First Time Homebuyers’ Nightmare

My cacoethes scribendi was dead for a while but has been revived now.

The nightmare begins in the fall of 2015. Ajax is seven months old and we decide that our condo in downtown Vancouver isn’t big enough. After five years of watching the eerily vertical trajectory of Vancouver house prices, we are finally sucked in. Ovid said it best, video meliora proboque sequora deterior. I know what is good for me, yet I follow the bad. The frothy nature of real estate in Vancouver, the hormonal instincts to provide for our baby, the need for a bigger apartment and the general aspirational goal of owning a home, all of these play a part in sucking us into the fray.

Doing all our analysis with respect to the monthly cash outflow, consisting of the mortgage, property expenses and so on, we decide that the most reasonable places to live are Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge, two sleepy exurbs of Vancouver, around 45 kilometres inland from the downtown core, or about an hour away. A detached home is around 599K or so, and this fits nicely in our budget, leaving us a healthy buffer for any untoward expenses. Bonus: Maple Ridge is on the outskirts of the Lower Mainland and so far immune from the no-conditions, multiple bid offers that are common west of the Fraser river. It has a certain old-world charm and realtors still talk of coming in a few thousand under asking, something unheard of closer to Vancouver. Remember, this is still September 2015.

Not knowing any realtors in those cities, we find one online and engage her services. We are both analytical people and have compiled a list of around 20 criteria we think a future home should have. Some of them are undoubtedly idealistic, such as a “good view” and so on, but others are more practical like “quiet street”, “200 metres from busy road” and so on. After sending our realtor this list, she inexplicably chooses only the first five optional criteria and plugs them into her internal search engine, which in turn spits out listings every day to us. We have also specified a very broad area, from Port Moody to Maple Ridge, so the number of listings should be quite large, but is actually quite manageable. We learn later that the average number of listings in 2015 was half that of the listings in 2014, a sure sign that the cooling-off for Real Estate was beginning.

Of course, like most people looking for a home, we scour MLS.ca ourselves as well. We find several homes and ask for some showings on the weekend. We drive out to Maple Ridge and check out a few homes. Some are remote, around half an hour away from the commuter train station, which in turn takes around an hour to roll into downtown Vancouver. We check out more places, impressed by the newness of some of the homes and return home.

For example, one of the homes we checked out was in Silver Valley, a planned community that fell a little short of projected population growth, but was idyllic and beautiful and all that.

http://www.resaas.com/johndale/details/14230-silver-valley-rd-maple-ridge-bc-15627

We still have very little idea of the nature of the business we’re getting ourselves into. At this point, we probably look like two plump, trussed up turkeys, ripe for plucking by everyone in the Real Estate trade in Vancouver.

Ajax

Αἴ ̄ας ἐγενήθη τόδε σάββατον. ει μή ἦν ὅυτως τόν ισχυρόν νηπίον, ὠvόμᾶσται αλλοίῳ. μέν εἴθε ἔκει τόν κράτον αυτού τοῦ ὀνόμᾶτος, δέ εἴθε βοηθεται ἐν αυτού πᾶσιν ἔργοις. δίδωμῖ Αἴαντᾶ, τόν φωσφόρον και αυτού γονέων τόν διδάσκαλον.

Ajax was born this week. If he had not been such a strong infant, he would have been called something else. On the one hand, may he have the strength of his namesake, on the other hand, may he be aided in everything he does. I give to you, Ajax, bearer of the light and educator of his parents.

 

2015 Subaru Outback at Richmond Subaru – Update III

This is the closure to the Subaru story. We’ve had our son and so this chapter needs its requiem right now.

In short, the Richmond Subaru dealership called me and told me the car was ready and fixed, and they could drop it off. The sales manager categorically rejected the idea of a refund, stating that it was up to me to apply pressure on Subaru, but such a drastic step would not be forthcoming from their end. So that was that. However, he did offer a new vehicle should the car not be fixed, despite the application of the patch. The car was dropped off and the problem from the passenger-side window is fixed, so that’s good news.

Subaru Canada was in touch and said there was nothing more they could offer me, on top of what the dealership was offering. I should take the three free gas tanks and the two years of service, since they were extended to me to compensate me for my time and energy. Subaru Canada also told me that the loaner vehicle was part of the compensation, since normal policy was to not hand out loaners during repair. This bit seemed odd, but since the message seemed clear, I didn’t push it.

So, in summarium, same offer as before from the dealership to salvage a working relationship with an estranged client, and nothing from the parent company.

