AndyO Blog

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gazelle and Beezid: Getting a good deal or getting ripped off?

Recently, I'd heard about two businesses that sounded really interesting:

  • Gazelle - Pays you money for your old gadgets. They send you a box and you send your old electronics for cash (or a gift certificate).
  • Beezid - Bid on items and (hopefully) get them for a huge discount.

These sound pretty good at first. But when you dig deeper, both of these come up short, at least for my purposes.

Gazelle

Everyone has old electronics sitting around the house. I actually have an old Xbox 360 Elite. I plugged this in at Gazelle to see what I could get, and here's the chart that came up:

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Clicking through to the end, I saw this:

Unfortunately, we can't offer you any money for this item

Even though we can't pay you, we'd still like to help you recycle it responsibly. It's easy. Just click the 'recycle' button to add it to your box. As long as something else in your box has value, we'll still pay for shipping.

That's really nice that they're willing to send me a box to recycle it, but I still have to pay for shipping (unless I'm sending something else of value).

After getting offers of $0.00 for a few items I searched on, I plugged in my wife's brand-new Kindle Fire (which I bought for $199.00) and got the following offer:

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So, I checked out eBay, and Kindle Fire's are listed for around $180 (although I'm not sure they all sell for this). The point is, I would expect a Fire to go for at least $120.

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After browsing through Gazelle, it wasn't clear how I could ever get a fair price for anything in my garage. In most cases, I got no price. And the ever-so-helpful "we'd like to help you recycle it responsibly" message is exploitation masquerading as concern: Send us your stuff (and you pay for shipping), and we'll then "recycle" it for you. Yes, they might actually recycle your electronics -- but I don't think they'd be recycling anything because it's the right thing to do. This is most likely how they make most of their money.

Go to SiteJabber.com for more information from other people about Gazelle.

Beezid

I'd heard about Beezid being a place you can save up to 99% on auctions. Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? Here's what some of the auctions look like (what they call Live Penny Auctions):

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Given that this looked a little too good to be true, I checked out how you bid for items on Beezid. Here's what I found on their FAQ site:

We offer several bid packages tailored to meet your needs. The cost for each bid will vary based on the package you choose. Bids are available in packs of 30, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 and range from $0.55 - $0.90 per bid. The more bids you buy, the cheaper it gets for each bid, and the greater the savings you can enjoy! Get yourself a Bid Pack and jump into the savings!

Wait a minute -- you need to pay between $0.55 and $0.90 per bid, even if you don't win anything? That sounds similar to another type of business: video slot machines at casinos. In this case, Beezid makes their money from all the bids that people put in. There's one "winner," who gets a great deal on an iPad, but everyone else loses.

I'm wondering how something like this could be legal? I mean, didn't the government shut down all the online poker for money sites in 2006? Actually, they did. But then United States Department of Justice just reversed this decision. (I just found this out while writing this article.)

OK, back to Beezid: If you like to pay for the privilege of bidding on an item, then this site's for you. But I'm of the belief that you can't get something for nothing. Even if you do get an item for free or cheap somewhere, think of all the time it took to get that item. This is why eBay's never worked for me -- I don't have the time or patience to watch auctions. I admire people who do have this ability, but it's not for me.

As to whether Beezid is a scam or a good deal, SiteJabber seems to agree with me that it's a scam.

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posted by AndyO @ 7:32 PM   0 comments links to this post

Amazon's Frustration Free Packaging

Update: 12/26/11

John Livingston sent me a video of Larry David demonstrating what "wrap rage" is all about:

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Finally, a retailer is offering an alternative to the wasteful, frustrating packaging that you usually have to tear open with knives, scissors, or worse. I've nearly cut myself on some of these packages in the past.

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Amazon's "Frustration Free" packaging is innovative thinking in this world of impossible-to-open plastic packages. I can only hope this spreads to other companies.

Here's what Amazon has to say:

Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging, a multi-year initiative designed to alleviate "wrap rage," features recyclable boxes that are easy to open and free of hard plastic clamshell cases, plastic bindings, and wire ties. The product itself is exactly the same--we�ve just streamlined the packaging. Learn more

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posted by AndyO @ 1:15 PM   0 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gifts you should have given - 2011 edition

Alright, I started writing up my 2010 list in January but never posted it. So, for the first time in history I'm getting this out before Christmas.

