Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Is Costco a good fit for you?

Posted in Business, Reviewson Sep 12, 2014

With Costco coming to Northern Colorado, I thought I would share some thoughts on why you would or wouldn’t want to get a Costco membership.

Costco is a good place to buy quality products, in larger quantities, at good prices, but that doesn’t mean your grocery budget will shrink.

Why Costco might not be a good fit:

  • If you are the type of person who is ok buying lower quality products at bargain prices, then Costco probably isn’t a good fit for you.
  • If you wait to buy groceries until you have a coupons to match with a sale, then Costco probably isn’t a good fit for you.
  • If you only buy groceries for the next few days, then buying groceries at Costco would require changes to you shopping methods.
  • If you only buy groceries for a couple of people, then the quantities purchased at Costco might be too much for you.
  • If you want things delivered to your home.
  • If you like asking store associates for help.

Why Costco might be a good fit:

  • If you buy a lot of organics, you might find Costco’s prices pretty competitive.
  • If you like to do a lot of dinner entertaining, Costco has great selections.
  • If you have a couple of hungry teenagers, Costco can sell you lots of food quickly.
  • If you normally buy the highest quality brands even when they are not on sale, Costco will sell you comparable brands at better prices.
  • If you don’t choosing between brands, Costco has already researched the best brands and will only sell you the brand they stand behind.
  • If you are looking to buy some big-ticket items (furnature, bikes, televisions), then buying it at Costco might save you more than your membership fee in a single purchase.
  • If you bake bread, Costco will sell yourflour and yeast in quantities you can’t get at King Soopers.
  • If you like shopping where employees are paid and treated well, you will find lots of happy employees at Costco.

If you still don’t know if Costco is a good fit for you, I suggest giving it a try. They have a satisfaction guarantee on your membership: if you try Costco but are unhappy with your membership, they will refund your membership fee. If you try products at Costco but are unhappy with them, you can easily return them (some electronics have a limited return window.)

Cheap cell phone plans

Posted in Business, Reviewson Sep 3, 2014

If you are spending hundreds of dollars on a cell phone plan that you don’t use very much, you are spending too much.  Here are a couple of different cell phone services for those people who only need a cell phone for talking a few minutes a day.

Ring Plus has plans starting at just $2/month for 50 minutes.  Apparently, you get to listen to advertisements instead of ringing. While there is no contract, this isn’t a strict pre-paid plan and you can incur (reasonable) overages. Operates on the Sprint Network.

Ptel provides a Pay As You Go with rates of 5 cents/minute.  You have to recharge your account with  minimum of $10 every 60 days.  They operate on the T-Mobile network, so you should be able to use any unlocked GSM phone.

FreedomPop operates on Sprint’s Data Networks.  From what I can tell, you use a FreedomPop VoIP client on the phone to make calls over a data connection.  Since calls go over data instead of voice, the reliability, coverage or call quality may not be as good in some areas.  However, they provide 200 minutes, 500 text messages, and 500 MB data for free every month.

H2O Wireless provides a Pay As You Go plan providing 5 cents/minute, with payments of $10 or more every 90 days.  They operate on AT&T’s network, and you can bring any unlocked GSM phone.

PagePlus is on Verizon’s network.  Their Pay As You Go rate is 10 cents/minute when you add $10 every 120 days.  They provide better rates when adding $25 or $50 to your account.

Because plans change all the time, you should take all this information as a general starting point and investigate your own plans.  I’ve only listed 5 services, but there are many more.  With all sorts of various plans including pre-paid, post-paid, pay-as-you-go and unlimited plans.

This table shows an average monthly cost for each service based on a set number of monthly minutes.  The rates do not consider text-messaging or data rates, do not include the cost of a phone, and may not be valid for variable month-to-month usage.

Monthly Minutes RingPlus Ptel FreedomPop H20 PagePlus Net 10
 10 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $2.50 $15
 30 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $3 $15
 50 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $5 $15
 100 min  $3  $5  Free  $5  $6.25 $15
 150 min  $4  $7.50  Free  $7.50  $9 $15
 200 min  $5  $10  Free  $10  $12 $20
 250 min  $6  $12.50  $8  $12.50  $12.50 $20
 300 min  $7  $15  $8  $15  $15 $20

Want to know more?  Ask a question in the comments.

Take note of this

Posted in Reviewson Apr 5, 2013

As I stated previously, I am evaluating different note taking systems. Here are my conclusions.

