by EVAN MATTHEWS, editor

I’m just going to go on a rant this week with the general theme of: Buyer Beware.

I have just experienced one of the most financially, emotionally and physically exhausting and stressful times in my life.

I say that without exaggeration, but rather the utmost certainty.

The story begins with me going back home a couple of weeks ago to Winnipeg, MB, to purchase a vehicle.

For context, I was also in the middle of a move. My last night in Valemount was spent moving my furniture from the old place to the new place, and organizing until 4 AM when my Greyhound Bus to Edmonton came to pick me up.

I flew from Edmonton, to Winnipeg, with the plan to drive back. I spent weeks, meticulously planning my trip, my expenditures, how much my budget would be after the purchase, etc. Even my timeline was meticulously planned.

My partner had been travelling in Europe, and was hired in a career-type job in Jasper — expected to start upon her return, so I had planned to pick her up in Edmonton after I made the purchase in Winnipeg, and then drive cross-country to pick her up in our brand new vehicle.

We would have a couple of days together in Valemount, too, before she left to start her new career.

And so it was, A 2009 Dodge Journey SXT. It’s a beautiful vehicle, and I should say that in spite of everything that follows — I do love my new vehicle.

I bought the vehicle through a dealership — which will remain nameless at this point because the dealership belongs to the family of one of my best friends.

I bought the vehicle for a decent price, with just less than 100,000 KM. The vehicle is fully loaded with All-Wheel Drive (AWD), chrome wheels, tinted windows, heated seats and mirrors, seats seven — tons of room, etc.

The thing is mint, so I purchased a warranty and paid the taxes, and I drove it off the lot.

Within a day, the check engine light came on, and there was significant grinding in the brakes.

They took the vehicle in and diagnosed the problem, and I was told the issue had to do with both the transmission and the AWD system. So, I had a brand new transfer case installed — under my newly purchased warranty, thank god.

The check engine light is still on, since then, which I found out from a neutral third party is because the vehicle needs a brand new “O2 Sensor,” which isn’t an imperative fix but will cost me another couple hundred.

You would think a dealership would sell a vehicle without these problems, right?

I trusted my friend’s dad, even at this point I do not believe his intentions were malicious.

But the fact remains that because of the warranty work required, my trip in Winnipeg was extended by three days causing me to incur lost wages, while I continued to spend money in a place where I no longer have a ton of my own roots.

Yet nobody is on the hook for any of my lost wages, or added expenses, so where is the consumer protection?

And of course, at this point I realized I was no longer going to be able to pick up my partner in Edmonton, nor would we have our few days together before her big move.

This was the truly heartbreaking part of it all, and I had no control.

Fast forward. The car is fixed and I’ve travelled across the country. Though not an ideal set of circumstance, I’m back in Valemount and ready to return to my life.

Not so fast, the insurance company says.

Of course I need an out of province inspection and re-safety — but I knew that, so no problem. I pay the $200 for an oil change and the required safety work, and off I go.

I show up back at ICBC to get my insurance.

The ladies working there — who were absolutely lovely, in the midst of all this hell — tell me the dealership I bought my vehicle from doesn’t have the necessary credentials to transfer PST payments to B.C.

But again, the point here is that in order to get my vehicle insured and on the road, I got hit with my second $770 payment for PST.

I paid it once in B.C., and once in Manitoba. The dealership, again, owned by a friend, is now being audited as a result of this mess.

So now, I’ve had to apply to Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), the ICBC of Manitoba, for a refund of PST — a process expected to take 12 weeks.

In the simplest terms, I have been charged an additional $770 for something no regular person should be expected to know, and there isn’t anything anyone can do to help me.

Once again, I’m left to ask: Out of two provincial governments, a car dealership, and me — I’m the one who is expected to pay twice?

Where is the justice? Where is the consumer protection?

The stress I experienced as a result of my vehicle, as a result of the relationship strain and as a result of bureaucracy impeding me from moving forward with my life has caused me to become physically ill.

It’s an absolute shame, the way our system is set up. I put up a good fight, I’m still fighting, but the system is designed to beat you.

And at some point or another, the struggle beats you down.
The point I’m trying to make is this: No matter how hard you work, meticulously you plan or careful you think you’re being — when you take a risk, you can get burned.

I worked hard and saved. I planned hard, long and carefully. I went to execute my plan, and everything unraveled very quickly.
This is not a poor me story, rather a lesson learned, or a couple of lessons, actually:
Don’t mix business and friendships; don’t rush a big purchase because you’ve planned a timeline for it; and when you think you’ve planned for everything, you haven’t.

Buyer, beware.

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