Local News Since 1890 Now Online!

E-commerce shoppers beware price steering

In Uncategorized, Media, National News, Economy, Technology, Holiday, finances on November 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm

DIH LOGORecent surveys suggest that nearly 60 percent of shoppers will do their holiday buying online this year. That’s probably not too surprising to most people.  But did you also know that many e-commerce websites actually adjust pricing based on your personal information to get the most money they can from each shopper? It’s called “price steering,” and it’s perfectly legal. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say Bob goes online to buy a hammer using his smart phone. The e-commerce hardware site offers the item for $10 with a $2 shipping charge. From his desktop computer at work, John looking up the very same hammer on the same website, but his price is showing at $15 with a $5 shipping charge. The cost variation is based on data collected from each buyer’s Internet device.

Whenever you visit a website it leaves a “fingerprint,” on your computer, smart phone or tablet in the form of cookies, browsing history, and so on. For our example, let’s say Bob and John live in different parts of the country, work in different occupations, and have individual buying habits, so their computers, smart phones and other devices portray a very different “electronic personality,” or “E.P.”

The E.P. information is used to “steer” each buyer to the same product but with different pricing based on the collected data. That level of electronic tracking might sound a bit distressing, but it’s really been going on for quite some time.

Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd. recommends checking e-commerce prices from different devices.

Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd. recommends checking e-commerce prices from different devices.

Internet users receive a plethora of personalized information every day. As they go about their day-to-day activities, complex programming is used to sift through online profile data and previous online activity, constantly processing it through something called a “personalization algorithm.” If you’ve ever wondered why Amazon knows that you like country music or white tigers, and constantly offers you products related to those things, that’s how they do it.

A similar process is used at grocery and other retail stores, using a combination of product placement and special pricing. I often refer to it as “the milk effect,” because dairy products, meats and other essentials are positioned in the back of the store and shoppers must pass a myriad of floor and end cap displays to get to them.

This “steers” the shopper past all of the sale items, incidentals, and virtually everything else, as they make their way to the household staples. Unlike price steering online, however, this practice is fairly transparent and has few components to allow unique pricing adjustments for each buyer.

User data collection and manipulation may provide many people with better pricing but it can also be used to force others to pay more. A recent study by researchers at Northeastern University brought into question the level of transparency offered by popular e-commerce sites and price steering practices.

Price steering actually hap­pens every day and is well-advertised. In a standard retail setting, for example, senior citizens might get a dis­count at the movies or a col­lege stu­dent pays less for books. And, according to the university’s website, authors of the study note that there is nothing inherently sinister in the processes.

But before you click “buy now,” it’s up to you to make sure you’re getting the best possible price online. Here are a few simple tips to help.

First, clear the browsing history on your device and turn off tracking cookies. Websites can’t access your history if there’s nothing there to see. Be aware, however, that some websites require that cookies be allowed or the site will not work properly.

Next, view the website on different devices. Some of the data collected can tell retailers that you are using an expensive smart phone and may be more inclined to pay more at checkout.

If you’re a regular user of a particular retailer’s website, log out and log in as a guest through another device. Sometimes guests are provided with lower pricing to entice them to buy.

Finally, scroll around, making sure to check the very bottom of the web page. Lower-priced products may be displayed elsewhere besides the top of the page. Do your homework, get the best price and enjoy this holiday shopping season.

(TUNE INTO WDTN-TV2′S LIVING DAYTON AT NOON ON FRIDAY NOVEMBER 28TH FOR A SPECIAL SEGMENT ON THIS TOPIC PRESENTED BY DEER IN HEADLINES AUTHOR GERY L. DEER.)

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown. More at gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

Jamestown Opera House Show celebrates 20 years of a local family’s musical history

In Children and Family, Entertainment, history, Local News, Media, News Media, Senior Lifestyle, Theatre, Uncategorized on November 17, 2014 at 11:51 am
Lois Deer (center) with The Brothers & Co. members Gary Deer Jr., Gery Deer, and husband Gary Deer Sr. at the Jamestown Opera House in 2010

Lois Deer (center) with The Brothers & Co. members Gary Deer Jr., Gery Deer, and husband Gary Deer Sr. at the Jamestown Opera House in 2010

JAMESTOWN, OH – On a cold, winter night, a couple of weeks after a family Christmas party in 1994, something historic took place. William Sutton, his brother Gary “Tuff” Sutton, Sr., and their nephews, Gery Deer and Gary Deer, Jr., did something they’d never done before. They all met up on a Friday night at the Deer family farm in Jamestown, Ohio and collected their musical talents into what would become a lifelong undertaking. While you may never have heard of “The Brothers & Co. Entertainers,” their history is one of a unique brotherhood derived from a family whose musical talent goes back several generations.

