Worker Beware

There’s an old saying that desperate times call for desperate measures. I’m here to tell you that my attempt to work for Liberty Tax Service in Palm Bay FL was a desperate measure. I did just fine in the tax preparation course but red flags started popping up towards the end of the class. All students were given a schedule of upcoming events. They included dates and times when we could go to one of the offices and practice on actual Liberty Tax software. At no point during the class did we use the actual software even though the computers were sitting right in front of us. Any time spent practicing in the office was unpaid, although the owner and managers did tell us we had to be there in business attire, just in case it got busy and we wanted to do actual returns. There were also 2 mandatory meetings for new and returning employees, totaling 11 hours. These meetings were NOT part of the preparation course but covered office procedures and policies. One person did ask if those meetings would be paid and the franchise owner (Ben Teaford) immediately responded NO since they were only training. All the new employees signed employment contracts at the end of the second meeting. These contracts stated our pay rate and bonus conditions. Mine stated that I would get 1% of the gross of my returns if I completed at least 75 paid returns and lasted the entire tax season. Later I discussed this with a returning employee and found out that last year the magic number was 50 returns but a few people got close to that so it was raised. The hours I was given at the beginning of the tax season were minimal, less than 10 hours per week. Due to problems with the owner and my second manager (the first manager moved to a new office), I quit during my first month. To be perfectly honest, I shouldn’t even have started with the red flags I saw but I’d been out of work over a year at that point. Think about that word ‘desperate’ again. Most of the new employees I saw were in the same boat so they put up with the crap just to get some income.

After quitting, I sent a separate email to Liberty corporate detailing the conditions in this franchise. They acknowledged the emailed and thanked me but I never heard anything else from them or the franchise owner. I  really thought getting paid for those training sessions would be a slam dunk after filing a complaint with the US Department of Labor. Boy was I mistaken! Since I’d filed a previous complaint with the DoL back in the 90s, I certainly didn’t expect to be so mistreated this time. The local worker assigned to my case seemed to attach a great deal of importance to the fact that I was the only one who complained. They finally sent me a letter stating that they were declining to prosecute the case but that I could pursue the matter in small claims court. Naturally I asked for a copy of my case file to take to court if I decided to go that route. Their response was that I would have to file a Freedom of Information Act Request to get a copy of my own case file!!!! So I did and got an emailed pdf file that included their documentation – a whopping 2 page form with acronyms and abbreviations that weren’t explained anywhere. So far, they’ve ignored 4 requests for a layman’s translation of their form. That’s our government in action folks. They should be very thankful that at least their jobs are secure, with our tax dollars.

Besides contacting Liberty Tax corporate and the DoL, I also contacted a local ambulance chaser (lawyer) and an investigative reporter. Both of them declined to take up the cause, without giving any reasons. I’m assuming that there wasn’t enough money in it for the lawyer and it wasn’t a big enough story for the reporter. I also contacted my US Senator, who sent a form letter to the DoL and has done nothing since. Apparently, the game is rigged so that if you only steal from the little guys, you can get away with it all day long.

For those of you who think I might be foolish in posting this rant and that I might be hurting future employment chances, I say ‘not a problem’. If a prospective employer is that worried about being held to his/her end of the bargain, that’s not someone I want to work for anyway. I stand ready to provide an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay but if you try to cheat me I’ll do everything I can to rectify the situation and expose you. In the end, you might get away with it, but not for lack of effort on my part.

Way too long since last post

Every time I thought about posting, something else seemed to come up. So, now that I’m back at the keyboard we’ll see if I can catch up.

I managed to survive the summer somehow. At one point I discovered that the corner of my large slide floor had rotted out. That was not a pleasant day. I had to tear out almost 2 sq ft of flooring. Then I had to buy a sheet of 1″ thick marine plywood and cut a piece as close to fitting as I could. Since the rotted area didn’t follow straight lines, it was a very poor fit. On the brighter side, it was in a corner so I was able to screw those edges into the frame, then use wood scraps and epoxy filler to complete the ragged edges. I can highly recommend the sealer and filler products from To finish the project I used that spray on waterproofing material (the stuff in the commercials that they spray on a screen door in the bottom of a boat) on the underside of the repaired area to prevent further water damage. As of now, it all seems to be holding well.

