MONEY Investing

The One Trick to Beat Your Buddies at Fantasy Football

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson
Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports—Reuters

Fantasy football drafts have begun. Here's why thinking like a long-term investor can ruin your season.

Last November, one National Football League running back had a particularly good day.

Strong, agile, and quick, this player absolutely tore apart the Atlanta Falcons defense on Nov. 17 to the tune of 163 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Fantasy football owners fortunate to have him on their rosters were awarded almost 35 points from his performance alone—more than a third of the total usually needed to win a whole game.

So who was this guy? Future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson? The Philadelphia Eagles buoyant halfback LeSean McCoy? Jim Brown? No, no, and of course not. He was an undrafted second-year player out of Western Kentucky named Bobby Rainey. Who, you ask? Exactly. On that same day Peterson himself, perhaps the greatest running back since Jim Brown, ran for 100 fewer yards than Rainey and never touched the end zone en route to a pedestrian 8.5 fantasy points.

It’s hard not to look for a lesson in this episode. And for someone like me, immersed in the investing world, the inclination is to draw a parallel to value investing, the discipline made famous by Warren Buffett. Value investing involves looking for companies that the market does not fully appreciate in hopes that, over time, they will outperform expectations and send the stocks soaring.

But as the fantasy football season gets under way, with millions of fans around the country drafting players over the next few weeks, I’m here to tell you that a Buffett-like approach to fantasy football probably won’t lead to glory.

Why not? Well, to start, value-focused buy-and-hold investing is all about ignoring short-term market fluctuations and sticking with your investment philosophy over the long-haul. Coca-Cola has a bad quarter? Johnson & Johnson delivered poor earnings-per-share growth? No matter. Value investors often see these rough patches as buying opportunities. And one of the foundational principles of value investing is that no investor can consistently predict exactly when to buy this stock or trade that one. When investors do engage in this perilous behavior, they generally end up losing money.

That ethos, however, falls flat when it comes to fantasy football. For one thing, there is no long-term in fantasy football. The season only lasts 17 weeks, which means you have only 17 chances to maximize your total scoring output. While one or two days of poor returns won’t hurt your portfolio, one or two weeks of fantasy football failure could ruin your season. Most leagues have around 10 teams, and, in order to make the playoffs, you’ll usually need seven wins. So if one of your players isn’t performing well, or hasn’t reached his full potential, you don’t have the time to wait.

In other words, don’t be scared to grab onto a hot player until he cools off. For instance, take another look at Peterson and Rainey. Going into the 2013 season, ESPN ranked Peterson the top fantasy football player to draft. Bobby Rainey is not Adrian Peterson. For his career, Rainey only has 566 rushing yards. Peterson has 10,115.

Nevertheless, Rainey was the superior running back over the last seven weeks of the 2013 NFL season. Using the NFL.com scoring system, Rainey earned 79.3 points from week 11 to 17, while Peterson (due in part to injury) only scored 54.8. Even if you take out Rainey’s career day against the Falcons, the two running backs scored pretty much the same number of points.

This isn’t an isolated example, either. Two weeks earlier, Nick Foles, who began the season as the Philadelphia Eagles second-string quarterback, threw for seven touchdowns and garnered 45.2 points for his fantasy owners. Foles would go on to accumulate a total of almost 260 points for the season (more than superstars Tom Brady, Ben Rothlisberger, and Matt Ryan) despite starting in only 11 of 16 games.

In fact, last season, 15 different players scored the most points in a given week (Peyton Manning and Drew Brees each did it twice). Of those 15 players, not one was listed in the top five on ESPN’s pre-season best fantasy football players list. Brady never scored the most points in any one week, for example, but Bears back-up quarterback Josh McCown did, in week 14.

In short, buying the football equivalent of Coca-Cola shares (one of Buffett’s most beloved and long-held stocks) and hanging on through thick and thin can be a losing game.

I learned this lesson the hard way, having drafted Buffalo Bill running back C.J. Spiller with my first pick last season. Ranked the 7th best player by ESPN going into last season, Spiller scored 3.5, 11.7, 3, and 7.7 over the first four weeks. Unwilling to give up on such a high pick, however, I kept him in my starting lineup for most of the season. I ended up in the bottom of my league and learned a valuable lesson in sunk cost theory.

Of course finding seven weeks of Rainey, or spotting the next Foles off the waiver wire, is difficult. Some up-and-comers are just flashes in the pan and will deliver worse returns than your first-round pick. But when this season’s Foles takes off, don’t be surprised. If you play fantasy football you must learn to embrace the shooting star—and if that star burns out, find another.

MONEY Food & Drink

The Market Says This Bag of Potato Chips Is Worth $49

Bag of potato chips
Fuat Kose—Getty Images

Some junk food is going for big bucks on the secondary market. How much would you shell out for your favorite snack?

