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Saturday, September 29, 2012

BUYERS' SPECIAL....How real are the discounts?

How real are the discounts? 

During any festive season discounts are the biggest lure for buyers, but should you take all offers at face value? Here’s how to spot a real bargain from the sneaky retail tricks 

    Even before the whiff of the festive season arrives, you are inundated with banners screaming discounts and freebies, each offer more tempting than the other. Whether you really need the latest gadget or those great shoes, the lure of a bargain and the money you spend are justified by a seemingly sound reasoning—“I’m not spending money. I’m saving it because I’ve got what I want at a cheap rate!”
    So, how come after the euphoria has died down, you have a bulging wardrobe, closets overflowing with sundry knick-knacks, bloated bills to pay and an almost empty bank balance?
    The truth is that you have given in to the great illusion created by most retailers—you must urgently buy what you fancy because you are getting it at a throwaway price. The reality is that no seller will give you something on a platter by destroying his business. However, when the going is bad, the only way he can entice you to part with your hard-earned money is to make you feel good about what you buy. “When we shop, we get two benefits—utilitarian and emotional. By nature, people are greedy, so discounts are geared more towards appealing to our emotional side than fulfilling any utilitarian value,” says Parag Parikh, chairman, Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services.
    So, before you plunge into the ‘sale’ season, hone your scepticism and know how to spot the real bargain from among the plethora of sneaky tricks that sellers employ to lighten your wallet.
With the holiday season fast approaching, travel service providers will be gearing up to roll out bargains and hot deals. But on the flip side, it’s easy to get conned into picking a less-thansensible travel deal. Here’s a look at some things to watch out for before booking.
Promotion coupons
These could be standalone deals or come as part of a loyalty programme you’ve signed up for. Check the offer details carefully. You will invariably find that the discount applies only on the base amount. Given that the tax and fee part of the fare/tariff is often as fat, if not fatter, than the base amount, the discount you land will be disappointing, to say the least.
Free shopping and vouchers
Another common hot deal is offering free shopping worth a particular amount on partner sites if you buy something from the travel service provider. Too bad that to bag such discounts you will have to spend a far bigger amount at the respective partners’ sites. For instance, was promising free shopping worth 5,000 on every flight, hotel or bus booking, but you would have ended up spending over 12,000 at the partnering sites to bag the entire discount. These portals are careful to display the relevant fine print prominently, but there will be an ample number of players who will deliver the whammy to unsuspecting customers after they have parted with the cash.
Cashback schemes
The catch here is that there will be a ‘maximum limit’ somewhere in the details, which will be far lower than the amount you think you’re eligible for by doing the straight math. Another problem is that you will have to spend a minimum amount to be eligible for most such offers. Consider the Cleartrip promotion that claimed ‘Get up to 4,000 instant cashback’. When you delved into the details, you discovered that you got 2,000 back on booking international round-trip flights and another 2,000 only if you booked a two-night stay in an international hotel and the total tariff was over 9,000. So you end up spending at least 25,000 to save 4,000. The biggest red flag is if the offer includes a caveat like ‘hurry’ or ‘offer ends tomorrow’.
    Not every special offer or discount that you spot is a con job. Some sales are genuine because sellers need to get rid of unwanted stock or they require to earn money urgently to plough it back into their businesses. Spend a few hours researching on review sites, carefully read the offer details and ask pointed questions. Your real cost is only effort, but the reward is a true bargain.
Your wariness antennae should begin to quiver when you hear these words.
4-star or ‘similar’ hotel
Ask the agent to name all the hotels on his list. He may promise you a good room in a 3-star or 4-star hotel, but then give you a sorry room in a socalled ‘similar’ one.
Free stay
You may have a free room, but what about the taxes and other charges? Will all the meals be free too? Is the hotel easily accessible or will it charge you a bomb to use its transportation?
Additional night free
This sounds tempting but is rarely available when you actually book the hotel. Also, food or taxes will not be free and you may have to pay for sundry charges like pool usage.
Limited offers
These are for a short duration during nonpeak season and you will have to pay extra if you deviate from the dates. Check that the validity lets you hunt for bargain air fares too.
Free pick-up or touristing
Free sightseeing or pick-up is on a seat-in-coach basis, and the seats get filled up fast. Though a guide may be free, you will have to pay the entry charges at the sites you visit.
