Tag Archives: Target

Give the Gift of Streaming

By Tracey Dowdy

Though there has been much progress on getting a vaccine approved to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the CDC warns we’ll still be wearing masks and social distancing for the next few months. Once approved, the goal is to have all those who choose to be vaccinated receive the vaccine by the end of 2021.

That means that for the foreseeable future, we’ll continue to spend time at home, and with the colder months upon us, we’ll be indoors. That means finding ways to entertain ourselves and stave off cabin fever. And, with the holidays just around the corner, this year’s most popular gift may be the gift of a streaming service. 

Not only can it help keep your quarantine team entertained, but you can also share with extended family and friends, near or far, through features and extensions like Teleparty (formerly called Netflix Party), Disney Plus GroupWatch, and Amazon Prime Video Watch Party.

Here are a few options:

Disney Plus allows you to gift a one-year subscription for $70 (it usually costs $7 a month, saving you $14 over a year). When the subscription is up, the recipient will have the option to add their payment details and continue subscribing. Go to Disney Plus to purchase a subscription, enter the recipient’s email address (must be a U.S. resident, new subscriber, or willing to create a new account), choose a delivery date, and write a personal message. On the date you’ve chosen, they’ll get an email with instructions on how to redeem their gift subscription. All Disney Plus subscriptions include Disney Plus GroupWatch, which syncs your streams so you can watch any title on Disney+ with your personal friends and family virtually through the app. 

Though You do not need to have an Amazon Prime membership to use Prime Video, it can’t be gifted as a stand-alone service. It is bundled with an Amazon Prime membership ($119 a year or $13 a month), bringing plenty of perks besides streaming. To gift someone a Prime subscription, go to Amazon.com/giftprime. Login to your account and choose either the one-year or three-month option. At checkout, you’ll enter the recipient’s email, the date you want it delivered, and be able to write a personal note.

To gift a Netflix subscription, you’ll need to purchase a gift card online through AmazonWalmartBest BuyTargetNewEgg, or Kroger. You can buy in-store at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, 7-Eleven, Dollar General, and Safeway. Gift card values range from $25 to $200, and Netflix subscriptions range from $9 to $18 a month, depending on the number of screens you choose to stream at the same time and if you want HD. The recipient can use the gift card for new or current subscriptions with the card’s value applied as a gift balance. Netflix notifies account holders when the balance is running out. The subscription includes Teleparty, which synchronizes video playback and adds a group chat feature to Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and HBO (subscriptions to each required for all participants).

Hulu also offers gift cards ranging from $25 to $100 that you can purchase online or in-person (TargetWalmartBest BuyKroger, and Paypal. A subscription to Hulu costs $6 a month with ads, $12 a month to go ad-free, or $55 a month for Hulu Plus Live TV. The recipient can redeem their gift card through their Account page on the app or website. If they are a new subscriber, they’ll need to update their payment details after the gift card balance is up, or Hulu will cancel the account.

 Video streaming isn’t the only game in town. Spotify is a great option for the music or podcast fan in your life with a Spotify Premium individual plan costing $10 a month. You can buy eGift cards online at TargetNewEggKroger, and PayPal or purchase physical cards online at Amazon or Best Buy, or in-store at Walmart, Target, Staples, CVS, 7 Eleven, Kroger, and Simon Malls. Choose from $10, $30, $60 or $99. Note, gift cards can be used only for Premium Individual plans — you can’t use them for Premium Student, Premium Family, Premium Duo, or trial offers. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Prep for Black Friday Shopping 2020

How to Prep for Black Friday 2020

Black Friday is just around the corner – November 27, 2020. While many of us will eschew the crowds and instead do our shopping online, whatever you choose, it’s wise to go in with a plan. 

First and foremost, create a budget and stick to it. It’s easy to get carried away with the “steals and deals” promoted online and in-store, but remember, businesses are interested in making a profit, not a friend, so your budget is not their bottom line. Make a list of the must-haves on your list, and compare that to what you can afford to spend. If there’s still room in the budget, start planning additional shopping around that amount. Since many of us won’t be traveling this year due to travel restrictions, make sure you budget for shipping if you’re not having gifts sent directly to the recipient. 

Second, do your homework. This is especially important for those – must-have gifts. Use price tracker sites like CamelCamelCamel for Amazon, or Honey, a free browser extension that automatically finds, tests, and applies the best coupon codes at checkout for over 30,000 popular sites. You can see the price over the past several weeks and compare it to the current deal offered. For example, knowing that the Amazon Echo 3rd-gen smart speaker is going for $30 instead of its regular price of $60 means you’re getting a good deal. Go through online circulars – you can get a sneak peek here – and make a note of the cost of items that catch your eye, then compare with other sites. Better yet, let price comparison apps like ShopSavvy or BuyVia do the work for you. 

