Embracing Change in Online Shopping & Social Networking

The world is changing pretty fast - exponentially in many cases, particularly in the technology and online industries. It’s natural for anyone, regardless of age or creed, to feel overwhelmed by the library­ of choice. Laptops, iPads, notebooks, Kindles, iPhones, netbooks, iPods and gaming consoles are all on offer under different brands and with varying specifications. This is failing to mention the infinite range of smartphones.

The wearisome part is that most of these devices are able to do the same things - some better or worse than others. Buying new gadgets­ is fun and exciting but can be stressful and daunting at the same time. Having them all is impractical, and once they are outdated, they will likely become dust-gatherers a few years down the line.

The important things to ask oneself when considering getting that new device everyone is talking about are 1. “do I need this device in my life?” and 2. “how will this gadget add value to my life or improve the things I currently enjoy doing?”

Embracing Change in Online Shopping

Embracing ChangeSome go as far as ordering their clothing and groceries online. Most would agree that these are things that we want to touch and see before purchase. Electronics, on the other hand, are certainly worth buying online.

Consider that when you shop in a computer or electronics store, salespeople are arguably hired to try to sell you the most expensive version of what you’re looking for. The products will have a store mark-up; stores need to pay to have the goods ordered, packaged and advertised. This all adds to the price of most electronics.

Online stores are able to cut out most of these extra costs. Trusted online shopping websites often offer­ free shipping to your door for orders over certain amounts. We are able to read consumer or peer reviews and assess the ratings fellow consumers have given specific products. Other websites offer comparisons of similar products. And, with a bit of Googling, we can even find video reviews and unbiased write-ups to aid our decision-making.

Embracing Change in Online Banking

There is very little need these days to stand in banks queues. The transference of funds can all be done online via online banking and PayPal. If there are still banks that do not offer these services they won’t be around for long. The only thing to be cautious of is phishing - receiving a scam e-mail, for example, asking you to supply or “update” your banking details. A reputable bank will never ask such things of you via e-mail.

Embracing Change in Social Networking

Then there is the plethora of social networking sites and services - Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Google Wave, blogs, forums and the lot. Social networking sites are in a constant state of flux and new ones will emerge while others may wither and die.

The world of social networking should not be feared, but rather embraced for all its potential. This is fast becoming the preferred way to communicate worldwide. It is also how many companies recruit new employees, how business contacts are formed and how we consume our news and media.

The best bet is to stick with the tried and tested. With any free social networking site or service, we may have to deal with copious amounts of advertising, but this is a fairly small price to pay. Social networks are inevitably under the watchful eyes of their users. If any social networking site were to seriously violate any human right, or start charging users unfair amounts, they would soon be replaced.

Obviously one needs to be careful with what information you decide to provide on social networking websites, and this does not only pertain to profile information. “Liking” or becoming a fan of a particular brand or product might see you receiving related advertising or promotions for a long time to come...

Embracing Change: Online Shopping & Social Networking

Embracing Change (image: brainleadersandlearners.com)

It is also advisable to never defame someone on a social network. This can come back to haunt you. Jobs have been lost and relationships have been broken as a result. Understand that whatever you do online effectively creates an ongoing online record of yourself.

But again, the inevitable growth of the Internet and development of technology should not be feared. There will always be those who will try to take advantage and scam us. In fact, nearly two thirds of our beloved Internet is comprised of spam. But the more you practice being a savvy online user, the better equipped you will be to filter out the bad and make the most of the good.

The Consumer Protection Act guards us and I can say with confidence that the greater good will always prevail online. There is much to learn and discover as the Internet continues to bring our world closer together. It is my opinion that its fast-changing pace is both exciting and full of great potential. Embrace and work with it and it will ultimately enrich your life.

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JONATHAN VAN STADEN

WHY not spoil yourself or someone who you know who has everything with an electronic gadget that will be sure to make a statement this Christmas. The statement might be that you have lost your mind, but it just may make life a little more interesting. There are plenty of devices out there that have been born out of an active imagination. Here is a sampling of some that you will want to have and others you may prefer to give away. Enjoy.

Want Remote

Want Remote

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS: Wand Remote

Do you want things to instantly change with the wave of your hand? Now you can with the wand remote. It will learn commands from your existing remotes and map them to particular hand motions. Flick the wand from side to side to change channels or twist it to turn up the volume. A beam of light will even shoot out as you become the conductor of your electronic symphony from the comfort of your couch.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS: Popcorn Machine

You just know how much this would make you feel as if you are at the movies or back at the fun fair. No more boring microwave bags. Here you can have salted, hot buttered popcorn until your lips start to wrinkle!

