Video Review and Brief Overview of Installation
Video Review and Brief Overview of Installation
Video Review and Brief Overview of Installation
Economy Issues Affect Change in Consumer Shopping Habits
By Betty Stephens
American household buying habits accounts for around 70% of the U.S. economy. What consumers shop for is seperated into two main categories. First, they spending on such items as food, clothing and shelter. Second, there is more discretionary spending. This is on items such as entertainment or non-essentials.
The good fortune of some and mis-fortune of others have caused financial ups and downs and a shift in the shopping habits of Americans have led to uneven outcomes for retailers. Companies like WalMart and Mattel have continued to struggle as people spend more cautiously in this type of uncertain economy. Amazon has however done well, as more consumers choose to shop on line.
Americans are very price conconscious, and will check as many as seven store or web sites for the best price before makes their purchases. I believe frugal is the the best word to describe the average American these days. Internet shopping rose 10% to $46.5 billion in November and December, according to research firm Comscore. However, sales at retail stores rose just 2.7% to $265.9 billion, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 40,000 stores in the U.S. And the number of customers in stores dropped 14.6%.
Industry exucutives are starting to say this new American frugallity may be beccoming a new reality and a new permanet way of life in America and they don’t expect to see it go away anytime soon, if ever, even as the economy shows signs of improvement. With family budgets under pressure since the recession of 2008, consumers have headed to discount stores, switched from name brand goods to private-label alternatives and shopped more often at discount stores or online rather than spending on expensive fuel to drive to out-of-town hypermarkets.
Those trends have benefited discounters as well as retailers that have the widest own-label ranges and networks of smaller stores, prompting consumer goods firms to retaliate with brand promotions and smaller packaging.
“If you look at data from Millennials, who have really sort of grown up with this, price is more important to them than it was to the last generation,” WalMart U.S. Chief Executive Bill Simon told the Reuters Global Consumer and Retail Summit, referring to the generation born between 1980 and 2000.
WalMart U.S. is the largest unit of WalMart Stores Inc (WMT.N), the world’s largest retailer which benefited from trading-down during the recession, but cut its forecasts last month, citing weak results in many key markets.
The U.S. economy is expected to pick up towards the end of the year, helping cut unemployment, while Europe’s lack luster recovery looks set to continue, although wage growth will continue to lag inflation, hurting consumer purchasing power.
The Dollar Channel
Dollar store has been on an upward trend for several years now. They have had a big impact on the discount store market and are competing head to head with other discount stores on the routine shopping trip stop. The Family Dollar Stores are adding cooler space to more than 1,000 locations this year, and Dollar Tree is adding to its food and beverage assortment as well as opening a third-party pharmacy in a Florida location. Efforts like these have contributed to dollar retailers winning over shoppers from other discount stors. The most sizeable change is the shift of heavy drug store shoppers—the top one-third of spenders within the catagory -into the dollar store family of stores. This is not a big surprise, as the both dollar stores and drug stores carry many of the same type of goods and both are well positioned, geographically, for easy-access, fill-in trips.
During the last year, Americans have been making less but larger shopping trips. Trips declined across grocery and large box stores. You might think the decline in stock-up trips would hurt Sam’s Club and Costco type stores, however trips have actually increased by 2.1% during the past year due to a number of factors. The club retailers are expanding the number of stores. Also, club trips are being bolstered by lower gas prices and low food inflation, which makes it easier for them to absorb bulk pricing. The dollar stores also saw trips increase significantly during the past year, which reinforces the notion that consumers are viewing dollar stores as a “smarter” choice for affordable solutions.
While people will continue to shop, the question now is what will they purchase, when will they purchase and where will they purchase. Name brand items are taking a backseat to generic or store brand products. Malls are beginning to show signs of weakness – a lot more stores are closing while consumers make their way to other, more affordable alternatives. Instead of going to one of the mall’s “anchor stores,” they are now going to places like WalMart, Target or K-Mart to purchase the things their families “need” rather than the things their families “want.”
