Friday, December 5, 2008

My Favorite Things

If I were a billionaire talk show hostess, this season I would offer my audience the following things:

1) LL Bean Holiday Flannel Pants ($29.50). These pajama bottoms are so comfy and scrumptious I literally have worn them every day since I brought them home from the store.

2) BUST magazine ($19.95/year). Feminism, fashion, crafts, smart writing, independent artists--even the ads are great.

3) Burt's Bees Radiance Night Creme ($15/2 oz). It's gooey and delicious--and natural enough to eat. I apply it every night at bedtime and I think my skin is better for it.

4) Earth shoes. In vegan and non-vegan varieties, mine are funky little Mary Jane alternatives that are cute, comfy and feature Earth Shoe's inverted heel (which is hard to get used to, but is supposed to be really good for you.) They don't seem to sell mine any more, so I would give my audience these ($119), the next closest thing.

5) Lexie Barnes totes ($130). Sturdy comfortable straps, striking fabric pattern, water-resistant taffeta, deep, spacious, belly lined with pink! I LOVE my Lexie Barnes tote. I want a hundred more, but they don't make them like this any more. Next best thing--maybe even better, I don't know: The Lady B.

6) Netflix Player by Roku ($99). Oh, Netflix Player, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. If you love Netflix and have a broadband Internet connection at home (and, ideally, 802.11n Wi-Fi), run out and get this NOW. Read my full review here.

7) Futurama, Vol 1 ($39.98). Every season is great, but the first one is maybe my favorite. At any rate, it's a great place to start. Studio audience: enjoy.

8) Canvas Panels (45 cents) and paints ($3.78 each). One of the best things I did all year was paint a picture at Anna and Heidi's east coast wedding reception. I want to supply myself and paint some more. I haven't done it yet, so I don't know which paints or panels are best yet, but the experience was so great, I'd rather give my audience these to get started--and then maybe by next year, I'll have a favorite brand, color, or type of paint to share.

9) Harry Potter books on CD ($454.75). The entire collection, unabridged. Even though the reader mispronounces "Voldemort," it's still fantastic to listen to these books on CD, especially on long road trips.

10) Mead Five Star 2 Subject notebooks ($4.89). My favorite notebook to journal or write in. I'm currently writing a novel by hand in them. Hopefully my audience will love them as much as I do!

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Two Real Life Thumbs Down for eBay and PayPal

I know some people have had great luck with eBay. They live for it. They live with it. Whatever.

I almost never have a good experience. And yet, once or twice a year, I forget that and give in to the temptation to get something I want cheaper than I can find it elsewhere--and then I suffer the consequences.

Most recently, I wanted to buy a book on ayurvedic cooking and healing techniques. The cheapest copy I could find was available on eBay. I bid on it. I won it--for $1 plus shipping and handling. I paid the seller using PayPal.

Then I waited.

Four weeks later, still no book. So, I checked eBay. The seller is no longer registered with eBay. I checked with PayPal--I hadn't received a refund. I also haven't received any communication from the seller.

So, the question becomes, how much of my time is it worth to recoup my $5 loss? Not much, theoretically, except that it's the principle of the thing.

I began by investigating my history at PayPal, to be sure I hadn't been refunded--or that the transaction had been canceled by the buyer. It didn't seem to have been, although it was all pretty confusing, to be honest with you. There was a debit when the money was sent to the seller; and then a credit when it came in from my bank account. So, on the face of it, it seemed like there had been a debit and a credit, but the credit came from my checking account, not from the seller. So my PayPal balance is $0, when it should be $5, if the refund came through.

Next, I tried to find some help options as PayPal.

Since there wasn't an FAQ, Disputes, or Help button readily available on the page, I clicked on the Contact Us link, which is in the fine print at the bottom.

My first option was to Chat with Sarah:



I was in a rush, so I mistook Sarah, "my PayPal virtual help assistant" who "is available to chat with me at any time" for a real person. That's amazing, I thought. They have such excellent customer service that someone is available immediately, all the time.

Here's what ensued:


Sarah - PayPal :
Hello, I’m Sarah, and I’m here to answer questions you have about PayPal. Just type into the box below and click Submit to get started.
I’m in training now, so if I don’t know the answer to your PayPal question, I’ll try to learn it for next time!
You :
Hi, Sarah
Sarah - PayPal :
Hello, you're an early bird! How can I help you?
You :
An early bird? It's 4pm...
Sarah - PayPal :
Do you mean:
How do I add/remove/edit personal information on my PayPal account?
What is PayPal's phone number?

