Get What You Pay For

Why bargain hunting isn’t such a bad thing.

There’s an old saying everyone seems to know: “You get what you pay for.” It’s normally applied to situations where you buy something at a low cost and it breaks. “You get what you pay for” is supposed to explain why it broke — you apparently didn’t pay enough money for it.

Lots of people use this logic when they shop. If something is cheap, it must be crap because “you get what you pay for.” If someone else is selling the same thing or something similar for more money, it must be better, right?

Not always.

My Hair

Yes, I’m going to use my hair as an example.

I dye my hair. It’s no secret. I’ve been doing it since I was in my 20s when those first few grays started making their appearance. I did it myself for at least 20 years, using a reddish shade of brown that got even redder when exposed to Arizona sunlight. The color looked at least somewhat natural — at least no one ever commented on it looking fake. I’ve since switched to a browner color that’s more in line with what I remember my hair looking like. It’s been so long, I’m not sure. And those few strands of gray now account for about 75% of my hair.

Last year, I began living in an RV full time after leaving my Arizona home and waiting for my new home in Washington to be built. If you know anything about hair dye, you know that good water pressure is a must-have for rinsing that crap off your hair. So is a good supply of hot water. My RV is weak on both counts, so I began getting my hair dyed “professionally.”

I put “professionally” in quotes, because I started going to the local Beauty Academy. These are highly supervised girls (mostly) who are training to become beauticians. They do everything, from hair trims to dye jobs to perms. They don’t mix a color without consulting with a supervisor. The “classic color” service I needed cost $28.

I went every 6 weeks for quite a while. There was a different girl doing my hair each time. Based on observations, conversations, and chatter among the dozen or so girls working there, most of them were under 25 and apparently had at least one kid but no husband. Young women learning a good trade to support themselves and their families. We had nothing in common so conversation was minimal. Each girl took a long time to get the color in — a typical dye job would take over 3 hours. But it came out good each time and the color lasted. I was satisfied.

Then I succumbed to peer pressure. (Can you believe it?) When I complained to one of my girlfriends that it took so long to get my hair dyed, she ridiculed me for getting my hair done there. She recommended her woman at JC Penney’s salon. So I figured, why not?

I went to Sally (not her real name) and she did my hair. Although she was closer to my age than the Beauty Academy kids, she didn’t seem interested in striking up a conversation with me. While the dye “processed” in my hair, she disappeared into a back room. I learned to read a book or play a game on my phone.

The first time I went, she insisted on cutting my hair and waxing my eyebrows. I was trying to grow my hair long, but when I came every six weeks, she’d cut off 5 weeks of growth. And I don’t usually mess with my eyebrows. I let them do their own thing. But after waxing, they needed maintenance, so I had to have them waxed every time. The bill? $90. When I cut out the hair cuts and waxing, it went down to $70.

And I didn’t feel as if I were getting any better service than those young girls practicing on my hair.

So yesterday I went back to the Beauty Academy. The girl who did my hair was young but she had a professional attitude and would be graduating in just two weeks. She already had a job lined up. She did a great job on my hair, matching my existing color so she only had to do the roots. Because it was Customer Appreciation Day, the dye job only cost $18.

That’s more than $50 saved. And I got a pumpkin muffin to snack on.

I don’t think Sally will be seeing me again.

As for my peer pressure friend — well, I don’t talk to her these days anyway.

Harbor Freight

I was out with some friends last night, all sitting around a big table in a restaurant. I got into a conversation with a friend who was telling me about a crane he’d bought at Harbor Freight and had attached to his cargo trailer. He’s been collecting and selling scrap metal lately and needed something to lift engine blocks.

Harbor Freight, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a company that sells “quality tools at ridiculously low prices.” That’s what it says on their website. I can confirm the low prices, but I can’t agree about the quality. Most of what they sell is pretty crappy stuff.

But not all of it. My friend and I chatted about this. The “you get what you pay for” phrase was thrown around a bit. We both agreed that you had to think about how you planned to use what you were buying when making that purchase decision. If it was something you’d use occasionally and rather lightly, Harbor Freight was probably a good source. But if it was something that you needed to use hard and frequently — something you wanted to last a good, long time — Harbor Freight probably wasn’t the place to go.


