Consumer Issues

September 21, 2008

The five hour Window

Filed under: consumers — Tomi @ 2:10 pm
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Ever had to deal with the five hour window? You know, the time frame giving by delivery men when you purchase items and by repair men too?  When we moved a few years ago I had to deal with so many five hour windows – appliance delivery, furniture delivery, phone installation, Satellite TV installation.  Just name it.  Everything had to have a five hour window however since we were just settling down, and everyone was on vacation, it was easy schedule for delivery at that time as someone was certain to be home.

Now that I need some repairs, I’ve recently had a series of the five hour window given that got me irked.  The most annoying of course was for a repair on my dryer. After clearing my schedule to be home at the stated time frame, I ended up waiting all day for the guy, then he calls 2 hours later than the stated time to tell me that he would not be able to make it that day  – he had run late at the previous job. I would have to reschedule for another day .  Of course when I did try to reschedule, I was given another five hour window and to make it even worse, they don’t work weekends.

Why can’t all these people just give you a specific time that they would be at your place and stick to time? Wouldn’t that be easier?  I’m told the reason for the five hour window is that most times jobs are schedule based on location and distance thus they tend to schedule for jobs depending on the closeness of the location and their arrival time at subsequent locations depend on when they finish from the first job.  It makes perfect sense except that there seems to be no consideration for people at work on weekdays.  How do these people expect you to be available for five hours straight? Well I think I finally figured it out – Don’t go to work on the scheduled day.  Period!.

That would seem sarcastic. But I simply can’t help it.  When trying to reschedule my repair appointment,  I couldn’t seem to get a reasonable time until I started venting my anger.  I my call got transferred from one party to the next then finally, I got to speak with the manager.  She did promise that due to the previous disappointment, she would make sure my job would be the first on the schedule for the appointed day that way I wouldn’t be waiting for too long.  Though hey did fulfill the promise, I’m left with a question what if on the appointed day for the job, the delivery man or the repair man also has his own five a window for a job at his home or office, what happens then? A vicious circle?

September 20, 2008

Cultivating the habit of financial discipline

Filed under: consumers,finance — Tomi @ 9:01 pm
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Financial Discipline requires both focus and self discipline. Attaining self sufficiency and wealth requires determination as well as hard-work. Below are some guidelines for developing a habit of financial discipline.

1. Limit your credit options. It is often said that the more credit you have access to the better it is for your credit. This is only true if you do not use the credit. However, if you have the habit of using up your credit, then the best option for you if you are determined to cultivate financial discipline is to limit your access to credit lines. Pay cash for the things you need. Whatever you cannot afford to pay cash for, either save up for it or forgo it. If you have to take on credit, try to limit it to capital items like a home which tends to appreciate in value.

2. Before buying a home, take the affordability challenge – 2x income and never go above that

3. Buy what you need NOT what you can afford

4. Think long term. Payoff and cancel excess credit cards newest cards first. Hold on to older cards as they give you a longer credit history. Canceling your credit cards might affect your credit score in the short term but the longer you go without dependence on credit lines, the better your credit score.

5. Invest excess cash. It is much easier to spend money that is readily available.

6. Save as much as you can. Clip coupons if you must. Compare prices for bargains. Try eBay.

7. Get organized, pay your bills on time. Sign up for email bill notifications (if you check your email regularly) otherwise try phone alerts – for bill payment notification. Set up bill payments on quicken, Microsoft money etc or set up auto pay via direct debit with your service provider.

8. Get rid of stuff you don’t need.

a. Donate and get a tax break (some charities will pickup from your home)

b. Sell it on eBay

An added bonus is that you get some free space around the house.

9. Learn to negotiate – you may be eligible to cut interest rates on your credit card. Call up your credit card company often (they won’t call you to tell you of your eligibility)

10. If you can’t make a payment some companies will let you skip a month without reporting to the credit bureau but only if you have previously paid on time.

11. If you have no rewards on your card, ask your credit card company to switch it for a rewards card, usually you get a new account number but if it’s the same company, the history from your previous card is transferred to the new card ex. Length of account etc. Some credit companies offer you cash back which you can get as a cheque or apply towards your payment.

12. Register for rewards = points, cash back etc. store cards (not credit cards) sometimes give you discounts on groceries (Vons, Albertsons, Shoprite, Ralphs, Wegmans etc). Most grocery stores these days have rewards cards which you register for free. For example the Shoprite card helps you earn cash back for Upromise eligible products and also when linked to your continental airlines Onepass account, gives you 1 mileage point for every 2 dollars spent (after the first $250 upon registration). It also offers your free cash for purchases on baby items via its own program called the baby bucks point and give you access to free turkey or ham – Thanks giving and Easter.

