Tag Archives: Costco

The Rules of Purchase Returns Are Changing

How much of a hassle should it be to return something you purchased? There’s a fine line between the few who massively abuse it, and those of us who need to return something that doesn’t fit, won’t work, turned out to be overpriced, or needs to be exchanged. And retailers are tightening up on all of us.

Over $400 billion of merchandise is returned for a refund in North America each year. That’s a ton of product! Retailers claim that costs them $400 billion in sales, but that’s just not true. Lots of the merchandise is put back on the shelves to sell again, and a part of it goes to the secondary market, to places such as Marshalls or Winners.

Habitual returners are about one percent of customers. But, because of them, all of us are going to pay the price through more hassle to return something. Retailers have been really generous with returns, thinking it’d have a big impact on increased sales. Costco and Sears with their incredibly generous return policies led the way that all retailers matched to some degree or another. That’s going to change to a new way of thinking that returns aren’t going to be a right, but a privilege. That’ll take a lot of re-educating and push-back.

The coming new way will be that you’ll earn the right to return something by how much business you give that store and whether you’re part of their loyalty program. So, they’ll have to track your purchase history, which means you’ll have to give up your privacy rights in order for them to do that.

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember a third-party called Telecheque. If you wanted to pay by cheque, they’d phone in your name and bank info and that company would authorize your payment. For returns, the company is called Retail Equation. Smaller stores or chains will track your purchases and it’ll be this third-party that will decide if you can return something or not.

$10 Cell Plan,Free Cruise, Generic Drugs & Costco

Unlimited $10 cell phone plans: Yes, but it’s the U.S. – a great reminder of how badly we get ripped off here in Canada. But if you go to the U.S. a number of times a year, or if you’re there for the winter, you should know this. Taking your Canadian phone means a U.S. roaming plan that’s around $5 a day or $30 a month. That’s a lot more expensive than getting yourself a U.S. phone and a U.S. plan. The $10 is at unrealmobile.com and is for one GB of high speed data plus unlimited calls and texts. Just check what the rate is for calls to Canada. It runs on the Sprint network so you just need an unlocked phone and a $5 SIM card from Sprint or also AT&T.

Plan B, which is what I have, is a $3 plan from Ting. That’s a flat per month. When you use it in any month, it triggers $3 for 100 texts, and $6 for unlimited calls. It’s just for my three or four U.S. trips, but I’m also going to switch to unreal now. (For a review, go to Clark Howard’s website at clark.com – he’s the best U.S. consumer help guru that loved the service when he recently tested it.

A free cruise, but only if you’re a smoker. Yes, sounds kind of strange, but this one time, a bad habit can be rewarded. In September and October each year, a number of cruise lines offer seasonal Maritimes to New England cruises. The one I was on last year started in Quebec City with three stops in the Maritimes, then Maine, and ending in Boston. Other cruise lines follow a similar itinerary. Here’s the free part: A carton of cigarettes is around $140 here. Duty free on the ship, it’s about $40 Canadian. Since there’s a few stops in Canada before heading for the U.S., buy a few cartons, then get off in Halifax or St. John’s, walk two blocks to the post office, and mail them to yourself. Once you’ve docked in the U.S., you’re restricted to bring back one carton into Canada. While you’re still inside the country, AND have access to duty free, you’ve got that window of opportunity. Six or seven cartons will save you the price of your cruise.

Generic prescriptions are massively cheaper than the brand name drugs. Don’t think of generic meaning “not as good.” Generic if the financial word for “less expensive.” I needed three prescriptions filled after some dental surgery yesterday and asked the Costco pharmacy to make it generic. If it’s from a doctor, just ask him or her to put “generic OK” on the prescription when possible. I paid $31 total instead of $74 for the brand names (Tylenol 3 being one of them that I can pronounce). For someone with no insurance, that mattered to me. And do go to Costco. What 99% of people don’t know is that the law says pharmacies have to serve you. The law in every province and state is that you can go to Costco without a membership to get your prescription filled. You won’t regret the savings. If they won’t let you in, just as the door person to get you a manager, and remind them of the pharmacy exemption.

Keeping You Updated

Things change pretty quickly in the world of finance, credit, money and investing. Here are some updates to things we talked about in the last few  months. You can always find the stories at yourmoneybook.com and click on the radio stories button:

A few months ago we talked about the changes for airlines and your frequent flyer miles. Well, Air Canada just did another round of cutbacks to what you’ll earn and an increase to what you’ll need to redeem. Remember to think of your reward miles like bananas. Use them up as they don’t increase in value over time! Oh, and Westjet and Air Canada now charge baggage fees – surprise! Did you think they’d just ignore the $30 to $50 million in profits that you’re now going to hand over forever?