Most of my friends hate Walmart. It’s a policy thing — low pay and questionable promotional practices for employees, an abundance of cheap, low quality merchandise, and an atmosphere that appeals to the kind of shopper that most of us simply don’t want to get too close to.

I hate Walmart, too. But I have to admit here that I do occasionally shop there. Why? Because it sells two things I use every day at a price too low to pass up:

  • Eight O'ClockThe first is coffee. I like Eight O’Clock coffee. It’s a medium or perhaps light roast Arabica bean. I grind it myself and brew it strong, by the cup. I’ve been doing this for at least 15 years, if not longer. I’ve tried other coffees over the years but always come back to this one. And if there’s one thing that’s important for me to get right, it’s that first cup of coffee in the morning. Trouble is, Eight O’Clock coffee isn’t easy to find. And when I do find it, it’s expensive. Walmart has it for $4.99/package. That’s $2/package less than I can buy it directly from Eight O’Clock’s website.
  • Penny eats Cesar dog food. Yes, it’s the foo-foo dog food that comes in tiny plastic containers. She eats one every morning. They come in many flavors and are easy to store and serve. And travel with. It just makes sense. Unfortunately, Safeway and Fred Meyer sell it for $1.29/container. Cesar Dog FoodSometimes, if it’s on sale, I can get it for 10 for $10 ($1/container). But Walmart sells it for 70¢/container. So let’s do the math here. Suppose I’d always buy it on sale at Fred Meyer for $1/container. Walmart saves me 30¢/container. 365 days in a year is $109 saved. And since I’m going to Walmart for my coffee anyway…

Yes, there is a point here. By buying these two things in Walmart, I’m getting exactly what I want for less money than it would cost elsewhere. Quality isn’t an issue — it’s the same exact thing I could get somewhere else. In this case, I’m getting what I pay for but I’m paying a lot less.

Is my monthly shopping expeditions to Walmart to buy two things is supporting Walmart policies? Maybe. But hell, I need my coffee!

More Examples?

I can probably spend weeks blogging about other examples, but I think you get the idea. You can probably even come up with a few of your own examples.

I think the point I’m trying to make is this: when shopping for what’s best for you, it’s important to not only consider price, but to also consider the quality of what you’re getting. Don’t assume that low price means low quality — often, it doesn’t. Often, you can get the same quality for a lower price.

But not always. A smart shopper — especially someone who wants (or needs) to save money — has to look at the big picture with every purchase decision.

Damaged Evernote Images Email Scam

I’m so tired of writing about these, but I really do feel a need to share and inform.

The other day, I got a very short email message from “Support” that claimed I had damaged images. There was a link apparently to the image. A footnote had an Evernote copyright. Here’s the whole thing:

Email Scam
This is the entire message.

Yes, I do use Evernote. But I don’t put images there. So it was pretty easy for me to expect a scam.

How to Be Sure

Here’s how I knew for sure it was a scam. Pay attention, newbies!

Who is it from?

Evernote Support’s email is I don’t think so.

The first thing I did was click the name in the from field. In Mail on my Mac, that displays a menu that includes the email address of the sender. This is obviously not Evernote support. It’s an idiot scammer.

What is the link really to?

This is not a link to an image. It’s a link to a PHP file that can install malware on your computer.

Just because text is colored and looks like a link doesn’t mean it links to what the text says. In Mail on a Mac, I can point to the link and wait until a popup appears, telling me exactly where the link goes. Never click a link to a PHP file. It could install malware on your computer.

The same thing goes for buttons. Point to see where it goes before clicking. This button goes to the same place as the link text above it.

What Evernote Says

Enough people reported this problem to Evernote that they have a knowledge base article about it. You can find it here.

Be Careful Out There!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times more: never click a link in an email message unless you know for sure that it was sent by someone you know and trust. Even then there could be issues if that person’s account was hacked.

An Apple ID Hack Attempt

Two unrelated incidents? Maybe.

