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April 30, 2004

HOT! Konica Minolta 1350W Laser Printer for < $20 (+tax on $180) AR/LPG or BVG - VALID: 5/2/04-5/8/04

My latest Hot Deal, posted at FW:

NOTE: This deal is valid Sunday, 5/2/04 - Saturday, 5/8/04.

1) This deal requires either AMEX BVG or Chase LPG (PM to B&M)

2) Purchase the 1350W from OfficeMax (#20726369) for $179.99 - $80 Rebate (20726369)

3) LPG or BVG to Staples' $99.98 (no-rebate) price (ad)

+$179.99
+$tax
-$80.00 MIR
-$80.01 LPG or BVG
=$19.99 + tax

Enjoy!

Flight Tactics 2

Good News: Starwood finally got around to crediting the GOODWILL GESTURE points to my account. Even better, instead of giving me 500, they gave me 1,000.

Bad News: Thus far, the points haven't transferred over to BA, so it may not help.

Kodak T-shirt

I love free t-shirts. Even though I already have over 50 T-shirts, why not get another, from Kodak. I'm particularly amused how one of the survey questions is:
What is your primary reason for visiting today?
* Find information on black & white reversal film
* Get technical data sheets
* To register for t-shirt giveaway
* Just Surfing

April 29, 2004

UPDATE: CSS Claims

Since it's been more than a month since I filed the CSS claims for a camera and some books, I figured I should call to find out why I haven't heard anything. When I inquired, the CSR informed me that both claims were approved, and the checks would be mailed shortly. :)

Company Crud: Amazon

I'm in a mood to rant, so here goes. Amazon.com lists lots of items as "Usually ships in 24 hours." And if you choose One- or Two-Day Shipping, the shipping estimate is indeed the following day. But if you choose Standard Shipping or FREE Super Saver Shipping, the estimated ship date is delayed 4-5 days!

Poll: What's it Gonna Be?

Well, seeing how the time has just about come, and people have been weighing in more than ever, I figured I'd seek out people's guesses as to what it is, and when it will be born...

FreE-Mail

Many years ago I signed up for a "free for life" forwarding address from a company called iName.com. They have since been bought by mail.com.

The forwarding address was convenient - it was easy to remember, and would forward to wherever my real email address actually existed. When I changed email providers, I didn't have to notify anyone.

A couple years ago, they alerted me that they wouldn't be able to provide free forwarding anymore - either pay or be switched to a web-mail account. I wasn't willing to pay, so eventually they switched me to the web-mail account.

It wasn't very convenient, and I hated their interface because it was slow and ad-laden. I started switching to alternate email addresses, and avoiding the account. However, I do occasionally get email there, so I try to check every now and then. They even began to offer a free program, "Mail.com Alert," which hangs out in the taskbar and pops up when new mail arrives. This allowed me to only need to check when ... new mail arrived!

Over the last few months, the amount of spam has gone from a lot to tons. I get many pieces each day, compared to virtually none at most of my other accounts (many of my email providers actively apply various technologies to remove/prevent spam). This led me to wonder why.

I came to the conclusion that in their business model of advertising based revenue, it is actually to their benefit to allow, or even support, spam. The more spam, the more email I think I have, the more times I log in, the more ads they get to show, the more money they make!

April 27, 2004

OT: Hot Shot

I was at an event last night, and a waiter brought out beers on a platter, but didn't get close enough to me to offer me one before he got distracted. The guy next to me was within arm's reach, and grabbed one for me. However, instead of passing it to me, he proceeded to use the back of his knife to pry the cap off of the bottle. "I learned that trick from a friend," he remarked proudly. "Then I guess I shouldn't tell you that it was a screw-top," I replied.

April 26, 2004

OM Dispute Continues: An Uphill Battle 2

I finally posted the letter.

April 23, 2004

Name Change

Due to the unpronounceability of $uperman, I have changed my name to FatWallach, a nickname coined by Alex.

Flight Tactics

Airlines have it good. They whine, they complain, they file for bankruptcy (then remain in business for years to follow). But in the end, most do fine.

