Do You Tell People When Their Prices Are Too High?

I had a situation pop up recently where I found that a price was way higher than it should have been and thought I would share and see what others thought.

Our gutters in the back of the house are clogged with leaves.  I never had them cleaned out last year, and there’s one in particular that, when the runoff overflows because the hole to the downspout is plugged with leaves, will ice up the entire 20′ down the side of the house.  It happened last winter, and I figured with the damage done, I’d address it this fall.

There’s a guy that does our window cleaning that also will clean gutters, and I know that he has the right ladders and skills for the job.  We ended up calling him, but I always like to look at alternatives.

I don’t have a long enough ladder, and I’m not a big fan of climbing ladders anyway, so I wanted to see if there were any tools I could find that would allow a clean out from the ground.

The first place I looked, as is usually a starting point for any ‘new’ item type was Amazon.

A few items came up, many of which would involve lifting a hose up and having it spray water to loosen the leaves and somehow get them down.  Those sounded wet, messy, and cold, so I skipped through to see if there was anything else.

One that caught my eye was a product called Gutter Sense.  To describe it, the product sounds like a pair of salad tongs.  You screw it onto the end of a long pole, adjust the height and the angle, and via a rope that opens and closes the tongs, you basically ‘salad scoop’ the leaves out of the gutters and drop them.

mb-2015-11-guttersThe reviews were mostly positive, though many people say that it is time consuming, it can be frustrating to get the knack of it, and you do get messy as release the leaves and they inevitably fall on you.

I noted that there was a single seller listing the product, and that it was a third-party seller.  It was not Prime eligible.  The listed cost of the product on the listing was $59.99.  Shipping was included.

I put the idea aside, and came back to it.  I decided to look beyond Amazon, specifically if I could find any YouTube videos that demonstrated the product.  Turns out there were.  One of them was by the actual creator and company that makes the product, and there was a link back to their website, where you could purchase the product.

Their price: $24.95 plus $6.50 shipping.

The private seller price on Amazon was nearly twice as much as the price elsewhere!

I looked to see if it was for sale beyond Amazon and the product store, and it was found in a couple more places, right around the same $31 price as I found.  (One place I didn’t check was eBay, but read on for why).

I decided not to purchase the product this year.  It wasn’t so much the price, but more for the fact that I simply don’t envision having the time to dedicate to learning the product, especially with the fact that our trip to Disney World is coming up, meaning that I need to spend some time getting ready, plus we’ll be gone for a chunk of time as well.  I can see myself using this product moving forward, but this wasn’t the year.

I also figured that it would be wise to get a full cleanout done this year, seeing as it hasn’t been done in a while and there’s probably a lot of buildup.  This would, in theory, make next years cleanup a little less cumbersome, which would probably be more practical timing.

Still, the price tag bugged me.  A lot.

So, I actually went to the product, found the store front for the third party contact, and found the link where you can fill out a form that emails them.

I was nice about it, but I made the following points:

  • Amazon was the first place that I looked
  • Amazon is my online store of choice
  • Since they were the only store on Amazon, had I decided to purchase there, they would have had a 100% shot at the business
  • The product was available outside of Amazon for substantially cheaper
  • But, they blew it because of their choice of price

Predictably, I never heard back.

But, I hope maybe it gave the seller a bit of insight.  My guess (and just speculating) is that when they saw they were the only seller, they decided that they could increase their profits by increasing their margins.  Maybe this is true, but I wanted to let them know that savvy shoppers might actually make this go the other way. In my mind, when you become the only seller, on Amazon anyway, you could increase your profits by increasing volume, which is more likely with a more competitive price point.

Just my opinion, though.

Readers, what do you think, both of the seller’s strategy on pricing, as well as my decision to drop them a note letting them know that they lost what might have been an otherwise easy sale?

Copyright 2015 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.

Does Your Total At The Cash Register Surprise You?

