Entries Tagged as 'Shopping'

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.

Adorama — Follow Up

This is a follow up to a fairly unflattering post I made on a purchase from Adorama.

First, the time line of the entire espisode for reference, my thoughts follow.

  • 2008/12/26: I order a Sunpak CF-7078 Twin Filter Pack (52mm Ultra-Violet and 52mm Circular Polarizing) from Adorama through Amazon (Amazon was out of stock).
  • 2008/12/18: Adorama ships my order, and sends tracking information.
  • 2008/12/31: My order arrives, but Adorama has substituted a Tiffen filter set without contacting me (the invoice clearly indicates that it’s intentional).
  • 2008/12/31: I contact both Adorama and Amazon via Amazon’s web interface).
  • 2008/12/31: I contact my credit card company via telephone; they indicate their will be no issue initiating a charge back, but ask that I give the merchant time to resolve the matter first.
  • 2009/01/01: Amazon replies to my inquiry and indicates that vendors may not materially change an order and that the Amazon A-Z Guarantee would apply should I not be able to resolve the matter with Adorama.
  • 2009/01/04: Adorama has sends me a pre-paid UPS shipping label for the return of the items via email.  Though the instructions indicate that I must drop off the item at a shipping location.
  • 2009/01/05: I’ve also been contacted by Helen Oster, Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador who has read my BLOG post and interested in investigating the matter.  I’ve already sent her enough information to get her started.  I’ll be sure and post anything of interest that happens.
  • 2009/01/06: The Tiffen filters to Adorama via UPS, my regular UPS delivery person picked them up for me, so I didn’t need to drive to UPS to drop them off (but I was still out packing material and time).
  • 2009/01/09: Adorama has offered an explanation (that their buyer felt it was acceptable to replace an out of stock item with an in stock item that retailed for more, without contacting the customer first); while I accept this as an explanation, I find it an unacceptable practice.  Only I can decide what product has equal or greater value, since only I am able to gauge the metrics of the products I choose to fit my needs.  Also, Adorama is attempting to “make this right”, and I certainly applaud their effort — but it would have been easier on everyone had someone just ask what I wanted before shipping a substitution.  Additionally Adorama offers a single Hoya filter as a replacement; I reject that offer simply because I would still need to buy an additional filter.
  • 2009/01/10: Adorama offers two Hoya filters in place of the Sunpak.  I agree to this and they ship the filters (I have an order pending for the Sunpak filter set on Amazon; that’s what I wanted, and that’s what I’ll have — but I certainly felt like I needed to let Adorama exercise their right to “make it right”).
  • 2009/01/16: The Hoya Filters arrive as promised.

Let me start by saying that this matter probably should be characterized as one individual making a bad decision that was inconsistent with the Corporate polices of Adorama, I think Helen’s dedication to making things right, and Adorama’s willingness to incur substantial costs in this matter is evidence of that.

I rarely appraise companies by whether or not they make mistakes, but rather by how they address their mistakes.  While I would have preferred to just get the items I ordered in a timely fashion; or been told their was no stock, I would put forth that you simply could not find a company more willing to go the extra mile; or an individual (Helen Oster) with more moral fibre and tenacity to make sure the right thing is done.

Initially I felt that I would never deal with Adorama again; but my feeling is that they’re certainly worth a second shot (each of you will need to decide for yourself, since this is my only dealings with Adorama I do not have a feel for statistically how often something like this may happen, other than to say my gut tells me it’s rare).

Originally posted 2009-01-16 01:00:20.

Home Depot Online

In many respects Home Depot was a pioneer in the home improvement store industry.

Originally started in Atlanta in the late 70’s; four stores (recycled building from JC Penney’s failed attempt to enter the pharmacy retail segment) they build a chain that used technology for inventory control, checking out, ordering, stocking…

Now enter the new millineum where many brick and mortor retailers have figured out if you can use your online (web) presence to help customers purchase items and manage your inventory you can increase profits and lower costs.

Well… I wanted some shelving units — and I found pretty much what I wanted at a reasonable price.  But low and behold, I couldn’t elect to order it and pick it up at a local Home Depot store (I can do that with the competitor Lowe’s; or with Wal-Mart; or with hundreds of other companies)… they actually want me to pay for shipping.  Expensive shipping, and it’s not like their delivery service is going to bring those heavy items upstairs — so all I get out of it is having to wait.

I don’t believe they should only offer in store pickup; they should offer both home delivery and in store pickup (just like Lowe’s).

Not only does it save money for everyone to do in store pickup; but it allows me to manage my time better (I don’t have to wait around for a truck line to make a 350 pound delivery).

Why?

Let’s see now… who’s web site will I be clicking the “BUY” button on, and who will be getting my money.   One last bit of advice to Home Depot, you might want to close some more stores, because with this type of “exceptional customer service” you’re probably going to find yourself without customers.  Of course they started in store fronts of a failed venture, so they certainly should understand where it all can end up.

Originally posted 2009-02-15 01:00:35.

Solar Lighting

I’ve been looking at several solar lighting products to potentially light my driveway, my walkway, and areas.

The first thing you notice is that prices are all over the map — for products that have very similar specifications.

