We’ve moved to CheapEncounters.com!

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com! After careful consideration, I have decided we have outgrown our humble WordPress.com beginnings and it is time to move on to dedicated webspace and our own domain name.

Besides an easier to remember URL, you’ll see that the new site is much more customized with a much cooler look. I am just beginning to play around with the blogging software, so don’t be surprised to see changes pretty often as I decide what I like the best. Despite the changes, you will find all of the posts from this site have been migrated over to the new site, so don’t worry about not being able to find your favorite posts.

If you’d like to subscribe to the new RSS feed, the new feed can be found at http://www.cheapencounters.com/?feed=rss.

See everyone at the new site!


November 17, 2007 Posted by | About | Leave a comment

Rant: Bank Customer Service Hell

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

This was not a good day for my nerves in maintaining my various financial accounts. Today I have had to waste nearly an hour on the phone to fix errors by my banks. Here’s a rundown of the stupidity:

Chase – I opened a new Chase personal credit card account in October and did a balance transfer to my Capital One account, where the promotional rate was about to expire. After a couple of weeks, the account was no longer available for viewing on my Chase Online page and over a month past the opening date I had yet to receive a statement. I called to find out that a fraud alert had been placed on my account (although no one from Chase ever called to tell me that) and I had to basically re-answer all of the questions from my application to verify that it is indeed a legitimate account. Thankfully everything is fixed now, but it is still a royal PITA. Time wasted: 22 minutes.

Capital One – Despite calling twice to verify that no finance charge would be assessed on my promotional balance if I paid it off before November 1, on my latest statement the clowns at Capital One proceeded to charge be a finance charge on the balance I paid off on October 23. I called up customer service and waited on hold for a while for the first line rep, who immediately declared he could do nothing for me and I would need to talk to an account manager. After waiting on hold for the account manager for a while longer, she comes on the line and I repeat my story and she looks at the account and agrees that an adjustment is needed almost immediately. Time wasted: 25 minutes.

HSBC – Reviewing all of my accounts in Yodlee, I noted that my HSBC Checking which I closed last month had been charged a service fee of $12 for falling below the minimum balance requirement. I call up HSBC and after navigating their Labyrinth of a phone tree menu I finally talk to a person and explain the situation twice. She reviews the account and noted the account had been requested closed last month and manually closed the account and submitted the credit to reverse the finance charge. Time wasted: 9 minutes.

In total I spent 54 minutes on the phone correcting errors made by my banks. This isn’t including the time I spent to pull up my notes on the accounts. I also didn’t even do anything with a bank by mail deposit that isn’t showing up on my Presidential Checking account, although at this point I can’t be sure if it is an error by the bank or the postal service lost the deposit in transit.

November 16, 2007 Posted by | banking, Credit Cards, Customer Service | , , , , | 2 Comments

Unimpressed with Drugstore.com

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Always searching for a bargain, I recently took advantage of a promotion on Drugstore.com where you got $10 off a $25 purchase when you paid using PayPal. Being parents of twins we are always in need of diapers, so I decided to take the opportunity to get some diapers on the cheap and test out their service.

At this point my verdict is at “not impressed”, although it may soon move to the “very disappointed”. I placed an order for two packs of Huggies Size 1 diapers and a pack of outlet covers (I needed some filler) last Tuesday night (11/6). A week later I finally receive a confirmation that the outlet covers had shipped. However, as of tonight (Thursday 11/15), the two packs of diapers still had not shipped.

I might could understand if I had ordered something out of the ordinary, but diapers are a basic item at drugstores everywhere. How could it possibly take over a week to process an order for two packs of Huggies? At this rate, the twins will have outgrown the diapers by the time I get them.

November 15, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service | , , | 1 Comment

FreeNEzy.com Scam Site for Sale on eBay

4/22/08 Update:  The FreeNEzy.com website written about in this post appears to have been sold and under new management, as documented on this recent post. While this change in ownership does not change any of the events that have occurred previously with this site (and my friend never got his reward), there is currently no evidence we are aware of that the new owner has continued any of the fraudulent practices previously associated with the site. As always, use caution when dealing with this or any other site.

This is the never ending saga of a boy and his scam site, and the victims left in his wake. I have posted previously about the infamous FreeNEzy.com, run by Vikram Jhaveri. I initially posted about this because of numerous users on SlickDeals, including one really good friend, who spent money completing offers through the site to earn points for various rewards but were consistently denied those rewards by Mr. Jhaveri. This posting caught the attention of Mr. Jhaveri and prompted him to give excuses for defrauding of some users, which I documented here. Apparently not happy that I refused to take down my post and only offered to post an update if my friend received his reward (offer still open, by the way), he resorted to sending a harassing message to me through eBay’s messaging system, documented here. He has since sent another message indicating that he received my user info from someone and sent them $50. Just for the record, here is the text of that message:

Thankyou so very much. I have sent $50 to your paypal. I have tried so hard to get this scammers info. Thanks again. Next week i am going to post his info everywhere…

Then today while following up to see if eBay had suspended this bastard for his continued harassing messages, I found this listing under his user name. You can own his scam website, FreeNEzy.com, plus some assorted crap with his logo on it for the mere sum of $50,000. He proceeds to say that you can make $75-$250 profit for each member, although he neglects to say if that amount is assuming the illegal withholding of earned rewards.

