The New Black Friday, Or How I wasted Too Much Time on Amazon’s App

We spent this Thanksgiving at my parent’s house. It was great fun with family. I barely left the house the whole time we were there, and I never left the property. But I still got some Black Friday shopping in.  Since the break in I have been in the market for a few replacements. And I hoped to luck into a great TV deal. My extended family doesn’t live close to a major retailer, and I was not planning on driving and camping out for any Black Friday deal. I didn’t need to. I did all my shopping online.

This year more than ever before retailers were offering major discounts for online purchases. I woke up Thanksgiving morning and placed an order with Best Buy, to be delivered next week. This item wasn’t available for my Early Access sale last Monday, but was a “doorbuster” for Thursday/Friday and available online. As with the early access sale, not every doorbuster was online. Just a few.

The online retailer Amazon changed up their Black Friday approach. This year they threw out “lightning” deals seemingly at random. They released a short list of what would be available, and a time period for which those deals would appear over the next several days. One deal, a 50″ Led 1080p TV for $150 was only going to be available through the Amazon App. There were several deals that only people who used the app would see. And almost every deal was made available to Amazon prime members 30 minutes earlier than to the general public.

This strategy of randomly dropping new deals online kept bringing shoppers back again and again, throughout the day. Sometimes the app would tell you what was coming. You could “watch” the deal, and get a notification when it was about to start. Other times the deal just popped up. The hotter the deal, the more likely it would show up without notice.

Catching one of these hot lightning deals was a matter of luck.I actually had the $75 32″ TV in my cart, and decided not to buy it. I saw the “waitlist” for their 55″ 4K TV deal, right before it was filled. If you missed the initial offering, you could join a waitlist. If a shopper failed to check out within 15 minutes of placing the item in their cart, it would be offered to the next person on the waitlist. You would have just a few minutes to make your own purchase, or it would drop to the next person. Many of these deals would be gone and the waitlist filled within seconds of showing up on the app.

Because we had our TVs stolen and have not replaced them yet, I was hoping to snag a TV deal. I really wanted the cheap 50″ deal. Not because it would have been a great TV, but because even a “cheap” TV of that size is a good deal for $150. I confess I spent way too much time waiting for that deal to drop. Not knowing when meant that I would have to be lucky. It’s not quite as bad as waiting in line for days, but it was actually very annoying to keep checking the app. In between activities with my family I was pulling up Amazon and scrolling through the deals.

That’s what they wanted people to do. They wanted us to keep looking and keep checking, in hopes that we would see other things we wanted, and buy those as well. That worked for a couple of hours. My kids snagged a game they had been wanting for a very cheap price. I ordered a microSD card at 80% off the normal price. But very soon I just didn’t care. When the 50″ TV deal went live I just missed seeing it, and it wasn’t until 20 minutes later that I knew it had appeared. I assume it was available for just a few moments before it had sold out.

I had begun to wonder if it would ever appear. As did others from what I read online. This new random drop tactic was not a huge hit with online shoppers, from what I could see in he forums and comments I read. I won’t ever do it again. My time is worth more than any deal like this. This felt too much like work. I am deleting the app from my phone. I only got it to see if I could get this one TV deal.

The method that Amazon, and others, should use if they want me to keep coming back to their website is to post what will be for sale, and when the deal goes live. Both of my purchases from Amazon this year were on deals like this. I knew what was coming up for sale, and when I should be ready to buy. Both were available at different times, and both times I looked at other items for sale while I was there buying my “watched” deals. Hopefully more retailers will offer their deals online.

Everyone wants a deal. Some people will camp out for days to get one. Others will spend too much time checking an app for a sale. I’ve never camped out, and I won’t check the app like this again next year. I will be happy to buy things online as long as I know what is for sale and when the deal begins.

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How to Get Best Buy Black Friday Deals Online

For the past 3 years I have been able to take advantage of some of the Black Friday Sale deals from Best Buy before Friday (or Thursday). This isn’t for the major doorbusters, but I have been able to buy some gifts and electronics without braving the crowds on Black Friday. I’ve purchased computers, video games, movies, and even a large TV this way. And everything is delivered to my door by Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving.

You can do this by shopping the Black Friday Elite Early Access sale on the Monday before Thanksgiving. In order to participate you need to have an active Best Buy Reward Zone membership with Elite or Elite Plus status that is associated with your bestbuy.com account. Once you’ve qualified, on the Monday before Thanksgiving you can see a link on the Best Buy Website like this:

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Obviously, the images will vary from year to year, but that link gets you into a special pre-Black-Friday sale event where you can purchase many of the sale items and have them shipped to your home, with free shipping. You must complete your purchases before midnight that Monday. It’s too late for 2015, but you can be ready for next year.

In order to qualify for Elite status in the Reward Zone program, you need to make $1500 worth of purchases. You can do this by buying lots of cheap things or a few expensive things at the store. Of course, you may not want to drop $1500 just so you can buy a video game 50% one weekend a year.