Google Keep really wasn’t impressive. Evernote and Springpad both did much better.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recently Google released Google Keep, which is suppose to be some sort of note-taking system.  I think I might need a note-taking system, but since I’m a little wary about using Google after they shut down Google Reader, I want to evaluate several note taking systems.  But before I start looking at any of them, I wanted to define my judgement criteria:

  • Platforms: must be able to use from a web browser and from Android.
  • Data export: can I get my notes back out of the system
  • Bookmarks: A lot of what I like to save for reading later are articles that I find online
  • Media types: What kinds of things can I keep?
  • Cost: Must be free
  • Organization: I need to be able to quickly find things, either through organization or searching
  • User Experience: How easy is it to use it?  Does it perform well?
  • Support: How likely am I to be still using it in 10 years?
  • APIs: Other than using their apps, are there other ways to put things into it?

There may be other things as well. Since I’ve never looked at any before, I’m not sure what I should be looking at.

Among the systems I’ll be reviewing: Google Keep, Evernote, Springpad, I’ll be looking at alternatives like keeping text documents in Dropbox.

As I make discoveries, I’ll note them in the comments.

Red Robin’s bottomless fries

Posted in Reviewson Dec 4, 2012

Red Robin offers “bottomless fries” with many of its burgers.  That is, if you order one of their burgers or other specified entrees, you can have as many fries as you can eat.

One of my favorite “tricks” to eating at Red Robin was to ask for the bottomless fries to be brought out immediately before the meal, so you have something to snack on while waiting for your burger to be cooked.

But no longer! Tonight, when I asked for my bottomless fries to be brought out earlier, I was told that it would cost an additional $2.  What?!?  So apparently refills of your fry basket are free, but only if you wait patiently for your hamburger.  Two dollars isn’t a huge cost, but I don’t think I should have to pay more just to get started on a bottomless amount of fries a few minutes earlier.

It is really too bad.  The whole bottomless fries “gimmick” was one of the things that contributed to a fun dining environment.  Unfortunately, not being able to dig into the fries (without paying more) has taken away from the dining experience, so I’m probably less likely to dine there in the future.  Sure, it has been a couple of years since I’ve been there anyway, but after bottomless disappointment tonight, I predict that it will be another couple of years until I go back.

What is the best root beer?

Posted in Reviewson Sep 9, 2010

I recently performed a taste test of various root beers to determine which is the best. I searched Fort Collins for every plastic bottled, non-caffeinated, non-diet root beer. I found 8 different root beers fitting this description, and I invited 10 people over to rate each root beer.

Each root beer was rated between one and five, with five meaning “excellent.” The results (showing the average scores) are:

  1. A&W – 4.0
  2. Big K (Kroger) – 3.7
  3. Refreshe (Safeway) – 3.5
  4. Mug – 3.4
  5. Walmart – 3.1
  6. Shasta – 2.8
  7. Vess (found at K-mart) – 2.5
  8. Dad’s – 1.3

The scores for A&W were all pretty positive, so if you were looking to bring a well excepted root beer to a party, you would find little complaining about A&W.  Walmart’s root beer had very mixed reviews, with some people hating it and others loving it.  It would make a good cheap alternative if you find that you are in the group of people who like it.  Kroger’s Big K root beer  had similar results to A&W, but with just a few people thinking it was less than average.

Our tasting of Dad’s root beer was very negative.  Not one person liked it, and most cared not to finish their sample.  It had a very bad aftertaste.  We conclude that they are either using a very unique and old recipe for old fashion root beer, or that we got a couple of bad bottles.

A quick word on our experiment setup:  We chilled all the root beers on the same shelf in the refrigerator.  About 10 minutes before guests arrived, we started pouring 2-3 oz samples into small disposable plastic cups.  Each set of samples was labeled with a letter A-H.  Each guest was given a score sheet to allow them to rate each root beer on a scale from 1-5.

Review of Oreo Cakesters

Posted in Reviewson Mar 3, 2010

Kraft recently sent me a coupon to try out Double Stuff Oreo Cakesters, and so I would like to tell you what I think about them.

First off, I found it hard to find a place to use my coupon. Target didn’t stock Double Stuff Cakesters, and King Soopers didn’t sell any at a price that the $3.39 max value coupon would cover. Finally I found a box selling at Walmart for $2.99.

There are five packages in the box, each package with two Cakesters. That puts eat package at almost vending machine prices.

These things aren’t healthy! Each Cakester will cost your diet 175 calories, or 150 calories for the package of two. Half of the calories come straight from sugar.

As far as the taste, these things are good, but not great. The chocolate cake tastes like it is full of preservatives, and the frosting has the same flavor as traditional Oreo filling, but with a creamier texture.

Overall, these things get a mediocre score from me. Definitely not my new favorite treat, but I’ll eat them if they are left in the cupboard.


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