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Tag Archives: shopping

Recently I bought a cabin bag from (i.e., a bag to put all your electronics in that you can bring into a plane cabin). Like most all purchases, there was a lot of coupon/credit stacking that went into my purchase. This one was not as amazing as my Kobo Aura purchase but still pretty good.

$89.99 Original price
-$36.00 Discount off original price
+$7.02 Tax
-$15.00 coupon
-$13.33 credit
+$0.00 Shipping (free)
$32.68 Total

Plus, there was a 7.5% eBates cash back which I suppose would be $2.45. However, I never received my eBates cash back from my first purchase AND this credit is not showing up after a couple of days, so I’m going to assume that eBates doesn’t work for me.

But the most interesting thing was when I received the shipment, they included an invoice. Except, it wasn’t my invoice but the invoice to from the supplier. So I know that the bag cost $43.19 (at 20% discount from $53.99) + HST = $48.80. Which means that that made -$16.12 in selling me this bag (perhaps even less because someone had to pay for shipping, although that is possibly the supplier)

We recently had to buy a twin mattress and decided to buy a spring mattress from Walmart (came out to only $200 all in, but this blog is not about that). I knew that you could buy online at Walmart but hadn’t tried it until now. Frankly, it was an great experience.

The best thing was that it was fast. The checkout process is in a single page (with collapsible sections) which you can just breeze through. I was a new customer so I had to enter all my info, but I felt like I was done really quickly. I received the standard order and eventually shipping emails promptly too.

It took under two days (with free shipping) for the mattress to be delivered. If you were a student who had to move somewhere, you would only need to sleep on the floor for two nights (less if you had some planning)! Perhaps it felt like a great experience because shopping at a brick & mortar Walmart usually takes a long time – the checkout process itself takes 20 minutes!

Toronto got a lot of press in November as our mayor put us in the world’s media lens due to his notoriety. He admitted to smoking crack, and his drunken antics were replayed around the world. Not surprisingly, city business was interrupted. Rob Ford didn’t loose his job, but he was stripped of most of his power until the next election. He might win the next election still, he still has a lot of support in the city!

This month (coinciding when with I got the Nexus 5), I decided to stop, cold turkey, playing two games that I had been playing – while I had been kind of unhappy with Happy Street, it was still fun (they added more new content). I also stopped playing Cookie Clicker. I just felt it was time to stop playing those and try some new ones.

Even though it was one whole month before Christmas, it felt like retailers were gearing up for it! There were a bunch of ridiculous shopping deals. We even went down to Grove City for Black Friday (weekend!). This is probably the latest time that we’ve driven down there. We just missed a large snow storm and fortunately the weather shouldn’t be too cold (we had some real winter weather in November this year).

I came across another incredible shopping deal that I took advantage of – because there was actually something I wanted to buy! I saw a Kobo Aura at the airport one time and was attracted to it because it was smaller than my existing Kobo and the screen was flush (not indented like other Kobo and Kindle models). Also it had a backlight which is useful, but not necessary. I was waiting for a deal on it, perhaps on Boxing Day because it was a little expensive at $149.99 ($169.49 after tax).

I had also seen that was having a lot of (stackable) promos recently, and looked on their site for the Aura. They didn’t have it, but suddenly one day, they did. I ended up buying it there and stacked A LOT of promos into a single purchase. Here is how I made out.

$149.99 Original price
-$10.00 Applied a coupon (ebates)
+$18.20 Tax
+$0.00 Shipping (free)
-$25.00 new member rewards
-$25.00 Paypal/ special offer
$108.19 Total

So I only ended up paying $108.19 for an item that would have cost me $169.49. Pretty good eh? That’s a 36% discount.

BUT WAIT, I also get some money back for various reasons as part of this purchase

$108.19 Current total
-$26.64 20% Ebates cash back on $133.19
-$10.00 Ebates cash back for first purchase
-$6.66 5% cash back Paypal promo
$64.89 New total
$57.42 Pre-tax total

After all the cash back (assuming I get everything back in my Paypal account), the Kobo Aura would have cost me $64.89, which is a discount of 71%! What an incredible deal!

