Obsolescence

I had to take back my purchase of a DVD/VCR.    We had to return it because it didn’t have a tuner.  Before you consider some wise remark about unwise men not reading labeling on the box, I did.  The large print features helped me choose which one to purchase.  My progressive lens glasses do help me see the fine print, but who reads that in the store.  Oh, and the large text did not include:  – No tuner.  The last time I bought a VCR they all had tuners. Seriously?  What is the R for?

But then, what are all those other acronyms for?  There’s more letters on the sides of those cartons than in a box of Alphabits.  QAM SQPB HDMI iLink(R) and Khz must be important to someone, but to me it’s gibberish.  I’m electronically illiterate.  I can’t keep pace with technology.  It’s kinda like what transistors did to my vacuum tube Dad.

[CAUTION:  What follows is not approved for children under the age of 65] I can remember my father wigglin’ tubes in the TV when the vertical-hold didn’t.  And, when the picture would irreverently flop to a 45 degree slant in the midst of “Today’s News Today”, he’d jerk out a few likely culprits and head for a tube tester.

He didn’t know enough about electronics to get my Mr. Wizard crystal set to work, yet he was a master of tube diagnosis.  “…oh, yeah, son…see this darkening near the tri-diode interceptor.  This baby’s the problem.  Probably won’t even wiggle the needle down at the drugstore.”

I also remember his chagrin when we bought our first Solid State TV.  Solid state, auto-fine-tuning, left him with no knobs to tweak or tubes to wiggle.  Well, Pop, I now know how you felt.  Technology today is on an even faster track for me.  No tuner in a VCR.  Who ever heard of such a thing.  And what’s a 32 bit upscaler to 1080i?  All I want to do is tape the drag races.

Sue say’s that’s probably not going to be possible much longer.  VCR’s are about obsolete.  Obsolete?  You mean we won’t be able to watch all those videos we bought at rummage sales?  Hey, I remember when Laser Disks tried to replace VHS tapes in the late 70’s.  FAIL.  Now it looks like the laser’s little cousin, DVD, is finally gonna do it.

Oh, my, all those tapes…relics.  Relics just like the 45’s, 8 Tracks and audio cassettes gathering dust in the basement.  Relics just like me.

You know what?  I feel a pity party coming on.  Anyone want to stop by and commiserate.  Got any Blues on an LP?  I think my phonograph still works.

Friday Frivolity: Full Disclosure

Ever read the small print on a package?  It’s getting more distressing for me as the years wear on.  Oh sure, it’s troubling because of my diminishing eyesight, but also from diminished capacity to understand the rationale for much of the small print.   Such was certainly the case when we left Lowe’s  yesterday.

It wasn’t that long ago that I’d go buy bolts and nuts out of bins.  Yup, I’m old enough to remember Hardware stores on the corner.  Those neighborhood proprietors would stock fasteners in ceiling to floor walls of drawers, stave & hoop barrels or drop down wooden bins.  Grab what you need, toss ’em in a paper sack and proceed to the cashier.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t all that long ago and there still are a few “home town” hardware stores. However, I think those days of buy only what is needed are gone.  Today, such hardware items are in baggies, shrink wrap or blister packs.  Yesterday, we bought a pair of brass machine screws, two plastic nuts & washers, all neatly packaged in a plastic bag.

I was happy we found exactly what I needed.  Often the marketing of such items are seemingly packaged with the intent of “overstocking”.  Not their shelves…my storage bins.  Nevertheless, most of my family would testify that overstocking my storage bins is my delight, not displeasure.

But I digress from my story.  These were packaged precisely sufficient for my need.

I guess Sue was bored as we drove away.  She started reading the package.  In itself, that’s quite disparaging as to my ability to entertain her.  Anyway, first she read the shocking news that I had not purchased a toy.  Ahhhh, more precisely, the bag which contained the nuts & bolts was not a toy.

Aw, gee whiz, …and to think I almost bought a dozen of bolts just to get enough bags to fill with beans for my bean-bag-toss game.  (Otherwise known as “Ed’s Cornhole Game”.  Sorry, again I digress.)   Oh rats, they nixed the thought of refilling the bag in Warning Number 2.  Once I had removed the hardware, I could not refill the bag with anything.  No beans, no rice, no dinner leftovers, …nothin’.

Before I could recover from this “no recycle for personal use” caveat, Sue continued with even more distressing, specifically stated, cautions.  Would you believe we can’t use the empty bag in a crib?  For what?  You’d have to staple a hundred of them together to make a sheet.  Of course… there was at least some temptation…the packaging was a delightful baby blue.

