Entries Tagged as 'Shopping'

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.

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.

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.

Earth’s Biggest Selection

That’s, of course, Amazon.com‘s catch phrase…

I’m always quick to say what I think about a company or service; and I’m sure you’ve noticed that the vast majority of times that not very flattering.

I am, however, just as quick to praise as to criticize… the problem being is that there just aren’t that many instances where I find praise is warranted; and there seems to be an almost unending list of things to criticize.

Amazon.com impresses me as a company that tries very hard to “do the right thing”; and a company that empowers it’s customer service representatives to resolve issues in a timely and equitable manner.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Amazon.com isn’t without fault — but unlike many companies they seem to be working to move forward and make improvements rather than simply ensnare their customers and force the to put up with their short comings.

Generally speaking, Amazon.com’s prices are fair, their shipping costs are reasonable (free on many orders if you’re willing to wait for the order processing delay), their polices are clear (and concise), and their customer service people are helpful (and efficient).

The biggest thing I can criticize Amazon.com for is that they have the right to impose a life-time limit on their “A-Z Guarantee” — and while I think that it makes sense to have limits; it doesn’t make sense to me that a person who orders once a year from Amazon.com should be subject to the same potential limits as a person that orders once a day — or a person that has only placed three orders in their life has full protection, but a person who has placed three hundred has far less protection (as a percentage of orders).

The other thing I wish Amazon.com would improve on is consistency of product listings (like putting the manufacturer’s link and warranty information in the same location on each page).

Is that enough to make me shy away from doing business with Amazon.com???  ABSOLUTELY NOT…

In all the time I’ve done business with Amazon.com only once have I needed to use the A-Z Guarantee, and it was with an Amazon Marketplace Merchant (which isn’t the same as Amazon.com — and I certainly do not give Amazon Marketplace Merchants the same endorsement as Amazon.com).

The only other “negatives” about Amazon.com is that they do not price match; which also includes researching incorrect pricing (for instance, if a manufacturer changes the suggested retail price, and likely distribution cost Amazon.com has no mechanism to update that if the manufacturer doesn’t constantly provide updates).

Additionally, Amazon.com has made great strides to reduce packing waste for products they sell; and while I can’t say they can claim to be “green”, they are moving in the right direction.

If you’ve never tried Amazon.com — check them out and compare their products and prices the next time you’re going to place an order — from technology to toasters, shaving to shovels… you might be surprised at how big their selection is and how low their prices can be!

Originally posted 2010-05-23 02:00:07.

Re-Usable Shopping Bags

Rather than throw away bags that stores provide to you, why not consider purchasing some re-usable shopping bags?

Reduce, reuse, recycle…

You’re reducing the number of plastic (or paper) bags that need to be produced and recycled (or otherwise disposed of).

You’re reusing the same bag over and over.

You’re recycling, since almost every reusable shopping bag is made from 100% post consumer recycled material.

I know most vendors seem to want to charge around $1 each for these (and that’s ridiculous — and unconscionable to try and gouge a profit on people who are trying to do the right thing), but watch the sales at Walgreen’s, they put regularly advertise their smaller bag (which is perfect for most shopping) at 3 for $1 (with coupon in their advertising circular — look NOW).

Originally posted 2010-04-23 02:00:46.

Caveat emptor

Since 1817 consumers should have been aware of the need to be watchful when purchasing goods and services — never has that been more true than now.

From what I’ve been reading many food companies have been quietly changing the amounts in their containers without making any visible changes in their packaging except the labeling.

So, while that can of potato chips might look like it’s the same size as you got last month, it might not have as many in it — but the price has stayed the same (which means you’re getting less for your money).

It’s tough economic times, transportation costs are highly variable, and prices are going to vary widely from week to week and store to store…

Be an educated consumer and make it Caveat venditor… after all, it’s your money, you should keep as much of it as you can.

Originally posted 2008-11-11 08:00:15.

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.

Report Fraud

Each and every time you encounter someone trying to defraud you make sure you report it.

Phishing scams, money scams, premium SMS message, suspicious phone calls, un-authorized phone charges, un-authorized credit card charges, etc — go ahead and visit the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center; a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], the National White Collar Crime Center [NW3C], and the Bureau of Justice Assistance [BJA]) and file a report.

Take action and let the law enforcement community decide what’s a threat and what’s not – but DO NOT remain silent or these problems will continue.

http://www.ic3.gov/

 

NOTE:  If you have an un-authorized charge on any of your bills you will also want to contact your billing company and dispute the charge with them; the IC3 will not do this for you.

Originally posted 2008-10-24 13:00:38.

Amazon Prices

Generally I’m very happy with shopping on Amazon (though I tend to avoid merchants in the Amazon Market Place), however…

Last month I was looking at some garden implements, and I found a Corona Clipper Model RK62061; well built, good reviews but Amazon was charging $27.63 for the item (free shipping) and indicating that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was $29.99.

Well, I went over to Corona Clipper’s web site to check out additional information on the RK62061, and found that they had an online store — so I clicked on the RK62061 (it was a little bit of work to find the exact item, they have a rather extensive catalog)… but when I did, I found that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (and the price that Corona Clipper would charge from their own store) was $16.40.

I was more than a little disturbed that Amazon was indicating that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was nearly twice what it was in fact being listed for on the manufacturer’s web site (pretty clear who I’m going to believe on this).

I then checked out the shipping rates on Corona Clipper — $5.95; so even after shipping Corona Clipper was nearly 30% less than Amazon.

I pointed out to Amazon that there was an obvious error in their listing — that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was almost half what they indicated.

They sent back a lame response about a DVD and not having any price match policy (obviously sent by a poorly done automated system)… obviously from a company that has questionable ethics and questionable customer service.

My advice — when Amazon benefits you, but from them — but ALWAYS double check the information they provide…

Obviously the State of Washington has rather different laws regarding fraudulent advertising or perhaps it’s just that Jeffrey Preston Bezos feels his company is above the law.

Originally posted 2010-04-09 02:00:53.