I’ve also redacted Wes’ picture from my blog post below, since he was on the horn with me and made a personal request that since he had nothing to do with this case, would I mind pulling his picture down? It’s true that I was dealing with Jude and this mess got dumped in his lap, so I’ve acceded to his request.

Things I’ve learnt from this sorry episode:
1. Social media works, do not go quietly
2. A few re-tweets of your sarcastic tweets and the concerned parties call you almost immediately
3. Consumers can expect great service only if they scream and shout, quiet guys finish last.

2015 Subaru Outback at Richmond Subaru – Update II

Today is February 2nd and here’s the update from the previous posts here and here.

We’ve been busy with all the baby stuff. Mareija and I are almost done with the finishing touches, the hospital bag is packed for the wee one, with the due date just two weeks away. According to our OB, that could mean anytime now, so it’s good to be packed and ready to be out the door. Of course, ironically, the one thing we bought way back when, in November, the car, is the last outstanding item on the baby checklist. But how so, Viren, curious minds enquire? You see, it’s all because I made the almighty foolish decision to buy a Subaru vehicle and it’s done nothing but leave me stranded high and dry. Here’s the update:

On Thursday, January 29th, I pinged the sales manager at Richmond Subaru, a Mr Tyler George: Tyler George, he of the three free gas tank refills and two years of service fame, as promised in this post. I guess he must have known that I would never collect on those promises, because Subaru’s service is so atrocious, it would be faster for me to go to automotive school and learn how to be a mechanic instead. He replied to me and told me he would have an update for me shortly. But all we have from him so far is radio silence. Utter and complete radio silence, like a U-boat convoy in the Atlantic in 1942. It must be the Subaru convoy, carrying another shipment of scabrous and diseased vehicles to unleash on an unsuspecting public.

The weekend was hellishly busy with more stuff and finally, today, Monday, February 2nd, I called Subaru Canada. I spoke to a customer service representative named Hudson, who heard my story and told me he would be in touch. During the call, he checked out this site where I’ve been documenting everything, so hopefully all this chronicling will be useful during the autopsy of this case later. He told me he would follow up with the dealership and be in touch.

Some dead old guy coined the maxim “Always advance on all fronts” and as of last week, I’ve been tweeting about this sorry episode. Here was my first salvo:

My tweet was responded to by Subaru Canada, who told me they would “be happy” to look into it on January 26th:

As to be expected, their euphoric state of bliss did not materialize and I was left hanging until my second tweet last night:

You know what they say. Sometimes a bit of foreplay works wonders.

But then that exchange led to this missive:

Having called already and spoken to Hudson, I figured I’d leave it until someone got back to me. And lo and behold, someone did. A lady by the name of the Rachel called me and left this message:

Hi, this message is for Viren. It’s Rachel calling from Subaru Canada. My apologies when I retweeted you on Twitter. I didn’t realize that you’d spoken with my coworker this morning. I did get an update from the dealership that the part is shipping via air today, so it should be at the dealership. With the storm, it may not be tomorrow but hopefully by Wednesday at the latest it should arrive there. My apologies for the delay. If you’re looking to speak with me further, feel free to give me a call. < !Contact information snipped >!

Let us recap for a moment what this means. After telling me on January 17th that they were ordering the part that very day for it to be in by the 22nd, we now see that the part is shipping today, a whole SIXTEEN days later. Nice try with the meteorological blame game, but you and I both know that the storm has nothing to do with it or any of the bungling so far. Unless Subaru’s mastered time travel and the overnight storm in Eastern Canada has sent tendrils back in time to affect parts ordered on the 17th. But given their current woeful inadequacy at fixing the simplest of mechanical failures, I think they have a long way to go before they master chronomachy, wouldn’t you agree?

Let us also mull for a moment the monumental delay and imbecilic bungling that I’ve dealt with over something as simple as a window crackle, that is a KNOWN defect. Can you imagine the delay if something serious were to actually break down? Why, I’d be without a vehicle for years while they had to ship an engine in, or an alternator or anything more complicated than the vaunted Repair Kit 61099AL00A

This is just a joke, the whole company is a joke and their service makes George Carlin seem unfunny. I think it’s time to call it quits, I have no more time to waste on this farcical matter, and certainly the wife doesn’t need this stress at 8+ months of pregnancy.

For some reason, Subaru’s contact representatives have been very shy, almost reticent on the topic of refunds. Every time I’ve brought it up, they’ve veered around it like bashful virgins around a tumescent phallus. In case the message isn’t crystal clear and you need it translated to get it through your dura mater, here’s a Google Translate link that will translate it into the cunning lingua of your choice.