There were two “incredible” “shopping” deals this weekend. Both Incredible and Shopping are in quotes because they were not supposed to happen and it’s not really shopping at all!

The first deal was from Future Shop where you could trade in any current generation game (including old sports games from past years) and get one of the new AAA titles that have released for the holiday season – for free. These games would normally go for $50-$60 and hold line ups for midnight openings. Many people would have paid full price with REAL money to buy these games! Yet, a large number of thrifty “shoppers” (i.e., RFDers) were able to score the games for free. I’m not sure why Future Shop decided to put on this promotion, as the majority of people who took advantage of the deal already knew that Future Shop bought and sold used games.

While the Future Shop deal may or may not have been a mistake, the second one surely is. Samsung put up a website for Note users where they could submit their serial number for $600 in vouchers (including $25 in Google Play credit). In theory, that’s a good reward for Note customers. But it turns out that:
1. It wasn’t restricted to Note serial numbers; most Samsung cellphone serial numbers ended up working, and even printer serial numbers!
2. You could register a serial number again if you entered a space (i.e., the serial number matching was not trimmed)
3. You could get lists of Galaxy Note serial numbers online
4. There was (seemingly) no hard limit to the credits being give out.

You had people on SlickDeals (and RFD) accumulating thousands of dollars of credit for Google Play by using scripts. You could use the credit to buy any of the soft products (i.e., no hardware). In fact it was like printing free money because presumably you could release a “private” app on Google Play that costs thousands of dollars and then buy it with your free credit.

I bought my Nexus 4 in December 2012, and as per my upgrade cycle plan, I was due to upgrade in April 2014. Well that didn’t happen because I just bought the Nexus 5 when it was announced at the end of last month.

In actuality, I bought 2 Nexus 4s, and have been having a lot of trouble with them (due to LG’s hardware design). I shattered the front screen of my first Nexus 4 (my fault) and had to get it replaced. The replacement took a longtime and I don’t think it was the same type of screen (Super AMOLED or whatever) as the colour reproduction seems a bit dark. In the meantime, I had bought another Nexus 4 and had started using that one, so there was no need to use my fixed one (since I would have to move my settings over and what not). My first N4 became a test device (and I installed Paranoid Android on it just to see what the hype was about).

I used my N4#2 for awhile but had a freak accident one day. This one was definitely not my fault. I plugged the phone into the USB cable for charging, and the back glass started cracking over a period of a few minutes. Eventually the entire back was cracked. Aside for some worrisome prickling, I guess I could’ve continued using the phone – except one of the cracks was over the camera lens glass which refracted the light in a funny manner if there was a point of light within the frame.

I lived with this for about four months, but at the same time was looking to see what I would buy next. I liked the MotoX but the off contract price was too expensive. The Nexus5 was reasonably priced (albeit not having any wow/cool factor) so I ended up with that. I actually missed the announcement window by 35 minutes but there were still white backed 32GBs randomly appearing in stock. I wanted a white-backed one, but didn’t really need more than 16GB. But having gone through the inventory scarcity the last time, I just picked that version up. It actually shipped very quickly (estimated Nov 8 but shipped on Nov 2)!

Although I’ve know about it for along time, I bought my first Humble Bundle recently. I think I never ended up buying them because I just haven’t been playing games that much; and in recent years, if I have, then it would have been on my XBOX360 for games of sufficient depth. There aren’t many games on mobile/handheld platform that I would want to pay for (and there are usually alternatives anyways) so I didn’t feel like spending on a Humble Bundle.

I bought the recent Humble Bundle because it included Ticket To Ride, which is a board game that I’ve played before. I enjoy playing board games electronically rather than live/with people because it’s a lot faster! I had Ticket To Ride on my Google Play wishlist for awhile, but it goes for something like $7.16 which is a lot to pay for an Android game. I ended up volun-paying $6.20 for the Humble Bundle, which got me the game and 2 DLC expansion packs (I could have paid $1 and received only the USA 1910 DLCs, so I’m not sure the extra $5 is worth it for the Europe maps).

