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Posts about Technology

How to score discounted tickets to the Twin Cities Auto Show

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: March 6, 2015 - 8:17 AM

The jingle is already earworming its way through my brain as I write this. "Gotta go to the auto show."

It'll cost you $12 per person this year, up a couple of bucks from last year. But you can easily find $2 savings or more at this year's show March 7-15.

Save $2 per admission by ordering tickets at the show's website . Most new car dealers will also have discount coupons for $2 available from their salespeople.

Attendees can also save $2 with a donation of household goods, clothing, and coats at the show. All items collected will go to Goodwill. On Tuesday March 10 (country night), get $2 off if you wear a cowboy hat. There's also a free concert from 6-8 p.m. by the Davisson Brother Band concert near the Dodge Ram display, hat or no hat.

Discounts cannot be combined.

On Saturday and Sunday (March 7-8 and March 14-15), anyone who wants a free booster-seat safety check can drive up directly outside the Convention Center on Grant Street. One free ticket to the show is offered to those who take part.

The best discount is on half-price day, Wednesday, March 11. All tickets are $6 that day. No additional discounts are allowed.

Are you now infected with the "gotta go to the auto show" earworm? Over and out.

Why I'd rather get nothing than the $30 you offered me on Craigslist

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: February 4, 2015 - 10:18 AM

On Sunday I wrote about a local store that buys used electronic devices. What I didn't address in the article is why so many of us can't bring ourselves to sell the old models of phones, tablets and MP3 players sitting unused in junk drawers.

How ridiculous is it to have "money" sitting in a drawer? I don't do it, so it seems dumb to me, but I'm a clueless member of the financially flawed club in other ways.

I recently posted a pair of kettle bells for $35 on Craigslist that were brand new in the package. I've had them for at least 5 years, unused, and the same model is still sold on for $55 each ($110 for the pair). A potential buyer texted me, asking if I'd take $30 for the pair. I responded with $32 as my best offer. He responded, "$30 is my final offer."

I politely refused, even though it was the only offer I'd received in the three weeks since I posted the item. I would rather donate them to charity than accept his "low ball" offer of $30.

How stupid is that?

I could get a $5 charitable tax deduction for the donation or $30 in my pocket. And I have to be honest here--I take a lot of things to charity dropoffs, but benevolent feelings of warmth don't wash over me when I donate my castoffs. It's more of a "Now it's their clutter, not mine."

So why is my behavior so irrational? Psychologists have a possible explanation.

Vladas Griskevicius, professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, said that if a consumer pays $10 for a mug, and someone offers to buy it, the consumer would not be willing to sell it for $10 or even $11. Instead, the person wants $12.

It's called loss aversion, said Griskevicius."Once we have something, we are especially averse to let it go," he said. "It's irrational, but it's how humans behave."

As an innocent bystander, I can look at the person who wants $12 for a $10 mug and think, "You're crazy. Take the $10." But then I think of my own Craigslist experience and realize that I'm as financially inconsistent as the next human.

Another of my human foibles, procrastination, paid off in the end. Hours before I was going to drop off the kettle bells at a charity, the same buyer texted me offering $30. Again, I said $32 was my best offer. He picked them up in an hour for $32. He got a great deal and I held my indefensible ground.

LCD panel class action claimants, you may get your check by Nov.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: September 17, 2014 - 4:11 PM

The wait is almost over. Your check is almost in the mail. About 30,000 Minnesotans filed claims in Dec. 2012  to collect $45 to $90 for each flat panel LCD TV, laptop and monitor purchased between January 1999 and December 2006,

The refunds are being issued because of a class action lawsuit against nine LCD screen manufacturers such as Hitachi, LG, Sharp, Samsung and Toshiba, who were found guilty of price fixing.

Almost two years and numerous appeals filed and dismissed, a San Francisco Court will consider a motion on Oct. 17 to start sending checks to claimants. The $1.1 billion settlement will be dispersed, minus lawyers' fees, to 235,000 consumers and businesses in 24 states.

San Francisco attorney Joe Alioto, who co-led the case against the manufacturers, did not want to say definitively that claimants would start getting their checks in November. "I've learned to never make an assumption before a court ruling," he said with caution. But Dan Shulman, a lawyer at Gray

Plant Mooty in Minneapolis, one of a dozen law firms that managed the settlement,  said, "There are no impediments to the distribution of the money. We just need an order from the court."

Once the court gives the okay to start distributing checks, it is estimated it will be within four weeks, according to an e-mail distributed earlier this week to claimants.

Shulman said claimants will get $45 for each laptop or monitor and $90 for each TV, which is less than earlier reports of $75 per monitor and $150 per flat panel TV. After lawyers' fees, about $750 million will be distributed.

Original claims had to be mailed or submitted online by Dec. 6, 2012. Claimants whose address has changed since then can go to the website to change it. They will need the claimant ID number provided when the claim was made online. (An e-mail was sent with the subject line " Confirmation of receipt of your online LCD Flat Panel Consumer Claim.") Claimants can also call 1-855-225-1886 to get their number if it cannot be found. (Press 7 for a representative after the two minute recorded message.) The address must be changed online with the claimant number. It cannot be changed by phone.

Shake your Groot thing at "Guardians of the Galaxy" in a D-Box seat

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: August 4, 2014 - 2:13 PM

In June I wrote about the ways that movie theater owners are coaxing people away from their big screen TVs at home and into their theaters with bigger screens, bigger sound, and bigger seats, including recliners.

But Theatres at Mall of America packs a punch literally in its D-Box seats. They move in tandem with the action on the screen, varying from vibrations when a spaceship explodes to a backward jolt when a character is walloped on screen.

