Thursday, July 30, 2009

Punny Poll #35: Can You Survive on Five-Day-A-Week Mail?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

Last week’s month’s… uh, last year’s (crap, sorry) Punny Poll asked how bad weather had affected your finances. If you can remember back to last year, the entire Midwest of the United States was destroyed by a torriquake, a diabolical combination of a tornado, hurricane, and earthquake formulated by out-of-work meteorologists. But since nobody in the Midwest owns a computer, 55% of you indicated your finances weathered the weather just fine. Nearly 10% indicated your house was underwater, and I’m not talking mortgages here.

Today’s poll (and likely tomorrow’s and next January’s poll at this rate) is inspired by recent talks by the U.S. Postal Service—voted the #1 company we’d be better off without in 2007 by important scientists—that it might switch to five-times-a-week delivery to cut costs. It’s estimated that eliminating one delivery day each week (likely Saturday) could cut the Postal Service’s projected 2010 budget deficit from $6 billion to a mere $3-4 billion. Other cut proposals, such as burning down junk mail factories and using “Santa Claus magic” to make faster deliveries, were rejected as too intelligent.

Personally, I would welcome five-day-a-week delivery as all I get on Saturday are bills. And it’s not like I’m going to pay them until at least Monday anyway. Actually, can we cut out Monday delivery too?

So what’s your take on the proposed cut of Saturday service?

How would cutting Saturday mail delivery affect you?

View Results

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Gas Price Sign #4 Lettering Shortage Continues

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

There’s no denying it anymore. What I thought was a fictionalized story of gas stations running out of number fours for their price signs has turned into a horribly hilarious reality.

Reader Mike sends in this photo snapped at a Sam’s Club fueling station:

sams club gas price sign with handwritten four

Maybe if Sam’s took a lesson from its own stores and bought the fours in bulk, they wouldn’t have this problem.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ask Punny Money: Frequently Asked Questions About "The Price Is Right"

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

ask punny money about the price is right

An anonymous reader sent in this question about my favorite game show, The Price Is Right.

Any idea what happens to all those prizes that go un-won by contestants? Do they give them to charity or just throw them away? Or maybe the show’s staff gets to take them home sometimes.

Good guesses, but most of the prizes don’t even “belong” to The Price Is Right in the first place. They belong to the prize supplier (usually the manufacturer), so they do whatever they like with prizes that nobody wins. In some cases, the show does purchase prizes on its own, but those are generally the smaller prizes used to help contestants win the bigger prizes. So if the show’s staff gets to take anything home with them, it’s probably nothing bigger than a can of corn.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About The Price Is Right

How do I go from being an ordinary person to a contestant on The Price Is Right?

The process is pretty simple, but you’ll still need a lot of luck to make it to Contestants’ Row.

  1. Make sure you’re eligible. The primary eligibility requirement for appearing on The Price Is Right is age. You must be at least 18 years old. Other than that, anyone can sit in the audience, even citizens of other countries.
  2. Get tickets. You can obtain free tickets to sit in The Price Is Right audience either online, by mail, or in person. The game’s CBS website has information on obtaining tickets as well as available air dates.
  3. Bring along the necessary documentation. Other than your ticket, you’ll also need proof of identification and social security number (for tax purposes). Forget any of these three items and you won’t have a chance of appearing in Contestants’ Row.
  4. Go to the taping. You’ll have to pay your own way to Hollywood. Arrive very early the day of the taping. You’ll get a name tag and an ID number, and eventually you’ll be pulled for a quick interview with a member of the show’s staff.
  5. Give it your all. During your interview, it’s important to be excited. But be careful of coming off as “fake.” Generally people who are naturally excited and happy will be the ones that the producers select for Contestants’ Row.
  6. Enjoy the show. With a bit of luck, you’ll be one of the nine audience members who make it to Contestants’ Row. Don’t hold your breath–the studio holds 325 people who are just as eager as you to spin the big wheel!