Discounts are fast losing their sanctity. They were once the primary vehicle to drive sales during the festive season, but now the distinct line between the discount and nondiscount season has vanished,” says Ankur Bisen, associate vice-president, retail and consumer products, Technopak. However, retailers now face a dilemma. Since customers are always looking for a good bargain, they’ve had to come up with innovative ways to please them, and still make a profit. Here’s how to interpret what you’re told.
Up to 70% discount
What it doesn’t tell you is that the promised discount is only available on select items that are either outdated or unwanted. If you are a regular buyer or had been scouting for a good deal just before sale season started, you can easily spot it. Commenting on a recent story by ET Wealth on ‘5 tips to avoid wasting money’, a reader, Sandeep Nangrani from Delhi, recounted his experience of wanting to buy an item from Big Bazaar for his kid’s room, which was priced at 3,000 in February this year. He postponed his purchase and found the same item on sale six months later. But this time, the original price was mentioned as 10,000, which the store said had been slashed on sale to 3,000.
    Sometimes, the company may itself have reduced the price, but most sellers will continue to list the previous one and announce a hearty discount on it. For instance, was till recently offering Micromax A100 phone for a discounted price of 9,999 on an MRP of 13,500. However, the company had officially launched the phone on 20 August at 9,999.
Buy two, get one free
This one has many variants—buy one, get one free; buy two, get three free; buy three and get the third at half price; buy items worth 5,000 and get a gift worth 500. Though the offer seems tempting, you end up spending more than you had planned for, and for items that you may not really need. In a lot of cases, you may still not be eligible because you didn’t go through the fine print carefully. For instance, Pepper was promising to gift you a 1 gm gold coin if you spend more than 14,000. However the T&C clearly states that the offer is valid just for three days and for the first 500 customers only. So, you may spend a sizeable amount without getting anything in return.
    You may often get a clearer picture only once you’re ready to pay the final bill. Here’s where retailers leverage behavioural economics to persuade you to buy. Since you’ve already spent ample time hunting for bargains, you won’t want to waste that effort. Plus, there is a sense of embarrassment if you have to leave all the items. What you should do is stick to what you actually want and ask the salesperson whether you could get even a 10% discount on the single item. Most stores don’t advertise this openly.
Convert into EMIs
While credit cards and loans have been offering this facility, most stores have also started providing it. They could even be offering 0% finance. What they aren’t telling you is that though you won’t be charged any interest, you will still have to make a sizeable down payment, as well as pay a processing fee. For instance, to convert a purchase of 20,000 into six months’ EMI, you will have to pay about 8,000 upfront and the processing fee will be 650-900. The longer the tenure or the bigger the amount, the higher the fee. The scheme is bound to tempt you to buy something you can’t currently afford, but you need to be sure if you can continue to pay for it in the long run. What if there’s an emergency and you miss a payment? You will then have to belt out a very high penalty. Another catch with such schemes is that the seller will be willing to offer it only on the MRP, not on the discounted price.
50,000 off on a new car worth 3 lakh
Nowhere are discounts more aggressive and enticing than in the automobile segment. Never be tempted by the big figure as it probably contains lots of bonuses, such as exchange bonus, corporate discount and loyalty bonus. You will probably not be eligible for most of these and, even if you are, the dealer will try to cover it up in other areas. Most corporate discounts are hardly significant and are the same across all car dealers. Where you do need to be careful is the exchange bonus. You should contact a few independent second-hand dealers to find out the true sale value of your car before being tempted by an illusionary bonus. Instead of free accessories, which will never cost as much as the dealer claims them to be, focus on the real discount.
Flash sales, auctions & bidding
As the online market expands, so do the methods to tempt customers. Flash sales and limited offers cash in on the urgency factor. They last for a day or two, or a week, at the maximum. The seller will press you into believing that the deal is available exclusively to you and for a very short period of time, but a bit of research will prove its fallacy. For instance, was offering an HTC Fiesta, where HTC phones were available at up to 70% discount only till stocks lasted. So, the MRP of the HTC Desire C was touted to be 19,990, and the phone was available on sale for 12,999. If, however, you use the ‘limited period’ discount voucher, you could buy the phone for only 11,699. The same phone is available on for 11,799.
    While opting for such deals, you must ignore the ticking clock. A lot of flash sales offer only a handful of deals at a time, and they need to constantly bring out new deals every week. There’s no guarantee that their inventory will be sold, which is why the old deals get repeated after some time. “There is so much choice available to buyers now that the only limit is the time they can expend on research,” says Bisen.
  NAMRATA DADWAL With Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal TOI120917