Third, opt for curbside pickup or delivery if possible. If you’re shopping big box stores like Walmart, Target, or Macy’s, shop online and pick up items curbside or have them delivered to avoid the crowds and the higher risk of COVID exposure. 

Beware of doorbusters and final sale items. Doorbusters are designed to get you in the store but be aware that these deals are often only available for a limited time, sometimes less than an hour, and there are generally a small number of the item available. Products with a “final sale” tag typically can’t be returned, and if they can be, there’s usually a restocking fee of at least 15%, so that expensive electronic item may not be that great a deal after all. 

As an alternative to Black Friday madness, consider supporting local small businesses by shopping on Small Business Saturday.  Amazon will likely close out the year with record profits, but COVID restrictions have hit small retailers and mom and pop shops particularly hard. This holiday season will be make or break for some of them.

Finally, be kind. 2020 has been a challenge for everyone, and retail workers are among those hit especially hard. Remember, that cashier has no control over inventory or pricing, and the security guard is there for everyone’s safety, not to referee a wrestling match over the last Instant Pot on the shelf. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Holiday Gift Ideas for Those Working from Home

 By Tracey Dowdy

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that working from home isn’t the dream some thought it would be. Unreliable internet, frequent interruptions from our family or housemates, and the countless other distractions that come with working at the kitchen table mean our productivity and job satisfaction have been all over the place. 

With the number of COVID cases skyrocketing around the country, many employers will maintain their “work-from-home” policies well into the new year. That means we need tech that adapts to our new environment, helps us stay focused, and lets us hold on to what’s left of our sanity. 

Tech Radar just published a list of the best noise-canceling headphones of 2020, whatever your budget. Top of the list is Sony’s WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones, but at nearly $300, they may be outside your price range. A less expensive but still reliable choice is their WF-1000XM3/S for $168.

If you still need to hear what your kids are up to, a white noise machine may be a better option. The Lectrofan Noise Machine gets consistently high marks from sites like PC Magazine and Wirecutter. It offers brown and pink noise options, is aesthetically pleasing, and at just $30, the price is hard to beat. 

Though most offices do their best to be paperless, desk organizers are still essential. An organized workspace is an efficient workspace, so choosing the right design is important. Get inspired with this list of The Best Desktop Organizers from Wirecutter, or check out this list of The Best Desk Organizers, According to Professional Organizers from New York Magazine. 

Speaking of going paperless, a smart notebook is a great way to eliminate waste while making note-taking more intuitive and interactive. Smart notebooks allow you to write with pen and paper while offering the ability to turn notes into digital files users can edit and manipulate digitally later on. Business Insider has a list of the best smart notebooks ranging in price from $25 to $200. 

According to a study by the University of Exeter, a houseplant transforms your workspace and has the potential to boost productivity by 15%. Who knew? And, who doesn’t need a little boost these days? The Sill offers a huge selection of plants, with entire categories dedicated to pet-friendly and beginner-friendly plants. Of course, if even hardy succulents aren’t a good option, sites like IkeaTargetWest Elm, and Wayfair offer plenty of artificial alternatives. 

If your commute included walking or time for the gym, working from home may have interfered with your fitness routine. You can change that up with an under-desk elliptical like the Stamina Inmotion Elliptical, the Cubii Pro Under-Desk Elliptical, or replace a  traditional desk with the Flexispot Bike Desk

Somehow, it seems choosing a healthy snack or lunch is trickier when working from home. It’s easier to grab something quick or to eat whatever you’ve fixed for your kids. To help resist the temptation to make poor choices, Urban Tastebud collated a list of the 20 Best Monthly Healthy Subscription Boxes at various price points. The list includes organic, gluten-free, and vegan options, and even boxes designed with the perfect personalized protein powder blend.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Gift

Holiday Shipping Guide

By Tracey Dowdy

There’s nothing like making a list and checking it twice only to discover you should have checked it sooner. Making things even trickier, Thanksgiving was late this year – almost a week later than last year – so the holiday shopping season got even tighter. Despite the crunch, according to Adobe Analytics data, “U.S. online sales will increase 14.1 percent, totaling $143.7 billion, while total retail spending – both online and offline – is expected to increase 4.0 percent.” 

Whether it’s because you see last minute shopping as a personal challenge, a competitive sport, or because you suddenly have to ship a gift to an out of town in law, a snowbound sibling, or someone you won’t see til January, you have more options than simply emailing a gift card. Although, if your imagination can’t think of anything more creative than socks, Amazon has a ton of gift cards that include a digital code the recipient can print out and there’s no worry about will it/won’t it make it in time. 

The good news is that because the holiday shopping season is abbreviated, many retailers have extended their Black Friday and Cyber Monday prices and deals. 

