Are you so focused on getting a discount that you miss the big picture?

Everyone loves getting a deal no matter what they are buying. I got a great price, it was a steal of a deal, it was on sale, etc., etc. are common sayings we hear quite often from family, friends and coworkers on a regular basis.  But…before you jump up and down in glee there are things you may want to know…if your actually getting as good as deal as you think you are.

Lets examine some of the areas where people may be lulled into thinking they are getting a great deal when they may not be.

Homes.  Some people are so focused on getting the cheapest price possible that they forget about over all construction quality and long term maintenance/repair costs. A good deal on a poorly built home that requires thousands of dollars in repairs or renovations may end up costing you more than if you would have paid more for a very well built home that requires less maintenance/repairs over the long run. Try to hire a home inspector that is very, very, thorough so you can avoid buying the “deal” that turns out to be a money pit. 

Clothing, shoes, etc.  Examine the quality of the item carefully. Thin material, loose threads/buttons, unfinished seams, hems falling apart, gaps where the sole of the shoe meets the leather, etc. These items may fall apart after wearing them for a short time.  Instead of buying many “deals” that fall apart quickly you may be better off waiting for a higher quality item to go on sale or buying higher quality second hand items that will last for a much longer time period.  If you find yourself buying things that fall apart or don’t last very long, try to calculate how much you are spending on all these items and how often you are replacing them.  You may be paying out a lot more over time than if you would of bought higher quality items originally.

Home Renovations.  The cheapest quote may not be the best quality job.  When you go to sell your home, buyers may look at a poor quality renovation job as a new renovation project and deduct higher amounts off their offer because of it.

2 for 1 deals – Grocery stores are famous for this one.  The buy one get one free is usually based on paying full price for the first item and getting the second one free.  A lot of times the same item is advertised on sale for a lower price a week before or after the 2 for 1 deal is advertised. 

Meals – Special discount coupons or two for one meal deals may require you to purchase beverages. Some restaurants have high mark ups on beverages and charge a lot for them, that is how they make their profit. If you normally drink water with your meals, ordering two meals at regular price with water may actually cost less than the meal deals that require you to purchase beverages with them.

Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price or MSRP – This represents the “maximum” product price, it is not the recommended retail selling price.  You will see MSRP on everything from electronics, to furniture, to automobiles, etc.  Seeing a lower hand written price for $50.00 off the manufacturers suggested retail price is not a deal. 

Automobiles.  Beware of red tag sales, family/employee pricing sales. Profits at dealers are actually higher during these times than at other times.  People mistakenly assume they will save a lot of money during these special sales or get a better discount than shopping at other times of the month, not necessarily so. The best time to shop for a vehicle is the last day of the month, late in the day when the sales staff is tired.  The dealers want to close their books and want good sales quotas.

Furniture. There is always room for additional discounts even if the item appears as if it is on sale, it pays to ask and shop around. MSRP pricing with hand written prices below the MSRP is very common at furniture stores. Tent sales involve merchandise that is damaged, has been discontinued or clear out items the store will no longer be caring because of poor sales figures.  Always try to get additional discounts on tent sale items or on floor models that are for sale, because these are items that the store really, really, wants to get rid of. 

Jewelry. There is a very high mark up on jewelry items.  The best time to buy jewelry is usually May, but June through August is good too.  Most people get engaged at Christmas and Valentines or give jewelry as gifts at this time.  Discounts and/or quality of items on sale will be limited during these times.

Percentages off the sale price, percentages off the original price.  The bate and switch game that some retail stores play to clear end of season merchandise. At first you will see a sign 30% off the last marked sale prices, then you will see a 40% off sign, but 40% discount is taken on the original price and all the sale price tags have now been removed.  This item may now cost more at 40% off the originally price than it did when it was 30% off the last marked sale price.  A higher discount percentage off the original price may not be the best deal, it really depends on the type of store you are dealing with.

Price matching guarantees.  The majority of people are lulled into a false sense of security when they see the words: “we will match our competitors prices, we will beat our competitors prices by 10%”, etc. Do you know the majority of people don’t bother to check if the competitors are actually offering better prices than the store they are buying the merchandise from?  With so many search engines at your finger tips, it may pay to shop around.

Remember…

MSRP is Manufacturers “Suggested” Retail Price.  A suggestion is just a suggestion, not the price you should be paying.

High prices can hide in bundle type packages and it may be cheaper to buy the items individually than in bundle packages. 

Manufacturers will set MAP (minimum advertised price)  That is why you may see brand names left out of advertisements and generic words like “plasma tv’s on sale”.  The retailer may actually be selling the manufacturers tv for less than the manufacturer will let them advertise the item on sale for.

When items are really cheap, they may be at the end of their life cycle, seasonal, discontinued or just plain old.  Dollar/liquidation stores thrive on selling old stock, check for expiry dates.

