GETTING READY FOR BLACK WEEKEND: Why limit yourself to just Black Friday when there’s a whole four-day weekend of shopping adventures to be had? American Express Small Business Saturday is paying out $10 per Amex card, and you can register for that starting on Sunday, November 24. Also, Office Max is offering, among other things, $20 off the purchase of a $200 gift card that weekend. If you want to decide whether it’s worth your while to brave the crowds, here’s a list of all the Black Friday ad scans. [Read more…]
BEST BUY REWARDZONE CUTS BENEFITS: This just arrived in my inbox last night–apparently Best Buy is rolling out their new rewards program:
Thank you for being a loyal Reward Zone® member. I’m pleased to announce that after a decade, the program you love is getting even better. We’re reinventing the Reward Zone program as My Best Buy™ — delivering more rewards, more exclusives and an improved mobile experience.
Uh oh. Without reading any further, my first thought was, “I bet ‘more rewards’ is corporatespeak for ‘less rewards’.”
As one of our most valued Reward Zone Premier Silver members the change is easy — you’re already enrolled in our highest rewards level: My Best Buy Elite Plus. In fact all of your account information remains the same, including your member number, point balance and any available reward certificates. Even the points you get with every purchase stay the same. Also, Elite Plus members like you enjoy the following benefits:
- 25% Point Bonus on top of the 1 point for every $1 you already get…
There it is! Premier Silver members used to get a half-point bonus (effectively an additional 1%), whereas now it’s a quarter-point. So add that to the 5% you get for the Best Buy credit card (fortunately, that hasn’t changed) and it’s 5.5% instead of 6%. The spending level required for the highest tier is now $3,500, whereas it was $2,500 before.
None of which is a big deal, of course. Best Buy has a business to run, so they have to do what they have to do. Obviously I’d prefer they not cut benefits, but I’m sure there will be more Best Buy deals in the future.
(Incidentally, if you happen to have any purchases to make there and don’t want to bother with a cash/points portal, I’ve got a Best Buy affiliate link for you to click on.)
FREE BUSINESSWEEK SUBSCRIPTION: Via My Money Blog, here’s a link for a free subscription to BusinessWeek. The subscription is via something called RewardsGold.com, and apparently the link I’m passing on to you is a page which gives you either a free subscription or 5,000 RewardsGold points. All I did was enter my info and it told me I’d have my magazine in 8-10 weeks. The whole thing seems slightly sketchy, but the downside–more junk mail, perhaps?–is minimal.
INTERNING IS FOR SUCKERS: Apparently free labor is all the rage these days among cutting edge companies! Priceonomics casts a skeptical eye on the internship phenomenon:
Internships are a means to hire employees for no wages. Maurice Pianko, an attorney and founder of Intern Justice, told New York Magazine that he became interested in the internship issue after reading job postings where “so many descriptions sounded similar to a salaried position, except on the last line it said ‘unpaid.’”
Internships are the scourge of some 50% of college graduates – not just of privileged twentysomethings whose parents support them. A survey by Intern Bridge found that students and graduates with parents making $40,000-$80,000 a year were most likely to work an unpaid internship, whereas the children of parents making over $120,000 were least likely.
Obviously, Disney’s going to be involved with this racket:
Disney runs one of the world’s largest internship programs. Each year, between 7,000 and 8,000 college students and recent graduates work full-time, minimum-wage, menial internships at Disney World.
The interns work entirely at the company’s will, subject to a raft of draconian policies, without sick days or time off, without grievance procedures, without guarantees of workers’ compensation or protection against harassment or unfair treatment. Twelve-hour shifts are typical, many of them beginning at 6 a.m. or stretching past midnight. Interns sign up without knowing what jobs they’ll do or the salaries they’ll be paid (though it typically hovers right near minimum wage).
Bottom line: unless you’re volunteering with a charity, don’t work unless somebody’s paying you to do so.