WEB SPECIAL....Alternatives to the world’s most popular WEB SERVICES

Alternatives to the world’s most popular WEB SERVICES

[] Replacement for Gmail
Where it scores
    Unlimited storage and Undelete:
We never thought Gmail’s gigabytes of inbox storage would seem insufficient, but that’s a problem for a lot of people these days. Outlook promises that the inbox capacity automatically increases as you need more space. And what’s more, you can even ask Outlook to recover your deleted messages. Email aliases: Outlook lets you create email ‘aliases’, such as, which can be really handy when signing up for a new website. Since your alias can be autosorted into its own folder, unsolicited mails won’t mess up your inbox. Additionally, you can choose to delete this alias at any time. Social Networking: Outlook has tight integration with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. When you open an email, the sender’s LinkedIn information as well as latest Twitter or Facebook posts show up in a pane on the right, along with options to Like or Retweet. Plus, you can chat with Facebook friends with the builtin messenger app.
Replacement for Google
Where it scores Zero-Click Info:
Search for any item and DuckDuckGo will give you a quick summary by collating information from different sources. So if you were to search for a movie, it will grab information from IMDB, Wikipedia and maybe even a booking site to give you relevant results. And you can ask the search engine “Who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1992” to get an instant answer.
    Privacy: Google is seen as the big bad villain when it comes to mining for your personal information on the internet. Duck-DuckGo goes the other way by not collecting any data about you, as well as not sending your private data to the sites you click on.
    !bang: A feature that DuckDuckGo users swear by, !bang is a shortcut to let you search within your intended site. For example, if you want to search for the word ‘coalgate’ on Facebook, just type !Facebook Coalgate in the search box and you’ll directly be taken to Facebook’s search results for the term.
Replacement for YouTube
Where it scores
    Finding Quality:
Finding an interesting video on YouTube is the proverbial needle in a haystack. Vimeo makes this much easier with the several ‘channels’ it has – started by users themselves – which curate cool videos from other users. Additionally, Vimeo does not allow commercial videos, gaming videos, pornography or non-user-generated content, ensuring that the clips are safe.
    Unlimited runtime: In the free acount, YouTube restricts the user to a maximum runtime of 15 minutes per video. So if you have anything longer, you need to split it before uploading. Vimeo does not have any such restrictions.
    Download it: When you come across a cool video, Vimeo allows you to simply download it for future consumption. There’s no need to fire up some fancy third-party downloader like with YouTube.
Replacement for Flickr
Where it scores
    Design & Discoverability:
Photography is a visual art, and it should be displayed in a pleasing interface. Flickr has long fallen short of that, but 500px makes up with a gorgeous design. What’s more, the site helps you discover new photographers through daily selections. And then there’s the ‘Flow’ section of the portfolio, which automatically arranges a user’s images by their aesthetic value rather than the upload date.
    Sell Your Work: Much like an artist sells his painting, you should be able to sell your photographs. And 500px makes this a lot easier by letting anyone buy an image on the site. The user earns $40 for every canvas print and $2 for a direct download of an HD image.
    Community: Flickr used to be an amazing community for photo enthusiasts and professionals in the early days, but those glory days are long past. However, 500px is where several professionals are heading after quitting Flickr, so the community is quite robust. And given that each photograph can have its own discussion, it’s a great place to learn more about the art.
Replacement for Facebook
Where it scores
Perhaps the killer feature of Google+ is Hangouts, the real-time group video chat platform. Whether you’re on the phone or using a computer, you can quickly set up a Hangout with up to 10 friends. ‘Live Hangout Stream’ lets you broadcast a live event to the whole world.
    Events & Photos: If you are hosting a party or function, you can make an Event page for it. The cool part, though, is that anyone attending it can upload their photos to the Event page in real-time, or at a later date. You get one page with pictures from everyone who clicked them at the event, and Google+ can even create a fun little slideshow video out of them. And what’s more, if you use Picasa, you can upload high-res photos to Google+, bypassing the default 2048x2048 size limit.
    Explore: Facebook puts you in touch with your own friends, but it doesn’t really let you discover people beyond that. Google+ comes with an Explore section that collates the top posts that you may be interested in, based on an analysis of your profile. Not only does this feature let you find new interesting people, but it also keeps you abreast of the latest happenings in news through the trending topics.

Mihir Patkar TL120916

INNOVATION SPECIAL..Apple’s Gillette Moment?