I got a slew of other games as well which I would never play. I tried Organ Trail which is Oregon Trail with zombies but wasn’t really enamoured by it (maybe I’ll come back to it) and I got another copy of Greed Corp (I got this for cheap on XBOX360) but since I pretty much finished it, I might not play it again.

Ticket To Ride didn’t live up to my expectations. I don’t think the game itself is bad – its just the interface. In the bundle, you get the game for as many platforms as possible. I installed it on my living room PC and my TV is just big enough to display the UI (it probably needs > 720p resolution to play). I also installed it on my phone, and it laid out the same interface elements, in the same manner, on a sub-5″ display. Not only can I see, I can’t discretely click the elements. So that kinda sucks. The saving grace is that the game seems to be constantly updated (not fun to keep downloading 200mb updates) so perhaps it will get better on mobile devices.

I buy lots of stuff from China – nothing important, just various electronics and plastic-based merchandise that is extremely cheap to produce over there. Typically for small things, my go-to source is to look for it on DealExtreme.

I’ve had good success with DX, so I have confidence when buying from there. I’ve bought from other China-based sites before, but because so many pop up and disappear, I’m not sure whether they’re trustworthy or not. With DX, even though sometimes the prices are a few dollars higher, I’m relatively certain that I will get the item in about 3 weeks (I’ve experienced a couple of DOAs or missing packages, but usually they refund my money or send it out again).

In fact, I buy from DX so often that I started getting curious. How much money have I spent propping up the manufacturing industry of China? Luckily for me, I have PayPal records of all my purchases so I spent an evening entering the data into a spreadsheet.

Since August 2007, I’ve made 62 different orders at DealExtreme. I typically try and batch my orders so that they’re less than $20 in value (to avoid custom fees). Even then, 60+ orders is a lot – and comes up to just over $1000 USD spent at DealExtreme! $1000 seems like a lot of USB cables and various electronic knick-knacks, but I’ve bought some more expensive items, such as a lot of LED light bulbs, EZ-Flash, and some musical instruments. In total, I’ve bought 197 items from DX.

Crossing that $1000 threshold surprised me, but I don’t think I’m going to stop buying from China. Besides, that’s just a year worth of Starbucks, and I get much more happiness out of random stuff from China.

My current desktop computer (with upgrades) was purchased to replace my previous desktop computer which had been chugging along for 7 years ago. It has now been chugging along for almost 6 years itself, which means it sounds like I should get a new desktop in the next year. Rather than wait, I pre-emptively bought a new desktop now.

I’ve been having a couple of issues with my current desktop – although I think they stem from the same root cause. Almost ever since I bought this computer, the front USB ports had a problem. They would occasionally short when plugging in something and cause my other USB devices (even those plugged in the back) to freeze (basically I have to reboot since neither my mouse nor keyboard would work anymore). I couldn’t just simply reboot though, I had to disconnect the power cord and wait 10s (for some capacitor to dissipate probably). Recently, when the front USB port doesn’t short, it occasionally corrupts the data being transferred (such as photos from my camera). I’ve resorted to copying photos from SD onto my laptop, and then transferring over network to my desktop – that’s a pain. Finally, I’ve been getting BSODs every once in awhile (although that could just be because I’m using my computer more).

So I jumped a year and bought a new computer now when Dell was having a sale. Here are the primary specs:

  • Intel Haswell i7-4770 (8M Cache, up to 3.9Ghz)
  • 24GB RAM (DDR3 1600Mhz)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB GDDR5
  • 2TB 7200RPM + 256GB SSD
  • Blue-ray combo drive (writes CD/DVD)
  • Win8 Professional

This came out to $1799.99 – $450 in discounts, which is a shade over $1500 after tax. There were actually a couple of promotions on at the same time. Prior to this promotion, I was looking at two bundles at $1599 and $1499. The $1499 bundle was the same as the above, except only had 16GB of RAM (I don’t think the extra 8GB will be of any benefit). The $1599 one was a student offer, which included a 24″ monitor and a $100 e-coupon on top of the $1499 bundle. If I didn’t find any other sales, I would have probably gotten the $1599 package; but I didn’t really need another 24″ monitor. With this package, I saved another $100 (there was a $50 coupon that would have applied anywhere).

