Are We Too Accepting of Information?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping 5 comments

Even with all the gadgets I have and time I spend on the computer, I still look forward to reading the print edition of my local newspaper every morning. Recently, I saw an ad in the paper from a hypermarket (combination of grocery and department stores) that I’ll call CubeMart.

Normally, I don’t pay attention to ads, but this full-paged ad caught my eye because it’s misleading. The ad shows a customer’s shopping list and compares her receipt from two stores. What store first comes to mind that would be CubeMart’s competitor? Bull’s eye. It’d be another hypermarket.

Not in this ad. CubeMart decided to compare itself with a drug retailer that I’ll call CubeGreens. If there was ever a time to use the apple and oranges cliché, this is it. Both serve different purposes. I shop at those two stores in very different ways. When I go to the drug retailer, it’s usually to pick up a couple of items or grab things on sale. It’s walking distance from my house, so it comes in handy during an illness.

I certainly wouldn’t buy pull ups at the drugstore — not because I don’t have kids that need them — but because they’re almost always overpriced. Pull ups, laundry detergent, snacks, toiletries, medicine, plastic bags and nine other items appear in the two store receipts CubeMart used to show the customer would’ve saved 15 percent had she chosen CubeMart.

Even if CubeMart had used a direct competitor in the ad, I notice the fine print says prices may include special prices good through a certain date and they may not be representative of prices in other stores of the two chains. And, of course, it covers itself by saying that prices at CubeGreens may have changed.

This is a simple example of how companies can skew data to tell a story that reflects positively on their brand. Here’s another example. Every year, a popular news magazine publishes a list of the best schools in the U.S. Dig deeper and you’ll find plenty of stories reporting problems with the data used to create the list.

Many accept information without questioning them. This also happens with expert commentary, encyclopedias (both famous encyclopedias have published errors) and wordgraphics. (I call them that because they’re too wordy to be true infographics).

We’re overloaded with information, but we don’t have time to question it all. It requires we change how we absorb information and what we do with it.

Most of the time believing reported information is harmless. If a customer believed CubeMart’s ad and switched (still apples and oranges), the worst that can happen is the customer doesn’t save as much as money as she could have at the real competitor’s store.

When should we believe or verify the information we receive? How do we know what sources to trust?

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Craig’s List Scam

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping 2 comments
Handcuffed Laptop

Photo from user trohaa

Between my digital camera having video recording capabilities and cutting clutter, I decided to sell my barely used HD video camcorder on Craig’s List. Or rather, the camcorder posted it begging for a home that will take good care of it and use it often. Within hours of posting, an email comes in from Walt Julius asking if the item is still for sale. After confirming, he replies [edited for readability]:

Thanks for you reply, i am located in Kansas, i really need to buy this and send to my friend schooling outside the state as a Gift to him, i have been trying to buy this on eBay but is very stressful buying on eBay and i will not want to miss out on this opportunity so am making you an offer of [deleted] to rap the sale off.

I will be paying through PAYPAL because i have a verified account with PayPal. So kindly get back with your PayPal email address so i can make payment into your PayPal account. Once payment clears, shipment will be handled by me through my personal FedEx account, so you don’t have to pay for shipment. Get back to me if my approval is granted. I would like to see the pictures please.

Sounds OK so far. I take pictures and record a couple of videos. Though I spend more time than I’d like doing this, it turns out to be a good thing. I find out the battery doesn’t last long and needs replacing. The camcorder works fine while plugged in. I send him the pictures, let him know about the battery and lower the price to make up the difference to replace the battery.

Then comes the kicker … [email edited for readability]

I have just made out the payment online now. Go and check the mail you used in opening your PayPal account I believe the confirmation mail must have been sent there check the in box trash or the spam message you should be able to see it there. I wanna let you know that i am having some little problems with my FedEx account as i checked it online now and i was asked to reactivate it so i cant do that now as i have to sort one or two thing out with them. So i am sorry as i wont be handling shipment through my FedEx account again.

So, pls get the postage cost to the following address via post office (USPS EXPRESS MAIL) and ship out the item via post office (USPS) asap cos i have told Ryan to be expecting it. I have also included $100 extra for the shipping. i think that should be enough for you to ship.

Ryan Coker
[address deleted]
Country: Nigeria

Let me know how much it costs you to ship.After you ship get back to me with the amount you used in shipping. I am really sorry for the inconveniences. Please get back to me asap.

Suspicious. Without looking at the email, I sign in PayPal and see a balance of zero. I never click PayPal emails — not even legitimate ones — because it’s often used in phishing. Whenever I receive a PayPal email, I go to PayPal and check there. No clicking on links.

Your cover is blown, Mr. Julius or whoever you are. Curious, I look for the emails and sure enough, phishy. The “From” says, “Service@PayPal” with the email address coming from “”. Here are the subjects of the three emails I received:

  • **PAYMENT CODE CONFIRMED(Routing Code: [deleted])**CONFIRMED

Just when I thought it was over and I’d never hear from him again, another email came in after I told him the email wasn’t from PayPal and no money came in:

i will confirm from paypal now because my money as been deducted, dont worry go and send the it item to the address i receive from my friend now, he has called me he told i told him u have send it through fedEx please do so.

