Perils of Black Friday Shopping

The biggest shopping day of the year is fast approaching, Black Friday.

Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. This day is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. This is because many people have the day off and have a long list of people to shop for. Retailers use this day to promote holiday sales and always offer discounts. The term, Black Friday, came to be in Philadelphia in the early 1960’s and referred to the terrible traffic jams caused by shoppers. Retailers came to refer to this day as Black Friday because it is the start of the season when they are most in the black, that is to say make the most money. All of this having been said how about the best Black Friday shopping deals?

We wrote this last year and offered some useful info about where to find the best deals on Black Friday. But there are perils of Black Friday shopping too.

Perils of Black Friday Shopping

The Oakland Post Online offers pros and cons of Black Friday shopping. The article lists injuries related to the rush for bargains on Black Friday.

Black Friday has its fair share of dangers when it comes to shopping in stores, such as getting hurt. Many of the fights or accidents relate to electronic products.

Sources from Fox 13 in Salt Lake City reported in 2013 that a Wal-Mart employee in Clinton, Utah was trampled due to the electronic tablets on sale.

According to a story in The New York Times, in 2008, a Wal-Mart employee lost his life because of everyone rushing into the store for holiday bargains.  Among the death of the employee, four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were admitted to the hospital for minor injuries.

Perhaps the lesson here is to arrive for Black Friday shopping wearing a football helmet, shoulder pads and a hockey stick for whacking away competing shoppers!

Black Friday Deals

There are three reasons to go shopping on Black Friday.

  1. Holiday gift buying before everything is picked over
  2. You have the day off
  3. There are lots of discounts

We will not dispute the need for holiday gift buying or the fact that you have the Thanksgiving weekend off. But, how good are the bargains both on and off line? Forbes asks just how good are Amazon Black Friday 2015 deals. Remember that no matter how good the deals may be online there are times that you simply need to go to the store.

Amazon has long made a compelling case that the best shopping experience happens from the comfort of your own home. Now as Black Friday approaches, it is also hoping to tempt you to stay away from the inevitable crowds of main street shoppers. But are the deals good enough to let you put your feet up?

Take a look at the list of prices in the article. If you know precisely what you want and can get a better price online you probably want to buy there and wait for delivery. If you like hands on shopping and need to see displays to get ideas it is better to risk the perils of Black Friday shopping and go to the store. Also if you forgot about your nephew’s birthday and need to gift today, your only choice is to go out in the crowd and make an immediate purchase.

Potentially Dangerous Thanksgiving Turkey

We would like to discuss the potentially dangerous Thanksgiving turkey. What, you ask, could be dangerous about the traditional main course when all of the family gathers around to give thanks? Think bacteria, food poisoning, sedation and café coronary. The first aspect of the potentially dangerous Thanksgiving turkey is bacteria and food poisoning.

Germs on the Bird

Good cooks make sure that meat, fish and poultry are cleaned before cooking. However, quotes Consumer Reports as saying that you will kill the bacteria on the turkey when you roast it. By washing it beforehand you will contaminate your sink and countertops with turkey bacteria and risk contaminating salads, veggies, etc. So, to avoid food poisoning from your potentially dangerous Thanksgiving turkey, do as they say and simply defrost, remove the gizzards and cook the bird. (Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and cook for two hours for a 10-12 pound bird and 15 minutes per pound longer for a larger bird.)

Germs in the Bird

Everyone likes stuffing with their Thanksgiving turkey. But, there are germs in the birds as well as outside. It is possible to roast the turkey sufficiently but not roast the stuffing that has gotten contaminated with germs from the inside cavity of the turkey. A good suggestion is to make your stuffing separately.

So What Is Wrong with a Few Bacteria?

According to the Baylor Scot & White Health web site, food poisoning from turkey is usually from a germ called salmonella.

Usually symptoms are seen in 12–36 hours, but can appear within three hours. Vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and headache are some common symptoms. Although anyone can be affected, the highest incidence of severe illness occurs in children under 5 and the elderly.

