Coffee heat rising

Gonna keep shopping at Costco?

B’bye!

We’re told that Costco’s management, irked that so many non-members are throwing money at them, henceforth will demand two forms of picture ID at checkout. Isn’t that swell?

Y’know….

IMHO, having to haul around a special card to shop at Costco is already quite enough extra hassle. I don’t carry a purse (to easy to steal, in these parts), so I have to schlep the Costco card in the car, then put it in a pocket and haul it out in the store, whenever it’s demanded: at the entry, and at checkout.

This is OK. But…having to juggle ANOTHER card is not OK. I hide my driver’s license in the car — given that I do avoid carrying a purse and given that women’s clothing tends to have no or inadequate pockets. Having to dig out the driver’s license, find a pocket or something to carry that into the store, flash it at checkout, drag it back out to the car, and put it away in the car again…?? That, dear Costco, just ain’t gonna make it.

Truth to tell, I’ve been shopping less and less at Costco. I do like to buy certain clothing items there — their jeans are great, for example, and they do carry cute casual shirts. But most of the stuff I need can be had more conveniently from venues closer to home. Since they closed the Costco that was relatively near my house, getting to one of the stores has become a schlep.

And I do have to ask myself if saving a few bucks here and a few bucks there is worth that schlep.

Lately I’ve been buying A LOT more goods at Sprout’s, AJ’s,. Fry’s, Safeway, and Albertson’s. I really don’t like to shop at the Albertson’s on the fringe of our neighborhood, because I feel unsafe in the parking lot. But…what the other stores don’t carry, that Albertson’s will have. And risking my life in their parking lot means I don’t have to drive halfway across the city through homicidal traffic to reach the nearest Costco.

LOL! Trade one risk of life for the other.

I’ll be sorry to lose Costco.  But the casual clothes, I can get at any Target — and there’s one of those a heckuva lot closer than the nearest Costco. The big Fry’s supermarket on Shea Blvd carries similar loafing clothes, and their grocery and booze selections are as good as Costco’s, or better.

Sooo… Sorry, Costco. I’ll miss ye! But somehow I’ll live without you.

Life “in Today’s Modren Society”

LOL! This morning, I’m reminded of one of my students’ favorite turns of phrase: “In today’s modern society,” to be followed by a low-key rant on some clichéd topic. Invariably, the kid would spell it “modren.” 😀

Funny li’l critters, students are.

Guess I’m with them today, though. Have you noticed how many things that we old bats have taken for granted for years are now difficult, even impossible to procure?

Today’s rant is inspired by the need to replace a plush bathroom rug. The incumbent has arrived in extreme old age, much the worse for wear thanks to Ruby trying to plump it up with her claws. Whenever I can again breathe without coughing my lungs out, I need to go over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and pick up another one…

…uhm…

wait wait… 

There is no more Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Uh oh.

Well, surely I can get it at a Penney’s.

Uhm…

At Sears?

Argha!

Maybe the Broadway?

I’m gonna pay Broadway prices for a freaking nylon bathroom mat?????

Wait wait: the two Broadways near my part of town are closed down anyway.

No. Like everyone else, I’m gonna order it from Amazon.

And here it is! In 87 gerjillion colors. And five sizes. Mine is 25 x 39 inches. No doubt that equates to Amazon’s 24 x 40 model. Okayyy….it’ll fit. Is it cheap at $28?

I dunno. There’s nothing to compare it with. I’d have expected to pay about 15 to 18 bucks…but then, yah: it’s been awhile since I bought one.

Speaking of comparing, is it comparable to the one I have? It looks the same in Amazon’s image. But I dunno: I can’t actually see it, touch it, feel it.

With all the home stores around here shut down — except for Target, which may or may not have these little rugs — I really have little choice but to order the thing online. The Broadway, which used to carry this sort of thing, has long been shut down here, merged with Macy’s…imagine what that outfit will charge! Forgodsake: 48 to 72 bucks! FOR THE SAME PRODUCT!

How do these places even begin to compete with Amazon?

Welp…if I’m going to have to buy a new rug, I’m sure as hell not gonna pay two or three times as much as Amazon is charging. I’ll take my chances with the quality and order one up online.

And that is life in Today’s Modren Society.

{gronk!} Dawdling away the day…

ohhhh B-A-A-D HUMAN! 

I’ve dorked away the ENTIRE MORNING playing time-waster computer games. Things that needed to get done?

