Shopping 
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Last Minute Valentine’s Day Ideas

RoseHave you been putting off planning for Valentine’s Day? If you have been, your day of reckoning has arrived. You’ve probably got less than eight hours to pull off a respectable Valentine’s Day. Chances are, of course, that you are going to be apart from your sweetie all day, so when you meet up later, you can provide a surprise.

Here are some things you can plan for this evening — even if you are behind. (and you’re welcome :) )

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 Family 
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Managing Brand Creep in Grocery Shopping

When I read the original title of this article (How to Shop Sensibly for Groceries When Someone in Your Family is a Brand Loyalist) to my husband, he immediately chuckled and said “I don’t know how you do it but somehow, you do.” There is no question in our house about who has the specific brand “preferences” – he’s the one who has brand loyalty and it has been difficult for him to embrace generics.

I try to convince him that in most cases, generics are basically the same exact thing without marketing, which equals a lower price for the consumer, but he won’t believe me. And, I think he still doesn’t, but he does grumble a little less most of the time.

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 Family 
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comments

How to Battle the “I Want” Syndrome

Sesame Street Toy StoreMy son is four and has been attending preschool for the past two years. When my husband and I were the sole caregivers, it was much easier to shelter him from consumer influences and keep his desire for endless amounts of stuff at bay. However, as he becomes more immersed in the school “culture” and makes more friends, he has started to notice more and more what other people have. And sometimes, this results in his yearning to have what they have.

In short, the “I Wants” have hit our house hard over the past year, and will most likely continue until we boot him out of our house after high school (and maybe even longer than that…). So I’ve had to think creatively about how to counter the constant “I Want…” reasonably and without resorting to “Because I Said So” every time!. Out of necessity and the preservation of my sanity, I’ve developed a few techniques I use when explaining that we can’t always get what we want, in four year old terms.

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 Personal Finance 
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Effective Complaining: Hit Credit Cards, Not Banks

Stop ComplainingOn Sunday, I reviewed Gotcha Capitalism, a powerful and comprehensive guide for consumers, and gave it glowing reviews. Today, I want to talk about a couple stats Bob Sullivan shares with the reader about complaining to companies and success rates (Keep in mind that the book was published in 2007).

The point of the section was to illustrate that the places where you are more likely to succeed are exactly the places that people don’t try. The success rate at a grocery store is 57.1% but only 14% of people ever try, whereas the success rate with a television company is an abysmal 20.2% yet 84% of people complain. If you want to make the most out of your time, go after credit card companies. Ask to have fees removed, refunded, or waived because you’re such an awesome customer.

Here are the numbers:

  1. Credit card companies: 64.6% success rate
  2. Airlines: 60.0% success rate
  3. Grocery stores: 57.1% success rate
  4. Retirement: 52.2% success rate
  5. Internet: 51.5% success rate
  6. Hotels: 37.0% success rate
  7. Banks: 33.3% success rate
  8. Insurance: 28.9% success rate
  9. Cell Phones: 26.8% success rate
  10. Television: 20.2% success rate

Here are the rates at which people actually complained:

  1. Television: 84% complaint rate
  2. Credit card companies: 79% complaint rate
  3. Cell Phones: 71% complaint rate
  4. Hotels: 54.0% complaint rate
  5. Insurance: 38% complaint rate
  6. Internet: 33% complaint rate
  7. Retirement: 23% complaint rate
  8. Banks: 18% complaint rate
  9. Airlines: 15% complaint rate
  10. Grocery stores: 14% complaint rate

If you have all the time in the world, complain to everyone! :)

(Photo by aturkus)


 Shopping 
10
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8 Reasons To Do All Your Shopping Online

I try to do as much shopping as I can online because nothing beats comparing a bunch of locations all at once to get the best price or taking advantage of a vendor’s pricematching policy. What’s also awesome about buying online is that you get to avoid the business of malls and parking and dealing with people who are grumpy or had a bad day. I’m going to give you eight reasons why I prefer to shop online – please feel free to add to the list in the comments below.

Reason 1: Better Prices

While not always true, I think in general you can find better prices online because online vendors have lower overhead costs. They don’t need to rent a physical store location, they don’t need to staff it with people, and they don’t need to support all the other overhead costs associated with a brick and mortar store. Online stores will have the same warehousing infrastructure, perhaps its larger, and distribution costs but not having stores can save them tremendously on overhead. As a result, you can generally find that prices are cheaper online.

Along with better prices, and you can consider this Reason 1A, is that you can comparison shop much much easier online. You can go with services like PriceGrabber or just hop from site to site. Compare this to running around different stores in the mall? Forget it.

Reason 2: Pricematching

Many online vendors offer price matching of some kind. With Amazon, if the price drops within 30 days then you can get a refund of the difference. I wrote about Amazon’s unwritten price drop policy a few years ago now and have used it at least fifty times since, especially with services like Price Protectr monitoring and emailing me.

Reason 3: No Sales Tax Collected

If you buy something online, the store is only required to collect sales tax if they have a physical location in your state. Amazon.com only collects sales tax in Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, and Washington (and New York thanks to the work of Eliot Spitzer) because they have warehouses in those states. However, you’re supposed to report your purchases and pay a “use tax” on your state’s income tax return the following April. (For those of you who don’t report the use tax, which is pretty much everyone I know, this means you can make purchases without sales tax)

Reason 4: It’s In Stock

Not everything you want will always be in stock but at least you’ll know before you order it. You could go to a store in the hopes of finding a DVD only to learn that none are in stock. Then you’ve wasted all that time getting to the store when you should’ve been able to know beforehand. Now, some vendors are a little shadier about stocking information (they want your order after all), but in general the bigger vendors are honest about what they have on hand and what they will need to acquire.

Reason 5: No Driving, Less Gas

Have you seen the mall lately? At most mall parking lots you could probably drive around for fifteen minutes before you found a parking spot and if you add that all up, that’s a lot of gas (and headache!) being burned up just to be able to walk around a store. So, by ordering online, you drive less and thus use less gas. Going back to Reason 4, how frustrated would you be if it took you 15 minutes to park only to find out the store was out of stock?

Reason 6: Historical Order Record

If I buy something in the store, I almost never keep the receipt. If I need to return something, they can generally track down the order in their system with my credit card. However, I won’t have a historical record of what I bought when. This may be crucial information when it comes to warranties and protections, so having someplace I can go to review my order history can be valuable in these boundary situations.

Reason 7: Special Offers and Coupons

When you purchase something online you usually create an account there. One of the side benefits of having an account at a retailer is that they may send you special offers or notify you of special online sales. Some see this as a double edged sword as their inbox is deluged with every last marketing communique, but I see it as an opportunity to be cheaply notified of a special offer that is targeted for me. If they saw I’ve been buying lots of sci-fi DVDs and they have a sale, I’d really appreciate an email letting me know.

Reason 8: More and Longer Online Sales

Stores generally have sales to move product and are limited in what is available for purchase. When an online vendor has a sale, you have the entire warehouse stock to deplete before they are “out of stock,” versus a single store location. This means that if some store is having a blow out sale on memory sticks, you know that it ends when either they’ve hit their quota or they’ve run out. You never run into a case of the local limit.

There are many many more reasons to shop online and I only hit on the first eight that came to mind, if you have a reason you shop online that I haven’t listed as one of mine, please do share it in the comments below!


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