So, in short, Subaru: I would like my money back and I want to walk away from the whole matter. You can keep the car, it’s a 2015 Outback with only 1100 kilometres on it, almost brand new. Don’t make this difficult, and don’t make it more awkward. End this relationship with grace and I can yet get a working vehicle somewhere else before our son arrives. If you’re going to contact me, please talk to me about the refund cheque which should cover the price of the car, the trade-in value for the Toyota Yaris that I traded in, the non-new ski rack you installed on the Outback, and my pregnant wife’s and my time for the multiple visits we made to the dealership. Good day and I hope to never set foot inside a Subaru dealership ever again.

2015 Subaru Outback at Richmond Subaru – Update

Today is the 24th and here’s the next episode in the Subaru saga.

Jude Kim: called me today and told me that the repair kit that they were supposed to receive on Thursday of the prior week, as mentioned in my earlier post, is not here and is not even on the way. In fact, the estimated time of arrival for Subaru Repair Kit 61099AL00A has been pushed out by another week, which will make it another ten days for me to get our car back.

Now we’re entering Absurdistan. Here is the kit, purchasable by anyone on the internet, and here are some very detailed instructions on how to go about applying the fix (essentially the Service Bulletin I received, but in colour). Would it better to get my car back, apply the fix and invoice them for the work done? At their own fair rates as seen in the billboard above their service desk.

In another twist, Jude mentioned to me that he won’t be working for Richmond Subaru as of this week, so any future updates will be supplied to me by Wes Foulds: . Wes had been standing beside Jude when I vented my frustration last weekend, so he should be aware of the annoyance this entire process is causing.

At this rate, I’ll be installing the car seat in the loaner vehicle and driving my wife to B.C. Women’s as she’s in labour. Which might not be an entirely bad thing, depending on your perspective on amniotic fluids.

Stay tuned for further updates.

2015 Subaru Outback at Richmond Subaru

On November 8, 2014 we bought a new 2015 Subaru Outback from the Richmond Subaru dealership, from a salesman named Dicken Lau: . The service was fine, a bit of haggling took place and we walked away with the Outback for a bit over $25K, after trading in our 2008 Toyota Yaris, which had roughly 53,000 kilometres on it.

In the first month or so after buying it, we noticed a crackling hiss emanating from the front right hand corner of the interior, a little above where the shotgun passenger’s right knee would be. It was puzzling, since a crackling hiss is not a sound you normally expect to hear in an automobile, much less a brand new one. To my inexperienced ear, it initially sounded like it might be from the sound system, since there are a couple of speakers in that general area, one in the door and one in the dashboard.

After emailing Dicken about the problem, but receiving no reply, I booked an appointment through their online service booking tool, and went in on December 20th. I tried to time it with the installation of a ski rack, to avoid making multiple trips to the dealership. What a naive optimist I was. On arriving at the dealership (I), despite having booked an appointment to install a ski rack through a certain Yogesh Prasad: , it turned out that there were no ski racks in stock! They had to unmount one from the demo car inside the showroom and install it on ours. Finally, we got a ski rack installed, and then moved on to getting the technician to diagnose the sound, but to no avail. It was a rainy day and as we drove around trying to duplicate the noise, the rain drowned out all crackles and hisses that might otherwise have been present. Feeling a bit sheepish, as you’re wont to be when you insist there is an error but aren’t able to reproduce it in front of an expert, we left after being told I could bring the car back in on a sunny day when the rain wouldn’t interfere.

Three days later, December 23rd dawned cold and sunny. I called the dealership and drove down (II) after pleading my case about the weather to the lady who manned the phones in the Service department. This time the rain didn’t interfere and we were able to reproduce the sound within a block of the dealership. Having identified that the sound exists, but not being able to identify the source of the sound, they booked me in for another appointment on December 29th.

Yes, this is how I spent a lot of time during my precious Christmas Break! Driving to and fro from nostrum domus to the Subaru dealership in Richmond. Anyhow, the 29th arrives and I’m at the dealership (III). Their method of diagnosing the noise is to tape up sections of the passenger-side window and drive around. If the crackle doesn’t occur, ding ding ding, we have a winner! After doing this for two hours, they were unable to find the source of the noise and re-booked me for the whole day on December 31st, at 10 A.M.

Dutifully showing up on December 31st at 10 A.M. (IV), but with my patience wearing thin, I sat in the lobby and read a book for three hours while they tinkered with the car in more attempts to diagnose the root cause of the sound. At 1 P.M., I was informed that they had found a probable cause, it was the gusset on the passenger-side window, the tiny triangular one that sits in front of the main window. But of course, the replacement part was not in stock and so they would have to order it. They would let me know when it was in and I could bring the car in. At this point, Jude Kim: mentioned giving me a loaner vehicle and dropping my car back at my place when it was done. Thinking that it was but one more trip until the matter was resolved, I declined their offer and told him to call me when the part was in.