These are the three major carriers’ recommended send-by dates for expected delivery by December 25:

U.S. Postal Service

Dec. 14: USPS Retail Ground shipments

Dec. 18: Alaska to mainland First-Class Mail

Dec. 19: Hawaii to mainland Priority Mail and First-Class Mail

Dec. 20: First Class

Dec. 21: Priority Mail; Also deadline for Alaska and Hawaii to the mainland through Priority Mail Express

Dec. 23: Priority Mail Express

International shipping and military mail deadlines are earlier. Learn more at www.usps.com.

 

FedEx

Dec. 9: SmartPost

Dec. 16: Ground and home delivery

Dec. 19: Express Saver

Dec. 20: Two-day options

Dec. 23: Overnight options

Dec. 25: FedEx SameDay, FedEx SameDay City Direct and City Priority

Find rates and transit times at www.fedex.com.

 

United Parcel Service/UPS

Dec. 13: Last day to ship some UPS Ground packages

Dec. 19: UPS 3 Day Select

Dec. 20: 2nd Day Air

Dec. 23: Next Day Air 

Learn more at www.ups.com

Retailers like Walmart, Target and Kohl’s all have similar though in some cases longer, shipping windows, depending on the items you’ve ordered. 

This year, Best Buy has promised overnight delivery for 99% of customers, however be aware that if the item you want or the ZIP code you’re shipping to doesn’t allow for it, overnight delivery isn’t guaranteed. 

Amazon has announced the dates for Prime members and all customers to place orders for delivery by Dec. 25. However, buyer beware as dates can vary by item and delivery speed. Not all items are sold by Amazon, some are through third-party sellers and not eligible for Prime delivery. 

Dec. 14: Last day to order and get free delivery on orders over $25, free for all customers

Dec. 18: Last day to order items eligible for standard shipping, free for Prime members

Dec. 22: Last day for free delivery on tens of millions of items for Prime members

Dec. 23: Last day for free one-day delivery on more than 10 million items for Prime members

Dec. 24: Last day to order millions of items eligible for Same-Day Delivery (free for Prime members in eligible areas on orders over $35, order by 9:30 a.m. local time). Also free two-hour grocery delivery, reserved exclusively for Prime members in select cities.

Learn more at www.amazon.com/holidaydelivery.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Reuse or Recycle Your Android or iOS Device

By Tracey Dowdy

The first iPhone shipped to customers back in June of 2007 – less than 12 years ago, but somehow, it feels like smartphones have been around forever.

In those 12 years, we’ve seen a lot of changes and updated features for our smartphones and tablets, which encouraged us to upgrade, and upgrade again, and again…to the point there’s a good chance you have an old phone or outdated tablet sitting in a drawer or taking up space on a shelf. But instead of hanging on to digital clutter, consider these options to put your old devices to new use.

Smart Home Center – With devices like Google Assistant, Alexa, Nest, Hue, Smart TV’s, and Amazon’s Fire Stick becoming more common and accessible, it makes sense to repurpose your old phone or tablet as a dedicated hub for your smart home enabled tech. You can even use them to set up a media streaming center. The simplest way is to clear unused apps and free up as much data as possible. Download the streaming apps you need, along with any tools you’re using — Google HomeAmazon Fire TV RemoteNest, Hue, etc. – connect to the same network as the devices, and you’re good to go!

Your Child’s First Device – If you’ve ever handed off a $500 phone or tablet to a toddler, you know the gut-felt fear usually only seen in horror movies. But, handing off a phone or tablet that’s been sitting in a drawer or is being replaced with an updated version is a great idea. You’ll want to be sure to lock down any features you don’t want them to access through Parental Controls, and invest in a sturdy case as any device in the hands of a toddler is likely to take a fair amount of punishment.

 Digital Photo Frame – Remember the first digital photo frames? They were the hottest Christmas present of the year when they were first introduced, but the image quality wasn’t great, and they weren’t really reliable. But, your old Android tablet or iPad can make an excellent scrolling photo display, rolling through hundreds of photos an hour. How To Geek has a simple, easy to follow tutorial on how to make it happen on your Android tablet, and CNET has instructions for your iPad. Besides the vast improvement in image quality, both are WiFi connected, so you can set it up to automatically update to new images.

Security Camera/Baby Monitor – There are plenty of options for home security systems available, but remember, security cameras are simply network connected video cameras. Even the older versions of phones and tablets have network connectivity, so they’re perfect for use as home security cameras, baby or even pet monitors. There are many options available for both iOS and Android devices, but one that receives consistently positive reviews from experts is Alfred. The app allows any Wi-Fi connected phone to broadcast its camera feed to any other phone attached to the same account with no limit on the number of cameras you can connect to a single account.

