Entries Tagged as 'Shopping'

LED Lighting

You think those CF (Compact Florescent) bulbs you’ve been buying are green???

Well — think again!

CFs do use considerable less energy than a comparable incandescent bulb, but they (like all florescent bulbs) contain a number of hazardous materials that negatively impact the environment when disposed of improperly (no — you can’t just throw them in the garbage can).

What’s a better choice?

Easy… technology from the 60’s comes to the rescue — LED based bulbs.  They’re made now in a number of configuration and bases to replace virtually any bulb you might have in your house.

OUCH — they’re kinda expensive.

I knew you’d say that… yes they cost substantially more than CFs (especially if you’re in an area where the utility companies are subsidizing CFs); but the thing you need to keep in mind is they consume substantially less energy than a CF and they last much longer.

I would love to tell you that if you factor in the energy savings and the longer life that they’ll work out to be less expensive than a CF; but if you’re buying subsidized CFs that’s not going to be the case.  One question to ask is why are utility companies subsadizing CFs and not LEDs?

LEDs have a much lower impact on the environment; and if enough people start using them we’ll see the prices come down… but doing what’s “right” often has a slightly higher price tag than what’s in “vogue”.

You can purchase LED bulbs at Sam’s Club.  They are selling “Lights of America” (see the link below) and “GE” LED bulbs — it’s rumored that a new Sam’s Club located near Cape Kennedy will use LED lighting throughout the store!

For the best pricing, check your local retailers and wholesale clubs as well as do a search online (consider sales tax and shipping when you compare).

GE Lumination

Lights of America

And maybe we should not only bring pressure on our utilities to subsidize LEDs rather than CFs (or at least in addition to); but get them added to the energy tax credit.

 __________

For background information on LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) you can checkout the article on Wikipedia or do a search.

NOTE: LEDs lower power consumption make them the ideal choice for a home solar lighting system.

Originally posted 2009-08-21 01:00:51.

BigLots! — Caveat —

If you’re a savvy consumer you can save a great deal of money at BigLots! (of course, that’s true of any surplus store, dollar store, clearance sales, etc).

And while I’m not going to stay away from BigLots! because of what I’m about to tell you… I’m just going to continue to watch the prices that are rung up on the register (and you can easily watch while they ring up each item there — not like some stores where you can’t see the price they actually charge until you get the receipt [which is after you sign the credit card slip]_.

At the end of each and every season, BigLots! further reduces seasonal merchandise; however, they don’t actually change the prices on the items (for the seasonal reductions — though they do sometimes change prices for items they’re clearing out) they just post a sign that says extra XX% off such-and-such items.

What they don’t make clear (nor do I really think they want to) is that only some of item in that class are marked down; not all of them are.  And there’s really no way to know what’s marked down and what isn’t except to either find an employee that will check (or happens to just know) or take it up to the cash register.

I found this out a while ago; but it bit me again the other day when I was going to buy a pack of LED Solar lights, the sign said “30% off Patio Lighting”, and sure enough the package I liked the best (well — I really wanted ones made from metal not plastic — but at least these had the solar cell under the lens so that it was protected) wasn’t marked down at all… and I certainly wasn’t going to pay that price for an item that wasn’t really what I wanted.

So, remember, always watch what you’re charged for items, and go over your receipt — and don’t be the least bit shy about asking why it’s more than you expected, and having them void out the item (or the transaction) or returning the over-priced item.  Retailers in general do what ever they can get away with — and my advice to you is not to let them get away with anything ever.

Originally posted 2009-08-28 01:00:58.

How To Use Credit Cards To Your Advantage

If you’re a savvy shopper you know that you can save a great deal of money watching for sales and taking advantage of lost leaders.

It’s your money, so you might as well save as much of it as you can; not like some ones just handing it out to you without hard work.

One of the easiest ways to make your money go further is to take advantage of special offers from credit card companies that pay you money back to use their cards.  Most of the programs are complicated, and maximizing your benefits takes a little bit of discipline, but you can end up with quite a bit of money back every year.

