google_logo_3On Wednesday, Google released a free GPS navigation system for smart phones. By releasing the free navigation system, Google intends to offer a free alternative to traditional, stand-alone navigation units such as those offered by Garmin.

Google’s navigation system offers many of the features from traditional navigational systems such as 3D map views and turn-by-turn voice guidance. The Internet-connected system “allows navigation using voice search in English, provides live traffic updates, includes satellite imagery from Google Maps and features ‘street view’ – real ground-level pictures of destinations.” You can also search along your route for things like gas stations, restaurants, and hotels.

This free navigation system is currently only available for cell phones running on Google’s Android operating systems such as T-Mobile’s “Google Phone,” the HTC “Hero,” and Motorola’s soon to be released “Droid.” Making the navigation system free for Android devices only is obviously a strategic move in order to gain ground on Android technology’s main competitors: Blackberry and the iPhone. If you don’t see yourself parting with your Blackberry or your iPhone any time soon, you’ll have to stick with your Garmin.

Send-Us-MoneyI am all for respectable charities, and I feel that if you are in a position to share some of your money, time, or knowledge, you should donate to where you feel you can make the most difference. That being said, I do not want charities to start texting me asking for money. Unfortunately, this seems to be a fast approaching reality/annoyance.

During the first timeout in the first quarter of the LSU-Auburn game at Tiger Stadium, United Way sent out over 2,558 text messages asking fans to donate five dollars by texting “LSU” to a certain number. The mass text brought in approximately $8,550 dollars from fans willing to donate to the non-profit organization. Apparently, the five dollars will be billed to their next cell phone bill.

I’m not sure where this kind of campaign falls, legally, but I’m sure if this one was a success, we’ll be receiving these kinds of pleas in the near future.

PicFinalHaving seen Blood Diamond and read several articles about how the mining of diamonds in Africa was killing hundreds of thousands of its citizens, I consider myself aware of the crisis that diamonds have caused. What I was not aware of, however, was that the mining of the metal used in electronic components, such as those found in used cell phones, has become just as serious of a problem as the Congo is still a war zone because of the struggle to control the mines from which these metals come.

According to the Enough Project, the mining of Tungsten, Tantalum, Gold, and Tin for the production of electronic components, like those in cell phones, has provided more than $100 Million Dollars to rebel armies in the Congo and has resulted in the deaths of more than 5 Million people in the area. This money is used to buy weapons in order to brutally control the mines and torture their own people. In addition to using firearms to force locals into mining for these elements, the rebels have been using the rape of local women as a tool to maintain their control. It has been estimated that more than 100,000 women have been raped in the past ten years as a result of this conflict in the Congo.

If companies, governments, and other stakeholders can agree on a system to trace, audit, and certify conflict-free minerals that go in our electronics products, the mining of these elements could be one of the most crucial pillars of stability upon which the countries of Africa can build peaceful civilizations. Sadly, however, nothing will change unless we, the consumers, start demanding it. The Enough Project has made it easy for you make your voice heard in the fight to stop the killing in the Congo by texting “CongoPledge” to ACTION (228466). Another simple way to be a part of the change is to diminish the demand of these metals for the creation of new cell phones, by purchasing used and refurbished cell phones.

You can read more about the crisis in the Congo in these articles at The Boston Globe and at The Root.

phonesDictionary.com, one of my favorite websites, now has an app for Blackberry cell phones. The Dictionary.com app also includes their sister site, Thesaurus.com, and the two sites combine to give you an app containing over 500,000 terms and definitions as well as more than 275,000 synonyms.Picture 2

The app also includes a word of the day in both English and Spanish, spelling suggestions, and phonetic and audio pronunciations. And the best part about the app is that IT’S FREE! The Dictionary.com app is really handy as you’ll be surprised at how often you use it (or should use it) throughout your daily routine. The word of the day feature makes it really easy to inflate your vocabulary. Now go forth, download, and teach thyself.

PleaseHaving worked in the customer service side of a start up cell phone Internet retail company for a little over a year now, I find myself frequently frustrated by the demands of unreasonable customers and by how easy eBay makes it for a customer to extort a small business through their feedback system. Our company was founded with the simple intent of providing quality products at discounted rates so that we could make a living by saving people money. Yet week after week, I find myself frustrated, disgruntled, and actually depressed by the attitudes and demands of a certain “class” of eBay consumers, who are people that we are trying to save money. It seems that the giant corporations of America have bred a new class of e-consumer who seem to have forgotten about the working class business owners and who feel that they are entitled to what they want for cheaper than it costs at impossible speeds and if something should happen to go wrong in the process, the world itself should be stopped until they are completely satisfied. So on behalf of the small businesses on eBay, I have put together this list of pleas to the eBay consumer.

