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.

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The School Supply List And Gratefulness

My wife had with a conversation friend, that quite frankly, rubbed me (and her) a little bit the wrong way.

They talked about the school supply list that was sent home, which contains a list of supplies that each parent is asked to get and send in.  Many of the items are shared between kids in the classroom, while some are kept individually.  I think this proportion changes as the kids get older.

My wife was a little taken aback at one point.  The other mom kind of laughed and said, “Well, you don’t really have to sendmb-2016-09-list anything in.  They’re just suggestions, and really, the school is supposed to make sure everything is supplied.”

Here’s the thing, actually a few things.

Schools Aren’t Sitting On Cash

Our district, like many in Michigan, and probably many across the country, doesn’t get an excess of money.  Back in the days when the Great Recession hit the country, Michigan had already been in one for several years.   The Great Recession battered an economy that had already been taken to the woodshed.  The state cut school funding levels many times, and the amount per pupil that is distributed is still at or below levels from the early 2000’s.  This doesn’t even factor in inflation, which probably puts them back to levels over 20 years ago or pretty close.

Point being, while funding levels have steadily been increasing over the last few years, it’s not like districts are swimming in money.

People Can Afford The School Supply List

My wife’s friend can definitely afford to grab the list of supplies and send them in.  They’re not 1%’ers but they’re definitely not hurting.

So, I just can’t understand why they are going to decide to draw the line here.

Supplying Is Helping Others

There are some families who are hurting.  Our district is relatively small from a pupil count perspective.  It covers a pretty big geographic areas that includes a pretty broad mix of economic scales.  Simply put, there are a lot of families that simply do not have the means to supply that list.  Maybe there are some circumstances where refusing to subsidize people who might be too poor to afford to chip in is appropriate, you’ll never convince me that it is justifiable when it comes to children, especially when it’s a pretty nominal amount.

The whole conversation kind of bummed me out and I think actually helped contribute to my recent case of the money blahs.

See, we’d never considered, and even after the conversation my wife had, nor would we ever consider skipping out on the supplies.  My wife and I count as one of our blessings that we can afford this cost.

Would we rather spend the money on something else?  Of course we would.  Who wouldn’t?  But that isn’t the point!

Between the transmission problems on the car and laundry list of things we had done to the camper, we dropped over $1,000 just like that.  Would saving school supplies helped offset the sting of that?  Sure.  But would I ever go there? Not a chance!

In my last post, I talked about how I started to get out my money blahs by taking time to see how blessed we actually are, and I look at the fact that we can contribute the full school supply list as a blessing.  (Well, my son did leave two boxes of tissue on the bus so while it certainly ended up at the school, it may have ended up in a different classroom…but that’s OK *lol*)  We’re directly helping make a positive environment for both of our kids.  Plus, we may even be helping others as well.

Isn’t that worth the cost?  I think so.

My wife never followed up on the conversation as far as I know.  It’s very possible that her friend sent in all the supplies anyway.  Who knows?  Maybe this post is sort of a moot point.  I hope so!

I just wish more people saw their sending the supplies as what it is: A blessing.

Readers, do you have a suggested list of supplies to send to school?  What is your take on the matter?

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Stockpiling Works For Us (At Least For Now)

One of my long time favorite bloggers, Funny About Money, is contemplating something that you rarely hear about: Quitting Costco.  She’s finding that, for her, not going to Costco is actually saving her money.  Could bucking the stockpiling trend actually work?

I think that many people don’t even consider such a thing.  They just assume that Costco saves them money by giving them lower pricing, with the tradeoff that you have to buy in larger quantities in order to realize the lower per-unit pricing.  So, the kicker is that you have to use more in order to really realize the savings.

Looking At Our Stockpiling Habits

After my wife took a recent trip and left me the pile of stuff to put away, as is our arrangement, I started taking a look at our stockpile in our pantry to see if waste was leading to us actually overpaying for items.

I’m happy to report that we went through our entire pantry shelf and found just two items that we threw out because they were past their due dates to the point where we no longer felt comfortable using them:

A can of cream soup and a half a box of taco shells, both which expired in early 2014.

And, what’s even better: Neither of these items was bought at Costco.

So, it seems that for us, the food we buy at Costco to take advantage of the lower per-unit pricing actually gets eaten.  This is a good thing.

The (Much Much Higher Priced) Organic Trend

We’re still keeping an eye on Costco.  I think there are factors that come into play that affect our ‘value proposition’.  For example,  who’s noticed that they’re shifting more and more food items to organic options?  If you have this as your preference, then I suppose this is great.  However, for people who don’t necessarily have the budget or the desire, buying organic may not be practical.mb-2015-03-checkbook

Every trip we take, we seem to find at least one item on our ‘regular’ list that we either have to choose to pay more for to get organically, or switch back to our grocery store to purchase the non-organic option.

Right now, we still save money with our Costco membership, but it’s started to occur to us that if Costco really wants to shape themselves as the Whole Foods of the bulk warehouse shopping category, they might very well lose us as customers.

Funny makes a great point. It’s always good to really take a step back and make sure that you’re getting value from your membership.  Even though Costco memberships are a way of life, they aren’t always a guaranteed money saver.

Readers, do you save money with your Costco (or other warehouse) membership?  How often do you check and how do you evaluate your return on investment?  

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.