mikegarcia25.com

26 February 2010

Screw Big Box Stores, Buy Simple Items Online!

In part of my series about helping people save money and buy products online, here's some tips I've gathered from years and years of doing it! Most of this relates to electronics, but these tips are good for just about anything you can buy in a store that would normally charge you a ridiculous amount more for it than you can find online.

Think of every product you want to buy as you would a used car. Crazy as that sounds, you'll save a ton of money just by negotiating with the salesman when you are out buying a used car. No one (at least no one I know) goes to a dealership and sees a car with a price on it and says "I'll take it!" How come we can't do that in stores for lesser priced items? At the local gun store, the price tags have higher than normal prices, but I've learned that if you talk to them for a few minutes, they'll drop the price at least $100. And believe me, I've spent quite some time in there - hell, a few of the guys know me by name and what guns I've shown them from my collection! Who wouldn't want to save a hundred bucks on a $700 purchase? So what's the difference between that an a $700 laptop? A $400 digital camera? A $20 USB cable? The point is, don't overspend because you need something right away. I learned that lesson when two of my desktop computer's exhaust fans died within a day of each other and I needed to get new ones to keep it cool.... Spent $15 EACH on fans that would have cost only $7 each at a discount computer parts store or $4 each shipped online.

Know where to shop, then how to shop. Best Buy (also known as WORST Buy) sells the same thing you can buy online or in another store for 100-400% more. Seriously, if you want to spend $2,000 on a new HDTV when you can buy it at CompUSA for $1,300, I'll create a donate to my PayPal account button in a heartbeat for you to get rid of the $700 extra you don't care about. What does Best Buy offer you that you can't get at CompUSA? The same service, the same TV, the same warranty - what is the hold up here? Once you know the places to look for great deals, keep watching them until they have something that fits you! I was at CompUSA this past weekend and saw a 42" 1080p Full-HD monitor for $999. That's not a BAD deal, but they can do better.... I'm typing this on a 47" 1080p I got from them for $649. Yeah, you read that right - 5" bigger TV, same features, for $350 less. What about cables? CompUSA charges $20 for simple USB cables. I bought (2) 4-Port USB Hubs, a 6ft HDMI cable, (3) 2ft USB A to Mini USB cables, a 5-in-1 OEM HTC adapter for my phone, and (2) Mini USB to Micro USB adapters yesterday on eBay for a grand total of $18.31 SHIPPED (from China, though, so it isn't going to arrive for 7-14 days). The HDMI cable would have cost me $39 at the least in any big box store, some of them are $80 and up! That means CompUSA isn't the place to shop for cables, but they are for HDTV's, and you have to recognize those sort of things!

Search for your item number and once you've found the best price, keep searching.Check out my other blog posts on How to search and How to shop, and employ those techniques with everything you want to buy. If you HAVE to see how the item works, use Best Buy or wherever else for that, then search it online. There's an awesome store in the ritzy mall near me that sells the highest end electronics known to man at the highest prices known to man. I get the model number from there after playing with the item and learning if it is right for me, then search online to find it for a fraction of the price. Don't believe me?


I took this picture on Friday, November 23, 2007, 4:27:20 PM with my unlocked HTC TyTN II phone that I paid $750 for online. Later on that year, I bought a replacement one since the keyboard got damaged and couldn't be fixed by my warranty company (more details on that later) for $500. I first paid less than 70% of what they wanted in this store, and later, 45%. Did I REALLY want this item? Yes, I needed an awesome cell phone that worked for business, and at the time, this was it. I paid less than $700 on my latest phone, an unlocked HTC Touch Pro2, and have two of these TyTN II's still for sale at $280 for both (ugh).

Searching is hard, why can't someone do it for me? Yes, Sir Laziness, someone has. BeatMyPrice will ask you what you're looking for and OPTIONALLY, where you found it and for how much - you can just put in what you're looking for to see if anyone has posted it cheaper online already. And once you know where to buy something from, always use RetailMeNot to possibly get even deeper discounts from them! Just enter the website you found and see if they have any legit coupons posted. They'll even tell you what percentage of people who tried the coupon got it to work - just be sure you do the same for other people in the future. Both BeatMyPrice and RetailMeNot are from the same company - try BugMeNot as well, that's a cool one to use if you hate registering for something just to see the post they don't want you to see without providing your ever-sacred email address.... Also try TheFind, my mom recommended that to me!

