Dollars & Sense columnist John Ewoldt searches the Twin Cities and beyond for bargains and strategies to spare you time, money and hassles.
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Posts about Electronics

New TVs for sale at Salvation Army are hit and miss on price

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: August 21, 2012 - 9:30 AM


In today's article about thrift stores going mainstream (some would say upscale), I mention that Salvation Army and other thrifts are selling new items purchased from retailers. Many of the items are returns, including flat panel TVs from electronics retailers. 


I went to the Salvation Army store at 900 N. 4th St. in Minneapolis to check its TV selection.  Nine models were on display on Monday, including 32", 40". 42", and 47". Prices ranged from $249 to $899. With my smartphone Red Laser app aimed at the bar codes on the boxes behind the TVs, I discovered that most, but not all of Salvation Army's prices are lower than online. Here's a list of the models I saw on display in the lower level. Other locations may have different models.


LG 32" LK330 model. Salvation Army's price: $249. Lowest online price: $235 at Secondipity.

Samsung 40" model UN40EH5050F. Salvation Army's price $560. Lowest online price: $528 at

LG 42' model CS560. Salvation Army's price $389. Lowest online price $449 on eBay (new).

LG 42" model LK520: Salvation Army's price: $499. Lowest online price $560 at

LG 47" model LW500. Salvation Army's price: $899. Lowest price online: $734 at

LG 47" model LK520. Salvation Army's price: $599. Lowest price online: $597 at (refurbished).


When I told a Salvation Army salesperson that the price for the LG 47-inch TV (model LW500) was $150 lower online, he said that I could ask the manager for a price adjustment. That's good to know if you'd rather not buy online. It's also a good reason to always comparison shop, even at Salvation Army, where one would expect rock bottom prices. I never expected to be using my Smartphone app at Salvation Army but the As Is department in the basement has a large supply of small appliances in boxes (humidifiers, popcorn poppers, de-humidifiers, toasters) that make price scanning easy. It's all part of thrift stores' upgrades to attract middle class shoppers.

Before buying a TV at Salvation Army, be sure to ask about returns for defective merchandise. All of the sets on display were switched on for anyone to view, but there may be issues discovered after you get it home.   

With little fanfare, Best Buy offers a low price on new Apple computers

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: July 11, 2012 - 2:03 PM


Anyone who thinks Apple products never go on sale isn't shopping around. OK, maybe the Apple stores don't discount them, but authorized retailers do, and Apple stores will match those offers*.

This week, for example, Best Buy is discounting nearly all of the newest Apple laptops and notebooks, including the newest iMacs, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs. The discount offer is advertised on the website but not in the Sunday flier. The savings on most of the computers is between $50 and $110. For example, the 13-inch MacBook Air 4GB (regularly $1,499.99) is discounted $75 through Saturday, July 14. The positively reviewed MacBook Pro 8GB with retina display is discounted $110 to $2,089.99, regularly $2,199.99.

Last year the best discount on the MacBook Air on the day the new one was released was $49, said Louis Ramirez, senior features writer at Dealnews.

Ramirez said the Best Buy deal beats Amazon, Macmall, B&H and JR.

A shopper could wait until the refurbished models come out on Apple's site, but that could be months and a person will have to be quick to grab one.

*Apple stores request that you bring in an ad or a printout to show the sale price (which must be current). The item must also be in stock, which Apple will verify via a phone call. Sounds a lot like Best Buy's price match policy.

Want free or cheaper HBO at Comcast? Just ask for it.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: April 11, 2012 - 3:37 PM


When I got my Comcast bill this month, I noticed it was about $10 higher than last month. But it was no biggie---I knew exactly why. The reduced rate I was getting on HBO had come to an end. I quickly got on the phone to customer service to ask a simple question, "Do you have any specials on HBO going on right now?" 

The customer service person started to talk about some deal on a cable package with hundreds more channels than I wanted. "No thanks," I said, but are there any specials just on HBO or another premium channel?  

"I can offer you three months of HBO free," she said.

"I'll take it," I said.

There isn't any magic word to get the free or reduced cost premium channels.  Sometimes I've been offered a premium channel for $10 per month for six or 12 months, regularly $19.95 a month. The free offers are usually for a shorter time period.  One representative told me that the offers are usually best at the beginning of the month, but I've never confirmed that.

