Archive for August, 2010

99 Cents Only: The real impact of the “price hike” to 99.99 cents

August 31, 2010

In September 2008, 99 Cents Only Stores (NYSE: NDN) across the states of California, Arizona, Texas and Nevada raised their top prices for the first time in 26 years  to 99.99 cents “in response to dramatically rising costs and inflation”, according to Chief Executive Officer Eric Schiffer.  As you can see in excerpts of the news conference, major television stations in Southern California such as ABC7 and NBC4, as well as the satellite and cable television business news channel, CNBC, were on hand to broadcast the unprecedented announcement locally as well as nationally and internationally.

99 Cents Only Stores was hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices, as well as allegations that the company failed to warn the public about the less-than-one-cent price increase.I remember watching the news conference in 2008 with great interest, especially because one my classes in graduate school covered a lengthy case study about 99 Cents Only.  The economy was in better shape when I took that class, so the thought of any price increases was unheard-of at the time, but we know better now.  It seems that the extra $12 million from the price increase would make a minimal impact on the total sales of $1.2 billion that 99 Cents Only reported in the year that ended in March 2008.  However, with a net income of $2.89 million, measures such as the price increase were necessary to make sure that the company’s net income remains stable.

99 Cents Only Stores was hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices, as well as allegations that the company failed to warn the public about the less-than-one-cent price increase.The news that the company was recently hit with two class-action lawsuits alleging unfair and deceptive business practices surprised me, as did Schiffer, who said, “We changed all the signs, we have a large poster in the window of every store explaining the increase, we put it in our ads in the newspaper, we put it on the radio.”  The coverage about the price increase in Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Reuters was, apparently, not enough to inform the public.

How much are the 99 Cents Only Stores’ customers being “gouged” as a result of the price increase?  Let’s use an example, years apart:

In 2006, a family decides that they want to donate 150 cans of soup to a local food bank.  They buy all 150 cans at a 99 Cents Only Store in Los Angeles.

150 cans * $0.99/can = $148.50
$148.50 * (1 + 8.25% tax) = $160.75

Four years later in 2010, the same family decides to donate another 150 cans of soup to another food bank.  They buy the soup from the same 99 Cents Only Store.  For the sake of comparison, I left the tax the same.

150 cans * $0.9999/can = $149.99
$149.99 * (1 + 8.25% tax) = $162.36

However, the sales tax in Los Angeles County went up from 8.25% to 9.75% in 2009, so this is how much the family is really paying:

$149.99 * (1 + 9.75% tax) = $164.61

Difference in subtotals between 2006 and 2010:
$149.99 – 148.50 = $1.49

Difference in final totals (if the sales tax remained the same)
$162.36 – 160.75 = $1.61

Actual difference in final totals
$164.61 – 160.75 = $3.86

When comparing the subtotals, you can see that the price increase added a mere $1.49 to the subtotal and, if the same sales tax was used, the final total went up $1.61.  However, the updated sales tax must be used instead, so the actual difference between the final totals is $3.86.  In Los Angeles County, at least, the sales tax was the reason for higher prices.

Do you think the accusations against 99 Cents Only are justified or unfounded?  Post your comments below.

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Francis M. Unson

Favicon: Why your website needs one

August 26, 2010

When you are going about your business on the Internet, have you wondered about the icon next to the title of the web page tab you are on and how it got there?  The design of that little icon is related to the artwork associated throughout the website you are on and is called a favicon.

If you're a webmaster, you cannot forget to include a "favicon", a graphical representation of your website which allows you to brand the site and increase its prominence in your visitor's Bookmarks or Favorites menu.Why do you need a favicon?  It allows you to brand your site and increase its prominence in your visitor’s Bookmarks or Favorites menu.  Graphical representations of your website, especially in browsers with hundreds of saved website links, will not only help visitors find the link to your website more easily but can allow them to visit your website more often.  What happens, then, if you stumble upon a website without a favicon?  Websites that do not have a favicon assigned to them will be provided with a generic favicon — a bland sheet of paper dog-eared at the upper right corner.

How can you make sure you brand your website with a custom, memorable favicon emblematic of your site?  By making a favicon of your own, of course!  There are many websites you can choose from to create a favicon, but I recommend Dynamic Drive’s FavIcon Generator.  The directions are relatively straightforward.