Lay’s newest potato chip flavors, Bacon Mac & Cheese, Wasabi Ginger, Mango Salsa, and, yes, Cappuccino, hit stores today. These chips, which have already received myriad mixed reviews, are part of the company’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest. The winner will stick around, while the other three will eventually vanish from shelves.

If you can’t immediately track them down in your local store, however, don’t despair—just open a web browser. Last week, even before the chips officially went on sale, they were fairly easy to track down on the secondary market. On Friday, single bags were listed on eBay for a $11 a pop, plus $6 shipping (the suggested retail price is $4.29). Amazon also showed some options, including a four-pack of the Cappuccino chips for $24. And as the snacks become easier to find in retail stores, the rules of supply and demand should kick in, dropping prices.

Dig a little further into this snack food grey market, though, and you find plenty of options that won’t be popping up on shelves any time soon. One optimistic eBay seller lists a $49 bag of Lay’s Chicken & Waffles flavored chips, one of last year’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest runners-up, which has since been discontinued. You’ll also find other snack chip rarities, such as a $40 bag of Doritos Jacked Test Flavor 404, which one review described as tasting like “oniony vinegar” or “dry cat food,” and Pringles Pecan Pie, a seasonal special from the 2013 holidays, listed at $20.50 for two cans.

If chips aren’t your thing, you might be more interested in a $15 pack of Root Beer Float-flavored Oreos (a new variety that’s reportedly beginning to appear in stores), or $15 bottle of Coca-Cola Blak, a coffee-flavored cola put out of its misery way back in 2008. Marvin Nitta, editor of food review blog TheImpulsiveBuy.com, says that when the limited editon Lebron James Mix 6 Sprite soda came out earlier this year, he saw online sellers listing it for “four or five times the regular price.” (Currently, you can pick up a can on eBay for a cool $12.)

Eric Huang, who writes about snacks on his blog, Junkfoodguy.com, says he thinks the secondary snack food market is driven, in part, by companies’ recent attempts to try out more bold and attention-provoking flavors. Wacky flavors make the news, and adventurous eaters want to sample them, even if that means paying a premium. The fact that they’ll eventually vanish only makes them more enticing. In fact, Huang has his own “white whale”: a Doritos flavor called Wild White Nacho. He says he tried the chips once back in 2007, when they were briefly on the market as part of a contest, and “I’ve been searching ever since.”

International snacks are another thing that drive curious eaters to buy pre-owned junk food, says Huang. American foodies are understandably curious about foreign fare like Lay’s Lobster Hot Pot (3 bags for $25 on Amazon) or Canada’s uber-spicy Doritos Roulette (on eBay listed at $21 a bag).

There are some clear downsides to buying secondhand snacks. Between the mark-ups and shipping costs, you’ll pay more than you ever imagined for junk food. Many of the rarest discontinued products are well past their sell-by dates, though some food scientists say we shouldn’t get too worked up about that. There’s also the squashing and crumbling factor: Not surprisingly, many Amazon shoppers complained that their chips were nothing more than florescent orange dust by the time the snacks arrived on their doorsteps. Then there’s the unpredictability factor. Nitta recalls buying some fried chicken-flavor Doritos from a seller in Japan that were confiscated by customs because they contained an ingredient that’s illegal to bring into the country. Plus, he says, “in the back of my head, it makes me feel weird to buy food from some random person on the internet.”

If the groundswell of eaters chasing a product gets large enough, it can occasionally help put the items back on the market. Earlier this July Hostess announced the return of the Chocodile, a chocolate-covered Twinkie that was discontinued in the late 90s. In a statement, the company said the elusive snack had “inspired a black market following,” while NPR reported that the creme-filled sugar bombs have been listed on eBay for as much as $90 a box.

Still haven’t seen any flavor tempting enough to prompt you to buy some gently used junk food? Just wait: The winning submissions to “Do us a flavour,” the Canadian version of the Lay’s contest, will be announced in August.

MONEY Odd Spending

The High Cost of Being A Comic-Con Superfan

Night Elf at Comic-Con
Jessica's Night Elf Rogue outfit won an award at the 2012 San-Diego Comic-Con.

Some fans, known as cosplayers, construct elaborate costumes of their favorite comic characters. The results are amazing, but they don't come cheap.

On Thursday, the San Diego Comic-Con kicked off its 2014 edition. The annual four-day event has grown beyond comics into a geek-culture mecca, attracting fans of everything from superheroes and video games to mainstream network programming.

