10 Tips for Safe, Secure, Happier Online Shopping

In the wake and uncertainty of the Equifax hack, you can still shop assured on selectblinds.com! The IT pros here at Select Blinds want to make you happy by reminding you that:

We hope you’ve taken steps to find out if you were impacted by the Equifax breach, and to protect your identity and information going forward. In the meantime, here are 10 tips to make your online shopping experience easier, and how to keep your identity and financial information safer.

1. Make sure your computer is secure. If your computer isn’t protected from malware (malicious software), you’re just inviting hackers to steal your financial information, passwords and everything else you store on your computer or do online. A simple Google search for “computer security software” is all it takes to find a program to meet your needs.

You also want to make sure your computer’s firewall is on. If you use a wireless network, it needs to be encrypted, so hackers can’t access your information.

2. Never shop from a computer on a public network. This may seem like a no-brainer, but public networks are not as secure as your own, so you risk others seeing your information. Avoid making any financial transactions (shopping, banking, etc.) on a public network to help keep your information and identity safe.

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Need more speed to check out faster on shopping sites? Consider getting a faster internet plan, or downloading more memory.

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3. Check the site’s URL. To tell if a site is secure, look for the little padlock icon in your browser’s URL bar. You can also tell if the site is secure by looking for an “s” in the URL address: https://. Non-secure sites and pages begin with http.

4. Shop with trusted e-retailers you know. If you’re a fan of a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer whose reputation is, literally, on (the) line, chances are you can trust their web site. Visiting a new site? Read the reviews. At selectblinds.com, we’re super proud of the fact that we’re the highest rated, most reviewed online blinds retailer, so you can be sure we’re not going to jeopardize that by putting our customers’ information in jeopardy.

On the flip side, beware of “shady,” suspicious sites advertising ‘too good to be true’ offers; as the saying goes, they usually are. Disreputable online retailers often use the old “bait and switch” scam to lure customers by running a ridiculously low price promotion and then, when you go to add the item to your cart – surprise! – it’s “out of stock,” so they try to sell you something else.

5. Only use credit cards, rather than debit cards. Credit cards represent an extension of credit, while debit cards draw directly from your bank account. Hackers can do much more damage to your finances with your debit card info than with your credit card number. Also, Consumer Reports recommends using just one credit card, or a payment service like PayPal, for all your online purchases. This way, if a hacker does get your account information, you only have one credit card company or service to deal with.

6. Beware of extra charges. Shipping, of course, is the biggie, so be sure to check the fine print on what qualifies for “free shipping” (not everything does, like most over-sized items). And before checking out, read the retailer’s return policies thoroughly. Many charge restocking fees for returns – some up to 25% or more. But typically a fee of 15% of the price you paid for the returned item is standard for specially packaged products, like electronics.

7. Don’t use a site that asks for more information than necessary to complete the sale. Providing basic information including your name, billing and shipping address, phone number, email address and method of payment is part and parcel of online shopping. But if a site requests other information, click delete! NEVER supply your bank account information, social security information, or driver’s license number. Some companies ask questions about your interests for marketing purposes, but these and any on-site questionnaires should always be optional.

8. Check the site’s privacy policy. Does the retailer resell, rent, or share your information? Check the policy to understand how exposed your information may become, or how it may be used. Many sites (like selectblinds.com) clearly state that they do not share, sell, or rent consumers’ information; others say they own your info and can use it however they choose. Shop with companies that respect your privacy.

9. Create a unique password for each site. Most e-commerce sites give you the option to create your own account.  This makes sense for e-retailers you shop from frequently (but not necessary or recommended if you’re a one-time buyer), so you’ll need to create a strong, unique password. Be sure to follow the site’s prompts for creating a password that meets their security requirements (number of characters, cap/lowercase letters, special symbols, etc.).

10. Always check the company’s shipping terms. Ever found a great price on something online, only to get to check out and see the shipping charge is as much or more than the item itself? It happens. Exorbitant shipping fees, especially on small orders, can turn a shopping bargain into an expensive mistake, so read your options carefully. Look to see if order tracking and insurance is provided. Understand what carriers the retailer uses and how packages are delivered (direct to your door, drop off at curb, by appointment, signature required, etc.), and be particularly cautious if the item won’t be shipped within 10 days.

Happy IT Professionals Day! Today’s tips brought to you by the madcap members of our incredible IT Team, who are always inventing ways to better protect your information and privacy on selectblinds.com!

Maria G. Is a Happy SelectBlinds.com Customer!

Maria G. is thrilled with the way these custom Premier Light Filtering Cord-Free Roman Shades complement her bedroom. Maria selected the color Amberglow, which is neutral enough to go with a variety of multicolored duvet covers, yet has enough dazzle (a bit of texture works wonders here!) to really dress up her windows. 