However, they compete, a little, with each other. While there is no question in my mind that in general they are in cahoots with each other, there is a bit of competition that takes place every once in while. Each airline is always looking for a way to get ahead, cut costs, attract more passengers, etc.

And it was to this end that the various Frequent Flier programs were born. Once an airline got you to fly once or twice, you'd want to continue flying that airline, to accrue enough miles for a free ticket.

But over time, ticket costs decreased, flying increased, and accrued miles increased as well. So many free tickets were being redeemed that airlines were losing money, so they changed the rules. They instituted rules that govern the maximum number of seats per flight available for free tickets and increased the number of miles required to obtain a free ticket (20,000 -> 25,000 for domestic in most cases).

Nonetheless, deals remain.

Having never flown British Air, I had 0 miles on the airline until recently. However, our two trips to Europe, combined with 10,000 miles each from a Jaguar test drive promotion brought our household* account up to 49,366, just shy of 2 domestic tickets. I've since been looking for easy ways to earn a few more miles.

We once stayed in a Sheraton Hotel, for which I earned 250 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Later, I took a Starpoints survey, and earned another 250 points. As I began to research transferring points, I discovered that Starpoints can be converted to British Air miles, but given that I a) still don't have enough Starwood points to hit the 50,000 mile mark, and b) can't convert less than a certain minimum number of Starwood points (2,500 for ordinary folk), that didn't help.

So I've been working on ways of earning a few more, without going to any great expense (one can buy miles from British, but it's $27.50 for 1,000, plus a $25 transaction fee, which is entirely too much.

During my investigation, I discovered that you can have your Starwood account set to automatically transfer newly earned Starwood points to British Air, and signed up for the service. (Since the service only transfers points as they're earned, it didn't move my existing 500 points.)

Then I did nothing for quite a while, until I was sent to a conference in DC, and chose the Sheraton hotel over another hotel because of these points (these loyalty programs do work). I earned 300 points for my one night stay.

Just yesterday I got an email regarding my latest Starwood statement being available, and went to check it. By now I had completely forgotten about the points transfer service, so when I saw 300 points earned, and 300 points deducted by British Air, I was confused. I called Starwood to find out what happened, and the CSR explained the transfer agreement to me, which refreshed my memory, and I was satisfied. But entirely of the CSR's own accord, he offered 500 points to make up for the confusion, which I readily accepted. (He also asked if I wanted to maintain the points transfer service!) It will be a few days before they're credited, but if they auto-transfer to BA, I'll be all set! If not, I'll still have a few hundred miles to go.

*British Air has a nice feature that allows up to 4 people in the same house to combine their miles towards redemption.

OM Dispute Continues: An Uphill Battle

While it was previously unclear which way my CC, MBNA, was leaning, it's now blatant. They rejected my claim. I called my credit card company to complain about how they dealt with the situation (i.e. not taking my side). Their "problem," which I understand (but don't accept), is that I have no written proof of the credit that I am due. (Of course the fact that this is because they informed me of the credit over the phone is of no concern to MBNA.) I then called OM to confirm that the record for the order shows a request for credit, which it did. I asked that they send it to me, and CSR went to check with her supervisor, and then I was disconnected (intentionally or not, you decide). I called back, and the next CSR absolutely refused to send it to me. So I called MBNA, and suggested that to further investigate my case, they call OM and ask about the order record. While at first it seemed the CSR might actually go along with this idea, she decided not to because even if OM did have the information I claimed they did, it still wouldn't be in writing (if she heard it over the phone). Oddly, however, she offered to call OM and ask for a refund.

Well, why not let her give it a try. I gave her OM's number and was put on hold. Quite some time later, she came back to tell me that she was on hold, then promptly put me back on hold. A few minutes later she was back, conferenced with an OM CSR. The OM CSR actually sounded interested in helping until she opened my order an read all the notes. This time, however, the CSR claimed that there was nothing in the record about the request for credit. I went around and around with the OM CSR while the MBNA CSR listened. The OM CSR kept saying that coupons can't be combined with special offers, I kept saying that the bottom line is I was promised a credit, and never received it. Eventually the MBNA CSR got tired or the endless back and forth, and let the OM CSR off the hook. When it was just the two of us, we continued the discussion. She kept repeating that without something in writing, they couldn't get the credit from OM's bank. At one point she said, "I can't get the credit from OM, but could probably credit you $15."

