Friday, May 30, 2008

the great contact lens rebate saga

i last presented a simple recipe for getting a great deal on your contact lenses. what should have been a fairly straighforward plan took 5 weeks to complete. here's the full story:
  • 15/4: rang direct contact lenses, ordered 8 boxes of oasys (6 lenses/box, or 1 year's supply), getting them to match the best competitor's price (from now contacts) @$31/box + $8.25 shipping, total order $256.25
  • 16/4: invoice issued by direct contact lenses, listing 1 entry of item number 852 x quantity 8. this got me a bit confused when i actually received the invoice because item number 852 is used to denote a pair of disposable contact lenses. each box is for one eye - i ordered 8 boxes, or 4 pairs.
  • 28/4?: logged onto medibank's website and entered my online claim for optical benefit for "852 (contact lens pair 12 month supply)", seeing as this most accurately describes what i purchased. at the same time i updated my bank account details to have the benefit paid into my new account.
  • 30/4: got email notification that my claim status had changed, logged in and saw that i had received $50 payable benefit. based on previous claims, i was expecting to receive $200 benefit for one year's supply of contacts (@$50/3 month period).
  • rang medibank and was told that the payment was $50 because the benefit payable is $50 per 852 – to get $200 benefit the invoice would have needed to show 4 entries of 852. moreover this could not be changed as the claim had been processed. if the invoice is incorrect, i would need to get the provider to reissue correct details and fax to medibank's extras help desk. no notification will issue about the status of the claim, but i could call back in a few weeks as they’re about 2-3 weeks behind in processing manual claims. great.
  • rang direct contact lenses to request reissue of invoice, with 1 copy sent to me by post, and another copy to medibank by fax. the person who answered the phone (not the same girl who took my original order) seemed to know what i was talking about with the 4 entries business, which makes me wonder why the invoice wasn't written out that way in the first place...
  • sometime in early may: received mail from medibank dated 30/4 confirming update of EFT details, and a cheque payment of $50 issued in favour of the provider!
  • rang medibank to why money wasn't paid to me - apparently my online claim indicated the account had not been paid. i would need to show the paid invoice to get the claim changed (cancel provider cheque, reissue to me).
  • 9/5: visited my nearest medibank branch to show them my invoice and request reissue of cheque.
  • also queried the $50/line of item number 852 issue, and was told (with what i'm sure was a sigh and a roll of the eyes from the customer service representative) that the information i was previously given is incorrect. after waiting some 15 minutes while she double and triple checked with a colleague and manager (was my case so out of the ordinary?) she cancelled the $50 cheque to my provider, amended my claim to include additional benefits payable, told me that payment will issue for $200, and i walked away thinking this would be the end of the whole thing.
  • 12/5: letter was issued notifying that my revised claim has been processed for EFT payment. i waited a few days after getting the letter and wondered why it hadn't shown up in my bank account. then i rechecked the confirmation letter from 30/4 and found that the account number had an extra digit at the end!
  • 19/5?: rang to update EFT details, confirmed that a replacement cheque had already been issued because the previous EFT payment was rejected.
  • 21/5: received my replacement cheque for $200, banked it a few days later.

so, after all this, i'm out of pocket $56.25 for a year's worth of contact lenses and a pack of contact lens solution. not a bad deal, but rather more drawn out and troublesome than it should have been.

ps. have just noticed an ad by clearlycontacts which claims they will beat all competitors prices by 110%. might be worth checking out after you use up the free welcome pack deal from direct contact lenses...

