Entries Tagged as 'Shopping'

Circuit City “One Price Promise”

Do retailers really think consumers are stupid?

Take a look at Circuit City’s “One Price Promise” on their web site… pay particular attention to the exclusions.

One Price Promise?  Yeah… you can be confident you’re likely to be screwed over if you’re not an informed consumer.

I’ll spend my money elsewhere — though I’ll be happy to force them to better a lost leader price by 10% with there “Unbeatle Price Guarantee”!!!

Originally posted 2008-11-26 12:00:28.

Panasonic HDC-SD10 High Definition Camcorder – Post Note

It was sunny (but cold) on Saturday, so I did get a chance to get outside and shot some bright daylight footage.

The color was excellent, the motion quality was very good.

With adequate lighting I don’t think you can touch the quality of this camcorder for twice the price.

Panasonic HDC-SD10 High Definition Camcorder

Originally posted 2010-01-10 02:00:24.

Green Online… JUST SAY NO

Below is a note I sent to Willis Orchard Co about an order I placed for some tropical plants.


On 19-Mar I placed an order for three Medjool Palms (1.5′-2′) and a Drawf Cavendish Banana Tree with and expected ship date around 1-Apr… yesterday (11-May) I received the FedEx packages containing those items.

Roughly a week after the expected ship date I began calling approximately once a week for an update on the shipping status — to which (other than the last call) I was always told that the product should be shipping within a couple days…

Needless to say, my impression of your “customer service” wasn’t very high; in fact it was so low that I acquired the forty-seven other fruit trees, shrubs, and ornamental trees I used to begin landscaping my yard from local sources…

I understand that your shipping delays were caused by your vendor; however, the failure to realistically appraise me of delays is solely a fault your company and customer service people must bare.

While the shipping delay alone was enough to make me shy away from doing additional business with your company; the condition of the plants I received certainly indicated to me that I shall not put your company high on a list to consider again.

The committed size of the plants is stated to be the overall height; while I’d would have hoped that would be the height from the top of the root ball to the highest vertical point on the plant, it’s obvious that you intend that measurement to be the distance from the top of the root ball to the furthest point on a (stretched) frond of the palms.

In my case that appears to be two just less than 18″ (one of those I’m being generous with the “just less”) and one that isn’t even 16″… further the one closest to 18″ and the one less than 16″ are based on measuring fronds that are brown at the ends (dead) — which most likely didn’t occur in a single day of shipping from Southern Georgia to Northwest Florida.

I can’t say I was the least bit surprised… and certainly I don’t think any of these three specimens would have come home with me had I visually inspected them before purchase (at the prices you charge).

Whether these represent the plants you would normally ship to a customer or simply you feel you’re a victim of the volume of your orders verses the inability of your supplies to fulfill their commitments I can’t say… all I can say is that I’m greatly disappointed.


In retrospect, I’d say ordering plants online should be put in the same category as ordering produce online — what you get might not live up to your standards, and what others are happy with says nothing about the quality.

Originally posted 2010-05-13 02:00:35.

American Blinds

I spend a fair amount of time researching the window coverings I wanted for my home; and I’d decided on cellular blinds.

Like most things I don’t know a great deal about, I read up on a topic and ask questions — and window coverings was not exception.  It took me the better part of two months to educate myself to the point I felt comfortable making decisions [well, my office and the master bed room I’d chosen Plantation faux wood blinds for before I moved in — but partially out of necessity].

I learned the questions to ask about blinds, and detemined the options I was interested in, read reviews and got several quotes.

I decided to go with American Blinds; their prices were certainly not the absolute lowest, but they seemed to have a product that was very high quality at a reasonable price.

I ordered blinds for all the remaining windows in the house except the garage (that I could get for less locally, and I certainly wasn’t putting a cellular there) and the guest bed room (it has a perfect arch, and I haven’t decided what to do there yet).

It took about two weeks for the blinds to arrive; and the first window I was going to hang was the master bath room (also the smallest window).