Even if you don't know WHAT you want to buy, have the companies tell you WHEN something is on sale easily. Just sign up for their newsletter! Ohh, you don't want to flood your inbox with tons of mail? Then filter your messages so they don't appear in your inbox and go to a folder or label (if you use Gmail) you choose - mine is called Promotional Mail. Currently I have 630 unread messages in there, and I delete them every 2 months or so, if I remember to.... but that's okay, because when I want to check on something or see what specials are available, I look in there and click around a bit to see who's got what on sale! Just sign up for the newsletter and when you get your first one, filter it out by getting their email address and making sure it doesn't go to your inbox after being marked Promotional Mail. I can't help you do everything now, so don't ask how to do it if you don't know how, just read the Help section of your email account provider or program like Outlook or Thunderbird and they'll guide you right along.

Now that you know how to search and buy and also where to buy, how do you protect your purchases? SquareTrade. Those who have been on eBay long enough will remember that name when SquareTrade was the name they gave their dispute resolution company, but since the purchase of PayPal, ST was moved over to handle warranties on purchases on AND OFF eBay. Get suckered into buying something at a big box store, hopefully you'll be smart enough NOT to get the warranty from them as well and buy one from ST. Their prices are insanely reasonable, and if you search RetailMeNot like I said above, you can find coupons to use to drop the prices down EVEN MORE! I have said 50% off their already low-priced warranties with coupons found in my email box or on RetailMeNot. Some items have the option to extend warranties out to 3 years for still 30% less than you would have paid for the ONE year warranty at the big box store!

How else can you protect your purchases? American Express offers Purchase Protection (also see FAQ) and Extended Warranty (also see FAQ) for certain cards. My AMEX Blue is one of them and I love it - if something happens to my item in the first 90 days.... ANYTHING.... I call them up and the purchase is protected. Even if it is lost or stolen. Broken or defective. If (as their example online states) a thread comes lose out of my brand new sweater and leaves me with a giant hole. They take care of it and I don't have to worry a bit. They'll even extend my warranty equal to the duration of the manufacturer's warranty, for up to an additional year. Since you should be using a CREDIT card instead of a DEBIT card as I suggested on my other blog post, why NOT use AMEX for these two reasons alone?

As always, if you have any questions or anything to add, let me know and I'll help you out!

How to search successfully online

The dreaded search bar!!!!! To some, this bar looks like a good place to just start writing whole sentences like the computer knows what you're looking for and can translate it all into "BAM! Here you go, we understood what you were saying! Great conversation, let's do this again soon!"

Yeah, it doesn't work like that, people.... Here's some tips I've learned over the years and can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend scrolling and clicking Next Page through the 9,584,164,787,415 results you just dug up.

BE CONCISE! Google has been dumbed down to be able to get you exactly what you want early without having do to much scrolling, but that doesn't mean to write a whole sentence! Try typing it all that nonsense into a product search field like eBay or other online stores and you'll end up without a single result.

The most important thing you can learn about searching on the internet is that what you put in the search bar, the engine will try and find, so if you put lots of erroneous words, your results will display ALL of them first, and then try and get to the other results without all those words, which is probably what you were looking for in the first place.

* NOTE -
all links and results taken from them are current as of today's post. They may be different in the future, but you get the idea..... Also, some Google search results may have sourceid=chrome in the links since I exclusively use Google Chrome as my internet browser, so if the links don't work for you, Internet Explorer, Netscape, AOL, or Firefox people, then follow along the steps and copy the term I used in order to search along with me in a new window.