Of the thousands who descend every year on the San Diego convention center (at $45 a pop per session), most are just looking to meet other enthusiasts and see the latest on their favorite characters. But there’s a large number of fans who want to take their experience a little bit further—from liking a character to becoming it. They’re called cosplayers, enthusiasts who make costumes of their favorite fictional avatars. With costs that can run into the thousands of dollars, these costumes are an artistic and financial testament to the wearer’s love of a particular game or show.

Jessica Al-Khalifah is one of these superfans. She and a friend had gotten into the online role-playing game World of Warcraft and in the process grew attached their virtual avatars. Playing the game was fun, she thought, but what if they could actually be their in-game characters, if just for a day or two?

Lucky for Jessica, there was convention coming up nearby. “We decided we should make some outfits and see what it’s all like,” she says. “It turned out we weren’t so bad at it.”

“Not bad” is an understatement. Jessica’s creation, a Warcraft Night Elf outfit, took four months of on-and-off labor to assemble and involved learning a whole new trade in the process. “I just wanted to make it look really cool, so I said, ‘You know, I think I’ll learn how to leather work,’ ” she recalls. “I hurt my hand a million times.”

The finished product featured ornate leather-and-metal armor, as well as two gigantic painted scythes, and cost roughly $600 by the time she was done. The result was good enough to win her an award at the 2012 San-Diego Comic-Con, but it wasn’t even her most elaborate creation. Another costume, based around the Legend of the Seeker television show, included a leather bodysuit and fiberglass weapon that was electrically engineered to glow. The final materials bill for that one: $1,200.

That kind of price is especially common amongst contest winning outfits. Jen King, owner of Space Cadets Collection Collection, a Texas-based collectibles store, also won a an award at the San-Diego Comic-Con with a Galaxy Quest themed group costume. Jen’s Sarris (the giant green alien) attire cost $500 alone, and her whole group spend more than $4,000. This year, she flew back to Comic-Con to chase another title, this time with her husband and son in tow.

sarrisgroup
Jen King’s group costume cost over $4,000, but won Judge’s Choice at the San-Diego Comic-Con.

Luckily for enthusiasts, not all costumes need to break the bank. Lynn Chan and Sarah Bloom have been dressing up as their favorite characters for years, and tend to spend around $200 per outfit. If you’re careful about picking your subject, Lynn says costumes can be made for as low as $30 (sewing machine not included). That said, like any hobby, the costs do add up over time. When asked how much she had spent over her seven years of cosplay, Sarah couldn’t put a figure on it. “Oh god, I don’t even know,” she laughed. “Probably three to four grand?”

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.30.28 AM
Lynn Chan (left) and Sarah Bloom (right) spend about $200 per costume.

It’s a lot of money, but in the end, each designer says the effort is worth it for the feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a great costume. Jessica still remembers how she felt when she won the 2012 contest. Oh my gosh, that was awesome. It was so surreal,” she says. “All my hard work paid off.”

MONEY Millennials

10 Things Millennials Won’t Spend Money On

Young businessman with groceries and bicycle
Valentine—Getty Images/Fuse

By 2017, millennials will have more buying power than any other generation. But so far, they're not spending like their parents did.

Millennials are often maligned for their lack of financial literacy, but there is one money skill the younger generation has in spades: saving. After growing up during the Great Recession, millennials want to keep every cent they can. (If you don’t believe us, just check out this Reddit Frugal thread inspired by our recent post on millennial retirement super-saving.)

This generation may be way ahead of where their parents were at the same age when it comes to preparing for retirement, but the frugality doesn’t end there. Kids these days also aren’t making the same buying decisions our parents made. Here are 10 things that a disproportionate number of today’s young adults won’t shell out for.

1. Pay TV
The average American still consumes 71% of his or her media on television, but for people age 14-24, it’s only 46%—with the lion’s share being consumed on phone, tablet, or PC. Many young people aren’t getting a TV at all. Nielsen found that most “Zero-TV” households tended toward the younger set, with adults under 35 making up 44% of all television teetotalers.

Millennials aren’t the only ones tuning out the tube. In 2013, Nielsen reported aggregate TV watching time shrank for the first time in four years.

2. Investments
By all accounts, young people should be investing in equities. Those just entering the work force have plenty of time before retirement to ride out market blips, and experts recommend younger investors place 75% to 90% of their portfolio in stocks or stock funds.

Unfortunately, after growing up in the Great Recession, millennials would rather put their money in a sock drawer than on Wall Street. When Wells Fargo surveyed roughly 1,500 adults between 22 and 32 years of age, 52% stated they were “not very” or “not at all” confident in the stock market as a place to invest for retirement.

Of those surveyed, only 32% said they had the majority of their savings in stocks or mutual funds. (Too be fair, an equal number admitted to having no clue what they were invested in, so hopefully their trust fund advisors are making good decisions.)

