It’s late and I’m tired. Too many long shifts and two glasses of wine after work have made me unmotivated and extremely ready for bed. The comfort of my pillow-top mattress and soft sheets are calling to me: “Who cares about the blog? Come enjoy me. Dream of fairies and cool swimming pools (my house is a sauna).” Alas, I will have to give in slightly. The allure of Hypnos (Greek mythological personification of sleep) is too strong right now. Tomorrow I will do my major wrap-up of the month. Tonight, though, I leave you with a fad that has me completely baffled. They are called ‘haul’ videos and is where people (mostly teenage girls) post themselves talking about what they bought. The example video below has 1,212,333 hits. The ‘host’ holds up what she bought and talks about each product and how much she spent. Please don’t watch the whole thing or I’m afraid you might lose brain cells. Who are these over one million people who are interested in this? It’s not all bought online, but definitely involves the internet and shopping. Scary!
The things I missed this month
For my second to last day of only online shopping month, here are a few topics I didn’t get a chance to talk about but want to mention:
As the top purchase of online goods according to Nielsen research, books are an easy thing to buy online that you rarely would need right away, are heavy to carry so easy to have shipped to you, and so simple to purchase online. Chapters Indigo and Amazon are two websites I have used to buy books (and many other things in the case of Amazon) that are fantastic. You can either buy them new and (if you spend a certain amount of money) get free shipping, or buy them used for a fraction of the price, but have to pay for shipping. You can sample the books and read some of pages to get an idea of whether you are interested in purchasing the whole book. They even suggest other books you might enjoy.
I use iTunes to download music as I’m a Mac user, but there are also a lot of other places online to download music from. Mp3obsession.com offers cheap mp3 downloads. Limewire, a peer-to-peer file sharing system like Napster was when it first came out, used to be a way to get music for cheap, but is now under a court order to stop distributing the software because of unauthorized sharing of copyrighted works. Napster is now a subscription-based music-buying software owned by the Best Buy company and only works with a PC.
Movies and television
More and more people are buying movies and tv online, instead of going to the video store or buying cable. There are no commercials and you can choose what shows you want to see, instead of flipping channels through a bunch of crap. You can stream a lot of things for free online with a time limit. Or join Netflix or megavideo to name a few subscription-based streaming sites. You can also stream television from most channels’ websites, but you do have to watch the commercials.
VISA gift card
My friend mentioned this to me today. It would have been a bit of a cheat, but I could have ordered a VISA gift card online and used it for things like transportation costs and emergency beers. Too late now, but good to know for future gift giving.
While searching for restaurant coupons I can buy online and print at home, so I don’t have to be the cheapo when my friends and I go for drinks after watching a concert tonight (free at Yonge and Dundas Square – the Elastocitizens at 8pm – they are amazing and so worth the time if you are in the Toronto area), I found some interesting things you can also buy online that I wish I had known about when I started this month:
- Gift cards – you can purchase gift cards online for almost all of the major chain restaurants and have them mailed to you (or to someone else if it is a gift).
- Starbucks – if you already have a Starbucks card, you can add more money to it online.
- There is a function to buy e-gift cards (they e-mail them to you) from the company who owns Milestones, Montana’s, Kelsey’s, Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be working right now.
- MenuPalace.com allows you to buy eGift certificates: “the recipient simply logs onto the reservation system using the Redemption Code in the email, places their reservation online at a participating establishment of their choice. When arriving at the restaurant, they will be seated, served, and the eGift Certificate amount will automatically be deducted from their bill.” I wonder how annoyed the restaurants get when you do this?
- Lee Valley Tools has e-gift cards!!!
- America seems to have a lot more e-gift cards. Restaurant.com offers e-gift cards for a discount (ie. pay $10, get a $25 gift certificate when you spend a minimum of $35). Just like the couponing – we Canadians need to catch up!
