Avoid Walmart Site To Store Around The Holidays

Amazon has pretty much set the bar for online shopping, especially if you’re a Prime member.  Click, order, and a couple of days later, you have a box with your items.  It works great.  So great that other retailers have had no choice but to offer online ordering.  Walmart Site to Store is one such offering, where you can order from the retail giant and pick up at a nearby store.

You’d think that a company the size of Walmart, one of the biggest in the world, would have this process down.  However, as our recent experience shows, thinking this is kind of, well, wrong.

Christmas Gift: New Bikes For The Kids

Both of our kids learned to ride bikes without training wheels this last summer.  Our youngest, age 5, actually caught on first, which then pushed our oldest, age 7, to get it down.  Our daughter was riding a bike that we bought secondhand, and she loved it, but by the end of summer it was apparent that she was too small.  This wasn’t a big deal as we only paid $15 for the bike (and we can probably turn around and sell it for that).

We actually, toward the end of summer, went out and bought her a new bike in a bigger size.  Instead of giving it to her, we actually kept it aside, hoping that we could line up new bikes at the same time.

See, we knew our son’s bike was also too small for him, but we didn’t want to get him a new bike until he learned to ride without training wheels.  The size of bike he was moving up to didn’t even come standard with training wheels!

Once he learned, it was toward the end of summer.  We hatched a plan that we would let them ride it out for the rest of the year on their current bikes.  Then, we would give them new bikes for Christmas.  This seemed like a great plan so we hid our daughter’s bike in the basement.

Ordering Another Bike From Walmart Site To Store

As we got Christmas gifts together, we started looking around for bikes.  We drifted toward buying one from Walmart. We’ve looked at getting them more expensive bikes from a bike shop, but have steered away from them. At their current age, they’re going through them rather quickly, so the more expensive bikes seem more appropriate in a few years.

We looked around at Walmart, for a couple of reasons.  They had a good variety.  We found one that looked nice and had good reviews.  Plus, we had a gift card that my wife had gotten a while back at a charity auction.

This all added up to a purchase that looked like it made sense.

We ordered the bike in early December, with an estimated arrival date to the store about a week before Christmas.  This was perfect.  One reason that we did Site to Store is because they will assemble the bike for you.  The bike we had stashed away for my daughter had also been selected this way for this reason.  That worked out great for us.

All together, this should have given us plenty of time for the store to get the bike, assemble the bike, and for us to pick it up.

But, you’re hear reading, so of course you know it didn’t turn out that way.

The First Delay

The initial estimated date came and went.  At this point, we still had a few days before Christmas but a late arrival date would be workable.  This would just mean that I’d have to assemble the bike myself.  I really didn’t want to, but since just about every Christmas since we started having kids has involved me putting together something big, I knew I could make it work.

Well, that didn’t happen either.

The Second Delay

After the date passed, they updated the estimated date.  The new date was December 27th.  They were going to miss Christmas!

Thankfully, this wasn’t the end of the world.  See, we live in Michigan and it’s winter.  This means that it gets dark by 5pm and it’s either really snowy, really cold, or both.  All these factors together and kids just aren’t riding bikes now.  They probably won’t be for at least a few months.

So, we figured that we could just tell them that they were getting another present and surprise them when it came in.

Great plan, right?

The Third Delay

Image from MorgueFile courtesy DuBoix

After we got the new arrival date, we made even more progress.  Or so we thought.  They provided real time tracking data!  Which is just like Amazon!  We could see exactly where in the country it was, and watched it move closer and closer until on the 27th it actually arrived at the store!

Success, right?

Wrong.

The status changed to “Processing In Store – Not Ready For Pickup.” And it stayed at that status.  And stayed and stayed and stayed.

I called a couple of days after and had them pull up the order.  They told me that they were running behind on getting everything ‘sorted out’ and asked that I please be patient.  The lady said that I should probably be getting my pickup notification “within a day or two.”

But a day or two passed, actually five more, and no notification.

Finally, A Bike

I looked again at the tracking info and found something more interesting.  The bike had been shipped to the store via FedEx from another store.  So, I called back and spoke to the same woman and explained that it didn’t come in out of their regular delivery, but via FedEx.  She looked around and she still couldn’t find our bike.