Oh, but there’s more about this simple little purchase that was bristled me.  I fully realize the diverse ethnicity in the United States has caused lots of things today to be printed in multiple languages.   That fact doesn’t trouble me.  Predictably, the package’s Identifications, Features, and Instructions were in both English and Spanish.  No big deal.

What, then, was so abrasive to me?  The Warnings, which I just highlighted as foolishness, were only in English.   The packagers figured only Anglo-Saxon descendants would be dumb enough to toss all their scrap plastic bags into the kid’s playpen.

Hold on…, don’t toss this book in the basket just yet.  The worst is yet to come.  As Sue neared the end of her perusal of the bag, she exclaimed:  “Ohhhh…, My…, Goodness!  Ed, we’ve got to keep this bag”.

You do remember that I mentioned Sue reading thou shalt not keep the bag for any purpose.   I will testify without duress, Sue is not predisposed to disobedience.  Okay, …alright, …if the truth be known, she does indeed tear off all the “Do Not Remove under penalty of law” tags.  However, such actions are mitigated by trying to satisfy some residual teenage rebellious attitude still swirling in her mind.  But, why would she suggest we save a tiny, plastic, perforated, non-zip lock baggie in flagrant violation of regulations clearly stipulated…in ENGLISH.  The answer lies in the producer:   Keeney Mfg. Co.

For those of you who are not aware of Sue’s heritage, she began life as a Keeney.

See, I told you the implications of small print is often very disturbing to me.

Advertizy

Advertising—the art of inspiring a person to purchase. Actually I think it’s closer to the science of arresting the human mind long enough to liberate money from their pockets.

The mall is an excellent place to observe such advertising. Sue and I have been exercising by walking the mall. Okay, so I walk. Sue’s pace is closer to a jog to keep up with my long strides. Anyway, while walking around the mall I often marvel at the challenges facing retailers to persuade consumers to part with their money. Often for things which defy logic. Though many would testify that more than a few of my purchases defy their logic, a storefront window stopped me in mid stride…not with a temptation to purchase, but in stupendous amazement.

When we walked by Abernathy and Flinch the other day, I spotted the ultimate challenge of marketing. Right there, in full view of every passerby was a 6-foot stretch of denims. No, not stretch denims…a 6-foot table faded-blue jeans that truly stretched my imagination.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. These jeans should have been relegated to a basement markdown table at Sleaze and Squalor Second Hand Store. They weren’t used. They were abused. Tattered, threadbare holes in every pair.

Last summer, I couldn’t sell better looking jeans at our rummage sale. I would have been embarrassed to sell stuff like that. I’ve got pride. Clothing that bad would be put in plain brown wrapper even before depositing them in the trash barrel. And how did the retailer choose to market these ragged britches?

Nothing of note. No sign. No flashing blue light special. No BOGO ploy. Not even a placard with bright red lettering: “Roll Back Price” (though “skid down pricing” would seem relevant). Just piles of the blue rags on a table in the window.

I remember when you might get a few bucks knocked of the purchase price if you found a minor flaw in something you wanted.

Excuse me…I found this sweater over there. It’s exactly what I want and it’s the last one in my size. But, see here…there’s a bit of a snag.

Oh, let me see that. Why, yes, indeed there is. I’m terribly sorry.

Oh, that’s okay. I’d be willing to put up with the little bitty ol’ snag, if you drop the price. …say $5.

Back then, the retailer would have dropped the sweater in the scrap heap. I suspect today he would reply:  Drop the price? If we’d have noticed the snag we’d have raised the price five bucks.

Premiums for flaws. That seems to be the rave of today. And I’ll tell you something else about today’s drastic changes from yesterday’s styling. Those ragged jeans attract a clientele dressed similarly. Yeah, I know that’s to be expected. I don’t generally put on a three piece suit to shop for coveralls. So, it doesn’t overstretch my imagination to visualize teen-aged ragamuffins pawing through tattered britches.

However, in my teen years, had I meandered into a store dressed in a raggedy shirt, frayed pants, and sloppy, floppy shoes, store security would have been on red alert. Today, when such a teen is spotted, a sales clerk swims in like a shark smelling a quick kill.

And how do they entice these kids to purchase. What sales pitch could possibly augment the product?   Maybe something like; “Aren’t those just fabulous. I mean…ya know…like each one is a uniquely fashioned work of art. See…look here on the label…each one signed and numbered…

I’ll bet there’s no “Inspected by” tag in the pocket though.