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Money

Sibling Sitter…How much would you pay?

My lovely daughter is now twelve and a half and is formally trained and ready to start babysitting. She already had her first paying job and it was a good success as far as I know. She has always been a very responsible kid. She has a list of chores that she needs to do to earn her monthly allowance, which works out to about $6 a week. They are often completed with minimal reminders and she keeps her room quite clean.  So basically what I am saying is she is a good kid that helps out a lot.

Now the matter in question is, should we be paying her to baby sit her little brother who is seven. We have an agreement that periodically she will walk him home from school and look after him. This she does without question and has never asked to get paid. This week the wife and I plan on going out for an evening and she was adamant that we pay my daughter for babysitting. While  I on the other hand felt that staying at home with your little brother was just part of being a big sister. It’s not that I am cheap, our kids do quite well, I just feel that somethings should be done out of the goodness of your heart. It is part of being in a family. After a conversation with my wife and a bit of internet research on what other people do, I have found that this is really something that some people do and some people don’t.

For the time being, we have reached a tentative compromise. The going rate is about $6/hour for a sitter nowadays so we are going to pay half of that. This means if we are out for 5 hours she will make $15 which is more than half of what she gets paid monthly for her allowance. I still feel that this is too much as she needs the experience anyways, she is in the comfort of her own home and it is her little brother.

I am curious to know what the rest of you out there think about this.

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Dear Customer… You’re Fired!

Today’s marketplace is extremely competitive. Companies are using every resource within their means to attract and retain customers for the long-term. Growing a repeat customer base of people who share their positive experiences in the community will help any business ensure future success. This really isn’t a news flash though, as this has been the business model of many companies for ages. What is newsworthy however is a company that thinks it can get busier by firing its customers. Flat out telling them that they are no longer welcome if they don’t spend as much as others.

Now clearly this requires some explanation. My wife and children recently visited an Iris Eye Centre for my daughter’s annual eye exam. An exam that is covered under our medical and Iris is paid for the service. What occurred bothered me to the point that I felt compelled to write them a letter and here it is.

Attn Customer Service,

I would like to first point out the fact that my family has been customers of your establishment for a few years now. Feel free to look it up. My wife had come to you for eye exams until she had laser eye surgery there, my daughter has been getting her eye exams there and my son also had an eye exam there. We chose Iris for exams because of its location, service and reputation. Two of which I now question.

That being said, I can only hope someone can appreciate how much it infuriated my wife and I to learn that if we don’t purchase our glasses at Iris that you no longer want us as clients for our eye exams. My daughter was getting an eye exam yesterday and happened to mention that she got her glasses at West Coast Optical. After the exam my wife was called in. She was told by the optometrist that the two businesses at Iris support each other and that if we weren’t going to buy our eyewear at Iris after the exam, he no longer wanted us as clients. A $50 off coupon was given toward a purchase if we chose to use it.

This is unbelievable. We have never purchased eyewear from Iris because we are money conscious people and we are loyal to the business owner at West Coast Optical so we shop there. We enjoy the service and the quality of their products are as good and often much less expensive. It is really none of Iris’s business where we buy our glasses. As a consumer I have choices and if I choose to visit for eye exams and go elsewhere to buy glasses that is my prerogative and my right.

I am not sure if this is the voice of one doctor or if this is policy now but it’s crazy to me. I work at a golf course that has a driving range. Could you imagine me going up to a person at the driving range and telling them, that if they were not going to golf at my course, they were not welcome at the driving range? Insanity!

Your mission statement on your website says, “OUR MISSION is to provide our customers with the highest quality products and professional services in the world of eye care.” It doesn’t say you can only get the professional services if you BUY the quality products.

I am giving you an opportunity to provide an explanation before I go public with this on my blog. A quick response would be appreciated.

I sent this letter 3 days ago and have yet to hear anything back. During those 3 days, everywhere I went, I saw countless businesses that offer multiple services and couldn’t imagine any of them turning me away if I only wanted to pay for one. If they reply I will up date this post.

Update – Jan 26/11: After sending two follow up emails over the course of a week I got a reply from Iris via email stating that they indeed had received my letter and informed me that the manager of the location would be contacting me. A couple more days went by and I got a call from her only to tell me that someone else from their company would be contacting me. I was starting to feel like no one cared or wanted to confront my concern. Well when I finally heard from someone to discuss the matter, it was very clear that they do care… about them selves. The person that wanted to speak with me was their lawyers! Apparently it is their company policy that when someone contacts them and uses words like “go public on my blog” in their letter it kind of a big deal. The lawyer was very pleasant and, to some extent, seemed to sympathized with my frustration in how long it was taking to get a response from Iris. She asked my side of it and said she would be contacting the location manager to speak with her as well. I reiterated everything in the letter and then was asked “what I want to come of my letter” I just said I wanted someone to call me and say that the optometrist misspoke and that that was not their policy. Two days later she called again and explained that apparently their was an email sent to me from a regional manager from an airport in Phoenix that did not get through to me or other people that were CC’d. This was part of the reason things took a while. She then stated that during her conversation with the location manager she was told that the manager had spoken directly with the optometrist in question and he had assured her that he never said that he didn’t want us as customers if we didn’t buy our glasses at Iris. Which is exactly what I expected them to say. It has basically come down to a “he said, she said” scenario. The difference is my wife knows what he said and she also knows what she said.

I was then asked nicely by the lawyer to remove my blog post. Iris would prefer not to have any bad publicity about them online, however given that this is 100% my right to share an opinion it shall remain.

So what is the end result? Well, Iris has lost us all as customers forever, which by the sounds of it is a disappointment to the manager but I guess for that one optometrist, it’s mission accomplished.


