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.


Former Planned Parenthood Director Confirms Her Affiliate Profited from Sale of Fetal Body Parts

On Wednesday July 29, 2015 the Texas senate Committee of Health and Human Services began an investigation into the illegal selling of fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood chose not to attend the hearing.

About 2 and a half hours into the hearing you can hear testimony from Abby Johnson, former Director of the Gulf Shores Planned Parenthood affiliate.

Her testimony supports the videos from the Center for Medical Progress. In particular the portion at 3:18 and following, where she discusses the fees they charged to “recoup” their costs for tissue donation, and what it actually cost to donate specimens for research studies.

This is testimony from the former director. There is at least one Planned Parenthood clinic that charged more for the specimens than it cost. And the extra was, in her words, “sheer profit” for the clinic. She goes on to estimate what a Houston area clinic might make in a given month: $120,000 from the sale of fetal parts to research clinics.

This video is originally from the website of the Texas Senate. You can stream the whole hearing here:
The portion used in this Youtube clip is about 2:30:00 into the hearing.

More about Abby Johnson here.

Previous articles:

Court Stops Release of Some Parts of Anti Abortion Videos

Are Americans Already Desensitized to Selling Aborted Babies?

[I’m going to stop apologizing for posting about this instead of specifically media related topics. I have to write about this right now. I’ll post later about why this is important enough for me to spend so much time on it. But this is something I have to do right now.

Comments are disabled on this post because if you agree with me, great! And if you don’t, the only thing you can say is “she’s lying” so let’s assume that has already been said.]

Success and Failure

IMG_4080I got a box of DVDs in the mail today. It’s one year after they were first released for sale.

I remember that day. My whole family piled into the car and drove down to the local store that was selling them. We rolled into the store and started looking for the shelf. I don’t remember who saw them first, but what great feeling to see something you worked so hard on available for people.

I didn’t know what to expect from the retail release of the DVD. IMG_2597 I knew that we were a show filled with unknown actors, created by an unknown director. But I was hopeful. We had TV exposure and a few hundred fans on social media.

The weekend after the release we had the discs available at the church which helped so much with the production. Most of the cast and crew were from that congregation. And we sold a couple dozen that day. Through my distributor’s contract with Word, I knew we had several dozen in stores across the country. And I knew that friends and family were buying copies. I personally bought one just so I could say I did.

Fast forward 3 months. It’s the end of the first quarter. I get a small check. I had spent more on social media advertising. In the 2nd quarter my distributor loses a partnership, and has multiple copies returned. For the rest of the year the DVD is only available online, from a dozen or so different outlets.

I can’t tell you exactly how many were produced, or how many were sold. But it wasn’t very many. Despite my best efforts, we never landed a major retail placement. There are a lot of new video products coming out every month, and we were buried in the pile. After a year in relationship with our distributor, we decided to part company.

Thank God retail sales are not the only measurement of success or failure!

I actually wrote an ebook about this. I almost titled it “How to create a successful Christian TV series and still not make a living.”

So what makes me say the show was a success when it certainly didn’t do well in retail?

We made the show so people would be impacted by the content. Entertained by a biblically based comedy. The more people who see it the better. Yes, people who buy the DVD would be people who see it, but luckily that wasn’t the only way it could be watched.

All 10 episodes of Peculiar broadcast on multiple religious networks around the world. JCTV (now JUCE), NRB Network, CTN-Lifestyle, and The Walk TV broadcast the show in the US. Plus several individual stations. Internationally it’s on a satellite channel in Africa, and being translated for broadcast in Romania and India.

An episode was shown at the 2013 Gideon Film Festival, and the series won the 2014 NRB Media Award for best Creative TV Programming. And did I mention that we did the whole thing for under $9000, and no one went into debt to make it happen.

Retail has been a failure. But the show has been a success! I’m proud of what we accomplished, and I can’t wait until I can do more projects like it.

Not the Dave Ramsey Way, But…

We did it. After selling the house we are debt free.

