The Chronic Consumer

I buy things — all the time!

Retail Sales Down

I just read that retail sales are continuing to slump in this uncertain economy, which is bad news all around. Analysts say that consumer spending and customer traffic are down 8 and 10 percent, respectively, from this time last year, showing that economic recovery might still be a long way off.

Traditionally, low back-to-school shopping totals for retailers portend similar downward turns in upcoming holiday shopping, which is certainly not what anyone wants to hear. But it’s obvious that consumers are still worried about keeping their jobs and being able to pay off their mortgages and cheap health insurance instead of spending on pricey items like new laptops and name-brand clothing.

And who can blame them? Many of us are in the same boat here. I know I’m spending a lot less, and whatever I do buy tends to be on the cheaper side now. I’m always looking for bargains and the best deals, and if I can’t find a good price, I just simply go without instead of spending money I don’t have.

Discount Magazine Subscriptions

ESPN-the-magazine I’ve decided to give up some of my magazine subscriptions in order to save money, so I’ve been busy calling and canceling the past couple of days. When trying to cancel, however, I noticed an interesting pattern. Rather than just let me go, the customer service people tried to get me to renew my sub by offering me good discounts. We’re talking 50% off what I had been paying, which is pretty amazing!

I didn’t bite on the offers, but that does give me an idea. The next time my subscription runs out for a mag that I do want to keep receiving, I’ll simply call and pretend I want to cancel. Then I’ll let them “talk me into” staying by offering me a much better deal. 😉

Hershey’s 100 Calorie Wafer Bars

wafer bars I’m always looking for great new snacks that can satisfy my sweet tooth, which is why I’m glad I finally decided to give Hershey’s 100 Calorie Wafer Bars a try. I’ve been eyeing these things for a while now, but as I was also trying to control my weight, I held of on making a purchase. Now that I’ve settled into a pretty good exercise routine, however, I decided to reward myself with a trip down the snack aisle.

These 100 calorie wafer bars are pretty much what you’d expect from the name. You get a wafer-like cookie bar consisting of two thin wafers separated by a thin chocolate filling. The bar is then covered with Hershey’s chocolate, and there are two of them in each 100-calorie pack.

The bars definitely satisfy my sweet tooth, but are only partially satisfying as a snack because the serving size is so small. But on the bright side, I’m not guilted into reading a bunch of diet pills review sites after consuming one of these things because they’re just 100 calories and 5 grams of fat. Yes, I know that’s not a good fat-to-calorie ratio, but it’s chocolate, so what do you expect?

Overall, I think Hershey’s 100 Calorie Wafer Bars are a tasty little treat that I look forward to eating every afternoon. They’re going to be a regular part of my snack repertory from now on!

Property of Missouri Tigers Tee

CIMG2690 When I bought my textbooks for the upcoming semester (which begins in two and a half weeks), I also decided to stock up on college apparel so I could show my school colors during football season. After searching through the approximately 4396841 t-shirt choices, I settled on this “Property of Missouri Tigers” tee.

This shirt appealed to me for a number of reasons. First, I think it looks good. I like the old-school style lettering (especially the “Tigers” in script), as well as the way the screenprinted graphics look cracked and worn already. Plus, this is a football shirt, so it’s a great way to show off my allegiance this fall.

Another thing I like about this shirt is that it’s made from 100% preshrunk cotton. That means it’ll stay the same size no matter how many times I put it through the washer and dryer. I’ve already tested this out, and the shirt came through looking as good as new.

And finally, the shirt is just comfortable. Nothing beats a cotton t-shirt, and since I spend almost every day wearing either tees and shorts or tees and sweats (depending on the season), I’m sure this “Property of” shirt will become one of my favorites.

Go Tigers!

Trivial Pursuit for iPod

trivial pursuit iPod games have been around for a long time, but I never bothered purchasing anything before. Heck, I don’t even play the free games that are included with the device and don’t use any features beyond the music player anyway. But I love trivia games, and when I saw that an iPod version of Trivial Pursuit was available, I decided to check it out.

This Trivial Pursuit game is made by EA Mobile, so I figured it would be pretty good — and as far as gameplay goes, it is. The controls work very well, the questions are tough but not impossible, and the AI makes for a challenging opponent most of the time. The game is neither more nor less than what I expected. It’s fun keeps me occupied for a few minutes when I’m bored, and that’s that.