I guess if you are going to get out of the business of scamming internet users, the icing on the cake would be to sell the site you used to scam the users. Hopefully anyone that would seriously be thinking about buying a site like this does some homework and finds this blog and the other spots on the web where people have chronicled their trouble with this site.

November 12, 2007 Posted by | GPT, Scams | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thinking about leaving WordPress.com

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

When I started this blog earlier this year, I wasn’t sure how big this would get. It started as primarily a way to release my creative energies and a place to rant when something annoys me. Back in the good old days of the web, I had a website over on Geocities that took about 5 years to get up to 12,000 hits. This was back in the primitive days when Notepad was the HTML editor of choice, but it set my expectations for traffic at this site.

Well, in less than a year we are closing in on 17,000 hits for Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind. This is much more than I ever expected, and thank you to all the readers for stopping by my little pit stop on the information superhighway. However, it makes me think that we might be outgrowing WordPress.com, our blog hosting provider.

The obvious advantage to WordPress.com is cost – it’s free! But with the lack of cost, there are some disadvantages, including:

1. Lack of customization. WP has a handful of templates that you can use, and a limited number of “widgets” that can be used to add features to the site. As such, most sites on WP look pretty similar.

2. No affiliate links or AdSense allowed. Claiming that they are trying to stay true to their free roots, WP doesn’t allow bloggers to post affiliate links or Google AdSense text ads to their site. While I didn’t start the blog to make money, I don’t appreciate being told I can’t at least try to make some cash from my efforts. I don’t want to make this an ad farm, but I see nothing wrong with having a relevant affiliate link as part of the site or a particular article.

3. Limited traffic reporting. From the admin page, I can see the number of hits per day for the site as a whole and individual pages. I can also see some search terms used to find the blog. I can’t see detail of where a visitor has clicked within the site, time spent, etc. With better traffic reporting I could gear my blog better to reader interests.

If there are any other bloggers out there, do you care to offer some advice?

November 8, 2007 Posted by | About | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Freebies for new parents

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

With the birth of the twins and all, this has been a wild week. So many things to do. So many things to learn. And nowadays, so many products to be pitched for baby. Baby products are a big business, and before your baby makes his first poopie you’ll probably start getting advertising for baby stuff. The hospital is no exception to the sales effort, as you are given so many sample packs, magazines, and other items all encouraging you to try a certain product. The upside is that there are some money saving freebies available for the asking. Here are a few good ones from all the stuff we have received.

Enfamil Family Beginnings – I list this one first because we have already received the first big sample pack. We registered with them several months ago and got in the mail this past week a sample pack with a can of powder formula plus a few formula checks (serve the same purpose as coupons.

UPromise $3 Bonus from Enfamil – Using this link, join UPromise with the promo code “DIAPER3”. This is valid only for new users. It is a pretty neat program where you register your frequent shopper cards and credit cards and are given a rebate of sorts when you purchase selected products or dine at participating restaurants. The rebates can then be transferred to your 529 college savings account, or you can request a check for cash. The rebates tend to accumulate slowly (I’ve only accumulated about $50 over 5 years), but it is free money.

20 Free Prints Online from CVS Photo Center – Simply go to CVS Photo Center online and use the promotional code “NEWMOM20”. The flyer also says that you get 10 free prints for registering as a new user, so you could probably end up with a total of 30 free prints.

Doing a Google search this evening, I also found a pretty good listing of freebies for new parents here. It will take a while to get through that list.

November 7, 2007 Posted by | College Savings, CVS, Deals, Freebies, Parenting | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rant: NFL + Houston = Screwed Fans

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

It sucks to be a football fan in Houston! Not only are we cursed with the Houston Texans, but the NFL is trying to force us to watch them on television!

Football fans across America eagerly anticipated what was being billed as the best football game in years as the New England Patriots take on the Indianapolis Colts, both of whom were undefeated. This game wass Sunday afternoon at 3pm Central and was being aired on CBS across the country, exception in Houston.

It seems that as part of the NFL’s television contracts, local affiliates are required to air the games of their hometown team, regardless of whether anyone really wants to watch them. As a result, the Houston CBS affiliate KHOU aired the Texans/Raiders game instead of the Colts and Pats. Houston residents missed the best game of the year, unless they were lucky enough to be on DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers (Sunday Ticket is only available on DirecTV and the NFL refuses to allow other cable or satetile provides to carry the programming, but that’s another rant for another day).

For those unaware, Houston is largely a city of transplants from other places. In the more than six years I’ve lived here, the number of native Houstonians I’ve met probably doesn’t exceed a dozen. Very few people here have any real attachment to this city or its football team. These folks are just not going to watch football if the NFL tries to force a game between two of the worst teams in pro football upon us.

Thanks NFL for screwing the fans of Houston! Not that you really care anyway!

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Off Topic | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New arrivals to the family

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Apologies to my loyal readers for the lack of updates over the last week. However, I have a good excuse. My wife gave birth to twins (a boy and a girl) Thursday morning. Our little girl was 5lbs. 15oz., and our little boy was 5lbs. 2oz. Mom and both babies are doing great and all three were discharged from the hospital on Sunday and are resting comfortably at home.

To make this personal finance related, I am jokingly referring to the kids as “Daddy’s Little Tax Deductions” and I collected quite a few Coke reward points from my days up at the hospital.

I had a post I had drafted about the Colts/Pats game last week (not that I would have got to see it, but it was not aired here in Houston), and although it is a bit after the fact I’ll go ahead and post it later on today.

November 6, 2007 Posted by | About | 1 Comment