I am perusing one of the finest selections of expensive, useless crap: The Hammacher Schlemmer Father’s Day catalog.
What I want: Human Bowling Ball
What I need: Hands-Free Hair Rejuvenator
What I will probably get, again: Nose Hair Trimmer
[As if I needed them.]
- I ordered something from Costco.com. Between when I ordered it and when it shipped, they dropped the price by $30. I called their customer service line and they agreed to refund the difference, no questions asked. OK, two questions: They asked me the order number and they asked me to confirm the price difference.
- I purchased a three-pack of HP inkjet cartridges a while ago. I used up the first cartridge and installed the second cartridge and discovered shortly thereafter that the second cartridge was defective. I went back to the warehouse with the packaging (including the third, unused cartridge) and the defective second cartridge but no receipt. They said that because I’d used “less than half”, they would give me a full refund. Again, no questions asked.
I want to buy a product that’s for sale online. The exact product doesn’t really matter; what matters is that it’s a relatively new product that I’ve never used before, so I’m not sure if I’m going to like it and want to keep it.
Every place that sells this product charges the same price, so there’s no bargain hunting. The dilemma is that I can buy it either directly from its maker (which I generally prefer to do) and get free shipping and handling and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Or I can buy it from a high-end retailer, pay $20-25 S&H and get a lifetime money-back guarantee. This means that I’m essentially paying an extra $20+ dollars (in this case, around 10-15% of the product’s price) for an extended insurance policy and I have to decide if it’s worth it.
I recently learned about a restaurant named Watercress Asian Bistro. While I have not eaten there, its name alone raises warning flags.
Let’s break it down:
|Word in Name
||What They Want It To Mean
||What It Probably Means
||We serve light, healthy food, filled with fresh ingredients.
||The food is bland because we don’t how to season it. And don’t count on it being healthy because we cook everything in oil except the salads, which are made with iceberg lettuce.
||We choose from the best of the cuisines of China, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
||We’re not really good at cooking any one cuisine, so we pick a few well-known dishes from each and Americanize them by loading them up with salt and sweeteners.
||A fun, casual place, suitable for a lunch with friends or a nice dinner date.
||We hired our waitstaff from Applebee’s and we serve wine out of a box.|
If this seems like idle speculation, check out what today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer has to say about a similarly-named-but-probably-entirely-unrelated restaurant:
Cilantro Asian Cuisine, with the third-highest number of red violations this year, was closed in May after "cockroaches were found crawling on cooked vegetables that were stored on a shelf," according to the inspection report.
The inspector also found shrimp stored in used containers and stacked with the bottom of the containers on the shrimp in the container below, a non-functioning oven hood and a dishwasher that wasn’t sanitizing the dishes.
That was one of three inspections in which the health department found serious problems at Cilantro. Other problems included "raw fish on top of cans of soda," "dried blood on the floor" and a customer complaining of a cockroach in his or her takeout.
For contrast in both name and cuisine, consider the estimable Malay Salay Hut.
When did restaurant managers and waiters decide that it was a good idea to replace the question, "Is everything to your satisfaction?" with, "Is everything tasting wonderful?"
First of all, I don’t really want you asking me directly about how the food tastes. That’s way too intimate a question for our relationship; you’re figuratively prying open my mouth and inspecting my tongue. Secondly, it discounts the ten other things that affect my experience at your restaurant. (Yes, my water glass is empty again.) Finally, in all likelihood "everything" doesn’t taste "wonderful." Good, hopefully, excellent, possibly, but you set yourself up for failure when you set the bar at wonderful. Unless you’re serving me at Canlis, the Herbfarm, or a handful of less well-known restaurants, everything isn’t tasting wonderful, and the waiters in those establishments are old-school enough to ask the question appropriately.
For Father’s Day this year I got a heart rate monitor, or to be precise, I was authorized to purchase myself a heart rate monitor. Not having any experience with HRMs nor having done much research, I went to REI
to pick one out.
