The case of the stolen stereo

So last Thursday, some knucklehead broke into my car and stole my stereo, my flight headset, and a few other small items. This post is about the process of replacing and/or repairing those losses, so you can consider it somewhat in the nature of a review.

The car was in the “secure” [sic] parking area at my apartment complex. However, it’s fairly easy to get into the parking area, so generally I lock the car. I left the driver’s rear window open about 2″, and that was apparently sufficient for the thief to get in. Another nearby car was burgled by the expedient of a brick thrown through the window (the owner had left spare keys in the ashtray so he lost the whole car!), so I suppose it’s a good thing that I’d left the window open.

I immediately called the Mountain View police non-emergency number; they told me to file a report online, which I did. That part of the process was painless and quick; the CopLogic system that MVPD uses worked well.

Next stop: insurance company. I use USAA for car insurance, and their online claim system worked just as well as CopLogic. I was able to file the claim in less than 10 minutes and got a call back from an adjuster about two hours later. She explained that in California, only items that are powered by the vehicle (or could be) are covered by auto insurance. Your GPS? Covered. Your laptop? Covered. Stereo? Covered. Headset? Nope. She punched a few buttons and told me that I’d be hearing from a company called Premier Services, and that I could get the dash repaired anywhere I liked but, OBTW, there was a USAA-approved shop right up the road in Palo Alto.

Sure enough, I got a call from Premier about an hour later. When I bought this car in December of 2009, I removed the factory stereo and replaced it with a Pioneer AVIC U310BT, the lowest-end Pioneer that had navigation and an iPod/iPhone input. It cost me about $400, plus cables and adapters and so on. I installed it myself, so my total cost including cables, etc., was probably about $550 or so. Pioneer discontinued that model, so the replacement cost they’re offering is substantially more, meaning I can buy something a little nicer. Off to Crutchfield I went, where I ordered a JVC KW-NT500HDT receiver. I’ve been buying from Crutchfield for nearly 20 years and have never had anything less than a great experience with them, so their recommendation of this particular deck carried a lot of weight. The Pioneer unit I had was slow and buggy, and Pioneer’s customer support is terrible, so I wasn’t about to buy another one.

I’m not sure why the thief took my headset, given that it’s only useful for flying in planes– maybe he thought it was a cool set of DJ headphones or something. The headset in question was a Pilot USA PA-1771T Liberty that I bought from Pilot USA as a refurb last year. It isn’t the most comfortable or fanciest headset, but it did a good enough job of providing active noise reduction (ANR) and was reasonably comfortable. I’d planned to treat myself to a newer, nicer ANR headset after I got my actual license, thinking that I’d consign the Liberty to passenger use. Rather than lay out the big bucks for a Bose or Lightspeed, though, I remembered how happy I’ve been with passive noise blocking for music on commercial airplanes, and I decided to try an in-ear headset instead. At first I was leaning towards the Clarity Aloft, but a little research at Aviation Consumer led me towards the Quiet Technologies Halo, which is nearly $200 cheaper than the Clarity. I promptly ordered one, asking on the order form whether it could be shipped faster. Sure enough, about two hours later I got a phone call from Quiet Tech offering me better shipping and a discount because the owner felt sorry for me. Wow.

Next came the body shop. USAA pointed me at Mathews Carlsen in Palo Alto, although they took pains to emphasize that I could use any body shop I liked. I drove to Mathews Carlsen Friday morning and walked out again in 10 minutes, estimate in hand.

Saturday I had planned to install the stereo myself, but I decided against it– I didn’t know what the thieves might have broken or otherwise jacked up when they pulled the old unit and I wasn’t at all interested in spending my time finding out. Luckily I found Custom Audio, which is about a mile from my apartment. I was there about 10 minutes after they opened on Saturday, and about three hours later I had a flawlessly-working stereo.

Over the weekend, I found out that the thieves also snagged my Contour HD camera, and that they’d managed to break the remote trunk release. A quick Monday call to USAA elicited the information that they needed a purchase receipt for the camera and an updated police report. MVPD makes it possible to edit police reports online, so I did, then uploaded the PDF of the report and the camera receipt to USAA’s web site. By Thursday, I’d received a payment from them for all of my expenses (exclusive of my deductible.)

Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to try my new headset yet; it hadn’t arrived by the time of my planned cross-country, but I’ll be testing it tomorrow night.

There are still a few things left to fix; Mathews Carlsen hasn’t gotten the replacement dash parts yet, so the dash isn’t back together, and I still need to get the remote trunk release fixed. However, I am delighted with how easy USAA made it to file and handle a claim, as well as with the speed of their payment. Crutchfield came through, as always, and I am happy with the job that Custom Audio did for me as well. All things considered, this was about as hassle-free an episode as you can reasonably expect.

(Side note: my apartment complex management company is now putting surveillance cameras in the parking area. Yay!)

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1 Comment

Filed under General Stuff

One response to “The case of the stolen stereo

  1. Nice to hear of good customer service!

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