Treatment of food poisoning is as simple as rest and plenty of fluids. If you are afflicted with food poisoning, time is your greatest ally.

If symptoms persist see a doctor. People who are immunologically suppressed such as people with cancer, AIDS, those receiving anti-rejection drugs after a transplant can become deathly ill from salmonella. The germ recurs after treatment in about 40% of cases in these people. The potentially dangerous Thanksgiving turkey can be really dangerous if your immune system is compromised.

Don’t Eat Turkey and Drive

There is a reason why people eat a Thanksgiving meal and take a nap afterwards. Turkey meat contains high levels of an amino acid known as tryptophan, one of the so-called essential amino acids (that are essential for protein formation but cannot be manufactured by the body) in our diet. Tryptophan is an important precursor for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has a calming, sleep-inducing effect on the brain. Eat a full meal, settle onto the couch and drift off to sleep. It is part of the Thanksgiving ritual. Just don’t drive right away.

The Café Coronary

Be careful of the bones when eating turkey leftovers. A potentially dangerous Thanksgiving turkey bone may find its way into your throat where it will get stuck or down your windpipe and get stuck which is worse. Medical Lexicon defines café coronary.

Café coronary is a sudden collapse while eating that results from food impaction closing the glottis; often erroneously thought to stem from coronary artery disease.

The culprit here is really not the Thanksgiving turkey so much as eating too fast, not chewing well and often times too much alcohol. Nevertheless, remember what you mother said about chewing your food and be careful of small bones in the turkey leftovers.

Tesla: Car Performance versus Reliability

Many people who shop for cars use Consumer Reports as a guide. Rather than test driving and checking out every vehicle imaginable they look at performance and reliability rates of the type of car they might like. Thus Tesla was pleased recently when Consumer Reports gave their Model S P85D a perfect score, something that rarely happens. Then Consumer Reports did a survey of owners of this vehicle and pulled the recommendation. According to CNN Money it turns out that owners found all sorts of reliability issues.

Consumer Reports recently gave the Tesla Model S P85D a nearly unheard of perfect score for its usability and performance. But on Tuesday the magazine yanked its coveted recommendation for the electric car.

The problem: Tesla (TSLA)’s Model S earned a below-average reliability score in a recent Consumer Reports survey of owners.

The bottom line is that the Model S is fun to drive, with great handling and amazing acceleration, but it also suffers from more than its share of annoying technical glitches, according to the magazine.

About 1,400 Tesla owners surveyed complained of problems with the car’s charging equipment, center console area and things like door and windows. They also had issues with the car’s electric drive systems and they complained about rattles, squeaks and leaks in the sunroof.

The consumer purchasing decision is driven by a variety of factors. But, when a car owner needs to repeatedly take his car in to get things fixed he will think twice before buying the same car next time around.

Tesla Motors

Tesla produces battery driven, electric cars. The Tesla website for model S boasts:

Zero Emissions. Zero Compromises

Tesla’s advanced electric powertrain delivers exhilarating performance. Unlike a gasoline internal combustion engine with hundreds of moving parts, Tesla electric motors have only one moving piece: the rotor. As a result, Model S acceleration is instantaneous, silent and smooth. Step on the accelerator and in as little as 2.8 seconds Model S is travelling 60 miles per hour, without hesitation, and without a drop of gasoline. Model S is an evolution in automobile engineering.

There is no mention on the site about glitches or consumer complaints. What about electric cars. Tesla has an issue with car performance versus reliability. Is this a problem with electric cars?

Electric Cars

If you are considering an electric car such as the Tesla Model S despite hearing about reliability issues what do you need to know? The What Car website looks at what electric car you should consider.

The biggest problem with electric cars is their range: how far they can be driven before they need recharging.

Improved battery technology is extending that distance all the time, but the fact remains that, if you were faced with a journey of more than 100 miles, you’d still be better off with a conventional petrol- or diesel-powered car.

Then, there are the issues of how long it takes to recharge an electric car – and where you can do it.

