I have operated in multiple worlds- a family world, a work world, a church world, various community worlds, etc.  And that’s to say nothing of online personae.  There’s no conscious effort to keep these worlds separate.  The people in them often just don’t have that much in common.  But each of them does see me from a different perspective.  And none of them gets the whole picture.

I think many, maybe even most people are this way.  In our busy world, it is easy to be involved in a diversity of relationships.  But how do you stay honest?  How do you keep true to your values, your convictions, yourself, when there is no one who sees you in all your various states and modes?  Oh certainly, I might say that “God sees all”, which is true, but something of a cop out.  God will not typically put a finger against your chest and say, “You are acting like a different person here” or “You’re being inconsistent there.”  So we need someone or several someones in our lives who can be the voice of reason.

Most friends- even close ones, might only span a couple of those relational worlds. They might be aware, but not a part of others.  In my life, I am blessed with a wife who can see the big picture, and who can often make sense of it.  She’s like my Rosetta Stone, translating from one world to the next.  She may not be an intimate part of all of those relational worlds, nor am I a part of all of hers’.  But she can keep score.  She can look for oddities and inconsistencies.

Your Rosetta Stone doesn’t need to be a spouse, but it should be somebody.  Somebody who you’ll let into your various worlds.  Someone who will make sense of them, and will call you when you’re not making sense among them.

For everyone else, enjoy the occasional surprises, as you learn something new or unexpected about someone you thought you knew all about.  Relish those times.  Ask questions.  Learn something NEW about your oldest friends.

Socrates is famously quoted as saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  At some later point, I’ll reflect on my studies of Socrates/Plato during my undergrad years at Northern Illinois University.  But for now, I would like to share a framework that my friend Ron K. shared with me a few years ago for actually examining life.

We were talking about New Year’s Resolutions, and Ron shared that he had a much more elaborate system.  Every year, he would sit down and make resolutions from several categories.  He wrote them down.  He kept them.  He showed me a tablet of paper going back YEARS, with these annual plans and goals- detailing the person he wanted to become that year.  Some were very lofty and high minded.  Others very earthy, talking about income goals for that years.  Others were more whimsical, like learning to play guitar well enough to perform publicly.

And so, for several years now, I have at least attempted to make a similar list.  Ron shared that the ACHIEVEMENT of the goal was not necessarily the mark of success, but rather the MAKING of the goal.  It’s the process that matters.  It’s the systematic, regular, detailed examination of one’s life that not only leads to business success (and Ron has been very successful in business), but to fulfillment in life.

As these goals are often very personal things, I won’t share all of mine here, but I would like to outline the major areas, some of which I’ve altered from Ron’s list.  Each category should have 1-2 concrete goals within it.

  • Artistic Goals – we all need some sort of artistic outlet, whether writing, painting, making music, or even blogging.
  • Career Goals – Not just “job” goals, but how do I want to enhance, or even begin to change my work life this year?
  • Family – What do I want to do to be a better husband, father, son, brother, etc.?
  • Physical – Run a 5K?  Lose weight?  Bench press a Volkswagen?
  • Public Service – What will I do to serve my community this year?
  • Attitude – What do I want to develop or change in how I respond to the world?
  • Educational – We should always be learning. How will I?
  • Financial – How will I know if I’m succeeding in the area of personal finance?
  • Pleasure – What will I do that will bring me joy this year?
  • Spiritual – How will I develop or change my relationship with my Creator?

One of my Artistic goals for the last several years has been to blog at least weekly.  And so here we are!  Anyone else want to share?

At almost 40, I am yet again taking a run at blogging. There was one really bad attempt in 2004-05, and I will buy dinner for the first person who can find said bad attempt- sadly, it lives on in a popular blogging site.  I first made “weekly blogging” part of my annual Goals for the Year project about two years ago.  Growing business, growing family, etc. always seem to take precedence.

I won’t go on to list all the reasons why you should follow these musing.  Hopefully, you will see something worth reading, and returning to read more of.  I also won’t go into lots of details about the author.  Plenty of those details are available on other sites, which is probably how you got here in the first place.

So where is “here”?

The title of the blog: A soul in tension, that’s learning to fly… comes from the Pink Floyd song “Learning to Fly”.  I’ve been a Floyd fan since sometime in the 80’s, and never even had to do drugs to appreciate the decades-ahead-of-their-time music and staging, and some of the most intelligent and deep lyrics that are written.  What’s especially amazing is that they’ve done it for decades.  I don’t want to entertain discussions of Syd Barett vs. David Gilmour vs. Roger Waters, and who was “the best” front man for the band- the reality is that each contributed in amazing ways.

But the song “Learning to Fly” has been interpreted to mean everything from a tribute to Gilmour’s love of flying, to Gilmour’s emotions on taking the lead of the band, to a description of a drug-induced experience.  Regardless of the author’s intent, I think that the lyric I’ve lifted as the blog title is something that many people experience and can relate to.  There is who/what/where we are and who/what/where we want to be.  I’m not talking about “what might have been”, as that sort of speculation is usually a waste of time.  Rather, I mean the sense of who we want to be, or who we believe we are MEANT to be.

So that tension is a recurring theme.  But not a frustrated tension at feeling “stuck” in a current circumstance.  Quite the opposite, really.  It’s the tension of seeing, even if only vaguely, a place to be, and striving to be there.

I invite feedback.  In fact, I relish it.  I live for good conversation.  Plenty more to follow…

Pink Floyd: Learning to Fly (from A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987)

Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reel
A fatal attraction is holding me fast
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?

Can’t keep my eyes from the circling sky
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything
No navigator to find my way home
Unladen, empty and turned to stone

A soul in tension, that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

There’s no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss
Can’t keep my mind from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I