3. Mass-Market Beer
Bud. Coors. Miller. When parents want a drink, they reach for the classics. Maybe a Heineken for a little extra adventure. Millennials? Not so much. When Generation Now (thank god that moniker didn’t catch on) wants to get boozy, the data says we prefer indie brews.

According to one recent study, 43% of millennials say craft beer tastes better than mainstream beers, while only 32% of baby boomers said the same. And 50% of millennials have consumed craft brew, versus 35% of the overall population. Even Pete Coors, CEO of guess-which-brand, blames pesky kids for his beer’s declining sales.

4. Cars
Back when the Beach Boys wrote Little Deuce Coupe in 1963, there was a whole genre called “Car Songs.” Nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find someone under 35 who knows what a “competition clutch with the four on the floor” even means.

The sad fact is that American car culture is dying a slow death. Yahoo Finance reports the percentage of 16-to-24-year-olds with a driver’s license has plummeted since 1997 and is now below 70% for the first time since Little Deuce Coupe’s release. According to the Atlantic, “In 2010, adults between the ages of 21 and 34 bought just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, down from the peak of 38 percent in 1985.”

5. Homes
It’s not that millennials don’t want to own homes—nine in ten young people do—it’s that they can’t afford them. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that homeownership rate among adults younger than 35 fell by 12 percent between 2006 and 2011, and 2 million more were living with Mom and Dad.

It’s going to be a while before young people start purchasing homes again. The economic downturn set this generation’s finances back years, and reforms like the Dodd-Frank Act have made it even more difficult for the newly employed to get credit. Now that unemployment is decreasing, working millennials are still renting before they buy.

6. Bulk Warehouse Club Goods
This one initially sounds weird, but remember: millennials don’t own cars or homes. So a Costco membership doesn’t make much sense. It’s not easy to bring home a year’s supply of Nesquik and paper towels without a ride, and even if you take a bus, there’s no room to stash hoards of kitchen supplies in a studio apartment.

Responding to tepid millennial demand, the big box giant is trying to win over youngsters by partnering with Google to deliver certain items right to your home. However, even Costco doesn’t seem all that excited about its new strategy.

“Don’t expect us to go to everybody’s doorstep,” Richard Galanti, Costco’s chief financial officer, told Bloomberg Businessweek. “Delivering small quantities of stuff to homes is not free. Ultimately, somebody’s got to pay for it.”

7. Weddings
Getting hitched early in life used to be something of a rite of passage into adulthood. A full 65% of the Silent Generation married at age 18 to 32. Since then, though, Americans have been waiting longer and longer to tie the knot. Pew Research found 48% of boomers were married while in that age range, compared to 35% in Gen X. Millennials are bringing up the rear at just 26%.

Just like with homes, it’s not that today’s youth just hates wedding dresses—far from it. Sixty-nine percent of millennials told Pew they would like to marry, but many are waiting until they’re more financially stable before doing so.

8. Children
It’s hard to spend money on children if you don’t have any.

After weddings, you probably saw this one coming, but millennials’ procreation abstention isn’t only because they’re not married. Many just aren’t planning on having kids. In a 2012 study, fewer than half of millennials (42%) said they planned to have children. That’s down from 78% 20 years ago.

Stop me if you heard this one: it’s not that millennials don’t want children (or homes, or weddings, or ponies), it’s that this whole recession thing has really scared them off any big financial or life commitments. Most young people in the above study hoped to have kids one day, but didn’t think their economic stars would align to make it happen.

9. Health insurance
According the Kaiser Family Foundation, adults ages 18 to 34 made up 40% of the uninsured population in the pre-Obamacare world. Why don’t young people get health coverage? Because they’re probably not going to get sick. This demographic is so healthy that those in the health insurance game refer to them as “invincibles.”

Since the Affordable Care Act, more millennials are gradually buying insurance. Twenty-eight percent of Obamacare’s 8 million new enrollees were 18-34 year-olds. That’s well short of the 40% the Congressional Budget Office wanted in order to subsidize older Americans’ plans, but better than the paltry number of millennials who signed up before Zach Galifianakis got involved.

10. Anything you tell them to buy
When buying a product, older Americans tend to trust the advice of people they know. Sixty-six percent of boomers said the recommendations of friends and family members influences their purchasing decisions more than a stranger’s online review.

Most millennials, on the other hand, don’t want their parent’s or peer’s help. Fifty-one percent of young adults say they prefer product reviews from people they don’t know.

Related: 10 Things Americans Have Suddenly Stopped Buying

MONEY Leisure

7 Ways Buying Weed in Washington Is Not Going to Be a Party

waiting in line to purchase marijuana in Colorado
Line to purchase marijuana at the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Theo Stroomer—Getty Images

The era of legal marijuana sales kicks off in Washington today. We'd tell you to light up in celebration, but doing so may be harder than you think.