Apple’s Gillette Moment? 

iPhone 5 confirms what we long suspected — innovation in smartphones has plateaued. At least for now 

    Part of the problem for Apple, and its chief executive Tim Cook, was meeting the burden of expectations. This was one of the first really big launches since Cook took over and he was always going to be compared to Steve Jobs and the huge anticipation caused when the late Apple founder walked onstage. Couple that with the fact that this was an iPhone launch, and following just weeks after a major legal ruling in which a US court decided that arch-competitor Samsung infringed Apple phone patents when building its line of Android phones.
    In retrospect, no one, not even Apple, could match the burden of expectations it seems, and they must have realised this early on. And this was why, in the weeks leading up to the event, there were leaks galore among the tech blogs and tech press about what the new iPhone 5 would have — in retrospect it all looked an awful lot like expectation management. When it finally came out, the iPhone 5 was a damp squib.
    Mat Honan described the iPhone 5 in Wired magazine as “completely amazing, and utterly boring”. “It is the Toyota Prius of phone updates. It is an amazing triumph of technology that gets better and better, year after year, and yet somehow is every bit as exciting as a 25 mph drive through a sensible neighbourhood at a reasonable time of day....The iPhone 5 can simultaneously be the best phone on the market and really, really boring. And that has almost nothing to do with Apple and everything to do with our expectations.”
Five Blades, Up From Four
Its always a problem when a satirical show unwittingly, but near-perfectly, anticipates your product launch by years. In 1975, the popular Saturday Night Live show in the US, featured a mock tripleblade razor 23 years before Gillette released the real thing. And the Oniondid it again to Gillette, when, following the release of the four bladed-version, it parodied the launch of a five-bladed one. And sure enough, Gillette, on cue, went on to release the five-bladed razor. Apple, and to be fair, the rest of the smartphone industry, is having its own little Gillette moment in a way. Innovation as of now, is fairly predictable — bigger screens. Check. Sharper, more higher resolution displays. Check. One more photography app. Check.
    It doesn’t help that a large chunk of the smartphone business simply copied, sorry, was influenced by, Apple’s design. Perhaps the biggest innovation that Apple bought to the business with the first iPhone was touch, especially ‘capacitive’ touch. Till the iPhone, touch screens existed, but were a pain to use, depending as they did, on responding to the level of pressure that a human finger put on the screen. Modern smartphone screens, beginning with Apple, abandoned such ‘resistive’ screens altogether, leading to a quantum jump in the ease and comfort with which such screens could be used. It was a genuinely new, and far more intuitive way for users to interact with their phones.
    And because of the new way of user interaction, it led to a whole set of other changes — screens could become larger without allowing an increase in the size of the phone. This meant a much better experience for customers, for the uses for which smartphones are put to nowadays such as video or gaming. Of course, smartphone manufacturers, not being content with the automatic increase in screen size from moving to a touchbased phone, have gone ahead and built bigger phones anyway. And Apple, a laggard in this area, has jumped on the bandwagon, by increasing the size of the iPhone 5.
    It is a mark of a big innovation, such as capacitive touch, that it is followed by several less substantial and more incremental innovations. Interacting and moving between apps and screens now involves more intuitive hand gestures, rather than pressing buttons. There was a lot of hoopla over Swype — a new keyboard on Android phones that, rather than forcing you to type out each letter of a word on your phone, allowed you to input a word with one continuous motion of your finger across the keyboard, making input faster. The Nokia N9, the Finnish phonemaker’s stillborn experiment with a brand new mobile operating system to succeed its Symbian OS, did away with physical buttons on the phone altogether, such as the kind of home buttons that you find on an iOS or an Android device.
    But incremental innovations also add complexity, gilding the lily as it were. There’s now a wide range of touch gestures which make your interaction with the phone much more simpler and quicker. The key problem of course, especially for a new user, is remembering all of them (though it gets better with practice). This is more than reminiscent of the vast range of keyboard shortcuts available on desktops and laptops today. Who, beside really professional applications users, can remember all of them?
    The bottomline is that, like the five blade-razor, innovation in the user interface seem to have run its course at least for now. If there is a next big leap in smartphone innovation, it will be in this area. Apple made a start with Siri — its voice activated phone assistant. But Siri has not (yet) dramatically shifted the way that users use smartphones, unlike touch.
Who Cares?
But really, who cares? Even those most critical of Apple’s latest launch concede that the iPhone will be a huge seller, like all its predecessors. Its one thing, to bring in a radical new innovation, but even investors, who are notoriously high-maintenance, don’t expect you to do it every year.
    And indeed the comparison with Gillette is not all bad. For decades, till it was taken over by P&G, Gillette dominated the market for men’s razors (as well as a range of other products which were household names). In the 80s, it suffered what in retrospect was a short-term rout, when it didn’t anticipate the shift towards disposable razors. It was in 1989, that Warren Buffett, made a $600-million investment in the company. By 2005, at the time of Gillette’s acquisition by P&G, his holding in the company was worth around $5 billion. Gillette is a stock that has famously been beloved of smart, savvy investors.
    The real difference between Apple and Gillette of course is also the most obvious. Apple operates in a sector that is highly volatile, and subject to technological disruptions that can seemingly come from nowhere. Apple was a disruptor when it entered the smartphone business — it, more than any other company, knows that it has to constantly watch its back to avoid being disrupted.

