Two out of three…

I have a standing order with Amazon to deliver dog food, cat food, and litter on a monthly basis. It hasn’t been an altogether satisfying relationship thus far. Two out of the last three orders have been what I’ll just call “defective.” Today’s order included a bag of cat food in fine shape, a box of cat litter in fine condition, and a bag of dog food with a blown out corner that emptied half the bag’s contents out into the shipping box.

Look, the dogs loved the fact that I schlepped this 50 pound box through the middle of the house trailing kibble behind me, but it wasn’t the kind of experience I’d have paid for if given the opportunity. I’m a simple guy who just wants things to arrive undamaged. I don’t feel like that’s really an unreasonable position on my part as the consumer.

I dutifully fired up Amazon’s customer service chat and to their credit they immediately offered to ship out another bag of food or give me a refund. The Amazon business model is a real wonder of the modern – as it seems it’s cheaper for them to replace every fourth or fifth thing I buy than it is to spend a few extra cents on proper packaging for their products.

Amazon isn’t the only game in town, but they are generally the most convenient for setting up recurring orders so I’ll keep using them. They’ll keep sending out items in piss poor packaging. I’ll keep sending for replacements. And the whole machine will keep on working. Somehow, though, it feels like there could be a better way.

Jeff and the case of the $100 toothbrush…

My dental hygienist has been hectoring me for years to buy an electro-mechanical toothbrush. She promised better dental health overall and fewer sessions with the drill. Still, I resisted the honey being poured into my ears. Mostly I resisted what I considered an extravagant expense in replacing a simple $2 toothbrush (that the dentist use to give me for free every six months), with a several hundred dollar battery powered model that also required regular brush head replacement. Frankly, I assumed the mechanical toothbrush would last about as long in my household as the electric razor I tried and promptly threw away twenty years ago.

After not a little bit of consideration I bit the bullet and ordered up one of these sonic cleaning marvels that was on offer as part of Amazon’s big site-wide yard sale. I’m trying to be open minded, though the fact that I just spent $100 on a toothbrush still feels like something of a patently ridiculous expense.

I’m going to do my best to give this thing the benefit of the doubt. It’s got until the first scheduled brush replacement to show me its worth. If it proves to be a case of a fool and his money, I’ll be perfectly happy to go back to ordering 10 packs of old school toothbrushes from Amazon for $5. Or maybe I’ll just knock out all of these awful teeth with a ball-peen hammer and get titanium chompers. At this point I’m starting to think that’s also a perfectly reasonable long-term solution.

The virtue of Prime…

After getting my notice of another Amazon Prime subscription price increase, I’m realizing that I either need to start using it for more than watching 10 episodes of The Grand Tour a year or get rid of it. I signed up way back when Prime’s major benefit was two day shipping on books. Although it offers many more features now, I find I’m barely using it for any of them. With many of items I’ve bought from Amazon recently not making the 2-day shipping window and/or being damaged to some degree in packing or transit, it’s starting to feel like less of a bargain overall – especially when Amazon has opted to push it over the $100 price point.

I’m well aware that arguing over the value of $21 per year increase is patently ridiculous on its face, but there’s just something about that three-digit bill that really sets me wondering just what the hell I’m paying for and if it’s actually worth it. In all likelihood I’ll just go along letting apathy and inertia carry it along, but don’t let that in any way be confused with my willingness to bitch and complain every year when that $120 bill shows up in my list of financial transactions… because I still want my dented and damaged crap showing up in two (or three or four) days.

I supposed that’s what Amazon has been counting on all along.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. “Work days.” Pretending that the day before and after Thanksgiving are “work days” is ridiculous. Sure, the lights are on and there may be a skeleton staff in the building, but no one is doing shit. Even if those who were in the office wanted to do something, the chance of them being able to find another person interest in and able to deal with that issue falls somewhere between slim and none. But year after year we continue the monumentally expensive farce of maintaining the illusion that these massive office complexes are “open for business” because it’s better optics than admitting that yeah, we’re going to go ahead and take a knee for three days. Illusion trumps reality every time.

2. Recycling. I like the environment and believe that recycling is a net good overall situation. That said, though, if you want people to recycle you’ve got to make it easy. To those of us who don’t spend our lives pondering the subtle differences, plastic is plastic. If you have to hire someone to yell at people when they drop the “wrong” kind of plastic at the tip, your process is not easy enough. I try to recycle because it’s the right thing to do, but honest to God if you don’t go back to “single stream” meaning an actual single stream I’ll just start paying the extra $5 on my monthly trip to the dump and you can bury it all.

3. Sales. I love Amazon… most of the time. When it comes time for their big sales, though, I can’t quite shake the feeling that what they’re really doing is just knocking a few percent off stuff they’re trying to clear out of the warehouse. That’s well and good, of course. It’s a sales model that’s been around as long as retail… but just because a random piece of junk is now 20% off doesn’t fill me with a burning desire to acquire a piece of junk that I wouldn’t otherwise want to own.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The internet as everlasting know it all. I got a book recommendation from a friend earlier this week. I’m always looking for interesting reading materials so I saved the name and filed it away for my next visit to Amazon. The next morning of course, the book electro-magically shows up in my Facebook news feed as a “recommended buy from Amazon” ad. This is just all basically confirmation that the internet is a damned creepy place, even when you’re not getting catfished.

