Corrections or additions?
These articles by Jack Florek, Karen Hodges Miller, Michele Alperin, and Bart Jackson were prepared for the May 3, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Career transition opportunities seems to be on everyone’s mind these days, despite the fact that the employment ad sections of area newspapers are getting thinner and thinner. But even in these tough times, landing that perfect (or at least near perfect) job is still possible for the savvy job seeker.
"When it comes to job hunting, it’s certainly a jungle out there," says Ozana Castellano, a senior assistant professor at Mercer County Community College, as well as a corporate trainer through the college’s Center of Training and Development. "But there are strategies in resume preparation that have proven to be successful. By using them, people can definitely increase their chances of landing that job."
Castellano ran a resume-writing service out of her home for 12 years, serving over 1,500 clients. "I really built quite a following because the resumes worked for people," she says. Castellano has been teaching business, communications, and English at MCCC since 1997, but had to give up the resume writing side of her career when she became a full-time corporate trainer in 2000.
Along with Yvonne Chang, Castellano heads a continuing education workshop, "Essential Tools for Landing that Job," at Mercer County Community College on Thursday, May 4, at 9 a.m. Cost: $39. Call 609-586-9446 for more information or to register. Attendees are encouraged to bring in their current resumes so that they can compare them to the suggestions discussed in the class.
Admittedly, with the advent of the Internet, much has changed for job seekers. Still, even though resumes are now primarily submitted to employers via E-mail, the strategies of effective resume writing are still the same. "It is important for job seekers to know that resumes only have a lifespan of a few seconds," says Castellano. "This is because it takes that long for a potential employer to decide if he or she will even read it."
According to Castellano, many job seekers lose their opportunity without a single word being read. "At one glance of a resume I can tell people that their resume is too lengthy and that it is not set up properly," she says. "The potential employer receiving your resume, whether he is printing it out or looking at it on the computer, can tell right away whether they want to read it or not. If it’s not presented in a short and snappy format, then it will be set aside very quickly."
Castellano says that the most common mistake people make in creating a resume is putting in too much information. "People tend to make them too long and they are not written in a manner that is easy to read," she says. "For some reason they like to elaborate on things in long paragraphs." For this reason, a resume should ideally be only one page in length. "One page is best, but two pages are the absolute maximum," says Castellano. "I’ve worked with people who came in with resumes that were four and five pages long. I’d ask them if they would read this if they were the employer. Then I’d ask them why, if they wouldn’t want to read it, would they think others would want to read it?"
Born in Croatia, Castellano came to the United States with her parents as a young teenager. She grew up in Long Island and earned her bachelor’s degree in business from Hofstra University and an MBA from Saint Johns University. Castellano and her husband Michael (director of engineering for an insurance company in New York) have two daughters, both graduates of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North. Kristen is about to graduate from Loyola College as a finance major and has already landed a job at J.P. Morgan in Delaware. Megan is currently a freshman at Boston University with plans to attend law school.
In navigating through the resume writing process, it is sometimes difficult for job seekers to sort through all the often-contradictory suggestions they receive from friends, relatives, and many so-called experts. In order to reduce anxiety that many resume writers face, Castellano offers the following suggestions:
Only recent information, please. People often make the mistake of including information that is simply too old. "The employer really doesn’t care in detail what you did any more than 10 or 15 years ago," she says. "You also inadvertently age yourself. If you are putting things in your resume about what you did during the 1970s, you are already looking old. The ’70s are too old to talk about in detail and the ’80s should be summarized also."
Reverse chronology. While it may seem like a no-brainer, many resume writers continue to make the chronology mistake. Remember that it is best to start with the latest information at the top of the page and go backwards.
(Almost) no paragraphs. Paragraphs should not be a part of the resume. "Set up your resume in a bulleted format with short sentences," says Castellano. "Never include any information on a resume that isn’t going to sell you because every word on there should have a purpose."
Leave out the career objective. What Castellano recommends is that resume writers begin with a section called "Professional Profile," written in a paragraph instead of a bullet, near the top of the page. "In three or four sentences describe what you bring to the table in terms of your skill level," she says. "You don’t really have to customize it from resume to resume if you do it right. This should be kind of a sales hook that you can use again and again to highlight the skill set that you bring."
