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A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Technology - All posts in category Technology

  • Mar 5, 2012
    2:37 PM ET

    Has the Facebook Friend Bubble Burst?

    iStockphoto

    Friendships are increasingly breaking up among Facebook’s 800 million members.

    The percentage of people who “unfriend” other Facebook members rose from 56% in 2009 to 63% in 2011, according to a new Pew Research study. Women seem to be second-guessing their online relationships the most: some 67% say they deleted people versus 58% of men. Likewise, young adults are more active “unfrienders” when compared with older users: 71% of those between 18 and 29 deleted people versus 63% of those aged 30 to 49. (A Facebook spokeswoman says it introduced privacy measures in recent months so users could restrict rather than unfriend others.) Language expert Alan M. Perlman says it’s more than just friends who over-stay their welcome due to excessive self-revelation or bland status updates like, “I just ate breakfast” or, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.”

  • Feb 29, 2012
    11:15 AM ET

    Daily Deal’s Cheap Movers (Truck Not Included)

    iStockphoto

    Moving house? Or fancy a little spring cleaning? When buying a daily deal service to help around the home, take warning: the extra charges could end up costing even more than the actual offer.

    A recent offer from Living Social and A-Z Moving offered a discount of 60% by paying $63 for “Two Hours of Moving Services with Two Men and One Truck.” But according to the fine print: “Additional services, travel time/fuel, tolls and packing materials not included and will be billed at regular price.” The “travel time/fuel” alone costs an extra $79 — bringing the total to $142. A spokesman for A-Z Moving says moving services costs can vary, depending on the service; Brendan P. Lewis, a spokesman for Living Social, says the site will waive its five-day refund policy on this deal. “Always read the fine print,” he says.

  • Feb 23, 2012
    4:56 PM ET

    Want an iPad 3? Sell Your iPad 2 Now

    iStockphoto

    Listen up, Apple fans: save your personal files to your iCloud in the sky, and delete your apps – because the time is nigh to sell your iPad 2.

    Re-sale prices for the iPad 2 will fall as the official launch date for the iPad 3 — widely expected to be March 7 — edges closer, experts say. Consumers can expect to see a steep decline in value in the two to three weeks prior to the unveiling of the newer device, says Mark LoCastro, spokesman for sale aggregator site DealNews.com. “You’ll receive a higher resale value for your used device if you part with it now, rather than waiting for the newer generation to be announced,” he says.

  • Feb 22, 2012
    1:30 PM ET

    Kindle Fire Owners May Carry a Torch for iPads

    Getty Images

    Those who purchased Amazon’s Kindle Fire appear to be using it as a stepping-stone to the more expensive iPad, a new survey finds.

    Some 53% of consumers who bought the $199 Kindle Fire – which was released last November – say they plan to buy the iPad 3 when Apple’s newest tablet is expected to debut next month, according to a survey of 1,300 people by deal aggregation site TechBargains.com. What’s more, 85% of those Kindle Fire owners say they will buy an iPad 3 when it’s finally released in order to upgrade their current tablet. (Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.)

    The Kindle Fire is cheaper than the iPad 2 – which starts at $499 – but analysts say it may be the “starter tablet” of e-readers. “You could call it starter home or starter husband,” says Yung Trang, president of TechBargains.com. “It would be a mistake to buy it because you think it’s comparable to the iPad and maybe that’s why people may be intending to upgrade to the iPad 3 so quickly after buying a Kindle Fire.” He says the Kindle Fire has two main advantages: it’s cheap and it’s sold by a strong brand, Amazon.com. It also has Wi-Fi, access to Android apps and games, and – unlike the iPad – it runs Flash video websites.

  • Feb 16, 2012
    2:38 PM ET

    Parking Meters in the Driveway

    About a year ago, we wrote about homeowners renting out rooms in their mansions to earn a bit of cash and potentially stave off foreclosure. Now there’s an easier, less intrusive way to pimp out your residence: rent your driveway.

    Getty Images

    In early March, ParkatmyHouse.com will launch in the U.S., debuting in Northeastern cities like Boston, Philadelphia and D.C. The service helps match homeowners with drivers seeking parking in all types of locations – near commuter train stations, large sporting venues and conference centers. The site is already a hit in the United Kingdom, where more than 20,000 property owners earned money off their concrete. “We’ve all spent too much time driving around the block for half an hour trying to find a space,” says founder Anthony Eskinazi, who got the idea after circling streets for a spot at a San Francisco Giants game.