The other day, after having lunch with a friend, I happened to check my email. There were two messages from Apple’s iCloud service, which I’ve been a user of since its first incarnation more than 10 years ago.

I should mention first that I actively use about six different email addresses and have another six or so more that I seldom check or use. The bulk of my email comes to a throw-away address on one of my domain names. Only good friends, family members, and important folks like my divorce lawyers have my keeper email addresses, including the one on Apple’s servers which I use with the domain.

The messages were from Apple and I’m pretty sure they were real. Here’s the first:

Hack Attempt 1
First message I got warning of a hack attempt.

In case you can’t read it, it tells me that I recently initiated a password reset for my Apple ID and gives me a link to reset my password.

I looked at the URL in the link. It looked real. But I didn’t click it. I didn’t need to. I hadn’t initiated a password reset for my account.

Apparently, someone else had.

I have to admit that I first thought of my wasband and the desperate old whore he’s living with these days. Back in January or February, they’d hacked into one of my old investment accounts, probably searching for funds for their never-ending legal battle to steal what I’ve worked hard for my whole life. I’d found out because they’d actually gotten in — I’d been foolish enough to put his name on the account when I thought I could trust him — and changed the security questions for the account. I’d been automatically emailed about the change by the investment company, thus exposing their little trespass into an account my wasband knew was mine. Fortunately, there was nothing in there for them to take. Not long afterward, I discovered that I’d been locked out of another investment account because of too many incorrect login attempts. His name is not on that one so they couldn’t get in.

I couldn’t see any reason why they’d want to hack into my Apple account, though, other than to possibly access privileged communications between me and my lawyer. What would that get them, though? Unless they’re concerned about legal action by me against my wasband for his lies under oath in court?

About 25 minutes later, another message from Apple came through. This one told me that they couldn’t reset the password because too many unsuccessful attempts to answer my security questions.

Hack Attempt 2
This message told me that someone had gone so far as to attempt to answer my security questions.

Whoever was trying to hack my account was apparently rather determined. But why? Could some hacker be trying to access my credit card information on Apple’s account? I don’t store naked selfies — or anything else that should be kept private — on iCloud to leak onto the Internet.

I should mention here that both messages came to my throwaway email account, which is set up on my Apple account as a backup email contact. Obviously, if I didn’t have a backup email account, Apple couldn’t email me instructions for resetting my password on an account I couldn’t access. It seemed to me that security on the Apple servers had protected my account.

Overnight, another message came in. This was definitely not from Apple.

Hack Attempt 3
This message was definitely not from Apple.

How do I know at a glance that it isn’t from Apple? Let me count the ways:

  1. Dear Customer. A legitimate email message from an organization you do business with should always be addressed to your name. Not even to an email address.
  2. Message was from “Service Apple ID.” Who? The address for that account was Yeah, like I believe that’s Apple.
  3. Link was to a page on No, I didn’t click the link to see it. If you point to a link in the Mail app, a tip comes up with the full URL inside it. ALWAYS check links before clicking them.
  4. Typos. Apple doesn’t have typographical or grammatical or punctuation errors in its messages.

What seriously creeped me out about this is that it also went to my throwaway account.

Now my throwaway account is “throwaway” for a reason. It’s the email address I use to sign up for things. As such, it’s subject to spam. The idea is that when incoming spam reaches a critical mass, I throw away the account and create a new one for the same purpose.

There is definitely a chance that the person who sent this message sent them out to everyone they could, hoping that some of them would have Apple IDs associated with the account and click the link. But what worries me is that it came on the same day that my actual Apple account was attacked. Coincidence? I don’t know, but I don’t like it. Still, I know my Apple account is secure, so I’m not losing sleep over it.

But I do want to spread the word.

Have you gotten messages like this? At least one of my Facebook friends has. Could this be a coordinated attack against people with Apple IDs? Perhaps a way to get access to their data for use with the Apple Pay system? Or something else?

I might never know. But if you have any insight about this, please do share it — or at least point me to a reliable source of information with real answers.

Apple, as we all know, is pretty much impossible to reach.

