Cyclists: don’t ever buy anything from Bike Nashbar

Nashbar In April of this year, I was walking into a market and glanced down at my phone to see two new emails. I read them only to find out that two really weird looking purchases were made on a credit card sitting in my pocket. I thought "aw crap, someone ran my numbers on some purchases" and I called the credit card company immediately to cancel the card and investigate the two most recent purchases.

Back in 1996, someone ran my ATM/VISA's card numbers halfway around the world for some jewelery purchases that emptied my bank account. Luckily, my bank noticed immediately and refunded the money and canceled the card. In this new case, it looked like someone bought two get-rich-quick ebooks online, but refunds were on their way. It felt like a problem solved enough that I continued my day.

A couple weeks later and I started getting phone calls from people on my private cellphone number and they knew my name. They were selling get-rich-quick systems and they were calling to "set everything up to start making money" because I had "purchased their wealth creation system". I started to freak out a little because running random numbers in credit card scanners is one thing, but knowing my name, credit card number, and private phone number is a heck of a lot worse. I began to freak out a bit. I ordered credit reports and started tracking my credit profile at various agencies. I changed every password on every online service I use and I began to be very cautious about signing up with new services.

I wracked my brain for months trying to figure out how and who might have access to this sensitive information. I spent the last couple years weeding out get-rich-quick scammers from MetaFilter and had sometimes publicly mocked cash gifting scammers in my twitter stream. Perhaps one of the people I banned from my site for spamming had somehow gotten my information?

An epiphany came when I read this news item at Bike Portland about Bike Nashbar's customer database being compromised (which Bike Nashbar did not inform customers of for SEVEN months while the security hole was open). I rarely shop there because they are obnoxious about advertising and send endless home mailers to you. Then I remembered that a set of very specific tires I couldn't find anywhere online for sale I ended up buying through late last year. I wondered if maybe I was one of the compromised customers, so I looked up my old credit card records to find the transaction. I looked at the card, and it was the one that emails me on new purchases.

A temporary wave of relief washed over as I finally figured out who my faceless hacker/stalker was that had my personal details: it was some website cracker that broke into Bike Nashbar's webservers and since I canceled the card within minutes of its first use, the nightmare was over.

Or so I thought — It turns out the moment my chargebacks were credited to my account four months later (it's a very long process), it appears each company in the get-rich-quick e-business game sold my information along to try and recoup some of their lost income. As a result, I've been getting 2-3 calls per day from people with various important sounding company names saying they just picked up a card I submitted saying I was interested in the exciting world of work-at-home business. Every time I tell these people it's a mistake and to please remove me, I only hear one thing: a dial tone.

It turns out people in the business of scamming people into thinking they can make thousands of dollars at home doing virtually nothing aren't big on customer service or helping people out.

To make a long story short: Bike Nashbar's poor programming resulted in thousands of credit card, address, name, and phone details getting into the wrong hands and they took months to acknowledge, fix, and notifiy customers (in my case I was never notified). I will never do business with them again, but I hope anyone reading this heeds the warning as well. Several months later, I'm still living with the daily headaches caused by Bike Nashbar's fuckup over a single purchase made last year and there are thousands of others like me.

Don't ever shop at Bike Nashbar.

Buying good stuff

There have been a lot of posts to Ask MetaFilter recently asking about inexpensive christmas presents and how to make your own presents and where to find the best deals, but I really enjoyed this thread on great things worth splurging on. As I've grown older I've slowly started to look for value in things instead of just the sale price. I agree with a lot of the tips offered in the thread — I love the super soft sheets on my bed, I have a trashcan so fantastic I didn't think that much engineering and clever ideas could go into a trashcan, and since no one mentoined it I wrote about the high-pressure showerhead that changed my life for the better.

This is broken too: Threadless shopping cart logins

Threadless is my favorite place to buy t-shirts, period (this includes any offline stores). I’ve bought dozens and dozens of them and I even subscribed to the shirt of the month club for a year, but every time I make the mistake of throwing a few shirts in my virtual cart and then remembering to login afterwards, I lose all my previous selections. I buy shirts there every couple months and in between each visit I often forget about this bug in the long lost hopes someone fixes it. When I got hit with it for the millionth time tonight, I took a few quick screen captures to demonstrate the problem.

