Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

December 10, 2017

Order Fails

One sign you’re doing too much shopping? A number of orders get messed up all at once. Tomorrow I need to call three different companies and ask “What the heck?!”

The first is the photography company that does the school photos at Nicole’s school. The level of fail with these guys is impressive. I paid for Nicole’s Kindergarten portrait back at the end of August. I volunteered on picture day. I saw her get her photo taken and physically handed the check & order form to the photographer.

In October Nicole’s teacher sent out an email reminding parents of retake day the next day in case they weren’t happy with their proofs. What proofs? I went through Nicole’s bookbag and the parent folder. Nothing. I double checked my check had been cashed in August. Fearing a mixup I signed Nicole up for retakes, just in case. Worse comes to worse I’d pay for two sets of photos. First thing in the morning I called the company asking about the missing proofs. They didn’t have a record of Nicole having her photo taken (besides the cashed check) but it didn’t seem like this situation was too unusual, and they said they’d look into it.

In early November I got an email from the photography company. They couldn’t find Nicole’s missing photo and would be returning my money. I asked if they had her photo from retake day. No response.

In December, a full 3 months after I paid for the silly things, I finally received Nicole’s official Kindergarten portraits. They were all the quality you’d expect from a school photo, but at least they were non-theoretical!

The company takes the kids’ photos against a green screen, so I decided to order another image with a different color background that goes better with Nicole’s complexion. Unlike my first order, this one came quickly, but came watermarked! Tomorrow I will be calling and asking for the Non-watermarked version.

The second issue is with my Target bookshelf order. Domingo and I are setting up a Homework/project nook area in the living room. We needed a place to store Nicole’s book bag that wasn’t the middle of the floor (where it currently is.) The space is small, and there’s a window with a ledge so I needed the two-tiered, 2 shelf case. The 3-tiered one arrived. I’m sure in most cases that would be a nice surprise upgrade, but it doesn’t fit!

The final issue is with the light up deer lawn decorations we ordered. The baby deer is missing a piece. Not an important piece, we can make do without it, but we shouldn’t have to!


Edited to Add:

And the photography company continues to impress me with their level of fail. The customer service rep kept insisting that all images come watermarked (then why didn’t my first order?) and Walmart (their suggestion) can remove the watermark for me if I were to take the digital image file to them to print (Ridiculous. The technology to do it is in it’s infancy and not publicly available. Besides, there are legal implications for a commercial entity to remove someone else’s watermark).

We are out of luck with the bookshelf. The two tiered version is out of stock, and no longer listed on Target’s page. I’m dissappointed because it was an awesome deal on a really cute bookshelf that’s twice as expensive anywhere else, but they’re letting me keep the three tiered one for free. I can maybe make it work somewhere else in the house, just not for the intended purpose. At least I’m no worse off than if I hadn’t ordered it.

The missing part on the baby deer is also out of stock and the company isn’t sure when they’ll be able to restock it, so it may be a while before they can send one to me. Luckily we can make do without.


Edited a second time.

I had given up getting a resolution with respect to Nicole’s photos, but then I got a response back from the Photography company this (Tuesday) morning that irritated me so much I couldn’t let it go. Eight more back-and-forths and we may have reached a resolution I’m satisfied with.

November 26, 2017

No Phone for Me

Despite early online successes, in person Black Friday shopping this year was a colossal failure.

I was able to get a sale as good, or better than I was expecting on pretty much everything on my list through online shopping. I had sorted all our old baby clothes, knew what we were missing, and took advantage of the sales to flush out Z3’s early wardrobe. I opted to skip most of the baby gear on our list in favor of just in time decisions based on what we need. Since Z3 is our last, there’s no point in stocking up in what we might need. The monitor is the clear need, but a simple security camera will likely suffice and can stream to our phones which means one less component that could fail.

By the time the kids were in bed Thursday night, there was just one thing left on my list: my new phone.

We arrived at Target at 7:30 pm, about 90 minutes after the doors opened. I was surprised to see a line still outside the door. My heart sank when we noticed it was the iphone line. Not a good sign to begin with, and our night was about to get even worse.