Summarize less desirable jobs. If you have had a long career, but your best job kicked in later, don’t go into detail about what you did before. Castellano recommends that job seekers write something like, "prior to 1990 held various positions in customer service."
"There is no need to elaborate any further because it ages you and adds verbiage that no one is interested in," she says.
Bullet formats. In setting up bullets, it is important that several should be devoted to what the job entails and several others aimed at select accomplishments. "This is especially necessary if you are doing any kind of marketing or sales work," says Castellano. "Do this if you can show anything that you’ve done that isn’t just the mundane part of the job."
Be concrete in bullets. Look for opportunities where the work you have done has made a positive difference. Specific accomplishments are important, so include them if you can. Castellano offers as an example, "increased sales by 6 percent over a three-month period." There are also less numerically-driven accomplishments, such developing a procedure for the office or streamlining a process, that should be included if they have enhanced the business in any way.
Action and buzz. Use a lot of action verbs. Don’t start any bullets with "responsible for…" Instead start with an action verb such as "trained" or "managed" or "streamlined." Look at what types of things people will be looking for so that you can tailor your buzzwords or key action verbs to their needs.
Less is more. On a resume don’t list too many things. Castellano stresses that less is always more on a resume. Keep it as simple as possible in letting your accomplishments shine through.
Set the tone of WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). The key to creating a strong resume is remembering that the reader doesn’t want to know what you can do for yourself. The reader only wants to know what you can do for him. If there is nothing in it for him, then why should he interview you or hire you?
Write thank you letters. This is one of the most important elements of landing a job. After an interview, it is good to mail out a thank you letter to the person you spoke with. "Most people are so lax about this," says Castellano. "They just don’t think of doing it. But it is one sure way – all things being equal – of putting yourself on the `yes’ pile."
Hobbies, only if unique. Hobbies should only be included unless they are a real conversation piece. "If you are a fisherman and you’ve won the Eastern Regional Championship, then you can put that in," says Castellano. "If it will play in your favor, put it in. Otherwise, keep it out."
Cover letter. Keep it simple. Introduce yourself while you reference the resume. It is wise to include two or three of your key assets without making it repetitive. Word these in such a way that it is a complement to the resume, not a direct copy from it.
Don’t copy. Always remember that there is no such thing as a standard resume. Formats change. Each resume has to be customized to the individual it represents. Everyone is in a unique situation, one way or another.
– Jack Florek
People don’t do business in a vacuum. They do business with people they know and like. Understanding that one principal can make the difference between a business that works well and one that doesn’t, says Megan Oltman, regional vice president of Hopewell-based Team Nimbus, a small business development and strategic planning company.
"We train and inspire businesses to create strategic alliances and referral partnerships and to cultivate continuous referrals that will make their business profitable without sacrificing their quality of life," she says.
Team Nimbus joins BNI New Jersey (Business Network International) to present "Heat Up Your Referral Relationships" on Thursday, May 4, at 6 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel Palmer Inn. Cost: $35 per person. Call 609-466-6592
"A lot of people do networking quantity, but forget about quality," says Oltman. A "quality" referral relationship takes time and effort to build, she says, but is well worth it. "If you really work on quality relationships," she says, "all you need is between three and five great referral partners to have a really successful business."
There are several parts to getting and maintaining those great relationships, says Oltman. It may sound obvious, but the first step is to identify potential partners.
Find your referral partners. "When you ask people who their referral partners are, it is amazing how many people don’t know," says Oltman. They may "get and give" a referral on occasion, but they have no planned method for identifying the people who can help their business to grow. "Ask yourself who has given you a referral in the last six months. Who has given you more than one referral? If the answer is no one, then you need to ask yourself who you know who is in a good position to give your business referrals."
Every business has natural referral partners, people who are in related industries who may need each other’s help to do their business. For example, a real estate agent can easily refer business to a mortgage broker. A satisfied client may be your best referral partner, but if you never mentioned that you’d like more business, they may never think to refer business to you. If you aren’t receiving referrals, the next step is to take a look at your business relationships and ask yourself why.
Assess your relationships. Do you feel a connection to your referral partners? Do they feel a connection to you? "Take a look at the intensity of your relationships," says Oltman. "If you haven’t spoken to your referral partners in months, you need to start to work on that relationship."
