Sunday, July 26, 2009

Help Eliminate Binding Arbitration Agreements

Below is the crux of a letter that I'm sending to my Congressmen this week. (I've eliminated the first paragraph that contains personal information.) For more information, see the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009. If you want to help save the consumer against the perils of big business gone bad, there's still plenty of time to contact your legislative representatives.

A couple of years ago I decided to have LASIK surgery to correct my poor vision. I didn't know anything about "binding arbitration" then. Just before going into surgery, I was asked to sign an arbitration agreement. When I read the agreement, I thought to myself, "They can't do that. Don't I have a constitutional right to a trial?" I questioned the doctor about it; she told me "Oh, that just means you have to go to arbitration first." She indicated that it didn't mean I was giving up any rights.

I was reluctant to sign the agreement but they would not perform the surgery without it. I'm just a consumer. I don't carry a lawyer around in my back pocket. I'd already sacrificed several hours' wages to make the 45-minute drive to the surgeon's office for various appointments. In addition, a friend of mine had driven me to the surgeon's office that day and I didn't want to inconvenience her. I felt like I had to go through with it. Without really understanding my rights, I signed the document and had the surgery.

To make a long story short, the surgery was botched, leaving me with a decentered ablation in my left eye. My vision is beyond blurry – it is blotchy, inconsistent, hypersensitive to light, it has floaters, and it is not correctible by any means – not by glasses, contacts or even another surgery. I've lost a lot of work time and wages since then, seeing many doctors and dealing with the big laser vision company and all the hoops they've made me jump through. I have headaches that render me unable to function at my job where I am unable to focus on the computer all day. I can't drive a car safely or drive at night at all.

Essentially, this surgery ruined my life. I can barely do my computer job, yet I have no legal recourse. Whenever I think about arbitration agreements and the unsuspecting consumers who sign them, I question how any such contract that removes my Sixth Amendment right to a trial can be legal.

Out of justice and fairness, please vote for the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009. Your support is appreciated by American consumers everywhere.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

New Toy for Jelly

Yesterday I went to the Pet Sage store to get cat food—they only sell the good stuff (all natural with no meat by-products).

Because Jelly is such a toy lover, I picked up two new toys. One is a wand with a dark fur band and rattle attached to the end. The other is just a little white fur band with feathers.

When I got home I put all my bags on the counter and floor of the kitchen and left to return the ZipCar across the street, a task that took all of maybe nine minutes. When I came back, I unloaded the groceries first, then I called the kitties to the kitchen, "Come see your new toys!"

I started taking the kitty stuff out of the cloth Whole Foods bag when I noticed that the feather toy was missing. I looked around for it. I thought back to when I checked the ZipCar for personal items before locking it up. It hadn't fallen out of the bag. Hmmm. Did I drop it in the parking garage? Did I even buy it to begin with?

I checked the receipt. Yup, I was charged for both toys but had come home with just one of them. So I called the store to ask if I'd left it behind on the counter when I checked out. They said they hadn't seen it but offered to refund my credit card. I took them up on it and said I'd just pick up another feather toy on my next visit.

A little later I went into my office (also known as the kitties' room). Almost immediately, I noticed the missing feather toy on the rug, half-buried in a pile of other kitty toys, the sales tag still attached. I wondered, "How did that get in here?"

A moment later I realized who the culprit was. While I was returning the ZipCar, Jelly had gone into the Whole Foods bag and retrieved only the feather toy out of the bottom of the bag, transporting it in her teeth to her toy haven. I couldn't believe how quickly she found it.

Of course, I immediately called the store and told them to cancel the credit. The woman was laughing and said of the feather toy, "Well at least we know it's a hit!"

I've never had a cat who enjoyed toys as much as Jelly. What a nut! Too bad she and Baby haven't become friends yet. :(

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Case Dismissed

In case you've been following my story here about my deadbeat ex-tenant who never paid me one dime in rent and has made a career out of cheating creditors out of their money, here's a quick update.

Tonight I logged into the U.S. Bankruptcy Court web site to get the latest on the case. The confirmation hearing was scheduled for July 7, and any objections to the Ch. 13 Plan my debtor filed had to be submitted by June 30. I submitted my (three-page) objection, based on bad faith, last week. I checked the web site every couple days to see if my objection was logged. Tonight when I checked, instead I saw an "Order of Dismissal."

Woo-hoo! I queried the records. Turns out, the bankruptcy case was dismissed just yesterday because the debtor didn't file her tax returns as required. Probably because she either cheated on them or lied to the court about her income. Actually, I just learned recently from the online creditor register on her case that she owes the IRS $39,000. That's in addition to all the state taxes that she owes. So she simply doesn't pay taxes—year after year.

So, I'm relieved. Not because I'll be getting any money out of her anytime soon, but because this case was a big stressor in my life that I didn't need right now. (Like anyone needs a legal suit anytime.)

The bad news is I can't garnish her wages. Today's her last day of work on her current job. I ran to Kinko's tonight (got there 7 minutes before closing) to fax the dismissal paperwork to the wage garnishment department at my debtor's employer. She probably has at least one last paycheck coming to her. If the wage garnishment department doesn't screw me (again), then I should get 25% of whatever her remaining pay is from there. We shall see.

Then I need to follow her to her next job (if anyone will hire her) and try to beat the IRS and the state comptroller to her wages. Sigh.