December 17, 2002
days to go...here's the perfect (and cheap!) gift that
literally every single adult in America can benefit from-and
even you can afford! The problem with
seasonally-forced gift-giving is the challenge of finding
something the recipient can truly use or benefit from. With
the threat of identity
theft in the back of everyone's mind (I'm
sure it's in the back of yours) it was only
a matter of time before one of the credit
reporting bureaus woke up and cashed in. If you.....
- Have a
Social Security Number...
- Want to
acquire a credit card...
- Hope to buy
a car or home...
- Hope to
lease a car, apartment or home...
- Might be
applying for a new job, or be in line for a promotion at
your current company anytime in the semi-near future...
be applying for any type of insurance in the year
ahead...then you'll definitely
benefit from this gift from credit score ratings system
Isaac. A credit score-enhanced credit
report for only $12.95 (I told you it was
you're taking prescription medication that your health
insurance company has been paying for, the rules of the
game are about to change and you might not like it. Do
you have allergies? If
you're taking Allegra, Clarinex or Zyrtec, get ready for
your insurance company to stop paying for these. Why?
is going over the counter this week...read
more about it here.
you been jacking around and putting off shipping your
holiday gifts until the last minute? You'd better be
careful-the "shortest lines" are also
probably the most expensive: Convenience
has a price...here's what you
need to know when it comes to shipping on a tight
deadline and more importantly, where to avoid
shipping and potentially spending twice as much as you
ship over half-a-million packages by either United
Parcel Service (UPS), Federal Express (FedEx) or the
U.S. Postal Service (USPS) between Thanksgiving and
New Year's Eve...but the price goes up
as the big day approaches. Though the U.S.
Postal Service still delivers the
overall best bang for your shipping buck, be
careful: Their Priority Mail service touts
"delivery in 2-3 days," but there are no
guarantees with this class of service,
and you really do get exactly what you pay for. If it
absolutely, positively has to get there overnight or
second-day, I think FedEx is still the most reliable
for the price.
Shipping Outlets (known as ASOs): With
only a handful of UPS-run Customer Counters in any
given metropolitan area, ASOs are fully-authorized
agents of UPS, contracted to accept and receive
shipments on their behalf. They can be found
practically everywhere at franchised stores; Mailboxes,
Etc. is probably the best known...other
players in this arena include places like Eagle Postal
Centers, Pack 'N Post, Post It Plus, Parcel Plus and
Pack 'N Mail. These businesses offer more
service and shorter lines. They rent mail boxes,
prepare parcels for shipping, sell office supplies,
notarize documents and will even accept shipments and
faxes on behalf of their boxholders. And unlike the
Post Office, they'll call a customer and let them know
if they have a package waiting, or even field a phone
call to check a mailbox and see if it's worthwhile for
the boxholder to stop by. Convenience and service, for
"price of convenience" skyrockets when
consumers choose to originate their shipments from one
of these privately-owned postal centers: In
most cases, each mailing center independently decides
how high they'll mark-up the various shipping services
they offer. As I covered in a feature
story for The Dallas Morning News in December 1998,
the mark-up on and premium paid for the convenience of
shipping from one of these neighborhood shipping
centers varied from a whopping 80%
Line? If you're in a hurry and willing
to pay almost double, then go for it. But if you can
spare a little extra time to stand in line, the Post
Office is still the best dollar-for-dollar value.
the way: I'm not out to trash
these shipping centers, just out to make you smarter.
I personally spend over $160 a year on my MailBoxes,
Etc. mail drop because I try to practice what I
preach. When it comes to protecting yourself from
potential identity theft, eliminating the chance of
your mail being stolen out of your mailbox or just
maintaining a level of security and convenience, these
neighborhood mailing centers are still the
Fry's Electronics customers: Ever wonder
if that item you purchased was really "new"?
Is it possible that you bought an item that had been returned
before it was placed on the shelf for re-sale?
minds wanna know.....
art of tipping...or why you'd better not forget to
grease the right people who take care of you 365
days a year. Who gets paid...and how much? And
is this simply a not-so-subtle form of blackmail?
It's a subject that always generates a lot of heat
every year, and as far as I'm concerned, either you
get it or you don't:
hear about the 27-year old school teacher who's car
broke down, the tow truck driver didn't take her
where she wanted to go and as a result she accepted
a ride from a total stranger-who ended up raped and stabbed
her-to death: It's a
horrible story with an important lesson. Read
the Boston area story,
and then ponder the following questions:
AAA, the ubiquitous consumer-friendly automobile
assistance organization be held responsible for
her death? The family thinks so;
they're suing AAA for false and misleading
advertising, saying they fell short of their
marketing promises to protect their clients in
an emergency. The lawsuit also alleges that AAA
uses deceptive advertising that misleads
consumers by exploiting fears about using
assistance from strangers. The mother of the
victim says her daughter would have never
accepted a ride from a stranger if AAA had
delivered on their promise.
