Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Don't judge a book by it's cover or a really dumb Dollar Stretcher article

Last week on The Dollar Stretcher I read an article that just made me mad. I am not usually one to get so riled up but this article made such bias observations that were not using truth that I tried to address it with the editor Gary Foreman but was not happy with his response.

If you took the time to read the article you will see that the author said that if you want to see if a person is an Under Achiever of Wealth (from the book The Millionaire Next Door) then look in their driveway. If they have a SUV then they are a UAW. His reasons were that they cost more upfront, cost more to maintain because parts are more, cost more to insure, and cost more in gas. They also make the assumption that if a person would buy a SUV then the rest of their life is a life of consumption. Then, the funny part is they tell how wonderful people who buy Toyota Corolla/Camrys are because they probably bought them three years old from someone in the paper.

My problem was the strong bias this author took. He made rash judgements that if you have a SUV you paid full retail price and if you buy a Toyota you bought used. How? Where did he get this information.? When you compare items you compare like items. Compare new SUV to new Toyota or used against used. You can't just assume one is only bought new.

We own both an SUV- a Yukon XL and a Toyota Camry. Well, we actually have another vehicle, a full size GMC pick up. So, in all we have two large vehicles and a small car. We have no car payment. When we bought the Yukon it was 2 years old. We looked at vans and the closest we liked was the Odyssey. To buy within the same year of vehicle there was a $2000 difference. The benefit to us was that we have five kids and the Yukon was much more spacious for us. The Odyssey would not even fit a shopping trip of groceries in the trunk. It also would not fit all of our luggage when we traveled. During baseball season we have baseball bags in the trunk on top of these items. The Yukon has a large trunk space which I use all the time. We also have had a 31' camper and a ski boat that we pull with the Yukon and would have not been able to pull with the Odyssey. Is it wrong for us to choose a vehicle that works with the needs of our family? So, his theory that the initial cost is so much more is not true. We bought the GMC truck from our father-in-law. It was garage kept, he took it to the dealer for regular oil changes and maintenance, and rarely used it. It is a 2000 model and now has 46,000 miles on it. Yes, that is right, it is 11 years old and only has 46K miles! The Camry was my mother-in-law's car and we bought it for our teens to drive. It is a 1998 model.

His second assumption was it costs more to maintain. The oil is more for the larger vehicles, but we have not had maintenance much for any of our vehicles so we have not had the expense of maintenance. The gas is more. But, lets compare the true cost. We average 876 miles a month for the Yukon. At 14 miles per gallon that is 62.5 gallons a month X $2.40 a gallon= $150 a month in gas. The Camry gets about 28 mpg= 31 gallons of gas X $2.40 a gallon = $74.40 a month of gas. So, it is half the cost in gas, but most of those Yukon miles are put on when we vacation or our whole family is riding in the car so we would not have all fit in the Camry. I could compare it to a van that gets better mileage but the difference would be about midway between the Camry and Yukon so only about $35 at most a month in savings- not worth the gripe about how awful a SUV is for gas mileage. For $35 a month it is worth it for me to have something more comfortable and more useful for my family.

Now, the cost of insurance. I just got our insurance statement. We pay $42.86 a month for full coverage on our 2001 Yukon, $34.79 a month for our 2000 pick up, and $50.40 a month for liability only on the 1998 Camry. We pay MORE for liability only on the Camry than for full coverage on the Yukon! The Camry is higher because we have teens on it, but it is still funny to me that his theory was busted. To insure only my husband and me only it probably would be a little cheaper to insure a Camry, but not that drastic a difference to write an article stating that you pay so much more for a SUV. It is probably a $10-$15 a month difference if that much, and look at the age difference above: a 1998 vs. a 2001. I don't think comparing like model years would be that much difference. Right now Toyota is having some severe issues so a newer one is probably not on the top rate list.

My anger is that the author took such severe bias. His whole article is based on opinion instead of facts, and he clearly is of the opinion that no one should drive an SUV. Most of his points have been proven incorrect or misleading by my situation. I have two large vehicles, and I am also a very frugal person living below my means. He is making a judgement about me because of what is in my driveway, without looking at any more information. That is bias. If it was because I was black it would not be tolerated. If it was because I am a woman it would be clear that it was wrong.

I wrote my complaint to Gary Foreman, the creator of The Dollar Stretcher, and this was his reply:

"Thank you for your note. Clearly you can be frugal and still drive an SUV. But, I think that you'd have to agree that many people drive SUVs that do NOT need the extra space/carrying capacity. Sorry that you were offended. We just wanted to get people thinking.


I responded:

"This article does not in any way state that you can be frugal and drive an SUV. It clearly states that if you have one everyone can assume you live above your means. Because it is written with such bias and clearly takes assumptions and tries to make them truths, I feel it is a bad representation for your website... I know may people with large families that lead a lifestyle very similar to mine and although there are people with an SUV that do not need the cargo space it is not anyone else's business what they drive. It is a big assumption to say they live beyond their means. This person is just clearly not able to take facts and opinions and write an article worth reading. I would just think an article could get people thinking without being so full of bull and bias and you would not want to associate with people so unable to clearly offer things to truly think upon."

Gary's reply:

"We've added an editor's note to the article. Clearly we've hit your hot button. I am sorry if it offended you."

The note? It said the same thing he replied about not everyone needed the cargo space. THAT WAS NOT THE ISSUE and that is not anyone's business if I need it anyway. I, as an American, can drive what I want. But, the best part- the editor's note is no longer there. He has removed it!


Joann said...

It really shows the true heart of the website doesn't it...

Southerner said...

Joann, I have enjoyed this website for many years and it normally is full of very good advice for frugal living. This was a submitted article and was not written by The Dollar Stretcher editor. They take many people's articles and tips. Because of that I was very shocked at Mr. Foreman's response. The author clearly is against people having SUVs, and I do not understand why Mr. Foreman chose to allow it written as it was.

Peggy said...

I wrote a email stating the article wasn't factual though the author wrote it to seem that way. I hope they get tons of emails and remove the article.

Dawn said...

Wow. Unfortunately, just one example of how opinion is often "reported" as fact. The saddest side of this is that too many people believe as fact anything written in print... including misguided opinions.

Deep breath in... exhale slowly!

smilernpb said...

Wow, I read this with AMAZEMENT that someone would actually write something like that, in this day and age, jumping to so many conclusions about people based on their car!

I loved your arguement, and the fact that you knew what you were talking about.

Well done for voicing your opinions.

smilernpb said...

Wow, I read this with AMAZEMENT that someone would actually write something like that, in this day and age, jumping to so many conclusions about people based on their car!

I loved your arguement, and the fact that you knew what you were talking about.

Well done for voicing your opinions.

shannon_u said...

Although I am disappointed in articles like the one you mention, I can say I'm not surprised. It seems hard to find an article these days without an agenda. Good for you for writing the editor! BTW, We are a small family which drives an SUV. We bought it used and it's paid for. We have no debt and our house is also paid for. We bought the SUV because we needed something to pull a trailer we use in renovating houses.
It makes me laugh to think of some writer assuming I am an UAW because I drive a Tahoe. (Rollng eyes!) I enjoy your blog! Keep up the good work!

Tami said...

That makes me mad too. I think I will send him a response of my own. I drive an SUV and it kinda riled me too. I will be sending an email as well. Thanks for sharing this article, Holly. I hope he gets lots of responses.