Internships are not a good way to land a job. One survey found that graduating seniors with unpaid internship experience did no better than seniors without internship experience at finding a job. Another concluded that a measly 17% of surveyed students received a job offer after their internship. The exception is paid internships, which did lead to job offers.
THE PEOPLE WHO RUN POWERBALL HAVE A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR: You may have heard that the Powerball lottery is up to $400 million for Wednesday’s drawing. While checking out the odds and the payoffs, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the wacky letters page, wherein Powerball management prints some of the strange correspondence they’ve received over the years as well as Powerball’s responses. For example:
FROM Debora W: i don’t remember my powerball numbers. my name is debora w—-
The number is on your Powerball ticket. Your ticket is under the seat of your car, between the seat and the car door.
And my personal favorite:
FROM DAVID R: The cord of my power ball has become tangled inside the unit. I have removed the protective rubber belt and two baby screws and the lid. I can’t pry the two halves apart. Please help me solve this problem.
I would recommend running down to your local convenience store to buy $10 worth of Powerball lottery tickets. Then, if you win, you can buy a new one. You might also try this site for help.
[two days later]
Your advice is of limited use. Please put me in touch with your firm’s technical department if it has one.
I am the technical department here. Really, try the link (note the “s”). That is the company that sells the gyro Powerball. We sell Powerball lottery tickets here.
I will be buying exactly one ticket for Wednesday’s drawing. Sadly, my local gas station stopped accepting credit cards for lottery tickets, which makes the expected value of the lottery ticket purhcase even more negative, but oh well.
FREE STUFF FROM STAPLES: This ad is mostly self-explanatory…
I say “mostly” because the cards you get aren’t real Staples gift cards, they’re “ePromo cards” which are only good until September 22. Here’s the link to the Slickdeals thread if you want to dig a little deeper. The recommended approach there is to buy four $50 gift cards in one transaction to get the maximum of four ePromo cards.
(EDIT: Thanks to Frequent Miler for pointing out the software deal you can do for some free points and a few extra dollars. You can combine that deal with the deal above.)
Also from Slickdeals, here are this week’s Staples deals:
- 12-pack BIC Ultra Round Stic Grip Medium Ballpoint Pens (Black) Free after $2.79 Easy Rebate
- 100-pack Staples 3″x5″ Ruled Index Cards $0.01 w/ $5 Purchase
- 2-Pocket Paper Folder (Assorted Colors) $0.01 w/ $5 Purchase
- 8-pack Staples #2 Pencils $0.01 w/ $5 Purchase
- 12-pack Staples Cap Erasers $0.01 w/ $5 Purchase
- 5-Tab Avery Insertable Dividers $0.25
- Staples 8.5″x11.75″ Wide Ruled Perforated Writing Pad $0.50
- Westcott 12″ Finger-Grip Ruler $0.50
- 5-pack BIC 0.7mm Mechanical Pencils $0.50
- 125-count Staples Stickies 1/2″ Tape Flags $0.50
- 10-pack Crayola Classic Markers $0.75
- 7-pack Zebra Z-Grip Retractable Medium Ballpoint Pens $1
- Staples Steel 1-Hole Punch $1
- 5-pack Sharpie Fine Tip Permanent Markers $1
- 5-pack Sharpie Accent Tank Highlighters $1
If you really want to get hard core, somebody figured out how to turn this week’s Staples deals into a $60 money maker.
GAMING THE GAMING SYSTEM: This article is several years old, but a fun read. Apparently somebody figured out one of those ticket-paying games they have at places like Dave and Buster’s and actually made a living from it:
He decided to do the only thing at which he was exceptional: Drill-o-Matic. He’d seen it in arcades elsewhere as a ticket-awarding machine. Those arcades had prize huts with extremely valuable merchandise offered for exorbitant, almost unreachable ticket values. Robert knew how to get them. He knew how to line up the drill to get the 100 ticket payout every single time, as the top prize target was always located in the same space. Doing research that wasn’t fully explained to me, he determined every location that had this machine and, investing in a plane ticket, set out there to empty it of its tickets for as long as they would let him play. He’d redeem the tickets for the most valuable items and sell them on eBay.