I opened up the blind’s packaging (they were each labeled for the room / window they were intended), and immediately noted that the blind wasn’t finished — the pull string hung down over five inches below the bottom of the blind, then I noticed that the brackets were made of PVC not metal (as promised), and that there were no instructions to hand the blinds in the boxes (as promised).

I brought up a chat window with customer service who immediately provided me with the wrong instructions for hanging the blinds (I already knew how to hang blinds with metal brackets — in fact I already had the instructions for the blinds I was supposed to be getting); it took me close to an hour to get the right instructions for hanging the blinds, and then I had to download them from the manufacturer’s site (using the retailer’s log in information).  They couldn’t explain why the blinds weren’t finished, nor could they provide me with any written instructions on how to properly finish the blinds.

I’d had enough — I didn’t order a build-it-yourself blind project; I’d paid (via credit card) for a product, and this wasn’t it… so I told the customer service representative I wanted a refund — that these blinds wouldn’t do.

I did finally get a RMA from them; and they said that the manufacturer had changed the blinds and that they would be updating the information on their site (I have no idea if they have, and really don’t care).

All I know is I’m out $35 return shipping and quite a bit of my time– unfortunately I can’t get that back from my credit card company (who I filled a charge back with while I was on the road to UPS to drop off the blinds).

If you’re going to order blinds on line, make sure that they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and order one (small) blind to start with to make sure you’ll be happy with the quality.

Personally I’ll NEVER do business with American Blinds; and I highly recommend that EVERYONE avoid them — I find their ethics a little questionable at best.

Originally posted 2009-08-05 01:00:42.

How To Bid On eBay

Let me start by saying this isn’t eBay for dummies — you should familiarize yourself with the basic operation of the eBay web site through another resource.  What I hope to provide you with is a rational for how to bid successfully on eBay to enable you to purchase items at a fair price.

Let me start by prefixing all of this with the statement that what eBay has tried to do is create the feel of the type of auction commonly refereed to as an “Open Ascending-bid Auction”, also known as an “English Auction” — though they have modified it slightly to have a time limit rather than just go until their are no more bidders.  You can read many resources on auction types if you’re interested; there’s actually a body of game-theory that covers auctions for those so inclined.

Before we digress too far off topic…

First you need a little background on how eBay’s proxy bidding works, and an understanding that if everyone were to just enter in the actual price they were willing to pay when they first bid that would be all you’d need.

What happens on eBay when you enter a bid is fairly simple — eBay records the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the item, and then will automatically bid as much as needed to satisfy the bid rules.

So if there are no bids, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the minimum bid set when the auction was created.  If there is already a bid, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the lesser of the maximum you set for your bid or the current amount plus the bid increment (which varies based on the current bid — it increases as the amount of the current bid increases).

If two people were to set the same maximum bid, the person who placed the bid first would be the one to have his bid recorded.

Like I said, if everyone just entered in what they were really willing to pay then that would be it, and when the auction closed the person who was willing to pay the most would win the auction.

But, that’s not how it really works out.

You see, people aren’t always honest (even with themselves), and people like to play games (even with themselves), and people always like to get a steal (or read that as great deal if you like)… and of course, people are emotional (so they get caught up on the splendor of the train ride — even when it’s clearly going to wreck).

So, what many people do is record a bid for the amount that they’d really like to get the item for — even though they are willing to pay (significantly) more.  That means that lots of people are continually upping their bid as they get outbid, and because they see other people “wanting” the item, they get caught up in a frenzy that they often loose control of… and end up paying more than they actually are comfortable with.

Remember, no one forces you to keep bidding — and no one forces you to watch the train you’re on slam head on into another (in fact, you’re free to jump off).

If you’re head is spinning — or you’re saying that I would never do that (many call that doing the back-stroke in that famous river in Egypt — d-Nile, or denial if you like) then you’re just an average Joe trying to win an auction on eBay.

I’m not here to slap anyone on their wrist; if you want entertainment, excitement, need to fill your copious amounts of free time, and don’t mind spending more than you’re comfortable with — by all means, keep getting caught up in the emotions of “winning” a bidding war; but if you’re just looking to get things you want/need at a reasonable price — read on.