We have never waited in a Black Friday sale before, let alone at nearly 8 months pregnant. I wasn’t sure how long I could hold out with Z3 compressing my internal organs. Simply standing can be exhausting. As we stood in line I started the timer on my phone. I wanted to be able to estimate how much longer we would likely weight if I felt like I was maxing out my capabilities. We alternated between both of us standing in line, and me sitting on the nearby bench while Domingo held our place. At 31 minutes, 30.11 seconds one of the Target employees made an announcement.

It turns out the line we were in was the pre-line line. When we got to the front they’d check our eligibility for an upgrade, and verify they still had the phone we wanted (network, color, memory size, etc) in stock. Then we’d enter the actual line, an virtual queue. At some point later we’d get a text/call that we were next and have 15 minutes to make our way to the counter and claim the phone, otherwise our spot was forfeit. It could be any time between then (8pm) and midnight, or after 6 am the next day. The employee’s best guess was the next day.

We abandoned all hope and left the line. I couldn’t spend that much time at Target, and if we went home it was unlikely we’d be able to return promptly in fifteen minutes, and that’s assuming I didn’t miss the call/text. I didn’t want to feel pressured into getting a different size, or color than I wanted, and worried I’d be told the phone was in stock, only to discover it wasn’t once I arrived. But I was still disappointing, and as we returned home I started to second guess myself. There was no guarantee the call/text would come at a bad time. I might have been able to get my phone had we stayed in line, I definitely wouldn’t by exiting the line.

On Friday I read a market watch article talking about the frustrations many customers had purchasing their phones. Even those who were in line before the doors opened were waiting for hours. I felt a little better for not sticking it out. It sounded like a miserable experience.

Saturday I realized we had forgotten candles for Alexis’ birthday cake and had to send Domingo to the store for an emergency pick up. The party aisle is right by the electronics section and he couldn’t help but overhear one of the annoyed customers. The customers had been summoned to pick up his iPhone twice. The first time, despite being told the phone he wanted was in stalk and ready to be picked up he arrived at Target only to discover they had made a mistake and did not have that particular phone after all. This was his second call back. One of the other customers had returned their phones, but there was some issue surrounding the fact that it was a returned, already activated phone. Another clearly miserable experience.

I’m disapointed I didn’t get a new phone, but if I could only have one new phone or a new camera, I’m much happier with the new camera.

November 22, 2017

Early Deals

In early November I got in the habit of leaving a separate browser open dedicated to shopping. I was interested in a pumpkin Halloween decoration that was strangely not on clearance sale yet, and considering getting some out door artificial pencil width trees to go on either side of the front door. I had a tab opened to each product I was considering, waiting to see if it would go on sale. While I was at it, I decided to add some tabs for some of the Black Friday things I was considering. I wasn’t expecting a deal yet, but I like to be organized.

Then something strange happened.

We were planning on purchasing a Samsung S8 for Domingo for the Black Friday sale price of $300 off. I calculated the monthly rate to be ~$17. As I was scrolling through my shopping tabs in the morning of the 16th, a full week before thanksgiving, I noticed Bestbuy offering the phone for ~$15 a month, or $350 off. I purchased it without hesitation. Bestbuy had jumped the gun and beaten their own advertised price which was already the best around!

Another deal I was considering was an Artificial tree from Michaels. One of our trees last year quit working thanks to faulty wiring in the plug. I was debating about restring the lights (a deceptively huge endeavor.) At the beginning of November Micheals had some kind of “tree event”. Domingo and I went to the store and really liked on of the trees which was an extremely reasonable price. “Was” being key. The tree was 50% off the day before, now only 25% off. It was still a good price, but not the best price. I often will balk at a purchase if it’s not the best price, regardless of how good it is. A little internet research suggested the price would come back down on Black Friday. Sure enough, when the Black Friday flyer finally came back the tree was once again advertised as 50% off. I opened a tab and was at the ready. The deal started Sunday, a full five days before it was advertised to start.

Then last night I got an email from bed bath and beyond advertising a 20% off an entire purchase for being a subscriber starting that moment. It was exactly the Black Friday deal i wanted to replace our thread bare sheets that i was dreading going in person to get! And they weren’t the only ones. Target also started their Black Friday deals today for people who have a red card (something I only realized when their automated system emailed me to let me know something I was looking at was on sale.)

