Friday, August 30, 2013

How to add Paypal to your Blogspot page

I wanted to add a Paypal "donation" button to my blog. The how-to guides I found online didn't quite work; I had to tinker with the coding a bit.

Here's what worked for me:

  • Log in to your Paypal account.
  • Click on "Merchant Services"
  • Choose "Create Payment Buttons for Your Website"
  • Click on "Create a Button"
  • Under "Choose a button type," select "donations."  (You could create other types of buttons if you wish.)
  • Follow the instructions, then choose "Create button" at the end. HTML coding will appear for your button.
  • Select and copy all the HTML coding.
  • Sign into your account and go to the "Template" page.
  • Click on "Edit HTML". 
  • Find the line that says, <div class='post-footer'>
  • Paste the coding above this line.
  • You can try to "Preview Template" at this point, but in my experience the coding didn't work. You'll need to add four slash marks.
  • Each of the lines that begins with <input should end />
  • The line that begins <img should end />

  • In other words, add the slash mark before the "greater than" symbol on those four lines. 
That should do it. Click on "Preview Template" to see your page, then "Save Template."

If this doesn't work, let me know by leaving a comment below.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's wrong with retail stores (hint: it's not the prices)

Brick-and-mortar stores often complain that they are losing business to online merchants because consumers today only care about finding the lowest price. No one values the personal service they offer, these stores grumble.

But that's just not true. Consumers do value good service. The problem for many traditional retailers is that not only don't they have the best prices, they also don't have very good service.

Consider my visit this week to Michael's, the arts and crafts store in Long Beach's Towne Center.

Michael's carries such a bewildering array of products that what I needed most when I stepped in the door was someone to point me to the right aisle. But there was no such person.

As I circled around the store twice it appeared there was only one person working, and she was handling customers at the checkstand. It seemed I could have done anything laid down in the aisle, tossed rubber stamps into the air, ran around naked and no employee would have noticed.

Then, excitedly, I spotted two more workers. Alas, one was on the phone. I headed for the other one. I'm not sure whether he saw me or not, but he turned directly away from me, went through a door, and disappeared into a back room. Sigh.

After a few more minutes of wandering aimlessly in search of help, I left. Michael's lost a sale simply because no one was available to direct me to the right aisle. I bought what I needed later in the day online, from a seller that made it easy to find what I wanted.

Sadly, this experience is hardly limited to Michael's. I've had the same frustrating experience looking for help at Lowe's, Home Depot and other stores

Later in the day, I stopped at Costco in Commerce, California. I had coupons that the store had mailed to my home in hand.

But when I presented my coupons at the checkstand, the Costco worker said they wouldn't accept them. Why? Because this was a Costco "Business Center."

If you've never been to a Costco Business Center, let me describe it: It's a Costco. It looks like a Costco, has huge carts like a Costco, has Costco products and employees with Costco badges. The only difference I could discern was that on the side of the building, next to the word "Costco," were the words "Business Center."

After Costco refused to accept Costco coupons, the checker then told me that my membership had expired three months earlier and that I couldn't buy anything there anyway until I forked over $55. So when you try to use coupons, it's not a Costco. But when it comes to membership, it is a Costco.

I said no thanks to renewing my membership, and left my cart full of products in their hands. I won't be back.

I am also amazed at how many stores make it difficult to give them money. You've done your shopping, you head to check out and then you find a huge line of people, just because the store would rather waste your time than hire more employees. The CVS drug store in the downtown Los Angeles Mall is a prime example. More than once, I've walked out of that store because of the line and left my would-be purchases behind.

(Just in case you think I'm nothing but a whiner, check out my nearly perfect shopping experience at Barnes & Noble.) 

Let's face it: Online stores make shopping convenient. You don't have to drive anywhere, fight for a parking space, or wander aimlessly in a store. There's never a line. When you're ready to checkout, online stories are always ready to take your money. And those are all important parts of good service.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: SKLZ Agility and Quickness Reaction Ball

It's funny how times change. Some years ago the SKLZ Agility and Quickness Reaction Ball would have been marketed as "crazy ball" or "whacky bouncer." The ads would show kids and adults laughing as they tried to catch the ball when it makes unpredictable hops.

Today, though, this is sold as a tool for those interested in "gaining the winning edge in sports." The ball is designed, says the product description, to improve hand-eye coordination, peripheral vision and "position awareness." The picture on Amazon shows a very serious boy baseball player preparing to catch the ball.

In the 21st Century, everything even a bouncing ball must have a serious purpose. Sigh.

All that said, this is kind of a fun ball. You bounce it off a hard surface or a wall and try to catch it, which is not always easy. You and a friend can bounce it between each other.

I don't know if it's going to make you or your child a sports star. But you might like it anyway.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Welcome to Kenya: Getting your entrance visa

If you're traveling to Kenya, one of the first things you'll do when you get off the plane is get your entrance visa. 

While it is possible to apply online and get your visa ahead of time, many people find it easier to get theirs on entrance. That's what my family did when we came to Kenya in July 2013. Even if you have your visa ahead of time, you still have to wait in line. 

It's a good idea, as we did, to print out the white visa application forms from the Internet beforehand and have them filled out and ready to go. On our plane, flight attendants handed out yellow cards which also needed to be filled out for each person. Arriving at Nairobi airport's passport control with our white form and yellow cards ready to go, we found there were also blue cards to be filled out. You have to have all three of them, even though they ask almost identical questions. Go figure. 

(If you can, it would help to memorize your passport number. You'll have to write it on forms multiple times during your visit.)

A single entry visa costs U.S. $50 per person, including children. You can also pay in Euros or British pounds, but oddly, not in Kenyan Shillings. Credit cards are not accepted.

I'd read various online warnings that Kenyans won't accept U.S. bills that are torn even slightly or damaged in any way. Nor, said the warnings, will they accept bills that are "old." According to some, bills more than just five years old will be rejected.

Concerned about this, I went to my bank before we left and got four 2009 $50 bills to pay the visa fees for my family.  Even then, I was a little concerned
three of the bills were nice and crisp, but the fourth was wrinkled and well-used, and I feared this would be a problem.

As it turned out, my bills were accepted without question. But at an adjacent counter, we saw that one man's $100 bill was rejected as being too old. He was thumbing through a stack of other bills to find an acceptable one. 

Including standing in line, the whole visa process only took 10-15 minutes for us (having the white form and yellow card filled out in advance helped). But that was before the August 7, 2014, fire at Nairobi airport. I would expect the fire will result in much greater processing times for arriving passengers.

One last thing: When you leave Kenya, you have to go through Customs again (why?). That means filling out yet another form. 

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