Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Local Vs. Corporate

When we moved into our current residence, we had the furnace serviced. The man, who did it, not only charged us $600 for the service, but also talked us into a service plan. The service plan results in a technician coming to our house every couple of months and insisting a $200-$300 repair must be done or our house will self-combust.

This is odd considering we had a very thorough home inspection done and nothing appeared to be wrong with the heating and air system. They would need to be replaced eventually, but not just yet.  We’d signed with one of those national corporations with a catchy commercial. I noticed that none of the techs were never the same or even had the same diagnosis. When I would repeat what the last one said, the current tech would roar with laughter as if I were conducting a comedy routine.

This was all a bit unsettling.  A clogged dryer vent due to a bird nest would cost almost $500 to remove. I may know nothing about heating and air, but I knew that was too much. I decided to ask for a second opinion of a local contractor. He was his own company and charged only one-fifth of one my corporate tech charged.

When our air conditioning wouldn’t work, we decided to go with the local man as opposed to endless techs that worked for the major corporation. He came late on a Friday evening to examine our air conditioning and would only take a standard service charge for his visit that left our air conditioning humming.

The independent contractor gave us an estimate of $3600 to replace our furnace and air conditioning. Big difference from the $11,000 the corporation rep quoted us. Keep in mind; we have a small slab house that barely measures a thousand feet.

In the end, I’d rather go with the local guy than the large corporation and the endless army of techs.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Ever envy celebrities in their customized clothes? They don’t battle with gaping pants waistlines or dresses that don’t fit across the shoulders because of linebacker shoulders. Wouldn’t it be great to get something made just for you? Wouldn’t it be better if it fit?

That was the premise that interested in me in Eshakti. An ad kept popping up in my Facebook sidebar about custom dresses for a fraction of the cost. Yeah, probably like the article in a popular woman’s magazine that thought $200 was not too much to pay for jeans that fit. I clicked on the button and Eshakti had a sale going. They usually have some type of sale going.

I decided to investigate. All customizing fees were waived for the first order. I could change the neckline, hem or sleeves.  To customize an outfit to fit me I had to take exact measurements with a tape measure. This is a very important step and I’ll explain later why.

For my initial order, I picked out a sleeveless lightweight dress and a three quarter sleeve dress of heavier winter weight. This cost me about $35 a dress and postage, which is less than an off the rack dress. It took about three weeks for the dresses to arrive.

The sleeveless dress fit fine. It really looks good on me. Amazing what the right fit can do. The winter weight dress was tight across the shoulders. Turns out, I could not accurately measure my own shoulders and the material had no give. Each outfit has a description of what type of material is used. Keep this in mind when measuring your bust, waist and hips. If you’re a 38” in the bust, you don’t want something that is 38” because it will be skintight.  You can choose regular sizes too, still vary the hem length, and sleeve style. Most dresses come with discreet pockets and bra strap holders, which is great with the wider necklines or sleeveless dresses.

I had to send back my winter weight dress. Eshakti refunded me $44, which included postage. For filling out a survey about the process, they sent me a $25 credit.  I used the credit to buy a darling clearance dress for a mere $10. Clearance dresses are probably returns and only come in standard sizes. I usually buy dresses in 10 or 12. I decided to go with a twelve since the previous material had little give to it. Good decision on my part because the dress fits wonderfully.

If you’re a fan of dresses, this is your go to spot. Factor in ironing too. Not all the dresses need pressing, but the majority do. 


We need five more people on our phone plan. Kids, got any suggestions?
Who hasn’t seen Sprint’s kitschy commercials about adding on family members and near friends to get a small phone rate of $25? Sounds great, doesn’t it? I thought so too.  Commercials are misleading. At the end are disclaimers this is for only new service. You already have Sprint, and then you aren’t eligible. You could add someone new onto your phone and he could benefit, but there’s no real value until you hit seven people.

Why would Sprint do this? Each person receives a separate bill as stated in the commercial, several times. Great, you won’t be responsible for Cousin Edna’s bill. Around $25 is added onto each bill for taxes and other vague charges. At the cheapest rate, each person is paying $50, which is actually more expensive than the former family plan.  Each person pays a $35 activation fee. If you managed to coerce or bully ten people into joining that's $350 for Sprint. 

What if your daughter's boyfriend breaks up with her? Of course, you drop him from the plan or he just stops paying. Your rate automatically goes higher. You can't guarantee any of the people you put on your Framily plan will keep up their side of the bargain. They had no real investment; it's your plan.

I’ve been a Sprint customer for over a decade. Every two years, I get a new phone when I re-up for another two years, except this year. True, I only got the most basic phone, but it was free. This year I had to pay from $60 to $199 for my choice of a phone. This was with my upgrade too. You’re starting to see how Sprint is changing the game. They are not losing money. Even if you think you’re saving money, you’re not.

It is a highly sophisticated shell game. This is one of the reasons I split company with Sprint, but there is another reason, a huge reason, a $700 reason. My husband’s company would pay $150 phone bill reimbursement if it were in my husband’s name, instead, of mine. Sounds like a no-brainer, right. We spent four and half months trying to get the bill changed. Initially, we were told it couldn’t be done, but eventually customer service warned us of dire consequences before sending us long legal documents to fill out, scan and send back with our photo identification. We also conducted two conference calls with both of us on the line swearing we really wanted to do this. This took so long because the automated system would throw us out of the process forcing us to start again.

We spoke with people in the United States, who could understand what we were saying, but still the account was never changed as specified. I spent hours on the phone and online on this one simple matter. We lost over $700 in possible phone reimbursement. My frustrated husband started an account with a competitor in his name only.

I tried to make a go with Sprint with the two remaining family members. I wanted to downgrade our plan to call and text only with the most basic phones. The only phones they’d show me where Droid phones, despite my insistence I didn’t want one. Their basic phone package was still $140 dollars, which was what we were paying for three people.

Sprint was more like a disagreeable relative that I tried to get along with, but finally had to distance myself from for peace of mind. Yes, I did get the talk and text plan for $30 a line. I also snagged two phones for the grand total of $1.07. I went with Verizon who was willing to give me what I wanted and didn’t try to sell me up.