Tag Archives: Wal-Mart

The Big Box stores can’t seem to get seasonal right for Arizona.

The Big Box stores can’t seem to get seasonal right for Arizona.

Here in Phoenix we have much different weather than most of the rest of the nation, and every year this leads to tons of odd problems with seasonal items at stores.

214560_K_LA few weeks ago the pump on the swamp cooler for the warehouse of my store went out.  A swamp cooler is a large air blower that sucks air through large pads that are sprayed with water and forces the cool air into your building.  It only works when it is dry outside, and is really only useful when the temp is below 90 degrees or so.  So in Arizona the time of year that it is 75-90 as the high is March-April and again from Mid-September until early November.  We have very hard water here in Arizona so these things usually break about every 2 years; they only are $20 replace and are a 2 minute job so no big deal.


The problem comes in finding them; very near my store is a Home Depot so I went there.  To my surprise they said that they are seasonal items and are only stocked from May until August.  They said that is when it is the right time of the year to use them in the rest of the country and that Home Depot does not sell enough to make them a major item.  My theory is that they don’t sell enough because they have the seasons for it wrong. I called up Lowes and they also said it is seasonal BUT they have a special exemption for Arizona and carry them in different seasons.  One company is smart one is dumb.  I guess I won’t even bother to shop at home depot anymore.

Home Depot is not the only one that has problems with regional seasonal planning.  Wal-Mart seems to also have major problems with this in their clothing section.  Right now it is mid-September here in Phoenix, and so far this month we have only had 3 days where the high was in the 90’s, the rest were all over 100 degrees, BUT Wal-Mart put all their shorts and summer clothes on clearance a month ago and they are sold out, while now half of the clothing section has sweaters, flannel long sleeve shirts and other things that are only worn here from late November until February. 
Maybe that is why Lowes stock grows twice as fast, they are smarter.

Most stores have a problem with this to some level; the solution to this problem would be to have a regional manager who is in charge of seasonal items for each abnormal region.  I often wonder if Wal-Mart sells sweaters in Miami or did they at least figure that out…


10 simple ways to save money in tough times, #1 Price Match

Almost everyone I know right now is concerned about ways to save money and I have had many people ask me about ways to help them to save money.   So I decided to write a list of 10 ways that I use to save money, these work well and help me live better for less.

Of course saving money is only part of the formula to making ends meet, earning more money and investing your money correctly are also two major parts.   I think that everyone should have a reserve equal to at least a few months of expenses…more on all of this in my other blog entries.

So here are 10 ways that I know that can really help your budget, help you save, and help you get ahead in the world.  On some of these I will tell you exactly who I do business with, most of them are local so if you don’t live in Arizona than you are out of luck.  This may be a bit long so I am going to post it as 10 separate entries.  Please read them all, Even if you only do a few of these things it could really help.

1.    Price match all your purchases.

Many companies out there are very willing to price match.  Most people know about this but very few ever use it.  Basically most stores buy from the same supply chain and have basically the same cost so when one store has a huge sale, even if they sell it at or near cost the other stores are still happy to have the business.  So all you need to do is find the best deal on an item that you want to buy, and then show proof of that deal to the store you actually plan to buy the item at.  This lets you get the best deal, but still buy from the store that gives you better service and quality.

If you have an android based smart phone you can use ShopSavvy, a free program that will scan the barcode of the items you plan to buy and show you the best deal, locally or online.  If the local deal is better than what you are paying now simply show the phone as the cash register and you will get the lower price, it has worked every time I have tried it.  If the online price is much lower then forgo the purchase for now and get it online because most stores don’t pricematch online ads. I know that other apps for other phones also exist.  But the best deals are usually found the old fashioned way, by checking your mail and getting the newspaper ads.

For me the BEST result that I have when I go to Wal-Mart and get groceries.  For many households groceries is one of their main expenses other than housing and taxes.  The grocery business is highly competitive.  Companies also do things where they have loss leaders, this is an item that “leads” their advertisement, and it is usually such a good deal that they are actually selling it at a loss.  They figure that people will buy these few items from them and stay to shop for the rest of their weekly grocery needs.  Here in Phoenix, there are at least 8 grocery stores that mail out weekly flyers.   So I just put these in a stack and take it with me when I go to Wal-Mart.  They all seem to take effect on Wednesdays, so that is when I shop.  So just follow a few simple rules and let the savings begin.  The item does not always need to be exact, just similar.  There is a grocery store called “Ranch Market” here in Phoenix.  Shopping there is terrible, they are messy, noisy, smelly and the food is not so fresh, but they have great advertised prices, often they are 1/5 the price of other places.  So I don’t shop there, I just take their ads to walmart, less than 200 yards from my house and get their higher quality and cleanlness for the ultra low price.  Today I bought over $20 in fruits and veggies and paid only $6.42.    I went on to price match doritos, sour cream and 5 other things for a total savings of over $30, while paying only $24.  That is a savings of over 50%.  Combine this with stocking up and you have a great way to save lots of money on food.

