Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Legal UK Free Music Downloads

Free MP3 Downloads from Amazon.co.uk

Offers regularly changing free album samplers and singles, usually from new/upcoming artists, but often there are knows artists in the list too.

Free Music Downloads from Last.fm
A large variety of free singles to download.

Powered by Last.fm, allows bands to give away MP3s as a way of promoting themselves and getting their music heard.

Free downloads from independent or underground artists (mainly from the US).

Insound Free MP3s
A CD/Vinyl online shop that gives away free indie MP3s, mostly from US Groups, some well known ones.  The files seem to download without an extension, so won't play initially, but adding '.mp3' to the end of the filename fixes the problem.

Matador Records MP3 Archive
No longer updated, but as lot of old (pre 2007) songs still on there.

Over 350,000 tracks to download or stream free, mostly from independent artists.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Instantly Backup Your Mobile Photos and Get 3gb Free Dropbox Space

If you haven't already registered with Dropbox, please use this link and we will both get an extra 500mb free.

Those of you that are already registered with Dropbox will know that you get 2gb (or 2.5gb, if referred) free as soon as you sign up, but you can earn additional free space by completing simple tasks, like linking your Facebook account and Tweeting about Dropbox.

If you complete all the tasks listed on their get more space page (except school race, upgrading and referring, as these may not be applicable), you gain a total of 875mb extra free space. However, there is an additional task that is not listed on that page that can gain you another 3gb.

If you install the iOS or Android app and enable automatic camera uploads, you get 500mb free as soon as you upload one picture and another 500mb for every 500mb you upload, up to a maximum of 3gb. Once enabled, every photo and video you take, with your phone camera, will be automatically uploaded to Dropbox, so if something happens to your phone, you still have your photos.

See 'How do I get free space for using Camera Upload?' for more details.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Warning for Android Developers - Do Not Uninstall the Android SDK

When you install the Android SDK, it creates an android-sdk folder, in the folder you choose to install it in. The android-sdk folder contains an uninstall.exe file.

If you run this file, as well as deleting the android-sdk folder, it deletes the parent folder and all other sub-folders in the parent! I lost my entire development folder, which as the name suggests, contained a lot of development projects I was working on.

Losing my development folder is incredibly annoying, but it could have been worse. Imagine if I had installed it directly in the root? I would have lost my entire hard drive!

I can't believe a company as big and trusted as Google released such a devastating program. I'm not the only one that had this problem. It was first reported in June, but they did nothing. See the link below.

Issue 32686 - android - Windows Android SDK uninstall removes the whole install folder - Android - An Open Handset Alliance Project - Google Project Hosting

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Website Review: Gardening Direct

As I said in my last post, which asked if there are any decent garden supply websites out there, I haven't been particularly impressed with any, but some are worse than others. Of those I've tried, gardeningdirect.co.uk is, in my opinion, the worse.

They didn't deliver my order at all. In their defence, they did give me a full refund, but the lack of communication between their customer services departments and the amount of time it takes to get a response from them, will stop me using them again.

I emailed them a few weeks after ordering to ask where my order was. A week later, when I still hadn't received a reply, I tried to phone them. I kept getting held in a queue for ages and having to hang up. It took a few days of trying to actually get through and the person I spoke to said there was no record of my order. I told him that I'd emailed a week ago and included my order confirmation in the email, but hadn't received a reply. He said that they ere very busy at the moment, so it was taking a while to respond to emails and he'd try to find my order and call me back. I didn't get a call from him, but I did get a reply to my original email, about a week after the conversation, saying that I should have received my order by no and they were out of stock, so they would give me a refund.

Then a couple of eeks after that, I got a phone call saying they had had a problem with their ordering system and my order hadn't been dispatched, but they were now out of stock and would be giving me a full refund. Clearly the people going through the problem orders to make the calls, the people who answer the phone and the people who respond to emails, don't communicate with each other or update a central system with the details of the communication. Unfortunately for me, their finance department do communicate, because I only got one refund ;-)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Are There Any Decent Gardening Supplier Websites Out There?