Fast forward to January 6th. Jude calls me and tells me the part is in, and I can book an appointment for January 17th. They’ll provide me with a loaner and replacing the gusset should take a couple of hours. The wife, who is 8 months pregnant at this point, I might add, and I go down to Richmond on January 17th (V), anticipating a trouble-free car at the end of the day. We leave our car with them and use the loaner to go have a leisurely brunch in Steveston. Halfway through our prandial endeavour, we receive a call from Jude, who cheerily breaks the bad news to us that the gusset replacement was futile, BUT they now know that it’s a known incident logged and identified by Subaru Canada. My appetite is ruined at the prospect of another trip and we finish our brunch and head back.

On returning to the dealership, Jude informs me that Subaru published a Service Bulletin on January 9th, 2015 identifying the exact problem we have, with steps to fix it. The bulletin number is SB.12.08.14 and its subject line is “Wind Rushing Sound from Front Door Sash Area”. The date here is the important part. The bulletin was published on January 9th, and we were there for the gusset replacement on January 17th. Why did they attempt to replace the gusset when this was a known issue by that time? Did they think they could fix the sound with this alternate hack? Were they trying to save money? Were they just incompetent?

In any case, I am now angry. I have been to the dealership five times in two months for a brand new car. This negates the fundamental assumption that buying a new car saves you from the hassle of having to take it in all the time for time-consuming repairs. I’ve taken a brand new car in for an issue five times more than I ever took the Toyota Yaris, in all five years of owning it. It is hard for me to say the word “Outback” without suffixing obscene expletives to it. Jude explains how the bulletin is new and they can order the repair kit in by the 22nd, and so we can come back on Saturday, Jan 24th and leave the car for a couple of days and so on. I swear loudly and tell him I think the car is a lemon. No new car was ever back at the dealership five times in 8 weeks. Something is fundamentally wrong and in any case, I don’t want to make any more trips to fix the issue. I am not interested in the fix and would like a new car or my money back.

Jude tries to placate me by telling me that if the solution is not a technical one, I need to talk to a Sales Manager, as he has no authority to promise any sort of compensation beyond loaners and the like. He takes me to meet Tyler George: , who tries to mollify me by empathizing with my frustration. I tell him that I know what he’s trying to do and I simply want a new car or my money back. Since we’re both plainspoken now, he tells me flatly that getting my money back is not on the cards, not yet anyway. He realizes that the dealership has dropped the ball on their end and he will try to make it up to me. He tells me that he doesn’t want me to be frustrated as it’s simply not good for business. I tell him that a million tweets with the hashtag #subarusucks won’t be good for business. He agrees that no one wants that. He promises me 3 full tanks of gas and 2 years of service gratis, along with the loaner to keep while they wait for the repair kit and fix the car. They will also drop the fixed car off at our place and take the loaner back, saving me a trip to the dealership.

I’m not of a mercenary outlook, and no doubt, a more keenly pecuniary person could have wrangled a better deal, but I had vented my spleen by this point and wanted to take the wife home. I acceded to his terms, we shook hands and I drove home in the loaner, which is also a fairly new (3800 km) 2015 Outback with a similar rushing/crackling noise. Today is January 22nd and let us see how long it takes them to fix the car and drop it off. In theory, the part should have arrived today and they should get to it on the weekend or before that.

All employees of Richmond Subaru can be found here: http://www.richmondsubaru.com/dealership/staff.htm

The first page of the Service Bulletin addressing this issue is here:

tldr;
Richmond Subaru bungled matters twice and is now making it up to me

Death in Vancouver

Any metalhead worth his salt would salivate at the chance of seeing Death live, albeit without Chuck Schuldiner. Last Wednesday, I had the immense good fortune to see Death live at the Rickshaw theatre in Vancouver with some of my closest friends. It turned out to not be the reunion of metalheads that I’d expected, but those guys from a decade ago are probably all married with kids and unable to come out on a weeknight, or something…

The Death lineup was
Max Phelps – as Chuck v2, bearing a striking resemblance to Chuck and nailing the guitar parts
Gene Hoglan on drums, always good to see Gene again, it’s been too long
Steve DiGiorgio on his mighty fretless bass
Bobby Koelble on second guitar

Fairly classic and a mix of Death members from all eras. Something for everyone was the motif of the night and Death pulled it off well.

