Just By Asking, I Saved Us $7.50

Back in June, when my wife was going into the hospital to deliver our second baby, I was all about priorities.  Was she comfortable?  Would she get in her room right away?  Would they have her midwife paged?  Could we avoid paying for the phone?

Ever the frugal daddy-to-be, I remembered that last time we were there, we made one phone call during the entire course of the hospital stay, and payed a few bucks as a standard phone charge.  Figuring we could just avoid the phone charge, I asked them if they could disable the phone for outgoing calls.

The nurse told me that they couldn’t, and that it was a bundled charge with the TV.

Bummer.  Kind of a rip-off really, because I’m sure that they know that pretty much everybody is going to watch TV if possible.

Anyways, when the bill came, I saw that the nurse had been lying mistaken.  The telephone and TV charges were listed as separate line items.  The TV charge was $11.50 (still a rip-off, but whatever) and the phone charge was $7.50.

I called and explained that we had requested to have the phone disabled and that we didn’t make any outside phone calls.  Before I even asked, she said ‘OK, well, I’ll go ahead and take the $7.50 off’.

Awesome!

Since those items aren’t FSA card eligible, this was coming straight out of our bank account.  While this isn’t going to put us on the road to riches, I did figure out that this is roughly five or six days worth of diapers for the new baby.  Considering the number of diapers a newborn goes through, I’m mighty glad I made that call!

When was the last time you thought to ask for something removed from your bill?  Was it successful?

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Another Addition To The Beagle Household!!!

The big news: My wife had our second child.  On Wednesday evening, our beautiful daughter was welcomed into the world!  We now have a wonderful little son and a new little daughter! Life will surely be hectic but I couldn’t imagine anything better right now.  She and mom are both doing wonderfully.  My parents are taking care of Little Boy Beagle, who so far has pretty much ignored the new one, but that probably won’t last after we take her home!

Later, we get to take her home and begin another adventure of a lifetime, and normal as we know it gets completely re-defined.  I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Price Increase Alert: Costco / Kirkland Baby Formula

At one of our recent trips to Costco, we passed by the baby formula section.  We were big fans of the Kirkland formula during Little Boy Beagle’s formula needing days.

(Side note: To those who will point out that breast feeding is the best and cheapest option: We know.  We tried.  Eventually, formula became the necessary option.)

mb-201101babyhandHaving looked around and settled on the Costco / Kirkland brand, both the price and the packaging were etched into my memory.

So, while walking around the section, a new method of packaging jumped out at me as I passed by.

Uh-oh.

Anytime a package changes, I immediately jump to the conclusion that the company packaging the product in question is changing something in some way to present a price increase, most often by giving less product at a price that works out to a higher unit price.

Once again, I was right.

With the old packaging, you received two canisters, each containing 25.7 ounces of formula.  The price for the total 51.4 ounces was $19.79.

With the new packaging, you get a single 36 ounce container of formula which costs $16.49.

I have to say that Costco was as creative as can be in presenting this.  At first glance, the consumer sees a taller container than they got before, which offsets the fact that they used to get two.  They also see a lower price, which makes them think they’re getting a pretty good deal.  In fact, I bet some shoppers probably think they’re getting a better deal.

Not so fast.

By cutting 15.4 ounces from what you get, they cut 30% of the product you receive.  Yet the price went down by a mere 17%.

Hmmm…

What this works out to is a price per ounce increase from $0.385/oz to $0.458/oz.

This results in a 19% price increase for Costco / Kirkland Baby Formula!

Look, I get the fact that prices go up.  This doesn’t bother me.  But, very few products have gone up by 19% in cost over the past year.  The fact that Costco is sneaking this in by way of attempting to confuse the customer disappoints me.

My wife raised a good point; They’re still cheap.  Before, they were about half the cost of the name brand formulas such as Similac and Enfamil.  Now, assuming those companies haven’t likewise raised their cost by 19%, they’ll be 35-40% cheaper.

Still a pretty good deal.  But you know what?  Other stores (such as Target and Wal-Mart) have lower priced formula as well.  In the past, it was cheaper than the name brand but still not as cheap as Costco.  If they are now more competitive in price, Costco could end up losing customers altogether if enough customers realize the big jump that just took place.