LP Liquid Propane Shortage
By Betty Stephens
The price of the fuel that’s used to heat many north Iowa and southern homes has reached nearly $5 per gallon, and it’s leaving some people wondering how they’ll pay for their LP and many of them are now turning to local lawmakers. Some 14 million households use the liquefied gas to heat homes, especially in upper Midwestern states such as Michigan and Ohio, where the shortages have had the most impact.
The shortage has been blamed on a combination of a wet harvest and an extremely cold January but many people question that, saying he believes there’s more to the story. The U.S. has exported so much LP to Europe that Europe is actually sending us ships back to the East coast full of LP because the European reserves on LP are full.
In addition to the weather, inventories have also been stretched by short-term logistical problems and a long-term shift toward exporting more liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), production of which has surged due to the shale revolution.
Demand has been boosted by the combination of record freezing weather at the start of this year and a late, wet, record corn harvest last October and November, when large quantities of propane were used to dry out crops. Propane stocks have been drained and prices in the region are the highest since at least 1990. The industry is doing is literally working round the clock to move propane from where it is, in the large storage facility in Texas, using trains and trucks, pipelines and barges to where it is needed.
Prices have spiked for the fuel that nearly 6 million U.S. households rely on for home heating. Nationwide, propane prices averaged $2.86 per gallon last week, up 17% from the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Prices are even higher in some regions. Residential customers in New York State, for example, paid an average of $3.28 a gallon for propane last week, up from under $3 a gallon in December and 20% higher than at this time last year.
Prices are likely to go even higher as another blast of extreme cold weather is expected. Temperatures will be 10 to 25 degrees below average across much of the country. Temperatures below freezing could extend far south.
By Betty Stephens of Quest Media
Home Advisor was formerly known as Service Magic. Service Magic a 13-year-old company with $205 million in annual revenue officially relaunched as HomeAdvisor. Home Advisors connects service professionals with consumers seeking help with home improvement and repair projects. They help home owners find trusted home improvement contractors.
Home Advisor is the one of the most powerful lead generation tools around. Home Advisors offers customers with expertise and resources from the Home Advisor’s industry-leading service marketing department. Over 80,000 contractors count on Home Advisor. Since 1998, Home Advisor has been helping home improvement professionals generate new business by delivering highly targeted, real-time leads. Home Advisor maximizes marketing efforts by giving businesses total control of their customer experience.
They advertise that over 25 million home owners use their services. They offer homeowners the following features:
1. Free to use – never have to pay a membership fee.
2. Service pros pass a criminal and background check.
3. They can offer over 2 million ratings and reviews from home owners.
4. They have 24/7 emergency home owner support.
How Does It Work?
Steps: The customer tells about their project.
1. The customer selects a category for their repair or project.
2. The customer is then matched to the right pro for the job.
3. The customer receives four pre-screened pro reviews.
4. The customer selects a service pro.
5. Home Advisors sends the customer information to the service pro.
6. The service pro contacts the customer.
Link to their Web site: http://www.homeadvisor.com/how-it-works/
Their Web site is very informative and customer friendly. Its Suite of Tools allows you to review their Cost Guide, Resource Center, and Home 911 feature.
The Cost Guide feature allows you to review typical costs for project under these categories: Home Spaces, Home Features, Home Professional, and Home Solutions.
The Resource Center provides a list of articles and advice on projects.
The Home 911 section provides you with a Download Feature for your iPhone that allows you instant access to their service pros…
Cons: There have been complaints that customers have received calls from more than FOUR contractors. Some contractors just showed up at homeowner’s door without even calling, and some contractors were overly aggressive.
Note: Remember not all contractors give free estimate on things like repairs. Replacements and remodel projects, yes. But if you are expecting a technician to spend time diagnosing a problem, you will be expected to pay for his knowledge, expertise and time. Technicians don’t usually work on commission, salesman do. Keep that in mind.
