You Should Pay More To Shop At A Small Hardware Store

Lately, I’ve been going to a small hardware store on the way home from work when need arises.  It’s convenient and the service is great.  Still, they’re a bit higher priced.  The other morning I was going to meet my dad for breakfast.  Across from the restaurant is a Lowe’s.  I figured I’d stop in and get a few things to save some money.  What a big mistake.

I had a pretty small list:

  • Screws to mount a small TV
  • Pesticide for our rose bushes
  • Globe light bulbs for the bathrooms
  • Rubber gloves

It was a pretty small list, so I figured the extra 25 minutes I allowed myself would be plenty of time.  Turns out I was horribly wrong.

Screws

We bought a small TV for the camper after the old one gave out.  The new one fits the old mount, but it’s lighter and skinnier than the old one.  So the screw holes are a bit smaller.  I took the old screws in, just needing some a bit shorter.

I looked all through the aisle but of course wasn’t finding anything.  Giving up, I wandered around a few aisles looking for someone.  Finally in the section where they sell wood flooring I found someone.  I asked for help, and instead of paging someone from that department, she came over to help.

Fifteen frustrating minutes later, she happened across a section of screws and I located the ones I needed.  She clearly was as lost as I was.  At one point she did try paging Gary from Hardware.  Gary never actually did arrive.

Pesticide

With only ten minutes to go, I walked over to find the pesticide that I needed.  I knew the bugs that are eating the leaves.  It took me about 3-4 minutes to look for them.  This was probably the least hassle item I had.

Gloves

I needed a new box of disposable gloves.  We keep a box in the camper for when it’s time to empty the waste tanks.  I figured they’d be around the cleaning area. Nope.  I figured the next best place would be in the paint section.  Turns out I was right, though it took a couple minutes to get someone’s attention to tell me where exactly they were.

And, as far as being cheaper, these definitely are not.  Next time, I’ll order them from Amazon in advance.  Still, I needed them so away we go.

Light Bulbs

All three of our bathrooms have decorative globe bulbs.  I had a good stash of them, but it started to get depleted.  I wandered over to the light bulb section and looked.  And looked.

Finally, I found the shelf where they would be.  If they would have even had a single bulb.  They were completely out.  Literally three empty shelves, out of stock on every variety from every manufacturer.

Unreal.

Long Story Short

I was late meeting my dad.  The store didn’t have everything I needed.  And, I didn’t feel like I saved any money.  I left feeling annoyed and unsatisfied.  Unfortunately, this is more common than not at these big box stores.

Our little hardware is about one-tenth the size of Lowes.  Yet, I’ve never been let down.  If I would have walked in, someone would have helped me in five minutes.  I could have handed someone the screw, explained what I needed, and would have had the right ones in my hand in probably three minutes.  I know they sell gloves.  They definitely sell light bulbs, and I’d imagine rose pesticide would be there as well.

The small hardware store seems to be fading.  I’d imagine that one day mine will close, as well.  This will be a sad day.  But until then, they’re going to get my business.  If you have the opportunity to support a small hardware store in your area, please do. It’s worth it.  I promise you.

Readers, do you frequent a small hardware store?  Or is it a big box store for you?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why Are Michigan Roads So Bad? 10 Things To Know

The past month has seen roads in Michigan deteriorate to never before seen conditions.  Potholes and cracks are everywhere.  The freeze and thaw cycle has been especially bad this year, turning many roads to near gravel. But, Michigan isn’t the only state with this weather.  So, why are the roads so bad?  The answer isn’t as simple as any one thing.  Here are ten things to know about why Michigan roads are so bad.

Taxes and Spending

  1. Michigan drivers pay a lot in fuel taxes.  Michigan is one of the top five states in terms of taxes collected at the pump.  This infuriates a lot of drivers.  Common sense tells you that higher taxes should mean better roads.  Unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way.  So why?
  2. Michigan doesn’t allocate sales tax at the pump to roads. Most states assign all taxes collected at the pump toward roads.  Michigan only allocates the fuel taxes specifically toward roads.  The sales tax portion goes to the general fund.  This means our spending levels are among the lowest in the nation per capita.
  3. Voters said no when given a chance to correct this.  A few years, it was put before voters to allocate the sales tax on gas toward roads.  This would have infused a ton more money into the roads.  But, it required an increase in the sales tax rate, which required it be put before voters.  They said no.  I wonder how many regret this decision now.

