Category Archives: Shopping

Redbox Tests $2 Per Night Rentals: Will You Still Rent?

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(UPDATE: I have discovered that the $2 pricing is only occurring in the Harrisburg, PA area. Redbox is also testing a $1.50 nightly price in the Albuquerque, NM area. Why they chose those areas is strange to me!)

I was checking out at the grocery store today when I saw something that surprised me. Redbox has begun increasing their prices! The sign clearly stated, “First Night $2, $1 Per Night After That“. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera phone with me but I will try and get a picture as soon as possible. Here is a picture of the machine with the new price:

Redbox has been a big hit between my wife and me. Previously, at just $1 per night, it made for an inexpensive entertainment night. We would go to the grocery store, pick out a newly released video, watch it that night, and return it the next day. It was only $1 if you returned it the next day! Now $2? I know you will all say that it’s not that bad but come on! That’s a 100% price increase! I guess they pushed everyone (brick and mortar stores) out of the market and now they feel that they can reap the rewards.

Will this price increase make you think twice about using Redbox? I know if will make us think twice!

Mail-In Rebates: Stay Ahead of the Game

For many individuals, mail-in rebates can be a pain. They require you to send in all kinds of personal information, cut out UPCs, mail envelopes stuffed with crap, and remember where/when you sent them. It’s no wonder many individuals don’t even bother sending in the rebate. Well, I am not one of those individuals. I keep up with all of my rebates to make sure I am paid what I am due.

Why Do Companies Even Offer Mail-In Rebates?

1. They Get Your Personal Information

Most rebate forms require you to submit them with all of your personal information. It allows them to place you on their mailing list as well as track your spending habits. If they notice that you spend a lot of money on computer accessories, you better keep an eye out for a coupon in the mail!

2. They Know Many People Won’t Even Bother to Send It In

Companies are not dumb. They know that there will be a certain percentage of consumers out there that won’t even bother to send it in. Either they will forget or they will sent it in with the wrong information. It’s been estimated that only between 50% and 70% are redeemed. For example, in 2005 TIVO only had about 50% of their new customers redeem their $100 rebate netting the company a cool $5 million.

3. They Can Earn More Money

While you are fiddling with cutting out the UPC and licking the envelope, the company is still collecting interest on your rebate money. Just a way to earn a few more bucks!

4. It Can Stop You From Returning Items

Since you have to remove the UPC to get some rebates, it’s a great way to thwart off returns. Most companies will not return items without the UPC.

5. It Can Help Inflate Sales

If a company needs to boost it’s financial outlook for shareholders, a rebate can be rather handy. They can record the sale at the full price in one quarter and show the discount in another after you redeem the rebate. It helped them boost up sales in that first quarter.

Stay Ahead in the Rebate Game

Back in March, I sent in two mail-in rebates to Staples for some various software packages I bought. The other day I got a nice follow up email from Google Calendar reminding me when I sent the rebate. Since I had yet to receive the rebate, I gave them a call to find out what the problem was. Turns out they sent them, but got lost in the mail. They needed all of the information again in order to reprocess the rebate. I imagine they were hoping I forgot about the rebate and didn’t keep good records. Well, they were wrong and provided them with all of the info they needed. Needless to say the rebate is on its way again. If not for my attention for detail, that $60 would be long gone. Here are some tips to follow when sending in mail-in rebates.

1. Keep the Rebate in Your Sight at All Times Until You Send It

As soon as you get the mail-in rebate, keep it in your site until you mail it. If you do not follow this step, there is probably a 50% chance that you will forget about it. That’s like throwing money down the drain.

2. Read, Read and Read Some More

Make sure you read the instructions on the rebate several times. Neglecting to do this may cause you to miss an important step in the rebate process. If you miss something they will contact you (maybe) and let you know what you are missing. Chances are good that you have already misplaced the required information (the UPC if you threw away the box).

3. Copy Everything

After you get all of the required information ready, make sure you copy everything. Copying these crucial documents are your proof that you filled them out correctly. I also recommend copying the envelope you send it in with the correct address and a stamp on it. If it is a really big rebate you may even want to send the envelope certified mail or get a certificate of mailing.

4. Set a Reminder

Mail-in rebates often give you a time frame to let you know when you should receive your rebate. If it says 4-8 weeks, set yourself a reminder in Google Calendar. If the rebate has not arrived by the time you get that reminder, it’s time to give the company a call. You should have the phone number to call because you kept all of those copies.

Teacher or Student? Great Time to Buy a Mac (Again)!

This is a repost from last year. Thankfully, Apple is running this promotion again this year.

Are you a student, teacher, or staff member of an education institution? Now is a great time to buy a Mac computer. Whether you want a laptop or desktop, not only do you get great educational pricing, you can get a free iPod touch ($229 value) between now and September 8th. This is such a great deal that I took part in last years deal. I didn’t really need an iPod touch but I figured someone else (on eBay) could. I bought a MacBook and took the $229 iPod to go with it. As soon as I received the iPod I immediately placed it on eBay and sold it for $199 a few days later. It’s like getting another $199 discount on the laptop! If you take all of those “discounts” into account, I got a $1299 MacBook (last year) for $1000 ($1199 education price minus $199 iPod sale). You can even get a free printer (up to $100) with the purchase!

