commerce


Last Sunday (April 11) I went to the local Apple store in need of a laptop only to find them sold out of both the 13″ MacBook ($999) and MacBook Pro ($1199) models. I had initially wanted just the MacBook but the MackBook Pro had its advantages despite the $200 higher price tag.

Looking around the greater L.A. area, the closest place that carried them and — purportedly — had them in stock was the Pasadena Best Buy, so Susan and I trekked out there only to find the MacBook available. So I bought it knowing it would fulfill my needs, although a MacBook Pro and its firewire port (absent on the MacBook) would’ve been better.

Sure enough Apple comes out with a new-and-improved 13″ MacBook Pro basically the very next damn day, with its more powerful processor, longer battery life, larger hard drive, better graphics card, all at the same $1199 price point and so I decided to repack up my week-old MacBook and take it back, with fingers crossed that I could get them to waive the dreaded and hated 15% restocking fee.

The first trouble came when I called their toll free number juuuuust to make sure I could return the thing to the Atwater Village store instead of the Pasadena store where I bought it. I ask this to the person who gets on the line wanting to know how they can help me.

“Can I get your phone number?” the customer service rep asked.

“Why do you need my phone number?” I asked back.

“Well, we need to set up a case.”

“You need to set up a case in order to tell me whether or not I can take an item purchased at one Best Buy and return it to a different one?”

“Yes.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Well what personal information would I have to provide if I called you up and asked what time it was?”

“Sir?”

“It seems kind of silly to have to go to so much invasive trouble just to answer a simple policy question.

“I’m sorry sir, but that’s the process.”

“Fine, I’ll give you a phone number but I guarantee you it won’t be mine.”

There was a few moments silence, wherein I’m sure the rep considered telling me any number of my orifices that would accommodate the return, but instead she just said:

“Well  sir, you can make the return at any Best Buy, but there will be a 50 percent restocking fee.

“Did you say five-oh percent?!”

“No sir. One-Five. 15 percent.”

“Whew. Very good. Thank you!” And I hung up. It was very good I didn’t have to drive all the way out to Pasadena, but the restocking fee wasn’t very good in the least, amounting to about $150.

So I decided on my plan to avoid paying that rip-off. Now all I had to do was hope it would succeed without me having  to climb up too many rungs of the ladder at the Atwater Village store’s returns and exchanges section.

Turned out only to be the third rung.

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The downtown Brooks Brothers store is closing, reportedly due to unrealized plans to relocate to a new space in the long-delayed Grand Avenue project. Most will mourn the end of that branch of the upscale clothier’s 71-year-old Los Angeles tradition, and normally I would too. But this time it’s a bit personal. So instead I will mourn for those who’ve lost their jobs, but say good riddance to the establishment in my most begrudging, bitter voice.

One of my first revolving lines credit was with Brooks Brothers. I got it in 1986 or ’87. It wasn’t much, a few hundred bucks, but I was proud of it. Fast forward to when my first marriage broke apart there were a lot of reasons, but one of the prevailing ones was we were just plain young and stupid with our finances. We bought a pair of top-of-the-line VW Jettas, we splurged on laptops and desktop computers. My first cellphone was in 1988, an in-car Mitsubishi job that cost $1,200, and back then there were no free minutes — in fact you were lucky if the per-minute charge was 20 cents.It didn’t take long to run up a bill close to $1000.

That was just one example of the ridiculous crap that we couldn’t afford and wouldn’t have had except for the the scary level of credit we’d been able to build up as little more than 20-somethings with no assets.

When bills came due and past due and past-past due and then the credit cards got canceled and creditors started calling, the one company that never bothered me was Brooks Brothers in large part because at that time I owed them nothing… but that didn’t stop other companies with which I maintained zero balances from sniffing the wind and closing accounts.

When all was said and done and I’d fully scorched my credit card landscape in the early 1990s, I’d gone from having a Dayrunner organizer stuffed with plastic, to a simple wallet that held my driver license and my Brooks Brother credit card.

