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.

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

Meijer Box Tops deal report

Okay so Meijer had a promotion this week where if you bought 10 participating products, you got a custom coupon for 70 box tops for education. Each BTFE has a face value of 10 cents, and you can turn them into your kid’s school, or, in my case, sell them on eBay.

This is actually somewhat stingier than similar deals that they have had in the past (the best was one where you got 100 BTFE for buying 12 products, and it was on the same week as super double coupons!)

As is usually the case with deals like this, with coupons it’s fairly straight forward to buy the 10 products for less than the $7 face value of the coupon, making it a moneymaker.

My report:

40 Chex Mix
24 Bisquick 40 oz
20 things that I can’t tell Carolyn about
38 Jars of frosting
20 Muffin mix
13 Hamburger Helper
4 Boxed potatoes
1 Cheerios Snack mix

I paid a total of $87.08 and if you add that all up, you’ll see that is 160 products, or 16 coupons worth. So they have a face value of $112, but I think I can eBay them for a net profit (after ebay and paypal fees) of $8 each at least, which would make them $128. So a net profit overall of about $40 or more (plus all that food).

As an added bonus, that $87 came out of the “Dan” envelope because I’m treating it as an investment in selling the box tops, so the total weekly grocery bill was only $53.

I heart the Internet

I was getting Carolyn’s (rockin) Christmas present today and so when I went to checkout from the website that shall not be named, there was a place to put in a promo or coupon code. So I thought well let’s go searching. I typically do searches like these but I normally don’t have much success.

And sure enough the first 4 or 5 codes I found were either invalid, expired, for purchase amounts more than what I was spending, or some combination thereof.

But then I found one! Boom – free shipping! Saved me $8.

I can’t tell you what the code is or what website it is for because that might spoil the super awesome surprise.

Milk weirdness

So I’m a comparison shopper as you can probably imagine.  I regularly go to 3 or 4 stores during the week.  Since all of our grocery stores are within a mile or so, the dollars you can save by shopping at the places with the lowest prices on the various stuff are more than worth the pennies it takes in gas.

I usually take a kid or 4, and we make it an adventure.  Plus, this gives us plenty of places to look for coins :-)

So while I was out today I noticed some weirdness in the prices of milk.  While I was out at Walmart earlier in the week, I noticed that milk was $2.48 a gallon, so I put that on the list to buy there.  But when I went to buy it today, I saw that only Vitamin D and 2% were $2.48.  1% was like $2.69 and skim was $3.00!  So that’s weird but not unheard of.  But then a bit later when I was at Sam’s club, I noticed that skim was $2.62, with 1%, 2% and Vitamin D all progressively more.

In other words – the complete opposite?  That made no sense.  I could believe it if you explained it to me that the extra fat in the 2% and Vitamin D made it more expensive.  And I suppose I’d consider believing if you explained it to me that the extra fat came naturally and it cost more to take it out for the skim or 1%.  BUT I’M CERTAINLY NOT GOING TO BELIEVE BOTH OF THOSE!!!!!!!

In non-related news, while I was at Meijer, someone had left a $5 bill in the cash return of the self-scan machine.  I waited for someone to come back and claim it but nobody did, so since there was nobody really to return it to, I kept it.  Too bad that doesn’t count for the change race!

I love when grocery stores pay me!

So there was a deal at Kroger this past week or so (actually I think it has been going on for the past 4 weeks but I just found out about it – it ends today). Buy 6 Powerade Zero 32oz and get a coupon for $4 off your next order.

Since the Powerades are only 79 cents, 6 of them is like $5.15 after tax, so with the $4 coupon, it’s like 19 cents a Powerade. But of course, I got myself some .50/1 coupons, which double (up to the 79 cents) and make them free – so you make $4 for each set of 6.

I did that a few times today, and each time I had to play like 20 cents for the 6 of them (tax) and then got $4 back. But the last time, I forgot to put in my Kroger Plus card till the guy had already started ringing up the transaction. Since they’re $1.19 without the card, they all were ringing up at that, and then when he scanned the coupons, they doubled the whole amount (up to $1), since the computer thought they were $1.19. And then at the end all the 40 cents off lines came (reducing it to the card price of 79 cents), leaving me with a total of -$1.15.

So he was a little freaked out by that, but asked the manager and the manager was like “We owe him $1.15″, so they had to get a guy with a key and they opened up the drawer and handed me $1.15!! Hee hee. Makes up for the 64 cents in tax I had to pay the first 3 times.

And plus, I found a dime under the Coinstar machine on the way out, upping my total to 63 cents today (after $1.78 yesterday). I don’t have my spreadsheet in front of me, but I’m up over 9 bucks found so far!

Shot down by Lowe’s

So as I thought I had previously mentioned but could not find, Lowe’s has been running 2 concurrent promotions. In each one, for every $1000 you spend, you would get a $100 Lowe’s Gift Card. One was called Lowe’s Kitchen and Bath (run here in Cincinnati) and the other was Lowe’s Spring Event (run mostly in places like VA, NC, TN, etc).