BUT, she did find that they actually had the bike in stock.  So, she was able to pull the bike, and as it happened, the assembler was there and got it all put together.  They assured me that the bike they found was not mine.  I guess they have ways of tracking.  I’m not sure I actually believe them!  LOL.

In any case, within an hour after that call I finally did get an e-mail and the next day I went in and picked up my bike.  The same lady that had helped me on the phone was there to get it, so her and I laughed that we had finally gotten this done.  I have to say, for as crazy as an experience as it was, she was extremely helpful.  Quite honestly, without her help, I probably would have never gotten the bike and would have ended up cancelling the order.

Two Happy Kids

We did end up presenting the bikes to the kids on the very last day of their holiday break, so we felt that it worked out in the end.  They were happy and I know that in the end, their enjoyment and their smiles will make the painful memory of getting the bike fade away.  But we did learn a couple of lessons.  First, don’t order something before the holidays using Site to Store that you actually need before the holidays.  Second, nobody beats Amazon at shipping.  Nobody.

Readers, did you have any close or missed calls with getting your stuff?  Let me know how everything went for you 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.

Terrible Costco Coupons Equals No Costco Trips This Month

December, it seems, is the holy grail of food months. Buying food, groceries, etc.  What better month to count on than December, right? So, if that’s the case, it’s really amazing that Costco is trying to shoot themselves in the foot with a terrible coupon insert.  The Costco Coupons book that we eagerly look forward to was a total dud..

As a result, we haven’t gone to Costco. Those two things go hand in hand, as it turns out.

Our Costco Coupons Habits

We have been Costco members since before we got married.  That means it’s been over ten years now.  Wow, does time ever fly!

During that time, Costco has always sent out a monthly coupon book.  For three weeks out of every month, members can enjoy savings on a handful of items. It’s always been a good mix of general merchandise, electronics, and food.  Until this month.  This month, Costco pretty much eliminated the food category.

We have about 12-15 regular items that we’ll buy with the coupons when they go on sale.  Actually, it’s probably a few more than that, because there are usually some that only go on sale around the holidays.  We look forward to those.

Except none of them were in the book this year.  Not a single one!

In fact they only had three food coupons in total.

Comparison Shopping

We are lucky to be in an area where we have both Costco and Sam’s Club in pretty equal fashion.  Where there’s one, mb-money201308chances are there’s the other within a mile.

We’ve always been loyal to Costco, but we heard a while back that Sam’s Club started offering coupons to members.  This piqued our interest.  We also saw that Sam’s had some pretty good sign up deals from time to time.  There were deals where you could buy a discounted membership (for the first year), plus receive additional free items and coupons.

These deals seem to happen a few times a year, and it honestly might be time to consider if Costco does not return to offering desirable coupons on everyday items.

Is Costco Going Too High End?

One of the things that I’ve noticed, and this latest coupon fiasco seems to affirm, is that they’re going after higher end consumers.  I’ve had my suspicions even on the food side, as they’ve gone increasingly to higher priced organic options.   I’m not sure that they think they make enough money from people who go in and buy coffee, spaghetti sauce, and the like.

Their latest coupon book, which eschews all of those things, instead has TVs, computers, and other gadgets.  It’s all high priced.  Maybe they’re only interested in selling those items.

If so, fine, but we’ll be out.  It’s not that we’re claiming poverty.  It’s that we buy everyday items because of the value and the occasional big ticket items.  It seems like they want their shoppers to do the reverse.

Winter Will Tell The Tale

We have the Costco Visa card and we have a good chunk of rewards money lined up.  The way that their rewards works is that you get a payout once per year, and it happens to be in February.  If you cancel your membership (along which cancels your card) anytime in between, you forfeit your earnings.

That’s not going to happen.

However, if we get our payout in February, and things have not improved on the coupon side of things, that might be time to make a clean break.

As it so happens, Sam’s Club also has a rewards credit card that offers similar category discounts.  Line that up with a cheaper membership and better coupons, and it might not be long before we’re noting ourselves as former Costco members.

I hope that doesn’t happen, but the clock is ticking.