The basics of buying marijuana in Washington appear to be pretty simple: The state issued 24 licenses to stores on Monday, and sales are allowed to commence 24 hours later—so Tuesday—and anyone 21 and up and is allowed to buy. But when you dig down into the weeds, so to speak, of opening day for legal weed sales, things get a little hazy. Here are some of the hassles and headaches marijuana shop customers can expect early on.

Stores probably won’t open at normal times. Largely because of all the last-minute bureaucratic hoops Washington marijuana stores must jump through, many of the businesses awarded licenses to sell legally aren’t going to be ready to open their doors first thing in the morning on Tuesday. Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham is one of the few shops that’ll be ready for business early, with an opening hour of 8 a.m.

But that store is the exception. Most don’t seem to be in any kind of rush to open. “Know your audience: We’re talking stoners here,” the owner of Cannabis City in Seattle told the Associated Press. Accordingly, the store is expected to open around noon.

Some stores won’t open at all Tuesday. Instead of scrambling like lunatics to deal with all the necessary delivery details and paperwork, many weed stores are taking a more mellow approach and aren’t even trying to open Tuesday. For instance, Main Street Marijuana, in Vancouver, Wa., which anticipates terrific sales due to its proximity to the Oregon border and the hipster city of Portland, plans on having a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday at 11 a.m. With the mayor handling the scissors, of course. The Olympian reported that it was possible none of the three stores licenses in the South Sound would open on Tuesday. One, 420 Carpenter in Lacey, was planning on holding off until Friday to open.

The lines will be huge. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s a historic happening, the supply is very limited, and people want to sample the goods and say, “I was there on Day One.” I mean, people waited outside for hours in the frigid cold in January in Colorado to buy pot when stores first opened there for chrissakes. By comparison, hanging out with a bunch of stoners on a summer day in Washington is a picnic.

You can only buy small amounts. Because of the shortage of marijuana, customers will be limited as to how much they’ll be allowed to buy on Tuesday, and likely for the near future. State law officially caps the amount you can buy and possess at one ounce (28 grams), but initially stores will probably cut off customers well below that amount to ensure as many customers as possible get to buy some product. “When the sign on the shop’s door says bud purchases will be limited to an eighth, have patience,” the Denver Post’s Cannabist blog warns Washingtonians, speaking from experience in Colorado. “When the budtender tells you about their one-edible limit, have patience. Soon enough you’ll be able to order your full ounce — or a six-pack of mix-and-match brownies and chocolate bars.”

It’ll be expensive. Because legal recreational pot is a novelty, and because of the very limited supply, prices for weed will be especially high at the beginning. Prices will start at $12 per gram, and go as high as $25 per gram. Down the road, prices should drop slowly, as they have in Colorado. According to FiveThirtyEight, as of this past spring, the price of recreational marijuana in Colorado was around $8 per gram, and the median price of medicinal marijuana was cheaper still, at just $5.60 per gram.

Stores will run out. Colorado pot shops were running low on weed almost immediately after sales became legal on New Year’s. By most accounts, Washington stores are less prepared for the rush of customers than their counterparts in Colorado were a few months ago. The supply of pot at stores in Washington is very limited, and will remain unable to match demand for quite some time, and as a result, stores will probably run out of weed early and often. “There may be outages from time to time,” Alison Holcomb, criminal justice director of the ACLU of Washington, told the Oregonian. “How long [stores] will be able to keep supply on the shelves is a really important question… It will be a little rough in the beginning.”

Cops will be everywhere. Buyers, beware. High Times reported that police will be staking out Washington pot shops, ready to bust people for driving while stoned, lighting up in public, or other infractions. Likewise, the Washington Liquor Control Board plans will be running sting operations to make sure that stores aren’t selling marijuana to underage customers. Washington authorities know the eyes of the world are upon the state, and they don’t want anything embarrassing or untoward to happen on their watch.

MONEY online shopping

Should You Ditch Amazon and eBay for Alibaba’s 11 Main?

Abandoned shopping cart
Michael Wriston—Getty Images/Flickr

The June 11 launch of 11 Main, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s first foray into the U.S. retail market, set off plenty of speculation about the company’s plans to take on Amazon and eBay. But for online bargain hunters, the real question posed by 11 Main isn’t which corporation will come out on top. It’s, “Should I shop there?”

To find out, I requested an invite (the site is currently invite-only) and pulled out my credit card.

Visually, 11 Main has more in common with crafty marketplace Etsy and flash sale sites like Gilt than the no-nonsense, utilitarian look of Amazon. Rather than sell its own items, the site is a platform for smaller sellers to hawk their wares. 11 Main currently hosts over 1,000 of these sellers, and divvies up their products into categories like fashion, home, tech, toys and jewelry. You can also browse each provider’s shop, and “favorite” items, saving them to a separate page.