Price matching also allows you to buy things that are out of stock at the original company.  The other day one store did 32oz Gatorade for only 40 cents, a very good price, the problem is that they were out of stock after the second day, and they had a limit of only 5 per person.  Not a problem at Wal-Mart, they had plenty in stock and did not care about the limit.  It does not really go bad, so I bought enough for a 6 month supply.  At thanksgiving they did the same thing with 12-pack coke products, just $1.25.  I still have 30 unopened a month later.

On top of price matching you can use coupons, but personally I found that most coupons are not worth the time they take.  For me price matching is very simple.  I usually don’t prepare much, I don’t even look at the ads until I am at the Wal-mart, and then I only buy things that are on sale.  And I stock up on items that are on a huge sale. By doing these things I have found that I am able to save over 50% off of my grocery bill on average.  That comes down to $200 or more per month.

Thanks for reading please click a link below to see the other 9 ways to save money in tough times…

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Computer Entry: How to select a laptop.

This article is part of my Computer series, click here for the list of other entries.

Today there are so many features on laptops. For most businesses they simple need a good laptop that works for a long period of time and at a great low price. So when they look at laptops they see units that are almost exactly the same with huge price differences. Many upgrades and things in the laptop world simply are not logical and not needed. I will talk about many of them and tell you the secret to finding the best prices.

For example 250 GB hard drives are fairly new, and 320GB laptop hard drives are still very rare. The standard is a 160GB hard drive. The larger hard drive, can ad 100-200 dollars to the price of the laptop, for just a bit more space. The average business customer uses less than 40GB of space so it is crazy to pay extra for this space.

One thing that you should know about laptops is that all laptops sold are really only made by 7 companies, and all of these companies are Chinese. Every brand you see is really a laptop from one of these companies branded with the company logo. Dell uses 5 of these 7 companies. Because of this you will notice laptops from different brands that look exactly the same, you will also notice laptops from the same brands that look totally different. The only one of these makers that sells laptops direct is Acer, but their laptops are usually very low quality and it is usually better to pay a bit more for better quality.

In the world of computers the price of something is more about how many of them are being sold and NOT about how good or complex the item is. The main cost in any item is the designing of the item and the equipment to make the item. For a CPU for example it costs up to a billion dollars to design a new chip and may cost less than $10 to actually make the chip. So if you make 20 million of these chips the cost is $60 per chip, but if you make 500 million of them your cost is $11 per chip. You even get more savings that that when you build a lot of the same item. Because of this many newer, better and faster things are much cheaper. Many CPUs are much higher in level than what you are buying but the maker just takes the higher ones and disables some higher features and sells them as a lower unit because it is cheaper to do this than make the lower unit any longer. RAM is also the same way, DDR2 is much better and faster than DDR but because it is made in much larger amounts it is cheaper. This is called “Economy of Scale” and it hold true from everything from your TV to you Car.

In the world of laptops this idea works all over the place. In my opinion HP and Toshiba make great laptops and because they sell so many they are actually better and more updated than laptops made for the same price by other companies. Because Sony is so much more money they sell less, and have a higher cost, a bad situation to be in. By far most laptops that are sold have a 15.4 inch screen, so laptops with this size are also the lowest priced of all laptops. Touchpads are by far the most popular and their price has plummeted so they now have the lowest price and are now the only choice most companies offer. DVD burners do everything you would want an optical drive to do, and because they are built in such number now they are cheaper than all of the lower types to put in, thus every laptop you will see has a DVD burner, because it is cheaper and has a larger perceived value to the customer.

The choice of CPU, Hard Drive, Optical Drive and many of the other parts of a laptop, and computers in general are based on this idea. Now to get the best deal you need to look at many different laptops and notice the trends. A laptop that floods the market may be $100 less than the others and yet be much better. This is why people hire my company to find their next laptop, we know the trends and we have a very small markup. They can pay us and still end up with a faster and better laptop and pay LESS money than if they went to wherever they normally go for laptops.

What Exactly to look for in a business laptop.

When you look for your laptop simply compare the specs from one laptop to another, but it pays to have a huge source and look at large lists of laptops because you will often find a better deal on that list.

Balance: When you look for any computer look for balance, too much CPU power at the cost of everything else will result in a slower computer. Also think about what you want to use the laptop for. If you want to play high end games then insist on a laptop with a higher end video card, it may cost $100 or more extra but will do what you want. With computers running vista you really need at least 2GB of RAM to do things efficiently. If you find a great deal on a laptop with only 1GB, buy it then upgrade the RAM later, it may be much cheaper. Don’t spend the extra money getting a much larger hard drive, first 90% of all users never use the space, second if you need more space you can get an external hard drive later, but mostly that extra bit of space really costs a lot of money in most cases. Almost every laptop comes with Vista Home Premium. This is ok for about 90% of the people out there, but if you expect to join a domain be sure to get the business version. Also if you really need XP you are looking for a older out of production laptop, these would have been sold at a much higher price to the seller and they will be asking more for them, and you get less new features than a Vista laptop.