"Have you been clear to your contacts about what a good referral is for you? Do they understand your business and do you understand theirs?" If the answer is no, you may need to work on those relationships. The more specific you can be about just what kind of work you are looking for, the higher quality referrals you are likely to get. If, for example, you specialize in pharmaceutical marketing, you don’t want to waste time turning away requests for retail marketing assistance.
The referral process. "We like to refer business to people we like," says Oltman. In other words, if the other person doesn’t know you, they are less likely to refer business to you. "When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with that person? What did you talk about?" Taking the time to learn about your contacts’ interests, goals, and accomplishments – as well as their networks – is the best way to "heat up" relationships.
"Spend non-business time with the people you want as your referral partners," says Oltman. "Get to know them."
Intensify your relationships. "If you have checked the temperature of your business relations and find that most of them are tepid, it is time to heat them up," says Oltman. "Look at your relationships and figure out what is missing. Then make an action plan to improve those relationships."
You may decide that you have a great personal relationship with a potential referral partner, but you’ve never actually asked him to refer business to you. That person may be a good friend or even a relative, but if you don’t ask for referrals, he will never know you want them, or need them.
"They may be assuming you have all the business you can handle," says Oltman. In this case, the action plan is easy – just ask.
Most often the problem is that you have never taken the time to really get to know potential business partners, says Oltman. Take them out to lunch. Show them that they are appreciated.
Say thank you. "If you get a referral that brings you business, do you thank the person who gave you that referral?" she asks. "Every business coach and every networking organization will preach that you should send a thank you note. But if you really do it, you will be in a small minority and you’ll really stand out."
Be creative with your expressions of thanks, she adds. "Don’t just send a note. Send a jar of homemade jam or find something personal that relates to them. Make them feel appreciated."
"If you work to really maintain your business relationships you will increase your business without spending massive amounts of money on marketing," says Oltman. In the process, you will also be gaining friends and really enjoying your business.
– Karen Hodges Miller
It has been a no-brainer for Marion Reinson, a marketing strategy and web development consultant, to help out friends who have lost their jobs. She figures that marketing a company and marketing a person are based on pretty much the same principles.
When you’re looking for a job, she says, "you’re the product. You’re packaging yourself for sale." This means differentiating yourself, not by a list of the last 20 years’ worth of jobs, but by highlighting the characteristics and skills you have that a company needs.
Job candidates who are asked to interview can assume they were called for a reason, probably because of skills that are identical to those of the candidate slotted for the next interview. "If people have identical backgrounds," says Reinson, "you have to ask what you can do to differentiate yourself."
Reinson speaks on Saturday, May 6, at 8:30 a.m., at a meeting of the Career Networking Group at St. Paul’s Church on Nassau Street in Princeton (www.stpaulsprinceton.org).
Reinson knows as well as the next person the tried and true aphorisms about job search, but she doesn’t always agree with them. For example, take the old saw: "Don’t say too much, or you may be jeopardizing your chances." Yes, maybe. But on the other hand, every time you interview you are in direct competition with another candidate. And what you say about yourself is likely to make the difference between being hired or not.
Reinson’s ideas for job seekers combine her instinctual understanding of people with her experience as a marketer in the business world. She says she has always been a people person, and it is not a surprise that her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University was in psychology. "I know people. I’m a communicator," she says. "Within a short time, I can learn from business owners what their needs are."
Reinson is also busy with people when she’s not working, spending time with her kids and family and working in her community. "In my spare time," she says, "I run the lacrosse organization for our town, Montgomery Township."
Reinson’s bread and butter is helping companies market themselves. Because she finds the process to be much the same for job seekers who have to market themselves, she likes to apply what she’s learned in marketing small to medium-sized businesses to the process of looking for a job:
Tell them what you can do for them. When Reinson talks to the owners of small and mid-sized businesses she first asks: Who is your audience and what do they want to hear? "Make sure you are developing a message to engage that audience," she advises. Businesses often don’t think about the audience because they are so concerned with selling the product, and job seekers often think about the audience because they are so eager to land a job.
Reinson recommends focusing on the qualities that a company is likely to need – what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you – to modify a line from John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech.