The BB Playbook firesale saga is still on. When it came out, it was a somewhat reasonable $500 (or something like that) given that many tablets (i.e., iPad) were around that price. But then the prices started sinking like a cannonball – $250, $200, $150, how low can it go?? This weekend we have it at $118 at Walmart and $99 at Staples.

It’s so low, that I want to buy one. You might think that is a natural response, but I received a free one awhile ago (for submitting a BB app) and then promptly gave it away. Yet, I feel like I need to take advantage of the Staples’ price on the Playbook and buy one – it’s 80% off!

I guess my instinct is that I don’t expect the Playbook to get any cheaper – although I’ve seen Chinese 7″ tablets with last generation (or maybe 2 generation old) technology go for USD$60 shipped. But at that point, I think RIM would be taking a total loss on it in order to convince retailers to sell the Playbook.

To celebrate the rebrandng of the Android Market as Google Play, Google held a sale on some popular games, apps, and media recently. Many of them were repeats of the previous sale, but here are some new things that I bought:

  • Pocket League Story
    This is a game in almost the same format as Game Dev Story or Hot Springs Story except the specifics have changed and now you’re a manger of a football (soccer) team. Not much to say here aside from that it is a time sink for about 2 weeks until you clear the game.
  • Osmos HD
    I bought this game on a whim because it looks semi interesting, and I am excited that it is supposed to have a good soundtrack.
  • ZOOKEEPER DX Touch Edition
    This looks like a very generic match-three-of-the-same-thing puzzler, but I took a chance on it because it is supposed to be a polished game. Plus it is by a Japanese company, so the fact that it is being promoted must mean its good? Well I haven’t played enough to say that it is much different than the puzzler I thought it would be. There is some hilarious engrish in the game though.
  • Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals
    This one I bought for Pauline, so no comment here.

I think these apps sales are kind of a scam. A lot of paid apps are 99¢ so selling them for 49¢ is still half the price. When the market of games is either $1 or free, 50% off is not close enough to free (whereas I think 10¢ is). What’s next, a 75¢ sale?

They also had movies and books on sale. I didn’t want to rent movies and I wasn’t sure about the books – I’m invested in the Kindle platform and not Google Books. But 25¢ is pretty cheap so I bought some anyways:

Before I quit my old job, I gave my old laptop backpack back because it was all broken (Targus bags apparently do not last – it became all frayed from being brought to work in a car for a few years…). I didn’t know what would happen after I started at my new job, would I get a new bag? Would I even need to carry a laptop to-and-from work.

Well the answer is no to both, and really all I needed to bring to work was my lunch (I don’t even need an umbrella due to my short commute). For the first few weeks, I had been using my MEC backpack, but it’s felt a bit odd because I don’t have much to fill it with and it feels like I am travelling with tags and a compass dangling from the back.

So I started shopping around for a bag for work. I didn’t want to get an all leather bag because it just feels too serious at this point – it’s not like I am working at a bank or firm. I ended up deciding on this Fred Perry bag.

Luckily for me, when I was looking for a bag, Fred Perry was having a sale so the price went down from £45 to £22.5. Unfortunately it would cost £12 for shipping and I may be hit by the 17% duty and HST which would end up setting me back about $100 for the bag!

Instead, I started looking for options and happened to find the same bag on Ebay. I ended up buying it there – it was a bit more expensive (about the same after shipping) but at least I didn’t have to pay customs or duty on it!

On my last two trips to Europe, I have been hoping that along the way I would have been able to buy Chicane’s album Giants. When they crossed our paths, we went into used CD stores, and retail media stores (i.e., FNAC), but I have not been having any luck at all! Actually outside of a large retail location in Berlin, I haven’t been able to find much Trance music in stores; let alone anything by Chicane.

Finally I figured this wasn’t a good strategy and bought it used on Amazon (shipped from UK) for a whopping $9+$3.50 shipping. That’s certainly cheaper than flying over to Europe to shop. Unfortunately, Chicane’s just released a new album (Thousand Mile Stare) so I may be back in the same predicament shortly.