:: Avinash Celestine SET120916

PERSONAL SPECIAL...Is Fear Holding You Back? 5 Ways to Find Your Courage

Is Fear Holding You Back? 5 Ways to Find Your Courage

Do you give it your ALL at work and in business…or are you afraid to make bold moves because you don’t want to fail…or worse…be disappointed?
Do you love openly and fully in your relationships…or do you hold yourself back out of a fear being hurt?
Do you give it your all in life? At everything you do?
Don’t fret just yet. Because most people hold themselves back in some way, in some aspect of life, whether they know it or not.
But not you….not anymore. Not after today. It’s time to start truly being you. It’s time to express yourself fully so you can be the most active version of yourself and truly fulfill your purpose.
Here are 5 fears to look out for so you can check in with yourself and make sure they’re not holding you back from living a passion-filled, purposeful life:

1-      They won’t like me!
You guessed it: it’s the fear of being rejected. Ask yourself: are you holding yourself back at key moments in life just because you fear being rejected? You might want to ask yourself why. Often a fear of being rejected stems from a tiny lack of self-confidence.
Solution: Don’t long for other people to validate you, your thoughts, or actions. Go for what you want and realize that if you’re “rejected” that’s just God or the lawfully-driven universe telling you that there’s a better, more constructive way for you to achieve your goals…you just haven’t found it yet. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Think of rejection as a merge left or merge right sign, not a stop sign.

2-      What if it doesn’t work!
Ahhh… the all too common fear of failure. Are you holding yourself back because you’re afraid to fail? 
Good news: what if we told you there’s no such thing as failure? Then you wouldn’t be afraid of it anymore and you certainly wouldn’t let this fear hold you back! 
Solution: Realize that failure is all in your head. There’s no such thing as failure, there are just results. When you get the results you want it means you should stay on course. And when you get results that you don’t want, it means you need to find out why, and then adjust your approach so you can keep going.
What would YOU go for in life if there were no such thing as “failure?”

3-      What if I actually make it!
You guessed it: the fear of success.
Surprised? We’ve all heard it before: many people “strive for success” but deep down inside they think they don’t deserve it. Don’t let this be you. Tell yourself everyday: “I deserve total success!”
Solution: Aside from reinforcing the idea that you DO deserve success, try to find any negative beliefs that could be holding you back…for some people it’s put-downs their parent or teachers told them when they were growing up. For others it’s the idea of our inherent imperfection or sinfulness or unworthiness (think original sin). Whatever it is for you, find it and get rid of it. You, like everyone else, totally deserve success.

4-      But I’m not perfect!
The all too common fear of imperfection.  
Do you hold yourself back because you’re afraid you’ll make mistakes? Because you think you’re not perfect? Guess what? Even your so-called mistakes are valuable learning experiences and they have nothing to do with who you are as a person (if they do, just adjust yourself so you become better, stronger, smarter).
Solution: Realize that right here, right now you’re totally perfect just as you are…Sure, as you live life you’re going to positively grow and learn. But that doesn’t mean that you’re inadequate or imperfect here and now. Everything you’ve learned up until now is all you need to take the next step in life. So, go for it.

5-      It makes no sense! 
 Sometimes we’re all just a little afraid in general…it’s the fear of chaos. Maybe you’re afraid to be yourself fully at work, in love, and in life because deep down inside you don’t trust the universe…Because you don’t truly believe that everything will work in your favor. 
A lot of these ideas stem form an unconscious acceptance of chaos theory… when we don’t trust that we’ll really get what we give in life.
Solution: truth be told, you get out of life what you put into it…If you’re holding back because of fear, you’ll get less satisfying results just because you were holding back. So let yourself go. Don’t hold back!

One World Initiative
About the authors: Cece Suwal and Mark Brener are coauthors of the national bestseller, A Guide To Your Supreme Power and cofounders of The One World Initiative, where you can discover your path to money, love, power, success, life purpose, and meaning.