I don’t make it to the grocery store or to Costco that often, as my wife has taken on most of these trips, but on the occasion that I do go, I like to play a little game with myself, where I guess what the total will be once we get to the register.

Most of the time, I’m pretty close, within 5-10%.  And, yes, I usually come closer than my wife.

Keep A Running Total

For me, there’s no magic or trick.  I simply keep a running total in my head as we shop.  I’ll usually round up or down to get to a near dollar amount, because I can keep that math in my head, but if you start throwing in all the cents involved, I’ll quickly lose track and the whole estimation gets shot.

So, if we get ten items, priced: $3.59, $4.79, $1.00, $4.29, $5.89, $11.40, $4.99, $3.29, $7.09, and $4.25, I’ll keep a running total of $4, $9, $10, $14, $20, $31, $36, $39, $46, and finally $50.

When we get to the register I’ll have my total in my head, and will make some quick adjustments.  For example, are the items taxable.  If so, with Michigan sales tax at 6%, I’d add an extra $3 ‘for the governor’.

In my example, say it’s at the grocery store and all of the items are for food, which is not taxable.  My estimation was $50 and the actual total would be $50.58.

That’s just 1% off the total!mb-201102register

Now, I’m usually not that close, because there are times when you’re talking and you might miss an item or realize that you didn’t catch the price so you try to make it up, but all it requires is that you pay attention and remember your math.

If you have a shopping list, you can even jot down a total every now and then, that way if you do lose track, you at least have a reference point.

Avoiding Sticker Shock

The whole point is that it doesn’t have to be an exact science, but it should get you close.   The last thing you want is to get to the register and get surprised at how much you spent.  And, it’s always higher than you would have guessed, never lower!

The worst case scenario that you want to also avoid is making sure that you don’t come up short!  I’ve never had it happen or witnessed it, but have heard stories where people get to the register and can’t pay their full amount because they can only pay in cash, and their total is more than they have.

Keeping track of your spending as you walk through the store could help avoid this awful situation as well.

Start Off Slow

If you start this practice, start slow and don’t be alarmed if you end up forgetting all about it halfway through the trip or if your estimates are way off.  After a few trips, you’ll start to do this automatically and you’ll get the knack of keeping track.  Eventually, you can even make a little game of it with yourself to see how close you can get.

Readers, do you ever get sticker shock when you’re at the register or do you have a way to keep a tally of your purchases so that you know what you are spending when you’re buying a lot of items?

Copyright 2015 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.

We Joined Amazon Prime

For the first time ever, our household has joined Amazon Prime as paying members!  We had previously been Prime members for a trial period during the heyday of the Amazon Mom program, and scored lots of great deals on diapers and such, but once our free period ran out, we returned as non-Prime members.

We have gone back and forth for awhile, and when Amazon had a one day $67 deal for new members last month (marked down from the regular price of $99) , in celebration of their Emmy award, we decided to go for it.

Here are a few things we’re looking forward to:

2-Day Shipping

The first and probably still most popular thing about Prime membership is the 2-day shipping.  We don’t have bad luck with the Free shipping, but it can back up at times, and always works out that when you want something most, it takes the longest to get there.  It’ll be nice knowing that most items will be there in two days.

Movies and TV

Amazon has a pretty good selection of movies and TV shows available for free streaming.  I think the only issue I’ve seen is that a lot of their content isn’t HD, but I can live with that.  We have a Roku that we rarely used, which has a built in Amazon Prime channel, and also have a couple of Chromecast devices that can stream to the TV.  We limit the amount of TV our kids watch, but when it’s really bad weather in the winter, we do tend to allow it a little more, so it’ll be nice to have a few more options.  I also know they have a lot of different options in case my wife and I want to check out a movie or TV show.

They have quite a library of songs available for free streaming as part of Prime membership.  I love listening to music at work and my wife very frequently has something going on her tablet as she does things around the house.


I love reading and try to get through at least 4-5 books a month rented for free from our local library.  I believe that you get a couple of free Kindle rentals per month as Prime members.  I don’t have  a Kindle, but this could entice me to get one or ask Santa for one!

