Exploiting inefficiencies in the secondary BTFE market, part 2

So, back in November of last year, I wrote a post about buying up Box Tops for Education (BTFE) from eBay and then reselling them. Back then I bought a coupon for 1000 BTFE for $81 and was attempting to sell it for $119.99.

I tried 2 auctions back in November and did not sell it even after I dropped it to $114.99. I then decided to hold on to it for a few months until it is BTFE turning in time (the schools turn them in twice a year, Oct and Feb I believe). I listed it recently at $114.99 and it did not sell again so I relisted it at $109.99, and it finally sold.

So, subtracting $3.49 paypal fees, $1.40 ebay insertion fees (35 cents * 4 listings), $9.60 final value fee and $3.29 in postage (I’m sending it certified to make sure it gets there), I have a net profit of $11.22. Not bad, but much less than I was hoping for and arguably not really worth it. Of course you are talking to someone who looks under Coinstar machines for pennies….

I think 2 things contributed to the delays in getting somebody to buy these.

  1. It was a coupon, rather than actual clipped box tops. I think people are a bit more hesitant due to potential fraud. Especially because of
  2. The fact that it was for $100 rather than say $10 or $20. People a) don’t want to spend that much and b) are probably more worried about the 1 coupon being fraudulent. Higher risk than 1000 individually clipped box tops being fraudulent.

Still, $11 is $11. I will continue to keep you posted if I find any other deals.

I gave her the ol’ blood pressure arm switcheroo!

So two things to mention today. First of all early this morning I had a health examination by a nurse? for a life insurance policy. We are getting life insurance policies so we can both bump each other off and roll in the proceeds.

So, she’s asking me lots of health-related questions as well as taking samples and weight and blood pressure and such. So on that note, let me switch gears over to HealthMiles.

At work, they started a new program called HealthMiles. I’ve written about this before but basically they pay you to be healthy. Part of this is that every month you get “points” for going down to a kiosk and having your weight, BMI, and blood pressure at certain levels.

So for blood pressure you have to have it under 120/80 to get the points. This is often very challenging for me as this machine consistently measures my blood pressure at right around there. So I’ll measure it, and it will be 122/75. Then again and it’s 117/81, etc. I have tried all sorts of tricks and such to try and get it to measure under the mark, until finally I noticed that the blood pressure on my right arm was lower than my left one. Apparently this is not unheard of and not a huge deal unless the differences are very large. I also saw that depending on the position of your arm and such it can make a difference on your reading.

So this morning when it came time to do my blood pressure I was seated in such a way that would have made my left arm more convenient for her to test. But while she got out the old sphygmomanometer I rotated 90 degrees to present the right arm. 108/60 baby! Want to be in the best health possible to get the lowest premiums possible.

License Plate Scavenger Hunt

So back last summer when we made our trip to the Groesbeck reunion in North Carolina, one of the things I came up with was a license plate scavenger hunt to occupy some time in the car. Of course I am not the first person to come up with this idea, but Dan’s First Law of the Internet did not hold in providing me with a sheet that had examples of what all the license plates looked like.

There were plenty of sites that had individual license plates but nothing that would serve as sort of a “gameboard”. So I created one, which you can see below. In some cases, I had to pick which license plates to show as some states had multiples.

License Plate Scavenger Hunt

It worked pretty well. It was mostly my oldest son who was into it and he is still very in to license plates and spotting different ones. We’re still working on teaching him that Mommy doesn’t care about license plates so he should probably just tell Dad about ones he finds :-) . It’s kind of like coins in that regard.

I had intended about publishing my work for other intrepid travelers but my Word doc was like 3 MB and I didn’t want to just host that on my site in case somehow lots of people started downloading it and crashing my server. But I started looking at it again recently because tonight is our Cub Scout den meeting where we will be talking about collecting things and we’re supposed to bring in things that we collect. So we will be bringing in this license plates printout as well as our big jar of found coins.

I tried to upload it to Google Docs but they only accept docs of up to 500K. So I converted it to a PDF for free and uploaded it. But apparently you can’t publish PDFs via Google Docs, so if I wanted to share it there I had to individually invite people. So I found a place called PDFHost.net. I uploaded it there, but when you go there, although it says licenseplates.pdf – it sends you a link to an invoice written in German?!?. Finally I uploaded it to a place called Keepandshare.com. So if you want a copy, here it is!

I demanded a new apostle song, and they delivered!

So, as you may remember, back in December when Joseph B. Wirthlin died, I posted a “demand” for a new apostle song.

I was actually surprised that more Mormon-themed blogs did not at least mention the fact that a new apostle song was needed.

But in any case, this afternoon I got a comment on that old post from the “Sons of Ammon” who were the writers of the song, saying that they had posted a new video up on YouTube.

And sure enough, here it is.

Enjoy! Let me see if I can help spread the song – as of this post, February 10th at 7:40 p.m. the YouTube video had 49 views.

Some blog updates

So I spent some time working on the blog this evening. A few weeks ago I did a little blog makeover. There were a few things that I left somewhat unfinished then and I think I may have fixed some of those.

  1. I fixed the width of the archive and category drop downs in the far left column.
  2. I reduced the maximum font in the tag cloud in the other column. There are still a few tags that kind of “bleed over” into neighboring ones but I think it looks much better.
  3. I fixed where the reCaptcha anti-spam comment plugin was appearing way off the side of the screen. I know some of you don’t like that plugin but I don’t care because it’s my blog, so bite me.

Constructive bug reports or things that don’t seem right are welcome. Comments about how you don’t like this layout or how it’s boring or other such opinions unwelcome.