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS: Guitar T-shirt

Guitar t-shirtPlaying air guitar is so last year. Put this shirt on and plug it into the clip on speaker/amp and start playing your favourite music. All the major chords are recorded from a real electric guitar and the magnetic pick allows you to strum like you would a normal guitar. The amp has a tone knob that lets you adjust the sound just like a real guitar. In case you were wondering the volume knob goes up to 11.

Outdoor subwooferCHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS: Outdoor Sub-woofer

Now you can enjoy a full bass sound outdoors. It can support up to 90 kg, so you can use it as a plant stand or a side table. Its durable terracotta finish is paintable to match your outdoor décor. Your plants will be amazed to actually hear the sound of a tuba.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS: Dog Speakers

Talking of woofers, how about something for the the dog lover. Well, a pair headless dogs sitting at your side may be too weird for you to live with. But on the positive side they do come fully house trained.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS: Self Stirring Mug

Self stirring mugObviously you are going to be so busy waving your remote around and tucking into your popcorn that you cannot be expected to stop and stir your favourite hot drink you have just prepared. You don’t have to. With this mug all you need is one hand to press the button on the handle and all the ingredients will be stirred to perfection.

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PC GAMES: A quick look at some good game titles this Christmas

IT is the most exciting time of year for retailers and children alike as we are bombarded by adverts from all directions and the kiddy winkles are putting their finishing touches to their Christmas wish lists.

If your children are as demanding as most they’ll probably be nagging for the latest and greatest gadgetry goods this year. I imagine it must be tough having to explain what a recession is to a young child and argue that Apple iPads and Xboxes just aren’t in Santa’s budget this year.

But, if you already have a workable PC installed at home, games as gifts are the perfect solution to making everyone happy this Christmas. PC games are not frightfully expensive these days and I can assure you from experience that there is nothing more exciting than being given a new game to play for Christmas.

I have compiled a list of a few great PC games that cover several genres and are suitable for a variety of ages. It is also useful to know that most PC games today are not gender-specific. What may have once been considered as boys’ games are now being played considerably by the growing number of girl gamers.

Civilization V (ages 16+): R360 (PC)

Civilization VSid Meier’s award-winning Civilization series is a treat to the mind that will appeal to strategy gamers who enjoy turn-based games. Civilization takes one back to the beginnings of time where you can play as one of the great leaders from history. Discover new technologies and lands, build great wonders, forge alliances and sign treaties as you lead your people through time.

Civilization is a challenging game that promises hours of unique gaming. The previous release (Civilization IV) is now available for only R66 and includes three expansion packs.

Fallout New Vegas (R18): R350 (PC)

Fallout New VegasIn a post-apocalyptic world set in the not too distant future, you are one of several survivors who were preserved in underground vaults. After humanity emerges from living underground for generations, they have already begun to form tribes and allegiances. Conflict is inevitable as different tribes compete for clean water and survival, but one city has mysteriously been preserved from complete destruction. That city is New Vegas.

Stunning visuals and complete immersiveness make this game a personal favourite of mine. Outcomes differ depending on how you play the game and engage with its moral choice system. Just a warning: Fallout does have a gambling component and suggestions of prostitution — hence the age restriction.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (ages 16+):

The Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionThe Elder Scrolls places the player in the fantasy realm of Cyrodil — set in the Middle Ages. Made by the same company as Fallout 3, this game is equally stunning and immersive. Players are given endless quests which may see you fighting in the arena or battling mythical creatures with both magic and steel.

The Elder Scrolls is a great example of a sandbox game, whereby the player can literally venture where he or she pleases until the edge of the map. Like Fallout 3, it also features a weather system­, whereby players will experience rain, snow or shine and changes between day and night.

The game is not excessively violent or naughty, but perhaps a little complex for younger players.

Zoo TycoonZoo Tycoon 2 (ages 3+): R309 (PC)

From Railroad Tycoon to Zoo Tycoon — these games are great educational simulators. Players will learn the fundamentals of zoo upkeep and design in a fun and visually stimulating way. Zoo Tycoon is available with four expansion packs, namely the Zookeeper collection, the Marine Mania collection, Endangered Species and the Extinct Animals expansion pack.

Need for Speed Hot PursuitNeed for Speed: Hot Pursuit (ages 12+): R303 (PC)

If your offspring are into fast cars and adrenaline rushes (i.e. racing games) you need look no further than the Need for Speed series. Hot Pursuit is one of the more popular releases that will make car fans drool at the well-rendered graphics and sporty cars they get to drive.