IRS Tax Payment Rejection Scam

Are people really this stupid?

I got an email message from “” today claiming that:

Your federal Tax payment (ID: HF2IRS598523201), recently sent from your checking account was returned by the your financial institution.

For more information, please download notification below. (Security PDF Adobe file)[REDACTED].php


Are people really stupid enough to click a link on a site based in the UK for an IRS tax issue? Are people really stupid enough to click a link to a PHP file that’s supposed to be a PDF file?

Here’s a copy of the message. If you got one of these, “raise your hand” by posting a comment below. I’m curious.

And spread the word; you have no idea how much it irks me that scammers are preying upon people dumb enough to believe crap like this.

Tax Scam Email

Repurposing Old Bee Hive Boxes

Reuse, recycle.

A few months back, my beekeeping friend James told me he’d was able to get a bunch of used deep hive boxes for about $5 each. Knowing I used deep boxes — he uses only mediums — he offered them to me. I asked about the condition and he admitted that they were pretty beat up but could probably be usable with just a cleaning and fresh coat of paint. They were heavy-duty commercial boxes — the kind the migratory beekeepers use. I told him I’d take 10.

Beat Up Hive Boxes
These hive boxes are a little more beat up than I was expecting them to be.

I picked them up a while later. Although structurally sound, they were very beat up. James showed me one that he’d painted and it didn’t look half bad. Since the price was right and I had plenty of paint, I took them.

I spent one morning scraping the paint off four of them with a wire brush and then repainting them. They did look much better. But when I slipped some frames into one of them, I realized that they weren’t consistently sized; the frames fit too loosely and would require careful placement to prevent them from falling into the box.

This is my garden hive, so-called because I placed it near my garden. It was built with two of the used boxes and it’s pretty clear that they simply don’t fit the way they need to.

But it wasn’t until I placed the first box of frames onto a hive bottom — for a swarm capture I needed to permanently house — that I realized the problem couldn’t be solved with just a coat of paint. The top and bottom edges of the boxes were rough. This caused gaps between the bottom and the box and between stacked boxes. The gaps were large enough for light and air to pass through. That meant the bees would be busy filling all those gaps with propolis, thus gluing them together.

I used the four I’d painted and found the same problem with all of them. Although I didn’t want to invest more money in beekeeping equipment than I had to, it was clear that these boxes would not be suitable for long-term use. They’d need to be replaced.

I placed an order for five new boxes from Mann Lake, figuring that I’d begin swapping them out on my next inspections.

But what to do with the unneeded boxes?

The answer was in my garden, which was growing wild in the planters I’d bought and made: more movable planters.

Understand that bee hive boxes do not have tops or bottoms. All they have are sides. While I could simply place a box on the ground, fill it with soil, and plant something in it, that wouldn’t make it movable. It also wouldn’t keep the moles (or voles or whatever I have making holes on my property) from digging in from underneath to kill whatever was growing in the box.

So I did the same thing I did for my large pallet planters — I lined the bottom with wire mesh. I had a large piece I’d been using on the door for my chicken yard that I clipped off, cut to size, and lay inside of each of the three boxes I painted for my trial run. I used a staple gun to fasten the wire to the sides of the boxes. Then I placed the first box in position, put a layer of stray on the bottom, right over the wire, and topped it off with some potting soil. I planted corn in the box, covered the soil with some more straw (to discourage digging by birds), watered it, and left it.

The corn wasn’t supposed to germinate for 8-10 days, but within 6 days, it was pushing its way up between the pieces of straw.

Beehive Planters
A row of the beehive planters. You can see the corn poking up through the straw in the closest box.

I lined up the other two boxes on the ground beside the first. I planted corn in one and onions in the other. When the heat breaks, I’ll prep the remaining three boxes, although I may not plant anything in them until next year.

What I like most about these movable planters is that they’re making it possible for me to have a garden this year, before I’m ready to commit to a location for the garden. And while the bottoms might not be the most sturdy, they do make it possible for plant roots to reach through, into the soil below.

I just hope I didn’t plant the corn too late for a good harvest.