Comment on our house

So a few weeks ago we got this letter in the mail.

Letter from Megan

If you can’t read it, it says “Dear Mr. Miller, I love the work you had done in your house and I’m hoping you can tell me who did it for you. I’m particularly interested in the siding which is really elegant. Thank you for any information you can share.”

So that was awesome! Note too the doodles in the bottom right – unfortunately this letter got a little too close to Carolyn on the phone!!!!

I emailed her with some info and she wrote back

“Thanks so much for the information Dan! You really did an excellent job on the house. It’s my favorite for miles : )”

So gooooo us!

It’s tractor time!

A good 7 months and change after I bought it (well traded for it), I finally got my riding mower out for the first mow. It had gone through a few problems. First of all, the battery died. After testing it out with the van battery (and possibly destroying the van battery in the process?), I finally went out and bought a new battery on Saturday.

So Saturday I got it started and took it out and about. But I couldn’t get it to actually cut. Eventually I figured out that there was a lever to pull that drops the cutting part down to the ground, but even after I pulled that (or pushed it I think), it still wasn’t cutting. It was hot and I didn’t feel like messing with it any more so I gave up.

But last night I was back with a new batch. After taking it out and trying a few things, I noticed a new lever I hadn’t pushed before. It was a little sticky but I flipped the switch and lo and behold the blades started a-swirlin.

I’m not sure what “PTO” means but apparently that’s code for “turn the blades on”

So I spent an hour or so cutting the grass. It was kind of cool. As I have mentioned before, there’s just something cool about the first time you do stuff like this (mow your own lawn, or shovel snow, etc) – some sort of sense of just pride I guess. The 2nd through millionth times you do them? Not so much.

Anyways, I’m still (obviously) a rookie on the tractor and so I’m working on figuring out the best way to cut the yard. As you no doubt can imagine, the tractor doesn’t have quite the turning radius of a hand mower. So it makes the corners (and near trees and such) a little more tricky. Seems like it would be a good math problem. Given a tractor t with turning radius r, determine the optimal path for cutting a yard with dimensions d. Or somethin.

Complaining pays off baby!

Time to follow up on my earlier note about complaining about Home Depot. Here is the note I received back today


Dear Dan,

Thank you for contacting The Home Depot Customer Care.

We appreciate receiving feedback from you about your experience at the
Pleasant Ridge Home Depot store. We apologize for not meeting your
expectations.

Please know that the feedback you have provided is taken seriously and
will be used in the overall evaluation of the services we provide to our
customers.

We would like to offer you a $25 Home Depot gift card in the hope that
your next shopping experience will be a more pleasurable one. In
addition, it is our way to ‘thank you’ for taking the time to provide us
with this feedback. By doing this, you are giving us an opportunity to
improve.

Thank you, again, for sharing your comments and bringing this to our
attention.


So there you go. I would like to take a bit of time to make the distinction between making up complaints just to get free stuff and complaining because you were unhappy with something.

I think companies want to get feedback about how they’re doing, and ways in which they are not meeting their customer’s needs. I also have been known to give positive feedback when an employee really goes out of their way above and beyond. I don’t do that very often because I don’t think it happens really often, but I remember emailing about a particular Meijer pharmacist that I felt really went out of his way to help me.

Anyway, I highly recommend complaining when you receive poor service. a) you are helping these companies improve their performance for all of us and b) free stuff!!! :-)

It is finished!

And by it, I mean the move, and by finished, I mean mostly finished. Well, maybe somewhat finished. Well, there is a lot to do still.

But at least the new house is finished and ready to move in to. Well, how about mostly finished. Somewhat? Sort of? :-)

Actually the house is for real for real mostly done. There is still some work to be done by the contractors but the essentials are all in. There are some lights, fixtures and other electrical work that needs to happen, and some minor plumbing, heating and other work to be done, but for instance I was able to take a shower today and the toilets work, and “tah” (what one of the kids used to call the TV) was able to be plugged in. There is no shower curtain but I just aimed towards the back wall of the tub. Well, let me correct myself – we have found the shower curtain, we just can’t find the shower curtain ROD. There are boxes and crap all over the house, but before I left for work today I was able to cordon off a safe zone for the TV and we will just keep unloading what we can. I expect by the weekend we should have things mostly in order.