One thing that is a bit different this year, which was unplanned and unexpected, is that I haven’t been frequenting RedflagDeals as often. One reason that might be the case is because I have started a new job, so I haven’t been surfing there that much. But I don’t think that is the main reason, because I still go on there after work and I do find that it is not as interesting anymore.

I don’t know if I should attribute that to the fact that there isn’t much I want to buy anymore or because there aren’t that many good deals anymore! Many of the deals are for random computer components, tech gadgets or video games – none of which I need at the moment. I haven’t seen many great travel deals on there in awhile, and even then, my next travelling opportunity isn’t for a few months.

One other possibility is that I may have just grown out of RFD and spending so much time looking for The. Cheapest. Deal.

We ordered a couple of pairs of shoes/boots online the other day, 4 pairs in total. They were on clearance, plus there was a January sale, and there was an additional 15% off coupon, and finally we had reached the free shipping threshold. To tell the truth, some of the shoes may not be that great of a choice but because we had to reach $49 for free shipping (and you can return it at the store), we bought a few more.

The final total ended up being about $67, which works out to about $15 per pair before taxes. That’s a pretty good deal, and much better than what you can get in stores. I hope they can at least break even given that they have to ship big/heavy boxes out to us for free, but that’s when the hilarity starts. I received an email on Monday stating that a shipment had been sent. When I took a look, it turns out that only one pair had been shipped! So now they were going to pay for two shipments instead of waiting until all the shoes were available.

I arrived home today to the shipped pair (they pay for next-day shipping?) and another email saying they had shipped shoes to us – another pair by itself. They didn’t screw up, they seem to be shipping our shoes, pair-by-pair. I can’t imagine that they are making much money off our order if they operate like this (is their shipping cost based on weight and not the amount of shipments?) Maybe they just believe themselves lucky for receiving some money while getting rid of some old inventory; they’d better hope that we don’t return too many!

Now that I have a subway job, I have to decide whether I should use tokens every day or buy weekly/Metro passes. Sure passes are more flexible and convenient, but I don’t really take the TTC that often aside from going to/from work. Plus, passes are quite expensive in Toronto. Right now, a token costs $2.60 each while a Metropass costs $126 per month*. I also have the option of getting a weekly pass when I can predict heavy TTC usage; but a TTC is a clear rip off. At $37.50 a week, it works out to $162.50 a month ($153.12 with three weeks off)!

So the calculation comes down to whether I should use tokens or buy a (normal) Metropass. What’s the number of trips per month where the costs start breaking even? At full price, it would take 48.5 trips before you break even – or about 24 days of work. However, you can now get a 15% tax credit for each pass which is a $18.90 savings each month bringing the effective cost of each pass down to $107.10. At that price, you need to take 41 trips or about 20 days of work to break even**.

In January, because I was on vacation in the first week, I won’t make it to 20 days and have been using tokens. This year’s February is a bit weird and I will make it to 20 days so I’ll buy a Metropass that month. I think I will consider Metropass purchases on a month-by-month basis now!

* I don’t think it’s worthwhile for me to subscribe to the annual Metropass since there are some months, when I take vacation, where I might take 10 or 20 fewer TTC trips than average.
** The same calculation for a Metropass subscription is 19 days, so a subscription doesn’t offer much advantage from a cost perspective.

Some recent thoughts on tablets:

