Why I Buy So Much on Amazon

It’s all about quick and easy shopping.

I buy a lot of the things I need for my home and garden on Amazon.com. It’s gotten to the point that the UPS truck is at my place several times a week to drop off packages.

For a while, I felt kind of guilty about that. After all, the Wenatchee area where I live, has plenty of shopping opportunities. I should be supporting the economy by shopping locally.

Trouble is, the things I need aren’t always easy to find. Or they might take several stops to track down. Or — worse yet — I may simply forget to look for something I need while I’m out and remember a day or two later when I actually need it.

Hose Fitting
I went nuts looking for this $3.25 item in stores around town. Found it in five minutes on Amazon.

Here’s an example. I needed an irrigation fitting that would enable me to connect my automatic chicken waterer to my garden irrigation system. The idea is that when the timer starts up the irrigation system twice a day (for 10 minutes each time), it would pressurize the waterer’s water feed and top off the chicken’s water trough, which is shared by my barn cats. The irrigation hose already runs right past the waterer. Why run another hose across the garden entrance? One fitting and 10 minutes of effort and I don’t have to worry about water for my chickens or cats for the rest of the summer.

One fitting. You think I’d be able to track it down on one of my many visits to Home Depot or Lowes, right?

Wrong. Try as I might, I couldn’t find what I needed. In any of the four stores I tried.

Then I sat down at my computer and, in less than five minutes had found and ordered exactly what I needed. It would be at my doorstep in two days without any more driving or searching or frustration.

Do you know how many stores I visited, looking for a microwave that would fit on my kitchen’s microwave shelf without looking like it belonged in a dorm room? Home Depot, Lowes, Sears, Save-Mart (the local appliance store), and even Walmart. Basically, every store that sold microwaves. But again, a few minutes on Amazon and I’d narrowed down the search to the ones that fit and matched my other appliances. Then it was just a matter of picking the one I like best. A few days later, it was on my doorstep.

I bought the wrong vacuum cleaner bags for my old ShopVac three times (and returned them three times) before I did an Amazon search, found what I needed, and ordered them. I didn’t even bother trying to find the vacuum cleaner bags for my household vacuum; I just ordered them on Amazon.

I needed ghee — a clarified butter used in Indian cooking. Local supermarkets didn’t have it. Amazon did.

New battery for my Roomba? Where could I possibly find that locally? Found it on Amazon in minutes.

Want to help support this site?

Use this link when you shop at Amazon.com. A tiny percentage of your purchase will be sent to me as a referral fee. It won’t cost you anything extra and you’ll still get the great product selection and service you expect from Amazon.

And I think this is the reason online shopping poses such a threat to brick and mortar stores. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s affordable, and it often comes with free shipping — including return shipping if you decide you don’t like it.

It’s Friday and the UPS guy has been at my home four times (so far) this week. I’m expecting him today with that irrigation fitting. Yesterday, I apologized to him for so many trips down the two miles of gravel road to get to my home. He said he didn’t mind. When I jokingly suggested that it was people like me keeping him employed, he laughed along with me and agreed.

And I’m just happy to be able to save time shopping so I can get more important things done.

Online Store Launched

I’m now selling a few hand-made odds and ends online.

Just a quick note to let folks know that I’ve decided to start selling a few of my hand-made items online using Square.

Ornament
Here’s one of my recent ornaments. Sorry, but this one isn’t available for sale — I included it with a Christmas gift to an extremely supportive family member.

If you go to http://mkt.com/AnEclecticMind, you’ll find whatever items I’ve had time to photograph and put online. So far, that’s most likely to be a handful of fused glass ornaments that I’ve been making with my kiln out of recycled wine and sake bottles. Because each piece is hand-made and, thus, different, I need to photograph each one so they’ll be listed as quickly as I can photograph them. I’m just hoping Square doesn’t display items that are out of stock.

I’m still sitting on the fence about listing my honey, mostly because shipping it will be a bit of a chore and I really don’t have that much to sell this year.

Anyway, this is mostly for the folks who have been complementing me on my glass work. They’re telling me they want to buy these things so here’s where they can do it.

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.

Walmart

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?

Address
Evernote Support’s email is debra@tazland.net? 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?

Link
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 @mac.com 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 service@customer.com. Yeah, like I believe that’s Apple.
  3. Link was to a page on chatkajamnika.com. 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.