When Good Deals Go Bad! Massive Price Increase On Costco / Kirkland Diapers!

My wife and I went to Costco last month planning to purchase some diapers.  We’ve been Costco members for a couple of years, and were just recently blessed with the opportunity to purchase diapers.  We’ve been impressed with the price benefit that the Kirkland Signature brand (Costco’s store brand) had offered on many products in the past.  We’d also heard many great things about their prices on diapers, so we decided to take a look.

I was shocked when I found that their unit price per diaper was, for just about every size, higher than the national brand (Huggies) that they sell.

I did some digging and found that they’ve recently raised prices on their diapers.  From the historical prices that I’ve been able to dig up, it looks like the prices have gone up anywhere from 26% to 33% across the board.  This chart speaks for itself:

Really, Costco?  For a store that prides itself on value, especially for the Kirkland product line, this is shocking.  My family and I have become more and more trusting of Costco, and the Kirkland line, and this is a good way to erase a good portion of that trust in one fell swoop.

Of Course….

Wouldn’t you know it?  Within ten minutes of my post on Craigslist, I got a call about my car.  Long story short, after doing a showing yesterday during my lunch hour, there is somebody that wants to buy it, full price, and hopefully can be taken care of this week or early next week.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I guess I need to complain about things more often, then maybe they’ll suddenly resolve.

Haha.

Anyways, wish me luck!

Lamenting On Craigslist

BREAKING NEWS: A shrink wrapped package containing a shaker of salt and a shaker of pepper, on sale at the Ravenna, OH ‘Everything’s A Buck’ dollar store was discovered as the single item for sale in the United States that is not posted on Craigslist.  Workers stared dumbfounded at the package, discovered behind a stack of yellow smiley face plates, wondering how it could be possible that an item for sale is not listed on Craigslist.

Having started the process of trying to sell my car, I am absolutely amazed at how Craigslist has seemingly taken over the world.  I listed my car and within an hour, my car wasn’t even on the first page of used car listings.  And each page holds 100 listings.

It’s unbelievable!

I sold some stuff on Craigslist a couple of years ago before I moved, and it was remarkable at how fast things generated interest.  Most everything at that time was furniture.  Stupidly, I believed that, combined with my sister-in-law selling a car within two days last year, would set the stage for a quick sell.

Alas, it hasn’t happened.

I’m, of course, using other ways to try to sell the car, but was certainly hoping that Craigslist would be a bit more ‘useful.

Here are a few observations about Craigslist:

  • I think it has officially ‘jumped the shark’.  That’s the term used to describe a TV show that goes from good to out of ideas.  My little fake paragraph of a news story illustrates that it has gone from useful to I think a bit ridiculous.  It’s definitely a fad that seems to have caught on a little too well.
  • I think they should cut out retail establishment postings – Wasn’t the original point of Craigslist to give people a chance to sell stuff online that didn’t have a great way of selling things otherwise?  Sorry, but I think it’s crazy that car dealerships have taken over the auto listings page.  When I did some investigating to find out just how 100 posts appeared in a matter of minutes, it didn’t take long to figure out that 18 straight posts from ‘So-And-So Chevrolet’ multiplied by a lot of dealerships, would tend to push out a lot of posts.  Give Craigslist back to the people it was designed for!
  • Enforce the right rules – They now make it so that you can’t even think about re-posting your ad unless it’s been active for two days.  Try it even a minute before and you’re prohibited from adding your ad.  But, a car DEALER posting in the ‘by owner’ category?  No problem, go right ahead.  Again, pandering to the retail establishments and pushing out the little guy, not so much for the individual sellers anymore.
  • Update the site already! – I get how Craigslist still wants to be ad free, but really, if you’re going to let the car dealership and retail networks take over the postings, why not give some additional features that might help out the little guy?  Would it kill to show a page view counter for postings to see how many people are viewing the listings?  Would adding a few categories so people could search a little easier really hurt?

If Craigslist still did what the founders set out to do when they started expanding in the 2002 timeframe, then the the lack of technology and offerings would be OK.  But, with the explosive growth as well as the fact of how they’ve pandered to the retail shops that have taken over, what they offer now to help the individual seller is extremely disappointing.

I still think Craigslist holds a lot of value and can be useful, but the current experience of trying to sell my car has made me realize that it has become a lot less meaningful, because they had the opportunity to grow and adapt as their popularity increased.  But they chose not to, and I find that a shame.

Can You Really Save Money On Utilities By Cutting Back?