By Betty Stephens of Quest Media
Angie’s List is a US-based website that aggregates verified consumer reviews of service companies as a way to “capture word-of-mouth wisdom.” Angie’s List has about 1.5 million subscribers throughout the United States and Canada who post an average of about 40,000 reviews each month. The concept behind the website is to certify their data collection process by only allowing paid and registered subscribers to access the website to prevent anonymous or biased reviews.
Formerly headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Angie’s List was co-founded by William “Bill” Oesterle and Angie Hicks in 1995. It was inspired by Hicks’ search for a reliable contractor in suburban Columbus on behalf of Oesterle, a venture capitalist and her former supervisor. She relocated to Columbus to join him in creating Angie’s List, which started as a call-in service and publication for reviews about home and lawn care. Hicks went door-to-door, signing up members and collecting ratings on local contractors. For a year, it was called “Columbus Neighbors”, the name and idea being patterned after the Indianapolis, Indiana-based community publication, Unified Neighbors. After solely recruiting more than 1,000 members in Columbus within one year, Hicks turned to Oesterle to raise money from investors in order to develop the business at a steady pace.
In 1996, Angie’s List purchased Unified Neighbors, from creator Bill Corbin and relocated its headquarters to Indianapolis. By 1999, the database of local services and reviews was moved to the internet. During the ensuing years, their customer base and business relationships grew throughout North America, while also expanding to include additional service industries such as health care and auto care.
CNN Money featured Angie’s List as one of the 100 fastest-growing inner city businesses in the nation, with their 2009 revenues reaching $45.6 million in 2011. According to their 10k, Angie’s List’s revenue last fiscal year was $90M.
Angie’s List grades companies using a report-card-style scale, which ranges from A to F; these ratings are based on the following criteria: price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism. Each company has its own page, which is composed of a description of its business along with the customer reviews. The aggregate grade is drawn from the combined reviews and grades given to the businesses from the consumers. Angie’s List employees are trained to identify any reviews that seem biased or sabotaged, so the overall rating will only reflect legitimate customer reviews. This process was reviewed and approved by BPA Worldwide during a 2009 audit Revenue for Angie’s List comes from member subscription fees, as well as advertising from businesses that have an overall grade of B or higher on the website.
Angie’s List is reputed to have a unique company culture, in that it encourages a laid-back yet innovative atmosphere. Communication is extremely open between management and staff, and ideas are encouraged from all employees, regardless of their positions. Angie’s List was named one of the Best Places to Work in Indiana in 2007 and 2008 by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The rankings for the list are based on the feedback of randomly selected employees at eligible Indiana businesses.
Angie’s List was also a finalist for the Nation’s Healthiest Employers of 2010. They have had a comprehensive employee wellness program for over 5 years, which includes about 30 different programs and events throughout the year. Employees are offered health, life and dental insurance, as well as access to the fitness programs and the on-site fitness center. They are encouraged to participate in various events created to foster a team environment and boost company spirit.
Angie’s List estimated that its annual revenue in 2008 was $58 million, generated primarily through advertising in its newsletter and membership fees. Angie’s List has not published its annual expenses or net income.
Membership fees are based on volume of service providers at a given location. For example, Angie’s List reported the following annual membership fees as of 4 December 2009:
• Charlottesville, Virginia — $10
• Stamford, Connecticut — $32
• Beverly Hills, California — $36.25
• Pompano Beach, Florida — $47
In 2010, Angie’s List raised a total of $25 million in capital from investors. In September 2010, Wasatch Funds and Battery Ventures invested $22 million. In November 2010, Saints Capital led an additional funding of $2.5 million.
On November 17, 2011, Angie’s List began trading on the NASDAQ exchange under the ticker symbol ANGI. It priced 8.8M shares at $13 and opened for trading at $18, a 33% premium.
Consumers pay a small membership fee to join Angie’s List. They offer different membership options though, so pricing varies depending on your needs and where you are located in the country. In certain grassroots chapters where we’re still building the List, consumers can join for free for at least one year. The price can vary depending on the part of the country you’re interested in and how long you plan to use the service. The Angie’s List membership fee ensures that you get certified, reliable data on the services you need, provides for live staff support and enables the delivery of our award-winning magazine straight to your door.