The cards I recommend (in order) are:

  • Citibank Rewards Dividend Platinum Card (Master Card)
  • Chase Freedom (VISA)
  • Citibank Cash Returns (Master Card)

I recommend you get all three of them, and here’s why.

There are limits on the Citi Rewards and Chase Freedom cards, but if you use them right you can get 3% cash back, and with the Chase card as much as 5%!  But if you use your card a great deal you’ll cap it out before the end of the year.

The Citi Cash Returns Card doesn’t have a cap, but only pays 1% (1.2% for the first year).

I believe all Citi cards also provide you with virtual account numbers, which give you control of who can change what to your card when.  Chase unfortunately does not offer virtual cards numbers.  If you must have a VISA with virtual account numbers, Bank of America has several cards with decent rewards programs (more like the Citi Premier Pass Card utilizing the “Thank-You Network”).

There are of course many other cards that you might be able to save money with.

For instance I have a Chase Amazon (VISA) Card, mainly because they gave me $30 off my first purchase (since then they’ve given me $20 for $100 in charges, and $30 for $100 in charges to encourage me to use the card; but since I don’t purchase from Amazon much, it really isn’t that great a card for me).

The other way to make a credit card work for you is use it any time a merchant accepts it; they’ve built it into their pricing, so you might as well get 1-3% cash back for using your card; of course you do need to make sure you pay your bill in full before the due date every month, or those “savings” will quickly disappear with the interest charges!

On other word of advice, don’t acquire a huge number of credit cards; it will adversely effect your credit rating even if you don’t use them or carry a balance.  The immediate hit of lots of credit inquiries will make it harder to get credit, and having a large number of open accounts trims down your score as well.  And honestly, you don’t really need lots of cards, companies like Citi and Chase will provide you with INSANE credit limits.

Originally posted 2008-05-16 21:28:07.

Define Your Vehicle’s True Identity

“Define Your Vehicle’s True Identity”, that is the slogan of carID — http://www.carid.com/ –I found this company when looking for a trunk mat for my new vehicle.

I’ve got a great deal of experience with WeatherTech — http://www.weathertech.com/ — I’ve used those in a number of vehicles, but they didn’t make a mat to fit.  So I did some reading and I liked what I read about Lloyd Mats — http://www.lloydmats.com/rubbertite.htm –Rubber Tite series.  They got favorable reviews, and they seemed at a fairly reasonable price point.

Well, like always, I started out pricing by using the internet to see where I might be able to save a little money…

That’s when I stumbled on carID — I’d never heard of them before; and frankly based on my experiences to date I certainly won’t be recommending them.

Here is the note I sent to them on 14-Mar-2011 at 1:36AM CDT

I came in with a 20% off coupon; and the first page says $44.91 for the mats for an 2011 Elantra (Limited – Sedan) — I was looking for cargo and front+back; but when I try and add either to my cart they appear at $67.41 — that’s a pretty hefty difference.

Referrer: http://www.carid.com/2011-hyundai-elantra-floor-mats/lloyd-floor-mats-161257.html

Here is what I got back from them on 17-March at 3:12PM CDT

Hello Soles,
Thank you for you interest in our products, we look forward to serving you.
Unfortunately we don’t provide discounts on weathertech items.

Sincerely,

Anthony Vertser
Customer Service
Tel 800.505.3274 Ext 883
anthony.ve@carid.com

Right… Lloyd and WeatherTech are two separate companies…

So here is what I sent back to them just a little while ago:

I do appreciate you taking the time to reply to my inquiry.. but I don’t think Lloyd (makers of Rubber Tite) and Weather Tech are even slightly related companies. In fact, I don’t think Weather Tech makes a custom mat set for 2011 Elantra Sedan (I’m quite happy with those in my 4Runner – I looked at their offering first).

I’m beginning to get the feeling that your company might not quite meet the bar for ethical advertising and business practices… it just feels questionable at best, with great potential for at least bordering on fraud.