When you Google “saving money on utilities” you get 18,700,000 results.
This is obviously a very well written about subject.
However, the rationale behind the most recent water rate hike by the City of Detroit for water (Detroit provides water to the city and most of the outlying suburbs) made me wonder how much money we can truly save by cutting back on utilities.
From the Detroit News, here is a summary with two reasons as to why water rates went up:

Customers are set to see bills go up about 8 percent, an amount Detroit Water Department officials say is needed to bolster declining revenues and counter surging interest rates on money the system has borrowed for capital improvements.

The reason for the declining revenues? Lower consumption.
People in the Detroit area have been cutting back water usage. With the economy in a downturn, people are trying to cut back the non-essentials. Whether it’s letting their lawns go brown or taking quicker showers, the average water usage has gone down.
So, how are people rewarded for their ability to use less? They simply get charged more.
See, the water company depends on a certain amount of revenue a year to cover costs. If they don’t meet that revenue, they can’t pay for the employees, for the electricity, for the maintenence of the infrastructure, and all the other costs that it takes to deliver water to millions of households.
It then begs the question as to whether you can really save money on utilities by cutting back? I suppose the ‘above-average’ saving household could still save, but if you if you cut back by the rate at which consumption drops, you really won’t save money. Yes, you’ll be preventing your bill going up even more than if you hadn’t cut back, but it is still discouraging to reduce consumption and see your bill come in the same. Or more.
And, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this type of pricing model holds true for just about all utilities. Electricity. Gas. I would guess that they all have a level of expected revenue that they will figure out how to cover, no matter what.
So, is it worth it to cut back?
Despite evidence that I’ve presented, I still say it is.
Why?
First, I think that it’s important to preserve our natural resources. Bottom line, the water and the electricity use natural resources that are limited in supply, and also can cause pollution, global warming, and other problems with our planet. Reducing usage will only prolong the life of our precious Earth.
Second, it does slow down the increase in hit that you’ll feel in your pocketbook. The argument could be made that the utility companies would raise the prices even if demand didn’t go down. In that case, your out-of-pocket costs would rise even faster.
And, quite honestly, even when I’ve ‘cut back’ on usage in the past, I’ve never reduced the budget that I expect to pay for utilities. Simply because I expect that costs will continue to rise. I might not budget an increase over time, but I guess I have sort of accepted the fact that the utilty companies, by and large, are going to collect what they feel they need to no matter what. Short of getting ‘off the grid’ altogether, which simply isn’t possible for the majority of people, we simply have to try our best and hope for a delicate balance between increased costs and cutting back.

Wasting Money On Poorly Timed Traffic Lights

The first electric traffic light was installed around 1920 in response to numerous accidents as the automobile picked up in popularity. Since then, there have been hundreds of thousands of traffic lights installed as well as a lot more intricate technology.
In the 1990’s, the county where I live began implementing a new type of traffic control system. At most major intersections, they began installing cameras or pavement sensors to detect traffic. The purpose is to adjust the timing on traffic lights based on traffic at the intersections. It is designed to adjust traffic during high volume times, as well as to avoid people sitting at intersections where there is no traffic, yet wasting gas because of a red light.
For the most part, the statistics show that these systems have helped relieve congestion versus a standard traffic light system that changes on fixed intervals. I can see the benefit at times, though there have been some frustrating areas.
One thing that drives me nuts is how the system deals with gaps in traffic. The system is designed to sense a gap in traffic, and change the light if there is traffic waiting to go the other way. In theory this makes sense, but I think it can be improved. Right now, the system detects gaps via cameras placed near the intersection, and it can sense the number of cars at or near. That’s great most of the time, but I wish that they would take it one step further and place sensors further away from the lights. This way, the system would know what’s coming.
I’ll illustrate why I think this could be an improvement. There have been times where a gap is created because of someone driving a little slow, or someone who pulls out of a side street or business, and hasn’t gotten up to full speed. The sensors see only the break and change the light, but as a result, a whole line of traffic gets stopped. I think that if the system had knowledge of what’s further back, it may be able to allow more traffic through at a time. The system could anticipate as well as react.
The other thing I wish they would do is consider reducing the number of lights in operation during non-rush hour times. Obviously, lights at major intersections need to run all the time, but it’s the other lights that drive me nuts. The lights around subdivisions or shopping centers are the two most common types.
I can understand having many of these lights operate during high traffic times, but how many times have you been stopped at a light that could easily be a blinking yellow for 16 hours per day? I know some might say I’m being impatient, but I see that it’s a waste of money if people have to spend time idling and burning gas unnecessarily.
Hopefully the technology for these ’smart’ traffic light system improves and saves time and money for drivers.

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.