Fifa 2011 (ages 3+): R308 (PC)

Fifa 2011The ever successful Fifa series is back with Fifa 2011 released this year. Football games are a lot of fun with a lot of effort put into their design. Players look like the real deal, stadia are modelled­ accurately and the roar and buzz of the fans creates a high-energy atmosphere.

Fifa 2010 is a good choice considering that the World Cup was hosted by our country this year. Unfortunately this release is currently out of stock; but if it becomes available again before Christmas it is selling for just R129.

GAMES BARGAIN BIN:

(these are games I haven’t personally played, but have certainly heard of. Suitable for all ages):

  • Ultimate Monster Trucks         R14
  • Football Manager 2007           R14
  • Winter Games                            R14
  • Puzzle Quest                             R90
  • Zoo Tycoon (stand alone)        R66

NOTE: All PC games mentioned here are available at www.take2.co.za which is also offering free shipping this festive season on all orders over R350. Games may be available in stores or on other shopping websites, yet prices may differ.

Happy gaming and Merry Christmas!

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WANTITALL: Bringing U.S. goods into SA at competitive prices

BUYING goods and services online is fast becoming the preferred way to shop around this century, and it’s becoming easier for South Africans as more online stores emerge to serve a South African clientele.

Websites such as Take2 are at the top of Google’s ranking list and it’s easy to see why. Online shopping is quick and easy and can be done from the comfort of your own home and in your own time. The rising popularity of shopping online is evident from the number of new stores that have arrived on the scene, all offering easy ways to find what you’re looking for.

One particular online store that is rising in the ranks is www.wantitall.co.za, which operates in a very similar way to sites such as Take2.co.za and Kalahari.net. Launched in 2006, WantItAll has access to products that are not available in South Africa, which they sell at competitive prices that won’t blow your budget. Here’s a snippet from their website.

“WantItAll was launched in 2006 and has access to over 15 000 000 products which are sourced from all over the world. The site is 100% safe, which means that your personal details and credit card information are totally secure with us and will not be shared with third parties. We offer all customers competitive prices and also run specials on a daily basis.” - www.wantitall.co.za

WantItAll.co.za has access to over 15 000 000 products that are sourced from all over the world. Through an associate agreement with amazon.com, WantItAll specialises in importing items from the United States that can’t be found in South Africa, and offers them at competitive prices.

WantItAll.co.za has access to over 15 000 000 products that are sourced from all over the world. Through an associate agreement with amazon.com, WantItAll specialises in importing items from the United States that can’t be found in South Africa, and offers them at competitive prices.

WantItAll: Getting started

To sign up for a WantItAll account and start shopping takes the average web-user about six minutes, tops. Once you have an account, you’re ready to shop and add goods to either your digital shopping cart or wish-list.

WantItAll will notify you when out-of-stock items in your shopping wish-list are available to order again. Users can also send their wish-lists to family and friends to ensure that they get exactly what they want for Christmas or a forthcoming birthday.

WantItAll shopping specials are on offer daily and available products range from video games and DVDs to musical instruments and baby products. After having a good browse through the catalogue, I also came across several sought-after products that are difficult to find in the country or elsewhere for that matter. This has been made possible through an associate agreement with amazon.com, which allows WantItAll to specialise in importing items from the U.S. that you can’t find in South Africa.

I signed up for my own WantItAll account earlier this week and was pleasantly surprised to see that I got given a R50-off coupon. The online shopping website is also offering free delivery for an order of three or more items. To add cream on top of an extra-chocolaty sundae, they are also currently offering some great discounts within their DVD collection.

WantItAll: Payments and delivery

For South African online shoppers, WantItAll accepts EFTs and direct bank deposits via MasterCard and Visa; and if you have built up a little nest egg of eBucks, these can also be used as payment or part of it. The website has also being verified as SiteSafe, meaning that electronic transfers are 100% safe and secure.

Delivery is to your front door (unless specified otherwise) and delivery charges are generally dependent on the order. Standard delivery charge is R59, but if your order is particularly bulky, or you live out in the gamadoelas, delivery may cost you a little more.

Delivery time is generally between seven and 15 working days after payment has gone through. This is not a bad wait at all considering that your goods will probably be travelling cross-Atlantic. If you are not entirely satisfied with your new toys or goods, WantItAll does offer a returns system.

PROS OF ONLINE SHOPPING

  • Consumers can read reviews of a product online to help them decide whether or not it’s worthy of purchase.
  • Most online products offer user ratings, which give consumers an idea of how others feel about a particular product.
  • No cash is needed to pay for online goods and paying via an electronic funds transfer (EFT) is a safe, fast and painless process.
  • You do not need to travel to the store to pick up your goods; most online stores will deliver your ordered products to your door.
  • Despite being unable to touch the products in an online store, consumers can often see what’s inside the box or packaging without opening it.