In other news, you know that game where you drop the claw down into a pit filled with toys? It’s rigged.
BIG LAW IN BIG TROUBLE: Here’s a slightly less old article from The New Republic reporting on the current law school mess:
In the past decade, twelve major firms with more than 1,000 partners between them have collapsed entirely… And then there are the indignities inflicted on new lawyers, known as associates. The odds are increasingly long that a recent law-school grad will find a job. Five years ago, during a recession, American law schools produced 43,600 graduates and 75 percent had positions as lawyers within nine months. Last year, the numbers were 46,500 and 64 percent. In addition to the emotional toll unemployment exacts, it is often financially ruinous. The average law student graduates $100,000 in debt.
It’s not just the law schools and their grads that are getting squeezed. Harvard et al. may be more popular than ever, but other schools are hurting:
As Loyola University New Orleans gears up for fall classes next month, the 101-year-old Jesuit University faces a crisis: There will be 25% fewer freshmen than the school had banked on.
…School officials were stunned this year by the low fall turnout, and the vice president for enrollment management resigned abruptly in June. Moody’s Investors Service said this month a downgrade is likely in the school’s credit if “the university is unable to improve operations in a relatively short time frame.”
Loyola officials believe a catalyst for the decline was a reduction in financial aid it offered to the incoming class off its $35,504 tuition, from an average discount of 58% last year to about 55% this fall.
AS LONG AS I’M CLEANING OUT OLD ARTICLES: This post from 2007 is the most popular post of all time at The Simple Dollar: Homemade Bread: Cheap, Delicious, Healthy, and Easier Than You Think. The title’s self-explanatory, and I’ll second the sentiment: homemade bread truly is easy, cheap, and delicious. I have my doubts about the healthy part, so I like to use einkorn flour as that seems to have a less detrimental effect on one’s blood sugar. Of course, just about any homemade bread will still probably be healthier than store-bought. If you’ve never baked bread before, I highly recommend giving it a try after you get home from Staples.
WATCH OUT FOR GIFT CARD FRAUD: Fatwallet has a thread about one type of gift card fraud to watch out for. Apparently somebody out there is putting stickers over the barcodes of Visa gift cards, Vanilla Reloads, and suchlike. The stickers themselves are barcodes for other gift cards, so when you buy the gift card and you think you’re adding money to it you’re actually adding money to the crook’s card.
Bottom line: if you’re into points and miles via gift cards and prepaid debit cards, it wouldn’t hurt to run your finger along the back of the package to make sure that’s the original bar code and not a sticker. Hopefully none of you have run into this kind of thing.
HOW TO WORK THE UNITED AIRLINES AWARD SYSTEM: Frugal Travel Guy has some nice information about booking United Airlines award tickets. This installment is about adding open jaws and stopovers to your tickets to wring more value out of them. It’s worth a read if you’re stockpiling Ultimate Reward points or United miles.
MCDONALD’S MONOPOLY CHALLENGE FINAL RESULTS: Brandon and Jim have wrapped up their epic McDonald’s Monopoly Challenge at Bargaineering. They “won” a collective 151,000 calories, so hats off to them!
MORE HOMES FOR A DOLLAR: I recently mentioned a Detroit home which had been on the market for over a year despite its low, low price of $1. Watch out, Detroit–here comes Gary, Indiana! The city is selling a dozen houses for just one dollar each. There are conditions, however:
Buyers must have lived in Gary for at least six months; have $1,000 in savings; earn at least 80% of the median annual income of $35,250 in the area; and demonstrate that they have the financial ability to rehabilitate the home.
The program is open only to those who do not currently own a home, and they must occupy the house for five years before they assume full ownership. If they leave before that, they forfeit everything.
What are you waiting for? Get thee to Gary!