Archive for the ‘consumer’ category


March 29, 2010

We have been using Dial hand and bath soap for over 40 years. We have become accustomed to associating the Dial fragrance with cleanliness; until just recently.

Dial bars used to be full firm and fully packed. Today they have a unique shape. Sort of dished out. Perhaps to fit the hand? Just recently I realized that they are not trying to make the shape ‘fit the hand’ as mush as they are trying to reduce the amount of soap in each bar. How silly! Fit the hand Indeed. That makes as much sense as putting handles on cats so you can take them for a walk,

No, the makers of dial are not looking out for the good of the consumer, they are raising prices and cutting product portions. Why? Because someone has figured out you don’t need to work nearly as hard if abuse the consumer. Costs go down. Profits go up. All you have to do is sit on your fat lazy ass and let it ride. Consumers are tied to brands by brand loyalty. They will never catch on.

During a recent trip to the store I noticed that Dial cost nearly double what other soaps were priced. I never gave much thought to the price of soap. After all, at ten cents a bar what is the point. That is no longer the case. Dial is up at $12 for a pack of 16 bars. Competitors are at $7 for a pack of 16 bars. Then when you consider your are getting half the soap in each bar of Dial, Dial becomes the product not to buy.

Suddenly that clean Dial smell has become the foul odor of greed and consumer abuse.

Debit Card

February 25, 2010

We don’t max out our credit cards anymore. We do not have any credit cards anymore. Now we max out out debit cards.

debit cards are great. No checks to write. No bills to pay. No credit limits because it is pay as you go so there is no interest either. No interest to pay. No interest to go up. None of the downsides you experience with credit cards because we do not use credit.

I hear that banks don’t want to loan. I will go you one better, I don’t want to borrow.

When I use the debit card I always get asked if I want cash back. I don’t understand that. I use a debit card because it is more convenient than writing checks and safer than carrying cash.

The last time I was asked if I wanted cash back, I told them SURE, how much you got, I’ll take it all. Thanks for the fact that the cashier had a sense of humor.

No I don’t want cash back if it is drawn against my account. I use a debit card so that I don’t need to carry cash.

What is so hard for these folk to understand that. The only thing I can see that would make this logical is that the bank charges plenty for cash withdrawls against a debit card. Either way, I have no reason to find out or desire to do so.

The Case for Netflix

February 16, 2010

Back in the good old days cable was a luxury. The luxury of lots of channels to choose from and not so many commercial interruptions. It came at a price. Over time that price began to escalate along with commercial interruptions. You could improve the viewing experience by subscribing to one of the premium channels. This cost extra. Usually about an additional ten dollars a month.

Premium channels were better but after you discovered they had a limited number of movies that they showed over and over and over all month long, you began to wonder if the ten dollars was a waste of money.

If you did not want to wait until the next months line-up, you could always go rent a movie at Blockbuster.

Cable business must have been good because it did not take long before there was competition from Direct-TV and Dish Network. This was good because it put a lid on cost to the consumer.

The programming was the same regardless of which of the three services you chose so there was no penalty for chosing the most cost effective.

Today we have Standard cable (Time Warner), Dish Network, Direct TV, ATT Uverse, and Fios.
Both ATT and Fios are fibre optic services that also provide high speed internet access. ATT seems to be the most reasonably priced. TimeWarner also provides internet access but at a higher unjustifiable cost.

Programming content has not improved with time. If anything it has become worse. The number and frequency of ‘paid programs’ has increased. So called paid programs are infomercials trying to sell stuff no one wants to buy. They are an insult to the viewer who is paying for programs that he expects to be entertaining.

I have also noticed that the little logos in the lower right hand corner of the screen appear to be growing in size. I really do not need a logo to remind me which station I am tuned to but I don’t begrudge the broadcasters the desire to identify themselves on the screen. I do take offense when they add notices of upcomming attractions for which I have no interest.

Then there are the popups. These are more than just annoying. It is like being spammed in real time while you are trying to enjoy a program of interest.

It is becomming more and more difficult to find programs of interest.

Before we got cable we were viewing local off air channels. Out of ten channels we had trouble finding new and interesting programming. I remember telling my wife that with cable we would just have hundreds of channels to surf and most likely would still not find new and interesting programming. The only difference would be the increased cost. I was right.

One more annoyance is the weekly required tests that Uverse seems to think are important enough to do during prime time. There is no requirement on my part to endure these nasty noisy tests.

In summary, I just do not believe in paying for a ‘service’ that insists on annoying the vewer. Sure I can turn it off but then I am still paying and now for something I am not using.