I thought about calling the Dave Ramsey show and asking to do one of those debt free scream things. I could imagine how that call would go…

Dave: Now on the line we have Scott who is with us to do a debt free scream, that’s so great! Scott, what’s your story?

Me: We owed a lot of money and in just over 5 weeks we got rid of it all.

Dave: Wow! How did you pay off all that debt so fast?

Me: Oh, we didn’t pay it off. We sold our house. But we’re debt free!

Dave: Did my people even screen this call?


Yeah, probably not going to call him. I’m sure he’s busy, anyway.

It is a weird feeling though. Maybe because where we live is so tied to our identity in Western Culture. If you live in an apartment or house, own or rent, alone or with roommates or with family or with your parents, these are all a part of our American identity.

We’ve bought and sold a ton of houses. I’ve paid my fair share of fees. It would be OK with me to never own again. Of course renting in Central Florida is as or more expensive than buying.

Right now we are focused on find out the next thing is. And without a mortgage hanging over us, we are freer. Someone calls tomorrow, we can move immediately. We can save. We can prepare.

For the next step.

Next Steps

solfWe sold our house!

OK, we have a contract on it. But barring unforeseen circumstances, end of May we don’t have a home. Er, a house. Home is where the heart is, right? House is where the stuff is. Of course, Our stuff might be in a storage unit. But we have family nearby if there isn’t a more permanent plan in place.

That’s the weird part of this. There isn’t a plan in place. We felt that we should put the house on the market. Then, within 6 days, it gets a contract. OK, great. We should not only get out of the house clean, but even walk away with a small amount of cash. Last year we would have had to bring cash to close.

Now what?

A few days ago, before the house sold and before the car situation was figured out, Mandy and I were talking about the 3 biggest obstacles for us: Car, house, job. Then one after another the dominos fell. Car was taken care of. The house sold. Now we are wondering about the job.

I am like many Americans, underemployed. Unlike many Americans, I had a say in getting to this place. In order to do what God has called me to do, I need to have a day job. I took my current position to supplement my freelance work. Then my freelance work dried up. So now we are looking for something else. Maybe something in Central Florida, maybe something somewhere else. So we have put out feelers. It’s weird because I explored a position a while back and ended up not feeling like we were led to follow it. I’ve written about my dream job before. But my day job doesn’t have to be my dream job. Just needs to have benefits and pay enough to live on. I have no idea where we will end up.

Today I was reading in Joshua.

“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:2-6, 9

What’s the next step? I don’t know for sure, but wherever we go… God is with us.

Time to cross the river… Time to leave the wilderness.

Small Miracles

IMG_3542Sometimes it’s the small miracles in life that keep you going.

God’s been doing some stuff. We are selling our house. Heard we should get an offer today. I’m looking actively for a different “day job” so we can make ends meet and still have time for family and working toward the calling and vision we believe God has given us.

On my birthday, of all days, my car blew a head gasket. I got the report from the repair guy… don’t put any more money into a 16 year old car.

We are debt free, except our home. We don’t want a car payment. I went looking for a car. Small cars are expensive. I was down to throwing a few hundred at some clunker just to get around… driving it into the ground like my last car.

Then my in-laws asked to come over. I had borrowed their van during this time. They said they had been planning to drop down to one car. And they were giving us their van. 2001 Sienna. My father-in-law was meticulous in maintenance of this car. Not brand new, but a lot of life left in it.

Huge answer to prayer. One less issue to distract from the vision and dream. So thankful.

House For Sale!

IMG_3535We are selling our house! Been praying about it for a while. Not planning to leave Central Florida, but open to whatever God has. Just making a change. No crisis, just being obedient.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know the journey we have been on for the past couple of years. God has been faithful, and he will still be faithful. We have been learning to trust God for a while and this is another step. I’m sure I will write more about this, but for now…

If you know anyone looking for a 4Bdr/3Ba home on the west side of Orlando…