How to bid on eBay…

You could use eBay exactly as it’s designed.  Just place an initial bid for exactly what you’re willing to pay for the item and be done with it.  Don’t watch the auction, don’t enter in any more bids… be content with your honesty (and do something more useful with your time).  But you’re not going to win very many auctions — in fact you’re probably just going to fuel the fire because of the interactions of eBay’s proxy bidding and people who have got caught up in the frenzy of bidding.

So how to bid on eBay successfully…

The answer is easy, you snipe.  Basically sniping the auction turns the English Auction into something more resembling a First-Price Sealed-Bid auction (at least from your view point).

Wait, what is a snipe?

Well, a snipe is a bid placed at the last moment.  Sniping basically allows you to place the bid you would have right away at the very end of the auction, giving other bidders no time to respond to your bid — and forcing the eBay proxy system to do it’s job without creating a frenzy of bid-and-re-bid.

There’s nothing wrong with sniping; in fact all you’re doing by sniping helping prevent other bidders from getting carried away with bidding.  It doesn’t make it any more likely that you’re going to get an item (if there are wild bidders — they may have driven the item up well beyond what you’re willing to pay long before the last few seconds of the auction).  And the number one thing it will do for you is prevent you from getting caught up in the bidding war and paying more for an item that you’re interested in.

You can bid by hand; just open up the auction; actually open up two copies of the auction, one to watch the count down clock, and in the other enter the maximum amount you’re willing to pay and click to the confirm dialog.  When the count down timer reaches under 10 seconds, submit your bid (you may need to submit earlier if you have a slow connection — and you may be able to time it to less than 10 seconds if you have a very fast connect — but remember as long as the amount of time left is less than the reaction time of a human being you’re not going to be fueling the frenzy).

Obviously sniping by hand is tedious and time consuming… so there’s automation to help you out.

JBidwatcher is a Java based tool that you can run on Windows, OS-X, or Linux desktop (or server) that will attempt to snipe auctions for you from your local machine.  Which means you need a stable internet connection and you computer has to be on and JBidwatcher has to be running.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.

GIXEN.COM is a web based system.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.  There is no limit to the number of auctions you can snipe; but there is a $6 per year upgrade that will give you redundant servers to place your bids (decreasing the chance of not getting you snipe in).

There are also a number of other systems that charge — perhaps they’re better, perhaps they’re not… but these two certainly work well enough for you to use to develop an understanding of how to effectively bid on eBay.

While I’m giving you the 4-1-1 on sniping, I should mention that there are two basic types of snipes — individual item snipes and group (also called multi) snipes.

In an individual item snipe it’s easy to understand — you enter a bid for the item in question and your bid is placed a specified number of seconds before the auction closes.  If you have the highest bid at the end you win, if you don’t you don’t — and it’s over and done.

In a group snipe you actually bid on a series of items (generally related — but I guess you might also use it for budget constraints).  You enter a separate bid for each item of interest in the group.  The sniping system will place your bid on the first item — if you win, it cancels all the remaining snipes in the group; if you don’t win, it goes on to the next item in the group.

With group snipes you have to be careful that there is sufficient time between the ending time of two auctions for items of interest for the sniping system to handle it (most systems will flag auctions that may be a problem and allow you to decide if you want to take the potential risk of winning both… obviously that’s a bigger deal than missing the second).

Also, most sniping systems let you have as many individual snipes or group snipes as you want (you have to be careful not to have the same item in an individual snipe and a group; or in multiple groups).

Also, most sniping systems will handle auctions that have multiple items available (in other words, it will place a bid for the amount and quantity — eBay’s proxy bid does most of the work).

Sniping might seem like it’s a lot of work; but actually it makes bidding easier in the long run, and more effective.

Remember, if you don’t win an auction sniping it’s not (generally) because the sniping system didn’t do it’s job — it’s simply because you weren’t willing to pay as much as someone else… in fact by sniping you’re increasing your chances of winning an auction at the price you’re willing to pay.


Let me remind everyone that I am not a fan of eBay / PayPal — I consider them companies of questionable ethics at best.



eBay Sniper

http://www.gixen.com/

eBay Sniper
http://www.jbidwatcher.com/

Originally posted 2010-10-08 02:00:32.