You may have notice that I haven't posted for a while. It's because I've been distracted by gardening. This post may be a little off topic, as I've had gardening on the brain lately, but it will lead to website reviews, so it's allowed ;-).

To say my garden has been neglected, over the last couple of years, is an understatement.  It was looking more like a forest than a garden. This was mostly due to a back injury that prevented me doing it, but bad weater and laziness didn't help.  Now that my back is better, so I am physically capable of gardening, I decided to sort my garden out so I can make use of it. By sort it out, I mean pay a gardener to get rid of everything, so I can start again.

Once that was done, it was time to buy some plants and start growing things, but that's easier said than done when all the websites I've tried seem to struggle with delivering the correct order quickly, and some struggle with quality too.

In my efforts to find a decent gardening supplies website, I tried Garden Bargains, Gardening Direct, Green Fingers, and J.Parkers. I will write full reviews, but in the meantime, none were particularly good, but Green Fingers and Garden Bargains were the best of those.

So my question for people reading this is: Can you recommend any gardening websites that deliver the correct, high quality, products quickly?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

CSS Sticky Header and Footer with Scrolling Middle

This is a way to use CSS only (no JavaScript) to have the content expand to fill the window size, with the header always visible at the top and the footer always visible at the bottom.  If there's too much content, just the middle will scroll, not the whole page. You can see it in action, here.

It's not perfect, but I think it's the best you can get without JavaScript and it does work perfectly on most mobile phones, which is the reason I did it.

Before I get onto the code, I'd like to thank Ryan Fait for pointing me in the right direction, with his Sticky Footer.

The basic code is below.  I've used in-line styles to make it easier for you to see which styles are applied to which bit, but obviously you should put them into a separate stylesheet and also add fonts and change background colours etc.
<html style="height:100%;margin:0;">
<title>Scroll Demo</title>
<body style="height:100%; margin:0; padding:0;">
            <div style="height: 4em; background-color:#000000; color:#ffffff; position:relative; z-index:1;">Header Strip</div>
           <div style="height: 100%; margin: -4em 0 -2em 0; color:#000000; overflow:auto;">
              <div style="height:4em;"></div>
              <p>THIS IS WHERE THE CONTENT GOES</p>
       <div style="height:2em;"></div>
           <div style="height: 2em; background-color:#000000; color:#ffffff; position:relative; z-index:1;">This is the footer</div>
The important points are that you need to apply a 100% height style to the <HTML> and <BODY> tags as well as your main content div. The header and footer need to have a z-index of 1, otherwise your content will scroll over them. Your main content div needs to have an empty div that is the same height as your header at the top, and an empty div that is the same height as your footer at the bottom. Finally, you need to apply negative margins that are the same as the header and footer heights, to the top and bottom on your main content div.

There is a demo here, with the exact code written above, except for additional content to force the scroll.

The reason I wrote this was because I needed to find a way to make my HTML5apps fill the full screen, without going off of it, on all the various resolutions. I've tested my apps on iOS, Android and Symbian so far and the scrolling middle works.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Warning About Bidz.com

I recently bought a ring, containing fake diamonds, from Bidz.com and am writing this to warn other people not to trust the descriptions on the Bidz.com website.

I should point out, in the interests of balance, that I have used Bidz.com for years and haven't had a problem with them until recently. I have even recommended them to other people and did list them in my Great Websites list. I've now removed it.

I have picked up some good bargains from them in the past.  For example, the ring on the left cost me $80USD, with shipping, and was being sold on Amazon.co.uk for £150GPB at the time, and Amazon said that was half price. My best bargain was a ring that worked out at about £40 that I had valued and was worth £250.

However, past bargains aside, Bidz.com sold me a fake ring.

I bid on this 'Charming Brand New Ring With 0.80ctw Precious Stones - Genuine Aquamarine and Diamonds Made in White Gold' but the reserve price was not met.