The only real problem I have with the game is the price. It cost $4.99 at the iTunes Store, which is pretty high considering the kind of game it is. Obviously I didn’t let the price stop me from buying it, but it feel more like a $2 game than a $5 game.

Still, I’d recommend it to trivia fans. There are far worse games out there, that’s for sure!

Positive Resolution!

mu A couple days ago, I posted how I was charged far more than expected for shipping on an order that I placed at MU’s bookstore. The extra charges were applied to my card without anyone from the store notifying me to let me know about the change in price. This really rubbed me the wrong way, and I was extremely ticked off.

Well, to MU’s credit, they handled the situation very promptly once I notified them of my displeasure. I spoke to a manager yesterday morning and told her exactly what happened. To my surprise, she immediately sided with me and agreed that someone should have told me about the higher shipping costs. She then promised to take care of everything — which she did. By the end of the business day, my card was credited for the entire disputed amount.

BTW, I should have specified in my original post that I wasn’t exactly “overcharged” for shipping. MU charged me the full amount that UPS charged them. They weren’t trying to con me or anything. What I meant by overcharged was that I was billed far more than I originally agreed to pay and that nobody asked my permission before doing so.

Anyway, I am thoroughly pleased with MU’s customer service. I was genuinely surprised that the manager didn’t put up the least bit of resistance, as companies usually try to use every excuse in the book rather than refund money. In this case, the person listened to me, agreed with me, promised to fix it, and then did fix it very quickly.

Thumbs up for Missouri’s customer service!

Formal Wear — Rent or Buy?

tux Do you think it’s worth it for men to buy a tuxedo? Or do you think renting is the best way to go?

I guess most of that depends on your lifestyle. Obviously, a Bruce Wayne type who has to attend a lot of black-tie functions and fundraisers would be better off buying. But if you just need a tux for the odd formal event, like a wedding, prom, or other special occasion, then renting would be fine. After all, what else can you really wear tuxedo shirts with? And it’s not as though those tuxedo pants, with the shiny satin stripe down the side, could double as regular suit pants.

Still… I’ve seen full tuxedos selling online for as little as $140 in some places (obviously not Armani). Since rentals can easily cost $75 or more, you might want to at least check out buying one instead.

Why am I suddenly posting about tuxedos? We have three weddings to go to between now and the end of the year — with my husband being a groomsman in all three!

Overcharged for Shipping

One of the problems with shopping online is that the transaction isn’t completely finished after placing the order.

When you buy something from a store, you just walk in, select the merchandise, pay for it, and leave.

When it’s online, however, you constantly have to monitor a bunch of different things, making the transaction take several days or even weeks. First, you have to place the order and wait for shipping confirmation. Then you have to follow up to make sure the order goes out in a timely fashion. After that, you have to wait a few days to make sure the order arrives, is in good condition, and contains the right products/colors/sizes/quantities. Then you have to check your credit card statement to make sure you were charged the proper amount. Whew! That’s quite a lot!

I’m bringing this up because I’m now in the middle of a headache transaction thanks to the University of Missouri bookstore. When I placed my order, I was quoted one shipping price, but when the order actually shipped, I was charged 3 times the original shipping price! I was ordering heavy textbooks, not just a tiny heart pendant necklace or a t-shirt, so I was prepared to pay more for shipping. But the thing that drives me nuts about this transaction was that MU didn’t even notify me of the higher charges prior to shipping, nor did they give me a chance to cancel!

That is outrageous. If they had notified me, I would have been able to shop around, maybe buy the books from Amazon, B&N, or another discount textbook seller at a lower rate. And who knows, maybe MU actually offers the best rate and I would have had to purchase from there anyway. But the point is that they didn’t even give me the opportunity to agree to the extra charges or take my business elsewhere.

You better believe I will be disputing the extra $40 charged to my credit card. I tried calling the MU bookstore today, but the customer service manager wasn’t there. If they don’t help me, I will go through my credit card company. I should NOT automatically be held liable for whatever the hell the store decides to charge for shipping. I never checked a box or agreed to any terms that said charge me anything you feel like for shipping costs.