X-mini II Capsule Speaker - Having bought a lot of small speakers to hook up to portable devices, I can say that they usually don't live up to expectations. Not so with the X-mini II Capsule Speaker. Twist the speaker and pop it open, kind of like an accordion. Plug it in to your portable device and you won't believe the sound coming out of this thing. Besides the awesome sound, you can:

  • Hook up two X-minis for stereo sound
  • Charge up the X-mini via USB (it doesn't have a battery you can replace)

Bose AE2 Headphones - I've used a lot of noise canceling headphones over the years, but I wanted to test out some non-noise canceling headphones to see how they compared. I went for Bose AE2, which weren't cheap at around $135. (Check out the $1500 Sennheiser HD800 if you want expensive.)

What I can say is the Bose AE2s don't disappoint. What impressed me:

  • The sound was some of the best I've ever heard from over-the-ear headphones
  • I could wear them for hours and they never hurt my ears -- definitely the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn.
  • Many of the components are replaceable, like the cord and the headphone cushions

Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote with Color Touchscreen - I've had this remote for about three years, and it's still working great. If you're looking for a universal remote to control your TV, this is definitely the one. What's great is if you buy any new components, you just set them up through the Logitech software.  

Kindle Keyboard - I was skeptical about the Kindle until the latest generation came out -- and the price was reduced to around $140. Here's what you need to understand if you're wondering about what's so great about a Kindle:

  • It's for reading. Backlit, color screens like those in laptops and the iPad can cause eyestrain. The Kindle uses "E Ink" technology that's the closest thing I've ever seen to paper. It's so close, when I received my Kindle I thought there was a clear sticker on the screen that I needed to pull off.
  • Read a sample before you buy. You can send a sample to your Kindle. If you like it, you can buy it right from the Kindle.
  • You can store up to 3,500 books.   

And while you're at it, pick up Kindle Lighted Cover (Fits Kindle Keyboard), which has a great reading light on it.

Kindle Fire - If you're looking for a $199 color tablet, this is an amazing deal. I bought one for my wife, who loves it. For the people out there comparing the Fire to the iPad, this isn't an apples to apples comparison (so to speak). The Fire is an Amazon content delivery system. If you do a lot of shopping on Amazon, this is a great device. I've used it for:

  • Reading books
  • Playing games
  • Reading Facebook and Twitter
  • Shopping on Amazon
  • Reading the New York Times

Sodastream Home Soda Machine - Got this last Christmas and use it all the time. This is a pretty economical device (each bottle of syrup makes about 12 liters or 33 cans of soda), and Sodastream has lots of great flavors. My favorites are:

You can get the SodaStream Sodamix Variety 12-Pack to try out a bunch of them.

Xbox 360 250GB Holiday Value Bundle - The Xbox 360 has become the entertainment hub in our living room. With this one device, you can:

  • Play games, including ones you can download from the Marketplace, either solo or with your friends on Live.
  • Watch HD video (through many different video services)
  • Watch HD Netflix video (with a Gold account)
  • Stream music
  • Connect the Xbox with your PC's media
  • Use Apps like Facebook and Twitter (best used with a keypad attachment for the Xbox controller).

Xbox recently just launched a bunch of new content "channels", including:

  • YouTube
  • Vudu
  • EPIX
  • SyFy
  • Verizon FiOS
  • UFC videos

The only downside to the Xbox 360 is that it can't play Blu-ray movies (like the Sony PlayStation).  

Tovolo Perfect Cube Red Silicone Ice Cube Trays, Set of 2 - There's nothing better than perfect ice cubes! After a year of using these, these work great.

Wabash Valley Farms Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper - I'm a popcorn connoisseur. I've had every kind of popper, from the Stir Crazy to air poppers. The Whirley-Pop is the best popcorn popper I've ever used. Here's why:

  • It uses a manual hand crank to stir the popcorn, so you the popcorn is less likely to burn -- and you pop more of the kernels.
  • The vents on top of the popper let the steam escape, which makes for perfect popcorn.
  • The popper heats up quickly and only takes about 3 minutes to pop 6 quarts of popcorn.

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posted by AndyO @ 1:14 PM   2 comments links to this post