The light-filtering shade material is perfect for both day and night, and the white liner looks crisp and clean when viewing from the outside in. The rounded headrails blend into the windows, and neatly hold the shades while in a raised position. 

The roller shade-like cordless operation makes pulling these Roman shades up and down a cinch, and the installation? It took five minutes per window for Maria’s non-handy husband to install. Now that’s saying something! 

Inspiring Decorator — Andrea Francavilla

andrea-francavilla

 

Building hope for your household. That’s what Pine and Prospect Home blogger and decorator Andrea Francavilla offers her 28k IG followers and fans of her blog. There she’s chronicled a five-year journey renovating and rejuvenating her charming Tudor-style home to inspire others. (Check out the before and after pics here!) Read on for proof of her design philosophy that, “You don’t need a lot of money to have a beautiful refuge. With a little thriftiness and ingenuity, any house – no matter the size, budget or style – can be a prospective home.”

1. What inspired you to become a designer? What has your journey been like?

 To be honest, I don’t know that I would consider myself a designer! I love all things home, and decorating has always been a passion of mine ever since I was little. I remember cutting out magazine clippings as a young girl and gluing them all together to create “my future home.” When my husband and I purchased our fixer upper, it was a dream come true for me. I was finally able to decorate my own space, but I quickly realized that home decor can be very pricey. I was determined to create a beautiful home even on the lowest of budgets, and I’m proud to say that the majority of my decor comes from thrift stores, garage sales and endless DIY projects. 

kitchen

2. How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Our 1930’s home is an English-cottage revival style house with a steeply pitched roof and a round door. The charm and character on the outside of our home has been the main inspiration for my interior decorating. I love to combine traditional, cottage-style elements with modern decor pieces to create a warm, livable and inviting space. 

living-room

 3. What was your favorite project(s)? Why? 

This is a tough question! I have done so many projects that it’s truly hard to choose. Probably my favorite recent project was our fireplace makeover. Last year we added DIY built-ins in the form of shelves and a storage bench, redesigned the mantle and created a frame around the television. This year we covered all the brick with stone, and I just love the way it turned out. Our fireplace is a focal point in our home, and the stone brings so much warmth and rustic beauty! 

fireplace

Watch the amazing transformation of Andrea’s fireplace here.

 4. What’s your favorite trend right now?

I try to avoid anything too trendy in my decorating. If I see something I love and the price is right, I will purchase it whether it’s trendy or not. But while I try to be unique, it’s almost impossible not to be inspired by others! One of my favorite trends is probably subway tile. We added a subway tile backsplash to our kitchen, not only because it’s trendy, but also because subway tile is true to the time period in which our home was built. It’s a timeless, classic option, and I love the character it adds to any space!

backsplash

“We Will Never Forget”

never-forget-911

Like December 7, 1941, September 11, 2001 will always be “a date which will live in infamy.” This day of remembrance has been designated Patriot Day in honor of those whose lives were tragically lost in the loss of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a lonely field in Pennsylvania on 9/11. Sixteen years past and the images and memories of that day are still vivid. Everyone has their own story to share about”where were you when the towers went down?”

I thought it would be interesting to share another story. This one’s about the history of the steel used to build the Twin Towers and how now those beams, as well as thousands of other artifacts from Ground Zero, have become part of memorials throughout the country and the world to ensure that we, indeed, will never forget.

Earlier this year I was visiting my granddaughter in Wellington, FL, and while on a walk came upon that city’s Patriot Memorial. Only 10, my granddaughter had little understanding of what happened on 9/11, so as we walked through the site, I told her my story of that day while learning more myself about the striking piece of steel there piercing the bright  blue sky.

patriot-memorial

 

patriot-memorial

Here, in part, is the inscription on the plaque:

“This three-story section of steel was a part of the New York city skyline — a window panel in the World Trade Center’s South Tower that spanned the 69th to 71st floors. The steel was found seven stories below the impact zone. Only 18 people at or above the impact zone survived. … This column and other World Trade Center artifacts were relocated to New Jersey for analysis and further study. Despite fire damage, engineers were able to identify this panel, known as C-46, due to a white stenciled marking dating back to the Tower’s construction. …On December 2, 2010, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey entrusted the artifact to Wellington for the creation of the Patriot Memorial, ensuring that the memory of the September 11th tragedy will never be forgotten.”