Dedicated eBook Reader – I will always prefer an actual physical book to an eReader, but there are times when they come in handy. Using your old iPad or tablet as a dedicated reader, particularly for cookbooks, spares your cookbooks and primary device from the inevitable mess that comes from cooking and baking.

Help Scientific Research – Did you know you can take part in important scientific research with apps like BOINC for Android and DreamLab?  Both apps use your device’s processing power to run calculations for a variety of research projects – BOINC focuses on research on diseases, global warming, and space, while DreamLab focuses on finding a cure for cancer.

Recycle, Sell, or Donate – If none of these options are viable for you, you can always recycle, sell, or donate your old phones and tablets. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of locations where you can take your unwanted tech and have it safely disposed of.  Many retailers like Target and Best Buy offer trade-in options, and the website Gazelle offers consumers cash for working or broken devices, and offers deals on refurbs, providing less expensive options when upgrading.

Lifewire has a list reviewing trade-in programs, including the good and the bad about trade-ins with Amazon, Flypsy, and YouRenew.   

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Apple Pay Hits Some Snags

By Paul O’Reilly

When Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, unveiled Apple Pay amid huge fanfare back on September 9, it was hailed by many observers as a watershed moment for mobile payments: an app that would finally convince a skeptical public that using a smartphone to pay for everyday goods and services was simple, efficient and, above all, secure.

And despite some early hiccups, most notably with Bank of America, the rollout of Apple Pay has gone relatively smoothly, until now that is. This week, two of the nation’s largest drug stores, Rite Aid and CVS, pulled the plug on Apple Pay and joined other high-profile retailers, including Walmart, Target and Best Buy, in de facto announcing that they wouldn’t support Apple’s payments initiative.

To be fair, the retailers, which are part of a group called Merchant Customer Exchange or MCX, did not directly announce a boycott of Apple Pay. Instead they disabled the Near Field Communications (NFC) sensors at their checkout stations, which the Apple Pay software on an iPhone 6 relies on to be able to communicate with the cash register.

Apparently, MCX is supporting its own mobile payments system, known as CurrentC, which is not expected to be available until 2015. It appears that MCX members didn’t want Apple Pay to establish too large a footprint in the mobile payments marketplace before CurrentC had a chance to compete.

(Interestingly, CVS has been accepting Softcard (formerly Isis) payments at its registers for more than a year now. Softcard, a mobile payments app that can be downloaded on certain Android devices, uses the same NFC technology utilized by Apple Pay. It seems that MCX members were content to accept Softcard payments as the volumes were very low. Once Apple joined the fray, the stakes became much higher.)

The fact that MCX retailers are rebelling against Apple Pay is not surprising. A non-cash transaction at any store has to satisfy three different parties with three different priorities: the customer, who wants a simple, quick and safe payment method; the retailer, who wants the same as the consumer but who also wants to be able to collect data on buying habits and more; and finally, the financial institution that stands behind the transaction and wants to make sure it gets its cut.

As is usually the case with Apple (see music, books, apps and more), it has developed a potentially revolutionary system that conveniences the consumer but doesn’t do quite so much for the other parties to the transaction. In particular, it’s hard to see how the stores benefit from Apple Pay. One of the big selling points for the consumer – the lack of any traceable data – is actually a big problem for the stores, denying them the opportunity to track the buying habits of their customers and institute loyalty programs and other incentives.

But perhaps the biggest problem for the retailers is that it locks them into the same old fee-paying relationship with the banks. In an industry where margins are often razor thin, retailers have long objected to the 3 – 5 percent that they have to shell out for credit card transactions. One of the most attractive features of CurrentC from the retailers’ point-of-view is that it is expected to connect directly to a customer’s bank account or to a store-specific credit card, eliminating those fees altogether or at least keeping them in-house.

If Apple is expecting a wave of consumer resentment to force the MCX retailers to change their minds, it might be disappointed. The biggest problem facing a viable mobile payments system to this point has been consumer inertia and that isn’t expected to change anytime soon. Although Apple claimed that over 1 million credit cards were linked to Apple Pay in the first 72 hours of launch, that represents just a tiny fraction of the more than 1.8 billion credit cards currently in use in the U.S. And, as many people have pointed out, Apple Pay only works with the iPhone 6, further restricting the potential backlash to a small, albeit extremely vocal, group of consumers.

As Apple has demonstrated many times in the past, it is happy to weather a slow adoption period in order to achieve a dominant position further down the road, and the company does have a history of persuading consumers to buy into something that they didn’t think they needed. However, asking Americans to get excited about a mobile payments system that they have doubts about in the first place is a particularly hard sell. Without the support of the retailers, it becomes nearly impossible.

You can follow Paul on Twitter, where he tweets as @TheTechDad