Review Blue – Make $5 just by writing a review

I have become a big fan of reading reviews for everything online before I make a purchase. There are so many websites out there that you can share your opinion on. I use www.tripadvisor.com a lot when I travel for hotel reviews and to find good restaurants and activities in the destination I am headed to. I have written reviews for them in the past. I also use www.cnet.com for all the gadgets I am looking to buy and for anything else, a quick search on Google will always direct you to a forum where you can read reviews on everything from socks, to fitness equipment to cookware. Anyone can log in and share their thoughts. But you don’t often get paid for doing so.

www.reviewblue.com is a website that actually pays you to write reviews. All you need to do is open an account, fill in where you want your payments made and start reviewing. I have written 10 reviews so far and made $50! Simply keep your receipt from either a hotel overnight stay or a meal out at a restaurant where you at least had an entrée, write your review scan in your receipt and submit. Once you have 5 reviews they will deposit $25 into your account. The crazy part is that the review itself only needs to be “more than one sentence in length” You can only review a particular restaurant once unless it is the same brand but a different location.

So when you go out for dinner tuck away the receipt after jotting down a couple of points from your experience. Then when you get 5, sit down and write them up. I did 5 reviews in an hour and got $25 for it. Not bad for sharing your opinion.


Money Management by Mint.com

I rarely ever read Time Magazine but one thing I stumbled upon that I did find interesting this year was their Top 50 Websites of 2010. I surfed through and found a few good ones. Like www.ted.com which is a huge database of guest speakers with amazing stories, theories, ideas and tonnes of other thought-provoking topics. It’s a great site to stop by when you feel the need to be inspired. As a real sports stat junkie, I also liked www.sports-reference.com. It has everything you ever wanted to know about your favourite Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey and Olympic stars and teams.

The one that really caught my eye and that I have been using ever since is www.mint.com. On their website they describe themselves as, “The best free way to manage your money” and from what I have seen over the short 3 months that I have been using it they are absolutely right. I have tried to use other offerings from Quicken and Microsoft Money in the past but the novelty always wore off because it was just too much work and my bank didn’t communicate with it well.  I am not going to go into detail about all of it’s great, super easy to navigate, functions but what I will share is a quick story about something that just happened.

I got an email from Mint a few minutes ago saying that I had “Unusual spending on Food & Groceries”. It knows this because I have a couple of months of data for it to refer to and because I have set a budget for Groceries that it monitors as the month goes on. I went to the computer and pulled up my account. When I clicked on “Food & Groceries” it showed me all the recent transactions and one of them stood out to me. There was a large transaction at Costco yesterday that I had no recollection of. (I have taught mint to recognize Costco as “groceries” unless I tell it otherwise) It also detailed it so that I knew it was a purchase made at Costco online with my American Express card. I grabbed the phone and was about to call American Express but wanted to confirm with the wife. I asked her about it while she was half asleep and she told me that she did a purchase for her work and we were being reimbursed. Whew! That was a close one.  Now this was just a false alarm but thanks to mint.com’s notifications I was able to do a quick investigation.

If you are not currently using something to manage your money, I highly recommend giving it a try! Watch the video below to learn more.

http://www.youtube.com/v/rK6WLHNYjwM?fs=1&hl=en_US


Loyalty vs. Price Point

I recently got into a discussion with a friend about the devaluation of loyalty by the modern-day consumer. We were both in the market for a new set of snow tires and me, being the resourceful computer savvy individual that I am, immediately went to the internet and started shopping around and comparing prices. I knew every tire seller within 20 miles of my house. I knew who charged what for installation, who had the ones I wanted in stock, who would fill my tires with air vs nitrogen and I knew who could get me in quickly. I spent a couple of the following evenings revisiting those sites while I waited to see if there were any sales and procrastinated about getting them later rather than sooner (always a foolish thing to do with snow tires!).

After explaining this to my friend, I asked him how his search was going. He replied, “Didn’t you notice them on my car? You parked right beside me.” I asked him how he got them so quickly. He just said, “It was easy, I just used the guy I always use. You see, I’m loyal to people because they take care of me, you’re not.” He didn’t mean it in a disrespectful way but I was admittedly a bit insulted at first. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he was right.

During my search I had checked a couple of times for tires for him and had found a couple good deals but hadn’t had the chance to pass them along. I asked him what he paid and it was a good 15% higher than the deals I had found.  When I told him this, he was unfazed because of the value he puts on returning to businesses where he knows the people and has built relationships over the years.

The bottom line is, he paid more and got them quickly and was happy with the process whereas I got a great deal on mine but had to wait to get them in, wait to get them put on and then had some complications at the garage that prolonged the process where all I got was a shrug of the shoulders and a “Sorry Buddy”. So who won here? If time is money then my friend won by a long shot but if you are like me and feel that saving money on a quality product is worth waiting for, then its a bit closer of a contest.

His comments about my lack of loyalty continued to bother me because I never really thought of it that way. I looked a little closer at how and where I spend my money and came to the realization that I do still possess some loyalty. I visit the same coffee shop every week with my Dad, I buy my gas from the same place, I have taken my kids for haircuts to the same place for years and I visit a local restaurant enough that some of the waitresses know me and my kids and they greet us by name when we come in. I suppose where I really lack loyalty is with the big purchases.  Personally, I feel that using all of today’s resources available will always find me the best and cheapest deal. I’m all about saving money but won’t sacrifice quality on a big-ticket item. Are you like me or like my friend?

My opinion is that today more and more people are becoming money conscious to the point that they only visit certain retailers when there is a sale. They only want to buy something if they are getting a deal. Black Friday, Cyber-Monday and Boxing Week sales that are held over until mid-January are proof of this.