Looking again at these pictures today, I did a little more research on the steel beams from the Towers and how they’ve found their way to similar memorials around the globe. In a fascinating article on PBS.org, I learned that more than 2,600 artifacts — among them, 1,944 pieces of steel — were collected from Ground Zero. Along with the rusted pieces of twisted steel, damaged emergency vehicles, seared signs, tattered clothing and other relics were housed inside Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York under the purview of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, where they were kept as evidence during the investigation of the 9/11 attacks. When the government’s investigation was completed in 2010, the Port Authority initiated an artifact give-away program. Between then and August 2016, when the program ended, the items were given out to 1,585 fire and police departments, museums, municipalities and organizations to remember the nearly 3,000 people who died that day.

9/11 artifacts have been used in every type of memorial, from small to large. According to Amy Passiak, who served as an archivist and project manager for the program, the smallest pieces were about 6 inches and largest up to 36 feet in length. Many of the larger pieces were part of a “cutting program” to facilitate and meet the demand of organizations who applied to the program. There is even a 9/11 Memorial Registry you can check to see where organizations have registered their memorials. I encourage you to see if there’s one in your community.

patriot-memorial

The Patriot Memorial in Wellington, FL, includes an eternal flame atop a fountain framed by glass walls etched with the names of the 2,996 lost on 9/11.

Sharing Is Caring … and Winning!

CONGRATULATIONS … to Barbara Pacific, who shared our #selectblindslaborday hashtag and won a $250 Visa gift card!! We just notified her that the card is on the way and here’s what she had to say:

Is this real?? I am a 42-year-old first-time college student putting myself through school to become a Social Worker for foster children, so I am buying some things for my apartment and some books I need for my college courses. Thank you so much! You have no idea how much this is going to help me!”

Yes, it is real, Barbara, and we’re so happy for you and glad this will help. Good luck with school, and thank you — and everyone who entered the contest (which is now over 🙁 ) — for sharing about Select Blinds!

Barbara and her grandkids. So cute!

Donating to Hurricane Relief Orgs: How You Can Help

Photo courtesy of USA Today

It’s a time of unprecedented need. As Houston, southeast Texas and Louisiana continue to recover from #HurricaneHarvey, Florida is facing a direct hit from #HurricaneIrma. Our thoughts and prayers are with family, friends and everyone in Irma’s path this weekend.  Also want to send out a big “THANK YOU!” to all of the  first response teams, rescue workers, military, law enforcement and volunteers, who are at the ready to assist those in need. They’re all going to need our help, so as Florida prepares, you can, too.

While the urge to donate clothes and other supplies is natural, the best way to contribute during times of disaster, charities and philanthropy experts say, is to donate money. And donating directly through a website gets money to a charity faster than a text donation, even though the text might seem easier. As we saw in the aftermath of Harvey and other disasters, while appreciated, material donations can cause unintended logistical complications for assisting agencies. To make sure any donation you make gets to where and those who need it, check out Charity Navigator first. Charity Navigator is a nonprofit that evaluates charities using a numbers-based rating system to ensure that organizations distribute donations they receive as they have promised to.

“We send out a list to organizations that we know will be in the area and they fill out a disaster response survey,” Sara Nason, the company’s communications manager, told ABC News. Charity Navigator requires that organizations must publicly say they have a planned response, along with a specific designation for relief efforts and how they are going to use the money.

According to ABC News, as of Friday morning, 15 charities have been approved by Charity Navigator as highly-rated organizations that will allocate funds to Hurricane Irma relief and provide assistance to the communities affected:

Catholic Relief Services

American Red Cross

Direct Relief

Hope for Haiti

Heart to Heart International

– Save the Children

DonorsChoose.org

Water Mission

– Oxfam America

GlobalGiving

Americares

MedShare

– UNICEF USA

International Relief Teams

Samaritan’s Purse

In addition to broader based relief organizations, think, too, about donating to those who need special assistance, including support for people with disabilities, the homeless, the elderly, displaced children, and animals. Local food banks can also use financial donations to  ensure they can provide needed food and water in affected areas.

Another way to help is following your social media feeds to see where the greatest needs are in your area. We all heard and read about the amazing — and immediate — impact the posts of so many individuals made, and how those connections made such a huge difference in helping those in need following Harvey.

Donations and assistance are still needed, too, for those recovering from #HurricaneHarvey. The following are just a few of the many sites you can donate to (Charity Navigator approved):

Samaritans Purse: https://goo.gl/itXSTm

American Red Cross: https://goo.gl/sD6C6T

Save the Children: https://goo.gl/jRRKsU

Be safe, be smart, and thank you for anything you can do to help!

Photo courtesy of USA Today

How to Clean and Care for Wood Blinds

It’s Wood Month here at Selectblinds.com, so we thought what better time for a little refresher on how to keep your wood, bamboo and woven wood blinds and shades looking like new. Here are some cleaning tips I dusted off from our Technical Tip experts, along with a few other ideas picked up on Pinterest (#betterthangoogle).