See the example of a monthly plan for the lowest upfront cost in the Houston area.
Angie’s List Bundle: Member favorite! The most services at the best price
Plan Dues Signup Fee Total Discount
Monthly $4.40 $10.00 $14.40 0%
1 year $39.00 $0.00 $39.00 26%
2 years $70.00 $0.00 $70.00 34%
3 years $99.00 $0.00 $99.00 38%
4 years $125.00 $0.00 $125.00 41%
Getting On the List as a Service Provider
Most providers on the List were added when a member submitted feedback on them. At that time, Angie’s List sets up a complete profile for the business to go along with the member’s review. If someone wants to add a new company that they used to the List, follow these steps:
First, click Write a Review in the banner. Search for the company by name to confirm that they’re not already on the List and then click the small link for “Can’t find the provider you need? Add them to the list.”
Next, select type of work the provider did for you. Businesses that take care of work around your home, auto and yard are on our Classic List. We have our medical categories broken in to sub-categories to cover doctors, health insurance companies, medical retail stores, and hospitals. Classic Car (vehicles 25 years or older) specialists are also separated from our regular Auto category.
Then, enter the provider’s contact information so we can set up a business profile.
On the following page select the specific service that describes the work the company performed for you. Enter the service category and click Apply Category. Add as many as you need and then select Continue to begin writing you review.
Add Your Business
A company or health care professional may set up a free profile so that their contact information will appear on the List. However, they will not be rated and will be listed after businesses with reviews. Providers use their profiles to check their reviews and maintain their reputation in the Angie’s List community. However, companies can also create a free account and appear without a rating on the List. Once your company is registered, you may log in at any time to review and update your company’s profile, check your ratings, and read and respond to new reviews. Registration is quick and easy. On the first step, just enter your company’s name and zip code. They will check to see if they already have any information on your business.
See example login on the next page.
If you don’t see your company in the potential matches, just select Add Company.
A company or health care professional may also set up a free profile to check their reviews, keep their contact information up-to-date, and maintain their reputation in the Angie’s List community. However, providers that don’t have reviews yet will be listed after businesses that have earned ratings from our members. If you are a provider and want to appear on the List, see how to get started!
Providers Can Advertise
Angie’s List does allow providers that earn an average of an “A”- or “B”-rating to advertise in the form of discounts available to our members. Only companies that maintain their positive ratings are offered this privilege. If a company’s rating falls below a “B” or if they fail to respond to a Complaint Resolution case, we remove their coupons from our magazine and website.
Companies and health professionals are not obligated to offer coupons, nor does their decision to advertise affect their rating on Angie’s List.
If they choose they can sort search results to see providers offering discount first, but they can also choose not to display these results. This search option doesn’t change the provider’s grades and companies can’t pay to show up at the top of the List for every search under any setting.
Report Date: 1/12/2008
Was Work Done?: YES
* More weight is given to a report where work has been completed.
Hire Again?: YES
App. Cost: $400
Home Build Year: 1957
*Build Year date helps you locate companies that work on homes that are similar in age to your own.
Description of Work: Replaced a burst outdoor faucet, which required digging a roughly 4 x 2 foot hole.
Member Comments: The faucet burst on Christmas Eve, so this was messy work in very cold weather. They were hampered a bit when my dog jumped in their hole to try to bury a chicken leg. They were prompt, cheerful & courteous (they even disposed of the chicken leg for me). They kept the dirt on a tarp and completely and tidily replaced it afterward. I’ve used this company repeatedly, which happens when you have a 50-year-old house, and they’ve always gone above and beyond. They warranty their work and nothing has ever gone wrong. On previous jobs, I’ve pulled the “while you’re here, could you look at this, too?” bit. They’ve done so if their schedule allows, but sometimes said they couldn’t, which shows me they respect the customers who are after me.