13. Have excess cash? Open a CD if you have money available now but which you would need at a specific later time. CDs usually have higher interest than regular savings. Some banks like Bank of America also offer risk free CD accounts though with a lower interest rate than the fixed CD the risk free CD gives you easy access to the money without penalties.

14. Go for quality rather than quantity when buying the stuff you need.

15. To cut your living costs, try discount shopping. Try wholesale clubs (Sam’s, Costco, BJs) especially for non perishable items. For perishable items, the wholesale clubs might not be worth it except you have a large family. For items like for clothes (Marshalls , Ross, TJ Maxx),for shoes ( try the discount aisle at DSW, famous footwear and payless shoes amongst others). Some of these stores even have home products and Walmart as well as Target are always a cool place to go for reasonable priced items.

August 23, 2008

EXTENDED WARRANTY

Filed under: Random posts — Tomi @ 1:55 pm
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Most times when I buy appliances and electronic items from the store, I generally avoid buying extended warranty not because I didn’t believe in its validity, it was simply because I thought it was an excuse for the sellers to get more money out of you for that item.  My take on it was that the item would have to be replaced sometime and so why pay more?  Also the extended warranty has a limited time frame and if the item does not have a problem before the warranty expires I would simply have paid more money for the item than it was worth unfortunately, the money was not refundable.  Again, if I don’t want the purchased warranty to expire, I would have to renew it on a yearly basis and so suddenly, I have an annuity on the item.  However, I found a good deal at the store a three years ago on a major appliance however, it was an open item, a floor model, brand new but it had been sitting out for a while, it seems too good a deal to pass over (the cost was half the price of the in-box item) and so I decided that I’ll purchase the item and an extended warranty that way, I was covered in case of any problem.  Also, the cost of the item and the cost of the extended warranty was still going to be less than the cost of the in-box item.

The appliance has worked well for the three years I’ve had it but the other day, it suddenly decided to malfunction.  When I discovered it had a problem I wasn’t much perturbed since I had the extended warranty service.  My! was I happy I had purchased that service.  Without much ado, I picked up the phone to make a service appointment. First shocker I got, I had not registered the extended warranty and until that was done, I could not make an appointment for service.  Second shocker, the registration required that I had the original purchase receipt as the service contract number was printed on it.  Well, since I had no idea that I had to register the service to activate it and the appliance was over three years old, I simply did not have the receipt.  However,  I needed the original receipt, to activate hence I had to go back in the store where I made my purchase to request for a duplicate of the receipt. 

To get a duplicate of the receipt, I needed to have the credit card which I had used for the receipt and the date of the transaction.   I frantically delved in to my credit card statement for the past three years in search of the transaction.  Luckily, I had an idea of when I made the purchase, so I didn’t have to go searching for long before I found it and it was back to the store. I was told I needed to speak to the book keeper but she wasn’t available at the time, so I had to call her on the phone to leave a message.  I also had to call back a number of times before I finally got to speak with her.   Now another shocker the duplicate was going to take about ten to fourteen business days since the bookkeeper from the store had to send the request to the corporate headquarters where the old receipts were kept and because it could not be mailed, the store would have to call me after it arrived at the store and I would have to make an appointment to pick it up.

Eventually, I got the receipt and called the extended warranty department back  to activate the service contract.  For the registration processing, I had to wait another 2 days before I could schedule a service appointment.  Two days later, I called back again and listened to 45 minutes of please continue to hold messages and music before I was able to schedule an appointment.  Unfortunately, the technician would not be able to come over until 2 weeks later and of course I had the five hour window (see my blog on the five hour window) to deal with.  The whole process was beginning to get annoying, but since I  had purchased extended warranty,  already, I could not bring myself to check the yellow book for a certified technician in the area to check out the problem I would be paying twice. I had no choice but to wait it out.

Finally, two weeks later, the technician showed up to check up my appliance and after looking it over, He discovered that the problem was not covered by the warranty (can you imagine!) and so even though I didn’t have to pay a trip charge because of the extended warranty contract, I still I had to pay for the part.  Also, he would have to be order the part first and after it was delivered to me, I would have to call back to schedule a different appointment for the repair. This  for me was the tip of the iceberg.  Not only did I end up paying more for the item, I had a lot of time wasted just waiting for service during which I could not use my appliance and then what I thought would be the service ended up being nothing but a diagnostics test and the repair didn’t happen until three weeks later (one week for parts delivery and another two weeks for the repair appointment). My conclusion, I probably would have been better off without the extended warranty contract. I I had found someone from the yellow book, I probably would have gotten the problem checked out and fixed sooner than it took with the service contract either way I would have paid for the part.  It is more likely that I would have paid the guy from the yellow book a bit more on labor.  Thus it looks like without the extended warranty that I could have paid more for the repair yet when I look at the time cost and the cost of the warranty which eventually wasn’t as useful as I had imagined, coupled with the fact that I could not use the appliance until it was fixed, buying the extended warranty service didn’t look like such a good deal after all. That’s why I decided, no more extended warranty contracts for me.