Happy and safe online shopping!

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PAYPAL: No more need to expose your credit card or banking details

PayPalBUYING and selling goods and services online is fast becoming the preferred way to shop and conduct business this century, and it recently became easier with the introduction of PayPal to South Africa.

This enables South Africans to buy from and sell to PayPal’s global customer base of more than 81 million active accounts in 190 markets around the world in 21 different currencies. South Africa is the 190th country to get access
to PayPal accounts and it’s about damn time too!

What is PayPal?

To put it simply, PayPal is a safe and easy way to perform online transactions without exposing your credit card or bank account number. It can be thought of as an extension of your bank account that allows you to send and receive money globally 24/7.

It has always been possible to make foreign payments, but now South Africans are getting a chance to cash in by being able to sell goods themselves within the global eCommerce marketplace. There are currently 200 million people that use PayPal to send and receive money today and for good reason.

You can use a PayPal account to:

  • Receive payments in 190 countries.
  • Checkout quickly at hundreds of online stores.
  • Shop at online merchants or shops in 67 countries.
  • Make or receive payments for goods and services online.
  • Pay for things and send money without sharing your financial information.

How do I get a PayPal account?

To open a South African PayPal account, visit www.paypal.com and follow the instructions provided. You’ll be asked to fill in your details and link your credit or cheque card to your new PayPal account.

A small charge ($1,95) will then be debited from your account, which will be refunded (in two to three days) once you supply a four-digit reference number that is provided with this transaction to PayPal. This verification method is a security precaution that ensures that only you can access your PayPal account.

FNB’s Top Up and Withdraw service

Currently PayPal is exclusive to First National Bank customers, but no doubt it will soon be offered by other major banks as well. It is also likely that other PayPal options and services will become available once more South Africans get on board and become comfortable with using PayPal.

One particular offering is FNB’s exclusive Top Up and Withdraw service, which allows FNB customers to top up and withdraw funds from a PayPal account via a qualifying FNB account. FNB Customers can simply open a PayPal account and link it to a qualified FNB account and receive PayPal payments in 21 different currencies. FNB will then convert the currency to South African rands once the money is transferred into their accounts. No more lost cheques in the post.

How do I register for this?

To register for such PayPal services you’ll need a South African PayPal account, a qualifying FNB bank account and access to FNB Online Banking. (The following steps are specific to FNB and may differ for other banks offering PayPal services).

Step by step, you will need to:

  1. Have a qualifying FNB bank account (FNB cheque, savings or transmission acc).
  2. Have an FNB Online Banking profile.
  3. Register a South African PayPal account on www.paypal.com
  4. Verify your PayPal account on www.paypal.com
  5. Login to your FNB Online Banking profile; register for this service and link your PayPal account to your FNB Online Banking profile.

Qualifying FNB accounts include most FNB savings, cheque and transmission accounts. When completing a FNB Top Up or Withdraw with PayPal, a list of all your qualifying FNB accounts that can be used for this service will be displayed.

Remember that they will have to be linked to your FNB Online Banking profile in order for them to be displayed. Also note that a credit card account is not a qualifying account for this service.

How do I withdraw and transfer money into my PayPal account?

FNB’s Top Up and Withdraw services allow you to transfer or withdraw funds from a qualifying FNB bank account into your PayPal account. To do this, simply login to FNB Online Banking and select the “PayPal Services” menu option.

Once you have registered for the service, you can transfer funds (in rands) from your qualifying FNB account into your PayPal account in United States dollars, which can then be used to make purchases from PayPal merchants worldwide.

Note that when completing the FNB Top Up service you will be required to disclose the purpose of your transaction and provide contact information to ensure that you comply with all South African Reserve Bank regulations. A Top Up of funds from FNB to a PayPal account may only be used for the specified reason.

It is also important to remember that according to South African Reserve Bank exchange-control regulations, all funds received into your PayPal account must be withdrawn within 30 days of receipt.

Fees: what does it cost?

FNB charges a transaction commission of 1,5% for each Top Up or Withdraw transaction using a PayPal account. This commission is calculated on the rand equivalent of the U.S. dollar amount requested.

An exchange rate is quoted by FNB on all rand/U.S. dollar transactions and may vary for Top Up and Withdraw transactions.

Certain PayPal transactions may also attract certain fees. Visit www.paypal.com for more information regarding any hidden costs.

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