I have friends who have gotten similar deals  after I mentioned my tip, but one skeptical co-worker thinks I'm getting special treatment. I doubt it. All that I do is ask nicely, always nicely, if there are any specials on _________ (fill in the blank with your favorite premium channel). 

And yes, there are times when I've been told "no" and times when the deal was revoked because of an existing deal already on my account. I'll bet I get a deal half the time when I call.

So, dealspotters, have you ever gotten a deal on a premium channel just by asking?  Prove me right or wrong.

Get your computer fixed FREE Wednesday at Best Buy

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: October 25, 2011 - 8:38 AM

Is your computer running slowly, but you've been afraid what it would cost to repair it? Start getting it ready today for free repairs tomorrow.


Best Buy and Geek Squad are offering free repair service for viruses, trouble-shooting, hardware and software installation and repairs, password resets, and operating system installation and repairs to the first 50 people who show up at any one of 20 Twin Cities locations. Bring in your ailing laptop, desktop, Mac, tablet or notebook. Only one computer per person.


Why? According to Geek Squad's website, it's digital do goodism. They're showcasing their expertise in hopes that you will return with future computer problems as a paying customer.


All stores open at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Oct. 26. Take time today to decide which location you plan to visit and how early you plan to get there. As of Tuesday morning tomorrow's weather is expected to be dry in the mid-30s in the early morning warming to low 50s. 


The computer might be fixed on the spot or you might be asked to leave it for up to a week, said Best Buy spokeswoman Paula Baldwin. The first 50 customers at each participating location will also receive $50 discounts on Geek Squad Tech Support plans and 10 percent discounts on new PC components and hard drives.

PCs must be running Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 to be eligible for free repair.


Apple Valley, 15300 Cedar Ave.

Blaine, 10985 Ulysses St. NE

Brooklyn Center, 5925 Earle Brown Dr.

12600 W Frontage Rd NE

Coon Rapids
8301 12633 Riverdale Blvd NW

1235 Town Centre Dr

Eden Prairie
11600 Leona Dr

3200 Southdale Cir

Inver Grove Heights
1350 50th St E

18350 Orchard Trl

Mall of America
340 W Market

Maple Grove
12905 Elm Creek Blvd N

1795 County Rd D E

13513 Ridgedale Dr

300 Northtown Dr NE

8301 3rd St N

1000 West 78th St

20870 Rogers Dr

1643 County Rd B2

8100 Old Carriage Ct

Let me know your experience, good or bad.

Sale price on a 55" LCD HDTV on Black Friday? Nov. 25 predictions.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: September 21, 2011 - 5:53 AM


You're probably familiar with all of the websites such as bfads that get advance copies of retailers' ads that run in the Thanksgiving Day paper. Bargain shoppers can compare the ads at the sites and find the best deals before the turkey is defrosting in the fridge. Black Friday is fewer than 70 days away.

One site jumps the competition by predicting the best prices in advance. Here they are: the 2011Dealnews Black Friday Predictions. 


HDTVs • 32" 1080p LCD HDTV for $199

• 40" to 42" 1080p LCD HDTV for $319
• 46" 1080p LCD TV for $399
• 55" 1080p LCD HDTV for $549
• 55" 1080p 3D LCD TV for $999
• 60" 1080p LCD TV for $699


LAPTOPS • Basic 15" to 16" Laptop with dual-core processor for $189
• Mainstream 15" to 16" Laptop with Core i5 CPU & 4GB RAM for $325
• 17" desktop replacement with Core i7 & 8GB RAM for $720


APPLE • Free shipping with no min at Apple Store online

• The newest Apple iPods for 5% to 10% off
• iMac and MacBook computers for 5% to 10% off
• No deal on the new iPhone 5 (that's 0% off in dealnews vernacular
• Deals on refurbished iPhones from Apple and AT&T
• Better discounts than Apple's from an authorized Apple reseller


TABLETS • Motorola XOOM for $319
• Samsung Galaxy Tab 7" for $239
• Generic Android 7" tablets for $75

eBOOK READERS • Kindle 3 WiFi eBook reader for $99
• Nook Color eBook reader $179
• Bundles with at least a $25 credit

BLU-RAY PLAYERS • Blu-ray player with Netflix support for $45
• Blu-ray movies you want from $5
• Roku HD 2 box from $60

HARD DRIVES • 1TB external drive for $39
• 64GB SSD laptop kit for $45
• 2TB external hard drive for $49
• 128GB SSD laptop kit for $109



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