August 2, 2008

Enjoying the rest of the Summer

Filed under: Random posts — Tomi @ 3:20 am
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On a budget this summer? You are not alone. With the recent historical increases in oil prices and the subsequently higher transport costs many families are rethinking their summer plans. Here are some great ideas to help you get the most of the remaining summer days without breaking the bank.

Summer is half gone yet due to the sudden frequency of longer flight times and flight cancellations, as well as increasing driving costs, lots of families are having to rethink their plans for summer vacations.  Yet with school on break and children home most of the day, getting outdoors and making the most of the warm days of summer remains a high priority for most families especially those of us living in areas with winter snow storms. Many are seeking solutions for summer vacations closer to home.

Here is a list of things to do that would help get the crank out of summer and bring you and your kids some summer fun summer without breaking the bank.

1. Free Summer Concerts: In most township, you’ll find free summer concerts in township parks and other open spaces. Check out your local arts council and local library for information on concerts around you.

2. Go to the local park: Go to a park near you and have a picnic or fly a kite. Most parks also have playground equipments (like swings and slides) for kids

3. Take a walk: Take a walk outside. You’ll be amazed to see that even in your yard you can discover the best of nature – look out for lady bugs, beetles and butterflies take pictures of them (a digital camera would be very useful for this) and go to http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/Animals/CreatureFeature/ and see if you can identify the species in your picture then read up on them to give your kids a genuine first hand lesson in science and nature.

4. Go to the beach: If you happen to live close by a beach go on a visit and play tag, Frisbee etc. Hunt for shells and use to make a craft.

5. Get out in your yard and kick a soccer ball, throw a Frisbee or play hide and seek.

6. Get some flower pots and plant a seed/ or grow a garden in your yard. Watch the seed grow. Your young one might surprise you by eating veggies he’d grown by himself.

7. Read a book.

8. Try some indoor crafts: check your local craft store for some easy craft ideas. Also search your local library for “The world of children” by Caxton. The series is old but very handy. Volume 4 of this series has some pages with ideas for toys made with paper.

9. Visit the state aquarium or a nearby zoo.

10. Last but not the least make a journal of the things you’ve seen and done this summer and have memories to last a lifetime. For little ones too young to read find coloring pages relating to the activity (try www.coloring.ws/coloring.html) ask them what they remember and write their response for them collate the pages to make a book. Their very own story.

ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER.

July 11, 2008

The Fine Print

Filed under: consumers,Random posts — Tomi @ 10:58 pm
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Buying something new, most of the time, the average consumer rarely bothers with the fine prints and that is exactly what the manufacturers, service providers and all those who put the fine prints there are counting on. 

What is “the fine print”? It in those small parts of your agreements and contracts written in such small prints you’ll need to use both a glasses and a magnifying glass together to read it.  While most times  consumers avoid reading the fine print, it is indeed essential especially in signing a contract that we take the time to read it.

Why do we need to read “the fine print”?  Let’s put it this way, the one who is providing the service is putting the fine print there as a means of protecting themselves in case a problem arises and in case of litigation the main reason why it is written in such small prints is that if you had the chance to read it most times, you’d actually think twice about going ahead with the contract since you as the consumer are not covered in case a problem arises. The provider on the other hand is well protected.

I do feel a lot of problems in the housing market, could have been prevented if most lenders were more forthcoming with information instead of putting the pertinent information in “the fine print”. A lot of good people signed mortgages without adequately understanding the details of their agreements.

These days you buy a new computer or phone, sign up for a service, almost everything even radio and TV advertisements has fine prints.  I listened to a radio Ad the other day and the offer was extremely tempting but at the end of the jingle, a man reeled off these words and sentences that left me so amazed. I first thought it was a part of the offer until I finally caught a few phrases and realized the fast speech I was hearing the fine print of the ad. I couldn’t understand his speech for the most parts, but the I did deduce at the end  that I was better off not taking on the offer being advertised.  

Does this mean we should avoid purchasing new products or taking on new contracts.  Not at all I’m simply saying that a lot problems have arisen from people not having enough information about what they are taking on and as such my advice is that everyone takes time to read the fine print so that they would be full aware of the risks involved in whatever contract or agreement they are signing thus if they do go ahead to sign the contract they would be full prepared in case a problem arises.

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