1. Think About the Seller – Most companies selling on eBay are not multi-million corporations who employ thousands of people but are, instead, a team of a few average people (or in a lot of cases, just a single person) trying to earn an honest living. Our company started out of a disgust for the unbelievable markups that large companies charge for their products, and we saw the opportunity to help people save money on products of the exact same quality. The saddest part about what I deal with on a daily basis is that when a problem arises, people are so quick to overlook the fact that they are saving massive amounts of money (on average, more than 50%) and to start making unjust demands to compensate for their inconvenience.

2. Understand What is Given Up to Provide Large Discounts – Now don’t get me wrong, when a problem arises, the customer must come first and any business should do everything they can to make the situation right. But that being said, the customer must realize that the incredible amount of compensation for consumer inconvenience that they are used to receiving from giant corporations (like free express shipping, immediate assistance, free products, replacements being sent out before a product is returned, etc.) are possible only because of the extreme markups on the prices of their items. Unavoidably, problems arise in life, but to expect to receive same reparations that some giant corporation would offer you from a small business on eBay is simply unreasonable. These companies are offering you the same products as the large corporations at a fraction of the price, which means they make less profit so, naturally, they will not be able to adhere to the same “anything you want” types of policies.

3. Be a Responsible Buyer – It is important to remember that because these smaller companies on eBay want to provide you with honest, quality service, they clearly state their policies in their listings and on their parent websites. As a responsible buyer trying to save money, you owe it to these companies to read their policies before purchasing. I can’t tell you how many times a month we deal with irate customers who are mad about policies that were clearly printed in the listing that they purchased. We offer a 30-day warranty on our items so how do you justify leaving negative feedback because you can’t return a broken car charger six months after you purchased it (for 85% less than it would have cost in a store)?

4. Understand the Severity of Negative Feedback – If a problem arises with your order from a company on eBay, I guarantee that the company will be willing to honor any policy they advertise as quickly as they can because negative feedback is absolutely detrimental to a company on eBay. The feedback system is a great way to ensure that companies stick to their word but when customers decide to make unreasonable demands, the feedback system is often used to extort free products and services from companies who really can’t afford to be giving things away. I would say that when a problem arises with a customer’s order, 70% of those customers will threaten negative feedback in the first message that the send to us (before even giving us a chance to let them know that we will be happy to fix the issue). Sadly, eBay permits people to leave negative feedback over issues even if the issue is clearly not covered in a seller’s policy. When a seller receives more than a once percent drop in feedback, their listings are then dropped from their earned search result spots, which literally costs a company thousands of dollars per week.

5. Be Reasonable About Shipping – As an eBay consumer, it’s important to remind yourself of the benefits that you are receiving. Not only are you getting the same item that you would see in a traditional retail store at a fraction of what it would cost but you don’t even have to leave your home to shop for it, which saves you time and money on gas. It’s also important to remember that the companies you purchase from on eBay are not out there flying planes and driving the buses that actually bring the packages to your door. Once a company ships your order, they have absolutely nothing to do with the shipping time of the order. A customer once emailed me and said, “I just bought a car charger from you. Email me when it’s on my doorstep.” First, customer service people are not slaves to be ordered around and, second, if it’s important for you to be able to track you package, pay for trackable shipping. Also, inexpensive items are highly susceptible to theft during shipment, but most companies will be happy to work with you to get the situation resolved if you just give them the opportunity.

Our company works day and night (often long into the night) to provide a quality service at incredible prices, but eBay makes it very hard to succeed in this ever-increasing land of unreasonable consumers. To start a small Internet retail company without eBay, however, is nearly impossible. We just hope that customers will start understanding that they need to put as much effort into being a reasonable, responsible buyer as the sellers put into being honest and fair retailers.

CellphoneMoneyIn previous articles we’ve talked about why refurbished cell phones are basically brand new, about how buying refurbished is good for the environment, and about how buying refurbished cell phones is a great way to save money, but we’ve never really gone through the actual figures. Below is a break down of what some of the most popular phones on the market cost if you were to buy them in a store compared to what you can get them for by purchasing refurbished. When you actually run the numbers, the average savings are over 50%.

 

New                            Refurbished

Blackberrys

Curve 8310                                     $349.95                        $188.95

Curve 8330                                     $679.99                        $229.89

7100i                                                $379.99                        $39.95

8830 World                                    $549.99                        $119.99

8703e                                               $349.99                        $48.99

7130e                                                $379.99                        $28.99

Pearl 8130                                       $399.99                        $109.99

Flip 8230                                         $679.99                        $174.99

Motorola

Q9c                                                    $499.99                        $129.99

Q                                                        $419.99                        $44.95

LG

Glimmer                                           $549.95                        $139.95

VX8300                                           $199.99                        $69.99

Samsung

Blackjack                                        $499.99                        $89.99

SPH-i830                                       $479.99                        $99.95

HTC

Mogul                                             $649.99                        $139.95

Dash                                                $399.99                        $114.99

T-Mobile

Sidekick LX                                    $399.99                        $129.99

Palm

Treo 650                                         $399.99                        $65.99

Treo 700w                                     $699.99                        $75.99



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