Readers, what do you think of Costco?  Have you noticed a gradual shift away from lower priced items in their targeted strategy?  How does that fit in with you?  Any Sam’s Club members out there that can give some insight on how things are on the other side of the fence?  Please let me know 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.

Calling BS On Excessive Resort Fees

I have no problem with resort fees.  They’re pretty standard in most hotels that offer amenities these days.  So, it makes sense that a hotel with a giant water park would charge resort fees for your stay.  Still, after a recent booking, I still walked away mad.

I wasn’t upset that they charged for a resort fee.  But a couple of things in particular got to me.  So, I decided to call them out on it on social media.

Resort Fees At Our Favorite Water Park

We’ve stayed at a nearby water park for several years.  We love it.  The kids have a great time.  They run around all day and never get bored.  We join them and have fun playing with them and relaxing.

We decided to book a trip during the kid’s mid-winter break, coming up in February.  I did some research on rates and found one that was basically identical to what we paid last year.  It averaged $156 per night.  Last year our average was $152 per night.

Still, when I got my confirmation e-mail, I was surprised to see that the amount due was listed as quite a bit higher than the $8 I was expecting for our two night stay.  It was over $20 different.

I knew something had to be different.  I pulled out an itemized receipt and noticed that the likely culprit was the resort fee.  The receipt from last year listed this as $19.99 per night.  When I used our numbers and started playing with numbers, the final total came up with a nightly fee of $25.99.

They raised the price $6 per night.  That’s 30%.

My Complaints About The Resort Fee

So, I took to social media.  My complaint was politely worded, but it let them know that I was pretty unhappy about two elements:

  1. The large increase – I felt a 30% increase was excessive from one season to the next.  Furthermore, some quick Google searches showed that in 2011, the resort fee was a much more modest $9.99. So, the pattern of large increases is not new.
  2. The fact that it was hidden – Nowhere on their website does it list the actual amount of the resort fee.  Their confirmation e-mail lists the charge for your room and then a single line ‘Taxes and Fees’.  Only by using last year’s receipt to get the detail on the taxes was I able to back into the actual fee.  I felt this was sneaky.

Their Response And My Counterpoints

They wrote back to me within 24 hours.  They were very polite and I was happy that they responded.  Below I’ll outline their points, as well as my eventual counterpoints.

  1. The resort fee has stayed the same since 2014 – OK.  I understand that increases are normal in the mb-2016-12-complaintindustry.  That’s fine with me.
  2. They called the increase ‘slight’ – I pointed out that I have not had a 30% increase in salary since 2014 and guessed that most people, including their own staff, also have not.  I know that it’s ‘only’ $6 per night, but from a percentage increase perspective, 30% is not slight.
  3. The resort fee covers the use of wi-fi – I was fine with this.  I’ve used their wi-fi and it’s never dropped, had weak signal, or been intrusive.  So I am happy to pay for this.
  4. The resort fee covers towels and life jackets – When you’re at the water park, you go through towels constantly.  The kids climb in and out of the pool and you are drying off each time, requiring lots of towels.  They’re constantly wheeling away bins of used towels and bringing new ones.  And, they provide life jackets that the kids can wear which is great.  Again, I completely saw the value here.
  5. The resort fee covers….parking – This is where I started rolling my eyes a bit.  The resorts are not in densely urban areas.  They’re on pretty large swaths of land that have the required number of parking spots to accommodate everyone, even when at full capacity.  I feel that maintaining their parking lots was an overhead item.  It’s definitely something I would pay for as a resort or luxury fee.
  6. The resort fee covers access to a newspaper – I vaguely recall getting a copy of some newspaper outside my door.  I’m sure that most people would gladly forego this if it meant a lower fee.
  7. The resort fee covers access to the fitness center – I’m neutral on this.  I guess I can see how someone might have a particular thing that they want to do.  But, honestly, most of the time we’re there, any calories we are burning are done in the water park.
  8. The resort fee covers in room coffee – OK, I guess so though I usually go down to the Dunkin Donuts and get coffee, and judging by the lines, I’m guessing this is probably something most people do.
  9. The resort provides access to fax machines and local calls – This is the one that got my eyes rolling to the back of my head.  Fax machines?  Local calls?  Really. Don’t tell me that fax machines are used anywhere close to regularly!  And for local calls, I’m guessing that most guests have cell phones and would be just fine to use them.  If either of these services are really amentities, I suggested that most guests would prefer a la carte pricing.