While William and Tuff had played together many times over the years, the Deer brothers had never made the attempt. Tuff had helped Gery develop his natural piano skills and Gary Jr. hadn’t played his drums much after graduating high school in Fairborn in the early 1970s. But when they sat down, something really amazing happened, they just “worked.”

Tuff took on the lead and rhythm guitar duties. William was initially the group’s bass player, but picked up his dusty bow and took over the fiddle spot once family friend Jess W. Young, of Fairborn, signed on, and then there were five.

Originally called simply, “The Brothers,” the band went through a lot of changes in its first year or two, adding and subtracting musicians, but always maintaining the two sets of brothers as the foundation. By 1996, a decision was made to change the group’s name, adding, “& Co.” (and company), allowing them to add and subtract whomever they wanted without much of a branding problem, so long as Gery and Gary Jr. at least remained. Somewhere along the way, Gery and Gary Jr. decided that the group was made up more of “entertainers” than trained musicians, so that was tagged onto the name too – “The Brothers & Co. Entertainers.”

SONY DSCBy 1996, Ed Jones had joined up on banjo and acoustic guitar. A cousin to the Deer brothers and another nephew of the Suttons, he also had never played together with his family before in this way. Sadly, the family lost Uncle Tuff Sutton to cancer in 2005, and William stayed with the group only a short time after and also passed away a few years later. Jess Young also retired from the group due to health reasons and passed away shortly after.

“None of who we are now would have happened without each of them,” Gery remembers of his family members who have passed on, including his mother, Lois, who died in 2011 after suffering for several years from Alzheimer’s disease. “We are who we are because of them and my mother was, essentially, the anchor. It was because of her that my brother and I are here and that the others came together with us. We couldn’t have done this without them.” But the changes weren’t over yet.

From inception until about 2004, the boys had maintained an instrumental bluegrass persona. But one Saturday night, shortly after a family friend, Jim Karns of Fairborn, joined the group, something odd happened. As Gery puts it, “We opened our mouths and a terrible, awful, nails on the chalkboard noise hit the air, as if four birds had flown headlong into a window while screeching at the top of their lungs.”

The Brothers & Co Variety Show will perform a 45 minute set at the Schuster December 4. Photo by Jen Copas

The Brothers & Co Variety Show will perform a 45 minute set at the Schuster December 4. Photo by Jen Copas

Brothers_Co-Whip_Gery_JimIn truth, the experiment had landed them in uncharted waters. Although Ed had done some singing, and Jim, as the most experienced, having performed in theater productions while in school at Kettering Fairmont, Gery and Gary Jr. had virtually no singing experience. But there were some golden nuggets amidst the muddy waters of their four-part vocalization.

Working hard to find their respective parts, eventually everything finally fell into place and they had become singers as well as naturally talented musicians. But with change comes growing pains.

An expanded repertoire and wider variety of music required instrument and key changes and since they guys play their own instruments, staging issues caused shows to come to a dead crawl. But a solution for that problem quickly presented itself, and, as is the norm with this group, Mother Necessity birthed yet another Brothers & Co. innovation – one they like to call, “comagic.

In addition to having a great set of bass singing pipes, Jim Karns is also an award-winning, classical stage magician. In addition, Gery was an accomplished stage bullwhip artist, having performed all over the country and on national television shows like America’s Got Talent and The Bonnie Hunt Show. He and Gery had met while working for an engineering center in Dayton and found they had many common interests, the least of which was a somewhat Vaudevillian sense of humor, one that fit in perfectly with an almost Grand Ole Opry styled stage show.

The Brothers & Co. Bus, NOAH'S ARK

The Brothers & Co. Bus

The new family-friendly routines, originally designed to give time for stage and instrument changes, soon added a whole new dimension to the show. It wasn’t long until “The Brothers & Co. Entertainers” became, “The Brothers & Co. Music and Variety Show.”

After two decades of constant evolution, weekly rehearsals in a specially built room at the Deer family farm, and shows that spanned everything from coffee shops to casinos, The Brothers & Co. have more to offer than just four guys standing around singing. They are a full, family-friendly, stage variety show that can perform virtually anywhere. Their signature black, western outfits designed by Gary, Jr. and Gery’s mother, Lois, are a tribute to their family’s country music heritage.

The group has performed at the Schuster Performing Arts Center, the Victoria Theatre and the casino resorts of French Lick, Indiana, but their home is in Jamestown, and that’s where they want this 20th anniversary to tour to start. Gary Deer, Jr. is the percussionist of the group and sees to most of their technical requirements. “Mostly, we want to entertain people and give them a show like most haven’t seen since the 60’s,” he says.