Since much as been made of the 11 Main vs. Amazon and eBay showdown, I decided to compare the three by shopping for identical product on each site. I selected five different items: a jump rope, iPhone cover, bottle of pet shampoo, set of children’s socks, and pair of sunglasses (eclectic enough for you?). In each case, the item is sold not by the big site itself, but by a small seller using 11 Main, Amazon, or eBay as a storefront.

Here’s what happened:

On the pure price of the item, Amazon and eBay tied with two winners apiece, leaving 11 Main to bring up the rear.

What really matters to shoppers, though, is the total cost required to get the object of your desire to your doorstep. Now, if you’re Joe Shopper, who just wants to log on and pick up one item, you should go directly to eBay, which won (or tied) on price plus shipping, four times out of five.

But who actually pays shipping on Amazon? If you shell out the $99 a year to be a Prime member, or are willing to stock your cart with $35-worth of must-haves, you can drop those nasty shipping charges on many items. Of our five buys, four qualified for Amazon’s free shipping (the fifth was mailed directly by the seller, and was therefore ineligible). Once free shipping was factored in, the power dynamic flip-flopped, and Amazon came out on top.

Now for returns. When it comes to shipping back a product from 11 Main, you and the seller are on your own: you communicate via email to hash out the details. You also deal with the seller on eBay, though you message back and forth using the site, rather than directly. Amazon provides the most mediation; the site even sent me a printable mailing label, despite the fact that I was shipping the item directly back to the seller. (The actual return policies for each item vary by seller, no matter which site you use.)

The takeaway:

At least in its current form, 11 Main is no match for America’s current online retail kingpins. Can you take advantage of Amazon’s free shipping options? If so, make the Seattle-based retailer your first click.

Stray notes on 11 Main

  • When I logged into 11 Main after making my first purchase, the site had no record of my order.
  • If the items you put in your cart are from different sellers, they are treated as entirely separate purchases, and must be bought individually. Never have I been so happy that Autofill exists.
  • 11 Main has no product reviews or seller ratings. It’s often possible to find them elsewhere online, but adds to your shopping time.

 

 

 

 

MONEY Tech

Fake Toilet-Sharing App Rents 15 Minutes of Bathroom Time for $4

Line for the outhouse
Biddiboo—Getty Images

The motto for mock toilet-sharing app AirWC is "'Cause taking a dump doesn't mean you have to be in one."

AirWC presents itself as an airbnb for private toilets, in which those in desperate need can locate nearby facilities with a smartphone app, check out reviews left by previous “users,” and book a 15-minute session on the bowl for a reasonable $4 fee.

And yes, it’s a total gag. An Italian version of AirWC was posted on the web on the more appropriate date of April 1, and the current parody is now on the comedy site Funny or Die. Let’s just get the bathroom humor out of the way with the AirWC video put on YouTube this week:

While this is indeed a joke skewering the sharing economy, while simultaneously piling on gratuitous poop punch lines, one never knows. We live in a world where a business was launched based on the delivery of $10 worth of quarters for $15 to make it easier to do laundry, after all.

Like any good modern-day technological innovation, the AirWC app (if it was real) allows you to sign in via Facebook. “In seconds, AirWC will locate private toilets nearby—clean, and ready for you,” the video explains. Users can scroll through photos and read reviews “until you find one that meets your sphincter’s needs. Does this toilet inspire you? Does it make your bowels squirm with joy and anticipation?”

Such ad copy would surely be enough to attract the “business” of quite a few users, especially at a cost of only $4 for 15 minutes. Still, not to poo-poo the idea too much (sorry), but it would probably be a tougher sell to get homeowners on board with the idea.

MONEY Odd Spending

6 Crazy Things You Could Do If You Owned an Entire Town

Swett, South Dakota
If you've got $399,000, you could be the new owner (or mayor or president or generalissimo) of the 6-acre town of Swett, S.D. Eric Ginnard—AP

If you dreamed of plunking down $399,000 to buy Swett, S.D., and turning it into a wild party destination filled with girls in bikinis, that idea's already been taken.

Two hours southeast of Rapid City, S.D., the nearly abandoned town of Swett, which consists of 6.16 acres, a handful of buildings, and a population total of 2, recently went on the market. Coldwell Banker, which has the listing, describes the property as “a popular place for pheasant hunting” and highlights the town’s lone functioning business:

The Swett Tavern has had many updates, including a new horseshoe shaped bar, coolers, grill, insulation, camera system. Very clean, open, and updated, the bar also has an extra party room, plus a stage area.

The tavern—and the entire town—is listed for the asking price of $399,000. Presumably a new owner would want to keep the tavern running as the rough-and-tumble road house-type biker bar that it is.