You will find that some of the products have plastic housing, and some have aluminum (or even stainless steel) — but interestingly enough, that doesn’t seem to track their prices.  In fact one of the least expensive models for driveway/walkway lighting I’ve found is in a stainless steel case (now you do have to buy a six pack, but that’s actually about the right number even for short driveways).

For area lighting there’s a huge different in styles; and these are much harder to compare.  The biggest disappointment thus far with the area lights is the amount of light (Lumens) that they produce — they’re so low, in fact, that they seem like they’d be fairly useless without a backup light (run from AC).  In fact since I can run AC to all the locations I want area lights I’m considering just putting in motion/photo sensors and using outdoor LED lamps (that will use electricity, but it’s fairly energy efficient, and produces much more light).  One thing’s for sure, if you like the light your HID (like the sodium lamps I have) gives off, you’re not going to be happy with what you can get from a solar lighting system (or even an LED lamp).

I’ll do a little more “testing” and provide some brands (and where I found them) that you might want to consider; but keep in mind that everyone will have a slightly different set of requirements and there’s likely not going to be one model that’s right for every need.

If you want to buy something right away; make sure that you shop several different vendors before you decide — it’ll surprise you how much essentially the same item varies in price; and the “discount” stores don’t always have the best price!

Originally posted 2009-08-20 01:00:15.

Bed Bath and Beyond – Followup

Just a quick post to follow up on my service issue with Bed Bath and Beyond.

First, the replacement parts for my order arrived in about a week (which means they processed the outbound replacement order within 48-hours).  The parts were packaged extremely well and there was no damage.  I, of course, haven’t installed the replacement parts yet — but it’s on the list.

Second, the return I made to the store was handled equally well.

No doubt about it, Bed Bath and Beyond knows how to treat customer’s right — and they’ve certainly earned my repeat business.

 

Original Post

Originally posted 2009-08-23 01:00:07.

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.

Adorama – Rebuttal

The following:

  • is a rebuttal from Adorama Camera Customer Service.
  • is included here as provided to me by Adorama unchanged (with the exception that an email address was removed from the signature block to prevent harvesting).
  • is Adorama’s perspective (not necessarily mine).

Links to my original posts are included at the end.

Roger stated on his blog that ‘I had received an Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) from Adorama” and that “…apparently they felt it was quite acceptable to subscribe an email address they obtained from Amazon”

Following correspondence with an Adorama representative, Roger now appreciates that his statement “…they felt it was quite acceptable” was an incorrect assumption on his part as it had no basis in fact. It was also incorrect to assume and suggest that Adorama sends Unsolicited Commercial Emails to customers that bought goods from Adorama through Amazon.

Adorama has confirmed to Roger that email addresses obtained from Amazon are not automatically subscribed to our mailing lists. His address was automatically subscribed because Adorama placed a replacement order directly for him, as part of the fulfillment process of his Amazon order.

Adorama provided Roger with assurances not only of our strict policy not to send commercial emails to Amazon customers, but also provided information that reassures him that he was incorrect to make unsubstantiated allegations regarding his perception of the attitude of Adorama staff, based upon his assumptions – which he now knows to be without substance.

Adorama also provided Roger with the name of Director of Email Campaigns along with the raw candid conversation that clarifies without doubt his commitment to Adorama customers, and his overwhelming concern that he mistakenly emailed an Amazon customer.

Roger stated previously that this action by Adorama “Seems a consistent gauge of a bad company – they do what ever they want, why should they care if it’s legal, ethical….” It is clear from the conversation referred to above, and the email exchanges with Helen Oster, the Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador, that Adorama employees do not, in fact, deserve the accusations he directed at them in relation to how we feel about our customers.

We hope that this public acknowledgement that Roger made a mistake, will clarify that he does appreciate that data processing errors are just that – errors; they are not deliberate and certainly don’t reflect personality. In retrospect, it would be accurate to state that the words on Roger’s blog were controlled by him and a true reflection of how he was feeling towards Adorama at the time. He is fully aware that respect works both ways; he demands respect for his Inbox therefore he agrees that it is not asking a lot in return to ask him to respect the feelings of the Adorama employees, rather than attributing ideas and attitudes that are remote and alien to their consciousness.

Roger now understands that at Adorama, we invest genuine effort and goodwill in every email sent, in an effort to ensure that we are not offending any customer,

Roger stated in his blog that “From my perspective subscribing any email address to a mailing list without first obtaining a customer’s permission amounts to UCE and it totally unacceptable irrespective of the fact that you include an unsubscribe link in the email”

Adorama shares that opinion, which is why when a customer checks out on the website, he or she has the option to decide whether or not to receive marketing emails from us. Currently, the opt-in option is checked by default. However, the email marketing team have already discussed and agreed that this is not satisfactory, and changes are in an advanced stage of planning.

The new check out will feature three options:

1. Opt-in to Adorama marketing emails

2. No Adorama marketing emails, ever

3. Defer the decision until Adorama has followed-up post check-out, with options that provide control to the customer over what to receive and what not to receive, together with additional information describing the benefits of each category of marketing email.

This applies to the orders originating on the Adorama website, which takes the greater share of our orders. For ‘phone orders, the opt-in/opt-out is verbal on the ‘phone; there is a field where sales associates must indicate Y/N.

Helen Oster

Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador

My previous BLOG posts concerning Adorma:

Originally posted 2009-02-02 01:00:48.

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.

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.