2. Picking your friends. Once again, the tide of “if you vote for Candidate X, just unfriend me” is upon us. Let the record show that I don’t determine my friendships based solely on an individual’s politics, orientation, gender, ethnicity, or any other single factor. Funny thing is, I don’t think of my friends as a group of one-dimensional elements so much as I do the sum of their parts. That means I can both enjoy their company and disagree with them on political philosophy all at the same time. Maybe it’s just me. With that said, the chances of me changing my mind on most of the issues I find important are slim to none. I will continue to post occasionally about those issues, but certainly not to the exclusion of all other aspects of life. Come to think of it, if my politics are the only reason you’re hanging on to me, maybe it’s best to just let go after all. There just can’t be much value added to friendships based on just one slim sliver of what makes a person who they are.

3. Rain. Seriously. I know I put down sod and the fact that I’ve had a good soaking rain fall on it 5 out of the last 7 days is like mana from heaven, but we’ve reached the point where I’d dearly love to see maybe an hour or two of actual sunshine. Preferably not when I’m buried in the back corner of a concrete building where exterior weather conditions are well-nigh unknowable. I know it’s a big ask – one the forecast says could be out of reach for the next week at least. I’m happy as a clam not to have to drag hoses all over the yard, but a few minutes of sun on top of my dome would more than make up for half an hour of watering duty on the afternoon of nature’s choice.

Stockpiled…

Thanks to Amazon, my Kindle is now happily stocked with what could well be months of reading material – ranging from the Battle of Jutland to the reign of Richard III to fiction of a decidedly pulp variety. It makes me happier than it probably should.

I’ll admit that I was a holdout during the formative years of the e-reader, but I’ve come to appreciate it all the more as time goes by. While I miss the more frequent binge visits to the book store, there’s something deeply satisfying about having the preponderance of whatever you may want to read available at the stroke of a few keys.

I suppose I have to grudgingly admit that the pre-Cyber Monday sales from Amazon where good for something after all. I’ve heard it said that you can’t buy happiness, but as long as you can buy books, I’m not at all sure that’s true.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Outlook has exceeded its storage capacity. I got an email from Outlook this morning at the office, roundly chastising me for vastly exceeding my network storage limit and effectively forcing me to dump easily tens (and possibly hundreds) of thousands of emails from the neat and orderly file structure I’ve had since the dawn of time into giant “pots” of email segregated by year. Sure, yes I know there are automatic ways to find all sorts of files, but nothing makes me (professionally) happier than seeing a neatly organized rhyme and reason for how my files and documents are arranged. I want to know how to get to things without needing to ask the machine to find it for me. It’s a personality quirk. Still, at a time in history when electronic storage is cheap and easy, running out of network storage is just stupid, bad, and wrong. Google might be mining my every message for content, but at least those pricks have never imposed a unilateral ex post facto storage cap on me. After all, you just never know when that email thread from February 2007 is going to suddenly become important. Based on my observation, the future largely a rehash of something we tried five or ten years ago… and when it comes around again, I like to be able to reference the documentation showing why it’s as bad an idea now as it was then. Forewarned is forearmed.

2. Pay walls. I’m a reasonably informed person. I try to draw my information from a variety of sources both national and international and representing multiple ends of the political spectrum. I think it’s important not to rely too much on any one news outlet, although I clearly have a few favorites. Regardless of whether you’re a favorite or not, I’m not going to pay for access to news content online. Not. Going. To. Happen. With a million other competing news sites and blogs, I don’t have any reason to pay for the news – for the same reason I wouldn’t pay for a newspaper when I was an undergrad. Aside from not wanting to pay just to read the one article a month I might be interested in, the same or similar content is available somewhere. In college it meant stopping by the local coffee shop or McDonald’s that always had plenty of copies of the paper laying around. Online it means clicking over to a news aggregator or running a quick key word search. It’s cute that news providers are desperate to hang on to the 19th century subscription model of distribution, but I’m not convinced it has a place in the 21st century. There are plenty of other, likely more lucrative, ways to get at the consumer’s wallet… if you’re just a little bit innovative in the approach.

3. George Foreman. A George Foreman grill was one of the first kitchen appliances I received after graduating college and striking out on my own. That original grill is long gone, but I’ve always had one stashed in a cabinet and used it at least once a week if not more often. Then I moved a month ago. The only thing I lost as part of the move was the Foreman’s drip tray. One single, solitary piece of plastic gone while moving the entire house. I have no idea how something like that would get lost in transit, but it did. I’ve been using assorted substitutes for the last few weeks. None of them have been particularly good at filling the role. I assumed jumping on Amazon and ordering a replacement would be cheap and easy. As generally happens when I assume, I was dead wrong. Not only where they not cheap, but they weren’t in stock. Anywhere… unless you wanted to order one “used, but clean” from eBay. Uhhh… no. Thanks. That’s ok for books, but not something that’s going to live in my food prep area. So instead of a $.37 piece of plastic, Amazon is sending me a new $49.99 grill tomorrow. It feels a little like swatting flies with a cruise missile.