Bidz.com emailed me after the auction had closed and offered it to me for the reserve price of $108USD.  With shipping, it came to $130USD, about £80GBP.  I'm no jewellery expert, but I was pretty sure it was worth a lot more than £80, although maybe not the $969 they claimed it was worth.  I tried to find the ring for sale elsewhere to compare prices. I did find an identical ring on Overstock.com for £260 plus shipping, so I decided it was definitely worth £80 and ordered it.

When it arrived, it looked great and I really liked it.  I took it to a local jewellers to get it valued, for insurance and the jeweller told me that the black diamonds were not actually diamonds. To prove it, he touched his electronic tester on the diamonds in other rings that I was getting valued at the same time and showed me the green diamond light coming on.  When he touched the black stones in this ring, the red moissanite light came on instead.

As soon as I got home, I contacted Bidz.com and said:
"I recently bought Charming Brand New Ring With 0.80ctw Precious Stones - Genuine Aquamarine and Diamonds Made in White Gold- Size 7 - Certificate Available.
Listing Number: 95064205
Item Number: 01322706

I just took it to a jewellers to have it valued for insurance purposes and he told me the black stones are not diamonds.  Also one of the prongs is broke so one of the fake stones that should be a diamond will fall out."
I got a email, that was clearly a standard automated/copy and pasted email, saying:
Dear Customer,
We are sorry to hear you are not completely happy with your item(s) and we have created a Return of Merchandise Authorization number for your return(s).
Your return number is RMA-83712.
Please write this number clearly on the outside of your parcel. Please also review and keep this email for future reference.
What you need to include in your return package:
All original packaging and materials (such as price tags, certificates, warranties and instructions) otherwise your return will be refused.
A copy of the sales order - Log into your account to print out a copy of the sales order.
A detailed reason for return for each item.
Please allow 3-5 business days for your refund to be processed once return has been accepted. A confirmation email will be sent when your return is ready for refund.
Parcels without a clearly marked, valid Return Authorization Number on the outside of the parcels may be refused and sent back to the shipper.
**We strongly recommend certifying your package with a tracking number which will allow you to track its delivery progress.
Please ship to:
Attention: Returns Department
3562 Eastham Dr.
Culver City, Ca 90232
Once our jewelry department has inspected the item(s), we will process your refund.
Important things to remember:
All returns will be refunded back to your original payment method unless store credit is specified.
Return shipping costs are subject to approval.
All returns should be made within 30 days.
Customers outside of the U.S. please note:
All customs fees are to be paid by the recipient of the merchandise. Bidz.com is not responsible for paying return custom fees. To avoid paying customs fees for damaged return items, we suggest you note that your item was originally purchased in the United States and that it is being sent back as damaged merchandise.
Customer Service Team
3562 Eastham Dr.
Culver City, CA 90232
PH 310-280-7373
Toll 1-888-247-BIDZ
Email us 24 hours a day at customerservice@bidz.com
"Problem Solving Team where your problem is our problem"
Now I wasn't very happy with that response, but I didn't reply at that time. I expected a grovelling apology, not a standard email, but then I thought that it might not be their fault. They may have believed the diamonds were real. It may be their supplier that is at fault, and once they've inspected the ring and confirmed that the diamonds are fake, I'll get a more personal response. I decided to return the ring and see what they said.

The day after they received the ring (according to the tracking), I got another automated/copy and pasted email. This one said:

Dear Customer,

We would like to inform you that we have received your return for RMA-83712, the item has been inspected and processed. 

Refunds are issued back to the refund method selected; Please allow 2-3 business days for the refund to be completed.

For more information on our return policy please follow the link below:

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact customer service.
Thank you,
Bidz.com Returns Department
Not being happy with the lack of apology or explanation, I replied, saying:
"Is that it?  All I get is an automated email telling me to send it back and another one telling me you've processed it?  Aren't you going to make any attempt to apologise or explain?  Aren't you going to offer some sort of reassurance that if I buy from you in future, the jewellery won't be fake!?!

At the very least, can you reimburse my return shipping please?"
This time I did get a response that sounded like it might have actually been written by a person, but still no explanation...