You can refill a car with petrol or diesel in just a few minutes, but you’re probably looking at an absolute minimum of half an hour to charge an electric car – and even then it’s unlikely to be charged to its maximum.

Because most car trips are less than 100 miles an electric car would be attractive to many people. Models mentioned include the BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, Renault Twizy and Zoe, Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt. These last two have a small gas motor and onboard generator to top off the battery and extend the range.

What to Do with Your Volkswagen

So you own a Volkswagen. And you know that in order to pass emissions testing the company rigged the sensors. Now the company is faced with the task of recalling half a million vehicles in the USA in order to fix the situation. But if you are a Volkswagen owner will you bring your car in for the recall? The New York Times notes that the owner is the key ingredient in Volkswagen diesel repair.

[T]he software that allowed Volkswagen to fool federal emissions tests also lowered the car’s performance and fuel economy while the device was turned on. So for owners, the prospect of having a car’s emissions cleaned up, only to have the car perform worse — whatever the pollution – is not sitting well.

“If we take a 10 percent hit in our gas mileage, I can live with that, but I won’t be happy,” said Patrick Downs, who lives in Port Angeles, Wash., and owns a 2013 Jetta TDI.

“If it is 25 percent or more and the performance is degraded to the point where the car has a lot less torque and pickup, that is going to make me very unhappy,” he added. “That is going to make me consider not getting the fix.”

The issue about what to do with your Volkswagen comes down to performance and fuel economy. You can put up with the pollution and retain performance and fuel economy or you can get the car fixed to comply with emissions control standards and lose up to twenty-five percent of your fuel economy as well as the performance that you came to enjoy. What are your options?

Buy another Car

What to do with your Volkswagen might just be to sell it. The recall process will be long and you will probably not like the result. Money provides ten diesel alternatives to your Volkswagen.

Owners of VW diesels are now waiting for their vehicles to be recalled and fixed, a process that probably won’t be complete until the end of 2016. As for drivers who might have otherwise been considering VW diesel purchases, they have some shopping around to do. We asked editor Carroll Lachnit and Kelley Blue Book executive market analyst Jack Nerad for some help sorting out which car models are good alternatives to Volkswagen’s scandal-ridden diesels.

The suggested replacements for your Volkswagen diesel are these:

  1. Ford C-Max Hybrid
  2. Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
  3. Ford Fusion Hybrid
  4. Toyota Camry Hybrid
  5. Mazda 3i Hatchback
  6. Subaru Impresa
  7. Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
  8. Dodge Dart
  9. BMW 328d
  10. Mazda3 sGrand Touring

How Long Can You Ignore the Situation?

What you could do with your Volkswagen is ignore the recall and continue as is. Typically 25% of car owners ignore recalls that do not have to do with health and safety according to Market Watch.

[t]he overall recall response rate for light vehicles hovers at around 75%, up from 70% in years prior, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate completion of the recall.

However, you now have a car that is less valuable on resale. If you want to sue the company you will be at a disadvantage if you do not follow through and get your VW diesel fixed. And eventually your car will need to pass emissions testing. If you don’t, depending on your state, you might not be able to renew your license plates!

What Can You Do about a Data Breach?

What can you do about a data breach that steals your personal information? This used to be a remote possibility and now has become a common occurrence. LP Magazine reports on the loss of Experian credit data of T-Mobile customers.

Last week, consumer credit monitoring firm Experian admitted to a recent data breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 15 million T-Mobile US customers. The wireless telecommunications carrier had contracted with Experian to run credit checks of applicants to see whether they qualify for service or promotions. Anyone who completed a credit check application may have been affected; consumers who recently applied for service are reportedly most at risk. The hack was discovered on September 15, but, according to Experian, the hackers nabbed customer data from September 1, 2013 to September 16, 2015.

The stolen records include highly sensitive information, such as applicant names, addresses, and birthdates, and even encrypted data like Social Security or driver’s license numbers. No payment card information was taken, but there is still a risk: thieves can use the other kinds of personal information to steal someone’s identity and open new credit accounts or loans under a false name.