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Is it just me or is everything made to fall apart now a days?

Have we lost pride in workmanship for the sake of cheap?  Is it just me or are items made to fall apart more quickly so you replace them more often?  

Appliances used to come with long warranties, now they are only for one year. You are given the option of purchasing additional warranty time if you wish. Some people purchase additional warranty time and others don’t.  Some have major repair bills and others don’t.  Seems it is hit and miss whether you actually end up with something well built or not.

The dye in towels used to last for years, now when you buy new towels they continue to fade quickly.  Clothes sometimes fall apart at the seams when you wash them for the first time, buttons fall off, zippers break, etc.  Price doesn’t determine if the item will last or not.

A friend of mine recently purchased a bunch of new appliances at a large retail store known for their customer service.  They purchased a dishwasher, fridge, washer and dryer.  The fridge arrived with several large scratches on the front of the water dispenser, so the store shipped another one to replace it.  The second fridge was supposed to go through a separate inspection process beforehand because of the damage on the first fridge.  Unfortunately, the second fridge arrived with about 20 hairline scratches on the doors, but the water dispenser was good.  They are now waiting for a third fridge.

A few days later they had a new washer and dryer delivered.  The dryer worked for 2 minutes, quit completely and the store wanted to send a service technician out.  They asked for a new dryer instead because they didn’t want to have to wait for 10 days for the tech to come out, then the tech has to order a part and then it is another couple weeks before the part arrives, they install it, etc. The second new dryer arrived with a big 6″ round dent in the back of it, it works, but it had a service call error code yesterday, plus they found a small rivet in the dryer lint vent. They are now waiting for a third dryer and third fridge to be delivered.  

I had to wonder if their problem was a one off or if everything is made so cheaply that nothing lasts, etc. Do you have problems like this too? Things you buy arrived damaged from the factory, fall apart, etc.? Has quality and workmanship gone down hill for the sake of profit?  Sound off here!

Buying secondhand merchandise? Trying to sell your used items? What dangers lurk on websites that offer secondhand merchandise for sale? What do I need to know when I want to sell my stuff?

Ebay, Craigslist, your local buy and sell papers, etc., etc.   Sooner or later you may have to use one of these websites or papers to buy or sell something.  Before you purchase that item or list your item for sale there are things you may want to know…

Try to deal in cash only

When selling items ask for cash only and check it over.  Unfortunately, there have been incidents of counterfeit money being passed, along with fake bank drafts, bad cheques, etc. If you are purchasing items it is best to assume the seller wants cash.  If it is a large amount of money then make arrangements for the seller to meet you directly at your bank so they can see the bank draft being made up first hand.

Avoid long distance transactions when selling merchandise locally

Some people will claim they live out of state/province, have small children and will wire you cash before they arrive in your home town.  This is just a new twist on the getting your personal banking information scheme for fraud or identity theft purposes.

Truth in advertising

When listing an item for sale be honest on the item’s condition and age of the item.  Although, some buyers may not be fussy about the cat scratch on the sofa or the light scratches on the dining room table other buyers might be.  On the other end when looking to purchase merchandise always ask if there are scratches, niches, etc. before you drive out to see it, as different people have different ideas as to what is immaculate or what excellent condition means.  Even an item described as in good condition maybe in better condition than the item described as in excellent condition.

Protect yourself with Insurance and/or a signature upon delivery

When selling or purchasing items through an auction site it is best for the buyer and/or the seller to have the item shipped with insurance or at least a signature upon delivery. This avoids any conflict whether the item was actually delivered or lost by the post office themselves. Insurance is recommended for items that are valuable, collectable and for items that are fragile or have small parts. Sometimes the buyer may not want to pay extra for the insurance, in that case make sure the buyer understands that the seller is not responsible if the item arrives damaged or the package gets lost in the mail.

Too good to be true

If someone is selling a 6 month old fridge, a 9 month old sofa, etc., ask if they have the receipt and warranty.  The merchandise could be stolen.

Warranties

Be aware of the manufacturers warranty period for the item you are buying.  Is the warranty transferrable? Does the owner have the original receipt/warranty?  Sellers should dig up the original receipt/warranty or get a copy from the store/manufacturer if need be.

Beware of fakes/knock offs and antique replicas

Although most sites try to catch this due to counterfeit laws, items can and will slip through the cracks. Knowledge/research is power or your best defense. 

Barterers

Just like a garage sale some people will expect you sell something for next to nothing.  If you have a firm price then say $200.00 (firm) in your ad.  If you are purchasing an item and wish to barter, try not to be annoying in the process.  If a seller turns down your price don’t contact them every few days or every week to see if they changed their mind, just tell the seller to contact you if they change their mind about the price. 

Traders

Some people will offer to trade their merchandise for yours.  This is fine if you need the merchandise they are offering to trade, but other times it is a sign they may be strapped for cash.