But that’s hardly the only option if you decided to spring for a whole town. As these previous examples of towns for sale show, what you can do as mayor (or president or generalissimo or any title you prefer) is limited only by what your imagination can dream up and your budget can handle.

Outpost for Controversial Religious Sect
When the eight-person town of Scenic, S.D., went up for sale in 2011, the 46-acre property—which included a saloon, post office, and two jails, all closed—was purchased by an unusual buyer. The Phillipines-based Iglesia Ni Cristo religious sect paid $700,000 for the town, $100,000 below asking and well below the onetime listing price of $3 million.

The sect, which has become the third-largest religious denomination in the Philipines and has expanded rapidly in the Americas, is sometimes referred to as the “Cult of Manalo,” after Felix Manalo, the man who claimed to be a prophet when founding the group in 1914. The sect insists it’s the true church established by Jesus Christ—who is considered one of many prophets—and is known for its anti-Catholic stance. “The church is focused on the end times, believes Manalo is a prophet and considers the Catholic Church apostate,” the Associated Press summed up.

Thus far, the church group hasn’t done anything with the property, but many people assume that at some point it will be used for a church camp, or group retreats, or perhaps something bigger. On July 27, Iglesia Ni Cristo will celebrate a grand centennial in the Philippine Arena, the new 51,000-person domed venue built by the sect in the city of Victoria.

Movie Tour Location
Granted, this isn’t something you can do with any old town you buy, but abandoned villages and ghost towns are frequently used as film sets, and when the movie studio’s business is done, the locations are sometimes put up for sale. For instance, Henry Mill Village, an abandoned string of old mill homes near Hildebran, N.C., served as District 12, the bleak coal-mining home town of the main characters in “The Hunger Games.”

Henry Mill Village went up for auction in 2012 with a listed price of $1.4 million, but no bids were accepted. The owner is reportedly still interested in selling the property, which currently hosts Hunger Games Unofficial Fan Tours. The two-hour tour includes games of “archery tag” and the chance to reenact film scenes in costume, at a cost of $50 per person.

Centerpiece of Breastaurant Empire
In 2012, Doug Guller, founder of Bikinis Bar and Grill chain of “breastaurants,” purchased an abandoned town near Fredericksburg, Texas, and renamed it (what else?) Bikinis, Texas. At the time, Eater reported the plans for the town as follows:

“We want it to be a big playground,” self-appointed mayor Guller told Eater Austin by spotty cell phone today while surveying his new rural domain. Think: less food, more booze. “We’re going to have some live music and put in a dance hall.”

Sure enough, the vision sure to make many a teenage boy drool appears to be becoming a reality. The entire town is available to rent for private events, and the main venue, a 600-person dance hall and bar known as (what else?) Guller Hall, plays host to a series of concerts this summer.

Ghost Town (with Bar and Liquor License)
Marketing an abandoned town you purchase as a ghost town to attract tourists seems to be the easiest, most natural business use of a dilapidated group of vacant properties. As an added bonus, the old gold mining town of Seneca, Calif., was posted for sale at Craigslist last winter, complete with “a liquor license for the old shack bar that’s still there.” An offer of $240,000 on the property was reportedly accepted in February.

Publicity for Coffee Brand
Bidding on the town of Buford, Wyo., started at $100,000 in 2012, before it eventually sold for $900,000. The Vietnamese buyers renamed the town PhinDeli Town Buford, after their coffee brand. Last fall, the owners opened a new business in the town, which of course was a coffee shop. The hope, according to one Wyoming newspaper, is that the town near Cheyenne will “become the American hub for PhinDeli-brand coffee.”

Quaint European Village Retreat
It seems as if Europe is awash in adorable, if abandoned, hamlets and villages seeking new owners. One village in France with 19 buildings, tennis courts, and a swimming pool, was listed for around $440,000. Hundreds of vacant hamlets in rural Spain are either for sale or likely to be on the market soon, some with prices in the vicinity of $50,000. Larger abandoned towns—a hill town in Italy with 25 cottages, an entire English village with 2,000 acres, 21 cottages, and a manor house—have occasionally hit the market, sometimes via an eBay listing.

What could new owners do with such properties? As a Forbes post explained, many have been snatched up by Britons, who “convert them into tourist compounds,” serving as private, one-of-a-kind B&Bs, inns, or vacation rentals. Other buyers use them simply as retirement homes or personal vacation houses, with the extra buildings functioning as guest lodging when family and friends come to visit.