The Real Reason For Resort Fees

The bottom line is that resort fees seems a pretty easy way to pad the bottom line.  I know for a fact that we do not use $52 worth of services above, nor I’m sure do any guests.  I’m guessing it’s probably 10% of that at most.  It’s a pretty simple way for them to keep rate increases smaller but still collect more revenue. Sounds similar to another practice that masks price increases.

Did this or will this stop us from going?  No.  Did my complaning about it change anything?  Of course not. But did it feel good to do the research and at least call them out on it?  It sure did!

Readers, what do you think?  Are resort fees a necessary evil that we shouldn’t think about?  Or should we call the ‘resorts’ out on them?  Have you ever complained or spoken up about the amount of fees charged?

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.

I May Never Buy A GE Appliance Again

For years, I’ve followed the trials and tribulations of the front loading washing machine issues surrounding mold and mildew.  Why?  Because the GE  front loading washer that we have has been plagued with these issues since we bought it in 2007.

At the time, I thought it was great.  The community where we moved had some of the highest water rates in the area, so it was a HUGE win to save money on the water bill with the new type of machine that used significantly less water.

The honeymoon quickly wore off.

Moldy Gasket

When we first got our machine, we did what any sensible person would do and closed the door when it wasn’t in use.  Sound, reasonable, right?  Well, we quickly found out that was a bad idea when the rubber gasket around the door started getting covered in mildew.

So, we started keeping the door open.  Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and that gasket continued to get mildew and such on it until around 2011 when it finally started to fall apart and we had it replaced.

Second Gasket

The second gasket lasted about three years before it finally started breaking down as well.  Through keeping the door open, we didn’t get the buildup of bunk, but having a door open all the time is not exactly the look of a nice clean laundry room.

Third Gasket

The newest gasket we have has developed a small leak.  Just a little puddle to clean up off the floor that I’m sure will

Where our machine belongs Image from Morguefile courtesy of johnwollring
Where our machine belongs
Image from Morguefile courtesy of johnwollring

likely grow.  But, for now it’s ‘manageable’.  Or is it?  I mean, here we are looking at something that most reasonable people would probably not put up with, but these hunks of junks have lowered the bar so much, that wiping up a puddle is considered acceptable.  Unreal.

The Soap Drawer

The latest is that the drawer that you pull out to fill up the soap, bleach, and fabric softener now gets mildew all over it.  For quite a while, leaving the drawer pulled out slightly would keep things OK here, but now, not so much.  Now, we actually go through the trouble of taking the drawer completely out most nights when we’re done with wash.  Even with this, mildew still develops and I have to clean not only the drawer, but the surrounding plastic on the inside of the machine,  about every 2-3 months.

Scary Part About Our GE Front Loading Washer

You want to know the real scary part of all this?  It’s not that we have to keep the door open and pull out the drawer and scrub the entire thing every three months.  You’d think that’s bad enough, but the real scary part is that we’re only keeping the areas clean that we have access to.  I’m not stupid enough to believe for a second that the inside of this machine isn’t caked with mildew in places that we can’t get to.

And it’s a wonder that I have skin eczema.

Insult To Injury

On top of everything, GE won’t step up to fix the issue.  Amazingly, a couple of companies were sued and settled lawsuits.  Maytag and Whirlpool were the ones that come to mind.

GE not only refused to acknowledge any problem. Plus, they actually managed to convince someone that there were not widespread problems with their machines.  There’s simply no way that can be true.  You can’t tell me that our machine is just an outlier.  That’s bologna.

So, I’m hard pressed to think that I’ll ever buy a GE appliance again.  They built a crappy product, they refused to stand behind it (I did contact them), they somehow managed to skirt blame.  They are very low on my list.  At some point this pile of junk will either stop working or I’ll decide I’ve had enough with the mildew.  Then, we’ll end up getting something else.  When that happens, I can tell you what brand of washer we WON’T be bringing into the house.

Readers, have any of you participated in the front loading washing machine lawsuit?  Have you had any experience, good, bad or otherwise, with these types of machines?

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.