Hone in on what you’re good at. Are you a great leader? Analytical? Fantastic with research? Not so good with people, but a whiz with Excel? Many jobs also require people who are collaborators, communicators, and integrators, as well as people who can meet deadlines and attend to the budget. "These are things that shouldn’t be left unsaid," says Reinson.
When the goal is to transfer skills to a new area, Reinson suggests using more general statements: I’m great at organizing people. Or, whatever position I have had, I have been selected to lead a team. Is that the type of person you’re looking for?
This interview style, a mix of prompting your qualities, probing for what an employer needs, and suggesting how you can fulfill them is the same style Reinson uses when meeting a potential client. "It’s like going to an interview," she says. "If I can tell prospects what will benefit them, usually by asking a question and getting more information, I can tell them how to do something better."
Push the added value you bring. Reinson says that IT people often keep talking about their technical skills – skills that every one of the people competing for a job has. But what they should be saying are things like: "I have technical skills, but I can talk to nontechnical people."
Reveal a lot about yourself, but not everything. For individuals as for businesses, the "customer" may not need to know everything. Reinson likes to use a lemonade company as an example. "The customer doesn’t care if the company has acres of lemon trees if it doesn’t tell them that the lemonade will quench their thirst," she says.
Learn about the company and the problems it needs to solve. When Reinson starts with a new client, she learns all about them: about their products and services, their customers, and their needs. Often different customers have different needs; and even if the product doesn’t change, the emphases of the company will have to vary to serve a particular client well.
Reinson gives the example of a company that installs doorways in hospitals and office buildings. "They deal with contractors, architects, and facility managers," she says. "They all need doors, but have different problems they want the company to solve for them." The architects are concerned with the fit – a door needs to work with their design and be done quickly. Contractors are looking for the right kind of materials. Facility managers need the company to be responsive when they have problems.
Similarly, it behooves job seekers to do the necessary research to turn up the kinds of problems the potential employer needs to solve, asking themselves: "What about my experience do I think will help this company solve these problems?"
Think about what you want to do, not what you have done. Reinson believes that people get stuck in a certain mindset once they’ve held X position in Y industry for Z years. But those telecom jobs aren’t there anymore, and people must imagine new futures.
Break down the tasks you did in telecom – or any other industry. Think about what made your work successful. Did you lead teams? Devise out-of-the-box solutions? Win grants? Boost sales? Raise a product’s image? Forget the industry, revise your resume so that it shows the characteristics you have that will benefit a company.
Be willing to take risks. Ask questions that will uncover the potential employer’s real needs. Sometimes a job seeker needs to say something like: "I have X years of experience in this – how do you think I can help your business?" She urges individuals to step out of the responsive mode and into the proactive mode. One caveat is that in a big corporation, it may actually take three rounds of interviews before reaching a person who has any idea about what the position really entails.
Don’t interview for a firm you will hate. Reinson explains that part of her job is to help her clients learn how to get the customers they want to get – and stay away from the customers they don’t want. It is important to have a system of disqualifying people, she says. They may be poor prospects for a variety of reasons: because margins are minimal, because a potential client is out of region, because a client doesn’t see the value of what the business does, or because a potential client has regulatory restrictions.
Similarly when looking for a job, not every organization is appropriate. "You need to get up and be O.K. about going to work," she says, "but when the door keeps closing, people may accept a job they know is not the best thing." She says she advised a friend who had just started his own business not to take clients he didn’t like, and he later thanked her for the advice, even though his first year was lean as a result.
She knows that it’s hard to turn down an offer, but urges job hunters to be alert for signs that the company’s culture is a poor fit, that the work it offers appears not to lead to higher responsibilities, or even that the commute would be a burden.
For 12 years Reinson, who is from Edison, was a partner in a boutique business management agency that saw a need, and worked at filling it. "Ten years ago I said, `We have to do websites; this is not going away,’" she recalls. Creating websites exposed her to all business processes, because it takes wide-ranging knowledge to build an effective website.
She has done work for the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey and is on the advisory board of the Poison Center.
Three years ago she went out on her own. It’s not by chance that her website and her consulting business are called To the Point Consulting (www.tothepointconsulting.net): "It is about defining a message and getting to the point," she says. "Especially when you are dealing with the Web and people are making decisions in seconds about whether a company has the information they are looking for. You have to tell people what you have for them right away or it is a lost opportunity."
