January 2006 Monthly Archive
Posted by Cap in Business Ramblings
on January 31, 2006 | 3 Comments
Have you ever shop for something online, only to find horrible pictures of the products on the store’s website?
They have something stupid like, “click here to enlarge picture,” so you click on it expecting a larger picture with more detail – but what do you get instead? The same stupid small picture. Here’s an example, even though I don’t need one:
Click to enlarge
Now do you see what I’m talking about? I mean, come on. With such a small picture, how can you tell which type of Littmann Classic II Stethoscope that is?? Is it the S.E., the Pediatric one, or the Infant one!? Argh! *Smashes monitor*
So your site has the best price I’ve found for that stethoscope, but your picture sucks. You could have just steal some picture from 3M but you didn’t do that… so now I’m not buying your stuff. Even though your price is hot like flaming hot cheetos.
Please, for the love of Yoda, break out that digital camera your teenage daughter has and take some pictures.
To see a great example of great pictures for online stores. Head over to Newegg.com and browse around.
Take a look at this example here, a Geforce blah blah something.
Wow! Pictures at different angle! Pictures of the product’s box. Picture of the stuff inside the box. Genius!
I mean, I don’t know what this thing is, but just looking at the pictures makes me want to buy it. Hey, it’s only $199! (After mail-in-rebate).
Good pictures of products equals better chance to sell crap. You’ve already spend the money on advertising to increase traffic to your site, give the customer a chance to browse and see the products in detail. As that fake chinese poverb goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Posted by Cap in Personal Finance
on January 29, 2006 | 6 Comments
Let me tell you something Internet.
If I want to, I can easily save $1,000 a year right now.
Just like that.
It’ll take two phone calls and I’ll be $1,000 richer in a year, $2,000 in two, and in ten years, $10,000!
But the only problem is, I don’t want to.
Gee golly I’ve been thinking about it long and hard, but I just can’t do it.
I can’t give up my cable internet, nor can I give up my cell phone service.
I don’t really use the full 5 Mbit/s of my cable, but I need the speed! No body ever calls me, but I need the cell phone.
For some reason, the cable internet and the cell phone has become a part of my life. I’ve had RoadRunner broadband for over 5 years now, and had the cell phone for an even longer 7 years. Wow, talk about living it up. I don’t even want to calculate the possible savings.
My monthly Time Warner cable charge is currently at a discounted price of $43 per month due to a certain phone call. It includes cable internet and basic cable for $11.56. In a few months, the regular charge of $55 per month will resume.
My monthly Verizon Wireless charge is currently at $35 per month ($29.95 per month plus tax and fees). I have the cheapest local plan. It’s 300 minutes, unlimited night & weekends – and that’s it. Verizon doesn’t even offer this plan anymore.
Ah, what’s a wannabe saver to do?
Posted by Cap in Credit Related
on January 28, 2006 | 20 Comments
Credit protection, payment protection, call it what you want, almost every credit card issuer has such service. These service basically lets you defer payment to your credit card in the case of an emergency or a “life event” in which cash flow may be strapped.
Stay away from them! Paying $0.50 for every $100 in balance for some hard-to-claim “insurance” is ridiculous!
Avoid those $15, $20 enrollment bonus checks like the plague! Even if you have no balance, don’t sign up! It is NOT worth the hassle.
So according to my sources, which is basically two people (and me), Chase’s Payment Protection is beyond crap. Last year when I called Chase to activate my new Bank One card, instead of receiving an automated activation from the phone system, I was greeted with a live operator. What the?
After a few minutes of confirming my identity, the operator proceeds to ramble on about some silly service.
“Ah no thanks, I don’t need the payment protection service.”
“Are you sure?” Asked the CSR, “You’re under no obligation and this is a free 30 day trail. You will not be charge any fees since you don’t have any balance, you have nothing to loose!”
The heck. Of course I don’t have any balance, I’m trying to activate my card!
