Ok. I know this isn’t a good picture, but I hope you get the idea. I was driving into work this morning and, at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Florida Avenue, in Urbana, this site presented itself on the southeast corner of the intersection.

This snow plow was, literally, plowing the snow off of a field of grass. Not pavement. Not a parking lot. Not an improved surface at all. It was plowing… a field…

I’m sure that there is a good reason for this. I’m not sure what that reason might be. But I’m confident there’s a reason. In the summer they often play soccer in the area south of this, but I’m not sure what they would be planning for mid December.

Oh well. You gotta spend all that extra money that Illinois has on something, right?

Hello, those who call Champaign County home.

Did you know your taxes are about to go up?

I got another “Informational Bulletin” from the Illinois Department of Revenue today, and it talks about the sales tax changes that are going to take place on January 1, 2010. For those of us in Champaign county, we get to look forward to a one percent increase in our sales tax, and the extra will go to “County School”. Now, I’m confident that we probably voted on this at some point in the past, and I’m confident that it is going to greatly increase the quality of education that the youngins are getting. But, if you are planning any big purchases, and you don’t care that much about the munchkins and their learning, you’d better get that buying done before the end of the year.

Do you live in Illinois?

I’m going to guess there’s a good chance that you didn’t realize your taxes were about to go up on a few items that you might purchase on a regular basis.

I am registered with the Illinois Department of Revenue as a business (because I thought, once upon a time, that I might sell some photography). As a result, I get bulletins on tax related things. I recently got the Illinois Department of Revenue Informational Bulletin FY 2010-01.

I’ll summarize it for you. Starting on September 1, 2009, taxes on a few groups of “things” is going to go up by 5.25%. So, your tax on $10 of this stuff is going to increase by 52 cents.

I just ordered my first free gift certificate from Swagbucks. A couple of weeks ago a friend told me about using Swagbucks for search, and I thought I’d check it out. Here’s how it works.

Swagbucks runs a web search engine where they pull in search results from Google and They throw in a few sponsored links into the search results that you get and, randomly, you will “swagbucks” when you do a search. When you get 45 swagbucks built up, you can redeem them for a $5 giftcard.

How simple is that? You continue doing what you normally do (search) and you end up making money.

Search & Win

Now.. the catch.. Well, there isn’t a big one, really. Like I said, the search results are fed from google and, so it’s almost like using google. In my experience, the results aren’t as good as google. Depending on what you are searching for, you might get 3 or 4 sponsored links along with the normal, expected search results. You get 30-40 results, instead of however many google will give you. I have my firefox search box set up to use Swagbucks, and if I do the search and don’t get the results I’m wanting, I just change it to google and resubmit. That seems to work well enough for me.

How quickly will you become a millionaire? Well, I do quite a few searches. It has taken me a couple of weeks to build up enough for the $5 gift card. So, you aren’t going to become rich overnight. But, the cost is low, and who doesn’t like making money for something they already do?

Give it a try. If you use the above link, I’ll get a kickback for the first 100 swagbucks you get. Once you’re a member, you can try to get other people to join as well. (Don’t you love pyramid schemes? They are great if you get in early)

So I got a Kill A Watt Electricity 4460 Usage Monitor for Christmas. I’ve wanted one for quite a while, and this year I got it. I’m going to be posting several of these blogs over time as I learn more about electricity usage around the house.

For this post, I’m going to investigate my waterbed. It’s not a very big waterbed. It’s a “full” sized bed. I’ve had it since my grad school days, and I’m sure that they might have more efficient models now. But, I care about the one I’ve got. It has wooden side walls, and I always keep several layers of covers on the bed. I want to conserve as much heat as I can, basically.

For this particular test, I let the Kill A Watt measure electricity usage for 298 hours. This is a little over 12 days. These 12 days were chilly. I’d say there were a few days with lows down around 0-5 above, and highs outside were around freezing or lower. I keep the inside of the house warmer than that, of course. I do, however, have a programmable thermostat that lets things get cool during the day. My heat kicks on of a morning, off around the time I go to work, and doesn’t warm up again until evening when I would be getting home from work. During the day, I’d estimate that the temp in the house gets down to 55-60 in weather such as we had for the test.