I wasn’t really thinking about getting a new laptop at the time but my other computer was just acting possessed. It would turn on in the middle of the night for no reason! I would also be in the middle of typing a paper and it would say that it needs to shut down and then it just would. It was Windows Vista and I just couldn’t bear it anymore. I have always been a Windows guy and this new operating system just turned me off. So far I am rather happy with my Mac purchase (I have since went back to Windows because my finacee has a Mac).

Our Cell Phone Company Is Scamming Us

A couple of months ago, I opened our AT&T wireless bill to see quite a surprise. We unfortunately had gone over our minutes and incurred about $30 in additional fees. How could we have gone over our minutes? We always had minutes left over at the end of the month and we didn’t change our phone habits. Actually, we had over 300 minutes left in rollover minutes that month! What happened?

The Mystery Unknown Callers

Upon further inspection of the bill, I noticed a few items (that used quite a few minutes) that looked like we called ourselves. In other words, if our phone number was 410-555-1212, it showed that we had an incoming call from 410-555-1212. What the hell? How can we call ourselves and talk for that long? Curious, I called AT&T wireless and this is the response that they gave me:

“I’m sorry that you went over your minutes this month sir. Unfortunately, when our system cannot recognize a phone number that calls you, we list it as if you called yourself. Also, those phone calls use up your anytime minutes because we do not know if they are AT&T customers or not.”

So, even if the other caller was an AT&T customer (which I could talk to for FREE), I get screwed because their “system” cannot recognize the number? How can they do that? I know for a fact that some of those phone calls were to my financee who has AT&T (actually, she is on my account). How can they recognize the number one day and not the next? 

I started to get pretty peeved at the whole situation and started pleeding my case. Unfortunately, “there was nothing that they could do for me”. I had no proof that shows I called her at those times. In the end I just gritted my teeth and paid the bill.

Since the infamous bill, we have started using our house phone more for calling people not in our wireless network. So far it has worked wonders and we have a surplus of 900 rollover minutes. 

Anyone have any wireless phone bill stories? 

Get Free Coin Counting at Coinstar

We all have change lying around our house and in our cars. In fact, the average American has about $90 is spare change just lying around! But how can you turn that loose change into bills for free? Many banks will do it for free if you are a member. But what if you are not a member or do not live close to a branch? Many banks even charge to count coins because they absolutely hate it. Well, Coinstar can help you turn your change into gift cards for use at many major retailers. If you turn your change into gift cards, they waive their 8.9% surcharge. I have been doing this for quite some time now. They offer gift cards for my favorite shopping site, Amazon.comHere is the complete list of gift cards that you can get:

  • AMC Theaters
  • Borders
  • Cabelas
  • CVS
  • Eddie Bauer
  • iTunes
  • JC Penney
  • Lowes
  • Old Navy
  • Starbucks

Looking at this list, you can see that there is something for everyone. Want to go to the movies? Get the AMC gift card. Need an electronic gadget or about anything else under the sun? Get an gift card. Coffee addict? Get a Starbucks gift card.

Personally, we use Coinstar for all of our change. They have a location near us in a supermarket which makes it very convenient. You can find locations near you by searching on their site.

The Age of No Negotiation

Back in the day when I worked in a department store, we had this one manager that was extremely passionate about making sure that the customer was take care of. I even remember one occasion where a customer brought in a 10 year old item that stopped working. The customer was upset (I would not be if something lasted me that long) and the manager made sure they were taken care of. The customer left with a smile on their face and a brand new item in the hand. Now that is what customer satisfaction is all about.

I told you that story to get to something that happened to me in a store the other day. I went to a local department store, let’s call it BullsEye, to look at a hybrid bike that they had in their ad. It was $199 down from the regular price of $220, about a 10% discount. I had my wallet in my hand and the money was practically in their cash register. Of course when I got their, they were sold out and offered me a rain check. The spontaneous person that I am, I noticed another bike that was rather similar and it was regular price for $249. I asked the salesperson to speak to a manager and they arrived shortly thereafter. I told them that I was looking to take home a bike today and reminded them that the one in the ad was sold out. I told the manager that if they were willing to knock 10% off the price of the $249 bike, then I would give them my money and be on my way. She quickly said no and then walked away! Are you kidding me? Since when doesn’t a store want money?!?

Needless to say, I left the store without buying anything and I really don’t know if I ever want to go back. Are we now living in a age where nothing is negotiable? I have been reading You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen (which you can find in my recommended reading section), and I am beginning to wonder if he was wrong. It didn’t seem to work for me!

This post was more of a rant than anything, but I want to see what other people have been experiencing. Have we now become a world where customer service doesn’t matter or are the store managers just improperly trained? If I was in that managers position, I would have given the customer the discount. I would rather lose $25 on one sale then lose hundreds later because they never came back to shop at my store.

Has anyone else experiened anything like this lately? Has anyone had great customer service to the point where it is the only place you shop now?

photo by: gak