Reinson’s approach to job search has worked well for people. When she spoke with someone who had been with AT&T and Lucent, and then with Global Crossing when the bottom fell out, she found out he was positioning himself as a technology professional. "He didn’t differentiate at all," she says. "But when he started talking about himself more as a project and program manager and telling people he could work with both upper management and IT people, he got more interviews." Finally, he landed a position in a completely different industry – shipping – doing software development.
Reinson reminds people to look in areas of growth, for example in domestic preparedness and counterterrorism, where employers will not have a whole list of people with prior experience.
Reinson cites a quote she loves, which is attributed to Darwin: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
What can you do to show you are able to adapt? Don’t be a dinosaur. Instead you may want to take your lead from the cockroach – who has made survival into a business for millennia.
– Michele Alperin
"Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations" honors the word "leadership" with more than 10 pages – without any two of the quoted sages agreeing on a definition. Yet while its essence remains elusive, we do know that leadership reaches far beyond domination. It involves inspiring people of free will – something much more difficult and rewarding than subjugating them to authority.
Rank and high position are really handy tools for achieving obedience. But they are irrelevant to being a leader and getting the most out of your crew. The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce looks at the right way to inspire others to follow when it presents "Leading Up: Influencing Without Authority," on Tuesday, May 9, at 8 a.m. at the Westin Princeton Forrestal Village. Cost: $50. Visit www.princetonchamber.org.
Nino Scarpati, sociology professor and director of Civic Leadership Development at the College of New Jersey, moderates. Other panelists include Assemblyman Bill Baroni and Tom Sullivan, CEO of Princeton Partners.
If you had told professor Scarpati when he was a young man growing up in Cliffside Park that he would end up teaching social work, he never would have believed it. He attended Rutgers University with an eye toward law or journalism, and graduated in l981 with a double major in communications and fine arts. But something happened during the spring of his senior year. "One particular professor nudged me toward taking time for some self reflection," he recalls, "and what I realized was that I wanted to make my contribution by inspiring others to lead from the outset."
Scarpati stayed on at Rutgers, earning a master’s in social work and taking charge of the University’s Student Life Program. From there he moved into the dorms as a counselor at the University of Delaware and revamped that school’s residential life system. Ten years ago, when he was teaching at the College of New Jersey, Scarpati initiated the school’s Civic Leadership Development Program. Through the program, students, by working in non-profits, become aware of society’s problems and are inspired to lead their communities toward solutions.
Leadership, like love, defies regimented instruction. "There are no seven magical steps to leadership," says Scarpati, "but there are a set of skills and values that may just urge you a little closer to the leadership path."
A little reflection. Buddha and General George Patton had virtually no similar qualities that would inspire followers. But they did share a passion for self reflection and situational reflection. "It is so easy for us to get caught up in the whole forward vision thing," says Scarpati, "that we often forget to not only think ahead, but also to analyze the present."
Both the great religious leader and the amazingly successful general had studied history exhaustively and paid close attention to their people’s current situation.
We know that Patton, like Lincoln, actually listed his leadership talents. To marshal one’s talents, one must first reflect and realize them.
Clarity. People cannot be inspired toward a direction that is counter to self-interest or that is vague. If you would get individuals to walk a certain road, make sure the road is clear, and if not easy, at least leading to a desirable reward.
Learning. In the late l960s a starving China looked at the United States. They saw a country where agriculture was wildly successful. They also noted that the United States planted wheat. So China planted wheat, and millions died in the resulting famine. "It’s an easy trap to take lessons only from success," says Scarpati. "Rather we should be seeking the lesson in the entire broad experience of our lives."
Good leaders are often obsessed with learning something from each person or event
encountered. And somehow, the very energy of this obsession is transferred to those around them. Slowly the Chinese learned that the traditional barley was the best grain for their harsh western highlands, and that its yield could be enhanced by a long list of planting practices gathered from many other areas.
Lawyerspeak. "We all seek plain, simple unvarnished truth from passionately believing individuals," says Scarpati. "And our leaders are not giving it to us." The White House has become labeled as the "Spin Factory," where each idea and action is carefully couched for maximum receptivity. Legislators at all levels, on both sides of the aisle, along with business leaders and managers, have all been scrambling to emulate this style and spin every event.
