Concerning the inclement weather that has swept across much of the USA in recent days, I cannot help feeling a bit smug. This satellite photo shows the sheer size of the storm, but you'll notice Florida, down in the bottom right, clear and unaffected. Pass me another tee-shirt, m'dear; I'm off for a stroll in the sunshine!
Colour me irritated. I was in sales for years and years, and rightly or wrongly I feel that that should immunize me against most of the marketing ploys that fool ordinary people. I know a pitch when I hear one; I recognize an alternative close when one is casually lobbed at me; I know how to give a closed answer to an open question, and vice versa. I never believed that old saw that salesmen are the easiest people to sell to. And yet…
In the olden days, when Gillette invented the safety razor, they sold them at a very low price. Almost every man could afford one. They sold like hotcakes (actually, I have always wondered why cakes have to be hot to sell well. I have bought a number of cakes over the years and as far as I can remember, they were all cold). Why, people wondered, were Gillette selling their new patented safety razors at such a give-away price. Well the answer of course was that once you had the razor, you needed periodically to buy blades for it, and that was where Gillette made a killing.
These days most of us use disposable razors, so the tactic of giving away the razors in order to sell the blades no longer applies – or at least, not to the art of scraping off the face fungus. But it exists elsewhere, and I have recently fallen victim to it. It was not completely unexpected. We all know, I think, that you can buy an inkjet printer for your computer at a fairly reasonable cost. Unless you want a top of the line model with all kinds of bells and whistles that most of us don’t really need, you can pick one up for a price that will leave you with some quite healthy change out of a hundred dollars. Where the printer people make their money is from the ink cartridges. My late father bought a very good printer some years ago, only to discover that new colour ink cartridges would cost him about 75% of cost of the printer. Needless to say, he determined only to print in black and white, which is probably what most of us do, most of the time. I hardly ever print in colour.
Anyway, my old printer died the death a few months ago so off I went down to Best Buy one warm and sunny Saturday afternoon to get a new one. Naturally, the model I had become used to was by them obsolete and no longer offered for sale, so I took a long look at the various models on offer and bought what seemed like a good printer/scanner/fax for a price just north of sixty dollars. I was actually rather pleased with myself. Included with the printer was a set of ink cartridges; a black one of course, and three colour ones. Now previously I had been used to having just one colour cartridge in my printer, but this one required separate cartridges of cyan, magenta and yellow ink. Ok, I thought, I won’t be using them more than once in a blue moon, so that doesn’t really matter. I go the box home, opened it, set up the printer on my desk, and did a couple of test prints.
It was then that I read in the book of instructions that even if you set your printer to print in black only, a small amount of coloured ink will be used in each printing. I have no idea why that should be, other than to make you use up ink. Sure enough, every time I printed something, with preferences set to “black only”, I could see from the animated chart that popped up each time that the ink levels of the three coloured cartridges was slowly dropping. I won’t mention the brand name, in order to protect the guilty but they had set it so that Even Printing Seldom Or Never in colour, you had no alternative but to use ink from the three colour cartridges.
I told myself that it didn’t matter, because when the colour ones ran out, I wouldn’t bother to replace them. That would show them! In fact, they showed me. One evening, halfway through printing a run of a dozen pages, the machine stopped and showed me a graphic of the cyan cartridge with a big red X across it and a warning that it was now completely empty. And – now here is the fiendish bit – the printer wouldn’t operate at all until I replaced it with a full one. Bastards!
Naturally this was late at night, so I couldn’t go anywhere to get a new one just then. Next day I took the empty cartridge to our local Walgreens, where they have a cartridge refilling service but of course my brand of ink cartridge was the one brand Walgreens didn’t service. So, I had to buy new ones. Three new ones in fact – I replaced the cyan, and I am at least ready for the imminent demise of the current magenta and yellow ones.
To be honest, the actual printer is pretty good, and the scanner is excellent (I expect the fax part of it is good too, but I have never used it). I’m just annoyed with the company for this marketing ploy, and even more annoyed with myself for falling for it. I say again: Bastards! Bastards and mug! .
Here’s something interesting. Well, maybe. We got a thingy in the mail from our local utility company. I knew the bill wasn’t due yet, so I when I saw the envelope I assumes they were trying to sell us something, or disseminate utility company propaganda or some such. In fact it was a so-called “Home Energy Report” and it compared out use of electricity to that of our neighbours, which they define as “up to 100 occupied apartments or condos” and average of 0.00 miles from us. There are quite a lot to chose from in a radius of 0.50 miles, for example, but 0.00 miles seems pretty close. Anyway, UI suppose they know what they are talking about.
Or do they? I was all ready to look at their chart and be alarmed at our apparent profligate use of “electrickery” as Catweazel used to call it (don’t worry if you don’t know who that is – I just put that in for my sister), when I noticed something. This is what they sent.
According to this, we are positively extravagant with electricity. July and August, the air-conditioning I suppose. Yes, on the basis if this, we should cut down… But wait!! We also, it seems, used quite a lot from December to January. Look how the graph slopes upwards. That’s strange, considering that from 12 December to 5 January we weren’t here. We were in England and there was no one in the house except our three cats. The only power used were a couple of lights on time switches, the central heating ready to kick in if the temperature fell below 65° and the refrigerator stayed on. That was it. We had a pet sitter visit to feed the cats and empty their litter tray while we were gone, but I doubt that she did more than switch on a few lights for 15 minutes while she visited. No one used the really heavy users of electricity – dishwasher, washing machine, toaster, electric kettle, microwave – while we were gone, and I am sure we didn’t have neighbours breaking into our place to make use my wife’s hair dryer. So, what’s occurring, GRU? Is this a genuine report, or just a lot of porkie pies (Don’t worry if you don’t understand that last sentence either. I used that term because it’s the Brit in me!)? .