We ain’t got no steenking things to get done! Eh?

No. The dishes are not washed. The blog post is not written. The run on the credit union and then on the d**ned Costco remains to be done.

Yes…the credit-union run, to be followed by the Costco run, two things I do no, not NOT wanna do.

For the second time in human memory, Costco refused to take my debit card.

Costco wants you to use its MasterCard, of course. And I’ve tried.

Tried and found their MasterCard service just as wanting as the service from past MasterCard accounts I’ve (not) enjoyed. All that was proven was that Mastercard’s service sucks.

Whereas American Express’s service proves itself excellent, top-flight, beyond amazing…EVERY TIME one deals with MasterCard, one has an issue.

To force you to use their MasterCard, Costco quit accepting American Express. You can pay in cash, presumably you can pay with a check, or you can pay with MasterCard. You cannot pay with AMEX.

I do not carry a checkbook around with me. I do not carry cash. The reason, as you may have perceived if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, has to do with Wild-West character of the parking lots and strip malls around here. One thing no sane woman would do is walk across a shopping center with a purse hanging from her shoulder. Especially not a purse containing anything resembling a negotiable instrument. I’ve had guys try to steal my purse as I walked into grocery stores (not once, but twice! Slow learner…). A neighbor was shot by a guy who thought she was resisting when he ripped her purse off her shoulder as she tried to shield her daughter. You would be effing CRAZY to carry checks, cash, or anything that contains ID that can be used to steal from you.

This happened some months ago: I presented my AMEX card and Costco’s machine rejected it. No one else’s machine rejects it. Just Costco’s. All the time I spent roving around in there loading up the cart was wasted. All the stuff I’d piled up to buy was rolled off to be stacked back on the shelves.

So the last time I went to Costco — last week — I whipped out my debit card and was  once again was told it wasn’t valid.

This is the second time Costco has pulled that stunt. Last time, I drove straight from the store to the credit union, where staff assured me nothing was wrong with the debit card.

I’ve about lost patience. Today is gonna be my last try. Today I will return to the CU and ask them what’s wrong with the debit card. If they say “nothing,” I will try to persuade them to put that in writing.

Then I’ll move on to the Costco up the road, and when they pull their usual stunt I’ll show them the evidence from the credit union.

Give me any more BS, and that, right then and there, will be THE last time I ever go into Costco. Well. Except maybe for their tire shop. 😉

 

Change…for the better?

The other day I dropped my beloved, oft-used bread slicing knife on the tile floor. The darn thing broke apart, and I couldn’t glue it back together in any functional way. So, dayum! I needed to buy a new bread knife.

It was part of a set that I got either at Williams-Sonoma or (more likely) at a department store such as the Broadway. Phoenix’s Williams-Sonoma store resides in a venerable East Camelback shopping mall called Biltmore Fashion Square. The Broadway in that mall closed, replaced by a singularly uninteresting Macy’s. We used to have a Broadway store within walking distance of the Funny Farm, if only it were safe to walk across the freeway overpass and into that district. But…

Yeah.

If only…

…But it’s not.

And because it’s not, the Broadway over there shut down, as did virtually every other store in and around the mall. Basically, malls no longer exist, at least not in the central part of the city. And with Amazon at my fingertips, I wasn’t bloody well about to traipse to northeast Scottsdale or freaking Glendale to buy a bread knife.

What this says — IMHO — is how much our lives have been changed by the ability to order things online. We no longer have to go into a brick-and-mortar store to get this object, that doo-dad, or another clothing item. And that is changing not only the way we do things, but the way our cities are laid out.

Who would ever have thought that Metrocenter — once the largest shopping center in the land — would become a ghost mall? Who would have imagined that one day we would feel it’s not worth the effort to hop in the car and drive over to a tony, centrally-located mall to visit a Williams-Sonoma or a Macy’s?

But there it is: the nearest mall hosting those stores is many, MANY miles away: in Glendale, in Scottsdale, in Mesa. There now just two (count’em: 2) Williams-Sonoma stores within a hundred miles of my house!

So, given this fine state of affairs, online I went.

Not because I especially wanted to buy the knife online, sight unseen. But that to get it without a noxious drive, a parking hassle, a hike, and no doubt some other annoyance, you have to.

Okay.

I did find a bread knife. And a bread knife. And a bread knife.

Most of them looked nothing like the Defunct.

