The Chronic Consumer

I buy things — all the time!

Digital Play Library

I am not a big fan of the theater, so I don’t watch plays or musicals very often. Nevertheless, there are times when I’ve wanted to at least read the script of a play if I’ve missed the small performance window. That’s why I’m glad to have found IndieTheaterNow.com.

IndieTheaterNow.com is a digital play library that has a decent collection of scripts to choose from. Scripts cost only $1.29 when purchased singly, but you can save a bit of cash by buying in lots of 5 (for $5.89), 10 ($10.99), or 25 ($20.99). No membership fee is required and no minimum purchase amount is specified. Payments are processed via Amazon Payments.

The only thing I dislike about IndieTheaterNow.com is that there are no portable reading options. You have to read the ply right there on the site, which is a bit inconvenient. Sure, you can go to the page on your iPad or iPhone for a quasi-portable experience, but the site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, so you have to play around with pinching, zooming, etc. It’s a headache.

What I end up doing is copying and pasting the play into a Word document, then saving the file as a PDF so I can read it on my device. This is not an ideal solution, as it takes quite a bit of time to copy and paste anywhere from 65-100 screens of text or more, but whatever.

Anyway, despite the portability issue, I really like IndieTheaterNow.com. I haven’t used it a ton, but I can still recommend it.

CelebrityAddressAerial.com

If you’ve ever been to L.A. before, then you know you can get a “map of the stars’ homes” on nearly any street corner in the more touristy areas. I bought one of those things when I first visited about 15 years ago, but didn’t have any luck seeing anyone famous. Now that I’m heading to L.A. again in a couple of weeks, I decided to see if the Internet age has brought about more accurate info.

I signed up with a site called CelebrityAddressAerial.com. For $19.99/month (they also have rates for 3-month and 1-year memberships), you get access to their database of hundreds (thousands? I’m not sure) of celebrity addresses. These are most likely gleaned from public real estate records, so I suppose you could technically find this info for free if you were so inclined. But if nothing else, paying for this membership saves you a bunch of time and hassle. Plus, they give you an aerial photo of the property right there by the entry so you don’t have to take the extra step of looking it up on Google Maps.

I have no problem with the database itself. It seems quite comprehensive, and includes many professional athletes and public figures (politicians, etc.) in addition to standard movie and TV stars. Every celeb I thought to look up had an entry, though I know for certain that at least one entry is a couple years out of date.

And that brings me to my biggest (and only) problem with the site: There’s really no way to know how dependable the information is. I just happened to know about the one address that was out of date because I’d recently read an article about that particular celeb selling her house in 2011. But what about all the others in the database? There’s no easy way to confirm whether or not the address is still valid.

I’m not even sure why the average person would even need access to data like this. Unless you’re planning a trip to Los Angeles and want to map out your own tour of your favorite celebs’ homes, there’s really no reason to pay for a membership to this site — and certainly no reason to pay for 3 months or a year.

I guess a one-time payment of $19.99 was worth it to satisfy my curiosity about a few stars; but I can’t escape the feeling that the whole idea behind this website is a little creepy…!

Giving Etsy a try

I’ve never bought anything from Etsy before, but after browsing through the site for the first time ever, I think I’m going to give it a try. I’ve found some pretty cute necklaces and pendants at very reasonable prices, and will likely be placing an order very soon. I’ll be sure to post a full review of the product and seller after I make my purchase!

Intelius People Search 24-Hour Pass

intelius When you Google someone’s name, a bunch of the results that come back are from companies that perform deeper background checks for a fee. Depending on the service, prices begin at about $9.95 and give you a lot of information gleaned from public records, including addresses (current and past), known relatives, phone numbers, marriage/divorce records, liens, lawsuits, and other judgments.

But what about the times when you just need a middle ground? In other words, when you want more info than you can get just from Google, but don’t need as much as a full background check would provide? And what if you needed this kind of info for a bunch of people, like if you’re planning a school or family reunion? That’s where the Intelius People Search 24-Hour Pass can help.

What you do is go to Intelius (formerly known as US Search) and register for free on the site. Then you purchase a 24-hour pass, which currently costs $19.95. After that, you just search for whomever you want (by first name, middle initial, last name, and city/state, if known) and view the instant results. It used to be called an “unlimited” people search, but they’ve changed it a bit. Now you get 1001 “credits”, and have to apply 1 credit to each report you view. Still, I can’t envision a scenario where the average person would be able to burn through 1001 credits in just 24 hours, so that part is pretty much negligible.

Now, the big question: Is the Intelius data reliable? I would say yes and no to this. I ran some test searches on people (relatives, mostly) whose address and phone information I already knew. In cases where the person had been living at the same address for a number of years, the Intelius information was correct. If the person had recently (within a year) moved, the data was usually not up to speed — even though Intelius says the databases are refreshed daily. Also, in many cases, the phone numbers listed were NOT accurate, no matter how long the person had been at that number. That’s probably not Intelius’ fault, but still… it’s something to bear in mind if you’re trying to locate a hard-to-find person.