File and Photo Storage

You get 5GB of free cloud storage space as a Prime member, plus unlimited photo storage.  When you upload photos, they’ll automatically expand your total limit so that photos never count toward your 5GB.  That’s pretty cool and is a great way to back up your precious memories!

I’m hoping that our Prime membership saves us money in the long run.  It’ll be nice to order things that we would have gone out and bought anyway, and gotten either a lower price or the same price, but saved on time and gas.  I know that many people find that they spend more with Prime, and obviously that’s what Amazon wants you to do, but I would think that if we limit our spending, it could work out well for Amazon and for us!

Readers, did any of you sign up for Prime with the recent special or have you been Prime members for a while?  What do you like or dislike about Prime?  Please share your experiences in the comment section below.


Copyright 2015 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.

When It’s Time To Stock Down On Groceries

It’s common advice to ‘stock up’ on certain grocery items.  If you can buy stuff that you will use regardless, get it at a good price, and use it before it goes bad, then there are many advantages to stocking up.  Some examples on things that are great to stock up on include:

  • Dry pasta
  • Cereal
  • Crackers and snacks
  • Bottled or canned beverages
  • Canned goods such as soups and vegetables
  • Frozen meat

There are many examples.  As noted above, the key to stocking up is to make sure you’re buying items that you plan on using.  If hamburger meat is on sale, but you don’t eat much red meat, then stocking up probably isn’t such a great idea.

Stocking Down

Buying stuff on sale and saving it for later is great, but at a certain point you have to use all of that stuff.  Using up your stock is what I refer to as ‘stocking down’.  This is important to do on a regular basis.  Here are a few tips on when to stock down and how to do it:

  1. Keep up on expiration dates – If you buy stuff and it goes bad before you use it, then you’ve missed the point completely.  Whenever possible, we rotate our stocked items so that the oldest stuff is in the front and the newest stuff is in the back.  I’ll also go through certain categories periodically and look at the expiration dates.  If it looks like we’re coming up on needing to use stuff, we’ll start planning more diligently around those particular items.
  2. Be considerate of space – I watched a couple episodes of the show Extreme Couponing back when it first mb-2015-07-pantrycame out.  I stopped watching because the people featured annoyed me to a degree that I couldn’t be bothered with anymore.  One of the things that killed me is that so many of the people had to build extra shelving and take up space in their homes to accommodate all of the stuff they were stocking up on.  Most rational people aren’t going to do that, and will instead limit themselves to a pantry, some cupboards, and maybe some shelves in the basement.  If you see that you’re starting to run out of space, then it’s time to stop stocking up an to start stocking down.
  3. Note your high spending months – We keep track of what we spend on groceries each month.  Now that we have a history of that, I’d like to start looking at those numbers in greater detail.  If there are particular months of the year where grocery bills seem higher, it could be a good idea to plan on reducing costs during those months by stocking down.
  4. Take advantage of pricing patterns – Many times, you can plan on stocking up on items during certain parts of the year.  Around the holidays is a great time to stock up on baking items.  Summertime will always find you great deals on hot dogs.  If you know you’ll use these items at other points in the year when the items typically aren’t on sale, stock up accordingly, and don’t forget to stock down during the off months!
  5. Know that you’ll still need to buy some stuff – When you stock down, it’s pretty rare that you can completely eliminate having to buy groceries.  Don’t go in with this approach.  Instead, understand that your goal should be to use as many of the items as you could with the idea that you’ll reduce, not eliminate, your grocery bill.  But, even if you can plan on getting 50% of your ingredients for your weekly meals from your stock, that will greatly help out your weekly grocery bill.

Stocking up on items can be an important strategy to saving money, but working through and using up those items and doing so with a solid plan is also an important part of the money saving opportunities that are possible.

Readers, what do you do to make sure that you stock down on the items which you’ve stocked up on?

Copyright 2015 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.