Breaking up with Amazon…

I’ve always wanted to like Amazon. A million years ago they were a place where you could find all sorts of reading material that your small local bookshop didn’t carry or that they didn’t have much interest in getting for you. Time passes. Things evolve. Amazon is now all things to all people – literally where you can go to but everything including the kitchen sink, listen to streaming radio, or find a bit of in-house produced “prestige television.”

The more Amazon has grown, the larger their catalog of merchandise has become, the worse the overall experience of dealing with them is. Over the last 12 months I’ve received more damaged items and made more returns to them than I have in my entire time as an Amazon customer up to this point. It’s a pity, because Amazon is just so damned convenient. 

I won’t go so far as to say I’m parting company with Amazon – but I can go out of my way to make them a vendor of last resort. Even if that means a bit more inconvenience and expense for me, I’m just petty enough to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve cancelled my subscriptions and know that means spending extra time to find books coming from Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, or searched out from individual used book shops. It means either shlepping out to the local Petco for dog and cat food or finding more consistent online sellers. It means getting use to paying for 2-day shipping in some cases. 

Sure Amazon’s customer service is always quick with a refund or offering up a replacement, but being johnny on the spot with those things shouldn’t be the norm. If they’re not interested in delivering a product not beat to shit or spewed open inside the carton during shipment, they’re not interested in hanging on to at least this one customer. Sure, losing a couple thousand dollars a year in revenue isn’t going to break Amazon, but it’s the one voice I know capitalism understands when echoed by enough mouths… and all because the world’s greatest retailer can’t be bothered by a bit of proper product packaging.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Surprise that hurricanes cause infrastructure damage. Reports this week say that “a lack of power and phone service in the areas of Florida flattened by Hurricane Michael last week was hindering efforts” to respond to and recover from the event. Well yeah. That happens in a natural disaster. That happens when one of the strongest storms to hit the United States in all of recorded history flattens everything resembling modern infrastructure that happened to be in its immediate path. FEMA, the media, local governments and anyone who knows anything about emergency preparedness has been screaming for years that people, individuals, need to do more to be ready when the unexpected happens (not that an approaching major hurricane is an “unexpected” happening here in the 21st century). If you insist on staying in or returning to what is, by its very definition, a disaster area before even basic power and communications infrastructure is available you’d damned well better be prepared to generate your own power or rely on battery backup and understand that winds that can knock down brick and mortar buildings can surely strip the bits and pieces off of a modern cell tower while it tears hard-wired communications networks asunder. Basic infrastructure like power and telephony took generations to build out. Screaming complaints that it hasn’t all been restored in a week or two is unrealistic and makes you sound like a idiot.

2. More chicken dreams. It’s not a sure thing, but I’d estimate that close to 50% of the time I eat a chicken-based dinner, I end up with wildly realistic dreams a few hours later. They’re not quite what the reading defines as “lucid” dreams and they’re not nightmares, but these chicken-fueled dreams are wildly realistic – in a Hollywood back lot kind of way. The most recent found me walking through a storefront I knew well as a kid into an interior that had hints of what “should” have been there but that was dominated by people and things that would have no business or reason for being there at all. I think I’m going to have to stop eating chicken for dinner. It’s not that I mind these dreams as I’d just rather not spend the time from 2:00-2:10 am laying awake wondering what the actual fuck is going on in my head.

3. People. Yes, people are a perennial target of my ire, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a consistent refrain because it’s so richly deserved. This week alone I’ve observed people walking out into traffic without looking, nearly sideswipe me on the highway (again without looking), (attempt to) jump into the checkout line as if there weren’t already three people standing in it, and generally moving about in the world as if oblivious to anything outside of their own arm’s reach. I really have no idea how more people aren’t apoplectically livid about their day to day interactions with people. Maybe you’re all just better adjusted than I am… or maybe you’re just too nice to say it out loud in public.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

​1. Spoofed calls. In the last 7 days I’ve gotten twelve calls that caller ID indicates are originating in the greater Baltimore area. I’m sure there are still many people who answer every time their phone rings. That these spoofed calls even exist as a thing is proof enough of that. I mean scammers wouldn’t be doing it in the first place if there wasn’t money to be made. Of the 37 ways you can communicate using a modern cell phone, actual voice calls are my least favorite. If I barely use the thing to make or receive calls to people I actually know, I’m not sure what chance the average phone scammer has at getting me to pick up. All their doing at this point is basically finding a new and interesting way to interrupt me when I’m trying to use the phone for something else… and that’s really their unforgivable sin.