In the short term this may work, but in the long term individuals will take inspiration and direction from those with a true belief and a passion behind it that is unwavering and admirable. Of course, watch what you say. But first be clear on your vision and your values.
Control myth. The good leader is always in control. The more control, the better the leader. Bunk, says Scarpati. There are occasions when a leader can move people with his own laser-like focus on a certain problem. But this should only be a short-term function. "In the long term, people want access and involvement," he says.
In developing its army, the Romans looked at the Greeks. Then they gave each soldier two more feet of sword-swinging freedom on either side. And instead of hollering orders from the rear, as the leaders of the Greek forces did, the Roman generals made sure each man was trained beforehand in the best possible techniques. The Romans let each soldier go his own way on the field, and they built an empire.
"All leadership is temporal and contextual," says Scarpati. Every individual must play his cards as he finds them. Sometimes a touch of Patton is called for – sometimes a touch of Buddha. Your leadership methods can change as long as your personal values remain fixed and evident. People may not all flock to your banner, but if you hold firm to good values, you’ll at least get a fair hearing.
– Bart Jackson
An attorney who works for the Secret Service, Joshua McDowell, is one of the speakers for the day-long forensic accounting conference at Rider University on Tuesday, May 9, starting at 8 a.m. Cost: $295 with discounts for government works and academicians. Call 609-896-5152.
McDowell will speak about cyber crime and identity theft. Other topics include anti-fraud programs and controls, forensic accounting and homeland security implications, techniques for discovering employee embezzlements. Richard L. Fair, a Rider alumnus who has been New Jersey’s State Auditor for six years, will be the luncheon speaker.
`The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual – his shrine to the self – his mobile Walden Pond," wrote California sociologist Edward McDonagh. The auto has changed everything from the shape of our cities to our ties to extended family. When it works, it is a magic arrow to freedom and the ultimate symbol of dreams.
But when it breaks down, all that freedom drains away and our cash goes right along with it. For most of us, an auto is the second most expensive and complicated investment we make.
Both processes of servicing and of purchasing – or leasing – and auto have become increasingly shrouded in protective laws, odd disclosures, and smuggled-in dispute clauses. To help individuals sort through the car repair and buying legalities, the New Jersey State Bar Foundation presents a free seminar, "Cars, Consumers, and Consumer Law," on Wednesday, May 10, at 7 p.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Visit www.njsbf.com to register.
Representing both the dealers’ and the consumers’ position are attorneys Cindy K. Miller, former chair of the Consumer Protection Law Committee and currently in private practice in Westfield; Michael Halbfish, partner in Woodbridge-based Tunney & Halbfish; and consumer law attorney Andrew Wolf of Galex Wolf in East Brunswick.
Miller is one of those rare lawyers who has defended both dealers and consumers in court, and tried to bring them both together in vocates for dealers in the automotive field, while defending consumers in other fields.mediation. A native of Paterson, she was raised in Fair Lawn and graduated from Indiana University in l975 with a B.A. misleadingly titled "forensics."
"Actually, it was police administration," says Miller, "but that was the l970s and `police’ was not a word one would use to attract undergraduates." She obtained her law degree from Temple in l978 and became senior deputy attorney general for the state. She also became a official mediator for the state Supreme Court’s presumptive mediation program.
Miller is an adjunct professor at Kean University. In her private practice, she advocates for dealers in the automotive field, while defending consumers in other fields. "It allows me to keep balanced, but not conflicted," she says.
If you are a car owner, you are lucky to live in New Jersey. According to Miller, the Garden State provides more protection, more disclosures, and more anti-fraud enforcement from the auto’s initial purchase right through its last trip to the service bay.
The laws are not enough, though. Consumers must know their rights and pay attention to them throughout their relationships with their cars.
What a lemon! Sometimes the assembly line just turns out a machine that was born to break down and can never quite be wrestled into running smoothly. New Jersey protects the consumer from being stuck with a bad purchase, and may even require a dealer to provide a replacement car.
Basically a lemon is any purchased, leased, or registered car or motorcycle that has one or more defects that persists after three repair attempts, or has been out of service for more than 20 days in a year. This must be a substantial flaw (CD player static does not count.)
More minor flaws are covered under the New Jersey statute that guarantees at least a two year or 18,000 mile warranty.