Example: you want to find a replacement processor for your laptop, but don't know what family it is in, and want to get one that will work in it. Don't type in something silly like "what kind of processor is in my computer" (link provided to show you how silly it is) because that isn't going to tell you anything about YOUR computer, it just provides a bunch of useless results about people asking online help systems like answers.yahoo.com the same question you are trying to find out about YOUR computer.

Let's try something a little more useful - like getting the model number off your computer to start. My old laptop that I sold off last year was a Gateway MX6453, so click that link and see what you get. Lots of product info including reviews and places to purchase it online, but not yet what we're looking for. I'm certain I could click on tons of links and maybe one reviewer or retailer would go into such detail as to provide me the processor model number, and you can cross reference them from there, but let's search SMARTER!

Let's add CPU to the end of our current search result and see what we get. Notice how I didn't go in to lots of detail about what I'm trying to accomplish in the search bar, just added ONE WORD. The first result shows a guy who is attempting to do the same thing, trying to upgrade his CPU in his MX6453 laptop! Well, we just found out the processor that came with it is an AMD TL-52, and without knowing anything else about it, let's search that and find out that it is a Turion™ 64 X2 Dual-Core processor. Great! We've got some details about it, now what are my upgrade options for the TL-52? On the same results list, we find a few links to people who have asked questions as to which CPU's they can upgrade to, namely the TL-68. From this list (2nd link down from the top of the last search), we find the TL-68 is the "king," the highest powered processor available for this series, but the question still remains, will this work in this laptop?

Start by checking out the Wiki page (currently under the shopping results list) and see what category it is in. Well, it looks like The TL-50 and TL-52 are in the same group, and the TL-68 is a different group, but they still might work, don't give up just because of Wiki! The question Replace CPU AMD TL-52 with TL-68? was asked about 7th on the list of search results for the AMD TL-52, and some people reported that the difference in size (90nm vs 65nm) might affect it. The TL-64 is 90nm, and we can double check that from the Wiki.

I provided this example for a few reasons - first, I've done this search process before, and second, because the TL-series processors are phased out and there aren't any more of them being made after TL-68. This gave me the chance to speak thoroughly about the processors and not have someone respond with "what about the TL-70" (that is fictitious, but you get the idea).

What about searching for products? Well, now that we know what processor to buy, how do we search for it and find the cheapest price? I go into a lot more detail about pricing on my OTHER blog post, but this one is about searching and we'll focus on that aspect for now. Remember how you searched for the AMD TL-52 and it gave you shopping results? Let's search for AMD TL-64 and click the shopping tab at the top of Google. Looks like I'm getting some laptop results and processor results mixed in. Re-sort the list by searching items from lowest price to highest price, which will most likely put the laptops in the end of the list. Well? Currently I see a used TL-64 for $68 with free shipping on eBay, and a brand spankin' new one for $115 on eBay! I'd personally go with the new one, but hey, you're the one searching and looking this all up! Click the one you want and head to eBay since they're going to sell these a whole lot cheaper than anyone else online.... from there, don't give in to the Google search results, search around yourself and see what you come up with - just search AMD TL-64 in eBay and see what comes up! Make sure you sort from lowest price to highest price, and choose the correct category on the right side - in this example, you want ONLY CPU's, so you narrow it down by going through all the categories in order: Home > Buy > Computers & Networking > Computer Components > CPUs > Search results for "AMD TL-64"

  • Now let's get into the REAL technical side of searching. USING SEARCH OPERATORS! These are my favorite and I can't learn enough of them. These are shortcuts into searching that limit search results to ONLY the items you want displayed. eBay has a list of them here, and Google has their list here. I'll show you some basics that I employ on a daily basis to get rid of unwanted results fast (sounds like a hemroid cream). eBay does it best and has the most simple display:

    For this type of search

    Enter this

    Example

    Results that contain all the words you enter

    Enter the keywords with a space between them.

    new DVD player

    returns items whose titles contain all 3 words in any order.

    Results that contain the exact words you typed in a particular order

    Place quotation marks around the group of words.

    "New York"

    returns items whose titles contain New York in that order only, but not those that contain just New or just York or the words York New.