1030 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
EPA Regulations on R-22 / SEER Ratings
By Betty Stephens of Quest Media
The EPA has begun phasing out the production of R-22 and has banned the production of HVAC equipment that uses R-22 in compliance with Title VI of the Clean Air Act. The refrigerant that replaces R-22 is R-410A. R-410A is an HFC refrigerant blend with common trade names such as GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.
R-22 will be manufactured on a limited basis after this year and after 2020 will not be manufactured after… The EPA suggests that contractors to recycle and rescue as much R-22 to be used to continue to service existing units…
R-410A requires more pressure to cool, so therefore it requires new compressor and piping. Both the outside and inside unit must be replaced and current piping would need to be flushed with a special chemical.
The use of R-410A, as opposed to R-22, does not affect the HVAC unit’s energy efficiency. The energy efficiency is determined by a system’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). As of 2006, the minimum SEER rating allowed to be manufactured in the U.S. is a 13 which is 30% more efficient than a 10 rating. To receive the ENERGY STAR, a system must have a minimum 14 SEER rating. Currently, you can find a residential split-system with a SEER rating of 20 or more, but at a substantial cost over the standard SEER 13 units.
Systems with R-22 may find as the manufacturing of the product is reduced, the supply becoming difficult to find. “Also the price of R-22 is rising. Although the continued use of existing appliances with R-22 is not banned nor is the EPA mandating all R-22 equipment be converted, that is a factor that a homeowner should take into consideration when faced with repairing or replacing their system. More factors to take into consideration are the cost, energy efficiency, reliability, and performance. The life span of the outside condensing unit is usually around 15 years and the furnace around 20 years.
To learn more click the following link for EPA’s phase out of R-22 and R142b:
AMBIT ENERGY COMPANY
Written By: Betty Stephens of Quest Media
Ambit Energy is a United States multilevel marketing retail electricity and natural gas provider that serves residential and commercial customers in states where energy has been deregulated. Corporate headquarters are located in Dallas, Texas, and operations/call center headquarters are located in Plano, Texas. Ambit Energy was founded in 2006 in Addison, Texas by Jere Thompson Jr. and Chris Chambless.
Electric and natural gas Customers throughout California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, D.C. are choosing Ambit Energy as their choice in energy today. Ambit has grown to serve over 1 million Customers in only six years. And, it is said that those who make the switch often stay with Ambit for the signature perks they offer. They offer free energy when a customer refers 15 new Customers, or the customer may choose Travel Rewards for trips and cruises. They have created one of the most attractive Customer rewards programs in the industry. Once the customer signs up, they can begin the benefits of being an Ambit Energy Customer right away.
Ambit also offers an app for convenience in the palm of the customer’s hand. Depending on service territory, customers can enjoy freedom to pay bills, view usage and update account details from any web-enabled device.
Ambit Energy obtains customers through a network of independent consultants who work directly with the customers. Ambit Energy uses direct selling and is a member of the Direct Selling Association of America. Direct selling is the marketing and selling of products directly to consumers away from a fixed retail location.
• Ambit Energy was named 2010’s Fastest Growing Privately Held Company by Inc. 500 and placed 390 in 2011.
• Ambit Energy placed 15th on the Direct Selling News Global 100 List in 2011 and 14th in 2012.
Ambit Energy Customers in Texas receive transmission and distribution services from the following energy companies:
1. AEP Texas provides electricity to residents throughout southern and western Texas.
2. CenterPoint Energy provides electricity to the 5,000 square mile footprint of the Houston metropolitan area.
3. Oncor provides electricity to residents of northern, western and central Texas.
4. TNMP provides electricity for western and northern central Texas, as well as areas of the Gulf Coast region.
Ambit has been criticized for its direct sales model, and for being a multi-level marketing company. In May 2011, Ambit was sued by a consultant, who alleged that Ambit’s structure is a pyramid scheme. By August 2012, after several amendments and alterations to the original complaints including the removal of all allegations of fraud, a judge dismissed the case.
Ambit’s sales representatives have also been accused of overstating the benefits of participation, and of being overly aggressive in marketing to vulnerable customers such as the elderly, and non-English speakers, who might not fully understand the complexities of energy pricing.