Un-Freshpair

I’m probably not the most typical shopper in the world… when I decide to buy something it’s generally because there’s a sale and when I shop — I buy enough to last awhile.

Today I was going to take advantage of the FRIENDS13 25% off your entire purchase on Freshpair.com (I was actually thinking about setting up an affiliate account — in the past I’ve made several $200-ish orders and I figure the small kickback and coupons they offer might actually save me money in the future)…

But after adding 21 items to my cart ($216 after the 25% promotion) I read a few reviews and I decided that one of the items I was considering purchasing I just wasn’t going to be happy with, so I went to remove it… simple enough, you either change the quantity to zero or you hit the delete link, right???

Well, no — not on Freshpair.com … it doesn’t seem to work.

So I called customer dis-service… and while they answered the phone quickly and I spoke to a real person without having to go through an automated attendant (normally I’d have praise that as incredible customer service).

I was connected to a man who was to put it politely was snippy — which of course didn’t sit well with me.  While I started the conversation polite, business-like, and courteous (as I would always do when I was calling the first time for customer service), the call quickly went down hill… apparently the “solution” is empty out your cart, clear your cookies, and start over… oh, and if you’re wondering — it’s a known problem (and it’s been a known problem for sometime).

Well, I ask to speak with his supervisor… he told me he was the supervisor, that everyone else had gone home (at 3:50 pm EDT on a Thursday… hmm — my guess is he’s the only customer service person there or he outright lied).

Even more pissed I asked to speak to Matthew the president of the company (I’d seen the very nice thank-you notes included in each of my previous shipments… and I decide to see how far I got).

Well, Matthew was apologetic  but was very quick to tell me that the technical issues of fixing removing items from a cart where people what more than a handful of items just wasn’t a priority for them, that it would require too much effort.

Like I remarked to him… it must be nice to have so many customers you don’t need to worry about customers who want to spend a lot of money with you…

So, I decide I wanted to help them…

I tried to place a separate order for each and every item (free shipping why not punish them by maximizing their shipping cost, after all, they can’t handle large order, so give them the smallest orders possible).  Eleven orders (I cut back on the items) most right at or under $10 each… on a different credit card, and each appears to have been authorized fine (I actually called Chase to check on the three placed on Chase issued cards), but the orders were canceled — no email was sent indicating the order was canceled, and once again when I called their (pathetic) customer service I was told, they couldn’t determine why the orders where canceled, just re-order (lol — like I haven’t heard that before).

Well I guess the only solution is to take my business elsewhere… enough of my time has been wasted on Freshpair.com.

And I encourage everyone else to consider taking their business to a company that actually wants to provide not only competitive prices but good customer service… and that would not be Freshpair.com…

Originally posted 2013-05-02 15:00:52.

STOP • THINK • CLICK

I’ve mentioned the Internet Crime Complain Centerbefore, but the US Government also sponsors OnGuard Online with the slogan

STOP • THINK • CLICK

While most savvy internet users should be aware of most everything on the site, there’s no harm in taking a minute out and visiting it to see if there’s any suggestions that might make your online experience safer.  You may also want to recommend that your bank, credit union, and credit card company link to them.

Originally posted 2009-01-07 12:00:50.

A new way to buy…

I’ve been using Amazon.com to buy most goods for years now; and I’ve used Drugstore.com for awhile, their use of coupons and rewards points encourages you to continue to use them every quarter… their prices are good (not always great), but when you consider their rewards and discounts sometimes the prices are very good.

Yesterday I went ahead and used my last quarter rewards to buy something I’ve never purchased online before, something I thought I would likely never purchase online: toilet paper.

Normally I buy toilet paper when I find it at a very good price, and that’s exactly what I found yesterday.

While it’s not earth shattering to buy toilet paper online, for me it shows a definite shift in shopping — anything is a candidate to order online and have delivered to your doorstep rather than drive to a store to pickup.