Well, $15 is a start, and I accepted that offer, but asked for confirmation of the credit in writing. She told me she couldn't provide it to me, but that it would appear tonight. "Oh, just like the OM CSR promised that I'd get a credit," I said to her. "No, I'm not like the OM CSR. This credit will actually show up," she replied. At this point I cut off the CSR, who was getting increasingly defensive, to point out that I didn't really need a written confirmation from her, but I was just trying to point out the futility of trying to get written confirmation of a credit phone offered by phone. She seemed to sort of get the idea, but not entirely.

Regardless, I'm still annoyed at OM, so I am pursuing the battle. I wrote a strongly worded angry letter to the president of Boise.

April 27, 2004

Mr. Christopher Milliken
Division President and Chief Executive Officer
Boise Corporate Headquarters
1111 West Jefferson Street
P.O. Box 50
Boise, ID 83728-0001

RE: OfficeMax Order #XXXXXXXXX

Dear Christopher Milliken:

Up until the end of February 2004, I had been a frequent customer of OfficeMax, often spending several hundred dollars per month between catalog, online, and in-store purchases. However, that all changed when OfficeMax did not follow through with their promise.

On February 17, 2004, I placed an order online for a Lexmark printer (Item #2043-8698). The price online was higher than the price in the weekly advertisement, so I called OfficeMax to request an adjustment. The customer service representative with whom I spoke informed me that I would receive a credit for the difference, $49.99 plus tax (for a total of $54.24).

However, a week later, I discovered that no credit was showing from OfficeMax on my statement. When I called back to find out why I wasn’t credited, I was informed that OfficeMax would not credit me because I had used a coupon with my order.

I have two problems with this situation. First, while I understand that OfficeMax now defines a weekly sale as a “special offer” and therefore considers it to be not combinable with a coupon, this has not always been the case (and is an outrageous definition). Second, and more importantly, OfficeMax did not follow through with their agreement. The bottom line is that my acceptance of the sale was because I was promised a credit by OfficeMax.

I have since reduced my OfficeMax purchases, and try to avoid the store (and online/phone catalogs) as much as possible, because this experience soured my relationship with your stores. If I cannot trust the customer service representatives, I can not, and will not, shop in your stores.

In closing, would you please advise me as soon as possible if OfficeMax (now via Boise Office Solutions) is still interested in doing business with me, or if what has happened here is your not so subtle way of telling me to buy my office supplies and technology wares elsewhere.

If you wish to retain me as a customer, rectify this situation immediately by crediting me the amount that I was promised. In the event that you are unable to do so, you will permanently lose a customer, and I will be certain to share my experiences with my family, friends, and co-workers.

Sincerely,
David Wallach

April 22, 2004

Infone 2

For those interested in getting a $10 Amazon.com GC, use this link to sign-up for Infone, which I praised back in March.

OT: Great Literary Taunts

"I feel so miserable without you, it's almost like having you here."
-Stephen Bishop

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."
-Winston Churchill

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
-Irvin S. Cobb

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
-Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
-William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."
-Samuel Johnson

"He had delusions of adequacy."
-Walter Kerr

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
-Groucho Marx

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."
-Thomas Beckett Reed

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
-Forrest Tucker

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
-Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
-Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."
-Oscar Wilde

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
-Oscar Wilde

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
- Billy Wilder

Free Admission to TECHXNY

I just got my email offer for free admission to TECHXNY. Use source code IETBA1 if you want to register, too.

April 21, 2004

Blockbuster Rental 3

For the third time, Blockbuster has issued a 99˘ Rental Coupon. This one is valid through 4/30/04.

April 20, 2004

UPDATE: A70 Repair

I got my A70 back today, but I won't be able to test it until I get home tonight. I'd rate their repair service so-so. I sent them my camera on 4/5, with the packing slip from the original purchase. I called them on 4/15 to check on it, and they informed me that I would have to pay $114.05 for the repairs, since they didn't have any warranty info on the camera. After I explained that the camera was under warranty, and that I had sent in proof, they allowed me to fax in the packing slip. They got the fax, fixed the camera, and shipped it out by 4/16. Provided that the repair was successful, I'll be satisfied.

