Folgers Coffee: Magic Shrink Ray Makes More From Less

I just bought a can of Folgers Classic Roast coffee from Costco and saw one of the most amazing marketing lies ever. I can understand companies that make packages smaller. We all know fuel and food is more expensive and we can accept paying more for the same products. We can understand when companies charge the same price but give you less. They don’t tell you it’s the same size, they just hit it with the shrink ray and are done with it.

Until today, no one flat out lied about it.

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Identify, Defend Against Upselling & Cross-Selling

Upselling is when the salesperson tries to sell you something more expensive than and instead of what you were already buying. Cross-selling is when the salesperson tries to sell you something that is related to or can be integrated into whatever you’re already buying. A prime example is a digital camera. If you were buying a 5 mega-pixel camera, an upsell would be an offer of a 7 mega-pixel camera at a reduced price. A cross-sell would be offering a camera case, digital printing services, printers, or just printer paper. Upselling and cross-selling are crucial parts of sales process becuase you’ve already identified yourself as someone willing to buy something. Now it’s just a matter of convincing you to buy more.

Upselling and cross-selling is not inherently bad. For example, under “personalized service” I talk about how salespeople may ask about your intentions as a way of identifying products that may be a better fit. While their ultimate goal might be to make a bigger ticket sale, the end result could be better for you even if you spend more money. You may get products that are more in line with what you want, rather than what you think you want. However, this is not always the case.

To help you combat this financial encroachment into your wallet or purse, here are some successful upselling & cross-selling techniques. Once you recognize them, you can properly defend against them:

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WaMu Online Savings Account Rate Increase: 3.75% APY

WaMu was acquired by JPMorgan Chase in 2008 and this rate is no longer available. For the latest on bank rates, check out the best high yield savings account rates page.

I just received an email that Washington Mutual will be raising the interest rate on their online savings account from 3.30% APY to 3.75% APY. This beats the rates found at FNBO Direct and HSBC Direct. It’s also a sign that interest rates are headed up. (FYI, FNBO’s top rate isn’t a “promotional offer” and has no set expiration date, HSBC Direct’s rate is a promotional offer and is set to expire in September)

With inflation heading upwards, the rate was 1.0% in June 2008, it’s getting more and more likely that interest rates will also move upward to counter. The Fed doesn’t like high inflation rates and will counter with increasing the funds rate, which will in turn increase bank’s interest rates. Whether or not that’s good for your pocketbook in the long run remains to be seen, there are simply too many factors pulling at one another, but a higher bank interest rate is better than a lower bank interest rate.

Update: For some reason I thought FNBO and HSBC were at 4.50% and mis-typed 3.50%, they’re not, they’re at 3.50% and now they lag WaMu.


Should You Look For A New Job?

Corporate OfficesA friend recently learned that a co-worker, with similar responsibilities and credentials, found a new job for slightly more pay. The difference in salary was, percentage-wise, in the single digits and the move was a lateral one (no significant added responsibilities). She was wondering whether she should start looking for a job too because money’s getting tighter and everyone’s looking for an edge.

There’s no harm in looking.

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Best Paying Graduate Jobs: Lessons Learned

For the last three years, I’ve watched for and written about the list Yahoo releases every year for the best jobs for graduates. The 2008 best paying job for graduates was in the field of Chemical Engineering. Last year, the 2007 best paying job for graduates was Chemical Engineering. The year before that, the 2006 best paying job for graduates was Chemical Engineering. I think it’s safe to say, Chemical Engineering is here to stay. 🙂

The problem with looking at these types of lists is that if you were equally capable of doing any of the jobs on the list and if money were your primary driver, by the time you graduated, the list could change. When I started college in 1998, I was lucky. All the hot job lists had computer science, computer engineering, information systems and information technology all over the top spots. I wanted to study computer science and so the appearance high on the list for salaries merely cemented the decision. However, when I graduated in December 2001 (for all you math majors, I was done a semester early partly because of AP credits), computer science wasn’t really a hot job in too many places because of the dot-com bust.

Despite that, one thing is clear by looking at these lists year after year. Engineering is hot. While the non-engineering jobs on the list, the doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. are stable, high-pay (eventually), and high-demand, the competition for top engineering talent will always keep salaries for new graduates in those fields very high.

Chemical engineering may not always be the top paying graduate job (though it’s prospects do look good), but chances are #1 will have ‘engineering’ in there somewhere.


