Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Hubbub

In my neck of the woods, people were camping out Thanksgiving night (in the US) at Kmart and Circuit City parking lots to get the great deals. It seems to be getting worse every year and the rampant consumerism has just about destroyed Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Some radio stations have already begin the rote playing of Christmas carols before Halloween.

So what's driving the frenzy? Could it be an admission that the US economy is on the skids? Look at the home mortgage implosion for one. Owning a home has been part of the American Dream for generations, but the middle class has given up getting a home in the usual way - working for one by having and maintaining a steady job with a decent pay. Decent jobs are hard to come by in America, even if you have years of experience and a college degree. This forces people to take risky methods of owning a home.

Having a home with a rising value spurned people into spending and retailers revelled at the prospect of huge sales. But overvalued homes have led to a major correction at the same time that mortgage rates are being reset higher. Foreclosures galore for landlords, tenants who pay their rent on time facing eviction because their landlords have gone belly up.

People are desperate for a deal, so much that they will trample each other to get that 'must have' toy or Ipod.

Retailers are a major source of the problem. They put all their eggs in one holiday basket. The solution is simple - treat December for what its worth - 1/12 of yearly sales instead of depending on one holiday for 40% of its annual revenue. The second half of the equation is equally simple -- provide the middle class with a way to make a decent living without having to kill themselves (or others) in the process.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

When to get a Service plan...

Things have been quite hectic for the past few months since from July until September I put in lots and lots of overtime. Managed to hold on to the job even after the 'busy season' and the college students went back to school. I have an acute need, both financial and psychological, to keep working whenever I can. The resultant work schedule meant that the camping schedule was down and as a result, there was no return to Winfield, but I did manage a Labor Day weekend trip to Maine, where Bruce and I discovered a few lighthouses, in fact that is one of our new goals - to check out as many lighthouses as we can.

I worked weekends, 6 days a week, and in September 7, but I took one Saturday off to go on a lighthouse cruise, one of two available from Rowe's Wharf. I went on the Northern Tour and missed the Southern one. The Northern Tour goes to Salem, Marblehead, Scituate, Boston Light and Gloucester. Bruce came along and he appeared to enjoy himself, especially since he'll never miss an opportunity to take pictures. The American Lighthouse Society was aboard and selling books so I picked up Edward Rowe Snow's "Lighthouses of New England". Now that the colder weather is approaching, I've started reading it before turning out the light at night.

We have an employee 'Newzletter' at work and managers are always badgering people to submit articles - recipes, movie reviews and the like. I submitted a brief review of y Lighthouse Cruise and it got published in the August edition and it got rave reviews! I've finally been published!

Camping is fun, but I haven't really been traveling since Vegas, so in September I planned a weekend in New York City in September. More on that in another post.

In August, I returned to the Apple fold in a big way with the purchase of an Apple Ibook laptop. I told myself that a new computer was in my future since my last one, A Compaq Presario, which still works, was due for involuntary retirement.

Taking advantage of my state's tax-free holiday, I bought this machine and am still in the process of email conversion/notification and as a result of going wireless, I should be pulling the plug on Verizon DSL in a week or two. Next goal: Use GarageBand to create the first Scorched Pig Podcasts!

Which leads me to the subject in the title line -- I didn't get an extended warrant for the computer, because I assume that Apple makes good products so why bother? When I bought my Powerbook G4 in 1997 at Circuit City, the salespeople were shocked when I got to the register and declined the extended warranty. If you make a good product, from a good company, you shouldn't NEED to buy one, right?

As it turned out, I did end up needing a power supply, but I can't remember if the warranty had expired or not. It costs me about $300, because that is Apple's minimum charge for labor anyway. They sent me a box to ship the machine out and I had it back in a day or two. I still have that machine and have not had any problems with it since. I don't really use it anymore, its offnet, but it still contains legacy info that I refer to every now and then.

I haven't even registered this machine with Apple, much less get the extended warranty. At least the folks at teh Apple Store were not shocked to the point of fainting, when I declined the warranty.

But then there is the Ipod. Despite being 6 years old (I think its planned unveiling was for September 2001), I still consider it 'new technology' so an extended warranty is something that should definitely be considered.

I bought my first Ipod in November 2004. I didn't get the warranty at the time of purchase, but when I need Tech Support in May 2005, I got the extended warranty in May 2005, which only extends my warranty for an additional year, FROM DATE OF PRODUCT PURCHASE.

This means my original Ipod warranty was good till November 2006.

My Ipod refused to charge and I brought it to the Apple Store. I thought it needed another battery (ie a replacement Ipod), but it turned out to be a faulty USB cable. I got the cable free and the very great employee noticed that my warranty was due to expire with in days, so he comped me for a new Ipod. I do not know if it was refurbished or new, but the second Ipod was good only for 30 days after that date and was not eligible for an extended warranty (why is this). Surprise, surprise - the Ipod died in March, not long after the 30 day or maybe 90 day warranty ran out. On the way to the Apple Store, stopped off at a Circuit City and had a guy look at it to confirm what I feared Apple would tell me - buy a new one and pay full price.

I had to -- I love my Ipod, but at work I have discovered Internet. I wasusing a friend's Sirius account online, but Internet radio provides virtually the same quality without the subscription fees.

My Ipod was still under warranty, but I decided topurchase the exrended oneyar warranty, as a sensible thing to do. I extended it online and in a massive waste of paper, Apple sent me the 'fine print' placed in a small box, which was placed in another larger box and delivered by Fedex. Think Green Apple! Let me view or download the PDF instead!

My cheap (read inexpensive) headphones started losing their 'stereo' (I don't like ear buds) so I got another pair -- same issue -- but they worked fine at work so I began to suspect the Ipod -- off to the Genius Bar I go - fearing I would be without my Ipod for a few days as well as going through the hassle of shipping and waiting etc.

But I was given a fresh Ipod -- unexpectedly. Ipods are notorious for their freeze-ups, but I went away happy. And the extended warranty doesn't even kick in yet.

When I was in Vegas, I got a JVC VCR/DVD Combo. Before its 90 days were up, I could watch DVDs -- invalid discs. Called JVC. es it was under warranty, but there were no stores locally that I could take it in for repair. Nearest place? San Francisco. I would have to box it and shipit on my dime. It would ahve cost me about $70 to ship. I ended up buying a whole new DVD player at Wlamart for a mere $20 more. Still have still works.

Thepoint is: Old Technology (and I consdier a basic DVD player as old tech), VCRs, snalog TVs, washing machines, shavers, kitchen appliances, even computers, save your self a few books and pass on the warranty. New stuff -- Ipods, Plasma TVs, falt screens, DVD recorders and DVRs -- consider the extended warranty -- you might be glad you did.