In which I invite the lady behind me in line at Staples to shut right up

So I took the kids out to the mall-ish area this evening to give their mom a break. And to look for coins of course!!! (6 quarters, 3 dimes, 1 nickel and 8 pennies – the coin cycle baby!).

Also I wanted to stop by Staples. I had gotten a $10 off $10 coupon for Office Max in the mail. I was going to just put it on eBay, but I saw that there were tons of them on eBay and they were going for about $3 or $4. Not bad, but then I got to thinking and decided to buy stamps there. I like Staples more than Office Max (and it’s more convenient) and they all take competitor’s coupons.

So we got there and originally I was going to buy envelopes along with 1 book of stamps (to get over the $10 limit) but the cheapest envelopes at Staples were $6.99?!?!? So instead I decided to just buy 2 books of stamps.

So we’re checking out and first there was a delay because they only had 1 book up front so some guy had to come with more books. And then the cashier was having math trouble figuring out how much to charge for each book (he couldn’t just take the $10 off the total – he had to price adjust the books themselves for whatever reason). So we’re causing some delays which I am of course used to, and then the lady behind me pipes up with

“I thought it was illegal to use a coupon on stamps – a federal law”

Umm hello – way to dealblock me lady, to paraphrase a somewhat lewd term. And hence the title of my post. The cashier starts saying yeah I don’t know maybe you’re right. And he double checks the back as I point out – Nope nope nothing on the back that says you can’t use them (lots of times there are exclusions on stamps)

But I was just annoyed by this lady’s piping up. I didn’t say anything to her there because a) I’m a wimp and b) I didn’t want to make any kind of scene because I was hoping to stay under the radar so the transaction could proceed.

In the end, it all worked out and I got my 40 stamps for $6.80

Suing telemarketers, take 1

So for a few months I have done some research on suing telemarketers. There are a few examples on the web about regular people successfully suing (and even collecting!) from telemarketers who violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA).

A few months ago after reading up on this, I even went so far as to print out a telemarketer call sheet so that I could take notes when one called and follow a script of my own to ensure that I asked all the right questions and uncover as many TCPA violations as possible.

Each violation is a $500 penalty (and there can be and usually are multiple violations per call). Plus you can sue for triple damages if you can prove that the violation was knowing and willful. Typically (though with some exceptions as you will see below) the first call is free i.e. you can’t sue them just for calling

I tracked things for awhile but got frustrated. As you can imagine, telemarketers a) are scum, b) know they’re scum, c) don’t like getting sued and d) are scum. So they do things like hide what phone number they’re calling from, obscure the name of their company, etc. in an effort to make it harder to get sued. Hard to sue someone if you don’t know who they are.

But yesterday I got a call from Donna Bauer aka “The NoteBuyer”. The call was received at 9:11 p.m. (DING! Violation #1) and it was an automated message (DING! Violation #2). I answered because it came from a local (513 area code) number but when I heard who it was I hung up before too long. But then after I hung up I realized hey – this would be perfect.

So I crafted a demand letter which I have posted below

February 6, 2009
Donna Bauer
The NoteBuyer Incorporated
11177 Reading Road
Cincinnati, OH 45241
Dear Ms. Bauer:
On February 5, 2009 at 9:11 pm EST, I received a telephone call at my primary residence. This telephone call purportedly came from the telephone number 513-698-2005. Upon my answering the telephone, an automated female voice introduced herself as Donna Bauer aka “The Note Buyer” and proceeded to engage in telemarketing about her services.
This call makes the following legal violations according to 47 CFR §64.1200 Subpart L:
Pre-recorded Message is itself a violation §64.1200(a)(2)
Phone call was received after allowed hours for telemarketing (8 a.m. – 9 p.m. local time) §64.1200(e)(1)
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) establishes a private right of action for telephone subscribers who receive such calls. §227(b)(3) of the TCPA provides:
“(3) PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION.–A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State–
(A) an action based on a violation of this subsection or the regulations prescribed under this subsection to enjoin such violation,
(B) an action to recover for actual monetary loss from such a violation, or to receive $500 in damages for each such violation, WHICHEVER IS GREATER, or (C) both such actions.
If the court finds that the defendant willfully or knowingly violated this subsection or the regulations prescribed under this subsection, the court may, in its discretion, increase the amount of the award to an amount equal to not more than 3 times the amount available under subparagraph (B) of this paragraph.” [emphasis added]
The term “willful” as defined in the Communications Act §312(f), does not require intent to violate the law, only intent to commit or omit the act in question. Given The NoteBuyer’s long history in the real estate business and telemarketing, I am confident that I can demonstrate that these violations were willfully and/or knowingly committed. I intend to file in court for $500 for each violation, and I will press for treble damages, based on the fact that The NoteBuyer Incorporated knowingly/willfully placed a pre-recorded call. This brings the amount to a total of $3000.
In the event that you would prefer to resolve this matter without court fines and attorney’s fees, you may remit the sum of $2000 to the address above. In exchange, I will forgive the violations that occurred on or before today, February 6, 2009, with the stipulation that my Do Not Call Request is entered in your system and I receive a written copy of your Do Not Call policy. If I have not heard from you by 5:00 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009, I will initiate a civil procedure, and my offer of settlement will be withdrawn. Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Dan Miller

We shall see what happens!

Another change spotter

Check out this article from CNN.  A Staten Island family has found over $1100 in 3 1/2 years.  I did look at their blog, which is at changepot.blogspot.com, looking for ideas, but didn’t find any. I’m sure they get more just from being in NYC where there are just more people.