My primary frustration was with their inability to read the included packing slip, which I know they didn't lose, since they mailed it back to me with the camera. Had I not called, I wouldn't have even known there was a problem until their snail mail letter showed up (yesterday)!

April 18, 2004

UPDATE: Finding 'Money'

Just in the nick of time, I sent in the $5 rebate on the Oral-B toothbrush I bought back in December. For no apparent reason, I neglected to let you know that I received the check in the beginning of March.

April 16, 2004

Pathmark Coupons

It seems that every time I create a bunch of Pathmark Coupon weekly pages, the Pathmark people change things. Case in point: I recently added pages through the beginning of July. All of a sudden, Pathmark stops making the second "English" coupon. Do I care? Not enough to fix the pages.

Plagiarism?

I'm not sure why, but a site called CheapBastard is using my posts on their pages ... http://www.cheapbastard.biz/2004/03/newegg_begins_to_hatch.html

April 14, 2004

Blockbuster Rental 2

Back by popular demand, Blockbuster spammed the world with another 99˘ Rental Coupon. Use it by Sunday (when it expires).

Rebate Challenges 4

It may well have been the BBB complaint that caused my rebate to appear. Today I got an email from the BBB, forwarding Gigafast's "response" to my complaint:
Customer has a valid rebate of $25. There was a recent problem with the rebate company and Gigafast, the check will be mailed out in the next 2 weeks. We apologize for the delay, however, the customer will receive the rebate within 4 weeks.

A "problem" between the rebate company and Gigafast. Yeah, right!

Free Digital Picture Prints

Free digital prints are always a good thing. There are two current deals:

Target - 25 free digital prints

CVS - 10 free digital prints

UPDATE: The Target link above doesn't seem to work anymore, but here's a direct link to the coupon: 25 free digital prints

April 13, 2004

Another (Konica) Minolta 2

Jay IMs me to inform me of the "Tuesday" $80 rebate on the 1350W printer (which is actually valid through Wednesday) that he bought last week. It's a bit difficult to pull off, because it is for Staples.com purchases only. The best chance of getting it is calling the rebate center, getting the name of a CSR who OKs doing a re-buy in-store, then sending in the packing slip with the new receipt and a note. If/when the rebate is rejected, a call should resolve the problem, and bring a profit of $10-20 to Jay.

UPDATE: I also sent Jay to PriceGrabber, for their $5 Bonus rebate, for writing a review.

Rebate Challenges 3

Whether it was the BBB complaint, the OM complaint, the phone calls, or that they finally got around to mailing the rebates on their own, my Gigafast rebate finally came!

April 9, 2004

Tax Time 2

Success! In a fairly impressive 10 days, I got my Federal Tax refund! Go Uncle Sam!

April 8, 2004

OM Dispute Continues

I finally did file the dispute with my credit card over OM's failure to follow their own policies. The CC company sent me a letter summarizing the situation, asking for my signature. It's not clear which direction they're leaning yet, or even if they are. CBS had a remotely interesting article on CC disputes a few months back.

Lost in Translation

Somebody from Germany, searching for tough love vs. spanking most of america's populace thinks it very improper, came across my OT: Tough Love vs. Spanking post. I hope he understood enough English to realize the page wasn't serious. But then again, it's funnier if he didn't!

Another (Konica) Minolta

I'm not sure why, but Minolta loves giving their printers away for great prices. Their laser printers are fast, small, and pretty decent quality. I originally got my 1250W back in February 2003, for $31.45. I later ordered one for my parents in June 2003, for $140; and another for my friend in November 2003, for $82.45. In January I bought a 1350W for my parents, for about $32.

Today, as another friend was about to buy ink for his Lexmark inkjet, I dissuaded him, and he is currently in the process of trying to pull off a $67 FW deal for a 1350W. It is a little iffy, as it involved a PM/coupon combination, but at worst he should be able to get it for under $100.