Maintenance

  1. Road construction isn’t the problem.  Many roads in Michigan are hard pressed to last 25 year.  Many reason that they aren’t building the roads well. In fact, roads are built to the same standards as in surrounding states.
  2. Preventative maintenance is what’s missing.  If roads were taken care of here as they are in other states, people would be very perplexed.  See, we only start giving attention to a road after cracks and potholes appear. In fact, attention should be given to a road before any of these things happen. In other states, roads are repaved before they appear to need this done.  This protects the underlying road, which is the key to longevity.  If you keep the base road in good shape, it can last 50 years or more.
Image from morguefile courtesy of DarkSinistar.

Other Issues

  1. Weight limits.  Michigan allows heavy trucks to travel the roads with limits twice as high as most states.  Some say that this hurts roads.  Others on the opposite side of the fence argue that it doesn’t matter, since more axles are required to spread the load.  I think we should be in line with the surrounding states, but lobbyists have this one locked up.
  2. Lots of barely used roads.  Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a beautiful place. There are a lot of roads there to travel around.  Many of them are barely used, but require attention nonetheless.  A higher percentage of funding per car traveled goes to these roads than to the roads in the population centers.  Many such roads have actually been returned to gravel roads, but there’s still a large disparity here.

The Future of Michigan Roads

  1. Roads have more funding coming.  A couple of years ago, lawmakers increased the gas tax and also increased registration fees.  This was the first major increase to road funding in over 20 years.  This will dramatically increase spending on roads.  It also will increase the taxes along with inflation, something that the increase 20 years ago failed to do.  This should help us from falling behind again.
  2. It’s going to take time.  Many voters are unhappy since the funding increase went into place a couple of years ago, yet the roads seem to be worse than ever.  The harsh fact is that the improvements will take time.  The funding shortages toward roads have been years, even decades, in the making.  It is going to take just as long to correct this.

The bottom line is that roads are awful but at least help is on the way.  It can’t come soon enough.  We’ll likely have to endure at least a few more spring seasons of bad roads, which is when potholes hit.  Hopefully, momentum will build and roads will improve over time.  Good roads in Michigan is something I hope to see in my lifetime!

Readers, how are roads where you are?  Does your state adequately fund road construction and maintenance? 

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Smartphones Are Really Kind Of Dumb

Aren’t smartphones great?  They take care of everything, right?  Well, maybe not everything.  But they’re totally smart and intuitive, aren’t they?  After all, smart IS part of the name.  Personally, I don’t think we’re there yet.  Smartphones have made our lives easier in many ways. But they still have a lot of things that could be improved.  In fact, I have come up with five reasons that smartphones aren’t all that smart.  Yet.

Battery Life And Charging

Apple recently caught a lot of heat because they were purposefully slowing down older phones.  Why?  Because the batteries were wearing out, and would last longer if the phone did less.  So, Apple sent an update to make the phone work slower.  Oh, and the age of some of these phones was less than two years.

This is unbelievable to me.

Here we are on the cutting edge of battery technology, right? I mean, we have entire cars that can run on battery.  Yet, we can’t figure out a way to make a phone battery last longer than two years?  That’s ridiculous.

You hear advice about how to make them last longer.  Don’t charge overnight.  Don’t overcharge.  Charge only between certain percentages.

Come on.  You can’t tell me that overcharging couldn’t be prevented by shutting off the input, for one idea.  I simply can’t believe that smart phones continue to be plagued by something as basic as the battery.

Rogue Apps

I have a Samsung S7.  A few weeks ago it started acting up at random times.  It would slow down to a crawl.  This was most noticeable when I was using Chrome.

I tried a bunch of different apps that were supposed to identify problem apps.  Nothing was identified.  I looked at a bunch of internal logs to try to see what was happening.  Zero.  I spent a ton of time tweaking Chrome since that’s where many problems originated.  No difference.

Finally, I started disabling apps, and caught the culprit.  Ironically, it was AVG, a program designed to prevent bad things from happening to your phone.  As soon as I got rid of it, all of my slowness went away.

As it turns out, most phones (allegedly) have enough built in that you don’t need a virus/malware scanner.  I was using it for a ‘Find My Device’ option, but that was easily re-configured elsewhere.

Still, I couldn’t believe that there is nothing built into the basic Operating System to flag apps that could be problematic.  AVG had to have gone corrupt or something and was consuming mass resources.  A truly smart phone would have identified this.

User Priority

When I’m using my phone, I want my phone to pay attention to me.  That sounds simple, right?  But it isn’t always the case.  If the phone is updating apps, sometimes my typing is delayed.  Unacceptable!  If I’m in the middle of typing my unlock code, then don’t turn the screen off just because it’s been six seconds since I hit the button to wake up the device.