The next project involved moving the RV for the first time in a year. As you may recall, I arrived with a broken ankle and very tired after 3 days of non-stop towing. When I set up, it wasn’t quite as good as it should have been. There were 2 concrete strips to back on to but I didn’t get the tires centered well on those strips. As a result, the RV was slightly off level. In October I decided to remedy that situation. It’s just amazing how much has to be done inside and outside the RV even though it wouldn’t be moved more than 20 ft forward or back. It would also be great if someone invented a device that would move a heavy RV sideways just a few inches. The actual movement took less than 30 minutes but it was a 4 or 5 hour total effort. I’m very glad that all the landing gear and slides worked as advertised even though they’d been immobile so long.

Since the weather was cooling off and I didn’t need the AC anymore, I decided to put the water heater back on electric to see if that would be cheaper than propane. Well, it turned out to be very cheap because the electric was no longer heating. After checking a few things on my Suburban water heater, I narrowed it down to an on/off rocker switch at the water heater. This is an additional safety feature to make sure you don’t accidentally burn out a heating element with an empty tank. I found a replacement switch at a local RV repair shop for under $12 and got it swapped out without trouble.

On the job front, I decided to take a tax preparation course with Liberty Tax Service which I just finished. I’ll start working for them in January. Boy will it feel good to have a paycheck again. I’m not expecting anything more than seasonal this year but as long as it works out well for both sides, it should be reliable future work regardless of my location.


HOT, HOT, HOT!!!!!

There’s a very good reason why you can have your pick of campsites in central to south Florida in the summertime. It’s so hot and humid that most people are heading north to camp. Due to family circumstances, I’m here for the summer, and possibly next summer also. So, how do I survive?

Well, it’s not as easy as previous summers down here. For 1 thing, I’m still looking for work. That means I can’t run my air conditioner all the time without cutting back in other places. I was doing pretty good until about the middle of July. As long I didn’t do anything strenuous in the RV I was OK with open windows and vent fans/ceiling fan running. I could even turn the fans off at night.

Then it started getting really hot and humid everyday, think 90s for both. I could last until about noon without the AC, then had to turn it on for my sake and the cat’s. She’s leaving furballs all over. It is still possible to keep the electric bill fairly level in these conditions. First, I only exercise in the morning when it’s at least a little bit cooler. But by the end of the workout, I’m still very hot and sweaty. Definitely time for a shower. Since the outside temps are rising and my body needs cooling down, I find cold showers very invigorating. Also, with my strange eating habits, I rarely generate any dishes that need to be washed. I can last about a week without turning on the water heater. It’s amazing how much energy that particular appliance uses (propane or electric) when it’s just keeping water hot. So, I’m saving some money there.

If I get down to the Laundromat early enough, I can save even more by line drying my clothes. The park has communal laundry lines right next to the Laundromat, not too useful in winter but almost as fast as the gas dryers during the summer. I do have to be careful and watch the sky though. It’s a real bummer to have a load of clothes almost dry, then have a fast moving rain shower come over to erase all that progress.

So far I’m surviving the 2 hottest, wettest months in Florida and really looking forward to October when there should be a noticeable cool down. And by February, I’ll be wishing that I could’ve saved some of this heat :-)


May 2014

Even though things were looking good at the end of last month, they certainly did a 360 this month.

That job I applied for? And had such high hopes for? Well, weeks went by and I heard absolutely nothing. I finally emailed them requesting an update and that was ignored. So I composed another email, detailing all the actions/effort I’d put in to get this job and how their silence was just plain rude. I did get an answer to that one. Apparently I struck a nerve. One of the things they mentioned in that email was that 2 of my most recent employers refrained from answering the question about whether they would rehire me. I have to blame lawyers and litigious job applicants on that one. When you only do seasonal work you’re really not there long enough to make a major impression. Anyway, as far as jobs are concerned, I’m starting to feel like a couple of guys in the movie “Mr. Mom”. It was shortly after Michael Keaton got laid off and there were 3 of them in the waiting area, ready to interview but the 2 other guys were busily exchanging recipes. One of their names was called and they graciously allowed Michael Keaton to go in first, knowing that their chances of getting the job were virtually nil. The tough part about all this is that I don’t even qualify for unemployment here in FL.