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting us regarding RMA-83712. We do apologize that you are not satisfied with the merchandise and our service. Please allow for 2-3 business days for the refund to completed on our end for this return.

If you are requesting to have your postage reimbursed, please provide us with the reciept by email or fax so that we can forward this to the department in charge.
Please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Customer Service Team
Of course I still have concerns! And I told them that: "I've attached a photo of the receipt, showing that it cost £9.87GBP to return the ring. Yes, I do have another question or concern: Why did you sell me a ring with fake diamonds in it and how can I be assured that any future purchases from you won't be fake?"

After a few days, I got this response:
Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting us and for sending a copy of your reciept. I have forwarded this information to the lead in our Returns Department. Please allow between 24-28 hours before you receive an update.
Customer Service Team
Still no explanation or reassurance. I've given up and won't be ordering again.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Groupsave Websites TopCashback Links

Ok, this is a lazy post, because I've been very busy over the last couple of weeks and haven't had time to write a proper post, but hopefully some people will find it usefull anyway.

Now I'm sure you've all heard of groupsave websites, like Living Social, where you can save on a variety of products and experiences, because they have negotiated deals, based on selling to a large group. However, you might not realise that most of them are on TopCashback.co.uk, so you can earn cash back on your purchases, as well as save on the deals.

I have the TopCashback.co.uk links bookmarked, so I can get to the websites easily. I've decided to post them here, so people can bookmark this page and go straight to the websites, without having to search for them on TopCashback.co.uk first.

You must login to TopCashback.co.uk after clicking on these links, otherwise, I'll get your cashback instead of you...

Groupon KGB Deals Wowcher Kelkoo Select Go Groupie

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Review: Free Website Providers

Now anyone can set up a free website, with hosting included, so why bother paying?  Well they all have their limits. You will be restricted to certain layouts and will have the providers branding on your website, but if you have no web development skills and really can't afford to pay a designer or developer, then you have no other option than a free provider.

My advice it to pay for design, development and hosting, if you can, but if you can't, Get British Business Online is the best free option that I have found, although it is only free for the first year. devhub is the next best option, in my opinion, but here's a brief review of the four main ones.

Google Sites
It's free and easy to set up a website through Google, with a Google URL, similar to http://sites.google.com/site/londonaestheticclinic/.  You can use your own domain name, but you will have to pay for it, register it and set it up, yourself.  Although there are over 50 templates to choose from, and you can make layout changes, providing more choice, the layouts are still very restrictive.  You can't have 3 columns for example.  There is a powered by Google Sites footer, but most free sites have something similar.  The main downside of Google Sites is the fact that it strips JavaScript, and other code, so simple things like adding a Facebook like button become near impossible. This is a good place to start for a non-developer who just wants a simple site without having to pay for it, but a developer or someone wanting more than just a simple site will need more.

WebStarts allows you to set up a free website, with a URL like http://demosample.webstarts.com. If you want to use your own domain name, prices start at $4.89/month. WebStarts offers a much wider range of layouts than Google Sites, but some of them are very restrictive (for example, in the demo site, I set up, the text div does not expand with the text, so the amount of text you can use it limited), and the WebStarts toolbar along the bottom is much more intrusive than the Google Sites footer. You can't change the template once you chosen it, or customise it in anyway, like you can with Google Sites, but you can add Flash and Facebook buttons easily.  I'd say WebStarts is worth checking out and if there is a template that you like, exactly as it is, it's worth going for, but if you need the freedom to adjust the design, Google Sites is a better option.

Now this one is more like a game than a website service.  Like Google Sites, you can use your own domain name for free, but you have to register it yourself. Alternatively, you can register one when you set the site up, but you will have to pay for it.  If you don't use your own domain name, the URL will be similar to http://devhubsample.devhub.com.  There's only 2 free layouts to choose from, although you can change the colours easily.  You can easily add pre-defined social media add ons, such as Twitter feeds and share buttons, but you can't embed your own code with out purchasing the add on, which costs £24.95/year or 990 'coins'.  Each time you change your site, you earn experience points and 'coins' that can be used to buy premium features.  There are various advertising modules that you add really easily, and for free, to allow your site to make money. Earning coins and experience points can be fun and the devhub drag a drop interface is much easier to use than both Google Sites and WebStarts. There is a powered by devhub footer, but it you want something that is free and easy, then this one is the most fun and probably the easiest.