OK. Enough background. Here’s the data. I looked at my most recent powerbill and came up with an estimated cost of 11.1 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity used. I was able to input this value into the Kill A Watt, and it automatically calculated my costs for me.

Over the course of the 12+ days, the waterbed used 28.02 kilowatt hours. This translates into $7.43 per month and $90.42 per year. The Kill A Watt lets you determine cost by day, week, month, year, and total used while being measured.

So.. $7.43 a month. Am I happy with that? Well, when I tell people, they respond, “That isn’t bad.” I don’t know. I’m still thinking about it. My total electricity costs during the winter are probably $70-$80 (I have natural gas for heating) so the waterbed is using a reasonable percentage of the total electric bill. On the other hand, it probably lets me keep the nighttime temps in the house lower than I would otherwise be comfortable with. What do you think? Is that a reasonable price to pay for a warm bed?

Note: I had thought about getting a lower end model of the Kill A Watt, the P3 International P4400 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor but I ended up getting the 4460 because it automatically calculated costs.

On the hunt to have some auto work done (brakes, to be specific), I asked around for some suggestions on places to use, and places to avoid in Champaign Urbana. Here, for your viewing pleasure, the results of a simple, informal poll:

  • SpeedLube on University (near.. 3rd or so) gets a thumbs up for being fast and cheap.
  • Midas on University gets a thumbs up for free labor on a minor repair
  • O’Brien gets a solid thumbs down.
  • The place on Cunningham north of University (Meineke?) gets a thumbs down for upselling.
  • Ron’s in northeast Urbana gets a double thumbs up
  • Myler Automotive (off of Parkland Ct) gets a thumbs up from two different people
  • Beaumont Alignment, Gasoline Alley gets a thumbs up
  • Peter B’s gets a thumbs-up from one person, and another has heard good things about them
  • Good things have been heard about the Brake Shop (on Springfield) but no personal experience.

I just sent this email to Qdoba corporate. We’ll see how things end up.


I am writing to complain about a Qdoba restaurant visit earlier today.

On January 25, we purchased 4 $25 Qdoba gift certificates from this website:

You can see in the right column that it says that the denomination is $25. I’m not sure when the red text at the top was added that says you get five $10 certificates. In January, it said 2 $25 gift certificates per “deal”. We purchased two deals, therefore we got 4 $25 gift certificates.

A week or so back (on March 8th) we went to Qdoba for the first time to eat. You can see on that webpage that each certificate can be used for multiple visits. The way this normally works with these certificates is that the person at the store makes a note on the back of how much foot was purchased, and how much is remaining on the certificate.

We were told in the store that we couldn’t use the certificate for multiple visits. We explained that it said very clearly on the website that the certificates could be used for multiple visits. The manager went in the back, and called a higher up manager and came back out front and said that they were wrong, we could use it, there was some confusion, but everything was OK, and the manager made a note on the back of the certificate about the price of the food, and everything was OK.

We were a bit annoyed that we were being told that we were wrong when we knew we were right, but we were satisfied at the outcome.

Today we had a decidedly different experience when we visited about 1pm. We didn’t expect any difficulty regarding the gift certificate, but the manager on duty today absolutely refused to believe us and would not let us use a portion of the gift certificate. She told us we were wrong and that the certificates could only be used twice, which makes no sense and isn’t mentioned anywhere.

I had thought that the customer was always right, but at this store we were definitely told we were wrong, even though the above URL clearly shows that we were, in fact, right.

Since we had no desire to waste close to $20 in remaining gift certificate on a single burrito, we left the store and decided to approach this more rationally by getting the web page proof, since our word was clearly not good enough.

So, we are now stuck with about $94 in gift certificates and a store that has apparently decided to change its policy from what was stated on the webpage where we bought our gift certificates.

Please advise on how I can best get this resolved. I don’t feel like I can make any progress with the managers at the store, and I’d hate to have to get a lawyer involved over this.

When we left today, the manager was saying that she’d get in trouble if she let us use a portion of the gift certificate. Oh well… their loss. They had already made our burrito and we were checking out when we decided to just leave and eat somewhere else.