    Results that don't contain a certain word

    Place a minus sign immediately before the word to be excluded, with no space after the minus sign.

    shirt blue –wool

    returns items whose titles contain the words shirt andblue but not the word wool.

    Results that don’t contain several words

    Put a minus sign before each word, or group the words inside parentheses and separate with commas but no spaces.

    bowl -(black,green,purple)or bowl –black –green –purple

    returns items whose titles contain the word bowl but not the words black, green, andpurple.

    Results that contain either of the words

    Enter keywords in parentheses separated by commas but no spaces.

    (purse,handbag)

    returns items whose titles contain either the word purseor handbag.

    Results that contain words starting with a particular sequence of letters

    Enter the letter sequence followed by an asterisk.

    book*

    returns items whose titles contain words starting withbook, such as books, bookshelf, and bookmark

    Results that contain only a specific spelling of a word

    Enter the keywords or phrases in quotes.

    "book"

    returns items whose titles contain the exact word bookbut not the word bookshelf.


    So look at that! We can narrow down results with just a few quotation marks, an asterisk, parentheses around multiple terms, and minus signs in front of words we don't want to show up in search results! Here's a saved
    search of mine I use to look up parts for my 2003 MINI Cooper S on eBay:

    MINI Cooper S -(pad, austin, classic, morris, chrome) in Category eBay Motors > Parts & Accessories

    Notice how I searched for terms I wanted and could be in ANY order (i.e., Cooper S MINI or MINI Cooper and Cooper S) and "negated" terms that I didn't want, because really, who wants to ADD chrome to their MINI? I'm looking for NEW MINI parts, so I negated Austin, Morris, and other classic Mini parts because I don't have a Mini, I have a MINI. It's a MINI thing, you wouldn't understand.... here's another search I had that combines search operators:

    transformers movie -poster*

    With this, I search for
    movie items from the Transformers films, but I don't want any poster or posters - by putting the asterisk at the end of the word that is negated, BOTH poster and posters will not show up in my search results!

    That's all for now, and it's probably a lot to process for now (sorry for the processor pun), so let me know if you have any questions or things I should add to this, and I'll help out as best as I can! Have fun searching!

    How to shop online, save money, and be safe!

    So it is the 26th of February and I'm already falling a little behind on my New Years' Resolution to blog more. I have a lot of really good advice to share online, hell, probably a lot of really biased, political stuff too, but that's what makes blogging so great - you got suckered here somehow, now you're reading this, and like a crack addict, you just need a little more of it! Okay, that's probably exaggerated a bit, you can obviously stop reading at any time and---how about I just get into this blog topic already? Greaaaaat....

    So you want to shop online for things but don't know how to do it, aren't sure of the risks involved, want to find good deals, and so forth. Well, being the person amongst my friends and family that everyone always says "how did you find it for so cheap?" I'm here to help! Let's start at the beginning.

    I want to find an item. I don't know what the model number is, crap I don't even know what brand I'm looking for. But in less than 5 minutes, I'll have my credit card input into someone's secure online terminal and feel great about my purchase, mainly because I didn't buy it at a big-box store for 100-400% more! Recently, I was looking for a region-free DVD player that upscaled to 1080p through an HDMI output since my USA PS3 does great, but hates PAL movies. Wow. Alright! How in the world do I find something like that....

    Google is your friend! That's right, add him as a friend on Facebook, he'll be at your wedding and probably drink all your booz---sidetracked again. Just start searching Google for what you're looking for, but don't be too specific. Check out my OTHER blog post on tips on searching successfully for more info. In this situation, you want to put in key words that will help you find JUST the items you are looking for. We're going to search for DVD Player NTSC PAL 1080p HDMI under Google Shopping results, and sort them from lowest price to highest - click the link of the search terms to see what comes up. Sure, sorting by Relevance gets you some decent results, it doesn't tell you which is the lowest priced DVD player!