I’d already decided that I didn’t want to spend much more than $100 on an HRM and that I didn’t need fancy features for what would mostly be treadmill use. My initial first choice was the Highgear PulseWear Duo
, mostly because I was nervous about using the chest strap and liked the idea of having a model that would sample the heart rate without it. However, I was quickly talked out of it by the salesperson, who said that he’d seen a lot of returns for that model, that the fingertip-based measurement wasn’t highly accurate, and that the main benefit of the HRM comes from sustained measurement (i.e. the chest strap is the whole point). He steered me toward Polar
but in the end I opted for the Timex 30-Lap Ironman Triathlon
, because the feature set seemed a little more useful and I figured the Timex would be more reliable.
Not so much. I found that the HRM frequently lost contact with the chest strap, sometimes right after a workout, but sometimes in the middle of the workout. Taking the strap off and readjusting it didn’t make a difference. It wasn’t due to lack of moisture, and I tightened the chest strap and replaced its battery to no avail. After a couple of weeks I called Timex Customer Service. I was very impressed that within a minute of calling I was talking to a real tech support person, but after hearing my description of the situation his recommendation was to send the unit to them for repair. At that point I decided to go back to REI and exchange it for a different model. I’d since received two independent recommendations to "just get a Polar", so that’s what I did.
I’ve now had the Polar F6
for two days. I don’t want to jinx myself, but so far I’ve had absoutely no problems with the HRM receiving its signals from the chest strap (which wasn’t true of the Timex at that point). Furthermore, the Polar is simply a better HRM. The Timex is more of a watch-HRM hybrid, whereas the Polar is clearly designed with the primary intent of being an HRM (and is a mediocre watch). There are at least five little things in its design and implementation that make me like it better and even some of the frivolousfeatures now seem useful.
It’s also helped me have the "duh!" moment that my exercise program isn’t meeting my goals, but that’s a story for another day.
I’ve thought about buying a bowling shirt for years, and I recently gave in and bought one
. (From bowlingshirt.com
, not to be confused with bowlingshirts.com
.) When ordering it, I realized that it would not be complete without a name stitched in the left chest area. This raised (not begged
) the question, how do you choose the right bowling shirt name?
Unlike choosing a drag queen name, where the prevailing guidance is name of first pet + mother’s maiden name (cited here
among other places, though I cannot find an authoritative source), there is scarce guidance on choosing a bowling shirt name, so I was on my own. Using my actual name was of course out of the question. I felt that the name had to be contemporary with the golden age of bowling, i.e. adults in post-World War II America, which ruled out names like Tyler and Madison. Using the name of an famous bowler, e.g. Earl
, would suggest that I genuinely aspire to bowling greatness and therefore seem pathetic. Picking a random working-class nickname like "Bud" would be condescending.
If there’s anything important in choosing a name for a faux bowling shirt, it’s authenticity. And so it was with a flash of clarity that I settled on a name: "Irv", the name my father would have used had he ever owned his own bowling shirt. Not that I ever saw my father bowl, and in fact few people who knew him would have called him by that name, but I knew immediately that this name met all of the requirements and was a suitable homage to my father. Plus, some day I may get the chance to pass the shirt along to his grandson, in whose memory he is named, and in doing so the shirt will, like Pinocchio, acquire the authenticity it so desperately craves and deserves.
Yesterday I bought what passes for a new winter coat
in Seattle. Within the exception of a fifteen year-old ski jacket it’s the warmest coat I own, which means I’m thoroughly unequipped to visit any place that has real winters. But will it be warm enough for this trip
[That’s right, "waiting on line", the proper New York dialect, as befits this story. Though #1 teases me when I employ this usage, asking me why I’m waiting on the Internet.]
At work we have a system where you can store cash value on your employee identification card, either via paying cash at the cafeteria or automatic payroll deduction. Some people choose not to take advantage of this convenience, and I can appreciate this decision even if I don’t entirely understand it.
What does bug me is that folks who are paying with cash invariably stand there watching the cashier tally their purchase, and only when they are told the total do they pull out their wallet and start counting out the money, thereby holding up everybody behind them. I don’t get this — do they secretly hope that they’won’t have to pay if they don’t have their wallet out, or conversely that they’ll be charged more if they do? Are they unable to watch the cashier and ready their wallet at the same time? Do they honestly have no clue approximately what their lunch is going to cost when prices are posted with every item? We need to send these people to New York for training.
It’s at times like this that I wish humans were equipped with horns so that we could honk at the idiots ahead of us who are not paying attention.