Next, the 3G Stepper. I was blazing around the park for a few weeks when I noticed a strange noise. I flipped the bike upside down and found one of the roller pedals was completely worn through. So, I ordered 2 new roller pedals and while I was waiting for them to arrive, studied the design of the bike. The roller pedals are 1.5 inches wide but they make contact with a square metal tube that’s only 1″ wide. I headed to the local department store for some 1/8″ thick, 2″ wide metal stock and cut sections to fit. I originally used JB Weld to hold them in place but that failed. Fortunately, one of the guys in the park is a welder and he tack welded the pieces in place at no charge. While I was waiting for the roller pedals to arrive, I noticed that cord was showing on the rear tire. I found a source on eBay that was about $10 cheaper than the manufacturer and replaced that easily. After all this, I feel like they had a great concept for this product but under-engineered the final product. It’s great if you’re just showing off a little at the beach but really needs to be stronger for serious workouts. I’m currently riding mine 13 miles/day, 3 times a week.

On the health front, I diagnosed myself with ‘wallet sciatica’. You can look that up for yourself but the end result was less jogging. Just starting to jog slowly again during my morning walks and seems to be getting better. The worse incident was another trip to the ER. As I expected, another kidney stone. Fortunately, this one seemed to be smaller than my last one. The pain subsided while I was in the ER, without benefit of puking :-) I’m fairly certain that I passed it completely a few days later.

Hoping for a better June!!


Amazed and Astounded!

I happen to be a perfectionist in an imperfect world. I just can’t seem to help it. When the judge on People’s Court made an incorrect statement about rules of the road for bicyclists, I emailed the show’s website to set them straight. I may have gotten an automated reply but that was about it. When I saw a misspelled word on a vocational college’s TV commercial (neurodiagostic instead of neurodiagnostic), I did the same thing. As near as I can remember, they tried to sign me up for courses (but eventually corrected the commercial).

Recently, I visited a website for a manufacturer of RV repair diagnostic equipment (said company to remain anonymous). The home page had a narrative that looked like it was written by a brain-damaged chimpanzee. Just to be clear, this wasn’t a business run out of someone’s garage. It’s a company selling equipment throughout the US and Canada. Well, you know what I had to do. They had a contact form on the website and I used it. The owner and I exchanged a couple of emails. I didn’t make any specific change recommendations but told him that it certainly didn’t make a very good first impression. Here comes the amazed and astounded part. A few hours after I sent the last email (about 2 days after this saga started), I checked the website again, thinking I might count the actual errors. To my surprise, it had been cleaned up already. Most of the previous narrative was simply deleted and the remainder didn’t have any glaring grammar or spelling errors (although I would still take exception to their use of the ellipsis). It’s really nice when a complete stranger takes your advice :-)

April 2014

Time to play ‘catch up’ again. First, the ankle. I’m now able to jog, roller blade and swim without any problems. There still seems to be a problem with 2 of the toes on that foot though. I can’t move them independently. Now, I never really paid a whole lot of attention to that before but I don’t have that problem on the other foot. The only thing I can think of is that when the bone shifted slightly, it got in the way of a ligament or tendon or whatever the hell controls toe movements. Or maybe it just needs more time. I’ll worry about it again next year.

One of the other physical activities I’ve been able to resume is riding my 3G Stepper. It’s a hybrid bicycle/stepper/elliptical that’s designed from the ground up for a maximum workout. I’ve had mine for several years and on one of my recent rides through the park I felt something slipping, then failing. It’s a good thing I was still close to the RV. I walked it back (after picking up a broken part) and started examining it. The crank failed from metal fatigue. So I called the company, sent them a pic of the broken part and they referred me to a bicycle shop in Cocoa Beach. 2 weeks and $47 later I was riding again. I’m once again the talk of the park as I ride around in the early morning. My neighbor from Alaska who just pulled out used to refer to it as my ‘torture machine’.

