I’m A Little Bit Less Of A Fan Of Amazon

I have always been a big fan of Amazon since the advent of online shopping. I’ve always thought that they had many great features that appealed to me. Some of the best features in my mind included:

  • Excellent pricing – I’ve always felt that they are very fair in price and have good deals
  • Order history – They keep ordering history of every purchase I’ve made. Many sites keep your history for only 12 months, if even that long. I’ve always been able to look back at previous purchases for reference.
  • Recommendations – Many sites have now built in features where you are recommended products based on your ordering history. Amazon was one of the first and I think still one of the best at it.

A few months ago, my list would have included one more thing that was key: 30-day price protection. Amazon guaranteed that if their price went down anytime within 30 days of your purchase, that you were eligible for a refund. You had to e-mail them the price you paid as well as the new price, and after checking it out, they would refund your credit card. I used this several times.
That was an excellent feature, but unfortunately they discontinued that as of September 1, 2008. I just found out about it today as I was going through and checking my prices, and discovered that the new policy had been instituted.
This is a huge letdown to me.
I can understand the business reason behind it. They were probably losing money by having to return part of the sales back to people. But, I still think that’s a big short sighted. Why?
Well, not everybody checks the prices to see if the price has dropped. There are sites such as PriceProtectr.com which automates this process for you (plug: it works with over 150 online retailers and is one of my favorite sites), but even so, my guess is that a very small percentage of people actually remember or take the time to check.
The people that do take the time are probably among the people that spend the most at Amazon. I feel that this decision might have turned away many loyal customers. Yes, Amazon might save money in avoiding refunds, but what if they lose all that plus more in sales because people gravitate to other e-commerce sites?
In other words, why take the risk of alienating your best customers?
Now, I won’t boycott Amazon and they’ll probably still get a majority of my online business. But, it’s just a bit of a letdown and a bit puzzling that one of my favorite shopping sites got rid of a great feature, and one that gave them a pretty big competitive advantage.

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Save Your Wrapping Paper Scraps For Smaller Gifts

I’m in the middle of wrapping Christmas gifts. My wife has been doing this for a couple of days on and off, and it’s my turn tonight.
Since I’m a ‘typical guy’ when it comes to wrapping, my wife handles all of the wrapping for anybody that gets gifts except for the gifts that I get her, of course. So, my wrapping takes a lot less time.
One thing we realized this year is how many little scraps get cut out that accumulate. My wife started saving anything bigger than a regular sheet of paper, and we’ve found that they can be used to wrap smaller gifts without wasting more paper.
This has saved us quite a bit of paper. The first four gifts I wrapped for her were of paper that had been previously cut. I can’t tell what the gifts were that I wrapped because my wife peeks on here and that would ruin the surprise.
I’ve also found that they come in handy for filling in an edge for paper that’s a bit too short. You know the kind. Either you mis-cut or you have a piece that’s just a fraction of an inch too little. Rather than scrap the whole thing, what I’ve done is to slip in a little piece that fills in the gap, then fold over as normal. 99.9% of the time the person will never see the ‘fill-in’ (though they probably would see the gap if you had just left it), so these little scraps come in handy to patch up mistakes too!
So, remember to hold on to those little scraps because they can really come in handy!
Back to wrapping!

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It’s Official: The Internet Is Killing The Print Newspaper

The Detroit area will soon be the first major city in the United States without a major newspaper that does home delivery seven days a week. The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News announced that home delivery will be cut to three days per week beginning in spring of 2009. The reason: Rapidly and continual subscriber cancellations because more and more people read the paper online.
So, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, you will have two options. You will either need to purchase one at full price at retail outlets that sell the paper, or you will have to subscribe to the ‘full’ online edition. Both papers have web sites that are free, but they are heavy on advertising and don’t contain the full amount of articles.
This announcement hit our city hard, and was another blow that didn’t help spirits with everything going in in the automotive market.
The logic used by upper management was that this was happening one way or another, and they predict that it will follow in other major markets. Rather than continue to lay writers and staff off, they felt that this would let a majority of workers at the paper keep their jobs.
What they neglected to mention was all the people who work at the presses who will lose their jobs eventually, as well as the people who make a living delivering home newspapers. When I was a kid, it was junior high and high school kids that had the job of delivering papers (my best friend had a route that I helped with), but now it’s pretty much adults that have the responsibility. These people will obviously be hit hard, and a good portion of them will be left scrambling.
I do agree that it seems to be a sign of the times that print media is dying. I also think, though, that the quality of media is somewhat on the decline, and that has something to do with it as well. I don’t see the investigative articles that I once did. The sports writers are very ‘vanilla’. I subscribe to the Sunday paper, and I used to be able to spend an entire morning with a cup of coffee and the paper. Now, I’m done in an hour or so.
I think that newspapers need to go back to their roots in terms of content, but need to adopt to the new times. It’ll be interesting to see how this works and if any other papers in the country follow suit.

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Our Energy And Water Saving Washing Machine

When we moved into our house last summer, we had to purchase a new washer and dryer. I owned a condo before we bought our house, and had a traditional (top loading) washing machine and a matching dryer. But, I had to leave them behind as the offer for the condo stipulated that I had to leave the washer and dryer. Given that the real estate market was already soft, I was more than willing to include this.
Once we started looking, it was apparent that the biggest decision would be whether to go with a top loader or one of the ‘newer’ front loading washing machines. The up front cost of the front loader is much higher, often $400 or more difference.
The main benefit, however, is that they are much more energy efficient and use a lot less water and a lot less energy than a top loader. Up to 65% less in both cases. That’s many less gallons of water wasted per year, as well as a lot less energy usage.
In the end, we decided to go with the front loading machines. I’m happy to say that we are pleased with the purchase. The part that makes me happiest is that the water usage difference is significant and is more of an impact because of the water rates in our city.
For some reason, the cost of water in our city is one of the highest in the area. Since we moved in, we’ve been hit with increases of 15% and 12%. Therefore, it became apparent that any way we could save water is welcome. I would have very much regretted it if we would have chosen the top loading machine.
When we purchased the machines, one of the salesman told us that the top loaders will most likely be phased out over the next few years. I don’t know if that was just ’salesman’ talk, but in these days of trying to save energy, this would make sense. After all, I have also heard from numerous sources that the incandescent bulb is expected to be phased out within the next 5-10 years in the interest of energy conservation.
As water and energy become more expensive and more valuable, it would only stand to reason that a gradual switch to front loading, energy efficient washing machines would also make sense. In our case, the difference is huge, and as we expect to use the washer even more once Baby Beagle comes, the savings will continue to add up.

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