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Couple weeks ago I posted on LA Metblogs about the irony of that “Need Repairs?” sign pictured at right (that I saw on my way to work), screwed there by some brainiac handyman so damagingly — not to mention unlawfully — high up the trunk of a palm tree in Hancock Park. But this wasn’t just any palm tree. It was one of all of those trees on the median of Highland Avenue between Wilshire and Melrose, which collectively make up Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark No. 94.

I wrote about calling the phone number on the sign, getting the person’s (his name is Jake) voicemail and leaving a message suggesting Mr. Fixit get back over from the 818 at his earliest opportunity and repair what he hath wrought.

He ignored me, as I figured he would. So at the same time I contacted him I also filed a request with the Bureau of Street Services that the sign be removed. They fulfilled my request about a week later.

Oh and I almost forgot! I also googled the gentleman’s phone number and wouldn’t ya know it matched up with a Hollywood-based construction outfit’s website, which in the wake of his noted unwillingness to rectify, made it all the easier to post up a review of his company’s negligent promotional strategy on Yelp:

The proprietor at Hopwood Construction may very well be one of the finest craftsmen around. But unfortunately all that’s known is that he saw fit to promote his business by screwing a sign advertising his services into a Hancock Park palm tree, which is not only unlawful but also damaging to public property.

In addition, he ignored a request to remove the sign, leaving it instead to our taxpayer dollars via the city’s Bureau of Street Services to do so more than a week later.

As said, the level of quality of this person’s work is not something that can be spoken of here, but this sign and his unwillingness to remove it, is something that speaks volumes and such willful negligence should be taken into account if hiring this person becomes a consideration.

Lastly while the sign was removed successfully by Bureau of Street Services personnel, they neglected to extract the seven ( seriously, seven!?) screws that held the sign to the tree, as you can see in the picture at left (click to enlargify). Though I pointed this out in the follow-up call I received advising the sign had been removed, I wasn’t given much hope that personnel would be in a rush to return any time soon and finish the job.

Nothing against the worker who got rid of the sign, but it was enough to bring to mind one of my favorite lines from  the movie Poltergeist: “You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the head stones. You only moved the head stones!”

So I expect that, while it might take a couple weeks, I’ll load my truck up with a ladder one of these Saturday or Sunday mornings and extract those bodies myself.

Unless of course, Jake beats me to it.

UPDATE (03.25): It crossed my mind that removing those and any other older screws embedded in the trunk might be detrimental to the tree’s health, leaving wounds that could potentially make it susceptible to infestation and disease. So I called the city’s Urban Forestry Division and spoke with a supervisor who advised that the only removals that could pose a threat would be those older foreign objects that the palm’s trunk has actually grown over. He said to leave those alone and just go after the screws and nails that are easily pried or screwed out without doing further damage to the trunk.

Urban Velo and Wired’s Gadget Lab blog are reporting that Specialized is not only hopping on the readymade fixed-gear blandwagon, but the bikemaker has apparently opted to deliver the “cheap” Globe Roll 2 ($800) and Roll 1 ($600) already color-schemed as a “Ghost Bike” either because Specialized has no clue what they’ve done — or perhaps the better to minimize delays in installing the bike as a memorial wherever the hipster noob-rider gets killed at on it.

gb-copy

Stupidity or genius. Either way amazing.

UPDATE (5:24 p.m.): Thanks to Brad from Urban Velo for pointing out in the comments that my computer screen sucks — and for opting not to slag on my eyesight. “The bike is baby blue, as pictured. Look at the detail shots,” he wrote after curtly demanding I adjust my monitor.

Sure enough upon closer unadjusted inspection the frame is a lighter shade of paaaaale baby blue (I’d almost call it preterm baby blue because the color looks like it could use a week or two more to mature). Plus there’s also the chromed bits (that I saw on my uncalibrated unadjusted monitor all by myself without them needing to be pointed out) so I take it aaaaall back.

Wait, no I don’t: white tires, white rims, white saddle and white bar grips… all still moan “Ghooooooost Biiiiike” and in fact the frame’s fey hue might make the ride look even more haunting at night.