So let’s recap the day yesterday, shall we? Around lunchtime I called up Time Warner to have them switch our high speed Internet over. Lady told me that the earliest they could have someone out was Sunday. So I said fine. Then I went online to Cincinnati Bell to also get the phone switched over. Expecting the same kind of leviathan performance, when they asked what day to change the service I put in the current day (since we were moving). Got an email about 20 minutes later saying our request had been “processed”. I called home and nothing. They had already put the service over to the new house. Where, of course, there was no actual telephone. Good times….

I went home a bit early and packed a few more things and then headed off to get the truck. That went fine and I got back home about 4:30. I started loading up the boxes and such. Got a call about 5:25 from a church friend who was at the new house (since that’s the address listed in the directory). I gave him directions and he was the first to arrive. Soon after Carolyn arrived with the pizza and then the folks started coming and we started loading.

I assumed my standard job of “Tetris-master” i.e. putting all the boxes and such in the van to optimize space. I think we lost a lot of space with some of our shelving units. I have about 10 5-shelf shelving units that were in the basement that I had taken up and put in the truck. My thinking was that we could just put the various bins and boxes on those shelves and we wouldn’t lose space. But we left a lot of space there I think because the boxes and bins that we put on those shelves were not the right sizes to fill every nook and cranny. That was another problem – we have a bunch of plastic storage bins that I got from a deal at Staples awhile back (about 30 of them for free). And I had gotten a lot of big Dell computer boxes from work. But we didn’t have very many smaller boxes. Normally when loading up a truck you can get a lot of those smaller boxes back in “Mom’s Attic” and further back in the truck to really save on space (kind of the pebbles and sand in that “big rocks first” parable). But we had lots of really BIG boxes and bins and that hurt us I think.

As we were getting towards the end someone brought up the dreaded “M” word. As in “multiple trips”. Moving very close by (as opposed to cross country) has advantages but also drawbacks. The advantage is that you can make multiple trips and even multiple car / van trips afterwards to pick up loose ends. The drawback is that you can afford to be more sloppy with your packing and loading and so typically one takes advantage of that (and we were no exception). In the end I thought that we could get it all to fit but we had a lot of people just sitting around as we tried to pack things so we decided to just go over with what we had and came back.

We unloaded the truck pretty quickly. I tried to direct where various boxes and stuff went but I have been since informed that I did not do that great a job. Plus we did have a few instances of “Ooh the basement? How about ummmm right here? :-)

Another reason I didn’t want to make 2 trips is I was afraid of the bailage. We had about 20 people there originally and all but 6 left. The scouts had to go get swim-certified for their upcoming Scout Camp and a couple other people had appointments and such.

We loaded up a few of the bigger things. We had to take the doors off the fridge and then we got the deep freezer, washer and dryer as well. Then it was just tons of “junk”. I can not BELIEVE how much stuff we have!!!!! The problems on this load were 1) We knew we had tons of room (24′ truck) so we were a bit haphazard with getting stuff in there and 2) Most of the stuff that was left was awkwardly sized, like a kids’ rocking horse, or a basketball goal, or a lawnmower, etc.

Hauling some of that big stuff was really hard. When we got over we realized that the fridge, even with the doors off, was not going to fit in the kitchen via the front door. So we went around to the back door. Of course, first we had to wheel it on the dolly through the dirt that is my driveway / back yard. Oh, and then we had to unscrew the door stop that my contractor had put in the back door to prevent it from opening. Why would he do that, you might ask? Well, because the deck is not yet built and so the back door opens 3 feet off the ground :-) . The 3′ made it fun to try and lift all that stuff into the house, but we got everything in. It’s all around the house in various boxes and bins, and even some of the boxes are not in the right place, but it is all (most / some) in.

I want to give a big thank you to all the people that came to help us move. Ralph, Scott, Brent, Aaron and Jake Blackwelder, Abby Doyle, Matt Foister, Kent Huxel, Scott Cottrell, Rob and April Hopkin, John, Mike and Bob Tensmeyer, Chuck Salzman and 2 boys I didn’t know but I assume were either his sons or other kids from the scout troop, Brandon Brooks, Aaron Olmsted, John Whatley, Tim Gross and hopefully I did not forget anybody? Thanks especially to Rob, April, John and Aaron who were in until the bitter end.

Shot down by Lowe’s

So as I thought I had previously mentioned but could not find, Lowe’s has been running 2 concurrent promotions. In each one, for every $1000 you spend, you would get a $100 Lowe’s Gift Card. One was called Lowe’s Kitchen and Bath (run here in Cincinnati) and the other was Lowe’s Spring Event (run mostly in places like VA, NC, TN, etc).