    Remove terms you don't want results for. As you can see from the link, Google wants me to buy an HDMI cable that works for DVD players that are both NTSC and PAL formated, which will work to display 1080p video. Yes, I searched for all that, but I don't want any cables included just yet (I have plenty already, thanks), so let's hit this search with a -cable* and see what comes up. The search effectively dropped off the cables and started my search results with a $38.99 Coby DVD288 NTSC and PAL 1080p Full-HD upscaling DVD player with HDMI output on eBay. Should I buy it? NOT JUST YET! Once you click the link, you'll see they want over $14 to ship it, and the next result on the list was only a dollar more with FREE shipping. Yep, I'll take that one!

    Find a reputable seller. While eBay is a pretty easy way to find something, how do you know you're getting a quality product from a reputable seller and won't get scammed out of your hard-earned cash? Well, you don't, really. All things are a crap-shoot online, and it is best to use CREDIT cards to buy your items and not DEBIT cards. Yeah, PayPal will cover your ass on things, but why fight it out with your bank? Just call up your credit card company and tell them the product hasn't arrived or isn't what you ordered. Hell, I ordered a $750 HTC TyTN II phone from a guy on eBay and had it shipped from China (where they're manufactured, don't get all crazy-eyed over hearing it was shipped from China just yet). The seller sent me some rinky-dink 2 year old HTC phone and I wasn't having that.... A quick note to him on eBay and phone call to my credit card company solved all that! Plus, you pay with certain American Express cards and you can get Purchase Protection and Extended Warranty features at no extra charge, but that's a whole other blog....

    On this search we did, B&H Photo-Video-Audio has 32,894 seller ratings at the time of writing, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Yeah, I'm going to trust them. Why? Well, 31,578.24 out of 32,894 people gave them a perfect review. If 96% of people surveyed told you Domino's Pizza is better than Papa Johns (just as an example), would you believe them? And remember this about seller ratings - not everyone rates a sale online, especially if it is positive. Hell I don't think I've EVER rated a sale I've made on Amazon because they don't push it as much as eBay does, and Google seller ratings are pushed about the same or less than Amazon. So that's nearly 33 thousand people who FELT like turning their attention from their newly received Photo-Video-Audio product from B&H and wanted to post their positive feedback for them, something probably twice as many people haven't even thought to do. Now, if their response was negative, you better believe those people jumped online and told EVERYONE about their dealings!

    How does PayPal protect me? Ask them! But seriously, check out PayPal for yourself. They'll tell you all about how they prevent your account information from being shown to sellers and will protect your purchases if someone tries to scam you. I've been a member of eBay and PayPal since 2000, so I know that if I want to buy something online, I can trust PayPal for it. Just as long as it isn't gun-related, because God forbid Americans are allowed to protect themselves and use the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution the way it was written. PayPal will freeze all transactions and suspend your account if you use it to buy or sell anything firearm related. While my gun buddies and I hate that, it is just something I have to deal with when it comes to wacky Liberals who love making the rules and making it difficult for responsible, law-abiding citizens of the greatest country on Earth. But then again, that's an entirely other blog topic!!!

    That's a whole lot of information for now, as always, let me know if you have any questions or things I should add to this, I'll post up as much as I can to help!

    24 February 2010

    If Bush did what Obama is doing....

    [note copied and edited slightly for content from Kevin Kirk, from the group "Miss me yet?"-George W. Bush]

    If George W. Bush had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?

    If George W. Bush had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan's holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky?

    If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia , would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent "Austrian language," would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?

    If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had stated that there were 57 states in the United States , would you have said that he is clueless?

    If George W. Bush would have flown all the way to Denmark to make a five minute speech about how the Olympics would benefit him walking out his front door in Texas , would you have thought he was a self important, conceded, egotistical bum?

    If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment?

    If George W. Bush had mis-spelled the word "advice" would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and "potatoe" as proof of what a dunce he is?

    If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he's a hypocrite?

    If George W. Bush's administration had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11?

    If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans, would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence?

    If George W. Bush had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America, would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?

    If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?

    So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive? Can't think of anything? Don't worry. He's done all this in just 12 months -- so you'll have three years to come up with an answer.