Here is video of the shopping cart failure

The first 30 second bit is me adding a shirt to my cart, continuing to shop, then logging in and trying to check out, but my cart turns up empty. Not good.

The second shorter bit is after I add a shirt to my cart, go to check out, then remember I should login to grab my saved address/credit card/etc info, but as you can see it clears out the cart. Oftentimes I lose 15 minutes of shopping time picking out just the right shirts in my size because the cart clears out every time upon login. Then I have to try and remember all the designs I liked and put them back in the cart (often I just quit and shop the next time they send me a ‘new releases’ email)

Threadless, I love you guys to death but I’ve encountered this bug for about two years and would love love love it if you fixed it with some cookie/session storage of shirt selections so I don’t lose my cart upon login

(why login? if you don’t login, it basically creates a new threadless account with your exact same details and there was a time I was subscribed to their mailing list three times under different “accounts”).

update: by the power of greyskull, this has been fixed!

My Etsy picks

Last month I was lucky enough to meet Bre from Etsy at ROFLcon and I told him how much I’ve enjoyed Etsy since it launched. We got to talking and he asked me to drop him an email with a bunch of my favorite items, stores, and sellers on the site.

I whittled down my favorites to a list they just posted, though I could have picked many more. Also, I gotta thank Mighty Goods and DaddyTypes for both consistently pointing out awesome stuff there that lead to many purchases.

For actual coupon codes, use RetailMeNot

The other night, I got a coupon over email for a product I’ve been meaning to buy (direct from the company). I took advantage of the offer and picked out a completely customized product ready to ship, entered the coupon code but the discount didn’t work. It was midnight on a Sunday, and there was no chance I was getting any customer support. I still really wanted the item, so I went looking online for similar coupons (maybe mine expired?). I searched Google for [$Company_Name coupon code].

What I found was a bunch of horrible results thanks to the search engine gaming (SEO) industry. The first result was unhelpful, hard to read, and basically tried to get me to sign up for various discount services (not really coupons at all) before they would show me anything, while the remaining results on the top 10 page were simply affiliates of the first page, basically shell sites trying to get you to the first site to sign up for discounts (even less like coupons). I didn’t continue paging through worthless results.

Then I remembered the BugMeNot people did a coupon site last year, so I went to bugmenot to find it and found RetailMeNot. The experience was night and day. A quick search for the product I was buying turned up half a dozen coupons including the one I was trying. It also lets you quickly vote on which ones worked and didn’t work, and reported how successful each coupon was (they sorted by success rate, so the best stuff was at the top). Thanks to the site, I got to help others and report that my coupon code didn’t work and I tried a similar one that did end up working. The RetailMeNot site is also easy to read and navigate, letting you get in and right out as quickly as possible. The other “coupon code” sites seemed more interested in acting like quicksand and trapping you into their site.

I have less and less time for things and a lower tolerance for hassles as I get older and I have to say both bugmenot and retailmenot offer handy ways to save a little time and money. I don’t know how either site makes any money, or if that’s even a goal, but I do hope they stick around and keep doing what they’re doing.

Threadless: brilliant as always

I’ve had a love/hate thing going on with Threadless for a while. While I love their shirts (extra points for cutting off the tags so I don’t have to), I’ve grown tired of the trend towards one-off visual jokes as shirt designs. I like designy, witty, and yes, amusing shirts, but it felt like for a good six months most new tees were frat boy jokes. My other beef with them is their cart/login system. Often I go through their new shirt email and click on 4-5 shirts I like the look of, and I’ll toss a couple in my cart. Whenever I login to pay, my cart’s empty and I have to do it all over again. At that point, the fun wears off and I just close my browser window.

Today, Threadless totally went and redeemed themselves. I got an email saying that a shirt left in my cart many visits ago was about to go away — there was one shirt left, and it was in my size. Not only that, but it was the Pee Wee shirt. It’s such a cool feature and a great shirt that I caved and bought it. I also picked up a half-dozen more I’ve been thinking about for the past month. So kudos, Threadless, you continue to amaze me.