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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cheap NiMH batteries: I'm telling everyone! 

This isn't a shopping blog, but I actually found a deal so good I feel like using this space to endorse it. Or brag. Either way.

My club-mate Johnny Cheung suggested an entirely gimcrack website called LED Shoppe as a source of a cheapo Bluetooth USB thingy. And he was right! The sucker cost me about $8.25 in Canadian funds, shipped.

From Hong Kong. Or to put it another way, I don't know how they're making money, except to assume that their unit cost on these little electronic bits is, to a first order, zero dollars.

But while that's a good deal, then they sent me a note about a smoking hot deal, which I took advantage of: 5-packs of AA or AAA Ni-MH rechargables for...C$5.86. Again, that's the shipped, all-taxes-included price. 4-battery charger? Same price.

If you check, you will find that that pirce is not only incredibly cheap for rechargable batteries (of any type, really), it's cheaper than typical packs of name-brand non-rechargable alkalines.

Did I like this deal? Um, I just ordered 30 batteries, a charger, and two bike lights from them.

I wish I was getting some sort of referral deal for posting this, but sadly, no such scam was available. In "revenge," I'll give you the coupon codes I got from them via email:

5% off any order of 3 or more items: 3MORE
10% off an order of $30 or more: 1030
15% off $60 or more: 1560

The selection in the shop largely runs to small computer peripherals or electronic odds and ends, or LED lights in the middling-quality zone. The key seems to be items that are small enough to be cheaply shipped via regular post. Check it out. Have fun. Tell 'em Wired Cola sent you. I don't think it will make any difference, but maybe they'll start reading my blog or something.

Oh, the kicker that sold me on this place? The package with the Bluetooth dongles in it arrived complete with a friendly smiley-face design stamped on the mailing label. I think this place is probably a living-room business run by two teenage girls with atrocious web skillz. But they pass the savings on to you!

How much have you used these batteries? How many use-recharge cycles? If zero, then I'm afraid I'm going to remain quite skeptical -- you get whatcha pay for, right?
The batteries are in the mail.

NiMH batteries exist in a deeply commodified world. That is to say, these probably low-end, very generic 2400 mAh-rated (yeah right) AAs are likely to be as much as 10% worse in real-world performance versus good brand-name NiMH units. That's about all the performance difference I'm willing to assume. See this comparison test of AA rechargables to understand why.

To give you an idea of what kinds of economies we're talking about, check out this The Source catalog page showing their price of $20 for four Nexxtech (house brand) NiMH AAs. They have a nice-looking Panasonic charger, with six batteries and some interesting D/C size adapters for $40. Those prices strike me as roughly typical of the local market.

If I get what I paid for, the cheapo batteries will have to perform about 25% as well as typical competitors. I think they'll hit that benchmark as long as they arrive in the mail.

I also tossed a pair of $5 bike headlights on top of my order, and then today saw the same light in a big US mail-order bike bits catalog for $15.

That said, write me in a few months and ask me if impulse-buying enough small batteries to convert just about every battery-using device I own was a clever idea or not.
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