  • I took a look at the new Kobo Vox which is the Canadian competitor to the Kindle Fire & etc – i.e., $200 color Android tablet, to be used as an eReader and being promoted heavily by a book store. It is not that amazing. It feels (weight, thickness) like my cheap (and useless now) tablet from China. They did a trick however, to make it seem less thick – by slanting the sides. I read a couple of anecdotes about it, and perhaps it is confirmation bias, but it seems to be pretty sluggish. I think the big knock against it (for me) is when you pick it up, you don’t think Wow, this is cool, I’d like to have one!. Maybe this is because I’m familiar with the industry, or maybe because the product just isn’t a “wow”.
  • For the same $200, you can now (this week) get a 16GB Blackberry Playbook. The 16GB Wifi PB started at $499 and has been dropping steadily in the past year. First it was cheap through employee and other F&F-type sales, but now it’s available to the general public at this price. Is it a fire sale? I don’t know, but discounting a supposedly highly-anticipated tech product by more than 50% in the first year cannot be a good sign.
  • This sudden dip in price and availability of the PB has kicked off a frenzy. Earlier this week, the group thought was that the sale would only be at Walmart, so hoarders started buying 3 or 4 PBs at their $499 price and waiting for price protection (because inevitably, it will sell out at the $200 price point). From RFD, it seems like they were pretty successful in causing a run on Walmart’s PBs so that most places are OOS. I wonder if managers at Walmart were clued into why they were suddenly selling out of the PBs? If they ordered even more stock, then they might not be making a lot of money on these sales.
  • Now, it turns out that all the retailers (i.e., FS, Staples, etc) are selling PBs at the $200 price point (at least for this week). If they didn’t match the move, they would have found themselves selling a lot of PBs at $200 – 10% x ($500-$200) = $170 instead!

All good things must come to an end, even my complaining about these horrible Steve Madden shoes. I finally threw this worthless pair of shoes into the trash this past weekend, but not before taking some pictures!

They don’t look THAT bad from the front (retroactive justification as to why I bought them)

But have you seen worn tread like this? Unbelievable!

Goodbye and good riddance!

I threw them away because I needed to make some space in our closet for a new pair of shoes I bought (Adidas runners, only $20 after clearance + additional 50% at the Adidas outlet the US!).

I remember when I was a kid, and looking for shoes (at say Foot Locker), shoes were sold in the $100-$200 range (and that’s in 90s dollars, which must amounts to what, $400 nowadays?). Now you can get a decent looking pair of name-brand runners within the $60-$70 range. What’s the deal with that? The shoes are still made in Asia, so is it competition that’s driving the prices down? or more awareness that shoes really shouldn’t cost so much to make when labourers are making pennies on the hour?

Over the Easter long weekend, we embarked on a mission to improve our health & longevity. Although perhaps they didn’t take into account sitting in a car for several hours in their study.

Our goal was to stay in the US over 48 hours so that we could get the $400 personal exemption, and we accomplished that by staying over for about 48 hours and 30 minutes! We started out on Thursday night and crossed at Fort Erie at about 9PM. There weren’t many cars at the border at that time so it was smooth sailing. We headed all the way to the Erie to stay at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront because I got a good deal with SPG cash+points.

Although the Bayfront is only a 3 star property, it was quite nice. The decor is modern with lots of wallpaper, but feels very warm. It’s also on the lake and lit up at night, but unfortunately it was raining a lot so that was not conducive to going outside to take pictures.

We spent the next day shopping at Grove City (0% tax on clothes) before heading back to Buffalo for…more shopping. In the end we were limited to what we could buy because we ran out of trunk space, but the good news was that we were all under the $400 exemption limit still!

We’re looking for a sofa, here is what I’ve learned so far about sofa technology:

  • Quality frames are made from kiln-dried hardwood to prevent warping due to humidity changes. Examples of hardwood are oak, maple or poplar. Examples of a cheap frame material are pine, green wood and knotted wood.
  • If you get a plywood frame, there should be at least 11-13 layers of plywood
  • Springs should run front to back. Sinuous springs are the best value right now (here’s a picture of what sinuous springs look like). You might also look for the traditional “eight way hand tied” but that is expensive.
  • The material can be fake/faux leather (i.e., vinyl), bonded leather (I think also called leather match), or full grain leather.

Culled from the following reading material: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

In July, (which was 5 months ago!), I ordered a subscription of The Atlantic for $10.50 USD. That was for three years worth, which is a great deal because that works out to about $3 per year when a single issue at the newsstand is something like $8. The trick to getting cheap magazine subscriptions is to order from the US where sites clearing houses like Amazon have sales. Well that’s not really the trick. The trick in getting your US subscriptions to work is that you need to update your address (to your Canadian one) after you put your order in. That takes a bit of time, and you might miss an issue or two.

The guideline is that it usually takes 6-8 weeks to start your subscription, and then another few weeks to reflect your address change. I finally got my first issue (the December issue) of The Atlantic so it does take some time!