 A spokesperson for Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said that the office plans to investigate the breach. The incident is just the latest occurrence in a string of high-profile data breaches in recent years. Other major companies hit by hackers in the past include BlueCross BlueShield, Home Depot, and Target.

Tens of millions of people have had their personal information compromised by computer hackers. What is lost in these identity theft situations?

Identity Theft

What happens to the information that you lose when there is a data breach? Privacy Matters reports on computer hacking and identity theft.

Much of the data stolen through computer hacking – including stolen credit card numbers and Social Security Numbers – will end up on a network of illegal trading sites where hackers and criminals from around the world will openly buy and sell large amounts of personal data for profit.

Stolen data networks have flourished in the open, with names like Network Terrorism Forum, Shadowcrew, Carderplanet, Dark Profits, and Mazafaka. The Shadowcrew network was believed to have more than 4,000 active members who made more than $5 million in less than two years trading 1.5 million stolen credit cards, before it was shut down.

There is not a lot that you can about lost personal information but you can change passwords on all of your accounts and do it routinely. There is no reason that a person who may have your bank account number needs to know your passwords as well. If you really want to mess with the hackers you may wish to close any bank, credit card and shopping accounts and open new ones!

Avoiding Loss of Personal Information

There is more to be aware of regarding your personal information than whether or not Target had its computers breached. has a number of good suggestions about making your personal information hacker-proof.

Do not open spam e-mails.
Choose your password (and security questions) wisely!
Delete old accounts and wipe old devices.
Smartphones hold all of your key information.
Be careful about the information you put on social media.

These are just the headers. Read the article. It has a lot of good info about what you can do about a personal data breach before it happens!

Getting the Best Deal on Auto Insurance

In recent years auto insurance premiums have risen at several times the rate of inflation.  Nevertheless, Consumer Reports tells us that only about ten percent of us will be able to save money by changing insurers. What are the best keys to getting the best deal on auto insurance? Even though the odds are that you will not get a better deal with another insurer it is a good idea to shop around every two or three years.

Shopping for the Best Deal

It can easily cost you $9,000 to $14,000 over ten years to insure a car if you are single and $13,000 to $20,000 if you are married with two cars. When shopping for a better deal make sure that you have a copy of your current policy as well as any moving violations or at-fault accident claims because the new company will ask for this info. Ask several companies, not just two or three, for their rates for your current coverage. And make sure to look at your coverage. Better coverage may be what you want but that may be why your premiums are so high. Another approach is to talk to your current auto insurance agent and ask what he or she can do to reduce your premium.

Cost, Coverage and Hassle

It is a sad fact that many people who pay very little for car insurance are bitterly disappointed when they have an accident. The insurance company can low-ball loss estimates, pester the repair shop to cut corners and make you pay extra for manufacturer’s replacement parts versus cheap knockoffs from China. Good companies with high approval ratings from insurance customers are USAA, Amica and NJM according to Consumer Reports.


How likely is it that you will have an accident for which you will need to pay the deductible on your policy? What if you have been driving for years, have never been in an accident and do not expect this to change? And what if you are reasonably well to do with at least a few thousand dollars readily available in the bank? If this is the case you may wish to opt for a higher deductible on your policy. This is a good way to get the best deal on auto insurance, providing that you don’t immediately start to drive like you are stupid.

Get Older

Young drivers pay higher rates. The only cure for this is to maintain a good driving record and add a few years to your age.

If You Have a Bad Accident

Getting the best deal on auto insurance usually focuses on how high the premiums are. But, if you have a bad accident you will wish that you had a respected auto insurer who takes care of you in time of need. While trying to get the best deal on auto insurance avoid dropping liability and bodily injury coverage to the lowest that you state allows. Especially if you have a high net worth make sure that you have higher liability coverage in the $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident range. In the worst case scenario the best insurance will be the one with the best coverage.