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related posts: how to get a great deal on your contacts

Monday, May 26, 2008

how to get a great deal on your contacts

here's a simple recipe:
  1. get/know your contact lens script
  2. search online for the cheapest price you can get
  3. call contact lens direct and get them to match your best price
  4. receive a free welcome pack (solutions) with your first order
  5. claim any benefits you may be entitled to from your private health fund

the actual execution proved a little less straightforward than i anticipated, but that's a story for another post. for a demonstration of how much you could save, consider this:

  • i checked out 15 websites selling contact lenses - some were sites i already knew of, others were found by googling
  • the price of box of acuvue oasys (6-pack) ranged from $31 to $45. i won't even bother considering how much your local shop/optometrist will charge you for them (nothing against any optometrists i personally know :)
  • shipping can be as much as $13, often depending on quantity (number of boxes / other items / total weight), though most places will give you free shipping if your order exceeds a certain $value
  • the total cost of a year's supply of oasys lenses (8 boxes + shipping) can range from about $256 to $360
  • notes from my "research" can be viewed at

NB. contact lens direct don't actually offer a good price on oasys at all - they charge $51 per box ($20 more than the cheapest i found)! but they do offer to match competitors prices. and the only reason i considered using them rather than just going to the competitor is their "welcome pack" offer, which is good for a one off freebie of a solution pack, saving you another good $20-odd. i still stand by my previous recommendation of Net Optical for low prices and consistently excellent service.
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related posts: Net Optical - for savings on contact lenses

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"hometown affair"

rebecca sparrow, author of "the way we live" column for the sunday mail, recently (may 18 edition of the "event" liftout) wrote of her revelation after returning from backpacking around britain and europe, and finding life in her hometown of brisbane just a little boring by comparison (dubbing the place brisboring).

"Eventually common sense kicked in. Other cities were more interesting, more exciting, more vibrant because I actually got off my … backside and did stuff.

When you're backpacking, TV isn't an option. Nobody sits around wishing they could snuggle up and watch season five of The Sopranos on DVD in the communal lounge.

No, when you're a traveller you actually leave your dorm. You scour the newspaper for local events. You pay attention to the colourful flyers and posters that decorate the city and you -- gasp! -- actually go!

Imagine that. Imagine looking at the newspaper's listings of what's on today and actually attending some of the stuff instead of just thinking about it…. Put the DVDs away today and head outside. You may just fall in love with you own hometown."

ok so if you're cynical you might think how convenient that she's writing for a publication that just so happens to report/promote/advertise events. or you really do believe (fuelled by actual experience) that brisbane (or substitute your own hometown) truly is a pretty boring place, with nothing to offer your unsatiated interests, no matter how much you try to dress it up or talk it up. nevertheless, i reckon there's a whole lot of stuff happening around the traps that you might just find to be a better way of spending your leisure time than curled up in front of the box, or griping about the fact that there's nothing to do.

i for one do tend to trawl through the papers for things that might seem interesting, whether i'm at home or travelling overseas. and every now and then i follow through with one of these options. some turn out to be duds - the marketing might have been great and i got suckered, or it turns out it just wasn't my cup of tea - and some turn out to be fun/interesting/memorable. that's life. live it.

to this end, i'm thinking about kicking off the BATIYOH initiative (mystery prize if you figure out what that means!) by organising a winter day trip to koorooomba, a vineyard / lavender farm / restaurant in boonah, about an hour out of town in the scenic rim. i'll be taking my wife regardless of whether or not i get any other takers, but the more the merrier eh? will post up details soon - let me know if you're interested :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

going beyond CTP (part 2)

now that we've learnt the basics of what CTP is/does, you may notice that CTP only covers other people (the third party). government legislation for CTP does not provide compensation for the injured driver "at fault" in an accident. this is where the CTP insurers can provide an add-on product or incentive benefit to fill this gap. there are various names for this additional insurance, but they are all free / included with your CTP insurance, and they all aim to provide some form of benefit to the at fault driver for injuries s/he may sustain in an accident.

in addition to the premium, there are differences in the various covers provided to the at fault driver by each insurer. for example, the maximum claim per policy currently ranges from $250,000 up to $2,000,000 between the queensland CTP insurers. there are also differences in what's covered, and time limits for claiming etc. listed below (in no particular order) are each of the six licenced CTP insurers in queensland, along with brief details of significant differences in their offerings, plus links (where applicable) to find further information. my notes are offered as a guide only, and you should rely upon the actual policy documents to make any final decisions.

the last 4 insurers on the list are all currently charging the same price for CTP for my class of vehicle. for me, it seems clear after checking out the options that i can, for the same price, get a lot more benefit (which i hope i'll never actually need to use!) by switching to another insurer for my next registration period... which i've just done with a 3 minute phone call to queensland transport. too easy.