  1. Browse your computer for the image you wish to turn into a favicon.  Make sure the image is in the file format .bmp, .gif, .jpg, or .png.  All icons will be saved in the file format .ico.  Do not select any of the options.  Click on the “Create Icon” button.
  2. A preview of the favicon will be generated, displaying what it will look like in the address bar of the browser.  Even though the preview uses an address bar reminiscent of Internet Explorer 4 or 5, the favicon generated will look the same in Firefox, Google Chrome, or any other browser released after 2004.  Click on “Download FavIcon” and save the favicon to your hard drive.
  3. In order for your new favicon, “favicon.ico”, to be seen on your website, you must upload it.  Connect to the web server hosting your site and upload the favicon to the root directory.  You may also upload it to the image folder of your site if you wish.
  4. Depending on the markup used on your site (HTML or XHTML) or your browser preferences, you must insert the appropriate <link> tag in the HEAD section of all the web pages of your site.  Use this guide if necessary and make sure that the <link> tag contains all three attributes: rel, type, and href.
  5. After you save the changes to your site, go through it with a few web browsers and make sure the favicon has been uploaded and referenced correctly.  If the favicon remains a dog-eared sheet of paper, the address contained in href may be incorrect and may not be pointing to the favicon’s location.

Remember, you’re creating a favicon for your website so that it stands out on your visitors’ web browsers.  Whether they add your site to their bookmarks or bookmark toolbar, a visual representation of your website will help them remember your site easier and access it more often.  If you want to brand your site on your visitors’ web browsers, start small with a favicon.

UPDATE: HTML-Kit, “a full-featured editor for HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and other text files”, has made creating and inserting a favicon to your site a snap.  How quickly can you have a favicon up and running for your site?  According to their tutorial below, in under a minute:

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Francis M. Unson

 

Cheap Travel Deals: Interview with Hanz and Hachelle Pena, Owners (part 3)

August 12, 2010
  1. Please retweetAre you looking to hire in the coming year?
    Hanz: Absolutely, especially when the Cheap Travel Deals begins to expand.
  2. What have you done to go the extra mile for your client?  Please explain.
    Hanz: This happened to me when I was still at the Santa Clarita location.  It was a Saturday.  We had 20 reservations for rental cars.  Our area manager did not provide us with enough cars.  I foresaw that this was going to be a problem as we were provided just 10 cars to cater to 20 reservations.  Sure enough, by around 11AM to 11:30, we ran out of cars, and there were still 10 people without cars.  What I did was call the area manager and location manager and asked them, “What do you want us to do?  We didn’t receive any more cars.”  I waited for a callback from them but did not receive one within 15 minutes, so I told my co-worker to get all the addresses of the still-carless customers.  We were forced to close early so I could find more cars for the customers.  Take note, there wasn’t even a company car that I could use to drive my colleague to get the cars from surrounding locations and deliver them to the customers.  Basically, despite a shift of 9AM-12PM, my colleague and I worked until 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  I was driving my own car, taking my colleague to North Hollywood and back to the customer and back to North Hollywood again.  North Hollywood only gave us with three cars, so I called Burbank Airport.  I begged them, “You know, I have gold members and they have advanced reservations.  I cannot say no because they have reservations.”  So from 11:45AM-4PM, that’s what I’ve been doing.  I didn’t even think about getting reimbursed for gas or getting paid for the mileage for my own personal vehicle.  On top of that, I was off the clock.  If that is something I would have done for somebody else’s business, what more would I do for my own business?
    Hachelle:  Two weeks ago, I had a customer who bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica.  She’s an elderly lady.  She called and said that she needed a plane ticket to Costa Rica, adding that she “was traveling on her own”.  I told her, “Do you have Internet access?”  She replied, “Umm, I’m too old for that.  I can’t do that.”  I told her, “Okay, I’ll do it for you.  I’ll book you online.  Just check your email and print your ticket.”  She said, “I don’t have a printer.”  I told her, “Okay, I’ll print the tickets for you and I’ll just mail them to you.”  She said, “No, I want the tickets now.”
    Hanz: Luckily, she was local.
    Hachelle: Yes, luckily, she lived here in Valencia, so I told her, “I’ll just drop the ticket off.  Give me your address, and my husband and I will go to your home, and we will drop off your ticket.”