“No, I don’t need the service, so please don’t sign me up.”
See, you would think that’ll be the end of it.. but imagine my surprise when the CSR repeats his sale pitch, in a different and much longer speech, ending with a “So, can I get your approval to sign you up for this plan?”
“NO! I do NOT want this plan!”
“Okay then.” the CSR said, sounding hurt, “thank you for calling to activate your card, have a nice day!”
Right, after taking 20 minutes to activate my card?
Again, according to my imaginary sources, Chase has been pushing for their payment protection plan to the extreme level. When a friend of mine called to activate his Chase card, he was on the phone for a good 30 minutes. Eventually his guard was let down and he said “fine.” Bad move. Long story short, he was be riddled with fees for the next few months, and it took many calls and many transfer to finally get the service cancelled and to get his money back.
Services such as credit and payment protection is just targeting people’s emotion. The Chase’s Payment Protection website is a great example:
Dedicated site to sell more debt.
With tag lines such as “When hardship strikes, defer your payment” and “Defer your payments up to two years, when you need it most.” It’s obvious they’re messing with your emotion. Don’t even get me started with the images they have on that website! What happens when you’re suddenly lay off from work? Hey, who needs emergency savings? Defer your payment!
The worse part is when people sign up for the service and try to claim the benefit for legitimate reasons; only to get denied benefit, after mounds of paperwork and headache!
The credit card industry is great at selling more debt. I’m all for responsible credit card usage, but with numerous service such as this being pushed towards consumer, I can totally understand why people should just stay away from credit cards altogether.
Posted by Cap in Personal Finance
on January 26, 2006 | 2 Comments
There’s an excellent series going on over at Personal Finance Advice, entitled Daily Financial Challenge.
It’s mucho good stuff. Totally forgot to mention it.
So check it out if you haven’t already.
Posted by Cap in Woops, Bought Crap
on January 25, 2006 | 36 Comments
Feeling the need for some Crunch Berries, I opened up my fridge and found something weird.
Oh no, my mom bought more wannabe milk.
That’s what I thought at first, till I looked closer.
SunMilk is fat free milk with sunflower oil. It has the taste of either 1% or 2% reduced fat milk, with claims of better health benefit than fat-free milk. SunMilk is made by replacing saturated fat found in milk with sunflower oil, which contains monounsaturated fat.
Health claim aside, I’m happy to report that it does taste like 2% milk—maybe even better.
No, I’m not being paid to say this. True story. (Taste is a subjective thing anyway).
It has a few quirks though. One of which is the requirement to shake well before serving, resulting in the milk being uh… a little bit bubbly. Another thing is the unusually long expiration date. The SunMilk was purchased around Jan. 18 2006 and it has an expiration date of March 26, 2006. Interesting.
According to its website, SunMilk is currently only available in Southern California and Las Vegas. Because I didn’t buy it myself, I’m a bit curious on the price… I have a feeling it cost more than regular milk.
So. Is this another gimmicky product from the ever evolving “healthy food” market segment? Or are its claims the real deal?
Even if they are, does it really matter?
I think I’ll try to just keep things simple. Milk is milk. There’s already plenty of decisions to make in life; for the most of us, choosing what type of milk to buy shouldn’t have to be one of them.
“Healthy food” be damn. Eat right and exercise. Case close.
P.S. Found out the price. They’re about $3.50 per carton of half gallon.
Update 5/28/2009: To all SunMilk lovers, unfortunately it looks like SunMilk has been discontinued. It appears the company has went under due to mismanagement, and the recent economic woes was probably the nail to the coffin. If you know more about this, feel free to give everyone else an update via the comment section. Thanks!
Posted by Cap in Updates
on January 25, 2006 | No Comments
Just FYI for those that may have missed it (since its 3 days old news), the “Big Five” have launched the Money Blogger Network.
So far it looks like a central place where all the latest post are collected. Handy for a one stop visit for those that frequent the blogs it collects. It’ll be interesting to see what else they have planned for this network.
