DUMPING THE STUFF

Nearly two years ago we wrote about an outfit that buys your unwanted CDs, books, movies and other assorted flotsam and jetsam of everybody’s life. To paraphrase a popular expression: “junk happens.”

The relief service is called Decluttr, and its parent company, musicMagpie, sells over one million products on eBay and 700,000 on Amazon. They’re the biggest seller we’ve never heard of, and maybe the biggest buyer. They’ll pay you for almost any used CD, movie, or video game and they’ll cover the shipping. They also buy game consoles, iPods, Kindles, some books and wearables, such as the FitBit.

You start by downloading the Decluttr app to your Android or iPhone, and scanning barcodes or entering whatever information you have about the soon-to-be departed. Using the app is fast and if you change your mind about any item, just click the “x” to delete it from your list.

So Joy started by listing a CD titled “The Best of the Canadian Brass.” She likes it and has no intention of selling it, this was just a test. Decluttr offered 21 cents (I think we mentioned this is a not a way to make big money.) Moving right along, they would give her 20 cents for a double CD of James Taylor’s music, and $1.53 for a new book about working with the Arduino microcontroller.

But then she went to Decluttr’s new store at Decluttr.com/us/store to see they were charging $3.19 for the James Taylor album. That was cheaper than Amazon’s price of $6.27. The Arduino book, by the way, was $25 on Amazon.

That’s a big spread between what you get and what they get and clearly you could make more by selling this stuff on your own. If we still had our old Samsung Galaxy S3, for example, they’d give us $28 for it, about 60 percent of what we got on eBay. So what it boils down to is convenience. As they like to say in Silicon Valley whenever they have a product that isn’t working perfectly but is sort of in the ballpark: “Just move it out the door.” It’s a way to clear space at the warehouse — which in this case, would be your home or garage.

Should you want to buy more stuff (and who doesn’t?), go to the Decluttr online store. (To find it fast, Google the words “Decluttr store”). They sell iPads, tablets, phones, game consoles and music. For example, a seven year-old iPad sells for $72 when we looked. (Ours was around $500 back in those early days and is still fine for looking at websites and reading books, but most new apps won’t work.)  An iPad Mini 2 like the one we bought four years ago, costs $162, or $245 on Amazon. A Samsung Galaxy Note 5 with Verizon service sells for $365 on Amazon, but $245 on Decluttr.com.

The Best Password. For now.

A few weeks ago, the rules for passwords underwent a big re-think. Well, at least the advice for making passwords. Most businesses, schools, libraries, etc., are still way behind — though we expect them to catch up in a few years.

Back in the mists of time, Bill Burr, a mid-level manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency, wrote an eight-page publication to describe the best way to create passwords. He said you should have at least seven characters, including at least one capital letter, one number and one symbol. We’ve all been doing that ever since and he’s the guy to blame.

Now he says he’s sorry, he made a mistake; a password comprised of a long, easy-to-remember phrase is much harder to crack. How much harder? Well, he figured out the typical password created using his original advice could be cracked by a randomizing computer program in about three days — depending on the speed of the computer, of course. But cracking a password made up of a long, easy-to-remember phrase  — you pick it — would take much longer.

A couple years ago we suggested making a password out of the first letter of each word in a song title, and then made a mistake on our own favorite title. That helps, actually. We mean, as long as you remember the mistake.

A Reader Cruises High Seas

A reader wrote to say: “My wife and I just returned from a cruise. Cruise ships are infamous for obscene charges for inferior phone service.”

Actually, hotels are known for that too. We’ll never forget the $264 we were charged by the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. Calif., for making just one phone call. “That’s our policy,” they said. Our policy is never to stay there again.

The reader’s Cruise Ship solution was to sign up for Verizon’s international plan. They charge $10 every 24 hours, but only if you use it. “The service is much faster and cheaper than the ship’s rip-off,” he notes. You can skip any number of  days or weeks without incurring a charge. You get a free text an hour before the start of a new 24-hour period. So if you don’t need the Internet that day, change your phone settings to airplane mode to avoid being charged.

Internuts

Tower: “TWA 2341, for noise reduction turn right 45 Degrees.” TWA 2341 responds: “Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?” Tower: “Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?”

More Money

After we mentioned the website unclaimed.org, to track down money owed you, a reader gave us his expert tips. Working for AMC and Loews theaters, he reclaimed over $750,000. Sometimes the missing money hadn’t come in simply because the envelope was wrongly addressed.

His key insight: You have to search states you never lived in. His girlfriend, for example, got a check from California, because PayPal is located there. Chicago, he writes, is “notorious for blocking you from getting money back, and California lost a federal case for not returning money.” MetLife keeps millions from old insurance policies, he says, but his mom got $600 back from them.

His other insight: Go beyond unclaimed.org. They claim to have every state’s database, but they don’t, he says. For instance, they have four listings for Missouri, but the official Missouri website has twice that many.

 

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