So the backstory is I dropped $1.40 on a Diet Pepsi from the vending machine, but the contraption is really basic and lame because it literally drops the bottles free-fall style down the front of the case. And this time the soda got wedged in near the bottom row. I went to get my camera to get a picture of it and coworker Chris came into the breakroom while I was snapping it. He saw my dilemma and suggested what I had been reluctantly thinking of attempting: drop another $1.40 on another Diet Pepsi in the hope that it’ll drop and dislodge the first one. It was a risk, but I figured what the hell, and I decided to capture footage of the event.

Let’s let the video tell the rest of the success:

Ah the joys of online commerce. I know mistakes happen, but maaaan! Like last night I got home to find my order from nashbar.com had arrived — the one I wrote about a couple days ago that was a compromise to me spending a load of green on a new bike I don’t need.

So I’m looking at the box and right away I realize it’s just entirely too small to be holding a Rock Shox fork… unless for some odd reason the fork comes unassembled, which it damn well better not. So I open it up thinking well maybe it’s a backorder issue, but inside I find that’s not at all the case.

Inside along with the headset and the tools I ordered to install the fork I find… this set of Panaracer Dart Classic folding front mountain bike tires:

Getting past my initial WTF, I quickly come to understand there are two main elements that contributed to this major failure of Warehouse 101. The first one is that if you look at the white label on the packaging you’ll see that it indeed reads “Rock Shox Dart 2 MTB Fork.” The second is whoever the idiot was who filled my order, identified only as “Packer No. 81” on my invoice. You know you’re a candidate for Unemployee Of The Month when you work in a major bicycle retailer’s warehouse and cannot recognize the fundamental difference between a tire and a fork.

If there’s a defense for this meatbag, it’s two-fold: the fork and tires share the same model name: Dart, and the tires were mislabeled as forks. But it’s a weak argument at best, especially when you go to No. 81’s mental transcripts that I’ve obtained via subpoena:

“Lessee. Last item on the list on this ordur here sez ‘Rock Shox Dart 2 Mountain Bike Fork,’ but this thang I’m holding shur don’t look like no fork. Don’t smell like no fork neither. Fact is it smells like a tire. Just to be shur lemme check the ordur against the label. Hmmm. Ordur sez Item numbur is RS-Dart 2. Labul on the item says RS-Dart 2. We have a match! Descripshun on the ordur sez Rock Shox Dart 2 MTB Fork. Descripshun on the labul says Rock Shox Dart 2 MTB Fork. Anuthur match! Well dang. It still don’t look like no fork. But who am I to argyoo!? Let’s pack the tires up with the othur items strangely involved in the installashun of a fork and get on to the next ordur!”

So in the end I call up Nashbar’s 24-7 customer service and a rep matter of factly advises me that a return pre-paid label will be sent out for me to ship back the tires, but that the best they could do in getting the forks that I wanted to be able to install and test out this weekend (and would have had if anyone with some semblance of an IQ had fulfilled my order!) would be next Tuesday.

“There’s no way to get them to me Saturday?”

“No sir.”

Gah!

So I’m thinking the best I can do in returning the tires would be March. Maybe never.

UPDATE (08:05 a.m.): You know I wrote them a letter (after the jump).

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Last week I was drooling over all manner of new mountain machines. This week I still am — and further stoked by the announced enthusiasms of my friend Michael and his lady Crystal to hit the trails and an invitation to join them — but I’m glad I demonstrated some fiscal restraintitude. Simply put, I can’t authorize a spending bill earmarking such beaucoup buckz for a bike that in all likelihood I’ll ride but once a week — more like once a month after the buyer’s remorse and the shiny new wear off. If that.

Especially since the mountain bike I have right now is fine and not suffering from anything permanently disabling. All it needs is for me to quit half-assing around working the problem instead of the solution.

So instead of an outlay of $600, I’m dropping less than a third of that for a new  fork, a new headset and some required tools/accessories, and that should arrive in time to allow me a visit to the Bicycle Kitchen on Saturday followed by a ride in the Verdugos either afterward or Sunday morning.

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