  • Dust you must! Starting from the top of the blind, tilt each slat individually 45-degrees, first one way and then the other, to easily knock the dust loose.
  • Spray a soft feather duster, lint-free dusting cloth or mitt with a good quality furniture polish. Do not apply dusting or spray polish directly on the wood.
  • Lightly wipe both sides of each slat. (You know that collection of single socks you’ve accumulated from the dryer? Stop waiting for their mates to show up – which is never gonna happen – and put them to good use. They can cut dusting time in half with a single swipe to clean both sides of the slat at the same time!)
  • You can also make fast work of dusting by using the soft brush attachment on your vacuum. (Great for cleaning window sills at the same time!)
  • Follow the same steps as above for your bamboo and woven wood shades, but be very gentle when wiping or sweeping across the surface. Be careful not to snag or pull the natural fibers so you don’t damage them.

General Cleaning Tips, Hints & Hacks

While we don’t recommend washing wood and woven wood products with water because of the potential damage it can cause, there may be times when excess dirt and grime make it necessary. If you’re faithful about regular dust ups, you should only need to wash them once or twice a year. Use a good quality wood soap and squeeze excess water from your cleaning cloth so it’s damp, not wet, before wiping.

To help protect them till their next bath time, mix 1 cup hot water and 2 TBS lemon oil. Using a clean, soft cloth, wring out excess water and lightly wipe the slats or surface of the shade. Another way to help repel dust and keep them cleaner longer is to wipe them down with a fabric softener sheet.

Keep Track of Slats

Ever get interrupted while dusting your blinds? Here’s a great idea to keep track of slats so you know where you were at. Pop a clothespin in your pocket when you’re cleaning. If you’re interrupted, pull it out and clamp it to the last slat you cleaned so when you get back, you’ll know exactly where you left off.

DIY Cleaning Tool

No need to pay big bucks for special blind cleaning tools! Make your own by simply attaching a couple of microfiber cloths to a pair of tongs with some clips or rubber bands. Dusting done without busting your budget!

Window Washing

Window cleaners are great on windows, but on blinds and shades? Not so good. When wiping windows, prevent possible damage to coverings by spraying the cleaner on a cloth or paper towel instead of directly onto the glass, and then wipe the window clean. This way, no harm, no foul to your blinds.

Why Wood Still Wows in Interior Design

 

Since the Stone Age, wood has been the go-to construction material for builders and designers. Compared to steel and concrete, writes Clay Risen of Popular Science, it’s “cheaper, easier to assemble, and more fire resistant, thanks to the way wood chars [who knew??]. It’s also more sustainable. Wood is renewable like any crop, and it’s a carbon sink, sequestering the carbon dioxide it absorbed during growth even after it’s been turned into lumber.”

More simply put, because wood used to be a living organism, it contains a spiritual energy that affects us in a positive way and helps create a relaxing environment. (Don’t believe me? Search “forest bathing” to learn about the benefits of walking through a forest of trees.)

Wood’s Zen-like presence can be found everywhere in interior design. Its natural organic properties make it one of the most versatile elements evident in all good design, and a simple way to bring nature to every room of your home.

The root of great design

In addition to its soothing effects on your senses, wood is one of the only materials that can be finished to look like shiny marble, or in almost any way you can imagine. There are lots of techniques for texturizing, smoothing, painting and staining wood to give it the look you want. Or left in its natural state, wood can be crafted into truly gorgeous, one-of-a-kind designs that showcase its unique imperfections, knots and grains.

Photo via Stanley Furniture on Wayfair

Wood can be used virtually everywhere – inside and out – as a design element to complement any style. In addition to the durable, classic beauty of fine wood furniture, envision it on your floors, walls, ceilings, patios and in accessories throughout your home.

‘Woodn’t’ this look spectacular hanging in your home? You can see why Pinterest users have pinned this gorgeous wooden pendant light to so many lists.

Nail any décor from country to contemporary, traditional to transitional by mixing and matching wood finishes. Sustain your look for years with reclaimed and refinished wood used in doors, windows, flooring, ceiling beams, and as a decorative accent almost anywhere.

Can’t afford to re-floor with wood? Reach for it on your windows with natural woven wood coverings (like our new Veronica Valencia Island Woven Wood in luscious Lomaloma), or real-wood blinds like our 2” American Hardwoods (shown here in Old Mahogany). 

 

Need some more inspiration? Here’s a link to 18 incredible DIY ideas (like this sweet little side table) to create your own unique wooden designs. Let us know how they turn out. Post your projects in the Comments section here on The Blinds Spot blog.