There’s even news on the work front. My original plan when I got down here was to get a stocking job at the local Walmart on the night shift. This would allow me to make some extra money, yet still be available for my granddaughter during the day. Well, things have changed quite a bit. I filled out the online application and heard absolutely nothing. I filled out several other online applications without any feedback at all. And then a miracle happened. I was browsing the county employment website and found a description that sounded amazingly like my previous workamper jobs. It’s a 55+ mobile home park which has most of the same activities as an RV park and it’s only about 1.5 miles away. I could have registered with yet another agency and followed their procedures but since they also posted the name of the employer, I took a shortcut and sent my resume and cover letter directly to the employer. They called me the very next day and 2 days later I was taking a drug test. They also have to do a background check so I still have maybe a week or 2 of freedom remaining. Even when all that is finished, this job will only occupy 2 days of the week so it should work out well.

Welcome to New Readers

I’d like to welcome all the fine folks who are visiting my blog due to the link published by The Camping Dad. While we have different viewpoints, you should still be able to find useful information on both sites. As we were exchanging emails to set up the link exchange, spappy mentioned how envious he was that I was already fulltiming and he was still a ‘weekend warrior’ with young children.

Well, I thought about that for a few minutes and decided that I’m the one that should be envious. If I could turn back the calendar quite a few years, I would spend a lot more time in the woods with my (now grown) kids. And I would probably start that tradition at a much younger age, preferably before they got hooked on all the consumer electronics that are so prevalent today. I’ve seen teenagers and young adults at campgrounds lighting their way at night by using smart phones instead of flashlights. It worked for them but it certainly wasn’t traditional!

Maybe if more of us started that tradition early we could instill the respect for nature and other campers that is sorely lacking in so many campers today.

ON EDIT: There are some families out there who are fulltiming with school age children. The children are home-schooled wherever they happen to be. I think it’s great that the kids can actually see a civil war battlefield while they’re learning history but I would worry that they can’t make the lifelong friends that many children do while staying in one place. Please, no hate mail about this. It’s just my opinion.

Just When You Think You Have a Handle on Things

I’m currently in central Florida in a combo mobile home/RV park. There is 1 street that has only RVs and that’s where I’m at. The sites aren’t huge but they’re not the smallest I’ve seen either. There’s probably about 20 feet between RVs and all the sites are full hook up (water, electric, sewer). We’re right on the edge of a metropolitan area with a fair-sized hospital only 2 blocks away. I say all this to provide the groundwork for the following story:

I was watching TV the other night and about 8:30 PM I took a book up to the bedroom so I would have something to read in a little while. The weather was absolutely gorgeous that day and one of my bedroom windows was open with the shade all the way up. I noticed that there was  a lot of light coming from the site next door and glanced out the window. What did I see? Some guy peeing on a tree about 10 feet from my bedroom window! I couldn’t believe it. After a few deep breaths and assuring myself that he couldn’t be doing anything else (he had his back to me but was talking to his buddy that next time he shouldn’t hold it so long) I had a few words for him through the window. After that, I called the park office to report the incident and request they talk to him the next day. I went back to watching TV and heard the neighbors putting things away for the night and at least one vehicle leaving.

The next morning I decided to share my experience with the fine folks on I’ve been a regular reader/contributor on their forums for years and rants about campground/RV park/Walmart behavior are fairly common. Well, I made my post, then went on with my life. A few hours later I checked in and was dismayed. It seemed that many people were siding with the urinator!

I guess to allow the benefit of the doubt, it seemed like some folks thought I was in a forest campground but once they started in a mob mentality broke out and it was open season on poor Joe.   So, here’s what some of the responses were like.

“It’s natural for guys to pee on trees in the wilderness.” Absolutely right but this happened in an urban RV park.