The Adolescent Brain Is Hardwired For Debt

Last Friday, my wife and I went to the Maryland Science Center to see the Body Worlds 2 exhibit. Body Worlds is an exhibit in which cadavers, properly donated, are plastinized (essentially turned into a plastic-like material through a “plastination” process). It’s a really unreal experience seeing actual bodies, which look like plastic, all opened up, in mid-motion, for all to see but it was certainly worth the price of admission.

Body Worlds 2 focused heavily on the brain, our little three pound nerve center and the little orb controls everything we do. One interesting quote from the exhibit, and one that I felt tied most closely with that of our soaring debt, was this one:

The Adolescent Brain: The immature pre-frontal cortex, the last region of the brain to develop, may be responsible for an increased desire for speed, danger and rebellion, and an indifference to planning and priorities.

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HSBC Direct 3.50% Rate Extension: Sept. 15th

HSBC DirectHSBC Direct recently sent out an email to account holders notifying them that the 3.50% APY promotional rate was being extended an additional month to September 15th. The email is a bit silly, it’s obvious that customers like higher rates for longer periods, but the rate is good. 3.50% APY is among the best in the nation and one of the largest from a reputable, brand-name bank.

Is it worth it to transfer funds from one bank to another for this rate? Probably not, but opening a new account doesn’t cost you anything (no minimums, no fees) so you could always put new savings into this bank. I have several of these high yield accounts and when I’m looking to save, I simply transfer from my checking account to the bank with the highest rate. This leaves me with several online bank accounts and goes a little against the simplifying my personal finances concept, getting the best yield is worth a little extra headache.

Dear JIM,

Customers like you have told us how much they love our big fat rate. And as far as our customers are concerned, we can’t give them too much of a good thing. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

* You’ll keep earning 3.50% APY* on all balances in your Online Savings Account.
* That’s 9x the national savings average.±
* Deposit more now to take full advantage of our great rate extension.

Now’s the time to watch your savings grow. So deposit more today.

Deposit more now Sincerely,
Kevin Martin
Executive Vice President,
Head of HSBC Direct U.S.


PSA: Double Check Wal-Mart Oil Changes

Regular oil changes, as defined by your owner’s manual, is one of the best ways to lengthen the life of your car and the efficiency of its engine. Don’t skip oil changes to save a few dollars, the thousands of miles you’ll add to the engine’s life will dwarf the cost. That being said, there really isn’t much difference in the product and service offered at a discount oil change place and your dealership, despite what your dealership may say! This PSA is anyone who uses discount oil change services like Wal-Mart or Jiffy Lube. After you get your $15-$20 oil change, double check their work before you leave or you might be in for a nasty surprise.

Wal-Mart Whoops!

A while back my wife took her 2004 Honda Civic to the local Wal-Mart for their famously economical oil change. With a price under twenty bucks for conventional oil, you couldn’t beat it. After the oil change, she drove home and it wasn’t until she left for work the next day did we see an oil stain in her parking spot. When we popped opened the hood, we saw the oil cap sitting on the engine. I should’ve taken a picture because my wife’s daily commute is about 40 minutes and it’s a miracle the cap was still sitting on top of the engine (it may have been wedged by the hood, we didn’t check but there wasn’t a dent).

Everything under the hood was covered in oil spray and she lost about a quart of oil. We couldn’t believe they forgot to put the oil cap back on (then we realized the technicians are probably pressured to do things as quickly as possible, so it’s not that surprising that they miss something once and a while).

Check Their Work…

So, the next time you get an oil change at those discount places, do a perfunctory check that everything is in order. Check that the oil cap is on (I know it sounds ridiculous but it happened to us), check the ground when you pull out for signs of oil leaks, check your oil level via the dipstick, and check the service work report for inconsistencies. You won’t be able to detect detect outright fraud but you can ensure there isn’t any carelessness.

… Or Do It Yourself

I change the oil in my own car because I prefer to use synthetic oil (mostly because you change it less frequently, but there are other benefits). You can get synthetic oil changes at the discount places but the price magically jumps up to $50-60 for the base oil change, a price point that makes it more economical to change it yourself. I also drive a car that offers very easy access to the filter (the filter was impossible to reach in my last car, an Acura Integra) so changing the oil is straightforward. The only downside is the mess, but you do get the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

But, if I forget to put on the oil cap or tighten the oil filter… I have no one to blame. 🙂

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