If you haven't ever sat in one of MOA's 30 D-Box seats, the newly-released "Guardians of the Galaxy" is like a ride at Valley Fair with D-Box. "It adds another layer to enjoying the movie," said Chris Grap, business development and project manager at the mall theaters. "Guardians is the perfect type of D-Box movie. It's got laser blasts, ships flying, ground level hand to hand combat, and vehicular motion."

 "Guardians" is the new summer popcorn hit that had a record $95 million opening this past weekend (biggest debut on record for an August release). The movie earned a 92 percent thumbs up from Rotten Tomatoes. It stars Chris Pratt as Peter Jason Quill, Vin Diesel doing voiceover as the tree-like Groot, Bradley Cooper doing voiceover as Rocket the raccoon, Zoe Saldana as green-faced Gomora and former wrestler Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer.

Mall of America is the only theater that has D-Box in Minnesota. It has 30 D-box seats in one theater that can be reserved only at the theater's Guest Services desk (to the right of the box office window). Guests choose their reserved seats, which can be done the day of the show or several days in advance. Grap said that nearly all D-Box seats were sold out over the weekend.

Tickets are premium-priced. Since "Guardians" was shot in 3D, tickets cost an extra $3.50 for the 3D plus an extra $8 for D-Box on top regular admission ($6 for matinees or $10 for evening shows). So a matinee D-Box seat for "Guardians" will cost $17.50 and up to $21.50 for evening shows. (On Wednesday evenings it's $17.50.)

Only select movies are shown in D-Box. Usually, it's an action movie such as "Fast & Furious." The next new release expected to bring in the D-Box fans will be "Expendables 3," released Aug. 15.

Those worried about motion sickness can dial down the action a notch or two or turn it off completely. My Vertigo-challenged partner enjoyed it thoroughly. One dad brought an infant, which I assume was gently or not-so-gently lulled into slumber by the movement. I never heard a cry or wail, except from the speakers.


Groupon offers an Angie's List subscription for $14/yr

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: July 18, 2014 - 4:25 PM

Angie's List, the service that helps Twin Cities consumers find a high-quality plumber, doctor, mechanic or roofer, is reducing its 1-year membership fee to $14 on Groupon, regularly $30. The fee includes access to all the reviews including health, online and live-call support, digital magazine, and a $15 rebate on one deal purchase. (Subscribers get emails periodically about a deal such as $99 for a garage door tune-up. Some of the deals are a better bargain than others.)

For $27, you can get a premium membership that also includes complaint-resolution support and a $50 rebate on a deal purchase.

This deal is slightly more expensive than the State Fair deal Angie's List ran last year for $10. But that didn't include the deal purchase rebate.

Paying $14 for a year of quick access to finding a decent electrician, veterinarian, tree trimmer or window washer is reasonable unless you can't even remember the last time you called a repair company.

One weakness in Angie's List is the lack of any consistent evaluation of price. Subscribers are asked to rate on price, but the user rarely knows if the subscriber only called one company to get a bid and do the work. Angie's List is much stronger on evaluating quality of work, in my opinion, especially when at least a dozen subscribers or more have evaluated a company.

This deal is supposed to run through July 21, but if you miss out, wait for the Minnesota State Fair. The Angie's List booth can usually be found in the Grandstand Building or Creative Activities Annex.

Why should I buy a light bulb that lasts 25 years? I'm 75 years old.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: June 18, 2014 - 8:53 AM

I don't know the origin of the green bananas joke, but I heard Joan Rivers say it first, probably 35 years ago. More recently, I think it was repeated in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." The one liner goes like this. "I'm so old I don't even buy green bananas."

I was reminded of that old joke when a reader left me a voicemail complaining about my article on LED light bulbs getting cheaper and better. I said that most LEDs last about 23 years under normal usage of about three hours per day.

That prompted the reader who did not leave her name or number to leave this voicemail. "I've never seen anything written about these new LED bulbs that take into account people my age in their 70s. We don't want to spend $10 or $20 on a bulb or a set of bulbs that are going to last 25 years, longer than our lifetime. It's a waste of money. I've never seen anyone respond to that. They should then give senior citizens a discount of half price off. I don't want to buy a bulb and then have a bulb last 25 years. It's a ridiculous thing. So maybe you could do an article about that sometime. It's funny that no one ever mentions that. That's just my opinion. Thanks."

What an eye opener. I had never considered that once a person gets to be 70, 80, or 90 that they start choosing items that won't outlast them. Assuming that they still drive, why would anyone buy a newer car, for example? If a grandchild or great grandchild is getting married, does an older woman figure that a new dress is a waste of money because it will still be good when she dies?

The reader sheds a whole new light on why we give senior citizens a discount. It's because they could die before the item is used up. Maybe we should give accelerated discounts based on age. Buying a new car in your 70s? Here's a 70 percent discount. In your 90s? Here's a 90 percent discount.

Honestly, at the risk of being insensitive, it shocks me a little that a person in her 70s thinks that anything she doesn't use up by the end of her life it going to waste. And maybe it will if her heirs want to throw away a perfectly good light bulb.

Heir #1: "Don't throw away that Sylvania. It cost $10 in 2014."

Heir #2: "But it's only worth 10 cents now."

I realize that some seniors live on limited incomes where a $10 light bulb is an extravagance, even if it will pay for itself in electricity savings in less than two years.

Thank you, 70's reader, for enlightening me to what lies ahead in old age. For now, I'm still buying $10 lightbulbs. And green bananas.


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