You :
I purchased an item using PayPal through ebay, but the item has not arrived and the seller and the listing have been removed from ebay.
Sarah - PayPal :
Sorry, but your phrase is too long and I will not be able to perform a full analysis. I would be very grateful if you could try to make it a bit shorter and more concise.
You :
what do i do
Sarah - PayPal :
I'm not sure I've understood. Could you please rephrase your question?
You :
oh, i get it. you're not human. well...is any of this getting through?
Sarah - PayPal :
I'm a virtual person, and I'm programmed to do my best to help you with basic customer care issues.
You :
that's creepy.
Sarah - PayPal :
I apologize if you can't find the infomation you seek by speaking with me. I'm unable to help with your request. Please enter a new question, visit the Help Center, or Contact Us.
You :
id you get my question
Sarah - PayPal :
Do you mean:
I am unable to login, what can I do?
What if I've forgotten my email address?
Can you tell me more specific details about my account?

You :
fraud ebay help
Sarah - PayPal :
Could you be more precise please?
What is eBay?
My buyer is trying to defraud me
Can you tell me more specific information about my eBay account?
How can I report potential fraud to PayPal?

You :
How can I report potential fraud to PayPal?
Sarah - PayPal :
If you notice unauthorized activity from your PayPal account, report it to us immediately through the Resolution Center. If you notice an unauthorized transaction on your PayPal Debit Card report it to us immediately by calling the telephone number or sending an email to the address listed on the back of your debit card.
If you received what you believe is a fake PayPal email, or you've come across a spoof PayPal website, please report it to our Customer Service team. If possible, please forward the original email to spoof@paypal.com. Anything else I can do to help you?
You :
this is useless
Sarah - PayPal :
Really, that frustrates me... Because I do my best to improve every day. Really, that frustrates me... Because I do my best to improve every day. Do you have any other questions?
You :
i still have my original question.
Sarah - PayPal :
I'm not sure I've understood. Could you please rephrase that?
You :
i bought an item on ebay. it never arrived. buyer protection?
Sarah - PayPal :
OK. I'm unable to help with your request. Please enter a new question, visit the Help Center, or Contact Us.
Sarah - PayPal :
I've just opened the right page for you. Please let me know if you have other questions.
Sarah - PayPal :
I'm about to open a page which will allow you to send a copy of our conversation.
Sarah - PayPal :
I've just opened a page allowing you to send an email with the transcript of our conversation. If you cannot see the page, this may be because your pop-up blocker is activated. Try clicking on yellow bar at the top of your window to deactivate your pop-up blocker.

[This Page Could Not Be Found]

You :
you have to do it again, please
Sarah - PayPal :
What precisely are you looking for?
How do I update or edit the Shipment Tracking Information that I previously provided to the Buyer?
How do I track packages with labels created on PayPal?
How do I obtain Shipment Tracking information from my seller?

Sarah - PayPal :
I've just opened a page allowing you to send an email with the transcript of our conversation. If you cannot see the page, this may be because your pop-up blocker is activated. Try clicking on yellow bar at the top of your window to deactivate your pop-up blocker.

[This Page Could Not Be Found]

**
I have now composed an e-mail to PayPal, which also required some irritating navigation of passive-aggressive and unhelpful menu trees so that they can categorize my e-mail.

We'll see if I get any help.

I can't even ding the seller with negative feedback because he's gone.

This is what's wrong with eBay--seriously.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Affordable Cross-Country Moving Solutions

I've been doing a little research into cross-country moving alternatives. I've moved across the country three times so far, and cobbled together some strange money-saving techniques that were fairly time-consuming and involved some special circumstances--like access to free storage and lots of free cross-country plane flights--but I'm still looking for the perfect solution.

Recently, I came across this very thoughtful review at epinions.com of ABF, a company that will put your stuff in a tractor trailer and haul it cross country relatively cheaply. The process requires some planning on the part of the mover, and some patience with the flawed system, but can, it seems pay off nicely in the end when properly executed.

If you're considering this option, this woman (who moved 2,000 miles using ABF), has some very helpful tips. Totally Thrift-approved. Click here to read her review.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Word About Advertising on This Site

The ads you see in the top left portion of Thrift are provided by Google's AdSense program. They are generated based on the content of these blog pages, and if you click on them, they generate a small amount of revenue for the site.

Reviews, recommendations, and suggested products or sites that you find anywhere else at Thrift are not paid advertisements. They are independent recommendations based solely on the merit of the product, site, or service at hand.

Thrift will never recommend that you use, try, or buy a service or product unless we have tried it and believe in it ourselves. If you have questions, drop a line to Naomi at graychase@gmail.com.

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