On an unrelated note, I’d recommend the Pad Thai at Basil Thai on Green Street.

March 24th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

This morning, March 24, I got a voice mail from Qdoba corporate.

It was Guest relations, and they wanted me to call them back. At 2:17 this afternoon, I called them back. I gave them my report number and they escalated the call to a different person, Emily, who I talked with for several minutes.

Her computer was running slow, and I told her the story. We agreed that this probably wasn’t a “corporate” thing, but she decided to call the franchise operator and verify with them the situation, and she said that she’d be getting back with me later this afternoon or tomorrow about this situation. We’ll see what ends up happening.

March 25th, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Next day, 4:35pm. Got a call back from Emily. She has been in contact with the franchise operator here in Champaign, and the franchise operator doesn’t have any awareness of this promotion at all. So, she is still working with them to figure out what is going on. She said that the franchise operator was OK with accepting the coupons once the franchise operator figures out what is going on, but they are still trying to figure that part out.

This is, by the way, for the Qdoba on Green Street here in Champaign.

She said that she just wanted to call me and let me know what the current status is, and she’ll get back with me as soon as she finds out more information.

March 27th, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Two days later, 4:10pm. Got a call back from Emily. She said that the franchise operators didn’t want the employees to have to keep track of the running totals on the back of the certificates. I didn’t decide to press this issue.

She asked me if I was a member of the Qdoba loyalty club. I said no. She said she could sign me up. She said that they would credit my loyalty card with an amount equivalent to the credit that I had left, which, if it was around $94 would amount to about 17 entrees.

She said that she could send me an “empty” card, and when I give proof of the gift certificates, that they would then “load” the loyalty card. We determined that she could mail me the loyalty card via snail mail, and I could mail her the certificates via snail mail, and all would be good.

I asked for more details on the loyalty card. She said that it was a card for frequent visitors and after they purchase/etc a certain amount, their card is credited with something, like an entree. So, she was proposing to credit my loyalty card with 17 entrees. I asked her if I could just get one of the credit-card style gift certificates instead. I might, as I told her, want to just run in there sometime and get a beverage or something. The loyalty card would be useless for that.

She said that she didn’t think a gift card could be loaded with that much money, and I asked her about multiple cards. She said she’d have to check. So, she put me on hold, and came back a little later saying that she’d gotten the voice mail of who she was looking for.

We exchanged email addresses so that we could send each other snail mail addresses.. The contents of my email:


My US mail address is:

Kirby Vandivort

I don’t have the exact amount that I used from the one cert handy, but
I’ll let you know as soon as I get that information.

As we discussed on the phone, the “credit card style” gift
certificates would be a fine substitution for the paper certificates
that we had before. Thanks for your time and efforts in helping me
get this resolved. It was disturbing for us to be told we were wrong
by the workers there, and, frankly, I’m still not happy about that,
but I’ve been quite pleased with how you have represented “corporate”

So, the saga continues. Isn’t life fun!?

March 28th, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Next day, early afternoon. Got a voice mail from Emily. I called her back at the Qdoba customer satisfaction number. Got “Exavier” and told him I wanted to talk to Emily about a specific case number. He said rapidly, “Oh ok. Let me put you in the Senior Queue”. A few seconds later, Mariam answered. She said she worked with Emily and could help me out. Put me on hold for a minute or so and came back on the line and said that Emily had a note in the file that she wanted to talk to me directly.

So, when Emily finished helping another customer, she got on the phone with me. Said that her colleagues said that they could preload a gift certificate with the amount, but that they need the gift certs before they will send out the preloaded card. So, she said she’d email me with the address to mail things to. We ended up finishing our phone call and a few minutes later I got the following email:

Dear Kirby,

Thank you for contacting us regarding your recent visit to Qdoba Mexican
Grill. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience you experienced, and can
assure you we are following up with appropriate management.

The mailing address for Qdoba Mexican Grill is:

I will call you once I receive the certificates just to let you know they
have arrived, and we will have the gift card sent out, also via certified
mail, that same day. I appreciate your continued patience and your
flexibility in resolving this matter. If you have any further questions or
concerns, please feel free to contact us.


