A Death in the Family, Amazon’s Virtual Currency, and Other Internet Junk

On Thursday of last week, my wife met me at the door with a look on her face that I knew meant something had gone very, very wrong. “What is it? What happened??” I inquired. “It’s…the TV.” She shook her head, and I knew. For the sake of an entertaining blog post, you can now imagine her tear stained cheeks and me falling on both knees, arms to the sky, screaming “Noooo! MENDOOOZAAAA!”

Goodbye, Old Friend

I purchased my 50″ Samsung DLP in 2002 with my first paycheck from my first “real job” out of college. The enormous screen was housed in a sleek, 3-foot deep silver cabinet, and sat upon an elegant matching base. The loud hum it produced was the soundtrack for countless make-out sessions on the loveseat (Okay, at least two. Come on!). It was a bachelor’s dream, and it was all mine.

Sentiment aside, however, the reality is that I was happy that had suffered a natural death. By today’s standards the TV was a behemoth, taking up too much space in the family room. The technology was outdated, and the picture was too dark to view with the shades up. I had been ready to replace the 11-year-old set for a couple years, but it’s hard to justify spending money on a new TV when the old one is “just fine” (my wife’s words).

The process of researching and bargain-hunting began before HLN507W’s circuits were cool. Because, seriously, what am I going to do without a TV? Read a book? Haha, nope! Here are 5 tips I learned during the process:

  1. Samsung is still regarded as the best TV manufacturer, but LG and Sony are good too.
  2. LED is better than LCD and Plasma.
  3. You do not need to pay more for 240hz. 120hz is plenty. The human eye can not see the difference.
  4. “Contrast Ratio” is basically brightness. If your TV is in a sunroom or other bright location, you may opt for a higher contrast ratio.
  5. Smart TVs are getting close, but are not yet worth the added price. If you want to use streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc..) you’re better off investing in a digital/streaming media player.

When I opened up Amazon.com to scrounge for TV deals, I was met with a splash page introducing their virtual currency called “Amazon Coins”. These coins can be purchased and used to buy apps and games for the Kindle Fire. This type of virtual currency is not a new concept. Here is the summary of things that we (the internet) has learned regarding virtual currency: Virtual currency only benefits the issuer.

Why? The system is designed so the consumer will always struggle with their coin balance. For instance: if I have 500 coins, you better believe there’s no chance of spending all 500 coins on any combination of purchases– therefore, I’m always left with a balance. And if I don’t  have enough balance to purchase the app I want? Well, I need to buy another bundle of coins! Since I am not allowed to buy the specific number of coins I need (the minimum number is 500 for $4.80), I will always have extra. These extra coins are the crux of the problem.

  1. There’s a strong psychological urge to spend the coins I have rather than leave a balance in my account, so the cycle of purchasing apps and coins continues.
  2. The coins are non-refundable. If I stop using the coins, then I’ve just given Amazon a micro-loan for as long as my balance sits.

To Amazon’s credit, the virtual currency is optional. Unlike some other issuers, you can always buy what you want with cash. But they’ve given every new and existing Kindle Fire owner the “gateway drug” of 500 free coins. Well played, sirs. 

Now some web gems!

If only the ice breaker was on lake Mille Lacs… [Caution: Annoying Minnesotans talking, and a four-letter word near the end of the video.] For those wondering, this is caused by strong wind, rising temperatures, and weak ice. The entire sheet of ice is being pushed off of the lake on to shore, and is splintering into shards. The force is clearly enough to break windows and force open doors.