Perhaps I’ll just take my money else where… I get the feeling it would hard to be more disappointed in dealing with an eTailer than I have been with yours.

I’ll be happy to share my experience with others – I wouldn’t want you to be deprived of the exposure.

– LR Soles

Maybe it’s unfair to gauge a company from one interaction — but you know the old saying

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

I’ll take my business elsewhere – I don’t mind paying a couple dollars more for an item to avoid what looks like it has great potential to become a nightmare situation quickly — particularly with a statement like:

NOTE: These mats will be custom manufactured to your specifications and once ordered may not be returned for credit or exchange.

On their order page — what if there’s a mistake in their processing, a defect…

I certainly offered them a chance to explain the pricing discrepancy to me; and perhaps there is an explanation — perhaps I made an error… but their response just doesn’t cut it; and doesn’t encourage me to want to spend money there.

If you purchase from them, use a credit card that’s issued through a financial institution you have a good relationship with — sometime tells me you just might need a charge back to get satisfaction.

Originally posted 2011-03-18 02:00:25.

Where Can You Use Credit Cards?

Here’s a quick list:

  • Grocery stores (3% category on Citi & Chase)
  • Gasoline (3% category on Citi & Chase)
  • Pharmacies (3% category on Citi)
  • Fast Food (3% category on Chase; bonuses for Blinx)
  • Electric & Gas Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Telephone Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Cellular Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Cable Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Traffic Fines (provided there’s no convenience fee,  I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Property Taxes (provided there’s no convenience fee,  I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Retail
  • Dining Out
  • Movies
  • Movie Rentals
  • Online Shopping (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Colleges and Schools
  • Travel
  • Hotels

There’s virtually no limit to where you can use credit cards; and every place you use cards that pay cash back gives you cash back (up to you limit, and then just switch cards).

Then you can pay your credit card with you bill payment service; or you can have your credit card company issue an ACH directly from you checking, savings, or money market account (this actually keeps the money in your account longer, and instantly credits to your credit card — of course you’re authorizing your credit card company to withdraw from your cash accounts, so you have decide if it’s right for you and you generally have the option of either automatic payment or directed payments).

———-

Blinx is Chase’s name for PayWay / PayPoint / FastPay — the RFID enabled credit card way to pay (Chase embeds RFID chips inside of many of their credit cards); currently they provide incentives to get people to use RFID style payment.

Virtual Credit Card Numbers are available through services offered by a number of credit card companies.  They differ slightly in implementation, but essentially allow you to set charge amount limits, and expiry dates.  Once an authorization is done to a virtual credit card number the card can only be charged against by that merchant.  You can generally extend the expiry date and charge amount at any time you want.  And you can terminate the card at any time you want (you cannot prevent already authorized charges from being committed to the card).  This is an excellent fraud deterrent, and prevents companies from charging any authorized fees to your account (which saves you the trouble of having to file a charge back).  I’ve used virtual card number ever since I had an MBNA VISA card (MBNA was acquired by Bank of America), they were one of the big innovators in this technology.

Originally posted 2008-05-16 21:35:48.

Sam’s Club Discover

I was at Sam’s Club on the first of this month, and they had a promotion going on that you’d get a $40 instant credit on $100 (or more) purchase if you applied for and were accepted for a Sam’s Club Discover Card.

It was a no brainer —  what I was going to buy was $120, and the $40 instant credit would pay the fee for renewing my Sam’s Club card (NOTE: the renewal fee was excluded from the $100 minimum purchase).

GE Money Bank (the issuer of the Sam’s Club and Walmart Discover cards) issued a stated on the second of the month (the day after the charges); and had my statement to me less than a week after I’d opened the account.  However, I just received the actual card today.

Like with most credit cards you needed to call a toll free number and enter just about every piece of personal and confidential information you’d provided when applying for the card — at what seemed like the end of the activation, I got a message to please hold that I was being transferred to customer service.