I think part of what is compelling about buying online is that the simple process of looking for a good deal is really the end of getting a good deal — you don’t have to jump in the car (hopefully schedule it as part of more errands), go to the store, find what ridiculous place they’ve put the sale items in (if they have them in stock at all), stand in line at the checkout, carry it to your car, drive home, and bring it in the house…

Even in the case that you pay the same it just seems that online shopping makes more sense.

The one thing I’m not thrilled about with online shopping is the carbon footprint of the delivery… that’s something Amazon is partially addressing in larger cities (with their dropboxes).

Originally posted 2013-04-16 12:00:31.

I don’t recommend “The OEM Shop”

On 22-Sep-2010 I placed an order for a “Motorola DROID and DROID II 1300mah Standard Battery” from “The OEM Shop” through Amazon.

I really hate dealing with Amazon Marketplace Merchants since my personal history of such dealings indicated that the likelihood of being disappointed is very high; and this occasions was in perfect keeping with my expectations.

The item was to have shipped by 24-Sep-2010, so when I didn’t see a change in status by close of business that day I sent an inquiry to the vendor.  I received back an automated reply that indicated that they were “on vacation” — and that they’d been on vacation even before my order had been placed (so I immediately considered the “contract” for purchase of an item had been entered into under fraudulent terms — ie, they knew before accepting an order that they would not meet the shipment commitment).

I immediately sent another message via Amazon requesting that the order be canceled.

The following week I got a reply from the merchant indicating that they had shipped the item on Saturday (the day after I’d sent a message to cancel the order — but within the time frame of the first message of their vacation).

I wasn’t sure I believe them; but I told them that I’d been refusing the item and it would be returned to them.

I also contacted Chase to open a charge dispute on my Amazon VISA for the item.

The item never showed up — and two days after I got the replacement item I’d ordered from another Amazon merchant (the order was placed on 27-Sep-2010) I requested that they provide me with the tracking information (which they had never posted to Amazon).

I haven’t heard back from The OEM Shop, I haven’t gotten the item, and I suspect they never shipped it.  I have gotten a permanent credit from Chase for the item so after posting negative feedback and this BLOG article I consider the matter closed.

My advice — don’t do business with “The OEM Shop” — there are too many good alternatives to them, and absolutely no reason to support questionable etailers.  If my experience isn’t enough to convince you — read the other recent feedback posts on 5-Oct-2010 and 4-Oct-2010 on Amazon.

“The OEM Shop” Storefront on Amazon

NOTE: I was notified by Amazon late this evening that a refund would be posted to my account (actually, since the charge-back had already been made permanent there isn’t any change from my perspective).

Originally posted 2010-10-05 14:25:36.

Kingston Counterfeits

Around the end of last November I ordered a Kingston DataTraveler 150 32 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive (DT150/32GB Orange/Black).  When it came in it seemed to work, and I didn’t really think anything of it, but when I started to try and copy large files to it, or put a significant amount of information on it (which actually wasn’t until around the first of this year) I continually had issues with it.

I contacted Kingston the first week of March to try and get a handle on the problem or an RMA to return it for a replacement.  Kingston then requested that I send them some identifying markings from the metal USB plug — well my unit didn’t have any of those identifying markings, and since those marking would have been covered by the cap I couldn’t have told whether a new product I was interested in purchasing had them or not without opening the package in the store and taking off the cap (and of course mail order there’s no way to do it).

What was really alarming is I had a few other Kingston USB flash drives, and I took a look at them — they also didn’t have any markings on them.  So from that I would have to conclude either Kingston just implemented this and the units I have are from before that time, or all the units I have are counterfeit.  The truly alarming thing is I’m 99.9% positive that all of these units came from Fry’s Electronics, Microcenter, and Amazon.

This indicates to me that there’s a severe problem with the distribution channel of Kingston products, and that the Kingston name brand (and the Kingston warranty) is worthless.  Which means, the purchase of Kingston products should be avoided since they are frequently counterfeited and Kingston appears to be only interested in protecting themselves, not the consumers of their products (since consumers really have no way of knowing if a product is counterfeit).

As Nancy used to say “JUST SAY NO” to Kingston products.

Kingston DataTraveler 150 - 32 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive

Originally posted 2010-03-15 02:00:19.