Senior Guest Specialist
Qdoba Mexican Grill

So.. here’s the rub: Last week, when this whole thing started, I thought it a good idea to have a scanned copy of the partially used gift certificate. This cert seems to have been left in the scanner and taken by someone else.

So, it looks like I’m only going to have $75 in gift certs to mail them, and it completely destroys the testimony that I’ve given so far, etc etc.

But, my plan is to tell her in the mail exactly what happened and explain that the cert wouldn’t even have been scanned in the first place if this whole thing hadn’t happened. In addition, I can include (hopefully) the receipt from the original purchase, if that is still lying around. Stay tuned. We aren’t in the clear yet!

April 1st, 2008 at 9:23 pm

After a delay, we found the other certificate! So, I have all of the gift certs. I’ve written a letter and I’ll be mailing the certs to Emily tomorrow morning. PDFs and pictures will be posted regarding this as soon as I get a chance.

April 2nd, 2008 at 12:42 pm

This is the letter that I sent to Emily. The letter went out certified mail earlier today.

April 1, 2008

Qdoba Mexican Grill Guest Relations
Attn: Emily Hoch

Re: Qdoba Gift Certificate issue.


As we had discussed on the phone, I am enclosing the four gift certificates from the Frugal Friday promotion that the Qdoba on Green Street in Champaign, IL was affiliated with. Three of the $25 gift certificates haven’t been used at all, and the fourth one (as can be seen from the back of it) has $18.71 remaining after a single purchase on March 8th.

This really has been a big hassle for me. On March 8 when the manager on duty had to call another manager for confirmation it was unsettling, but on the March 20 visit, it was downright offensive for my date and myself to be told that we were wrong and that we didn’t know what we were talking about. I can fully understand that a business might decide to change terms to simplify bookkeeping for future promotions, but I find it incomprehensible that they think that they can retroactively change the terms of promotions. I am hopeful that procedures are being put into place to prevent things of this nature from happening to other unsuspecting guests of your restaurant.

While you have been extremely helpful and courteous, it has been really disheartening to have spent so much time jumping through hoops just so I can use the gift certificates that I purchased with the full expectation that I wouldn’t have to spend additional hours just to be able to redeem them under the terms that they were offered. In fact, I thought that I was getting a pretty good deal with the Frugal Friday promotion, but when I add in the value of my time, the postage, and the mental anguish, I think I might have been better off just paying the normal rate for each restaurant visit.

Based on the business relationship that we’ve built, I fully trust and expect that you will send me back a gift card with an appropriate balance. In the event that this letter somehow gets lost on the mail I have made copies of the gift certificates and scanned them into the computer to be added to my blog page at:

Thank you for your time and effort in helping get this issue resolved.

Kirby Vandivort

April 2nd, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Pictures of the gift certificates, ready to be mailed.

April 3rd, 2008 at 9:39 am

Track the package as it heads to San Diego!

USPS Tracking

April 4th, 2008 at 7:07 am

Is it odd that I scanned in and uploaded the tracking receipt so that everyone out there in internet land could look at it?

USPS Certified Mail Receipt

April 4th, 2008 at 6:50 pm

Package delivered, this morning at 10:28 am.

April 8th, 2008 at 3:51 pm

No update as of this afternoon. Emily said that she’d contact me the day that she got the letter and the gift cards would be mailed out that same day. Nothing yet. I’ll send an email tomorrow morning.

In other news, the blog is starting to get websearch hits.

A few of the things that people are searching for on Google to find this blog:

Qdoba how much does a manager makes
qdoba problems
qdoba corporate profits

Hopefully this will get resolved soon.

April 9th, 2008 at 9:38 am

Just sent the following email:


I hope that things are going well for you. From the US post office website, the certified letter that I sent you with the gift certificates arrived last Friday am, and I hadn’t heard anything from you, so I thought that I would check up on things and see what’s going on.

Thanks for your help,


April 10th, 2008 at 10:50 am

Update from Emily. She called a couple of minutes ago.