After almost five minutes on hold, a very cherry woman come on the line, ask me how my day was and immediately launched into a sales pitch — I cut her off and told her whatever it was she was trying to up-sell to me, I wasn’t interest… that their system had kept me on hold for nearly five minutes to just try and sell me something I wasn’t the least bit interested in, and then I told her I wanted to close my account.  She responded that I’d need to look on the back of the card for the number, and I told her I wanted the number from her.

She gave me the number, and I hung up and called.

The automated system answered immediately, forced me to hear all about my account balance and due date — presented a myriad of twisty little turns to finally get to a customer service representative.

I told her I wanted to cancel; I told her why — she started to sputter out some apology and ask me to reconsider and I told her I didn’t care about her time, but I was tired of wasting my time and I just wanted the account canceled now.  The call was disconnected.

I called back; and same thing, a very long hold.  By the time that I actually got to talk to a customer service representative I’d been at this for over half an hour — and I pointed this out to her, and told here that I was in none to good a mood — that she would cancel the account, and I didn’t want to hear anything but it was done.

I wrote an electronic message to Sam’s Club on their web site after all this was done telling them what a poor reflection GE Money Bank was on their reputation.  The reply I receive (almost immediately) was just an apology, and told me what a valuable customer I was.

Right — GE Money Bank had been telling me what a valuable customer I was all the time on their automated system… but the bottom line, they didn’t value me as a customer — they wanted to treat me like a schmuck who’s time was totally worthless.  Clearly a company that didn’t value my time — or value me as anything but a potential source of revenue.

I’ve always considered Sam’s Club as low rent compared to other warehouse clubs such as Costco — and they continue to reinforce that image time and time again.

Costco selects American Express (which I consider to be thieves and liars — but they at least do pretend to respect their customers) for their credit card; Sam’s Club chooses GE Money Bank (how much more low rent can you get).

I don’t do much business at Sam’s Club; and I certainly won’t be increasing the amount of business I do there… but I certainly won’t be doing any business with GE Money Bank — and personally I think they tarnish Discover Card’s exceptional customer service.

Originally posted 2010-09-16 02:00:55.

Beware of vendors that support SPAM!

I’ve know for a very long time that many websites that sell goods and services to consumers also sell (or trade) the email addresses they register.

SPAM (Unsolicited Commercial Email – UCE) is when any entity sends you an email soliciting money for goods or services that you have not specifically requested.

Thus, when one company provided email marketers your email address (without your express permission) they are supporting SPAM, and companies that support SPAM are no better than the SPAMmers themselves since they are making money from SPAM.

But how would you know who sold your email address?

That’s easy, for years I’ve provided each vendor I do business with a unique email address which tracks any and all mail back to them.

Recently I found that a company I purchased a couple items from — CDR DVD Media ( www.cdrdvdrmedia.com ) sold or traded my email address to an email marketer.  What’s really funny in this is that CDR DVD Media uses Yahoo! (a company that purports to oppose SPAMming and hold it customers to high anti-SPAM standards) to process orders (so it appears it’s easy for Yahoo to talk the talk, but maybe they should walk the walk and actually adopt a ZERO tolerance policy against SPAMmers and their customers that support them — oh right, that means Yahoo would cut into it’s revenue stream, and they really probably only want to prevent SPAMming from free customers).

My policy (and I recommend it become you policy) is that you NEVER do business with SPAMmers or companies that support SPAMming.  Of course, I warned of the growing problem of SPAM/UCE over 15 years ago… and it’s easy for any and everyone to see now what burying your head in the sand does to prevent greedy marketers from breaking the law (yeah — SPAM is against the law in a number of states; and often SPAMmers steal services to send out their message).

Originally posted 2009-07-31 01:00:24.

The Anti-Green – Catalogs [Comment]

Last week I posted The Anti-Green – Catalogs; which was triggered by receiving a catalog from B&H Photo Video, the day that article posted I received the following.


I appreciate the sentiments in your post although I am disappointed to see “Comments are closed.”