Netflix to the rescue. We first started subscribing to Netflix when they first started up. Back then it cost fifteen dollars a month ,as I recall, and it was a ‘by mail only’ service. They mailed you a DVD, you watched it and returned it in the prepaid envelope. Then they would mail out another DVD, the next selection on your want list. No late fees, no driving to a store, no waiting in line, no hassles. Not as convenient as tuning in HBO but you were not being charged for viewing the same four movies over and over and over for a month at a time.

I don’t remember when Netflix started streaming movies over the internet, but doing so turned them into a serious media service. Now you could get movies without having to wait for the mail. They still mail out DVDs, but if you have a high speed internet connection and a computer you have access to more movies than premium channels could provide in a lifetime. Netflix did all this and also dropped the subscription fee from fifteen dollars a month to ten dollars a month. I would much rather pay ten dollars for access to all the movies in the world, on demand, than pay ten dollars for a ‘premium’ service that lets me watch four movies of their choice over and over and over again.

With Netflix there are no:
1. commercials
2. annoying logos
3. disruptive testing
4. high costs
5. unreasonable charges for HD
6. popups
7. late fees
8. trips to a store
9. no equipment rental fees
10. no specal installation

All those cable anoyances suddenly dissappear as well as the high cost and scams designed to seperate you from your money.

Netflix delivers where cable dissappoints. Netflix provides interesting programs all the time. Instead of surfing channels we now surf the Netflix website.

Turns out you don’t even have to have a computer to enjoy Netflix.

Last December our old DVD player finally quit working. We found a Samsung BD-P1590 Blu-ray Disc Player on sale for under $150. Not only was this the first Blu-ray player priced under $300 that I have seen, it also has an ethernet connection allowing it to recieve Netflix and Pandora programming. Goodby set-top boxes, hello Samsung!

Yeah but what about sports and news! I am not a sports fan. I would rather watch a good movie than a game. Off the air programming is still available. Get a conversion box if you don’t have an HD TV. Or, if you have a decent computer set up, get a USB HDTV dongle. Some of these cost less than a converterbox (under $50). Check your video card. Some have a TV out connection that would let you watch the programs on your standard TV.

Thermaltake TR2 430w power supply

February 12, 2010

Some time ago my son-in-law experienced a major failure in his external hard drive storage system. He pulled the whole thing and replaced it with a new system. He boxed up the old system and let me have it. One of the external hard drive cases was a Thermaltake. I was impressed with that Thermaltake product and wondered why I had not heard of it before.

I have several desk top computers. Some of them are Dells. The other two are generic clones. All of them have had power supply problems. One Dell and both of the ATX cones have had their power supplies replaced. Unfortunately I chose to replace them with the same cheap trash that caused the failures in the first place. So when one of the ATX clones had another power supply failure I decided to upgrade to a decent power supply.

I found a Thermaltake ATX power supply priced at $33.50. It was new and the shipping was another $7.

The Thermaltake looks like it will do the job. It is about twice the weight of any of the cheap supplies, sports two temperature controlled fans and has all the multitude of cables individually laced with neatly installed cable harnessing.

Any new systems I decide to build will have a Thermaltake power supply.

No more cheap supplies. No more cases with built-in power supplies. No more bare bones kits where quality is sacrificed for price. No more Dells.

Actually, now that I have discovered Apple notebooks there will probably not be anymore cludgey clones.

Contracting Jobs

January 24, 2010

When contracting a job of a home improvement nature (or any other nature for that matter) make sure you are dealing with the actual company that is to do the job. Preferably with the actual person who will have primary responsibility for the job.

The best way to screw up a project is to get involved with person or persons who sub-contract. Persons like most home improvement centers.

Home improvement centers should be the absolute last resort or not even considered at all. You will end up with phoney quotes as they try to second guess what the real jobber will charge. You might get inferior work. Contestable responsibility. Even be faced with having to have the job done over by qualified professionals. Even with all those risks, you may still not get the best price.

One such vendor advertises whole house carpet installation for $100 regardless of square footage. Does that seem too good to be true? It seems that way to me. Carpet installation for most customers requires the removal of the old carpet, removal of the old pad, replacement of the tack strips. All this before any new carpet is cut. Figuring an average house of appoximately 2000 square feet and about 80 precent of that carpeted this is a two day job for two installers unless they work a 12 hour day. That means these installers would have to work for less than minimum wage.

How much skill can you buy for minimum wage? That $100 non conditional installation plan is a disaster looking for a place to happen.

Now ask yourself, how many other good deals seeking disaster status do these fools have?

Do you really want to find out?

I don’t.