MONEY Odd Spending

Betting on a Luis Suarez Bite: 167 Gamblers Cash In

140625_EM_Bite_1
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The odds were 175 to 1 that Uruguay's Luis Suarez would bite somebody during the World Cup. Some 167 gamblers were a lot happier than Italy that Suarez couldn't keep his mouth shut

World Cup news on Tuesday was dominated by an incident in the Italy-Uruguay match, in which the notorious star Uruguay striker Luis Suarez—known for making racist remarks and more than one biting episode on the pitch—apparently bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, a split second before Suarez himself took a pathetic dive, pretending to be hurt.

The bite unleashed a stream of inevitable memes on social media, and even some of the world’s big brands jumped into the action. Snickers, for instance, suggested that its candy bars are “More Satisfying Than Italian” on Twitter, while a Bud Light Tweet showed a Suarez-like set of teeth biting off a cap on the bottle of beer with the words “Relax, they’re twist off.”

The minor league Fort Worth Vaqueros soccer team, meanwhile, has announced a Luis Suarez “Fangs Night” for its match on Sunday, June 29. The first 50 fans that show up to the barbecue before the game receive a free set of plastic vampire fangs—and anyone who arrives with their own fangs gets free admission.

More than 150 gamblers are cashing in on the controversy in a more direct way. It turns out that among the many weird and quirky prop bets concerning the World Cup, one involved the likelihood of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez biting someone during the course of the tournament. A gambling site based in Norway called Bettson offered 175-to-1 odds on Suarez taking a chomp out of an opponent (or perhaps even a teammate, I suppose).

And according to ESPN, 167 gamblers took that bet. One Norwegian showed a photo of his bet on his smartphone: The wager of 32 kroner (a little more than $5) paid off to the tune of 5,600 kroner ($912). The biggest winner came away with roughly $3,300, thanks to Suarez’s apparent inability to control his hunger in the match.

MONEY First-Time Dad

Baby Clothes Are Cheaper Than Therapy

Luke Tepper

Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about buying rain galoshes, sunglasses, and countless cute onesies for your kid. The latest on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

The most common emotional state for new parents (or at least for me) is anxiety. I spent the first three weeks of my son Luke’s life worried that I might, you know, inadvertently kill him. (Everyone’s fine.)

Part of this anxiety stems from the fact that you have no idea what you’re doing, despite the small library of newborn literature on the nightstand. (We must have personally subsidized Dr. Karp’s kitchen renovation.)

But you are also tired. Bone tired. Mrs. Tepper wakes up with Luke every night, usually around 2 a.m., and stays up for the better part of an hour. When he rises again a couple of hours later, I bring him to our bed. Luke laughs and smiles and demands to be picked up and tossed around while Mrs. Tepper and I linger in a netherworld between consciousness and nothingness.

Add unending, gut-busting love for the tyke, and it’s no wonder new parents experience ethereal joy between bouts of tears.

Thanks to this unstable emotional cocktail, we need therapy. But since therapy is expensive, and so are babysitters, we need another solution. That’s where baby clothes come in.

On the one hand, baby clothes are cheap. On Wal-Mart’s website I can buy a four pack of Gerber Onesies for $7. This particularly is available for four age cohorts, from newborn to 12 months, which means I could get a year’s worth of clothes for $112.

Expecting parents are also advised by their experienced peers to push baby clothes to the back burner. “Don’t buy too many clothes,” we were told. “He’ll outgrow them.” Plus, the one thing that everyone buys you is a onesie from whatever corner of the country they call home.

Nevertheless, parents spend a lot of money dressing up their kids.

Families with incomes above $105,000 end up spending a little less than $20,000 on clothes for their children through age 17, according to the Department of Agriculture’s “The Cost of Raising a Child” report. That’s about $1,100 per child per year from newborn to two, or three times what I’ll spend on my clothes.

We certainly have done our fair share of shopping. Luke has four bathing suits (I have one), rain galoshes (even though he can’t walk), and sunglasses. He has a sweater that would’ve made Cliff Huxtable proud and a pair of overalls (which fit in as nicely in Brooklyn as they would out on the range.)

As a result, Luke’s wardrobe is vastly more extensive (and trendy) than mine, and in all likelihood he’ll never really need those (Gulp!) $50 baby Uggs.

Before you judge, or claim that you’ll never buy fashionable baby outfits that your child will quickly outgrow, understand that the Uggs and the sunglasses and the sweaters and the galoshes aren’t for Luke. They’re for us.

Remember, we’re hanging on by a thread. We’re exhausted, overworked, and underpaid. We ceaselessly cook and clean and walk three blocks for the laundry. Plus, we have to confront the inhumanity of alternate-side parking.

There is one thing, one small pleasure, which helps us soldier on and keeps us sane. And that’s buying over-priced handcrafted baby garb, dressing our son up, and taking pictures.

Not only is it cheaper than therapy, but the pictures (to future Luke’s horror) will live on.

More First-Time Dad:

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