Said she had gotten my email and that they had received the certificates. She said that she was waiting for confirmation from the qcard rep to make sure that the card had been loaded with the proper balance.

She said that it might be as late as next Tuesday before they get the confirmation and she’ll let me know when she’s sending it out, as well as give me the certified mail tracking number when that happens.

Other than this minor delay in getting back with me since last Friday, I’ve been quite pleased with how Emily has handled this situation, and, to be honest, because of how she’d done up until that point, I really wasn’t worried about how things would proceed.

Looks like this will hopefully be taken care of within the next week or so.

April 16th, 2008 at 9:41 am

Yes, friends. It is Wednesday, and I haven’t heard back from Emily. Rather disappointing.

Just to keep everyone informed.. After I mentioned that random websearchers had been finding this blog from doing searches, a couple of you apparently decided to have to some fun (you know who you are). So, to give you props, here are a few more searches that showed up. Not all of these appear to be from blog readers. A mix of that as well as random web searches.

qdoba – (Multiple times. Actually a search via the pictures)
Guys named Kirby who have problems with Qdoba – again, from pics
Qdoba certificates – from pics
problems with local qdoba
how much does a Qdoba manager make

Kirby talks to Emily about his problem with Qdoba

I’ll get ahold of Emily later today.

April 16th, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Just sent this to Emily


Tuesday has come and gone and I haven’t heard anything (maybe the email got lost!), so I’m just wanting to find out what is going on with the problem that I had with the local Qdoba in Champaign, IL.

I must admit, I’m a bit disheartened. I feel like we’ve had a nice, responsive transaction up until a couple of weeks ago. However, I haven’t had what I feel to be very good response time since then. This is unfortunate, because that change just happened to coincide with me sending my actual paper gift certificates to your location. Hopefully you can understand my concern: While I had the proof in hand, things were going well. Since I have, on good faith, mailed my paper gift certificates to you, things seem to have stalled, or at least haven’t been proceeding in any concrete way that I can discern. Though I’m confident this isn’t the case, my more paranoid side is wanting me to think that I shouldn’t ever have agreed to mail the paper copies in!

The most recent update that I have from you was on the morning of April 10th when you said that you were verifying that the money had been put on the “q card”, and that you would know something, at the latest, by yesterday. It seemed to me at the time that verifying an account balance on the qcard should be as simple as calling the 1-800 number on the back, but I assumed that the process that you were having to go through was more complicated than that, and I’m sure it has been.

If there are other delays, I can handle that, as long as I know what is going on. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


April 17th, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Got a voice mail from Emily this morning at 10:12 am. She apologized for not getting back with me. Said that the card had been mailed out late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and that I should have it in a few days. Now, I can say that hopefully this will be over soon.

April 20th, 2008 at 10:47 pm


Snail Mail received on Saturday, April 19.

I won’t belabor things. $100 dollar gift certificate, and 3 coupons for a free burrito. The letter that was attached said that I had 4 coupons, but only three were in the envelope. And, there was a typo in the letter, but I guess I can’t complain too much.

Am I happy with the outcome? Well, I am. It cost me a lot of time, and, to be honest, the time spent probably wasn’t properly compensated. But, I have a gift card now that I won’t have to worry about using. It didn’t feel good to be treated like a common liar, and I shouldn’t need to worry about that with this.

About a year and a half ago, I attended a real estate investment seminar. The information given was quite valuable. I recently received an invitation to another seminar and decided to go. This one wasn’t at Bank Champaign. Instead it was at a local conference center. A different mortgage company sponsored the event (probably why it wasn’t held at the bank) and the room that we were in was quite a bit larger than the area that we had at the bank.

I sat next to an older gentleman who had a duplex that he had owned in southeast Urbana for about 20 years. He had it paid off now, was at the end of his depreciation cycle, charged $5xx a month in rent, had had really good tenants, and only had a single month (out of the 20 years and 2 units) where the spots weren’t rented. He estimated that he only spent a few hours a month on the place. The current tenants have both been there for several years. He wasn’t really looking to buy more properties. He was just curious about the topic more than anything, I think.

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