We Will Help You Find a Job

If you need help finding a job where can you look? Who will help? When the economy was booming you could walk down the street and check out the help wanted signs or check with local businesses that were always looking for new employees. Now it can be hard to find a job, especially a job that pays the bills and a little more. Today instead of walking down the street most job seekers use the internet and online employment services. You can post a resume and wait or look to see what sort or jobs are listed that fit your skills and experience. If this has not landed you a job here are services that can give you a little more help. Here is a job listing service which we ran across while researching this article. In the meantime there are a few things that you can do if you need help finding a job.

Practice Makes Perfect

There are skills that you need when you do a job and there are skills that you need to land a job. If you need a job go out and interview for any and all jobs that are available. This gives you multiple chances to practice your interviewing skills and get some feedback. In fact, many companies may be advertising for one job but have others for which they will consider you once they meet you and know what you can do for them. On the other hand many people work in jobs which were not their first choice but which worked out well for them and which they would not now choose to leave. Do you need help finding a job? Your best help is you! Keep at it until you land a job.

Finding a Job is a Job in and of itself

Most experts in this field suggest that when you are looking for work you should consider your job to be just that, searching for jobs. Get up on time in the morning and start looking for work. One of your first steps should be to write down on a piece of paper or in a file on your computer the kinds of jobs you are looking for. Also make a list of your skills and your experience. Getting job is easier if you can provide a resume listing what you have done and what you can do. If you have a list of impressive jobs and do not have an extended period of unemployment the best sort of resume lists your jobs and responsibilities, most recent ones first. If you have been out of work for a while or are young and without a lot of work experience use a skills based resume. There is nothing wrong with saying that you are a hard worker, get along well with others, can work independently and are able to take orders and get jobs done on time. Many times employers are more interested in someone with a good attitude and energy level than in someone with years of experience who is not too happy to be looking for a lower paying job with less responsibility than in their last position.

Help Finding a Job

If you have tried everything and are still looking for a job take a look at this job listing service. You may find just what you want.

Unlimited Background Checks

We have written about how often times you need information when your personal security and that of your family are paramount. If you are dealing with a suspicious person who has just moved into your neighborhood or is applying to work with you what do you do? While researching this subject we found a useful service that provides unlimited background checks to members. Here is a recap of some useful information regarding background checks.

Background Checks

A background check is simply the process of looking up financial, commercial and criminal records of an individual or an organization. These records are useful if the person’s credit is at issue, their honesty or your safety. You may want a background check for a job candidate, especially if the position requires a high level of security or a is position of trust, such as in a financial institution, hospital, school, airport, or government. What you will receive should include verification of past employment, the person’s credit history, and any criminal history. In the workplace the job of vetting an employee is simple. They pass or they do not. If the issue is a suspicious neighbor the problem is twofold. One is that you need to get sufficient information to run the background check and two, if they do not pass you still have them as a neighbor. Usually one does a background check to verify that a person is who and what they say they are. But, you may be doing a background check to make sure that a person is not a dangerous criminal just released from prison. Luckily in the USA the Brady Bill requires criminal checks for those wishing to purchase handguns from licensed firearms dealers. Restricted firearms (like machine guns), suppressors, explosives or large quantities of precursor chemicals, and concealed weapons permits also require criminal checks. Background checks are also required for those working in special security positions such as airports, ports of entry, trucking and working with the elderly, disabled or children.

What Information Can You Get?

Available information in background checks includes criminal, arrest, incarceration and sex offender records. Information regarding citizenship, immigration or legal working status are available as are litigation records, driving and vehicle records, education records and records of employment.

How Do You Do a Background Check?

The most reliable way to find out criminal records is to go to the appropriate agency in your state. But this only is useful if the criminal record is in your state. There are numerous agencies that make it their business to collect background check information from across the country. These agencies will be able to tell you if a person who has just moved into your neighborhood in Iowa spent time in prison in New Jersey. The background check should include the type of offense as well as the sentence and if all time has been served. If you are concerned about the safety of your family it can be useful and worth your while to look into a background check if you are concerned about a suspicious person at work or in your neighborhood.

For a service that offers unlimited background checks visit the link.

Would You Like a $3,500 Gas Card?

