Koenji, the world and elsewhere

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If your company is named S’well, your product shouldn’t suck.

I first came across S’well bottles three years ago, in a retail shop by Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. I liked the look of them and they made big claims:

HARD WORKING Triple-walled Therma-S’well technology keeps beverages cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12, and maintains a condensation-free exterior.

Seeing as I was in the market for a new tumbler (as they’re called in Japan), S’well was on my radar. However, the bottles were ¥6,000 (~$60 USD) so it wasn’t exactly an impulse buy.

A month later, while visiting BC, I came across them again, in the Capilano Suspension Bridge gift shop. They were a steal at $45. Canadian!

I bought it.

I was happy with it. For a very short amount of time.

Firstly, It kept my water cold. Granted, I never kept it filled long enough to see if it would do so for 24 hours.

It also kept my coffee hot. But I typically drink my coffee within an hour. However, the occasion soon came when I had my coffee for a few hours, and I quickly realized S’well’s 12-hour hot promise is complete bullshit.

Oh well, what did I expect from New York marketing? I’d just have to drink my coffee quicker.

Then came S’well’s real Fuck You moment. Less than a month after purchasing my $45 water bottle, I dropped it.

From waist level. (ie: about 3-feet.)

Its fancy beveled bottom dented and it was never able to stand up again. Actually, it could technically stand, but would fall over if a mosquito flew past it. I put it down on a Starbucks table and it fell over all on its own, putting a huge dent in its lid.

The bottle may as well be made out of papier-mâché.

So, I contacted S’well Customer Service.

The cheerily told me to take it up with the retailer. Because, it empowers the stores. Not because it absolves S’well of any responsibility.

Don’t you love it when Customer Service doesn’t solve your problem, then signs off with something like this?

Have a great rest of the day!
S’well Engagement Team

I replied that I bought it in Vancouver, but live in Tokyo. He told me they can’t ship to Japan. (I guess the bottles they sell here are grown on trees at the foot of Mt. Fuji.)

He then gave me this helpful tip.

You can always attempt to make an exchange through your local retailer, but I honestly don’t believe they will give you a new S’well.

Fuck. You.

Fed up and furious, I put back in its precious cylindrical box and put on the top shelf of the cupboard, where I keep the useless things I’ve yet to throw out. (Too bad they didn’t put as much effort into the product as they did the packaging. It’s a really nice box.)

I then bought a Zojirushi tumbler for ¥2,000 (~$20 USD) on Amazon. It’s not as pretty as my S’well junk, but it’s got an easy one-hand pop-top and can take a beating. It’s gone smashing into the road while cycling, been on countless hikes, rides, and excursions, and dropped countless times over the past three years, and it keeps on working.

Sure, it’s got a few scratches, but it can stand up.

Oh, and it keeps coffee scorching hot for hours.


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Lenovo Yoga 910 Battery Is Disappointing AND Phenomenal [Updated]

Just 5 days ago I posted the Internet sucks in large part due to the sea of bullshit reviews on affiliate link farms we consumers must wade just to get an honest fucking review.

One would hope that “real” sites (ie: those we expect to have legitimately critical reviews) were not so desperate they find themselves stooping to the level of the disingenuous bottom feeders at Purch Group (ie: Top Ten Reviews and their ilk).

As a consumer, I expect professionals who receive piles of free laptops, consoles, cameras and countless other gadgets to review, to actually review them. I guess I live in a dreamworld. I mean, I always knew there was some payola going on in every industry to some degree. Like that movie reviewer at some daily paper in Ohio who gives the latest box office bomb 5 stars. But I thought they were easy enough to identify.

In the market for a new laptop, I’ve started looking at 2-in-1’s or hybrids or whatever you want to call them. All those shiny new devices trying to mimic and improve upon the Microsoft Surface. One of the essential specs for me is excellent battery life. Therefore, I was a little surprised when I read two reviews of the Lenovo Yoga 910 on two (arguably) reputable tech review sites.

The first review, by Kevin Lee (@baggingspam) at Techradar, informed me that the Yoga 910 has “disappointing battery life.” It was listed one of the three main cons in his pros & cons list.