As of l996 used autos have been given their own lemon law protection. For any used car bought after July 7, l996, the dealer must provide a 90 day/3,000 mile warranty for vehicles with 24,000 miles or less. For 24,001 to 60,000 miles, the warranty is 60 days or 2,000 miles,, and for a car with 60,001 to 100,000 miles on the odometer, dealers will provide 30 day/ 1,000 mile warranty. Pilots of motorized scooters or motorized wheelchairs also coast in for one year’s coverage.
No protection covers cars not sold by dealers, older than seven years, purchased for under $3,000, registering over 100,000 miles, or listed as "totaled" by insurance companies. For further information, contact Consumer Affairs Bureau, 153 Halsey Street, Newark 07102; 973-504-6226.
Dealer woes. "There is a real tendency to picture automotive dealers as the villains in the picture," says Miller, "but increasing burdens from the law and from manufacturers have made many dealers feel more and more squeezed." The number one hassle for the automotive dealer – and his customer – is the paper avalanche. All the marvelous disclosures, and pre-tests, and affidavits have made purchasing an auto about as complex a deal as purchasing a house. This adds to a dealer’s staff time, and cuts into his profit. This enlarged paper stream has also flowed over into the service division.
"It’s a popular myth that dealers offer financing," says Miller. In fact, most all financing is offered by manufacturers through their dealerships. Individual dealers must follow the terms, set up all the paperwork, and in some cases be responsible for collection. But they do not share in the money these loans generate. Collection of payments has become the major source of dealer litigation.
Warranty reimbursement is another manufacturing squeeze endured by dealers. Typically, car manufacturers repay set amounts for recall and other repairs, and this frequently leaves the dealer’s service department shorted.
Dealers can be squeezed by consumers over service issues also. Miller notes that little fraud is encountered by dealers from consumers. The one exception is frequent claims that iPods – and similar high-priced small items – were stolen out of the glove compartment while the auto was being serviced.
Dispute clauses. As selling and servicing become increasingly legalized and entangling, many dealers have embedded a dispute resolution clause in the sales contract. This usually states that any disagreement between the buyer and selling dealer will be settled out of court by a representative of a named arbitration association. "Buyers almost never note this clause," says Miller.
A veteran mediator, Miller says that mediation allows a sensible compromise to be reached, as opposed to arbitration, which, in effect, serves as merely a cheaper, swifter court decision.
It may appear that signing the arbitration clause denies you the opportunity of a jury trial, but this is not always so. The American Arbitration Association and most arbiters will take no case where one party wants to go to (and qualifies for) Small Claims Court.
Bettering repair odds. When your beloved auto’s brakes start to go, you can tell the repair person to a) fix it as needed; b) give it the best fix $200 will buy; or c) give this thing a brake job. Miller notes that while the first two may be acceptable, the last direction is open for misinterpretation. Your idea may be to merely polish the rotors, while the mechanic may replace everything on the wheels but the tires.
Most important, advises Miller, is to write down the exact automotive ailment and under what circumstances it occurs. Keep a copy for yourself. Problems transferred verbally from owner to service manager to mechanic tend to morph greatly.
Is it necessary to really know your car and engine before you take it in for repair? "Well, that can’t hurt," says Miller. "But the most important thing to know well in auto repair is your mechanic. I know both Jim and Tommy and I am sure that they will always treat me honestly." All business is personal.
"Cars are implements of vanity," says Miller. "At the auto show, people look at the hybrids with mild fascination, but in the end they all cluster around the sports cars and the plush models. That’s what we want."
– Bart Jackson
Art of Science
Images produced by scientists can have value, not only for science, but also as art. Princeton University’s second annual "Art of Science" exhibit will open with a reception on Wednesday, May 10, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Friend Center, Olden Avenue.
The juried show has nearly 50 images, videos, and sounds that were produced in the course of scientific or technical research from a dozen different departments at the university.
"Much of the work that we find so compelling may be likened to `found art,’" says Adam Finkelstein, associate professor of computer science. "Researchers create images or other artifacts in the pursuit of math, science, and engineering, and often they turn out to be quite beautiful. The question of whether this is serendipity, or perhaps the expression of some deeper connections between esthetics, order, nature, and complexity remains to be answered by the viewer."
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