Strapped for cash

A person selling their used merchandise is not your personal bank or credit card company.  If you don’t have the funds to purchase an item then arrange to borrow money from your family or friends instead. Sellers should not offer layaway plans and/or personalized payment plans.  One just has to watch court tv to see how many nice/understanding sellers get taken advantage of. 

No shows

Sometimes people forget or change their minds about coming to see the items you have for sale.  Make sure you have their name and telephone number on hand.  Plus, when arranging a time for a seller to see an item make sure you set a certain time or time period, so you are not waiting around all afternoon or evening for someone to show up.

Tire kickers

You may have a lot of lookers before you have any takers for a number of reasons.  Maybe the item is not in as good as condition as you advertised it or maybe you are expecting too high of a price compared to what buyers are willing to pay.  Be patient, how many times do you look at items in retail stores and not buy them either? 

Serious buyers only

Perhaps you are very busy, short on time, patience, etc.  Consider other alternatives like consignment stores, auctions, having a relative sell the merchandise on your behalf, etc.

Remember…

The majority of transactions go off without a hitch on these sites, but it never hurts to be prepared for potential problems or pitfalls before hand.

Are the new front loading washers as wonderful as they are made out to be? Thinking of buying a front loading washing machine? Do you own a front loading washing machine? Do you have problems with a front loading washing machine?

Seems like the latest, greatest and most popular front loading washing machines may not be so great after all. A lot of people are complaining that the front loading washing machines leave detergent and fabric softener stains on clothing, that the machines spin the clothes so hard that they are extremely wrinkled when they come out or have small holes in items and others say the front loaders have issues with mold and mildew.

If you are thinking of buying a front loading washing machine, perhaps you should do a internet search on the particular model and brand you are thinking of buying to see if a lot of people are complaining about issues mentioned above.

If you own a front loading washing machine and it has problem free, please let us know the make, model, year and how long you have owned it.  

On the opposite end, if you own a front loading washing machine and you have nothing but problems, please let us know the make, model, year and how long you have owned it and what kind of troubles you are having.

Are these machines living up to all their promises?

Before I rent that vehicle is there anything I should know about rental car companies?

Sooner or later we all have to rent a vehicle whether we are on vacation, traveling for business, moving to a new residence or when our car is in the shop, etc. The task of finding the vehicle you need on the dates you want, at the price you want can be time consuming at the best of times. Whether booking the same day, a few days in advance, weeks or months in advance, your booking choices are as varied as the number of rental car companies to choose from.  But, before you sign on the dotted line…

Things you may want to know...

It is the goal of every rental car company to rent out vehicles for the highest rate possible and to get you to reserve the vehicle right away before you have a chance to call the competition to compare prices. When you pick up your rental vehicle the company will ask you if you wish to purchase additional insurance, upgrade your vehicle to the next level, etc.  The rental car companies will offer you all these options starting with the cheapest one first.  Depending on how many of these options you agree to sometimes you can end up paying more for a smaller economy vehicle than if you would have originally reserved a higher end mid size or larger vehicle. 

Some people automatically say, “give me the cheapest rate you have on a small vehicle”, but the smallest vehicle may not necessarily be the cheapest rate depending on the rental demand at the time. Maybe a better phase would be: “what is the best rental rate you can give me?” 

You should also check the mileage policy rental car companies offer. This can vary from unlimited mileage to a set amount of miles/kilometers per day and others will charge you for every single mile/kilometer you put on the vehicle.  Once again, depending on the rental car companies mileage policy, a more expensive vehicle with unlimited mileage may be cheaper to rent, than a company who has a cheaper rental rate and charges for you for mileage.  

Other things to be aware of:

Not all rental car companies are created equal.  It is not unusual for extra charges to appear on your bill, check your bill over carefully.  If the rental car company is closed when you return the car, make sure you get a copy of the bill faxed to you or call the credit card company to verify the charges.  You can get charged for a gas fill up even though you filled the vehicle up with gas before you returned it, etc.  

Before you drive the rental vehicle off the lot.  Take your time and make sure all the damage on the vehicle is properly noted.  If you fail to notice some damage, you could get charged with repairing it even though you did not cause it.  

If the rental car company has a weird gasoline fill up level like 3/8 of a tank instead of full tank when returning the vehicle, this odd gasoline level can be open to interpretation.  Some rental car companies use this to their advantage to charge you extra for topping off fuel, even though you returned the vehicle with the proper amount of gasoline in it.  