With all the work we’ve been doing at the new house I’ve been attempting to double dip and use both of these promotions. I entered my receipts in at both websites but it quickly became apparent that they were actually smart enough to check and disallow that. The Kitchen and Bath one was a few weeks ahead of the other one so I focused there. I got up to $7000 in purchases which meant $700 in GCs, but all my receipts on the Spring Event promo were still showing up as “Pending”. I called a few times but was not able to get anywhere.

I didn’t want to fight too hard until my $700 in GCs arrived in the mail, in case I might somehow lose those. They arrived last week so I gave it one last try. I spoke to someone and she had me fax in my receipts. Just got the call though that they see that they’ve already been entered in to the Kitchen and Bath promo and are therefore no good.

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. I guess I’ll have to settle for 30% off (20% coupon plus $100 for every $1000) instead of 40%!

New house deck

Sorry – no pictures today. But I did want to make a note about the new deck. We’re putting on a new deck and so I went to buy some of the materials. Lowe’s is having a promotion where for every $1000 you buy, you get $100 in gift cards. This promotion ends on Saturday so I wanted to make sure I bought all the stuff this week. I’m also going to buy all of our carpet (probably another $2000) this week.

Naturally I also have 20% off coupons that I am combining with this deal, so it’s like 30% off. Actually they have a totally separate gift-card promotion similar to the one above so it’s like 40% off.

So anyways, I already bought some of the deck stuff last week but I had to buy the rest of it. Lowe’s has a little deck design program that spits out all the stuff that you need with quantities and such.

So I went to the checkout lane and put in all the stuff. The subtotal came to like $2330, and I gave them my coupon. The guy was having some problems putting it in. The coupon said that it was good for 20% off up to $2000, so we both agreed that it should be $1930 (20% off $2000 = $1600 plus the extra $330). But he couldn’t figure out how to put that into the system.

So he calls over his manager who is not sure what to put in and in fact was getting a little snippy with me. At first he looked like he was going to give it to me for just $1600 which I told him was wrong. Then he snips at me that he can’t give me the discount on the extra $330, which I knew and was not trying to have him do.

Anyway he too had problems, so a 3rd person was called over. This guy looks at the coupon and says that it means that it’s good for a DISCOUNT of $2000 (I guess up to purchases of $10,000), so he just gives me the 20% on the whole thing, so instead of $1930, it was $1864 – a savings of $66 plus tax!

Gooooo me!

Still looking like an end of May move date; it’s getting closer! We’ve been painting here at the old house trying to get it ready to rent out.

Over at the new house they have put on all the interior doors and all the drywall. We’ll be going over on Saturday I think to finish priming and then putting the paint on early next week. Also I believe it’s finally been dry enough that my contractor is renting a Bobcat to do the final grading of all the dirt in the backyard (we’re sloping it). And the siding should be arriving soon; so that will go up probably next week. Good times for all!

Kroger part 2

Okay – many of you have commented in on my last post, wanting to know if Kroger had indeed gotten the best of me.


In fact, I’m hurt that you could even suggest such a thing. They caved like a master spelunker. It actually wasn’t even that hard. I called up to the Kroger 1-800 customer service line. Spoke to a lady there, explained my situation, and she added it to my plus card like that.

We talked for a little while and I thought I would share a few things. I asked if there was indeed a limit on how many of these pharmacy coupons you could use. She said that she thought there was a limit of $60 but that the pharmacist could override that. She said that they typically would override it for good customers, such as myself (her words).

Then she started talking about how they have that limit there because some people would just take advantage of things. She said that there shouldn’t be a problem for good, loyal customers such as myself (she said this several times during our conversation).

Then she delivered the money line, which went something like:

“Because you know, some people just use these coupons to get free groceries and that’s just not right”


She’s right – free groceries aren’t right – it’s better when they pay you! That happened Friday afternoon – got a whole load of stuff and after coupons, and the buy 10 get $5 off promotion and some of those pharmacy rewards, my total came out to -$0.36. It’s always funny when they’re like “Okay your total is 36 cents” and I have to be like “Uhhhh actually YOU owe ME 36 cents” :-) .

Uhhuh Kroger, you want a piece of ME?

Apparently Kroger does not read my blog in which National City caves (Part 1 and Part 2). I go there today for some deals and also go to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy. I had to have them transfer it over from Meijer where Meijer had only let me use one prescription coupon at a time (good for $20 off a future order). Naturally I had another one in hand.

The pharmacist scanned it (though she looked annoyed about it) and I paid and that was that. Except that I did not get a receipt saying that my Rx Rewards had printed, and my balance remained at $15.49 (from the $20 pharmacy coupon I did a few days ago for a different one). I stop and ask about it.

She then starts babbling lies. First off she says that they don’t print out a separate receipt. I tell her that I’ve seen it. She says they changed the system. I tell her I was just here on Wednesday and it did it. Then she tells me that there is a limit of how many you can do per Kroger card. I say I haven’t heard anything about that – what’s the limit. She makes up “3″. And then just walks away.

Ooooooh Kroger you have not heard the last of this one. I will get my $20 out of you. I called the annoyingly named helpline 1-800-KROGERS but they are closed. But I will be on the case Monday baby.