Battery Life: Also think about battery life, for the road warrior out there it is important to have that computer last a long time. So this is what you should look for, first you need to have a processor that can scale back and use less power when you don’t need full power, but can scale up as when you do need the power. The AMD Turion is the best AMD chip at this job, but Intel really dominates this concept with their Core 2 Duo and their entire Centrino line.  Companies have spent a lot of time and money focusing on power saving, so newer technology chips are much better at this than older ones.  For any laptop the MAIN use of power is for the screen, usually it is hard to find the power consumption of the screen, but again newer technology is better.  To get all this best technology be willing to pay for it.

Size: For many people, the size of the laptop is very important, they want a smaller, thinner and more portable laptop. Because of economy of scale there is a common size that most makers make, small enough to sell in huge number and large enough to not be too much money to make. When you want to go smaller you fight economy of scale and also the fact that smaller parts cost more. Because of this smaller, thinner laptops cost much more. Every now and then a company will make a really small laptop in a large quantity and if you find that you can get a great deal on a laptop just the way you want. Don’t get the smaller laptop unless you really have figured out how much you are really paying for that option.

Laptops also change really fast. Think about how they are made. The design of the laptop, and making the first one is over half the cost of the entire run. So companies will make the really hard analysis to decide how many of a laptop design to order from the places that make them. Once the production run is over that laptop is usually never made again. Because it takes so long to build a container of laptops, maybe 2 weeks, then 2 more weeks to ship them it these companies have to predict upfront how many may sell. Usually the production run is less than a few full shipping containers. So the company, lets use HP, designs a laptop, orders 10,000 of them. They are made and shipped, they arrive in the US and are quickly sent to wholesale warehouses and retail stores all over the US. Amazon buys some, Wal-Mart buys some. Before the container even lands in the US HP will try to have it all sold. If it is all sold they may order another production run of 10,000. Almost every week a new, better chipset or CPU or something comes out, and often for a better price. So the designers are always looking to go to the next thing. And that brand new, popular design is now put out of production, never to be made again. Most designs are already put out of production before the first customer even gets one. It is a harsh business with huge risks and huge investments. This is also why only a few companies are really players in this business.

Every now and then a design is produced in a larger amount than that which can be quickly sold off. When this happens they slash the price and dump it on the wholesale market. Sometimes they just sold this computer for $700 to Wal-Mart and have only 500 units left and the design is no longer made so they dump it for $500 or less. Most wholesale companies only mark up parts 10% or less because there is huge competition. Only computer companies can usually buy from these wholesale places, this is exactly what we do here at Emerald Computers. We look for the best of these wholesale deals, select them and we post an online flyer and send email updates to our customers. If you are not getting our email you really are missing some great deals.

So what would I do it I was going to buy a laptop today? You choice for a laptop or any computer is based on what you plan to use the computer for and your personal habits.  Here is the logic that I use, if you need help choosing a laptop then email me your phone number and I will call you and help you with the process.  Lets make it fair and give me a budget of under $1000.  First I would budget in a Microsoft Wireless Laser Optical Laptop Mouse.  They are really a must have for me for long usage, and at under $25 they are a bargain.  Next I would look for a Turion based laptop unless I could find a special on a Intel based one.  The Turion ones are usually at least $100 less for the same speed.  I almost never go a long time on battery power so for me personally batter life is not much of a concern.  What is a concern is a high resolution screen.  I would stick to a 15.4″ size simply because it is just the right size for me, 17″ it is a bit to big, but I try to get at least the 1440×900 resolution, maybe the 1680×1050 (WSXGA+).  I would not get the very common 1280×800 because for me and my eyes I can see much better than that and I need the space.  I don’t game on my laptop so an average video card is good for me.  And I have a few external hard drives, and most of my data will stay on my main computer so a 160GB drive is ok for me.  I like to multitask so I would need 2GB of RAM, I would not get more than 2GB because it takes extra power to run that extra ram, and I almost never go over 2GB, also I like to hibernate my computer and more RAM makes that much slower. When a new OS comes out I may upgrade the RAM.  I would still look at computers with 1GB because I know can upgrade the RAM very cheap on my own.  I do watch DVD movies and I like to have good sound so I would look for a computer with a nice DVD drive and good speakers.  I would also look at a picture of the laptop first, different makers have much different styles and I only like some of them.  I also like black better than silver, but that will not kill the deal.  I found a laptop just like this for only a bit over the budget.  You need to look for one based on your needs.

So when you are ready for your next laptop you now have much more information, you will probably have more than the employee selling the products. I wish you good luck, and if you ever need help feel free to email or call my company, we will be happy to help you.