That’s just three examples. Here we are, the day before thanksgiving and I’ve gotten most of the items off my Black Friday shopping list at the price I was expecting, or better. On the one hand, I will miss the tradition of going out to the store on Thanksgiving night after the kids are in bed. On the other, I look forward to having more time in the evening for our other tradition, trimming the trees up while the kids are sleeping.

October 4, 2017

Black Friday Game Plan

It’s almost that time of year again: shopping season! One again I find myself making a list of deals I’m hoping for to help keep my shopping focused and my splurges to a minimum.

Kids clothes. Nicole has just about out grown her current size, so we’re ready to expand her wardrobe. I’ve purchased her a few clothes so we won’t be suddenly on a lurch, but a blanket sale on kids clothes seems to be a Black Friday staple.
Where I’m looking: Carters or Target

Baby Stuff. No surprise there. Our baby monitor is in terrible shape, which is understandable given it’s age. The video sometimes goes, the signal cuts out and it’s battery life is non existent. I’m also like a new crib and an additional rocking chair. (You can never have too many rocking chairs with multiple kids in the house!)
Where I’m looking: Amazon mostly. I’m expecting to only succeed on the monitor, I’ve never seen the other two as a part of a Black Friday holiday sale.

Kitchen/Home Stuff. There’s nothing big that we need. Our pizza pan is pretty gross at this point, and I’d like to try flexible cutting boards instead of the stiff ones we have now that seem to take up so much room in the dishwasher. Domingo would also like wireless meet thermometers for the right price. New sheets and additional coat hangers would also be nice.
Where I’m looking: Target most likely, Bed Bath and Beyond as a possibility. Target tends to have a spend $X get a coupon for $Y on your next visit promotion. They’re also where our original hangers come from, and no price will make up for them non-matching. I like our sheets from Bed Bath and Beyond, but in order to get the percentage off your whole order you need to be in store by noon and I’m not sure that will be doable.

Cell Phones. I’m not sure why this wasn’t on our last last year, but Domingo’s phone Badly needs to be upgraded. It’s five years old, and doesn’t always charge. Additionally the wireless antenna was knocked lose and sometimes it won’t connect to the internet. This is not a good phone for the parent who travels! He’s pretty flexible, so we’ll be looking for the best android deal we can fine. My phone may also be replaced for the right deal. I’m looking at the iPhone 8 to replace my three year old iPhone 6.
Where I’m looking: All over.

Other. Cheap movies for the kids, more board games for the kids, you know, the things that are always on our list.

In the Bull Pen. At some point a new printer would be nice. I’d like one that can spool requests even if the computer is turned off.

====

Addendum. We now have another thing to hunt for this Black Friday: A new DSLR camera. I’ve long since exceeded the expected shutter life on my camera, and every once in a while it’s behavior has been inconsistent. A few weekends ago I swear the camera autofocused after the shutter released, and this summer the light meter was ridiculously off when taking photos of the girls outside. These have been rare issues, usually only effecting one photo in a bunch, so I have so far been willing to over look them. Now the grip is starting to come detached.
Where I’m looking: NikonUSA. Last year they had a sale on the 7000 series line, $200 off a body. That was partly because the 7500 (the model I’m currently coveting) was due out this sprint, but even the newer models were $100 off. I’m hoping to get $100 of the 7500 this Black Friday.

August 23, 2017

Baby Gear, Round 3!

It’s time to start thinking about baby gear! Z3 will be here before we know it.

A New Baby Monitor System. I loved our old monitor, really I did, but it’s showing it’s age and barely functional at this point. The parent console often loses signal and sometimes can’t process the image feed. We’re left with a ghostly white image that lingers on the screen. I’ve gotten used to enough that I can guess what’s going on in the room. Usually. If that’s not enough of a draw back, the night time vision of one of the cameras is about half power, and whenever the parent console is connected to that monitor it picks up an intermittent buzzing that keeps me awake. Since the girls are in the shared big girl room, we’ve just been using the working camera.

A new high chair. I hated our old one. We were going to pitch it and replace it before Alexis was born, but my frugal tendencies took over and saved it from the dumpster. The padding is now ripped, so I think I can finally give myself permission to part with it. I have no idea what kind of high chair I’ll look for next aside from cheaper and simpler.