I didn’t reply.

What threw me off about the whole thing was the response to something I posted (and a Gmail address, too) and then his responding to multiple messages. I share these names because they’re fake and to help others who may encounter them. When I figured it all out, I searched the web to see if others had reported a similar incident. It’s often an eBay scam.

I forwarded the three messages to who confirmed they’re phishing attempts. Anytime you get something like this, please forward it to PayPal. I won’t explain the other mistakes he made as I don’t want to help the phishers improve their scams.

Stay safe out there.

What tips do you have for protecting yourself online?

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Links: 20th Wedding Anniversary 2009 Edition

Friday, June 12th, 2009 at 7:49 AM | Category: Blogging, Books, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping, Tech 9 comments

Yesterday was my 20th wedding anniversary. Wow. Two decades of marriage. I’m very lucky to have Paul as a partner in life, parenting and silliness. Yes, I’m up for many more! I just hope he can handle me!

And for fun because we’re allowed…

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Links: The 10 Commandments 2009 Edition

Friday, April 10th, 2009 at 10:11 AM | Category: Business, Games, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping, Tech 3 comments

And for fun because we’re allowed…

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Links: Roaring March 2009 Edition

Friday, March 6th, 2009 at 7:55 AM | Category: Language, Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping, Tech 3 comments


And for fun because we’re allowed…

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Links: President’s Day Edition 2009

Friday, February 20th, 2009 at 10:45 AM | Category: Blogging, Books, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping, Tech 1 comment

And for fun because we’re allowed…

  • 50 Best Web Sites 2008 according to Time and the list all of them by most popular. Yes, some of the below come from Time. Great stuff.
  • I like totally love it: “The site allows users to publish and share products with the broader public which they find cool, innovative, exceptionally beautiful, or just weird.”
  • Nymbler: Enter six names you like to get ideas for more names you might like.
  • Ffffound! Image bookmarking — sharing beautiful images.
  • Lookybook: Look through children’s books before buying them. YES!
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Links: 2008-11-21

Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 8:45 AM | Category: Blogging, Books, Business, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping, Tech, Writing 1 comment

And for fun because we’re allowed…

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Links: 2008-11-14

Friday, November 14th, 2008 at 9:07 AM | Category: Books, Business, Life Tips, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping, Tech, Writing 2 comments

And for fun because we’re allowed…

  • BuyBackMadness: Exactly as it sounds.
  • StubHub: Buy and sell tickets without paying crazy fees like the other company charges. Darn it. No A Chorus Line tickets available for Dallas.
  • Greenzer: Greened products for sale. Find what you need and ensure it’s green.
  • Feministing: Women discuss issues related to their lives.
  • Cyberhomes: Excellent resource for finding houses for sale. I’m not in the market for a new house, and yet it had me wasting time looking around.
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Business Client Gift Ideas

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008 at 7:40 AM | Category: Business, Customer Service, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping 9 comments

I wanted to send my clients a little something as a thank you now instead of waiting until holiday time. Every day, I’m grateful for them and I want to show it. But what? I don’t want to send food especially since I’m in Texas. Besides, you never know who has what food allergy.

Searching for business gift ideas yields sites full of keywords and little else. Should I get something in bulk and imprint my company’s name on it? Or is that vain? I use things with company names on it — it’s a matter of finding something people will use.

Still have to consider shipping costs as all clients are not local — except one. Go with the bulk thing and just not print anything on it? Because I need to send a few, it would be tough to personalize it for each person. I don’t know all of their interests.

  • Baskets: I send these occasionally — not in bulk. I’ve sent them to clients who had surgery or as a special treat. Not all contain food.
  • Charitable donation: I appreciate it when people do this. But usually, it’s friends and family — not business contacts. I can see the good and bad side to this.
  • General business book: Too bad my Outlook book doesn’t sell in the U.S. as I think most of my clients use Outlook. Another idea: Book of inspirational quotes.
  • Gift cards: How to get one place that everyone uses is the tricky part. Coffee? Not everyone drinks coffee or tea or eats the giant treats. Amazon? Not everyone likes shopping online.
  • Pen: Too boring? We have too many of them? As a writer, it would be appropriate to give.
  • USB flash drive: These are wonderful tools and a person can use more than one.
  • Rumors has a category for business gifts and they range from $3 to $$$. I like the selection, but nothing rings with me.
  • Cowboy Chuck has business cartoons that make you smile.

I like the card sending services that let you enter your handwriting. However, I don’t like their sales and pricing process. I’ve yet to find one that lets you do it on your own and not pay a service fee. I’d rather pay per card and not participate in a pyramid scheme.

What do you think? What did you like receiving? Or what did others receive that they liked? Will keep adding gift ideas as I find them.


Links: 2008-05-09

Friday, May 9th, 2008 at 7:49 AM | Category: Business, Games, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Shopping, Tech, Writing No comments

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