Many were significantly smaller.

Some looked cheaply made.

None had handles that resembled the wooden numbers on my beloved Williams-Sonoma set. Neither did Williams-Sonoma have any such things.

Obviously, stores like these can’t stay in business without a substantial walk-in clientele.

But…but…you can’t just stroll in to a store that requires a covered-wagon journey to reach! Especially if you have a job and so can’t spare the time to drive from one end to the other of the ninth-largest metropolis in the country.

Hence: Amazon.

Has Amazon has put these ole’-fashioned mall stores out of business?

Well…no. I think it’s not one way or the other, but a circular thing. Amazon exists because it’s a bloody PITA to drive through homicidal traffic to get from your home to a particular retail outlet; and also because many if not most adult women work now and can’t leave the office to junket around the city in search of a bread knife. Or whatever.

If you work downtown here, for example, it’ll take you a good half-hour to retrieve your car from the parking garage and trudge through bumper-to-bumper mid-town traffic and the crazy-making traffic signals to arrive at the parking lot for Biltmore Fashion Square or for the late, great Metrocenter. Then you have to hike from your car to the store. And back to your car. And trudge back through the traffic to your office.

That would militate, wouldn’t it, against running up to the Broadway or Williams-Sonoma to buy one (count it: 1) item, no matter how crucial that item might be.

So what’re you gonna do?

Of course, you’re gonna order online. From Amazon, because it’s easy, you have an account there, and you know 99% of the time they deliver to the correct address.

Hm.

I think what gives Amazon its edge is not the quality and selection of its merchandise (which are both pretty good, if brain-boggling) or the efficiency of its delivery service (also on the high side of good), but the fact that no one of either gender has time to traipse around the city to buy groceries and household necessities.

It’s probably why Costco is so successful, too: you can get just about EVERYTHING there, from groceries to pharmacy items to clothing to tools to appliances to gardening supplies to…everything else. You can get everything in ONE trip. Albeit an overwhelming trip…but at least you only have to traipse to one store, not all over the city.

Y’know…my guess is that all department stores will be gone within the decade.

And unless we see some fundamental change, we’ll see fewer general stores, too — fewer Safeways, fewer Walmart neighborhood markets, fewer Albertsons — and more that operate like specialty stores: Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, AJ’s.

These days, I do most of my grocery shopping at Sprouts, with the fancy stuff picked up at AJ’s. Yes, it’s no doubt more expensive than Costco or a classic grocery store. But the offerings are more interesting, they seem less likely to be laced with preservatives and sugar and artificial flavors, and they taste better.

In a way, that feels like an improvement over the Good Ole Days. But…hmmm…in another way, it seems like a de-provement: day-to-day shopping, as a result of this “improvement,” has become considerably more inconvenient and, I suspect, significantly more expensive.

Life in the Twenty-First Century…so fine and dandy!

 

 

Monday: The Only Pretty Costco Day?

Here’s an experience of note: This afternoon I made a Costco run — normally a trying project plagued with crowds and fraught traffic. But today, for the first time in memory, it was not bad!

Monday.

Got there around 1:00 p.m.

  • No problem parking — not far from the door. No crazies in the parking lot.
  • Plenty of shopping carts (but then, there usually are).
  • No gotta-get-in-the-door-firsters (usually plenty of those, too).
  • Navigable aisles, for a change. Few chuckleheads parked smack in the aisle, holding everyone up as they gaze slack-jawed at the piles and piles and piles of offerings. No cranky crying babies. No wild-a$$ed kids running up and down the corridors.

A miracle.

Snabbed the stuff I needed quickly and without hassle. (Another miracle!)

Short lines at the check-out counters: yet another miracle!!! Got through the line and out the door in a matter of minutes. (Are we sure we’re in Costco????)

  • Got a package of totally GORGEOUS lamb chops. A box of delicious quinoa salad. A package of doggy dental chews! Found THE cutest little casual top that will look pretty awesome with my cranberry-red jeans.
  • And made my way back to the Appliances aisle.
  • There I found that yes. Yes, indeed. I got ripped off ROYALLY by the inelegant B&B Appliances. That unholy outfit charged me almost twice as much for the crummy rip-off GE fridge as Costco is charging for a comparably sized LG refrigerator, the latter highly recommended by reviewers. And they have microwaves that probably out-quality the laughable GE micro by about ten to one.
  • Whenever the dust settles from that fiasco, I’ll betake myself back to Costco to replace the rip-off junk with LG’s.

