|A list of companies and the reasons I do or don't recommend them.|
|FeedbackBy Preston Hunt, 21 February 2003|
Amazon -- GREATNot always the cheapest price, but they have excellent customer service, a liberal return policy (they even pay shipping back sometimes!), and an excellent status system that always gives you up-to-date information about your order.
Best Buy -- AVOIDMay be ok for online ordering with their free shipping, but their physical stores suck! The managers will not price match to the online deals, and if you select "in store pickup" from the web site, it never seems to work. Plus, the stores have a sleazy used-car-salesman feel to them. And their return policy is terrible -- 15% restocking fee unless it's defective. Generally I would recommend staying away from these guys. Regrettably, I must confess that they do seem to have the best "blow out" laptop deals, so if you are in the market for one, you should probably check them out. Beware their 14-day return policy and restocking fee if you open the laptop. And never buy the extended warranty!!
Fairmont Hotel, San Jose -- BAD!Great location in downtown San Jose. Highlights: Great pillows and awesome shower. Lowlights: Total ripoff for phone calls (even 800-calls are $1.00 + 10 cents/minute). Outrageous fees in the business center. Low quality television. Recommend staying at either the Hyatt or Hilton down the street instead.
Southwest Airlines -- AVOIDI didn't used to have a beef with these guys, since their fares are low and the generally take off on time. But recently I was selected for random search right before boarding, and as a result, I slipped from being almost first to being dead last to get on the plane. Since there are no reserved seats on Southwest, this meant I got the worst possible seat on the plane! Southwest's frequent flier program is also the worst in the indusry IMHO. So when possible, I'm sticking to the other airlines for now.
TD Waterhouse Brokerage -- BAD!I've had an account here for almost 10 years and used to love these guys. They were the original discount broker in town. But their fees have slowly inched up and their service has slowly declined. The last straw was when they added a $50 "close account" fee to all their accounts, as well as a "maintenance fee" if your account value drops below $25k. I hunted around, found out that Scottrade provides faster service for MUCH less and made the switch over to there.
Scottrade -- GREATScottrade is a broker's broker, meaning they won't hold your hand, but if you know what you're doing, you can't beat them. They have a no-frills website that is designed for one thing: Trading stocks. What used to take me 4 or 5 clicks to access on Waterhouse is on the front page of Scottrade! To all of this add $7 equity trades and free mutual fund trades... what's not to like?
Nature Conservancy -- GREATOne of the few charities that I give to each year. It's hard to find flaw with their basic premise, which is to use donations to buy up land, and then make the land a private park. With this approach, there is no change that the land will be developed in the future. What better way to ensure the future of wildlife around the world? Donations fully tax-deductible.
World Wildlife Fund -- GOODAnother charity that I regularly contribute to. I have a soft spot for cute furry animals, and WWF sends me a nice glossy 12-month wall calendar and greeting cards every year, so I keep donating. Their value proposition doesn't seem as clear cut to me as Nature Conservancy's, but I still believe they do good work.
Mosser Hotel (San Francisco) -- GOOD
Great location (Union Square), CHEAP, some rooms noisy (recommend high floor). www.themosser.com.
Residence Inn (Bellevue) -- TERRIBLE
Expensive ($180+ per night), lower units are very loud (you will hear every single thing the person above you does), close to Microsoft campus and ok free breakfast, but overall you can do much better somewhere else (try Coast Hotels in downtown Bellevue).
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