  • Feb 15, 2012
    11:52 AM ET

    Clash of the Coupon-Clipping Titans

    J’aime Kirlew/TLC

    Coupon-clipping seems like a wholesome pastime. But the latest season of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” resulted in allegations of fraud and reignited a feud between J’aime Kirlew and Jill Cataldo — two of the country’s biggest coupon-clipping moms.

    The Coupon Information Corporation, a non-profit industry watchdog, expressed its “continued disappointment” with “Extreme Couponing” over a recent episode allegedly showing a 16-year-old in Burbank, Ca. using fake coupons to get 408 rolls of toilet paper for free. With the cameras rolling, the store went along with the transaction and the boy wheeled seven carts of toilet paper out of the store. However, after conducting an investigation, the CIC says the store denied payment for the counterfeit coupons and contacted the show, but the minor’s mother repaid them for the pilfered paper.  The CIC wants the show to retain an independent industry expert “to insure the integrity of future episodes” and follow the rules pertaining to couponing. (Dustin Smith, a spokesman for TLC, declined to comment on the issue.)

  • Feb 9, 2012
    11:38 AM ET

    Apple Fans Protest, Keep iPhones

    iStockphoto

    Protestors angered by the conditions at Apple’s factories in Asia will deliver a petition with 250,000 signatures to Apple stores around the world. Just don’t expect them to give up their iPhones.

    On Thursday, in a coordinated effort around the world, a group of Apple customers led by Change.org, a for-profit social change advocate that earns money from providing services to non-profits, says they won’t be burning their iPhones and iPads, or even recycling them. (A spokeswoman for Change.org says it doesn’t sell access to email addresses of those who subscribe or sign its petitions.) In fact, they say they love Apple and want to keep using their products. “I love them and I don’t want to stop using them,” says Sarah Ryan, a human rights organizer at Change.org. “They are the best products that are out there.”

  • Feb 8, 2012
    3:43 PM ET

    Tweeting from Beyond the Grave

    iStockphoto

    Those who thought gravestones with barcodes were creepy are unlikely to “like” the latest evolution of digital immortality: Tweeting, emailing and updating Facebook from the other side.

    People can do little to erase their digital footprint after they die, but some are at least trying to have the last word. For 99 cents, the iPhone app “If I Die” could probably be more accurately named “When I Die.” It gives Facebook users one last posthumous status update. The running gag for some gravestones (“I told you I was sick”) could be one option. But might some people who are terminally ill or depressed be tempted to use it as suicide note? Eran Alfonta – CEO and founder of Willook.com, which created the app – says he created it so people could preserve their legacy and commune with the living in a kind of online séance. “Kings and emperors had the privilege to create monuments like the Pyramids in Giza, the Taj Mahal in Agra or the Temple in Jerusalem, in order to tell their stories,” he says.

  • Jan 24, 2012
    2:26 PM ET

    Target’s ‘Unique’ Plan to Raise Prices?

    Reuters

    Target’s plan to stock more “unique” items that can’t be found elsewhere could have a not-so-special impact on consumers, say analysts: higher prices.

    The Minneapolis-based store says the move is aimed at preventing customers from “showrooming,” according to a recent letter sent to stores from the retailer’s headquarters. This practice involves consumers checking the price of goods, seeing what they look and feel like up-close, and then buying them elsewhere – often at a cheaper price from online retailers like Amazon.com. As part of the new initiative, Target will also test Apple displays in 25 of its stores that will have an assortment of products that can only be bought at Target. Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target, says the company wants to provide a “superior guest experience” and says it strives to maintain competitive prices. She declined to comment on the specifics of the new product lines.

  • Jan 18, 2012
    3:23 PM ET

    5 Reasons Apple Fans Don’t Care About Its Factories

    iStockphoto

    Crowds grew unruly outside Apple’s flagship store in Beijing last Friday. But they weren’t there to protest over working conditions at Apple’s Asian manufacturers — they were after the new iPhone 4S.

    That day, Apple released a report stating that 62% of its suppliers failed to comply with working-hour limits and five facilities employed underage workers. There has also been a spate of worker suicides at a major Apple supplier, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. in Taipei, Taiwan. Apple, which declined to comment, has not been accused of any wrongdoing in relation to the suicides. “We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn,” Apple said in a statement last year (Foxconn is the trade name of Hon Hai.) And the company’s 27-page report into working conditions in its factories says, “We require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions” and “treat workers with dignity and respect.”

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.