A crib. The old one is ok, but with the non standard screws I can make a case why it should be replaced. It’s also been chewed on quiet heavily, and shows the wear of having been used for two kids already. Normally I’m fine with cosmetic defects, but I know I’m going to want to take photos of a sleeping baby in her crib.

A bottle warmer. These things always seem to get so gross. Looks like each kid will be getting her own.

Another rocking chair. One can never have too many rocking chairs. The first one we purchased is downstairs in our living room, and still comfortable but showing it’s age. We purchased a second one that is currently in the nursery, but that’s in the middle of the house. And also not very comfortable, if I’m being honest. I’m thinking about getting a third one for the master bedroom since Z3 will probably sleep in there for a few months (I know, it’s a total splurge.) I figure I’ll use the new one to replace the one downstairs at some point.

I’m kind of amazed that the jumperoo is still in good shape, and Alexis’ activity gym given how Nicole destroyed hers. It sometimes feels like those are the only two things that survived. The rock n’ play is doing okay, but the fabric just isn’t as nice as it once was. Alexis’ changing pad is also in ok shape. We recently purchased a new crib mattress before moving Alexis to a twin size, so at least we’re good there.

July 17, 2017

A Bust of a Premiere

Between Nicole’s birthday, and the new baby I’ve been pretty distracted. I haven’t really been thinking about shopping or Christmas, which explains why the Hallmark Ornament Premier skipped my mind this past weekend.

Since I had some time available this morning I went to our local hallmark store. It wasn’t until I was standing in front of a shelf at ornaments unable to spot a single ornament I was interested in that I realized I wasn’t even sure which ornaments were supposed to be available in July, and which were coming out in October. Fortunately, I had my previous blog post which could serve as a list. Most of the ornaments I wanted were coming out in October, not July. Serves me right for not being prepared.

Cookies for Santa, should have been available now, but there wasn’t a single one at the hallmark store. Not even on display They couldn’t be sold out already, could they? I asked, apparently it was a shipping mishap. They hadn’t received any of the Cookies for Santa ornament, and suggested I try back in a week. Instead I drove to our next closest Hallmark store.

The second hallmark store was a little further away, but not a Hallmark Gold Store, which meant they sometimes bent the rules and sold members only ornaments without memberships. They had Cookies for Santa, and Father Christmas’ Reindeer which was huge, much larger than I anticipated and way to big for our tree. Despite liking the ornament I had to pass. They also had inside story for individual sale, which wasn’t as mustard yellow as I was expecting, but still too yellow for my tastes.

I wasn’t initially planning on getting Sweet Lil Santa, but at this point I had been to two Hallmark stores and only had one ornament to show for it. At least it was inexpensive and would match my other gumdrop ornaments.

Despite my initial excitement the July premiere ended up being a bit of a bust. The ornaments I was on the fence about initially, I remained on the fence with. Some of the ornaments I initially loved, didn’t work out. Nothing new struck my fancy. Hopefully the October premiere will meet expectations better.

I love to save money. I’ll sign up for loyalty cards, price compare, and track prices for months before making a purchase, even on relatively small ticket items. Usually it’s a thrill. Lately it’s been exhausting. The problem I’m having is there are just too many different ways to shave off a few dollars these days, it gets to be nearly impossible to calculate all the different possibilities to be sure I’m getting the absolute rock bottom prices. I have the kind of personality that gets really irritated at myself if I find out I overpaid for something, even by just a few dollars.

As an example I used to love Target’s Cartwheel app. Scan an item and you might get a coupon for that item, or a comparable item. For a while 20% or 30% off seemed to be the norm. What’s not to love? As it’s grown in popularity they’ve stopped putting up signs advertising some of the bigger deals. That means I have to remember to scan everything in my cart or I might miss a deal rather than just rely on the signs to warn me of deals I might miss. I’ve forgotten and discovered coupons I could have used after returning home from the shopping trip.

Another example is the Amazon lightening deals. In years past there were fewer deals, but the percentage off was more noticeable. Scrolling through the deals was manageable. These days I filter by just two or three categories and it still takes forever to go through them all and see if any are good for me. I’ve actually stopped looking at Lightening deals during Black Friday because they just weren’t worth it for me.