The funny thing is that toner feels more expensive. When I bought a replacement toner, it cost $62.55 after tax and coupon, but was worth it because it was twice as large as the toner the new printers come with.

Blockbuster Rental

Blockbuster spammed the world with a 99˘ Rental Coupon. Use it by Sunday (when it expires).

5,000 Viewers

Yesterday this blog logged it's 5,000th page load!

Buy.com Remembers

Buy.com finally got around to charging me for the Phone Cord Coupler that was delivered on 3/24. I'm surprised, but not shocked.

April 5, 2004

A70 Repair

The shutter button on my Canon Powershot A70 has been loose for the last few months, and it's been requiring a harder and harder push to get the camera to take a picture. For this reason, I shipped the camera to Canon today for repairs. They claim a turnaround of 7-15 days. We'll see...

UPDATE: C Spot Drive

Yesterday was the C Spot Drive Party. We arrived at roughly 11 am, filled out the registration/waiver forms, then exchanged them for bracelets and ID-esque cards (without names) that hung from lanyards. Inside, there was an orientation already in progress, which we skipped, grabbed some free drinks (looked at the free food), then proceeded outside.

There were a number of cars on display, plus two courses. On the right, there was a single line to wait for a race-car driver to whisk you around the course at high-speed, pushing the car to the limits. On the left, there were a series of lines for test driving different car models on a shorter track.

We headed for the right side first, moved through the line, and were treated to a great ride. I sat up front, with my wife and Lippy in the back. There were portions of the track that were wet, which I originally thought was due to the inclement weather, but later discovered was intentional. Our driver spoke to us throughout the drive, and expressed frustration at one point. He was trying to fishtail, but couldn't - the car's traction was too good. Near the end, he really pushed the car, and was finally able to get a little spin out of the back tires.

Next we went to test drive, and selected the C320 Sport Coupe. While waiting in line, I observed a water truck spraying water on the course, and realized that they were wetting the course intentionally, in an attempt to show off the traction control and ABS braking of the cars, not to mention their 4matic 4-wheel drive technology. In fact, they also had a demo between the two lines, driving a 4matic car up a sloped ramp, whose surface was mostly covered with rollers, but had some high-traction patches. Because of our place in line, we were not able to observe the demo, but we could tell that the car didn't fall off. After waiting in line for a very long time, we finally reached the front. Since my wife didn't want to test drive, she came with me, and we buckled in, then advanced to the starting line. There was a guy whose primary function was to space the cars out on the track, but also served to give a few last minutes warnings, and we were off.

Because of the setup of the course (very curvy), it was difficult to attain particularly high speeds, but we had fun nonetheless. Since there was only one C320 Sport Coupe, Lippy couldn't go until we returned, and we were granted the opportunity to watch him ramble about the course.

After we completed the test drive, we all felt the race-car driver version was more fun, and went back in line there. Both my wife and Lippy wanted to sit in the front this time, so she and I went together, and he went alone (though MB through someone else in the back seat, to keep the line moving). Both of our second drivers were less fun than the first (though having driven the same course 300+ times in two days does probably get boring).

We stopped inside for more drinks, and my wife got in line for the free massages. Lippy and I wandered about, checked out the dumb MSN Watches (we messed with the guy, asking how to input data into the watch and when it will synch with mail programs other than Outlook). We also went to visit the portable restrooms, which were not port-a-potties by any stretch of the imagination. These restrooms were located in a trailer, had faux marble walls with authentic wood trim, potpourri, framed pictures hanging on the walls, etc. It was quite an experience to behold.

At the exit we filled out the survey, and received our thank you bags - containing an MB-logo hat and various pieces of junk - such as a $1500 off coupon for a C-series purchase. Though it wasn't the most amazing thing in the world, it was certainly 2.5 hours well spent.

UPDATE: Another Target GC

Back in December I signed up for a program called American Homeowners Association, for a fee of $1.95. In exchange, I was to receive a $25 GC to Target within 6-8 weeks. After that time passed, I called a few times to check on the status. Each time I was told that the only holdup was the fact that they ran out, and the new shipment hadn't yet arrived. Well, on Friday the GC finally arrived. I called the number on the back to confirm the $25 value on the card, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the GC has no expiration. Of course it may charge a maintenance fee until there is simply no balance left, but I'm sure I'll spend it before that happens.