Also, if a rental vehicle has been in a previous accident and has noticeable damage it is best to ask for another rental vehicle instead. Why you ask?  On vacation we rented a vehicle that had a smashed up front end that was not repaired by the rental car company.  We had arrived in the evening, so we drove the rental car directly from the airport to the hotel.  The next day we noticed that the tire kept leaking air where the front end was smashed and there was obviously additional problems that the rental car company did not fix from the previous accident.  So, we immediately drove the rental car back to the company, told them what was happening with the car and they gave us another car instead.  When we were finished our vacation and returned the rental car, the rental car company persisted that we caused the tire to leak air on the first rental car and tried to charge us $200.00 for a new tire on our bill.  We refused to pay it, stated the first rental car was already damaged from a previous accident, the tire problem was not our fault, etc.  What a hassle!  

Which brings me to another point.  Allow yourself plenty of time to return your rental vehicle before your flight.  That way you have the proper amount of time to look over your bill and dispute any additional charges if need be. 

You can also look up various rental car companies and the problems people have had with them on this site.  Just type in the rental car company name on the right hand side to view all the complaints. 

Remember…

To avoid any surprise charges it pays to go over that rental car bill with a fine tooth comb. We have been charged for an extra days rental, for fuel top offs and double state tax to name a few.  We rented a lot of vehicles for years and never ran into any extra billing problems, but we quickly learned in the rental car industry you can never say never when it comes to extra charges, its more like sooner or later it will happen to you. 

 

Shopping for furniture? Is there anything I should know before I buy new furniture?

Shopping for new furniture, the glamorous show rooms, all the driving around and the miles of walking in those large warehouses to find the perfect piece of furniture that suits your decor. Clearance furniture stores, high end furniture stores, furniture stores that can custom make your furniture, etc., etc.  But, with so many choices out there, what should you be looking for exactly?

To know what type of furniture store you just walked into carefully examine the floor models.  Are the majority of them in near perfect condition or is there scrapes, gouges, etc. in all the pieces?  There are furniture stores that specialize in selling seconds/damaged furniture. Usually the damage is close to the floor, a nick of out the wood trim, a small rip in the leather/fabric, the recline lever of a sofa not working, etc.  You may see the words liquidation, liquidators or clearance in the store name or then again maybe not. 

You may also see tent sales.  Tent sales usually consist of furniture that is damaged or a furniture line that has been discontinued that the store will no longer be stocking/selling.  Tent sales are common on long weekends.

Other furniture stores may have items you want to purchase stocked in their warehouse or they may have to order the furniture directly from the manufacturer for you.

Things you may want to know…

Before you purchase furniture examine the floor model carefully, look at the labels, how it is made, where it is made, etc.  Unfortunately, there are companies that have a higher end floor models on display, but are actually selling you a model that looks the same, but is not the same build quality.  Basically, a knock off. Although, this is considered false advertising, a bait and switch scheme, this can happen.  Usually the store will claim that the floor model is old and they had to switch manufacturers, etc. 

It pays to ask what the furniture stores policies are on the following:  

Furniture arrives damaged – what are the policies?  Can you get a refund, replacement, discount for the damage or do you just get a credit note to buy another piece of furniture at the same store?

Delivery and set up – Does the furniture company have its own delivery drivers or is it an independent firm doing their deliveries for them?  What is the delivery and set up policy?  Are they just going to drop off the furniture at your front door, only for you to have to haul it up two flights of stairs?  A major discount furniture chain who constantly runs late with their deliveries is known for this practice. They claim they will come back to haul it up your stairs and set it up for you.  Of course, many phone calls later, it is like pulling teeth to get them to come back to do so.

Warranties/guarantees – What happens if the piece of furniture breaks after a week, a month, etc.?  Does the store offer free repairs for a certain time period or are you on your own with the manufacturer directly? Also ask if there is a manufacturers warranty and what that consists of.  Some manufacturers warranties are better than others.

Extra charges – Sometimes you may think the furniture company is throwing in free leather cleaner for your new sofa, until your credit card bill arrives with an additional charge on it for the leather cleaner. If you receive extra items with your delivery, call the store to verify it or you maybe in for a surprise.

Remember…

When buying furniture it is better to ask too many questions, than to make any assumptions.

 

Are you being discriminated against and don’t know it?

It’s a little secret people don’t want you to know about.  You ask, how could I be discriminated against and not know it?  Well, this kind of discrimination has nothing to do with the color of your skin or nationality, it is to do with where you live. Yes, I said, “where you live” 

Things you may want to know….

A lot of people like to shop or hire people in the area they live in.  Lets face it, it’s a lot more convenient than running across town, getting quotes from businesses out of the area, etc., etc.  Unfortunately, if you live in or near a wealthier area of town you can end up paying more for goods and services because some businesses assume you can afford to do so.  This is a form of price discrimination.

What you can do…

Try to get quotes for goods & services from other companies outside of the area you live for comparison sake, especially if you live in or near a wealthier area of town.  You will be able to quickly weed out any business that is gouging you.  Usually their prices are three to five times higher than anyone else.

Remember…

A phone call here or there can sometimes save you some big bucks.  

 

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