But later. Got enough to deal with right this instant.

  • Left the Costco in time to hit the main homeward-bound drag around 3:00 p.m. This is the start of rush hour here in unlovely uptown Phoenix.
  • But interestingly, the traffic was not too bad yet. Got across town to the freeway. Entered the freeway without obviously risking my life or anyone else’s. Traffic started to thicken when I got off the freeway, westbound on Main Drag South, but it wasn’t too bad. Got into the hood with no major incidents, no major frustrations.

Yet another miracle.

So…

Lesson #1: Never buy local!

If I’d gone to Costco from the git-go in search of a fridge, I would have come away with the highest-rated model on the market and would not now be in a clench with American Express as we do battle with the noxious local dealer, B&B Appliances. By now I would have a nice LG refrigerator, no argument engaged, and I would know nothing of the elaborate workings of American Express as its lawyers take on miscreant local marketers.

Lesson #2: Avoid the rush hour!

If there’s any way you can swing it, try to surface at Costco’s entrance along about 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. If you can hit the homeward leg of your trip home by 3:00 p.m., you have a shot at getting home without too much torture.

Driving in Phoenix is, in general, just that: torture. But because I’d managed to skirt the afternoon rush hour, most of the trip to and from the store was…well…not too, too bad.

Phoenix, whose city parents pride themselves on having created a clone of L.A., is — like the beloved Los Angeles — a perfectly horrible place to drive in the rush hour, the pre-rush hour, and the post-rush hour periods. If you can contrive to get on the road after 10 a.m. and before 3:00 p.m., you have a shot at preserving your sanity and your life. Otherwise…well…hang onto your marbles!

Whilst perambulating, I noticed that Costco has nice new iMacs for much better prices than Best Buy’s. As advertised, the damn things are much shrunk in size, so if I have to get one to replace the sickly unit, using it as a television will not be good.

Yeah: I ain’t a-payin’ for cable TV, which is now the only way you can get television reception here in lovely uptown Phoenix. After our honored City Parents installed that innovation, I started using the iMac to watch the few TV offerings that are worth watching — news programs, PBS and BBC dramas, and whatnot. Those go away if an iMac can’t be persuaded to work. That, we’ll see about tomorrow, when a Best Buy fella is supposed to come over and connect the expensive new iMac to the Internet and upload data from the MacBook.

 

Fridge Fiasco Update….

Ohhhkayyyyy…. It keeps getting better. :-D, not to say 😮

The refrigerator repairman, who appeared to measure his IQ in the negative numbers, accomplished exactly nothing. The delinquent refrigerator continued to roar and bang and squeal and carry on. The racket it emanates is SO loud, Ruby and I have no chance of getting to sleep unless we barricade ourselves in the back bedroom behind a closed door.

I call around and rassle around and get essentially nowhere, which is about where I expected to get.

Eventually American Express, which has thrown itself into the fray, calls to announce that they’ve canceled the charge. Unclear to me whether this has already happened, so I call to confirm. It appears that probably they have done so. Meanwhile, I still have the refrigerator, which keeps me awake all night with its lovely rattling, whining, roaring serenade.

This afternoon I applied my li’l-ole-lady handyperson skills to the damn thing and discovered that…lo! It was out of level. The jerk that delivered it installed it cattywampus. Fooled around and fiddled around…got it pretty well on the level, but there’s a limit to what a little old lady with no tools can accomplish.

It now buzzes for a half-minute or so when it cycles on, and then runs fairly quietly. Giving it a whap upside its mechanical head shuts it up for quite a while.

So where are we now? (Are we out of the Twilight Zone yet???)

***

9:05 a.m. Found a receipt saying I canceled purchase of the HD fridge I was admiring. Called American Express. They said that yes, we DID cancel it. The AMEX rep says I have an $800 credit from the bastards at B&B Appliances. This could be applied to a new refrigerator’s purchase.

1:05 p.m.: The machine is now running almost silently! The motor/fan sound is audible, but not much more so than a normal refrigerator’s. Why???

Is it possible that whapping it a couple of times might have shaken something loose or jiggled something into place so that it runs OK now?

At this point, I was just about to launch on my way up to Home Depot to buy another unit. But….

1:45 p.m.: When in doubt, don’t. Fridge was off; just came back on. It’s rattling, but more quietly than before.