I just won a car/jacuzzi/player piano on The Price Is Right. How do I get it home?

The show ships all prizes to your home. They cover the shipping costs. If you live outside the United States, you’ll need to provide a U.S. shipping address such as a customs agent. You are responsible for shipping charges outside the U.S.

Do I have to pay taxes on any money or prizes I win?

You don’t have to, just like the IRS doesn’t have to throw you in jail for not paying your taxes (but they’ll do it anyway). Yes, you must pay taxes on your winnings. If you win cash, the producers will typically deduct local taxes from that amount and give you a check for the difference. If you win a prize, you’ll get a 1099 and either have to pay the taxes yourself or forfeit your prize. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot simply take the cash value of the prize. Car winners also pay their own vehicle tag and registration fees.

How much in cash and prizes has The Price Is Right given away?

Since it began airing in 1972, the show has given away more than $200 million worth of cash and prizes. That’s close to $6 million in prize winnings each year!

I’m planning a trip to Hollywood to sit in The Price Is Right audience. Any tips if I should make it down to Contestants’ Row?

My biggest tip for contestants comes into play during the first 30 seconds of each show. If you are called as one of the four opening contestants, there is no rule dictating which of the four positions you must take. When you watch the show, it seems that contestants generally fill in Contestants’ Row from left to right (or from right to left if you’re viewing the Row from the audience point of view). This is very, very stupid. You should always aim to take the right-most position (the left-most from the audience viewpoint). That is because the person on the far right bids last in the opening round, and bidding last gives a distinct advantage. Bonus tip: If someone beats you to the far-right spot, you can suggest that they move to the “correct” spot further to the left.

I’ve been on The Price Is Right once already. Am I eligible to attend again?

You can be in the audience as many times as you like. You may only appear in Contestants’ Row once in your lifetime.

Where does The Price Is Right get the “actual retail price” used for pricing games?

The prices of items used in the games usually come straight from the manufacturer. It’s quite likely that you’ll find the item at a cheaper price in stores. This may explain why contestants tend to severely underbid on expensive items.

Have another question about The Price Is Right? Ask Punny Money!

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Postage Stamps That Stay First Class Forever

Author: Nick
Category: Money


“Forever” stamps are one of the options you’ll have to choose from if the U.S. Postal Service gets the okay on its plan for a rate hike come spring 2007. In addition to a 3-cent hike in the cost of a first-class stamp, the Postal Service is proposing the creation of a new class of stamp that, once purchased at the standard first-class stamp price, remains first class regardless of future stamp rate hikes.

Such an option would likely result in some people purchasing gobs and gobs of stamps–theoretically enough to last their entire lives. If this comes to pass, should you make a similar bulk stamp purchase? Maybe, but it’s only worth it given a few conditions…

  • Stamp rate hikes continue. If the price of first-class postage continues to climb at a rate of 5%+ per year, buying eternally first-class stamps could be considered a wise investment.
  • You don’t lose them! So you spent $420 on 1,000 stamps that will always be good for mailing a letter, but then you lose half of them over the next ten years. All the rate hikes in the world won’t offset that sort of loss. If you make a big stamp purchase, be sure to put them somewhere safe… like a safe!
  • The Postal Service is still around. I use about one book of 20 stamps a year, so 2,000 stamps for $840 ($0.42 x 2,000) should last me into the next century. But as electronic mail usage continues to climb, the likelihood that we’ll still have a need for the U.S. Postal Service in 2106 is looking pretty low.
  • A better deal doesn’t come along. What if another company started offering first-class mail delivery rates that beat the Postal Service’s. You would then face a situation similar to being trapped in a long-term CD as savings rates around you skyrocket.

As for me, I’ll probably pick up enough forever stamps to last about 20 years. By then, I’m hoping they’ll have invented the transporter from Star Trek and I can just beam my mail to its destination.