“Dogs pee on trees all the time and you don’t get upset about that.” Right again but dogs also hump in the middle of the street at high noon and stick their noses in your crotch to say hello. Standards of behavior are different for humans and animals.

“It’s god’s will.” This guy probably shouldn’t be out of the house without a caregiver.

“It’s a common practice in Europe.” Last time I checked Florida was not a member of the European Union.

“That’s the way we always did it on the ranch/farm.” Again, not a crowded urban RV park.

There were also a few suggesting it was my own damn fault for looking out the window. 1 poster suggested that I shouldn’t get upset unless someone is peeing directly on my steps in broad daylight. One guy said it was my problem for being in a mobile home/RV park. I quickly put that snob on my block list.

There were a number of people who agreed with me and came to my defense and I thank them. Hopefully all the ‘pro public urinators’ will stay in their own campgrounds.

For the record I’ve peed on trees from the Everglades to southeast Alaska and in woods all over West Germany. I’ve even peed on the side of the highway during emergencies. In all of those cases, there were no other options. This guy could have taken 2 steps in the other direction and used the facilities inside his RV.

Cool FL Weather – Jan 2014

For the most part, central Florida winter weather is great. Unfortunately, there will be a few times during the season when the temperatures drop below freezing, or even a little above that for several days. I was going to refer to this as ‘cold’ weather but I was raised in Chicago and I watch the national weather to see sub-zero weather with feet of snow piling up.

So, it’s not a major threat to survival when the temps drop below 70 but I did discover something recently. Normally, I’m very frugal when it comes to running the furnace or electric heaters (when I’m paying for my own utilities). If the temps drop into the 30s or even high 20s overnight, I usually deal with it by wearing extra layers inside the RV and throwing an extra blanket on the bed at night. In the morning, I’ll run the furnace for 15-20 minutes just to take the chill off, then wait for the temps to rise to a comfortable level. This has worked fine in the past but in the last few weeks we were getting the low temps at night and not going above 50 during the day.

In my eBook, Home Is Where The Wheels Stop, I mention that fatigue is cumulative. Well, it looks like cold is also. Going into the second night of cold temps, I actually set the thermostat so the furnace would kick in periodically during the night and, perhaps more amazingly, left the furnace on during the day. I had the thermostat set low so I wasn’t burning a lot of propane. But as the cool weather continued I found myself adjusting the thermostat up each day even though the outside temps were still in the same range. Maybe the cold is cumulative, or maybe I’m just getting older and not able to handle it as well. One of my neighbors is significantly older and I can still hear their furnace running, even on nights when I leave my windows open.

Itchy Feet

Normally, itchy feet for an RVer refers to being ready to roll on down the road to the next campground. For me (this year), the phrase means that plus healing from my broken ankle.

Since I’m committed in this area for an undetermined amount of time, I can’t really look forward to hitching up and pulling out. So, I took the next best option and drove across the state to visit the Tampa RV Super Show. I guess that’s a vicarious pleasure for a stationary RVer. I’d been thinking about getting a different type of RV for awhile so the show was a good place to do some research. The type I was interested in is a Super C. No problem. I spotted a great looking Super C within a few minutes and headed straight for it. It certainly looked big enough to fulltime in and tow a decent vehicle behind it. Then I noticed the price tag. Wow!! It was marked down for the show to $465k. List price was over $500k. Hmmm, I probably need to start buying lottery tickets again.

After that I stuck more to my price range and looked at the towables. In the last few years, they’ve definitely made some changes in standard features and options. I still may need to buy those lottery tickets though to get all the options I want, then maybe a bigger truck to tow it.

Now for the other meaning of itchy feet. In December, I had my last ortho appointment and the doctor announced that I was at maximum medical improvement. I guess in English that means ‘you’re as good as you’re going to get’. Over the last 3 months, it seemed like I could feel the bone mending. It wasn’t painful, just a sensation in the spot where the break occurred. Well, I’m still feeling that sensation and there’s still some swelling in the ankle. Maybe there’s still some improvement going on. I sure hope so. In the meantime, I’ll keep exercising without going overboard and trying to lose more weight to take it a little easier on those joints.