“We put a modern spin on an old kind of entertainment that’s nostalgic and originally presented all at the same time,” says Jim Karns. “If you’ve never seen a live variety show, this is something the whole family will really enjoy.” To celebrate their 20th anniversary, The Brothers & Co. will present a pre-holiday performance beginning at 7PM, Saturday, November 22nd at the Jamestown Opera House, 19 N. Limestone St., Jamestown, Oh 45335, to benefit the Jamestown Area Historical Society.

The Brothers & Co. with Gary Deer Sr. and their late mother Lois Deer at the Wheeling Jamboree Radio Show, 2010

The Brothers & Co. with Gary Deer Sr. and their late mother Lois Deer at the Wheeling Jamboree Radio Show, 2010

Gery says the show has something for everyone, and it comes from a place of deep meaning for the family. “This show is hard work, just like anything else of value. It honors our mother’s memory, it gives testimony to the fact that a family can do something together besides watch TV or play a video game. There is a family commitment to The Brothers & Co. that gives other families the chance to bring the kids and enjoy genuine, dare I say it, ‘wholesome’ entertainment that’s just plain fun. It almost doesn’t exist anymore and we rarely get a chance to show it here at home.”

Tickets at the door are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students. Children 12 and under are free. Tickets are available at the door the night of the show and for presale at Ted’s Barber Shop, 3 W. Washington St. in Jamestown. Sponsorships are also still available for businesses in the area starting at $100. Proceeds from this performance benefit the Jamestown Area Historical Society. More information is available from The Brothers & Co. website, thebrothersandcompany.com, and from their Facebook page. Watch for The Brothers & Co on the WDTN-TV2 program, Living Dayton, 12 noon, Tuesday November 18.

The creative process cannot be quantified

In Books, Children and Family, crafts, Entertainment, Local News, National News, Opinion, Print Media, Technology, Uncategorized on November 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

If you haDIH LOGOve any friends who are aspiring novelists and you haven’t seen them for a while, I may know why. November is National Novel Writing Month, a time when writers – hobbyists and professionals alike – forsake virtually everything else in life to get down at least 50,000 words towards a completed novel in just thirty days. As executive director of the Western Ohio Writers Association I am, like many of our members, one of the anticipated 400,000 worldwide participants in the event. But attempting to pen a full-length novel in under a month is not for the faint of heart.

“NaNoWriMo,” as it’s known for short, is a non-profit organization started in 1999. In 2013, more than 310,000 participants signed up, spanning six continents. In the 2014 official press release, NaNoWriMo Executive director Grant Faulkner said, “Every year, we’re reminded that there are still stories that have yet to be told, still voices yet to be heard from all corners of the world. NaNoWriMo helps people make creativity a priority in life and realize the vital ways our stories connect us. We are our stories.”

pcpic1

pcpic1

Given their commitment to the encouragement of writers as a whole, the NaNoWriMo folks certainly seem to want to keep people motivated and working and that extends beyond the November event. The organization also promotes youth programs, writing camps and other writing-focused activities throughout the year.

NaNoWriMo’s organizers insist the purpose of the 30-day novel challenge is to inspire and motivate authors to actually finish something, a common barrier for new writers. To hit the goal, writers must pen approximately 1,667 words per day, regardless of quality. But the “just keep writing” approach doesn’t sit well with some and there are those who say that it instead may be more counterproductive than helpful.

Opponents believe that the idea of such incredible pressure of deadline and competition undermines the inspirational process; robbing the author of the creative time necessary to be more selective of words, phrasing and flow.  Classic American author Mark Twain might well have been in agreement with this thinking.

In a letter dated October 15, 1888 to English minister George Bainton, Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

nanologoBut those who are regular participants seem to really enjoy a process that they say gives them the opportunity to stay focused and inspires a bit of healthy competition. Throughout the month, each writer updates a public profile on the NaNoWriMo website which includes word count to date; a practice largely appreciated as one of the most motivating aspects of the exercise, or the most discouraging, depending on how you’re doing.

Whether you are a writer or a reader, this is probably a good time to point out that the creative process is not something that can be qualified or quantified. It is different for every artist. While there are people who are proficient with grammar, punctuation, style and general mastery of the English language, there is no such thing as an “expert” writer. Most successful authors – and not just in the commercial sense – will insist that good writing cannot be taught, it has to be practiced and that the creative process is ongoing.

It may very well be that a 30-day novel, after editing and revision, could end up the next New York Times best seller. It is just as probable that another manuscript, in the works for many years, might turn out to be the worst 300 pages ever put to paper. It’s really a coin toss.

Truthfully, the process really doesn’t matter. Although the value of art rests with the audience, its quality depends on the talent, determination and hard work of the artist (writer), rather than the method used for its production. As for those of you typing your way to 50,000 words this month, we who are grateful to get out 700 words every week salute you! Good luck.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and executive director of the Western Ohio Writers Association. More at westernohiowriters.org.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 706 other followers