With all the work we’ve been doing at the new house I’ve been attempting to double dip and use both of these promotions. I entered my receipts in at both websites but it quickly became apparent that they were actually smart enough to check and disallow that. The Kitchen and Bath one was a few weeks ahead of the other one so I focused there. I got up to $7000 in purchases which meant $700 in GCs, but all my receipts on the Spring Event promo were still showing up as “Pending”. I called a few times but was not able to get anywhere.

I didn’t want to fight too hard until my $700 in GCs arrived in the mail, in case I might somehow lose those. They arrived last week so I gave it one last try. I spoke to someone and she had me fax in my receipts. Just got the call though that they see that they’ve already been entered in to the Kitchen and Bath promo and are therefore no good.

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. I guess I’ll have to settle for 30% off (20% coupon plus $100 for every $1000) instead of 40%!

Rental woes

So since we’re moving to a new house, we have decided to rent the home that we’re currently living in. We decided that with the market the way that it is, even if we could sell it, we couldn’t get as much as we think it’s worth.

I put a sign out front and some ads on Craigslist. We’ve had lots of interest. I think that it’s priced appropriately and we’ve gotten a lot of the work done to “pretty it up”. This is a good time of year too – lots of people moving around with the end of the school year and such.

I’d say that we’ve had 10-15 people actually show up and see the house. Many of them have taken applications. But nobody has returned them or taken the next steps. Mostly they just disappear. I used to try and follow up with people, but after thinking about it and discussing it with other landlords online, the consensus was that it was just a waste of time; if someone is interested, typically they are very aggressive about following up.

So yesterday we had 2 calls about people potentially interested in BUYING the house. And I’ve started feeling like maybe we are supposed to sell the house. Certainly if we could sell it, we could definitely use the equity that we get out of it. So I’m going to post an ad in the for sale section of Craigslist and see what happens.

I’m not really worried at this point. I always have felt like God takes care of us. I can point to several times in my life where things have maybe not happened as soon or the way that I’ve wanted to, but in the end, it always works out just fine, and usually in a better way than I’d have done it if left to my own devices. First mortgage payment on the new house is due 7/1 so we have a little more than a month before it starts to get dicey :-)

What we’ve been up to

Haven’t posted in awhile. I’ve had a few blog posts milling around in the ol’ noggin, but just haven’t gotten around to posting. I’ve been really busy over at the new house. I haven’t quite reached my breaking point, but I have been quite busy and worn out.

In addition to the various physical labors that I’ve been doing (mostly painting and tiling in the bathroom floors), it’s my responsibility to coordinate with the various contractors. My general contractor (Ron) has actually been very good, though there are times like when he shows up an hour or 2 later than when I was expecting him when I have to remind myself “he is still a contractor”. This is the guy that I have used to fix up my other houses and I’ve been happy with his work and his overall communicativeness and just everything really. I really feel like we’ve been blessed in my starting this rehabbing business a few years ago mostly because of the connection we made with Ron; I think that we would not have come close to being able to afford this new house if we had had to go with a construction firm – most of them were bidding $30-40 thousand more than I think we’re going to end up spending on this project.

We’ve had fairly good luck even with most of our subs. But let me share one story about the electrician. Him and his crew had gotten all the electrical work roughed in a month or two ago and then I hadn’t heard from him in awhile. This in and of itself was not a problem, because there wasn’t anything for them to do until we got things all drywalled and painted and such. But after a few weeks, we were getting close to ready for him and so I called him up to see what his schedule was like. And called him. And called. I left many messages but never got a call back. One time I did get a hold of him and he said “Can I call you right back?” I said sure, but he never called.

Finally, (after maybe 2 weeks of messages) I get an email from him saying “I’m back from Iowa – I’ll be over tomorrow”. When he said that, it did sound vaguely familiar that he was going to be out of town. After talking to him, it turns out he was involved in some sort of custody soap opera, the details of which I will not go in to here, but the good news is that he’s back in town and back on the case. Switches and light fixtures have started to go up.

Oh, and my other job is making sure we have enough money to finish this dang house! We currently are in the positive (And that’s a good thing! ™) But there’s always things like “Oh we’re going to need another $100 to pay Ray to finish mudding out the drywall” or “well since we took out the chimney, we need to either move the gas water heater so we can vent it out the side of the house or buy a new electric water heater”).