One thing I’d like to see in the future is an easy way to print the search results. I didn’t notice a “print” option anywhere, which meant that I was stuck taking screencaps of all the results. Sure, if there’s just one or two past addresses in a person’s history you could simply write the info down. But for people that move frequently and have 10 addresses listed? Forget it!

Overall, I think $19.95 is a reasonable price to pay if you have multiple addresses and phone numbers to look up. I recommend preparing a comprehensive list before you make your purchase and get on the clock so you don’t waste any of your 24 hours. But really, even if you searched for every person you know, it probably wouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours. Twenty-four hours and 1001 credits is plenty!

Cancelled FitOrbit

A couple weeks ago, I wrote that I was trying out FitOrbit, a site that gives you access to a personal trainer for customized meal plans and workouts. The site had a 30-day trial period for those joining up on three- or six-month plans, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

Well, I ended up cancelling my FitOrbit membership after just one week. Initially I was excited about the kind of workouts and meals my trainer would come up with, especially since I had to fill out a detailed “lifestyle questionnaire” about my diet and exercise habits. But that excitement quickly faded when I received back a plan that seemed canned and impersonal. When I wrote to my trainer that the meal plan wasn’t providing me with enough calories to fuel my daily 10k runs, he answered that it was up to me to supplement the meals and snacks he suggested.

I didn’t care for that response at all. Isn’t the whole point of PAYING for a personal trainer on the site to get a meal plan tailored to MY needs? If I was able to figure this stuff out on my own, then I wouldn’t need to pay someone else to do it in the first place, would I?

After that, I decided to ask for a refund. I sent two emails to FitOrbit’s customer support address, but received no answer after 72 hours — which is absolutely unacceptable in this day and age. I then called them (using the phone number that appeared on my credit card bill) and received a full refund without hassle.

Anyway, my recommendation is to just use Spark People or MyFitnessPal or any number of other free fitness websites. Yes, it takes a little more work on your part, but at least you’ll save $60 a month.

Trying Out Stamps.com

I hate going to the post office, but sometimes find it unavoidable when I have to mail a physical letter, card, or package that requires stamps. I’d heard about Stamps.com years and years ago, but figured that kind of thing was mostly for businesses or eBay power sellers. However, not wanting to go to the post office at this time of year, I decided to give Stamps.com a try.

You first have to register an account on the site. After that, you get access to a program that downloads to your desktop. The program allows you to sync mail contacts to make it easier to input destination addresses later, but I didn’t bother with all that. It’s from this program that you also print up the postage labels you need, either by using a plug-in USB scale (that you purchase from Stamps.com) or by weighing and measuring the envelope/package on your own. International postage rates are available, too. And by signing up, I received a $5.00 credit towards free postage, which I’ve already used up.

I haven’t played around with the program a whole bunch yet, but I did print out one label. The process was very straightforward and definitely much more convenient than going to the PO and dealing with traffic, lines, and grumpy employees. Some trips to the post office will still be unavoidable — like if I suddenly want to start selling and shipping slipper tubs to people — but I think using Stamps.com will eliminate 90% of my in-person dealings there.

If I had to pick one thing I don’t like about Stamps.com, it’s the emails they keep sending to remind me to take advantage of different special offers. I’ve unsubscribed already, but I just think it’s obnoxious when companies automatically enroll you in these mailing lists and newsletters. How many people actually want this kind of junk mail??? It should be opt-in, IMO, not opt-out.

Anyway, I’m glad I signed up for this in time to mail out my Christmas cards!

Monetizing websites

I have been monetizing my websites for a few years now, and although I make more than enough to cover my hosting and domain fees, I’m always looking to increase profits. I think one thing that might help is using better tools to keep track of what’s happening on my site. For example, I need to know how people arrived here, what links they’re clicking during their visit, how long they’re staying, etc. so I can place relevant links and ads that will generate commissions.

There are probably free products that do what I’m asking, but I want something more powerful — like the dashboard scorecard from InetSoft.com. Only I would want the product tailored to monetizing websites like mine instead of keeping track of a sales force.

Do any of you have any recommendations?

SEO Survey

I know most bloggers are anal about checking their stats, but I have been extremely lax in that area lately. I really need to get on the ball, though, because one of my goals for the new year is to improve my traffic. To get started, I thought it would be helpful to review the most popular search terms that bring readers to my pages. That can help me key in on content that readers are most interested in, which should then make it more enticing for people to keep coming back.

Anyway, here are a handful (not in any kind of order though):

Ok, now I’ve got to figure out how to SEO my site based on what people are searching for. Any ideas?