B&H regrets your dissatisfaction. At the same time we have many more customers thanking us for sending our useful resource book than otherwise so we have to presume it is not time for us to discontinue print publication. While I understand your sentiment, and agree we need to maintain a sustainable world for our children, I also recognize that other customers of ours have alternate perspectives.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video


While I don’t allow comments on my BLOG posts, I do provide a contact mechanism (which Mr Posner used), and I’m more than happy to provide space for any reasonable rebuttal…

I’m happy that B&H Video Photo has many customers that thank them for their printed catalogs (at least some of those catalogs might actually be received by someone who doesn’t immediately throw them into a recycle bin, or worse) — but I’ll underscore that they send them to EVERYONE that’s ever done business with them rather than allow people to select whether or not they desire the catalogs (or any other mailings).

I’ll stand by what I said in my original post…

My feeling is that companies that do not believe that they actually represent a value to consumers are the companies that are quickest to force a subscription to any type of mailing list.  Companies who believe they offer something consumers want understand that consumers will come back and they don’t need to destroy the environment in order to attempt to promote future purchases.

Apparently I’m not the only one who took a moment to comment on getting a catalog they didn’t want here’s a forum thread on the topic “Unsubscribe from B&H’s forest felling catalog“, which happens to includes the post.


henryp
May 05, 2010 at 07:27 PM

First, I apologize to those who received more than one book and to those who opted out but received books anyway. There are a variety of possible reasons why, but suffice it to say we won’t send you what you don’t want if at all possible.

I want to thank the OP for posting the unsub link. Very thoughtful and much appreciated. The unsub link has been tweeted and retweeted repeatedly (more than once by me). I doubt Twitter needs it again. 🙂

Anyone who got multiple books – please send me the individual alpha-num codes via email (NOT PM) and I’ll forward them to the list maintainer. An example of the code is JC1026#####.

Having read a lot of “why do they bother” stuff here and elsewhere, the answer is because more people want them than don’t and they do get used. People circle stuff with ballpoint pens, highlight stuff with those yellow markers, fold down page corners or tag pages with post-it notes and tear out pages and post them on the refrigerator.

We want to keep our mail list to folks who really do want them and appreciate your help to keep our list clean. Thank you. FWIW, the whole thing’s online here.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video

PS Recycle, don’t discard!


Here is B&H Photo Video’s catalog unsubscribe link — but notice it doesn’t take the catalog number on the label, but rather wants to collect personal information…

Originally posted 2010-05-12 02:00:35.

Zeiss Lenses

Not lenses for your camera… lenses for your glasses!

Carl Zeiss Optical has been making high quality lenses for optical needs in glasses and sunglasses (I’ve always preferred to pay a little extra for Zeiss polarized lenses for my sun glasses) at While Mill Industiral Estate just outside Wexford, Ireland for over 30 years — on 30 September 2011 they announce the facility is closing and that production is being moved to China by years end.

While the quality of the production of Zeiss optics might be every bit as good after the move; I’m thinking I might just not want to waste the money buying a “name” that’s been put on a product that’s likely made in the same factory that something costing half as much does.

You’ll have to decide if you want to support Zeiss; but more and more it seems that brands I trusted for quality are just becoming labels that charge higher prices and offer nothing.

Originally posted 2011-10-03 02:00:25.

Amazon Merchants

Once again I’ve been disappointed with the “service” and “products” provided by an Amazon merchant.

I’ve ask Amazon how to inhibit the display of any and all items except those sold by them; I don’t care to deal with the questionable merchants that use Amazon’s sites.  And obviously Amazon doesn’t stand behind them either (look over their A-Z Guarantee, and notice that a person who buys an item every day has the same lifetime limits as one who rarely buys — sounds to me like Amazon is afraid to offer a real guarantee — why should I have more confidence).

Anyway, rather than play the game with Amazon I’ve just opened a charge dispute with my credit card company (which in this case happens to be an Amazon credit card).

If Amazon doesn’t have a way to block the display non-Amazon merchandise I’ll close my account (and credit card).

Originally posted 2009-04-08 12:00:24.