Posted by Cap in Even More Ramblings
on January 18, 2006 | 1 Comment
That was her answer to us.
“I wish I would have saved more money,” she said.
My friend and I was dumbfounded.
Both of us was expecting an answer more along the lines of “life choices.” Things such as decisions over which university to attend, decisions on career paths to pursue, and perhaps even decisions over previous relationships.
About five years ago, I was working as an assistant to radiology technologist at a radiology clinic. Basically, I stuffed my butt in a dark room and developed x-ray pictures. Occasionally I help out the technologist with a client, but generally I roam around in the back, contemplating the meaning of life (aka sleeping) in an almost pitch-black room.
I worked alongside a friend of mine, who happened to be the boss’s son (starting to see how I got the job?). We were about 18 at that time.
One of our co-worker, a 30 something technologist, had recently gotten married. My friend Peter and I attended her wedding along with many coworkers. It was jolly good fun and it was even more interesting (for me) to see two people committing to a life together.
Days later after the wedding, we were all back at the clinic, chit chatting and enjoying the unexpected down time due to he lack of clients. It’s funny to think about it now, but because of the recent marriage, our co-worker suddenly seemed a lot older in our 18 year-old eyes.
The topics went from where the honeymoon will be at, to future living arrangements. The Q&A was all very interesting to me and Peter, since getting married felt like something that will be decades away.
It was Peter that popped the question.
“Hey Anna, so thinking back, is there anything you would have done differently? Anything you regret?” he asked her.
“Well…” Anna hesitantly answered, “I wish I would have saved more money.”
We must have looked like two confused idiots.
“What? Why?” I asked her. “How much do you make again? About $44,000 a year right?”
“Yeah and um.. with your husband’s income, that’s about what, another $40,000 to $50,000 too, no?” said Peter.
Not having enough money was a difficult concept for two little boys back then. The fact is, Peter was working for free to help his dad, and I was working because it was summer and I had nothing better to do. We didn’t really need the money (or so we thought), and saving earned income was a concept far from our minds.
“Yeah, we do have an okay amount of income,” Anna told us, “but the problem is, we haven’t saved enough money through the years.”
“I think eventually we’d want to buy a house and start a family… the down payment for the house won’t magically appear, raising kids is definitely no money saver, and then you have the eventual college tuition. Somehow among all of that, we’ll need to save for retirement too…”
Anna went on for awhile, telling us the many, many reasons why she wishes she had saved more. From our previous reactions, I think she realized that we didn’t really understand the importance of saving.
At the age of 18, my attention span was incredibly short; but here I was, seeing a drastic change in someone that I’ve been working with for months. I could tell that Anna was being very serious about her concerns; that these had been on her mind for quite some time. I listened to every single word she told us. That night, I told myself to never get into a position, where I would regret not saving enough money.
Unfortunately, like most things in life, real lessons are mostly taught by experiences, not the words and cautions of others. As that summer ended and my life in college begin, Anna’s lesson to us on the importance of saving faded from my mind. Long story short, I piled up some nice credit card debt and almost made the continual mistake of living beyond my means. Eventually I woke up from fantasy land and realized that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, I would be doing myself a serious disservice.
Many people, at a certain age, will learn the importance of saving money. Although a lot of them will know it, many of them will not practice it. There are always plenty of reasons, and many of these reasons will be perfectly good ones. The unfortunate part is that, until a person really learns the importance of saving, the lesson will eventually catch up to them.
It wasn’t until recently that I remembered Anna’s words to us. It has taken a couple years and a couple of mishaps, but I believe I’m finally understanding a bit more about what she was trying to tell us.
Posted by Cap in Deals and Discounts
on January 16, 2006 | 9 Comments
No crazy amount here, but I have racked up over $110 from three online survey sites. There are lots of these online survey sites out there, so it’s pretty difficult to separate the good from the bad ones. Some of them even require membership fees! (Stay away from those).