2. Packaging. Since last Thanksgiving or so, I’ve observed a continuing trend of my online orders regularly arriving damaged. Some of the damage can easily be attributed to being beaten to death by the delivery service – smashed boxes, items left where they can be rained on, etc. More often though, the outer boxes arrive in fine shape, while what they contain is scuffed, mangled, or mutilated well beyond what I’d consider “fair” for an item purchased in “new” condition. I’ve lost track of how many items I’ve returned to Amazon and other retailers at this point because they can’t be bothered (or most likely just don’t want to pay) to package items in an appropriate way to prevent damage in transit. Until they do, I’ll keep making them spend twice as much in returns and replacement of damaged items as they would if they’d have just packed the damned box the right way the first time around.

3. Weekday Protestors. I first observed this behavior when I worked in DC. Someone would get a bee in their bonnet and the next thing you know a couple of thousand people would show up on The Mall to protest in the middle of the week. I see it now all over TV. What I want to know is who are these people that have nothing better to do in the middle of the damned work week than finding a position in front of the television camera, stamping their feet, and throwing a hissy fit until they get their way? Seeking redress of grievances is well and good, but I’m curious about the people who have time to do it day after day and sometimes week after week when the rest of us poor working stiffs are busy, you know, actually working. I mean even on my days off, there’s errands to run, laundry to do, yard work to tend, and a list of projects a mile long that wouldn’t get done if I were out wandering the streets waving my homemade poster-board sign with its cheeky slogan. Feel free to do what you want and all, but I’ve got a household to run and actual shit to do.

Bitching about…

As a certain Facebook friend of mine is fond of pointing out, I have a bit of a tendency to “bitch about everything.” Guilty as charged. I can’t deny it. I might as well deny the rise and fall of the tide. I like to think my bitching and complaining is the last line of defense; the thing that keeps my blood pressure from spiking to the point of literally blasting off the top of my head. Sure, it never actually changes anything, but it makes me feel better. As I wrote in closing last night, blogging is my safety valve, letting me vent the day’s anger, hostility, and frustration into something like an appropriate channel, or if not strictly appropriate, maybe at least shunting it off into a space where it doesn’t do any lasting damage.

I’ve lived in my head a long time now and if there’s anything I’ve come to know about how I work, it’s that the ranting and raving aren’t the trouble. The real problems come in sullen silence on the days when I don’t say anything all. Those are my worst days – the ones where everything is roiling below the surface. Those days are the hard ones to get through with some semblance of sanity intact.

Today, the sun is up again, the week has careened past its zenith, and mercifully the weekend is coming on a day early. That’s a far cry from saying all is right with the world, but for the time being at least my particular black dog is back on its leash. Don’t worry though, there are still plenty of things that have annoyed me this week, so we’re well on track for tomorrow’s post… because it wouldn’t be Thursday if I didn’t bitch about at least three things.

The dawn’s early light…

It’s just after 7:30 AM and there’s just enough light now to start seeing the world beyond the four apparently study walls of Rental Casa de Jeff. I’m happy to say that a quick check of the perimeter, accompanied by two less than enthusiastic dogs, shows no real damage to the structure. The only thing that is out of place is a lilac bush that seems to be leaning an at unnatural angle against the fence. I have no intention of really looking at that until this damnable cold rain lets off. With the sound of the wind last night, I was expecting much, much worse in the dawn’s early light. Once again my general pessimism about the way of things has paid off by letting me be pleasantly surprised this morning. Even so, I have to confess that I’d rather experience storms from video wall on the 2nd floor of FEMA’s office downtown than listening to it happen around me in real time.

For now, the coffee is on, I’ve got a propane wall heater taking the chill off the 61 degree kitchen, and everything is watertight. With the number of friends who have taken on water or had other damage, I realize how fortunate I’ve been. Once I’ve got some caffein back in my system, I’ll get the computer equipment back out of it’s watertight storage and start getting everything back online.

For my readers, friends, and family, I hope all is well. Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll see you when all this finally blows over.

So that’s the good kind of damage?

The body shop I’m using comes highly recommended from several sources. Even the internet says they do good work and as we all know, the internet never lies. Now that they’ve had a chance to give the truck the once over, they’ve arrived at the strangely specific repair estimate of $7.968.00. I don’t know, it just feels like that would have been an appropriate time to just round up and announce it would be about eight grand. Lower than eight and I’d have been happily surprised, higher then eight and they covered themselves by making it an “about” statement. But rounding to the nearest dollar just seems like overkill.

I almost enjoyed talking to the guy, but that could have had more to do with the memo I was trying hard not to write than anything interesting he was saying. That was until he threw in that I had “the good kind of damage.” Say what? I’m pretty sure there’s nothing about an $7,968 repair bill for a crunched in front end that I’d consider “good damage.” I’m pretty sure he ment that the damage was largely cosmetic and didn’t foul up the drivetrain or frame, still, not what I think of as good damage. Then again, if I were about to get a $7,500 check from my insurance company, maybe I’d think it was good damage too.