Here’s the rant portion of this post:

I love Costco, but I have realized that you really have to keep an eye on them.  I am certain that one of their strategies is to bring customers in with ultra-low prices, get them hooked, and then raise the prices.  This isn’t groundbreaking retail strategy, but I put Costco on a higher level of expectation than I do most retailers.  Why?  Because Costco is the only retailer I shop with for which I pay the privilege of shopping with.  When I hand over my $50 membership fee every year, I am saying, ‘Yes, I agree you are awesome enough to pay $50 to walk through your doors’ but you know what?  I’m also holding them to a higher standard.

The price increase of 19% is bad enough.  But, where they haven’t ‘earned’ their membership fee on this one is that they implemented it in what I consider a sneaky way.  I would have much rather seen them just raise the price on the stuff they used to sell from $20 to $24 and be done with it.  Now, you know darn well that there are customers walking out who aren’t paying attention and are ending up shorting themselves on formula, thinking they are getting the same amount they used to, or other customers who aren’t unit price shoppers who are going to have a hard time understanding why their formula costs spiked.

Costco has to make money.  I get that.  But sometimes companies go too far in their quest to make money.  I’m not saying Costco went too far, but a near 20% price increase and hiding behind ‘new packaging’, well that’s toeing the line into questionable territory.  In my opinion.

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Amazon Diapers Saving Some Big Bucks!

My wife recently laid a coupon on my desk that she found in Parents magazine for 20% off a diaper purchase at Amazon.

Upon doing some digging, I found that this was a really good deal.  It apparently was stackable with a promotion that they were running on a Subscribe-And-Save promotion.  Subscribe-And-Save allows you to sign up and typically receive 15% automatic shipments of staples like diapers, batteries, household cleaners, etc.  They were running an extra 15% off.

That means that we were looking at:
15% the original subscribe and save
15% for the bonus subscribe and save promo
20% off the coupon

The discounts all worked off the original price, so it amounted to a 50% discount!  The coupon was only good off one package of product, so we made our purchase.

So a package of diapers that retails for $41 at our local store would cost a little over $43 after you add tax, plus you have to spend time and gas going to the store to get it.

With Amazon, their price was $40, which was lowered to $20 after all the discounts!  Plus, they were offering free shipping on subscribe and save options, so even though we hadn’t spent the normal $25, we didn’t pay for shipping.  Two days after placing our order, a box of diapers showed up.

Now, many people shy away from the subscribe and save option because you later get ‘stuck’ with stuff at a higher price.  Amazon seems pretty good about it:

  • You can set your frequency.  Right now, ours is set at every six months.
  • If you need something sooner, you can request a shipment earlier.
  • If you don’t need it, you can postpone the shipment.  And they will e-mail you well in advance to ensure that you get adequate notice of a pending shipment.
  • Your 15% discount sticks.  You’ll always get 15% off the current price.  The wording even suggests that the extra 15% might stay as long as the order is open, but that’s a bit unclear.
  • You can switch your product.  I’m pretty sure that if we need to switch diaper sizes as Little Boy Beagle continues to grow, we can update this on the order.
  • You can cancel anytime.  Many people would have already canceled by now.  I figure I’ll leave it in place and see what the price is next time I need it.  If the 15% is still cheaper than the store, why not leave it and adjust the orders as needed?  If the bonus 15% sticks, that’s even better!

On top of all this, they also rewarded people who purchased diapers a three month Amazon Prime membership.  This gets you free two-day shipping on all orders, with the normal $25 free shipping waived.  This alarmed me when I first saw it, because with the typical ‘free’ Prime membership, you have to opt out after the trial membership expires or you’ll start getting charged the monthly fee.  Not so with this.  At the end of it, it simply expires (though I’m sure I’ll get an e-mail or two asking me to consider paying for it).

All in all, this was a pretty great diaper purchase.  It just goes to show two things.  First, Amazon has great service.  Second, there is a huge markup on diapers if Amazon can offer all this and still make money, because you know they wouldn’t be going all out on selling diapers if it weren’t lucrative for them.

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