Archive for the 'Consumerism' Category

Free Stuff

I have been trying to get rid of 2 old cellphones for the past 3 weeks. The phones are 3 years old but they are in great shape and these phones would still be considered an upgrade for many people out there. I advertised on Craigslist and Kijiji and started the price at $20 per phone. I got a couple offers and then I reduced the price to $15 after getting 2 offers that were lower than my asking price. I got a couple more bites but they didn’t end up coming to pick them up. So I got maybe 4 or 5 offers in 3 weeks or so. Then yesterday I decided enough is enough, I want to get rid of these phones so I put them up for FREE on Craigslist and Kijiji. Within the last 12 hours I have received 18 emails. I am planning on giving it to the first person who inquired but I’m leaving the ad up until them just in case they don’t show. 2 of the 18 people offered to pay me for the phones. Why did the number of inquiries (per hour) jump so much as soon as I made it free? I think the relationship between the asking price and the number of inquiries is highly non-linear when you get closer to $0. I’m curious how many inquiries I would have gotten had I posted them for $10 each (in hindsight the drop from $20 to $15 was too minuscule to make much difference).

Popularity: 8% [?]

Just Bought a Car

We decided a while ago that we needed a new car. Or rather, I decided that I wanted one, because my wife needs the car all the time for work and although I bike to work sometimes, I definitely won’t be biking all winter long (yes I know, Vancouver isn’t THAT cold) and I’d like to be able to go get groceries or drive to visit my parents or do any variety of things even if my wife is out using her car. I’ve been taking the bus for about 4 years now and although I enjoy it because of the amount of reading it allows me to do, I want to get home a bit quicker sometimes without cutting into my work day.

For the past few weeks we have been looking at the 2009 Matrix as well as a few similar cars such as the 2008 Yaris Hatchback and Mazda 3. All of these cost around $20,000 including everything. It was such a big purchase that we couldn’t decide on what to get but I think we were leaning towards the Matrix. I decided to check out the Buy & Sell one day and I scanned for old Tercels, Echos, and Corollas. I eventually found a 1997 Tercel Sedan for $2700. It’s better on gas than my wife’s little car from 1997 and also better than the 2009 Matrix. I checked it out after a test drive I gave the guy $100 as a deposit and shook on it. The only downside is that it has 230,000 km on it but I really don’t see that as a problem. It has had a single owner, no accidents, and he has maintained it well. This car will last at least another 10 years. I’ve never bought a new car before (my previous vehicle’s were at 1985 Tercel and a 1986 Tercel) but I really wanted to this time. I’m so glad we didn’t $20,000 on a new car when there are so many perfectly good old cars out there.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Air Miles Blows

I have blogged about Air Miles a few times. I am seriously thinking about getting rid of Air Miles once we use up our remaining miles. We tried to use up half of them for some upcoming flights but once again, they did not have flights that worked for our schedule. We even called over 3 months ahead of time. This is the third or fourth time this has happened. This just makes me detest “Rewards Programs” even more. Some of the other tricks they do include making the flights worth more per mile than the non-travel items (such as gift cards and other merchandise). This makes it psychologically difficult to go after the non-travel items since they are valued at half the cost per mile compared to flights (sometimes worse). Seriously, on my last statement from Air Miles I got like 100 miles. Their statements are sent quarterly and 100 miles is worth like $10-20 depending on what valuation you use. So that’s like less than $10 a month. Are you f$cking kidding me? The only way to get serious miles is to rack up seriously huge credit card statements or shop like crazy at Air Miles retailers, which we are never going to do. So they pay me less than $10 a month so I can go through this hassle of calling Air Miles every time I want to fly to see if they have any flights I want (which they never do), carry an extra card in my wallet, receive an extra statement, and waste my time writing a blog article about it. No thanks.

Popularity: 21% [?]

Resist the New TV Cravings

Earlier this year we almost spent over $1000 on a new TV. I am so glad that we resisted, as 2 weeks ago, we stopped watching so much TV. We started setting a limit of 1 hour at most per day combined for the two of us because we noticed we were watching way too much TV and not getting enough other things done each day. Now we barely watch TV at all, and don’t always use up the 1 hour per day allotment. The pressure to buy a big TV is huge. It seems that so many people are buying bigger and bigger TVs these days (size apparently does matter). One of the reasons that we had the temptation to buy it was because we had bunch of money sitting in an ING account. We have since starting paying down the principal of our student loans, instead of just the interest so we no longer have gobs of cash sitting in our ING accounts. We could not afford to pay down the principal of the loan before, but after a couple raises some adjustments to our monthly cash flow, we are able to pay even on the principal that we owe in interest. This is helping to keep our cravings for new expensive things at bay, and helping us slowly reduce the amount of interested owed monthly.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Extended Warranties

I just got back from The Source by Circuit City (aka Radio Shack Canada) and had to share this story. I bought a simple 20′ stereo extension cable for $19.99. I couldn’t believe my ears when the clerk asked me if I wanted to buy an extended warranty for the cable! He said that for something like $2 I could get an extended warranty and that should anything happen to the cable over the next 3 years I could get a replacement. The day they start selling extended warranties for cables is the day that extended warranties are exposed for being the scams that they are. I should have left the store right then but the whole reason I went there is because it is within walking distance from where I lived and I didn’t feel like shopping around, even though $20 was expensive for this cable. One of the reasons I went to The Source is because I don’t like to shop at Future Shop (because I hate their commission sales people and their rebates and extended warranty rackets). It looks like everyone (not just Future Shop) is selling extended warranties these days, to squeeze out every last penny they can. I bought a Palm device for my wife this Christmas at Staples (specifically to avoid Future Shop) and was propositioned with an extended warranty there as well.

I have never bought and extended warranty and never will. It only takes a little bit of common sense to realize that extended warranties are never a good idea. This CBC Marketplace article, “Extended Warranties: Deal or Dud?” examines extended warranties in detail. The final conclusion is pretty unanimous:

As a general rule, extended warranties aren’t considered a good investment. Consumer Reports, the Better Business Bureau, Canadian consumer organizations, and the Federal Trade Commission as well as the chartered accountant we spoke with, all caution consumers against purchasing extended warranties.

The nail in the coffin for me was this data:

Consumer Reports says only 12 – 20 per cent of the money paid for extended warranties is ever used to pay for repairs or claims. The other 80 to 88 per cent of money goes into the profit margin of the third-party/manufacturer.

And some final useful advice,

Our expert, Tod Marks, advises people thinking about an extended warranty to save the money and put it into a repair fund — just in case. “An extended warranty is good for the retailer. It’s not good for the consumer.”

Popularity: 9% [?]