Gasoline prices are down but gas still costs money. How about a $3,500 gas card? You can sign up for a $3,500 gas card sweepstakes just by taking a survey. How much do you drive and how much do you pay for gas? If you spend $70 a week on gasoline a $3,500 gas card will pay for your gas for the next fifty weeks!

What Is the Point of the Survey?

Big companies like Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola or need information and will pay for it. Surveys often provide critical insight into how consumers feel about various products. Surveys often tell a company why it is that a new product rollout is not successful and provide clues about how to fix things. Anyone who asks you to fill out a survey is doing it to gain something and you should look for something in return.

What Do You Get for Filling Out a Survey?

Many times companies will pay you a few dollars for the time and effort required to answer a page of two of questions. And sometimes, like with the $3,500 gas card sweepstakes they offer you a shot an attractive prize like cash or a prepaid credit card for their merchandise.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Taking Surveys?

Honest companies want your opinion about their products and services. They do not want your personal information. If someone starts asking for you social security number, pin number for your VISA card or bank account information you are looking at attempted identity theft. Then it is time to hang up if you are on the phone or log off if you are on the internet. Here are a few thoughts about identity theft and how to prevent it.

Be Careful What You Divulge

All too many people fall prey online and telephone identity theft scams. If you do not know who it is that you are talking to on the phone do not give them your name, social security number, birth date, address or any other personal identifying information. It is all too easy for someone to use your info to secure their own credit card. They go on a shopping spree and you get the bills!

Federal Trade Commission Advice

A good place to discover identity theft information advice and advice for recovering info is on the Federal Trade Commission web site.

Here is a thumbnail of what they say.

Immediate Steps

If you take action quickly, you can stop an identity thief from doing more damage. Follow these three steps as soon as possible:

  • Place an Initial Fraud Alert
  • Order Your Credit Reports
  • Create an Identity Theft Report
  • Monitor Your Progress
  • Resolving identity theft takes phone calls and letters.  Create a system to organize your papers and calls, and to track deadlines.

That having been said, wouldn’t it be nice to take an honest survey and get a shot at a $3,500 gas card?

All about Credit

If you have good credit you are considered a reliable person to lend money to. Your credit worthiness is judged by a credit rating by one of the major credit rating agencies who give you a credit score. To learn all about credit start with credit scores.

Credit Scores

A credit score indicates how well a person will do in paying off his or her debts. It is a number based on credit data and calculated using statistical techniques. More specifically in the USA a credit score tries to predict how likely it is that a person will go 90 days past due on his bills, or worse, within the next twenty-four months. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are the big three credit bureaus and they provide the information needed to calculate credit scores. There are times when your credit score misrepresents your ability to pay your bills. There may be a mistake in the calculation or false information may have been entered into your credit history. Credit scores are ranked in the FICO system in a range from 300 to 850, 300 being awful and 850 being perfect. If you want to know your credit score you can a free report every twelve months from each of the big three credit bureaus. But to get a score it costs $7.95. If you believe that the score is inaccurate you have 45 days to respond and contest it. Credit bureaus are liable for damage done to you by inaccurate ratings.

Fixing Bad Credit

If you have a low credit score (bad credit) you will find it hard to get a mortgage or other loan and hard to get a credit card. The best way to fix you credit score is to demonstrate your ability to pay off debts and loans. There are two common ways to do this. One is to get a pre-paid debit card at your bank. You pay $500 to get the card, use it to pay for groceries for example, and deposit money in the bank to replace the balance. If you do this routinely for months to a year or more your credit score goes up and you will be able to get a card with a higher balance. Eventually you will be able to get a regular VISA or MasterCard and have a good credit rating. Another route is the rent to own option for your home. Rather than simply renting you find an institution that provides rent to own properties. You pay your rent every month and a portion of that rent is placed in escrow to pay for purchase of the property. After a period of time, typically five years, you will have demonstrated your ability to pay, have a higher credit score and will be able to get a regular mortgage.

From time to time we run across offers relating to improving your credit, getting credit scores and more. When this happens we will pass this information on to you.

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