April 2, 2004

Expiring Coupons: Staples 2

In my haste to order before the coupon expired, I chose the Sandisk 128MB Cruzer Mini, which Staples sells for $39.99. For those of you who didn't pay attention to the original post, the coupon was "only" for $30 off, so it cost $10.85 after tax. While that's a good price for a 128 MB USB drive, it's not great. While perusing next week's OM ad this evening I discovered that they will have 3 models of 128 MB USB drives for about $30 ($20 AR). Perfect for price matching, I thought, but it turns out all three models are other brands. But it did remind me to think about price matching the USB drive, and after a quick visit to PriceGrabber, I discovered two things:

1) Buy.com has the drive for $29.99. After a quick call* to Staples, they performed a 110% PM, returning $11.95 to my card. At this point the cost of the drive is -$1.10.

2) PriceGrabber is offering a bonus $5 rebate for people to write reviews for this drive. If I do that and send in the rebate, I end up with a $6 profit!

*This PM was so easy, even the CSR commented on how easy it was!

April 1, 2004

Expiring Coupons: Staples

This is the second in a series of close saves. I really have to be more careful. Yesterday I realized that I had two valuable coupons that were expiring yesterday! The second was my $30 Staples Business Rewards check (which acts like a $30 off $30 coupon).

At some point past midnight, I realized that I had the coupon, and that it officially expired on 3/31/04, which had already passed, at least on the East Coast. I figured I'd try to use the coupon (sadly, from past experience I knew that the checks remain valid for some time after their expiration date). But first I had to find something to buy.

I searched the website a bit, looking for something - anything - to buy, and eventually settled on a 128 MB USB drive (one can never have enough). I started the checkout process, went to enter my coupon, and was informed that the coupon was expired. Next, I proceeded to call Staples to place the order by phone. I told the CSR the item number and the check/coupon code, and all went well. I should receive my drive on Friday.

OT: Tough Love vs. Spanking

From a friend:

Most of America's populace thinks it very improper to spank children, so my spouse and I have tried other methods to control our son when he has one of "those moments."

One method that we found very effective is for me to just take the child for a car ride and talk.

He usually calms down and stop misbehaving after our little car ride together. I've included the photo below of one of my sessions with our son, in case you would like to use the technique.

It's very effective!

Expiring Coupons: Ofoto

I really have to be more careful. Yesterday I realized that I had two valuable coupons that were expiring yesterday! The first was for $10 worth of free printing at Ofoto. Combined with the 10 free prints they give you when you sign up, I got 45 prints for just $2.66 (including shipping), which works out to under 6 cents per print. However, it took a lot of effort to get the order in.

I uploaded most of the pictures that I wanted printed earlier in the day, when I had access to a high speed connection. In the evening, as I was finalizing the order, I was trying to figure out how Ofoto would combine the 10 free pictures with the $10 coupon, so I entered the coupon, only to be told by the Ofoto system that the coupon would only remain valid during the same session - but I was connected via dial-up! So I proceeded to start uploading a few pictures, which I estimated would take nearly half an hour at my connection speed. After 20-something minutes, the window that was tracking indicating the upload was in process closed (theoretically indicating that that upload was complete). However, when I tried to load the main Ofoto page to add the newly uploaded pictures to my cart, it wouldn't load. It seemed as though Ofoto had died, and it was confirmed by a friend of mine via AIM. A few minutes later I was able to access the site, only to find that the pictures that I had uploaded, hadn't. They weren't there! Next I checked to see if the coupon was there, and to my surprise, it was.

I proceeded to burn the pictures I wanted to upload to a CD, to bring them to a neighbor (who has DSL)'s house. When I got there, the DSL wasn't working, but I fixed it, and went to upload my pictures, only to find that Ofoto was down again. I waited a few minutes, Ofoto came back up, I uploaded the pictures (which took surprisingly long), and returned home to complete the order, only to find that the coupon had finally disappeared. Fearing the worst, I tried to re-enter it, and the system accepted it!