To me, it should be a basic function that user interaction takes priority.  Smartphones should never treat a user like a background process!

Storage

Phones have increased the amount of built in storage over the last couple of years.  Still, it’s often not enough.  For many phones, you can add an SD card for extra storage.

Sounds like this solves everything, right?  Well, that’d be smart.  Turns out, the answer is often more complicated.  See, internal storage and external storage are completely different.  And, most apps will only work on internal storage.  So, can you use your extra storage to install a lot of apps? Probably not.  All that it’s really good for is to offload videos, music, and pictures.  Even then, getting that working properly is often a chore. More on that in a minute.

Why is it like this?  I have no idea.  When I look this up, developers have lots of reasons why, but in the end it’s just mumbo jumbo.  I mean, to me and probably many other simple minds, if you add extra storage, it should be as simple as plug it in and away we go. Let’s get going on this, OK?!?

File Management

This one drives me nuts.  Maybe this is me just not being as tech savvy as I once was.  I don’t know.  But, whenever I want to find something, it takes me forever to find it.

If I want to upload a picture that I took to Facebook, I have to scroll through a bunch of different albums.  If I am in Facebook and take a picture, it will put it up easily, but good luck finding it later.  When I’m in Chrome and download a menu, it brings it up right then.  But after that?  Who knows?  Next time I go to look for it, I can sometimes find it.  But, most often, I end up re-downloading it again.

It seems like every app wants to put things in a different place.  Which I understand, but it doesn’t work well when I want to find something.  There has to be a better way.

image from Morguefile courtesy of DodgertonSkillhause

Smartphones Makers Need To Watch Star Trek

I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.  That show had a lot of technology.  One thing I noticed was that it was cool but it was also simple.  When they wanted to use technology, they pressed a button or two.  That was all it took.  It wasn’t complicated.  The computer paid attention and delivered on commands.  There wasn’t delays or confusion.  That sounds pretty smart to me!

One of the catchphrases on that show was when the Captain would say “Make it so.” He’d often say this when he just wanted something to happen and didn’t care about the details.  That’s kind of where I’m at with all of these things.  I just think that a smart device needs to act smarter.  Those are my ideas.  So, hopefully someone out there listens.  Let’s ‘make it so’.

Readers, what do you think of your smartphone? Is it as smart as advertised?  What would you like to see your smartphone do that it can’t today?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why Block Ad Blockers?

I browse with Google Chrome.  On my laptop and desktop computers, I always install ad blocking software.  I’d install it on my mobile version if I could do so without having to root the device.  It always amuses me when I come across a site that will block ad blockers.  The site refuses entry when it detects that you are running ad blocking software.  Instead of loading the requested content, you get a page refusing you entry until you disable to ad blocking software.  Or disable it for their site, anyway.

The Case For Blocking Ad Blockers

Many sites exist only by selling advertising.  I get that.  Without placing ads that generate revenues, the site couldn’t exist.  So the case for ad blockers is easy: More revenue.  Without revenue, the site wouldn’t exist, so it makes sense to maximize ad value, right?

It’s not that simple.

The Flawed Strategy of Blocking Ad Blockers

A site that refuses to allow users running ad blocking software wants every viewer to see ads.  They are basically asking for 100% conversion.  This never happens.

This would be like a retail store turning away any customer who walked through the door and said they were ‘just looking’.  Would a retail store ever do that?  Of course not.  So, it’s completely flawed that a site insists the same thing, isn’t it?

What kills me even more about the sites that I typically see is that they’re all news site.  A few sites that I’ve seen that block ad blockers are CNBC, Forbes, and Business Insider.  These are all sites that report on the news in some fashion.

Here’s the thing.  When it comes to the news, none of these are running truly unique content.  If I click in to try to read a news article and it doesn’t let me, I’ll just type in the keywords and will be on a site that will let me read their content, ad blocker and all, in no time at all.

I’m Not A Freeloader, Really

Some might suggest that I’m taking advantage of the system by running ad blocking software.  To that I say: Baloney.  I’m exposed to advertising throughout the day.  I get it on TV, on the radio, through Facebook, billboard, and for some sites that somehow manage to write code that the blockers haven’t picked up yet.  I’d maybe feel a touch guilty if I managed to get rid of all advertising from my existence, but that’s never going to happen.   There are places that get their share of my advertising pie, they just aren’t getting their piece.

I guess the owners of the sites in question don’t feel guilty about keeping me out, so I don’t feel guilty about not kowtowing to their very short sighted demand.

Readers, do you use ad blocking software on your browser?  What do you do when you come across a site that won’t let you in?  Have you ever made an exception and whitelisted a site?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.