If it makes you feel any better, the deep discount carriers in Europe and the US now charge for carryon luggage. With Spirit Air, you can pre-buy it online at $35 for a carryon. If you want until you get to the airport, it goes up to $50 and if you do it at the gate, it’s $100 for a carryon!  Oh, and you’re paying $10 to print your boarding pass.

Yikes, it’s offical: Costco is dumping American Express in Canada. You’re Amex card is no longer welcome starting January 1st. They’re now partnering with Capital One. What’s in my wallet? Not Capital One! But, it’s a good guess that they changed over for a whole lot more money from Capital One…But why go from Amex whose clients spend four times more than Visa clients to a card that targets credit challenged people? Makes no sense, even if their kick-back is way higher.

I just read two reports that show independent book stores are growing in numbers and volume of sales. Great news as I love independents. I don’t deal with Chapters – you won’t find my books with them. I’m the author of 17 books. 14 are only on my web site and three are ONLY available at a few independents, including Mosaic on Bernard. When I talk about shopping local, I actually give up a ton of sales to do so. Actions speak louder than words.

For the last month, the stock markets have gone a little nuts. Down 300 points in a day, up 200 the next. We keep talking about the dangers of buying one or two stocks. If you’ve done that, if you gambled like that, you’re probably down a ton of money. If you’ve invested in good growth mutual funds, you’re already up again. I manage a seven figure account for a relative and all the bad news last month still had a 2% return for the month with Dundee Wealth.

And if you’re a gambler, gold and silver are below 2010 prices. Bitcoin, which is an online currency is down 75% for the year. If you bet only on energy stocks, you probably lost over 40% of your money. Those one-off buys are not investing. They’re gambling – and on these and many others, it’s a big loss right now. Investing is a five year or longer time period with a mix of good growth mutual funds with a long track record. Investing is also buying a fixed amount each month. Set it and forget it.

Four Ways to Keep Money in YOUR Pocket

A large part of our weekly tips involves keeping money in your pocket. So, today, here are four ways to do just that:

Are you interested in getting something done for cheap? These days, what do you actually get for five bucks? Well, there is a very cool new website called fiverr.com. For five dollars, there are a huge number of people who will do anything from critique your resume, to setting up and posting a You Tube video for someone’s birthday, or will build a one-page web site for you. The list of what’s available is endless, and there is also a section for you to post what you want done for five dollars, that someone can choose to take on. Check it out.

Cell phone two or three-year contracts are a really bad financial trap, that’s something we’ve talked about before. In the last quarter, 75% of Americans who got a new cell, or had their contract come up, did NOT sign for another contract, but went to a monthly plan. THAT is exciting, and a wave that will come to Canada with the new players now in the market. With no contract, you are not stuck for three years.

That is exactly why the I-phone is not the biggest seller, not even the 2nd biggest seller, because the only way to get one is to be locked into a contract! Many Blackberry and Google phones don’t handcuff you. Bet Apple isn’t that happy, either.

The reason the big companies want to hook you into a three year contract is that they are afraid. They are afraid that you’ll find a better deal, better service, or just afraid to compete in the marketplace. When the carriers have you hooked, it no longer matters that they’re not the best, cheapest, or whatever the issue, because you’re not going anywhere! I don’t use a cell much and loaded $100 on my pre-paid cell. It lasts me a year – that’s $8 a month!

Wireless cards for laptops are a great convenience. It means you can literally get on the internet anywhere, anytime. They’re reasonably inexpensive – on the surface. But be careful and watch the traps: A caller on the Clark Howard show had a $62,000 data bill. What did he do? He downloaded the movie Wally, for 35 minutes while vacationing with his kids in Mexico. The cell phone company who sold him the plan reduced it to $17,000. Isn’t that a deal? A $17,000 bill so his kids could watch a movie download.

The internet access is charged by megabyte, not by minute, if you do not have an unlimited use plan. Even then, check that you are not paying roaming charges when you are out of your home area. You’ll have to ask, because it’s not something they’ll volunteer to tell you when purchasing the plan.

An equally expensive story was that of a U.S. visitor using his Blackberry internet for 16 minutes at the Toronto airport and getting a $5,000 bill! Be careful and ask first!

Two University professors recently did a study that showed we spend more at Costco than we intended. Gee, we needed a study for that? Yes, it’s hard to get out of Costco for under $100. The way I do it, is to NEVER take a cart. When my arms get full, I stop buying more stuff, or change my priorities. No wonder that the average Costco store does $134 million in volume a year! But the good news is that their mark-up is always 14%, and Costco, on things like televisions, doubles the warranty period from one to two years. I recently bought my LCD using my Amex card, which also doubles the warranty. So I may have just turned a one-year warranty into four years. I’m not sure if the double Costco warranty doubles again with my Amex – and I hope I don’t have to find out.