I’m finding deal hunting exhausting, and quite frankly time is something that is short supply these days and about to become even rarer. I know I talked about putting together an app that would automated the process of deal hunting. Considering the amount of time I waste already trying to find the best deal, and how irritated I get at myself when I don’t get the absolute best deal, it may not be a bad idea.

So far I’ve not found another app that does all I want. Apply coupons automatically? For the most part. Price compare between major retailers? Yes, but not all and not always reliably and with no easy way to specify customer specific coupons and loyalty rewards. Let you specify perfectly acceptable substitutes? Definitely not.

April 11, 2017

Hallmark 2017

For the first time in three? four? years I’m really excited about Hallmark’s yearly collection of keepsake ornaments. There are a lot of great ones, and not just of the traditional style ornaments I tend to like. If you’ve ever wanted a collection of just Disney, or even just Disney princesses, or just star wars ornaments, this would be a good year to do it.

It’s early yet, and most merchant websites don’t have product pages set up yet. I’ll do my best to link to the item I’m talking about, but that won’t be possible for all of them. If you’re interested, you’ll have to scroll through the dreambook to find the ornaments I’m talking about.

The ornament I’m most excited about it Father Christmas’ Reindeer. It’s similar to last year’s tabletop of the same name and a limited release. I love the old fashioned Santa’s and reindeer. The dream book lists it for $20. Since it’s a limited release I will likely purchase it at full price.

This years’ Snowball and Tuxedo, Cookies for Santa is next on my list. I love the way they incorporated baking, one of my favorite holiday activities. Normally I wait for the after Christmas sale on this series, but I suspect it may not be around if I wait and I’d be sad to miss out on it.

Next are the mini ornaments. I like Petite Penguins and A Creature was Stirring (the one with a mouse reading a book). Guessing I will get those at full price as well.

Penguin Express, the unofficial Kris’ Penguin’s series ornament, is on my list, but likely as an after Christmas sale. It’s adorable, but I’m not very excited about trains in general. I’d like to have it on my tree, but I won’t be heart broken if it’s not.

Welcoming Wreath, and Beary Festive (Mary’s Bears Series) are also in this category. I’m more inclined to spend the time to hunt down Welcoming Wreath and Beary Festive than Penguin Express at an after Christmas sale. I like them, I’d like to have them on my tree, but they’re also generic and I’m sure they’ll be another one in the series that I like just as much should I miss out on them.

I’m underwhelmed with this years Season’s Treatings (Cherry pie) and Cookie Cutter Christmas. A good deal, or a plea from Domingo could entice me.

The only ornament I’m really disappointed with is Inside Story. I became aware of the three ornament series when I saw a black and white sketch of this year’s version. I thought I would love it. Since it’s only three ornament series I decided to go ahead and try and collect them all. Normally I only collect the ornaments of a series I like, but a three ornament series doesn’t have much wiggle room I purchased the 2016 version at a slightly higher price than I would have normally done off ebay fearing a price increase. That yellow color of the 2017 ornament? Cannot stand it. Would not put it on my tree if it was free. That will teach me to purchase early. I feel like I wasted my money.

At least my overall love of Hallmark has been rekindled.

Edited to add better links

Despite not having a list, Domingo and I decided to go out black Friday shopping. We went out Thursday after the kids had gone to bed for some hot cocoa and to enjoy the atmosphere, and then took the kids out on Friday when the kids’ cabin fever forced us out of the house, but rain kept us away from the parks.

Turkey, Shmurkey

We arrived at Target about 2 hours after it’s initial opening. It was crowded, but not over overwhelmingly so. While we were waiting in line for those hot chocolates we couldn’t help but notice how many families were sitting down with sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. The barista commented that in those two hours since opening they had already sold more sandwiches than they sell in a typical day. I know that an early dinner on Thanksgiving day is probably more typical than not, but it appeared as though a large group of people may have opted out of the traditional meal altogether and in to a quick dinner at target once their shopping was complete.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been thinking about the class divide of late, but I couldn’t help but wonder if skipping the meal was less about desire and more about necessity. Popular culture likes to caste black Friday as rampant consumption on luxury items that aren’t needed, but for people of limited means it’s sometimes black Friday or never. Surely one can make the use case that a laptop or computer is not necessary a luxury item in today’s digital world?