Anyhow, I’ll be listing two sites that I recommend.
The first site is SurveySavvy from Luth Research, LLC.
I found out about SurveySavvy.com from HowStuffWorks.com. They used to have an ad for SurveySavvy back in the days. My flawless logic dictated to me that, since HSW links to them, SurveySavvy must be a legit company. Luckily for me, they are.
I’ve mentioned SurveySavvy before in an old post when I first started the blog, telling Jonathan that I actually got a $20 check from them for just two surveys. I’ve since racked up $67 total from SurveySavvy, $14 of them from referrals taking survey! You can click on the picture below to see the earning report and to take a peak at the site interface.
SurveySavvy notifies you about survey through email, with each survey taking various time to complete. Generally the longer it takes to complete a survey, the higher the payout amount. I think they usually overestimate the time required to complete a survey though. Before being able to take a survey though, you’ll be required to answer a few screener questions to see if you qualify for the survey.
SurveySavvy also has a referral system in which you get about $2 for every survey your referrals complete and about $1 for every survey their referrals complete. If you click on the image or link above and join up, I’ll get you as a referral. I’ve also notice that the high paying surveys ($20+) are generally geared towards IT questions. So if you’re working in some IT department for some company, you might want to try SurveySavvy out.
The amounts of emails/surveys you’ll receive from SurveySavvy will be pretty limited, so it’s fairly safe to use a primary email account to sign-up.
The next site is MySurvey.com from National Family Opinion.
I can’t recall where I found out about NFO MySurvey, I think I was searching through a list on a forum somewhere. NFO MySurvey pays you in points amount, which can be redeem for cash or other rewards. 1,000 points = $10. Most surveys are very brief. They notify you of new surveys available by emailing you; you then login on the website and complete the survey there. So far I’ve only gotten a $10 check from them, but I’m getting close to my next $10.
The neat thing about MySurvey is that it allows for you to create a profile for each individual in your household, so the surveys you’ll receive can be either for you or your family members.
MySurvey.com also has a referral system, in which you get 150 points per referral that signs up. You’ll need to login to their site and fill out a form, in which they’ll send out emails for you. This is mostly to prevent spams. They also have a website affiliate program which is pretty much the same deal, but you’ll need to apply to the program and get an okay from them first.
The amounts of emails you’ll receive from NFO MySurvey will be between limited to moderate, depending on how many profiles you have on your account.
Here are some other noteworthy sites, Gozing and Pinecone Research.
Gozing can get a bit annoying. They get quite spam happy with the survey emails; half will be paid surveys while the other half will be sweepstakes reward surveys. I’ve actually got $19 from them in a one month period, but I’m not sure if it’s really worth it. As you can seen from the link, many of them are $1 surveys. It was a bit of a hassle to answer those $1 surveys, but it was summer and I had time.
I’m not even sure if Gozing is in operation anymore. I know their parent company, Greenfield Online is still sending out survey, but the amount has been drastically reduced. The only reason why I’m mentioning Gozing is because I did got paid, albeit it took awhile. They also have a referral & affiliate program which you can read more about at their site.
Pinecone Research is the elusive online survey company. I’ve heard many good things about them from various other bloggers. The pay seems to be fair and the surveys legit. The only problem is that they’re not open for enrollment. Occasionally they’ll be open for sign-ups, but that doesn’t seem to guarantee membership too. I’m mentioning it because it might be worth a bookmark.
That’s all folks.
This is a pretty long (and boring) post on online surveys. Whether it’s worth it or not to enroll in these online surveys is up to you. The survey from the two sites I recommend doesn’t take up much of my time though, and I answer most of these surveys while doing other things online. Some of the surveys from SurveySavvy are actually pretty interesting too. So uh… check them out, if you’re interested.
Wow, what a boring post. Ah well, it’s six in the morning and I can’t sleep.
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