One of our friends is coming to watch the kids today, so we’re planning on going over there this morning I think – I’ll take the camera and try to post some pics later.

Lowe’s update

I thought I would give an update on the Lowe’s situation that I posted about last Friday. I called the installer about 4 p.m. and he said that he had sent his information off to the store. I called Lowe’s then and they told me that they had received it but there was some sort of processing that had to be done on their side before I could come pay for it. They told me that they would call me when it was ready and that my order had all kinds of ASAPs all over it. Mmm-hmm, sure they will.

So that Lowe’s is on my way home from work, so I stopped in an hour or so later. I went back to the flooring department and waited for the associate to finish helping someone else. While I was waiting, the guy from “installed sales” called me on my cell phone and told me it was all ready. When the flooring associate was finished, I told him my situation and he started looking for the order but couldn’t find it. I told him that the guy had gone out there today and measured and he said something like “Oh then it couldn’t possibly be ready now – it usually takes 2-3 days.” I told him that the guy from Lowe’s just called me like 5 minutes ago! He still couldn’t find it and so he went back to get a manager (I’m used to it!). They came back out a bit later and found my order. Apparently it was put in on the “old” system and not the “new” system. Or something. In any case I went to pay for it but couldn’t use my 20% off coupon because they don’t take them on installed sales / special orders / labor. I tried to get them to do it but the system wouldn’t let them and the manager wouldn’t (or possibly couldn’t) override it. Bummer as that cost me like $400.

So finally I accept the price and go to pay for it. The POS gives an 800 number to call for an authorization and after awhile of trying that, I get the notice that my card has been declined and I’d have to call Citibank. I called them and apparently Lowe’s had charged me $1900 this morning and they were wanting to know if that was an actual purchase. It was not, and after a few calls and investigations it turned out that they had charged me (again) for the deck materials (even though I had paid for it back on Wednesday). So that was annoying but I had Citibank lift the hold so I could buy the carpet.

By this time it was getting late. I had made an appointment for some folks to come look at our house to rent at 6:30 (yay!), and it was becoming apparent that I was not going to make it. So I made a call to have Carolyn be ready to show it. I hurried home and ended up hitting the tail end of their visit.

While this was all going on, I had received a call from the other Lowe’s, saying that my deck materials were on their way. I called back and ended up getting hold of a manager down there and after walking her through the various transactions, she saw where I was double charged, and said she’d reverse it. I have yet to verify if that has actually been taken care of or not.

Saturday I went to inspect the decking and (of course) they had just dropped it in the driveway AND there were things missing. So off I went to Lowe’s (again). Turns out that some of the stuff that I thought was missing they put in the front room of the house (even though I looked there; not sure how I missed it). And some of it they didn’t have and would be delivering later. I went back out to the house in the afternoon and counted and I think most of the stuff was there.

In non-Lowe’s annoyances, we had arranged for a few people to come over Saturday afternoon to paint but when I got there, it turned out that the drywaller had not finished sanding the drywall. So we couldn’t paint, and it was rather embarrassing to have to send those folks back home.

Back to Lowe’s, as I have mentioned previously, they have this promotion going on where for every $1000 you buy, you get a $100 gift card. I’ve been entering in my receipts, but I haven’t really been tracking it to make sure I hit the even thousand mark. Since obviously $3909.99 in total purchases is a lot worse than $4000. Well, $100 worse anyways. So I was entering in all my receipts from over the weekend and it came to …….. $7002.49! How cool is that? And I even went back in late on Saturday night to buy one last 5 gallon thing of paint since I didn’t think we would have enough. So that paint was free and then some. So we should be getting $700 in Lowe’s gift cards in the next 6-8 weeks. I think we can find some things to spend that on…

Lowe’s are idiots

Lowe’s is idiots? Lowe’s is an idiot? Hmmm… I must be grammatically sound before I go OFF on the annoyances of the past few days. On the one hand, the store’s name is Lowe’s. If you go to one singular store, it says Lowe’s, which I guess must be singular. But Lowe’s is an idiot doesn’t sound right. I guess what I’m really trying to say is the people at Lowe’s are idiots, which works. Okay then.

So Wednesday afternoon I go down and buy the last of my deck materials. I covered this in the last post. So the guy there said that they could totally load up their truck for me to rent and come by Thursday to pick it up, and to just call tomorrow (Thursday which is now yesterday). So I called and of course nobody had heard of anything nor done anything. Not surprising. So they set to work on it and then they call back a little later and say it’s a lot of stuff and would be like 2 or 3 trips / loads so would I rather just pay them $60 to deliver it. So I say okay. They say it would be delivered tomorrow (Friday which is now today).