Earlier this year, I bought a neat wallet. It’s designed to look like lined paper (one of many designs) but built from a patented type of paper that resists water and tearing.

I bought it because I liked the design, and because the material was very thin. The thickness of the wallet is mostly made up of your bills and cards, rather than the wallet itself.

I should have blogged about this earlier because I kept getting asked whether I folded it myself! The second question that I get invariably asked is its durability. I used it for over half a year until I switched back to a conventional wallet. It didn’t fall apart per se, but the design started fading (I guess my pant pockets are dirty) and it started warping. I think the fallacy is that it is folded together rather than glued (to be flexible for various contents).

It is pretty obvious that retail eyeglass stores is a false economy. I’m not even talking about the Western stores, but the Asian ones that you found at Pacific Mall et al. You go in, get a pair of glasses, and they charge you enough to use up your insurance allotment for the year (and maybe pad the bill a bit so you don’t have to pay anything). They are $300 happier, you are 1 pair of glasses (and no less money) happier, so everyone wins.

But it is obvious that there is a lot of funny accounting going on. First, you can look at the frames and they are exorbitant in price. A designer frame can set you back $400 or more. But if you can get past the sticker shock and ask the attendant, you will find that your total package including “extremely thin” lenses will be about $250 or $300 taxes in. They always give you a 50% discount on the frames!

Lately, I’ve been buying my glasses online, and I think this has become more and more accepted now. Clearly Contacts is quite popular, and you can get the same pair of glasses you would get from a B&M store for about $100. Other more shady places on the web can net you a pair under $30. The general excuse is that the retail stores don’t have the luxury of outsourcing to India or Pakistan to cut their lenses, and have to pay the cost of a storefront and staff.

Well that is a load of BS. I recently heard about a real store that is selling glasses for $38 a pair*. Maybe these are the same frame designs as I would get from China (i.e., shady places online) but if they can stand to at least break even, then your typical insurance fraud eyeglasses store is making over $200 profit per sale!

* Yes, I know you need a coupon to get it down to $38, but 38 is in their name so I don’t think they would ever stray from that price point.

Recently, Clearly Contacts has a promotion where they are giving away 500 pairs of glasses for free in several cities across Canada. Being a freebie, this deal is quite popular with RFDers and some members have claimed to get up to 5 free glasses in similar CC promotions in the past!

Of course, CC has a policy of only giving one free pair of glasses to a household, and I expect they have some sort of automated way to determine duplicates (because some people get caught). But, I was thinking about it and it is not straightforward to determine which orders are dups while limiting false positives.

The obvious is to use street address, but that quickly falls apart when you consider apartment residents with the same street address. You can’t allow variability based on apartment number, because then a (single) household can abuse that field. You have the same problem with postal code.

You can try to match on personal information such as email address, credit card number or name; everyone has multiple email addresses, most have several credit cards, and you can modify your name and the package should still get delivered to you.

The last piece of information is your prescription. I don’t know how statistically similar prescriptions are, but I think that needs to be the key. If you can find multiple orders with very similar prescriptions, and some other information (such as name or email or street address) are statistically similar, then those are probably orders from the same person. At least that would be how I would implement it.

After some hilarity, I finally booked our hotel for London. I had my eye on a place listed for $79USD/night on Hotwire because it was relatively cheap. Plus, I was fairly confident that based on the amenities and information on Hotwire, that it would be the HIE in Southwark. That would be a great location for the price, right beside the Tate Modern and near Waterloo tube station.

With that information in mind, I set off to Priceline hoping to get the same location for cheaper. I started my bidding at $50 and ended up bidding $50, $55, $57, $60 using the same credit card on the same day! Why did I get so many chances? Because there are so many regions in the London area! I didn’t get any biters at $60 so I wait till the next day.

Then I tried $60, $62, $65, $70, $74, and finally $78 on the same credit card on the same day! I was able to get free rebids for star class and region (started with City/London Bridge, then added Westminster, Soho, Marble Arch, and Kensington). That’s five free re-bids! But in the end, I still didn’t get anything and had to book on Hotwire.