There is another way to qualify. I want to preface this by warning you that amassing credit card debt is not a smart thing. If you cannot control your spending habits, then do not do what I am about to suggest. The other way to qualify as an Elite Best Buy Reward Zone member is to use the Best Buy Visa card for $1500 worth of purchases through the year. This is how I qualify ever year. These do not have to be at Best Buy stores. Buying gas or paying your cell phone bill will count toward your Elite status. If you have reoccurring charges, use the card to pay those, and then pay them off every month. Use it to buy groceries a few times. Just make sure to pay off the balance every month. In no time you will have qualified for Elite Reward Zone status. And then you can participate in the early access sale.

You can’t buy a new Toshiba 49″ LED TV for $150 or a laptop for $140, but you can get most of the Black Friday deals through this sale. This year, I bought a couple of gifts and a couple of movies. Last year I bought a TV. All from the comfort of my home. No lines, no hassles.

The Affordable Care Act is Not Affordable and No One Cares

acanotI just came from turning in my insurance forms this this coming year. Once again I cannot afford to add my family to my employer provided coverage.

And, because my employer follows the law and offers coverage, I cannot qualify for subsidies in the ACA exchanges. So we can’t afford to insure our family there. Luckily I don’t make a lot of money, so my kids qualify for the CHIP program here in Texas. And we are Christians so my wife can get covered through one of those Christian Co-Ops. So we won’t get fined/taxed/penalized for not having coverage we simply cannot afford. I had to swallow my pride and take a government hand out so my children could have health coverage, because I simply could not afford it under the Affordable Care Act.

I don’t blame my employer. They offer very good insurance, and they pay about $6000.00 for my coverage. But if I want to add my wife to that same plan, then I must pay over $500 per month. If I wanted to add my children, the price would inflate to over $900 per month. I don’t know a lot of middle class families that could afford to lose over $10,800 annually.

Years ago, before the ACA was passed, I was self employed, and I had a plan I liked. My family was well covered with supplements and major medical. Then the ACA went into effect, and I got a letter saying that my plan was no longer offered, and I would have to shift to a different plan for a 300% increase in premiums. It had been more economical and effective to have a major medical plan with supplemental plans to cover us for basic services. In the new post-ACA world, I must spend more for less coverage.

That continues to be the case today.

I often see friends complaining online about how much their premiums are going up. I hear on the news about Healthcare Exchanges that are going out of business. Healthcare is not getting better.

I know that something had to be done. There were real issues with the old insurance/healthcare system, things that needed to be addressed. But this ACA is a horrible replacement for what we had before. I don’t know one single person who has better coverage for less money. From what I’ve experienced and heard, if you had insurance before the ACA kicked in, you are less happy with your coverage now.

Occasionally I will hear people saying that since the ACA has been passed, and some people who did not have coverage before now have it, you can’t take it away. Why not? The government took away my coverage and forced me to find an alternate/ worse plan. The current system under the ACA is not working. Exchanges are crashing, and costs are rising on plans that offer less coverage for more Americans. What we have now cannot continue for much longer. Something has to be done, sooner rather than later.

And no one with the power to do anything seems to care. Oh sure, there have been bunches of show votes where Republicans tried to “repeal” the ACA,but that did exactly jack squat for my family, and everyone else adversely effected by the ACA rules. Democrats seem to be afraid to criticize the President’s signature legislation, even though there are obvious problems with it. In many ways middle class Americans are worse off now than before, regarding insurance.

Our elected representatives are more interested in talking about how they care than doing something that actually helps us. This will be a big concern for me in the upcoming elections. I don’t want to hear a Republican say they will repeal the ACA, I want to hear them say what they will do to replace it. I want to know how they will help my family have better coverage for an amount we can afford.

Why Are You upset About Being Wished Happy Holy-Days, I mean Holidays?

Did you know that the “holiday” comes from, “the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig “holy” + dæg “day”). The word originally referred only to special religious days.” So when someone says Happy Holidays they are wishing you happy “holy-days”. Maybe instead of getting offended, we should wish them happy holy-days right back? Maybe we should engage them in conversation about why the holiday of Christmas is so special to Christians. Maybe we should show some of the love that we have received from Christ, who’s birth we celebrate this time of year?

I don’t know of a single instance where being offended by the actions of a secular company has brought anyone closer to a relationship with Jesus Christ. No social media rant about the war on Christmas has ever ended  with non religious people wanting to know more about our faith.

I get the anger about the secularization of a very special religious holiday. When I was a kid is was the word “Xmas” that was the target. Taking Christ out of Christmas! How dare they! Don’t shop at stores that have signs with “Xmas” on them! (Because shopping is what Christmas is all about… ) Today it’s holiday trees, red cups, and anything else that isn’t blatantly about Christmas.

Want people to respect Christmas? Want our culture to recognize this holiday for what it really is supposed to be about? Show the love of Christ, every day. All year. Live like Jesus wants you to. Talk about why your faith is important to you. Not just from November through January 1st, but why it’s important to you year round. Introduce your friends and family and anyone who will listen to the Jesus you know. The Jesus who’s birth we celebrate this time of year.

Show the world that the holidays are still holy-days.