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related posts:
going beyond CTP (part 1)
saving on CTP

Thursday, May 15, 2008

going beyond CTP (part 1)

just got my car rego renewal letter in the mail a few days ago, so it's time for a CTP lesson, which i might have learnt last year had i bothered to look into things a bit more, but obviously i didn't...

CTP, or compulsory third party insurance, covers your liability for personal injury to other parties in the event of a motor vehicle accident. the compulsory bit is self-explanatory, as having CTP insurance is a condition of registering your vehicle (and you'd be a fool to drive an unregistered vehicle on the road). the third party refers to the injured person, the first and second parties being the owner/driver of the vehicle that is "at fault", and the the CTP insurer of the vehicle at fault.

the queensland government, through the motor accident insurance commission, sets a maximum and minimum range for CTP premiums and the various CTP insurers file a premium within this range every 3 months. hence the premiums of each insurer may (and usually change) every 3 months. there are a number of levies and fees included in the CTP premium. my current renewal period sees a variance of $10.20 between the lowest and the highest premiums charged.

however, price may not be the only factor you should consider when choosing your CTP insurer, as we shall see in the next post...

for more information about CTP, see:
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related posts: saving on CTP

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

disincentive to save water

having now lived in my townhouse for about half a year, i recently paid the bill my first full 3 months of water usage (the previous bill being for a 3 month period, part of which related to the time before i moved in).

during this 3 month period, two people live in the house. we had guests stay for about one week (4 adults and a child), but we were away overseas for about two weeks, so on average we have two people in the house. we:

  • have a new water efficient front loader washing machine
  • recycle the grey water from 1-2 times per week we do laundry
  • recycle some of the water used during cooking (eg. the water used to wash rice)
  • don't use our garden taps (i think i've turned on one taps once, and that was just to rinse a bucket)
  • water our minimal collection of outdoor plants (when it's not raining) using a watering can
  • take very short showers (ok... i don't, but my wife does!)
  • don't have a pool
  • haven't washed the car, or any part of the outside of the house, or water the lawn

and yet our average daily household consumption for the period was 400L. when compared to the daily target of 140L/person under the current south east queensland water restrictions, we look positively wasteful. even the bill tells me that i'm dragging the ball - my local area household daily average is about 320L and the brisbane average is about 290L.

there are no water leaks that i've discovered or am otherwise aware of, besides a touchy toilet which i'm in the process of taming. the real culprit, i suspect, is my neighbourhood. that's right, i'm blaming everyone else who lives in my townhouse complex, and the complex itself. you see, one of the joys of being a lot owner in a strata title scheme is that i get the privilege of paying for the average water usage of the entire complex. (i don't know if this is the case for all strata title schemes, but it's certainly so for the one in which i live.)

my complex has 66 lots, and we all share the one water meter. so each lot owner pays 1/66th of the total usage of the complex. the complex does have a (pitifully) small pool and spa, and an irrigation system for the gardens on the common property. but it has also got a rainwater tank. so whether it's the complex or the other residents in the complex, i'm sure i'm paying for other people's water usage. doing the maths shows that for every additional kilolitre of water i use, i would only need to spend about 1.8c, with the rest being "subsidised" by my fellow lotowners. conversely, for every additional kilolitre of water that one of the other 65 lots uses, i have to pay an extra 1.8c.

if i were cynical i'd say that's an invitation to use more water so that you're not the sucker of a water miser who still ends up paying for the usage of the not so miserly! but i suppose it's still worthwhile to develop good water saving habits in case i move out of such a scheme in future...