The second review, by Joel Santo Domingo (@JoelSD) at PC Magazine, informed me that the Yoga 910 has “phenomenal battery life”.  It was listed in his Pros column and a key point in his “bottom line”.

Obviously, the same battery cannot be both amazing and shitty. Battery life is not an Adam Sandler film. It’s not subjective. It’s fucking measurable. So one of these guys is either very bad at his job or he’s full of shit and on the payola train, and not so different than the assholes at Top Ten Reviews.

I guess I should have titled this post Why The Internet Sucks: Part 2.



Or… I could have titled this post Why The Internet Doesn’t Suck.

No more than 2-3 hours after my post and tweet, one of the reviewers (Domingo at PC Mag) had replied to me on Twitter and clarified the discrepancy. He pointed out that Techradar had reviewed the 4K version of the Yoga 910 while he had reviewed the 1080p version. (Lee and PC Mag liked his response, letting me know that everyone had at least acknowledged my concern.)

I appreciate the quick response. But a word of advice to professional reviewers:

If you are reviewing a product and there are two versions of the product, you should make it very clear that there are two versions and clearly indicate which version you are reviewing. Both articles barely made any mention of this, hence my confusion.

The PC Mag article states “a standard 13.9-inch 1,920-by-1,080-resolution (full HD) IPS touch screen. (An option for a 4K version boosts the price of the Yoga 910 up to $1,499.99.)” halfway through the article and makes no other mention of it.

The Techradar article does mention the 4K screen a few times, once on the first page and a twice again on the second page. In their spec sheet it is listed as UHD (Ultra High Def) rather than 4K, something that may not be clear to the average consumer.

I scoured the articles looking for differences/typos and completely missed the bits about the screen. So that’s my bad. Mostly. (I’ll take 80% of the blame.)

It would have been very simple for the articles to be titled Lenovo Yoga 910 (1080p) Review and Lenovo Yoga 910 (4k) Review, especially when the different models have quite different performance results.

When I’m in the market for new tech I like to read as many reviews as possible. I scan them looking for the germane, I don’t digest every word as though I’m reading Faulkner or Fitzgerald. Clarity is key.

That said, the one thing I’ve always like Twitter for has been customer support. Somehow I’ve often found it more effective than official customer support channels. Perhaps because it also allows companies to slip a bit of marketing in with their support.



Why The Internet Sucks

The Internet is full of invaluable information. It is also full of valuable information. And useless information. And misinformation.

I’m not talking about the Fake News that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue as though it’s some great revelation. (I guess for a lot of people it is.) The news has been full of shit since CNN went 24/7. I’m talking about ratings and reviews.

By now, everybody know that most Amazon reviews are bullshit and bought in bulk, typically from some typing pool in Southeast Asia. With books (mainly ebooks), it’s gotten to the point that reviews and ratings on Amazon are utterly useless. Especially, but not exclusively, in the self-published arena.

Then there are the “product review websites” that claim to be there to help consumers make informed decisions about their purchases. They are nothing more than link farms aimed at getting as many affiliate click-through purchases as possible.

Most of these sites are fairly obvious to spot, especially if they long URL’s peppered with hyphens, something like w* But, of course, the Fake Review Sites have had to up their game. They’ve gotten better at masking the smell of their bullshit.

The mother of all Fake Review Sites, Top Ten Reviews, makes a great effort to look credible. They put “real-looking” content on their sites, but you’ll never find a recommendation to NOT buy something. Every product they review fits the bill for someone. (Unfortunately, a couple years ago the Top Ten Reviews parent company acquired Tom’s Hardware, a once good site.)

To make matters worse, Google, the Internet’s convenience store, puts these Fake Review Sites front and centre like candy in a point-of-purchase display. It gets harder and harder to find genuine, critical reviews when the Internet’s vanguard, skipper and bully is pushing fake ones down our throats.

Yesterday, I did a Google search for “best bluetooth adapter”. The top result, out of almost 8 million, was a website I’d never heard of before. So i clicked to see what they had to say.