Still…as I sit my butt down to write this note (I figure I’d better take pretty close notes on what’s happening), the damn thing continues to buzz/rattle: again, more quietly than before. It seems to quiet a little as it runs, and now is operating like a normal fridge: just the serenade of a fan, no sound of grinding motor.

At 1:53 p.m., the thing is running as quietly as it gets: motor and fan noise audible, but no rattling or roaring.

* I can’t hear it in the bedroom.

* It seems pretty loud here in the family room/dining room/kitchen, but it’s not audible in the back of the house. If you were like most Americans and had a TV or stereo babbling away all the time, you’d hardly notice it.

What to do???

This runaround has been quite the little nightmare. There’s really no excuse for a retailer to sell a total piece of junk, at least not without explaining to the mark what to expect: If I’d been told that the machine would make a lot of noise for the first week or so of operation, I would not have gotten myself into this uproar.

On the other hand…

  1. If it is now working normally, I can’t really justify not paying for the damn thing, no matter how much of a runaround the incompetents at B&B gave me.
  2. If this intermittent peace is maybe the way it’s supposed to work but it in fact has something wrong with it that causes it to rattle and run noisy off and on, I should get my money back so I can buy a competent machine at HD.
  3. Its apparently “normal” fan noise is pretty loud.
  4. My level says the thing is only very slightly out of level, and so it’s hard to believe that’s the issue. The floor itself measures as perfectly dead level.

If I go back and do battle with B&B, even with AMEX behind me, it’s going to be another monumental, headachey hassle. If the machine will work quietly enough not to be heard in the back of the house (we shall see tonight!!), then the path of least resistance will be to just let it go.

…hmmmm…ohhhkayyyyy…..

What to do about the money AMEX is withholding from B&B?

My sense is to wait and see what they do. This cannot be the first such episode that’s ever occurred in the history of American consumerism. American Express will know how to proceed and when to proceed. Probably the best course of action is to wait for direction from AMEX, and if and when they get in touch, do as they advise. If they say nothing, B&B says nothing, and I say nothing, then maybe I should just hang onto the refrigerator, which at that point I may glom for free.

That seems unethical, but the weeks-long hoopla and hassle I’ve been through – which could have been ameliorated if they had told me what to expect or had just responded to me when I complained – has consumed a great deal of my $60/hour time and caused a great deal of worry and anxiety. Maybe B&B deserves to pay me for the uproar their incompetence has caused.

And speaking of unethical, as I wrestle with the thing and fiddle with the thing and adjust the thing, I find two places where it has some small but distinct dents. Whaddaya bet its problem is that it’s been beaten about down at B&B’s shop, or in transit to the Funny Farm? Matter of fact, I see a place under the front end where they’ve glued a thin piece of Styrofoam, apparently trying to fix some kind of damage or defect. Like…what, pray tell?

I find it hard to believe that all refrigerators make a noise like a wrecking yard when they’re new. This is NOT the first refrigerator I’ve bought – we got one in the Encanto house, and I believe we bought another one at the North Central house. I would remember a circus like this! Therefore it’s reasonable to think there’s an issue here that should have been addressed, either by warning me at the outset or by responding competently to my complaints.

2:17 p.m. Fridge switched on with loud buzzing; buzz shut off in less than a minute – possibly less than half a minute. It’s now running not quietly but not raucously.

I go over and mess with the freezer.. This makes the noise louder. I whap it on the side (away from the wall: its right side) and that cuts the volume of the noise. It still rattles, but more softly.

Push against the machine’s right side, giving it two or four shoves. The noise has now completely stopped except for the sound of the fan running!

Suspect the thing is rattling/buzzing because it or some component inside it is slightly out of level. That’s why there’s some sort of dap and stuff on the bottom of the cabinet: they must have tried to level it so they could unload it on an unsuspecting customer.

I’m going to ask AMEX to return my payment because I believe B&B ripped me off: they knew they were foisting a damaged or substandard product on me. This is evidenced by the obvious jury-rigged repair job at the unit’s base.

What to do next?
Persist with trying to get my money back via AMEX, since it appears likely – even evident – that B&B knew the unit was not running up to par. Keep it for about a year, if possible; then go to Costco or Lowe’s to replace it with a new refrigerator.

Moral of the story: NEVER buy local!!!!  Always buy from nationally known, nationally respected vendors.