Just-Eat.ca – the good, the bad and the ugly
Go online. Put your postal code in. A list of restaurants that deliver appear, with the times they are open, what time their delivery hours are and what type of food they serve. You can search by food type, specific restaurants or selected criteria like open/closed times, ratings and delivery times. Choose the restaurant, pick what you want off the menu, select what time you want it delivered, and pay by credit, debit or choose to pay at the door. They connect with the restaurant and a receipt and time of expected delivery appear on the screen. Easy. No fees to use the service. No delivery fees over a certain amount of money spent in an order. Food arrives 45-60 minutes later!
Wouldn’t it be just as easy to contact the restaurant directly? How big of a percentage of the money you spent does Just-Eat take from the restaurant? Does a middle man confuse things further?
A friend of mine had a bad experience with Just-Eat.ca that I will paraphrase. He ordered food through the website earlier in the day to arrive for dinner. It arrived three hours early and was cold by the time his dinner guests showed up. When he contacted Just-Eat they said they were only the middle man and don’t take any responsibility for the delivery or the product that is delivered. So don’t expect any help from them if anything goes wrong.
The sushi I ordered was fine. Not the best sushi I’ve had, but the process was simple, it arrived in 45 minutes, everything was as I ordered it. I would probably use the website again, but if I know what I want I would rather just go directly to the specific restaurant and cut out the middle man.
Online travel bookings
According to the Nielsen survey on internet shopping, airline tickets/reservations is the third most popular product or service to purchase online. It is on the top of my personal list of things I regularly buy on the web. Most of my travel plans (and I travel a lot) are done either through online booking systems like Expedia.ca or Hostels.com, directly through the airline or hotel’s website, or through e-mail interaction with the owner of the smaller accommodations, like bed and breakfasts and small hostels. Especially when you are trying to book overseas and don’t want to spend the money on phone charges, online communication is a great resource.
You can also find really great deals online that the travel agents won’t be able to offer you. The problem being, though, that most of these deals aren’t refundable, so you better make sure your plans are concrete before booking. Many of the airlines and rail companies have e-mailing lists that send you notices when they have their big sales, so watch out for these. In Europe there are discount airlines that you can only buy tickets online. Sites like RyanAir.com and EasyJet.com offer flights for ridiculously cheap (on Ryan Air right now they have flights for 9.99 British pounds which is equivalent to about $15.50), although there are extra charges for just about everything – administration fees, if you want reserved seating (if not you just have to wait in line and it’s first come, first serve), priority boarding fee, infant fee (if you have a child under 2), and checked baggage fees. Many airlines in North America have started to offer lower rates with added optional fees (like checked baggage, food and beverage in flight), although the airport taxes are much higher here (especially in Canada), so although you can get a cheap flight, it can more than double in price with the airport taxes.
There are quite a few accommodation websites that offer cheaper rates than directly through the hotel’s website. A friend of mine swears by Priceline.com where you can ‘Name Your Own Price’ by choosing a location, a hotel star rating (1-4 or resort) and the price you want to pay. You put in your information and your credit card and if they accept your offer for the amount you want to pay for the star rating you chose, they will process your credit card and show you what hotel you are staying in. Once you click “Buy My Hotel Room” your request can not be changed, cancelled, or transferred and refunds are not allowed. So basically you are stuck with the hotel they chose for you. My friend who uses the website regularly says you can find really cheap deals for great accommodation. I’m not sure I want to take the risk, as I love to do my research before choosing a place to stay.
Speaking of research, one of the best things about booking online is seeing what other people have thought about where you want to stay. My mom loves TripAdvisor.com, which offers user-generated reviews of hotels and tourist attractions around the world. She has found some fantastic hotels by reading what other travelers’ experiences have been. You can even send messages to those people who commented to ask them to elaborate or if you have a specific question.
I am most likely going on a road trip in September (plans are being finalized), so I’ve started my research phase of my adventure. However until I know more details, I don’t want to book anything right now.