TVs in Threes

The hot item this year was clearly the 50″ and 55″ TVs. We saw person after person walking out with two or sometimes three large TVs. Apparently Target was selling 3,200 televisions per minute nationwide. If TVs are meant to be gifts, these shoppers are way more generous than I am. If they’re meant to be personal, I’m amazed at the size of the houses they must have. Domingo’s hypothesis was a spare TV for elderly parents.

TVs weren’t the only thing we saw bought in, for lack of a better word, bulk. We walked passed one couple that was dividing laptops between their two shopping carts to get around the “2 per person” limit. (Large family looking for laptops for the kids, maybe?)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve visited a store in person on Black Friday, but I was stunned by all I was witnessing.

The good news if you’re looking for a deal next year: 2 hours after opening, Target was still bringing out TVs and laptops in shifts. It didn’t appear that anyone who wanted one was going without.

We are Black Friday Small Potatoes

I did end up with the Costco laptop a month ago, otherwise I would have done the replacement with the same specs and saved myself another $150. Sigh. Can’t control when these things break, I guess.

We took advantage of the $4 and $6 sale of DVDs, as well as half priced board games for the kids. We also bought their winter wardrobe at 30% off.

Our biggest purchase was a new Keurig ($65). The cheap ($35) off brand one I bought over the summer was a huge waste. After a few months it broke and would spew water allover our counter top. It was under warranty but I still had to pay $10 shipping to replace it. The replacement only lasted a few weeks. Domingo didn’t feel like spending (wasting?) yet more money on coffee machines. I can understand that sentiment, but I know how much he enjoys his coffee and I feel like a little guilty being so often the beneficiary of our spending. Domingo is always way more willing to spend on money for extras for me (like my new lens, which was way more expensive). I put the Keurig in the shopping cart joking I wanted to take up coffee. Don’t worry, he saw right through me. I’ve never had a cup before in my life, and likely never will, but he is enjoying his daily cup.

We would have saved an additional $15 had I been able to figure out the cartwheel app in time. We got stuck in line behind a two college age kids buying three laptops and an ipad who were also opening a credit card to get an additional 5% discount. I used the time to download the app, but didn’t realize I had to select the relevant coupons. I am still miffed at myself about that.

There’s a part of me that misses the Black Fridays atmosphere. Domingo and I used to take our time going to the stores, meandering in mid-afternoon, and still get deals we were after. These days it’s a lot harder to get away to go to the store, and when we manage it we rarely get the deals were after. So this year we’re thinking of just staying in.

Domingo and I started thinking about our list and came up rather empty. We went through most of our home setup costs last year, so there really isn’t anything on that front. We could use another rug, I guess. Additional ornaments are always a possibility. The kid tree was pretty barren last year (not that they mind). I also still need a new laptop (I’ve been needing one since 2013), but Costco’s every day price on the one I like is pretty good. Mobile and tablet sales have been eating into laptop sales, driving the prices pretty far down. I’m just waiting for this one to kick the bucket first. It’s casing is cracked and it’s missing a screw, but still chugging along.

That’s the kind of stuff that’s always on our list. What’s new this year?

I need to get Alexis’ baby book printed. We’ll probably do MyPublisher again for that, since that’s who I used for Nicole’s baby book and I like to keep things ridiculously even. I looked through my email inbox and it looks like the best coupon I can hope for is 60(ish) off. Last year it came in October and just before Christmas. (Score one for team never-deletes-an-email.)

I also have two large frames I want filled. mpix is the only place I’ve found that can print to the right size. They currently have a 10% off coupon, but I’ve found a 25% off flyer in my mail box from September. I’ve also found a 25% off your entire order flyer. I haven’t been a customer long enough to have a long mailbox history with them, so I can’t predict when that sale will come back again. At least I know the kind of sale to target!

We’re pretty settled on the idea of Santa bringing Nicole a toy camera this year. We’re less clear what he’ll bring for Alexis. One of the joys of being the younger sibling is there are always tons of toys for your developmental stage. (One of the drawbacks is that finding those toys can be challenging!)

Looks like we’ll be spending this year in. Depending on how those printing coupons line up, we may pass on Black Friday all together.

Older Posts »