Get British Business Online
This is powered by Yola.com and offers a free .co.uk domain name.  The hosting is only free for the first year, but you don't have to put in any payment details to get it. "After that, you may renew your subscription for £30.90 (23% off the regular price)." I set up a sample site, for this blog, at http://www.webdevelopmenttips.co.uk.  The template can not be customised, although the CSS can be edited, but there are a lot of templates to choose from.  There are a number of widgets that you can add, without needing to put any code in, but if you do need to paste in code you can, by adding the HTML widget. There is no Yola.com or Get British Business Online on your website, although there is a link to the designer of the template.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Reducing Spam On and Off Line

Unfortunately there is no way to completely eliminate unsolicited emails, phone calls, texts and junk mail, but you should be able to significantly reduce it. Companies should not email people who have opted out using the Email Preference Service (EPS), postal mail people who have opted out using the Mail Preference Service (MPS), or call people who have opted out using the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). However, not all companies follow these rules and if you subscribe to a mailing list with the company directly, they are allowed to cotnact you.

There are a number of companies, including Acxiom, Callcredit Marketing Solutions, Dataforce, Eclipse Marketing, Equifax, Experian Integrated Marketing, GB Group, Indicia, Occam, Transactis and Data Locator Group (DLG) that sell their contacts database to other companies for marketing. These other companies should check the opt-out lists held by the services mentioned above and not contact you, if you are on the list. So opting out via EPS, MPS and TPS should reduce the junk and contact you receive. You can also contact the companies that sell your data and ask them to remove you from their databases.

Doing all this can be quite time consuming, but thankfully there are some websites that make it quicker, and easier, for you. StayPrivate.org will register you with MPS and TPS at the same time. ALLOW will register you with MPS and TPS at the same time, and re-register you every 4 months, so you don't have to keep doing it. ALLOW also emails the companies I mentioned above, on your behalf, and asks them to remove you from their database. However, ALLOW asks you to opt-in to receive marketing from them, although they say they will share any money they make, from your data, with you. I will test that and write a full review another time, but this post is about opting-out. On the ALLOW opt-in page, you choose the topics you are interested in, as well as the ways you are willing to be contacted (direct mail, email, phone etc). Presumably, if you don't tick anything, you can use them to help you opt-out, without actually opting in to anything.

You need to register with the Email Preference Service (EPS) yourself, as StayPrivate.org and ALLOW can't do it for you.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Adding a Google Custom Search Form Without JavaScript

If you set up a Google Custom Search for your website, on the final step, 'Get Code,' it will give you some JavaScript code to paste into your site's source code.  There are a number of reasons why this may not be possible, including using a CMS that strips JavaScript or having existing JavaScript on your site that conflicts with it, but Google doesn't offer any alternatives on the 'Get Code' page.  It's a bit limited, but the following should work.
After you set up your Google Custom Search, click on 'My search engines' in the left navigation and then click on the name of your search engine. You will be taken to a URL similar to http://www.google.co.uk/cse/home?cx=018436150521358100921:ih9nk8v0psa. It is the bit after cx= that is unique to your search engine and required for the next step.

Simply paste the following code, where you want the search box to appear, replacing the value in the cx input with the one for your search engine.

<form action="http://www.google.co.uk/cse" id="cse-search-box" target="_blank">
<input name="cx" type="hidden" value="018436150521358100921:ih9nk8v0psa" />
<input name="ie" type="hidden" value="UTF-8" />
<input name="q" size="30" />
<input name="sa" type="submit" value="Search" />
This will only work if you want Google to host your results for you. Obviously you can use CSS to style it to fit in with your website's design.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Product Review: Vivitar ViviCam T135 3D Digital Camera

This is a review of the Vivitar Vivicam T135, which I bought last September. The Vivitar website shows better specs, so I assume there is an updated version out now. This review is of the old version, which does not have an optical zoom.

