Tag Archives: Walmart

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.

 

Photo Book Deals In Time for the Holidays 

By Tracey Dowdy

Remember the fun of flipping through family albums reminiscing over holidays and parties, or laughing over bad haircuts and questionable fashion choices? Sure, you can scroll through photos online thanks to cloud-based storage like Google Photos, Livedrive, or Amazon Photos. Still, there’s something transformative about physically holding an album in your hands.

The one good thing to come out of the coronavirus lockdown is when many of us have added back into our schedule, so there’s no time like the present to get those photos organized and into a photo book.  

Probably the best known is Shutterfly, a site that does everything from photobooks to wallpaper. It offers free, unlimited storage and will never delete your photos, so you have plenty of time to sort through all those years of photos. You can choose from templates, or use Simple Path, a tool that automatically lays out your photos but allows you to rearrange, decorate, and add captions to customize your book. Pre-tax, an 8- by 11-inch 20-page hardcover photo book costs about $40 before shipping and tax, but they almost always have a sale or coupon available, so look for deals before you order. 

Suppose you’re looking for more design choices. In that case, Snapfish offers dozens of templates and themes like Moments with Mom, Grad Nostalgia, Family Farmhouse, Summer Snapshots that extends through their catalog of products – think aprons, mugs, calendars, photo tiles – so it’s easy to create a unique and themed gift. You can add photos manually, and if you’re unhappy with your design, it’s easy to swap out the background or theme. The price is similar to Shutterfly, with an 8- by 11-inch hardcover 20-page photo book for $40. And, like Shutterfly, they continuously run deals, so be on the lookout for special offers. 

Walmart may not be the first name to come into your mind when you think of high-quality photo books, but you may be pleasantly surprised. Their site allows you to upload digital photos from your computer, social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Dropbox, or Google Photos, but there are fewer editing options than Snapfish or Shutterfly. They allow you to add stickers, but customization is limited compared to other sites. 

Google Photos is the most stripped-down choice on this list with a minimalist, plain white background with the option to caption your photos. Google will format a book based on your uploaded albums, or you can customize it by choosing an album you already made. If you want a more creative look, Google Photos has editing options within its app that allows you to add filters. A 9×9 photo book costs $20 before shipping, and each additional page costs 65 cents. If you’re looking for something less expensive, a softcover 7×7 book costs $10, and it’s 35 cents for each additional page.

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.

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