The setlist was pretty spectacular, with at least one track off each album, with the exception of the Control Denied album. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. WIthout further ado, here’s the setlist for Death from the Death to All show at the Rickshaw on Nov 19, 2014.

The Philosopher
Leprosy
Suicide Machine
Born Dead
Overactive Imagination
In Human Form
Lack of Comprehension
Spiritual Healing
Flattening of Emotions
Symbolic
Zero Tolerance
Bite the Pain
Zombie Ritual
Crystal Mountain
Pull the Plug

The night ended, and another legendary band was checked off the list. Not just any old band but the mighty Death. It’s precious few bands indeed that have entire genres named after them. Schuldinerus Requiescat in Pace!

Stag

I got married two weeks ago, and here are some of the pictures from the two big events of the stag that preceded it. It turned out to be a macho, testosterone-filled day as these things are wont to turn out. I thoroughly enjoyed it though, and wish I’d known a bit more about guns going in. In any case, it was a blast and most of the lads you see in the vids are some of the finest I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

First, the two-hour arsenal-emptying projectile-fest at the DVC, in Coquitlam.

[jwplayer mediaid=”3067″]

Next up was the skydiving experience. Originally scheduled for the early morning, this was postponed to the following day because of bad weather. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since the better weather allowed us to fly higher and consequently, get a longer period of freefall. I felt no fear until I was almost at the altitude limit. When one of the more experienced people in the plane jumped out in his squirrel suit and disappeared in the blink of an eye, I felt the first tremulous stirrings of fear in my belly. As my tandem instructor ordered me to move to the front of the plane and sit with my feet hanging off the edge, my leaden limbs obeyed. But then, as I was perched on the edge, at 10,200 feet with nothing between my feet and the Earth below, I froze. I couldn’t move as he told me to jump and finally he had to shove us both off the plane. As you can see, it resulted in a bit of a somersault, with the sun appearing both above and below me. Absolutely exhilarating and will definitely do again….in a decade or so when I wish to feel truly alive again!

[jwplayer mediaid=”3068″]

BiblioDump

It’s been nine months since I posted the books I’ve read. Here they are:

Flashman and the Tiger
Flashman in the Great Game
Flashman on the March
Flash for Freedom!
Flashman’s Lady
Flashman and the Redskins
Flashman at the Charge
Flashman and the Dragon
Flashman
Flashman and the Mountain of Light
Royal Flash – All the Flashman books are just what you expect: debauchery, fecklessness and a rollicking adventure all rolled into one.
Words and Rules – Pinker strikes again
A Case of Exploding Mangoes – a humorous look at the assassination of one of Pakistan’s leaders
A Long Long Way – How The Great War changed one boy from Dublin
Any Human Heart – a disjointed novel in the shape of journal entries that warn you not to think you know a human heart
Arthur and George – excellent fictionalized coverage of the Great Wyrley Outrages
Atonement – how you might accuse someone of something in the heat of the moment and live a lifetime to regret it
The Sea – how you might recall the days of your childhood as you live through the death of a loved one
The Secret Scripture – excellent novel about a woman incarcerated in an Irish asylum and the reasons behind her being there
Becoming Strangers – a detailed and thoughtful book about couples in the twilight of their years
Carry Me Down – what would you do if your secret talent was detecting lies, infallibly?
Cloud Atlas: A Novel – an intricate and well-thought out book that telescopically weaves together six stories to achieve closure for all concerned
Darkmans – a novel linguists will enjoy. A book where entire lives can tumble through the gaps between words. Who am I to disagree?
Half a Life – Naipaul writes the kind of post-colonialist fiction only he can pull off with ease
Mister Pip – a brilliant novel set during the civil war on Bougainville Island
The Blackwater Lightship – on being gay in a deeply conservative Irish family
The Blind Assassin – more Margaret Atwood on extramarital affairs in a small Canadian town
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – an articulate look into the mind of an autistic boy
The Gathering
The Death of Vishnu – a dying factotum in Bombay is revered as his eponymous god of gods, within the chaos that is modern India
The Inheritance of Loss – a brutally honest book about those torn between cultures and those who profess to be something they are not
The Island Walkers – an illuminating look into small-town union formation and busting in post-war Ontario
The Northern Clemency – a look at the gritty lives of the Left during the Thatcher years.
The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk
The Pickup – a novel about a woman who leaves her affluent lifestyle for a world mostly unknown to her and her ilk
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – a novel with a twist, about a Pakistani immigrant to the States in the aftermath of 9/11