This camera allows you to take the old style 3D photographs, like the one on the right, which you need the red and blue 3D glasses to view, and look very odd without 3D glasses.  There are cameras that let you take the new style 3D photos that look 2D without the grey 3D glasses and 3D with.

The obvious downside of the red-blue 3D photos is how bad they look without the glasses, but the benefit is that with the glasses, you can view them on any screen and even view printed pictures. The other style of 3D photos, known as 'Real 3D' look 2D when printed, in playback on the camera and on most screens, except 3D TVs and 3D digital photo frames.

Now as 'standard' digital cameras go, this one is not great, and not worth the £80rrp, if you are not going to use the 3D.  That said, you can pick it up for £35 plus postage on the price-drop TV channels and it is very light and marginally better than most mobile phone cameras, so if you want a cheap light phone camera alternative, it's probably worth £35, but bear in mind, it is not a decent digital camera, it's just a slightly better phone camera.

The only real reason to buy this camera is for the red and blue 3D, which I've already mentioned has its limitations, but can be quite fun and does have novelty value. 

First the downside; the camera can't take 3D and normal photos at the same time, so if you want one of each, you have to manually switch between modes and take two separate pictures. There's a limit to how good any photos can be, with no optical zoom and 3D photos are no exception. As with all cameras, using the digital zoom can make the photos blurry.

Now onto the 3D... The flash cannot be used in 3D mode, so the photos don't come out well in low light. In good light, when the 3D works, it is good, but sometimes it doesn't quite work.  Sometimes, the photo is mostly in 3D, but one part doesn't quite work, or the whole thing works, but there's still patches of red.  This photo, for example, doesn't quite work, although it was taken at night, and this one has red patches.

For the most part, the 3D does work and if you want 3D photos that you can print, rather than the 'real 3D' photos that you can't, this is a good cheap option, as long as your expectations aren't too high. Below is a normal and 3D shot of Miami, so you can compare the two. Neither is great, because the camera specifications aren't that high, but it should give you an idea of what to expect.

My conclusion is that the Vivitar Vivicam T135 is a cheap (if you can get it for £35) fun novelty gadget and it's worth buying, if that's all you want, but don't expect it to take great photos.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

London Web/Tech Meet Ups

If you're a London based web developer, or work in any internet related job, in London, there are plenty of regular meet ups, where you can meet people in similar jobs and even get free food and/or drink. Meetup.com is a good place to find them, but here is a list of some of the top ones I've been to:

Minibar - 4th Friday of every month.
This is a good place to get a free beer, or wine, while finding out about new web startups and meeting fellow internet professionals. The format is informal networking, followed by 3 or 4 presentations, one from the sponsor and the rest from new starts-ups wanting to showcase their business, then more informal networking. The sponsor puts money behind the bar, but it runs out pretty quickly, so you need to arrive early to get a free drink.

Flag and Bell Pub Crawl - 1st Tuesday of every month.
Originally set up by the founders of Trexy.com, this used to be sponsored and take the format of a quick talk from the sponsor, followed by informal networking. two pubs would be visited and everyone would get at least one free drink in each pub. Now, some of the regulars take it in turns to organise it each months, and it isn't often sponsored, so there's usually no free drinks or talk, but it is a good social night.

Facebook Developer Garage - monthly
As the name suggests, this is a meet up for Facebook Developers, whether you actually develop apps, or just set up pages and adverts etc, for your company.  Tickets are £5-£14, but include beer and pizza. It takes the format beer, pizza and informal networking, followed my talks and presentations, the optional further informal networking in the pub afterwards. There's an interval during the talks, where you can get more beer and pizza.

London Bloggers Meetup - 1st Tuesday of every month.
A sponsored meetup for bloggers, that usually has free drinks. It takes the format on informal networking, followed by presentations from the sponsor and/or bloggers giving tips, followed by more informal networking. Anyone who blogs on any topic is welcome.