So I call them up today to see when it might be delivered. After being transferred around several times, STILL nobody has heard of anything; the delivery guy does not have my “ticket”. They’re currently looking into that.

But that is not all; oh no, that is not all. Also on Wednesday (ear-lie in the morning before work) I went into a different Lowe’s to get my carpet. The first step in that is to pay them to come out and measure the area so that I know how much carpet to buy. They put me in the system, I pay the $35 for that, and then they turn me over to a flooring installer who will call me within 48 business hours. Flash forward to today and of course nobody has called me. So I call them up, go through a few people and finally get someone who tells me that they have 48 business hours. And I’m thinking “Lady, I have the timestamped receipt right in front of me and it’s been 50 hours”. She says that they have all day today to do it.

Now normally it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because we’re actually not ready for the carpet until we paint, so it will be probably a week or so before we can get it installed. But Lowe’s has a promotion going on where for every $1000 you spend, you get $100 in gift cards. Well actually they have 2 similar promotions going on, but one of them expires 4/27. So I really need to pay for this carpet by Saturday (tomorrow) or I lose out on about $200 in gift cards.

So I ask for the name and number of this company that is supposed to call me. I call them, and of course Lowe’s has sent them zip. So she takes my number and calls me back in a few minutes. She had called the store and gotten my order. Then she asks “Can we come by on Tuesday?” I mention how I really need this done by tomorrow and she tells me she’ll see what she can do and will call me back.

In the meantime a lady calls me about renting our current house so I’m talking with her. And like 500 people call me while I’m on the phone with her. So I call back the deck Lowe’s – they don’t know anything and they’re going to look at it. I call back Missy from the flooring company – they called back the store and had them switch it to a different installer so that they could get it done today. What? GOOD customer service? I’m floored!!! Goooooo Pro Flooring of Cincinnati!!

But then Lowe’s calls the house and talks to Carolyn (even though I told them to call my cell) and she doesn’t know what’s going on with anything because I haven’t kept her in the loop. The lady is snippy with her and so then she (Carolyn) calls me (one of the 500). Finally I get that straightened out and someone is coming to measure this afternoon (no thanks to Lowe’s)

Good times!

New house deck

Sorry – no pictures today. But I did want to make a note about the new deck. We’re putting on a new deck and so I went to buy some of the materials. Lowe’s is having a promotion where for every $1000 you buy, you get $100 in gift cards. This promotion ends on Saturday so I wanted to make sure I bought all the stuff this week. I’m also going to buy all of our carpet (probably another $2000) this week.

Naturally I also have 20% off coupons that I am combining with this deal, so it’s like 30% off. Actually they have a totally separate gift-card promotion similar to the one above so it’s like 40% off.

So anyways, I already bought some of the deck stuff last week but I had to buy the rest of it. Lowe’s has a little deck design program that spits out all the stuff that you need with quantities and such.

So I went to the checkout lane and put in all the stuff. The subtotal came to like $2330, and I gave them my coupon. The guy was having some problems putting it in. The coupon said that it was good for 20% off up to $2000, so we both agreed that it should be $1930 (20% off $2000 = $1600 plus the extra $330). But he couldn’t figure out how to put that into the system.

So he calls over his manager who is not sure what to put in and in fact was getting a little snippy with me. At first he looked like he was going to give it to me for just $1600 which I told him was wrong. Then he snips at me that he can’t give me the discount on the extra $330, which I knew and was not trying to have him do.

Anyway he too had problems, so a 3rd person was called over. This guy looks at the coupon and says that it means that it’s good for a DISCOUNT of $2000 (I guess up to purchases of $10,000), so he just gives me the 20% on the whole thing, so instead of $1930, it was $1864 – a savings of $66 plus tax!

Gooooo me!

Still looking like an end of May move date; it’s getting closer! We’ve been painting here at the old house trying to get it ready to rent out.

Over at the new house they have put on all the interior doors and all the drywall. We’ll be going over on Saturday I think to finish priming and then putting the paint on early next week. Also I believe it’s finally been dry enough that my contractor is renting a Bobcat to do the final grading of all the dirt in the backyard (we’re sloping it). And the siding should be arriving soon; so that will go up probably next week. Good times for all!