06 Jan. 2011
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Consumed by Consuming

But Careful not to Say Consumption

For someone who claims not to do a lot of shopping, I've been uncharacteristically busy with consumer activities.  I've shopped.  I've eaten at restaurants.  I've purchased something at <horrors>list price</horrors>.  I've dealt with customer service.  And compounding the time wasted in these activities, I've burdened you with tales of these activities, and am about to burden you some more.  I'll try to stop.  But not just yet.

Something Nice to Say

Two of last year's unplanned purchases were insect larvae and glaced ginger chocolates.  The insect larvae were an unwelcome accoutrement of a Lindt chocolate purchase, and the situation remains unresolved despite a torrent of email and sympathoids received from well-wishers.  The glaced ginger, actual chocolate pieces containing little or no insect matter, were a more benign result of a small mistake by See's chocolates.  I have touted See's gift certificates as a financial investment, but haven't dwelled upon their corporeal backing.  Much as the dollar used to be worth a certain amount of gold, the See's gift certificate is worth a certain amount of chocolate.  It is my practice annually to test the institutions behind my investment, and actually exchange the certificates for their represented commodity.  So far I have achieved success, but this year there was a glitch.  The box of See's chocolates contained an unordered and unwanted confection, the aforementioned glaced ginger.  This was a small part of the shipment, and I almost disregarded it.  But the box of chocolate was near a telephone and I made a call.  "We made a mistake," says See's.  They demanded that I accept an almost full replacement of my order despite this small error, even though I was only hoping to get the mistaken portion of the shipment rectified.  Just to render this scenario in a fully explicit form, here is a table comparing See's customer service with that of Lindt.
Company See's Lindt
What I got. See's glaced ginger (#21) chocolate. A Lindt insect-infested chocolate
Approximate percentage of insect larva contamination 0% 90%
Convenience of communication 100% After initial email, 0%
Amends offered by manufacturer Partial replacement of whole order despite mistake on one item. Gift certificate for fraction of value of bad merchandise.  No replacement.
Customer satisfaction 100% None at all.

Something Nice to See By

Box of 6 75W-equivalent CFLs.  Total price after subsidy:  $.99!

Don't believe the price on the CFL picture?  Here's the receipt from Costco. This was going to be my "safety" purchase from Costco.  But the AmEx computer did manage to give me my "statement credit" for the first six.  This is a box of six 75W-equivalent compact fluorescent lamps for $9.99.  But wait!  There's less!  It seems that, at least where I purchased these, the local power company offers a subsidy of $9.00, for a total purchase price of $.99.  (Either that or there's a big discount because you can only use them to illuminate books in Spanish.)   Fiat Lux!

Something Nice to Read

For somebody else.  I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a particular book as a gift for a friend.  I used my cellphone with the RedLaser app to scan the bar code and found that Barnes and Noble was selling the book on-line for about 2/3 of the cover price.  Of course I was hoping to get it for even less.  (What?  You won't give me a bigger discount?  It's been sitting on your shelf for ages.  Seethere's a dust!) 

What I discovered is that Barnes & Noble not only doesn't have a "price matching" policy, it won't even match its own price!  Yes, I paid list price for the book.  The sales clerk tried to explain the policy to me, but she wasn't convincing.  In turn, I explained my policy of never, ever, buying a book in a Barnes & Noble "brick and mortar" establishment again.  I might even have mentioned "for as long as I live" but I'm not sure. 

Emotion-charged rhetoric aside, I can't help wondering what this sort of policy bodes for B&N stores.  I only bought the book because I needed it right then.  I could have ordered it easily a week or two ago if I hadn't known that I was going to pass by a store.  Now that I know how refractory they are, I'll plan just a little bit harder.  But how will they keep their stores open if all they get are browsers and no customers?  I guess we'll find out in a few years.

"She Was Waiting for Her Mother at the Station at Torino, and You Know I Love you Baby But It's Getting Too Heavy to Laugh"
Shawn Phillips




Joy Lights T-shirt Joy Lights T-shirt back.  From the Shawn Phillips 1976 fall tour
Richard Factor

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