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Francis M. Unson

Cheap Travel Deals: Interview with Hanz and Hachelle Pena, Owners (part 2)

August 11, 2010
  1. Please retweetWhat is the niche that makes you stand out above everybody else?
    Hachelle: I worked with Princess Cruises for about three years, so I have extensive knowledge about cruises and land tours.
    Hanz: I have been with Hertz Rental for over four years.  Being in customer service, I realized that the key to succeeding in customer service is to make your customers happy.  There is no better reward than to see that face on your customer.
    Hachelle: Both of us have customer service experience and backgrounds in my former job and his current job.
  2. What products and/or services do you offer?
    Hachelle: We offer lots of products such as 3- and 7-day cruise packages.  We also offer extensive land and sea tours throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia.  If you’re really adventurous, we even offer an African Safari.
  3. What kind of promotions do you have?
    Hachelle: We have lots of weekly and monthly promotions with cruise lines and special rates for flights and hotels through Montrose.
    Hanz: We also offer special discounts of 15% for rental cars.
  4. What do you like about working in the Santa Clarita Valley?
    Hanz: Compared to other cities or towns I have lived in, the Santa Clarita Valley is a very, very family-oriented town.  It’s the environment I want to raise a family in, especially with my two-year-old daughter.
    Hachelle: I love that this town is very family-oriented.
  5. In terms of your business, what are you looking forward to in the coming year?
    Hanz: We are looking to expand and grow the Cheap Travel Deals, providing travel services to the Santa Clarita Valley, nationwide and, eventually, worldwide.

    (to be continued…)

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Francis M. Unson

Cheap Travel Deals: Interview with Hanz and Hachelle Pena, Owners (part 1)

August 6, 2010
  1. Please retweetWhat are your names?
    Hanz and Hachelle Pena
  2. What is the name of your business?
    The Cheap Travel Deals
  3. What year did you establish your business?
    2010
  4. How did you go about getting your business started?
    Hachelle: We went through a host agency called Montrose Travel, so we are basically an independent contractor affiliated with them.

    (to be continued…)

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Francis M. Unson

The Cheap Travel Deals

August 4, 2010

Picture this: You are planning a trip for your family, hoping to find and book cheap flights, airline tickets, cheap hotels, vacations and rental cars on your own.  However, instead of going through a travel agency, you decide to book all parts of the trip individually.  After much research, you find out about the flights, car rentals, hotels, and attractions at your dream destination.  Just days before the trip, you think you have covered everything.  You and your family go on the trip, but you have a nagging suspicion that you may not have booked the cheapest flight or hotel, or that the additional destinations of a land tour that you paid extra for were included for that other family who happens to be on vacation, as well.

Leave the planning of your next vacation to the Cheap Travel Deals.  They will help you book travel for less with specials on cheap airline tickets, hotels, cruises, car rentals, and flights.

Hachelle and Hanz Pena

If you would like to avoid the uncertainty of not getting the most out of your travel dollar, leave the planning of your next vacation to the Cheap Travel Deals.  Hanz and Hachelle Pena established the Cheap Travel Deals in 2010 with the goal of helping people book travel for less with specials on cheap airline tickets, hotels, cruises, car rentals, and flights.  Due in large part to the Penas’ background in customer service, the Cheap Travel Deals can provide expert information covering far more than just travel destination information.  Whether you are an individual business traveler, honeymooning couple, family, company in need of a corporate travel management partner, or a business in need of group travel arrangements, you can turn to Hanz and Hachelle Pena to make all the arrangements for you and provide you exceptional customer service with a personal touch.  Booking through them also gives you access to a number of special deals available only through them such as:

  • 15% discount on car rentals
  • Domestic and international flight promotions
  • Exclusive special value hotel rates
  • Guaranteed lowest price when you purchase your cruise or vacation package through them

Give them a call, book that vacation you’ve been putting off, and the Penas of the Cheap Travel Deals will take care of the rest.

Leave the planning of your next vacation to the Cheap Travel Deals.  They will help you book travel for less with specials on cheap airline tickets, hotels, cruises, car rentals, and flights.

Hanz and Hachelle Pena, manager/owner of the Cheap Travel Deals
Phone: 661.310.0282
Website: http://www.thecheaptraveldeals.com

Email: questions [AT] thecheaptraveldeals [DOT] com

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Francis M. Unson

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