So the tale of the stolen car appears to be approaching an end. Last Sunday morning at 12:30 am we got a call. From the Monterey Park police. Yeah, we didn’t know where Monterey Park was either. Ends up, the ever-diligent police in Monterey Park recovered our car. This is still an active investigation criminal case going on so I’m not going to go into too many details but the car just returned from its journey back up the 400+ miles to a shop up here for some minor repairs and major detailing.
I’m hoping this post is the last I’ll have to say about this drama, as I already detailed pieces of this saga here and here. But I wanted to take the time to reflect on some of the lessons that I’ve learned and things I’ve discovered from this mess. Hopefully some of them will be helpful to others. In honor of my fabulous (and first) girls’ night out last week with Meghan, I’m going to completely steal imitate her bulleted post style. (Imitation is the highest form of flattery, honey. Just go with it.)
BTW, I had so much fun with Meghan, Julie and Andrea. I’ve known Julie was awesome for a long time since she’s my friend and colleague but this was my first time meeting Meghan and Andrea in real life and they’re both awesome and not crazy axe murderers. Double bonus! Anyway, back to my lessons… Here we go…
- When you buy a new car, make sure you insure it right away. In California there is a period during which you are assumed to have coverage through your existing insurance company. However, this is one of those things I’d rather not press my luck on. No Whammies! We had double-checked to make sure the insurance paperwork went through. Literally the morning that the car was stolen. Thank gawd! Also, this is a great time to go over your coverage with your insurance agent. Here are some questions to consider:
- If you had an accident today, how would you pay the deductible? Do you have the cash on hand? If not, maybe you should consider dropping your deductible (which means paying more per month but not tons more). Not doing so has a name. It’s called “self-insurance.” And it’s a risk. Perhaps a good risk but a risk nonetheless.
- Do you need a gap policy (which covers the difference between the value of your car and the amount you actually owe)? If you owe money on your car and either paid sticker price or don’t know what invoice price is, the answer is probably yes, at least for the first few years. If you’ve already paid off your note, the answer is definitely no.
- If your car went into the shop for repairs, would you need a rental? If so, paying a couple of bucks a month to get coverage for one might be a good idea. We’ve had ours for 18 days so far and will not be getting rid of it for at least another week and half.
- Capital One was on to something…it’s a good idea to know what’s in your wallet. The car was stolen at 5:32 pm-ish. By 5:55 pm we had every credit card, check card, etc. shut down. (Reminder: Scoot’s wallet was in the car when it was stolen.) Saved us a whole lot of hassle dealing with identity theft or credit card fraud on top of grand theft auto. According to the officer who took our case, the first thing car thieves often do is fill the car up with gas, especially if they got a victim’s credit card with it. (Because, really? Who’s checking IDs at a gas station?) When you notify the credit card company, their fraud protection unit can coordinate with the police (you need to give them your case number) to track when and where it’s used. Or so they say. We haven’t been notified of any fraudulent card use so I can’t personally vouch for this.
- Big customer service fail for Best Buy attempting to sell that credit card protection while I was reporting a card stolen. Credit card ambulance chasing sucks. I’ll forgive them because they give me awesome 0% interest deals all the time but it really was not ideal timing.
- It’s a great idea to learn how to rekey a lock. Because those locksmiths kind of want to be paid for their work and when it’s midnight on Friday night and you have no method of payment (see above) they’re not real likely to come out and help. It’s also great if you have an awesome neighbor who will teach you how to rekey a lock, and who has a rekeying kit at his house because you’d never think to buy such a thing.
- Photocopy your registration, black out your address and carry that copy in your car. That way if someone gets into your car, you don’t have to worry about whether or not they know where you live. (Hat tip to our uncle who works for the CHP.)
- It’s a good idea not to carry more stuff in your car than you need. Today when I went through the contents of our car, there were things in there I didn’t even realize were there. Like the sunscreen I bought that D kept insisting was in there. The only reason they stole D’s golf clubs was because they were there. Luckily, this car didn’t have all that much stuff in it. It’s a good thing they didn’t get our other car.
- Along the same vein, it’s a good idea (if you can be organized and have enough foresight) not to carry extra keys with you. Really? Did we need to have our mailbox keys with our car keys? We paid $30 to replace the lock for what? The convenience of not having to go inside when we get home to get the mailbox key? We barely check our mail anyway.
- Speaking of mail. If you ever have your mailbox key AND your wallet stolen, make sure you rekey your mailbox. If you reorder all your credit cards, they’ll show up in your mailbox. If the thief can still get in your mailbox, um, yeah, that’s a problem and sort of defeats the purpose of getting new credit cards.
- Panic serves no one. Nor does anger, bitterness or vengeance. Humor, on the other hand, serves almost everyone.
- Criminals make mistakes. That’s when they get caught. In this matter, patience is a virtue.
- Cops who have a car stolen in their jurisdiction are not real helpful.
- Cops who recover a stolen car, especially one being driven by someone who is not the owner of said car, are very helpful.
- So far I’ve felt like I’m in good hands with my insurance company. Our claims specialist has done a great job communicating with us through all of this. Our claims adjustor was very patient with me today. They’ve at least listened to all of our random requests. And someone who works for one of their competitors said great things about them. I’ll save my grading for when the semester is over but the interim report card would read, “Keep up the good work.”
- Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. We signed the car over to Allstate last Friday and were simply awaiting confirmation that they’d paid off our loan when the cops called to tell us they had the car. We were planning on going back out into the new car market again that day. Alas, we didn’t need to since they hadn’t in fact paid it. But going from thinking you’re getting a new car to getting an “old” car that’s dinged and dingy is a steep drop. We would’ve been in less shock if we hadn’t already moved on to the next thing.
The last lesson I learned is much too important for a bullet. Through this whole fiasco, it has been our five year old, D, who has led us, not the other day around. I’ve been very honest with him about this whole thing and have tried to answer his questions when he’s had them. But it’s been his answers to my questions that have guided me. When I wanted to lash out in anger, he said he wants to be friends with the guy who stole our car so that he can teach him to do good things. When I wanted to cry, he said he’d rather have our car back broken than get a new one. When I was resigned, he enthusiastically hugged his newly-returned golf clubs.
As strange as this might sound when talking about a kid that’s more than a foot shorter than me, I’ve come to look up to him. I’ve been seeking guidance from him, instead of the other way around. And though I believe my kid is special, I don’t actually think that he’s the only five year old in the world who could, would or does serve this role for a family. There is something so raw, innocent, straight-forward, non-egotistical, unaffected about how kids look at the world that I’m just glad to have one in my life to remind me where my priorities are. Because at the end of the day, they’re definitely not with a car.