I'm sorry that this poor woman was raped and
murdered, she has to be held at least partially
accountable for her own demise. Why?
Because she made the choice of accepting a ride
from a stranger. She rolled the dice and
unfortunately she lost...big time.
opens up an important topic and choice that all
of us are going to be faced with eventually: Who
do you trust when you're stranded out on the
highway? What do you do if
nobody shows up from the towing company?
cell phone? Then you already
have an extremely affordable opportunity to obtain
cheap roadside assistance for a minimal, additional
monthly fee on your cell phone bill, for example:
Wireless has their MobileAssist
program for an extra
$2.99 a month/$36 a year, and it's valid
wherever your cell phone works. If you're
traveling and using a rent car, you're still
Wireless has their own
(almost identical) version of the same service for
a few cents less per month: Their Roadside
Assistance program costs
$2.95 a month (just under $36 a year).
about the old stand-by, AAA? Here
are the numbers for their Southern California
sign-up fee plus,
a year annual fee, for a total
first year fee of $64-almost
as much as the services offered by the two cell
phone company examples shown above. However...
- If you want to include another
spouse or adult in your household, it'll cost
you an extra $21 a
year, an $85 annual total versus
$36 for whomever's holding the cell phone.
line? If the tow truck doesn't show
up and you're too far away from family or friends to
help out: You pay taxes...call a cop. Never
accept a ride from a stranger-especially if
you're a woman! (Read
more about the services offered by the California
Highway Patrol by clicking
here and here.)
way, if you're already signed up for a roadside
assistance-type program, when
was the last time you verified their
emergency assistance contact numbers?
A few months ago I needed to use my Roadside
Assistance program for the first time in a couple of
years, and realized that the number I'd had
programmed in my phone was outdated. Fortunately, I
was at home and had the home phone and Internet
resource readily available to get their current
800-number, but it took me over 25 minutes to find
it. Moral of the
story? Always verify
all of the contact numbers you have for everybody in
an emergency at least once a year. (What a great New
Year's resolution, huh?)
it's not the Roadside Assistance number, but your
doctor's or lawyer's office numbers:
If you're a professional athlete, maybe you need to
update the phone number of a bail bondsman or a
company that does DNA tests. Whatever the case may be,
verify and update all of those emergency phone numbers
before you need them.
on the clock: One week to go you've still
got a slew of holiday shopping to do on a limited
out Ben's 2002 Holiday picks and
get some ideas on cool, easy and even free
gifts that have gotta make the end of December
than you ever thought possible.
going to continue to act like a bunch of
Pavlovian "sheeple" that mindlessly
and willingly spend excessive amounts of money
on gifts just because the calendar and retailers
say we should, then what's the difference?
I'd rather give a gift that someone will really
appreciate and use than a crappy trinket that
ends up being "re-gifted." Read
why gift certificates are hotter than ever this
what about re-gifting? What are the
rules of re-gifting? [You didn't know there were
re-gifting rules, did you?]
If you want more than just the highlights of
Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary's
"re-gifting rules," here
tell. Don't lie if asked,
but don't volunteer out of some misplaced
guilt. If you are giving what you feel is an
appropriate gift, you don't need to reveal
you receive something you don't want and
suspect you'll recycle it, label it with the
name of the giver. You don't
want to give the same present to the person
who gave it to you.
any gift you're re-gifting.
Be sure to remove any evidence of a previous
giver (especially those little gift cards on
gift should be in good shape.
Re-gifting doesn't mean getting rid of junk
to clear closet space.
try to pretend your gift was expensive by
purposely putting it in a box or bag from a
pricey store. That is
deceptive and could prove embarrassing to
the receiver should he or she try to return
the item to the store.
recent bankruptcy filing of United Airlines is
already delivering positive news for consumers
flying their friendly skies: Their
financial woes could trigger some competition
between the airlines that may mean a return of
some of the pre-9/11 services
we used to take for granted.
for the perfect gift that could give someone the
ultimate "edge" in life? Wanna chance to
get past the masks all of us wear in life and see
inside someone? There
might be a way for you to pull back the curtain to
get an unobstructed view; what a tremendous edge of
insight if you're thinking about hiring a perfect
stranger. What about
dating someone? Too many times we
hear stories about people that either
"changed" or revealed
themselves too late.
Is it science or just hype? Actually,
it's only $15.95 (plus shipping and handling) and
the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday
season. Even if you don't take this stuff seriously,
it's a great ice-breaker at the bar, or a definite solution for
the excessive (quality) family time with
relatives you get to look forward to in the
weeks ahead. Decide
for yourself and check out handwriting expert Bart
Baggett's special offer for Benjamin Dover Show