You are not always better off going the more professional route but in most cases that is the way to go. Don’t get sucked in by teaser rates.

A very good example is the purchase of a new washing machine two years ago. The first attempt was though a home improvement center appliance department. It was a new Maytag. The delivery was on time and prompt after the purchase and the price was reasonable (around $300). There was no installation. They just delivered it to the laundry room and were going to leave. I insisted it be hooked up if even temporarily so that I could see it run. Once it was full of water and working it began to rock and roll and move across the floor. I had them take it back. They promised to return the next day with a machine that worked properly.

The next day the rock and roll incident was repeated. In fact, I was not sure the it was not the exact same machine. Not interested in becoming a washing machine test center, I sent it back and got a refund. I am still not sure if it was a vendor problem or a Maytag problem. The only thing I was SURE of was that it was not going to become MY problem.

I took the refund to a local appliance store. This was a dedicated appliance store. Appliances were not a sideline with them. Appliances were their only business. This time we bought a Whirlpool for $360 including tax, delivery, and installation.

The man who came to install the new Whirlpool was super efficient, knew exactly what he was doing, and gave us some tips as to use. Nothing at all like the two delivery men from the home improvement center. More importantly, the new washer did not rock and roll and is still going strong.

You pays your money and takes your chances. That is how most people operate. You should try to take no chances and only pay after the job has been completed successfully.

Home Depot

January 24, 2010

On my last trip to handy homers yesterday I was amazed at all the friendly people offering help. Aint it wonderful?

Not really. A lady approached me offering to help with my tile selection claiming that she was a tile ‘expert’. I told her if she really wanted to help, learn how to run a cash register so I don’t have to do the checkout myself.

I may have offended her as she walked off muttering about her ‘expert’ status. Expert? I don’t expect to find too many experts working for minimum wage at Home Depot! Heck, some of them don’t even speak good english.

When I go to a ‘serve yourself’ home improvement center I go with the goal of serving myself. I want to buy my ‘stuff’ with a minimum investment in time and money. If I need help finding something, I will ask.

In fact, that did happen. I was looking for a sink spray attachment. I asked an employee in the plumbing department where I could find such. He furlled his brow and said, ‘Let me think’. It was pretty obvious he was not big on thinking so I told him, ‘Never mind, don’t hurt yoursel
f, I will find it myself’.

I take offense at being greeted at the door by people waving flyers trying to propagandise me. I did not come to read flyers. I usually throw them away when they mail them to me. Why would they think I would take time to read them on site?

I also take offense at being offered help unless I ask for it. Then, when I do ask for it, I am offended by blank stares as some moron tries to remember what his job is.

I guess I am just easily offended.

Just one more offence. I do not like the self checkout. I do not work at Home Depot and I do not want to be treated as though I do.

I know, I know, they claim they do that to cut costs. The only thing I care about is what it costs me and I don’t see the prices going down. The only thing self checkout does is increase the time I have to spend in the store.

So, to all you Home Depot workers, quit trying to be something you are not. Go back to doing the things you were doing several years ago. Your customers will be happier and you will have less reason to be offended or offensive.


January 19, 2010

I recently ordered a Brother MFC 8120 laser printer from the Geeks. This printer is refurbished. I guess that means it stopped working under warranty the first time it was sold. The price was right, only $55. It costs me that much for a new 52 ink cartridge for the inkjet!

Of course I also had to pay $35 to get it delivered. I also found a couple of cheap flash lights an a 1gig memory stick for one of my older computers. The final order came to $102.

The brother printer also works as a copier, scanner, and fax. The starter toner cartridge gets 4,000 pages, its drum has a 20,000 page life. New high capacity toner cartridges are priced at around $40 and get 6,500 pages.

Unfortunately, one of the few reviews gives this printer an 8 month life. That review did not say how many pages the printer had printed but seemed to imply that they had gone through several toner cartridges.

The way I see this is that the brother printer is going to save me more than $500 in ink jet ink for an investment of around $100.

At a price of $54 for the printer it would almost be worth buying a new one when the toner runs out. The only thing preventing me doing that is the $35 shipping charge. That is pretty close to the price of a toner cartridge.

I think the Geeks are basically good but you would never guess that from some of the scams their third party buddies pull.

After the order was entered I was informed it qualified for free shipping. I checked with all the common carriers some time ago and they assured me they did not work for free. Turns out you can get free shipping if you sign up for some useless service that tries to rob you.

I also got a spam e-mail from some moron wanting me to send them $10 for a service warranty on the refurbished printer.

The Geeks would do well to distance themselves from these scammers. It makes them look bad.