There are loads more. Some of them, I've attended in the past, but not recently, so the format may have changed and some I haven't attended yet. As I attend more and become familiar with the format, I will add them. In the meantime, feel free to add your own, in the comments.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Website Review: TopCashBack

Well this is going to be a short review because TopCashBack is a great website. Like all cashback websites, it gives you cashback for your online purchases at various websites. However, the difference between TopCashBack and the others is that TopCashBack gives 100% (and sometimes more) of its commision to you, without taking an admin fee, so the cashback rates tend to be higher.  Quidco also passes on all commision, but it charges an annual admin fee.

Another benefit of TopCashBack is being able to get cashback from other people's transactions, if they don't want to join.  You can give out links to websites that go via TopCashBack,  so the person can either join or let you have their cashback.  For example, TopCashBack are offering £12 for taking up a free trial of Netflix.  Instead of linking directly, like I just did, I could link to http://www.topcashback.co.uk/share/moneymatters/netflix. If someone clicks Continue on that page, without joining or logging into TopCashBack, I would get the £12 cashback. If they joined TopCashBack, I would get a referral fee, which varies.  You don't need a website to do this, you can just email the URL to friends.

There is a full guide to cashback websites on moneysavingexpert.com, so I won't review them all, but I've tried a few and, in my experience, TopCashBack is the best.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Website Review: QuiBids.com

Over Christmas, I saw TV adverts for QuiBids.com and decided to give it a go, out of curiosity. It is another penny auction site. The basic concept of these types of website is that the price starts at 1p and every time someone bids, the price goes up by 1p. So if only one person bids, items can sell for as low as 1p. However, you have to pay a non-refundable fee (60p plus VAT, in the case of QuiBids.com) every time you bid.

The TV adverts offered 5 free bids, if you entered a code, and the QuiBids website offered 3 free bids, if you signed up for the newsletter. I figured I'd register, see if I could win anything with my free bids and give up, if not. However, that plan was twarted by the fact that you have to buy a 60 bid pack before you can claim any free bids.  The 60 bid pack cost £36 (plus VAT), so I ended up spending £43.20 just to get started.

I went straight to the iPad auction that was closing in 30 seconds and was at only about £3.  If I'd managed to win, it would have been £43.20 well spent, but I soon realised I'd probably spend all my bids and not win.

In the last 15 seconds, every time someone bids, the clock is reset, until no-one else bids. If you are lucky enough to be the last bidder, when everyone else gives up, you win the item for a ridiculously cheap price, but it's just that: luck. Bidding is effectively the same as buying 60p raffle tickets.

I did jump straight into the iPad auction without reading the beginner's guide, so I read through that and it recommended trying smaller auctions, until you are used to using the site and said that £10 gift cards are the easiest auctions to win, so I tried my luck on a £10 Amazon gift card. I won in 3 bids and the final price was 5p.  Baragin, I thought.  Well, not quite...

I didn't read the small print, on the auction page, which said there was a £3.99 delivery charge.  That was my fault, but when I completed my purchase, I found they also charged 80p tax. I don't know how the tax on 5p can be 80p.  So, my 5p win has gone up to £4.84 in total. If you add on the cost of the 3 bids (£1.80 plus VAT = £2.16), the 5p gift card actually cost me £7, which is less than the £10 it's worth, but not the huge saving it appears to be, when advertised on the QuiBids website as 'recently sold for 5p.'

Looking through the upcoming auctions, I found a £25 Amazon gift card, that also had a £3.99 delivery charge, but was advertising recently sold prices, similar to the £10 cards, so I thought that would be a better bargain, if I could get it.  I won it for 51p, but it took 30 bids (£21.60) to do so.  It also had the 80p tax, so the total purchase price was £5.20, but when you add on the £21.60, my £25 voucher has actually cost me £26.80.

So my conclusion is that QuiBids.com and probably all other penny auction sites (I haven't tried any others), just aren't worth it. You won't make the huge savings advertised and you're likely to end up losing money.