It was a very simple blog, but had a clean layout and appeared to have real content. But it didn’t take long to realize the content wasn’t real at all. It could very well not even be original content, given the prevalence of text spinners nowadays. There is even a WordPress plugin that spins someone else’s content into “your own”. This is the State Of The Internet today.

Looking at this website’s selection of best bluetooth adapters, it was #2 that sounded the alarm bells. After a recommendation for Plugable (a “real” company), it then recommends an adapter from Costech. I thought Costech, hmm. I’m not too familiar with them. There’s a reason for that. I left the following comment on the site, but (unsurprisingly) it was not approved.

This article is disingenuous at best, a scam at worst. Costech is NOT a real manufacturer. There is no such thing as a “Costech adapter”. It is simply an online company that buys buckets of USB dongles off some OEM on Alibaba then has “Costech” printed on them. I reckon this entire website is nothing more than page after page of articles pointing to any and all products on Amazon trying to scrounge together revenue through affiliate links.

I’m not looking at the past through rose coloured glasses. There have always been advertisers peddling their products everywhere and every chance they get. At sporting events, at the cinema, on television, on the side of the highway, in magazines, in newspapers, in movies, even at schools. And trying to come across as authentic and genuine is nothing new. Those actors with “not an actor” below their fake names in infomercials have been around for a very long time.

This is just a rant. It’s up to the individual to separate fact from fiction. It’s up to the consumer to identify bullshit. It would just be nice if there wasn’t so much bullshit to wade through.

Hopefully, someone with more technical prowess than myself will create a browser or plugin that blocks out the bullshit. Because Google certainly doesn’t care. Bullshit is their bread and butter.

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America’s Cock Has Come

All of America and most of the world bellowed “Holy fuck!” in unison on a Tuesday night this past November. In unison but not unified-both sides in shock. One group ecstatic, the other devastated.

In one of pastor Jeremiah Wright’s now infamous sermons rightly rebuking his homeland, he offered a dire warning, long-since obvious to those of us living in the RoW. Referring to a speech given by Malcom X almost 40 years prior, he again cautioned that America’s chickens were coming home to roost.

And although those chickens seem to have taken the long way home, they are finaly due to arrive tomorrow. Not in the form of bus bombs, Kalashnikovs, or passenger planes. A terror attack would be too simple. It would not live up to the grandiosity and pomposity that have been feeding and fattening this idiom for the past five decades.

The chickens are no longer coming. The chickens are here. And they have set their beady little eyes on the biggest roost in the land. The Oval Office. And tomorrow it will be handed over to their leader, the biggest cock of them all.

Congratulations America. You deserve it!


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Honest criticism does not meet Microsoft’s guidelines

I took time to write an honest review of Microsoft’s Assure Software Support Plan. Which I stupidly bought. And am now paying the price for my stupidity. On the Microsoft Store website I left a One-Star review. It was without profanity, without name-calling, without lies. Unless “smug” hurt their feelings. It was simply an explanation of my dissatisfaction. So other consumers could make informed decisions before purchasing (or not).

Unsurprisingly, it did not pass the Microsoft Censors. But they ended their email with an exclamation point and an inspiring “you’ll get ’em next time, slugger!

The Pitch

They’re available online to provide your service 24/7 throughout the US, whenever it works best for you.

The Scam

You get in line with everybody else (ie: free support).

Microsoft Store - Answer Tech Chat Page(1)

The Review

I bought this a couple months ago for advanced support with a “Level 2 Tech”. I scheduled a call for the next morning (they require a 2-hour window). The two hours came and went. Nobody called. I tried phoned them. Nobody available. Scheduled another call. Some smug unhelpful guy called me a day later. Ended up resolving issue on my own. Had a second problem last week. Waited in queue (it’s the same queue as everybody waits in, not a priority service queue) for 8 hours. So much for a Tech Support at my service 24/7. Finally scheduled a call for the next morning between 8-10am. The 2 hours came and went. No call. I emailed, tweeted and phoned. Someone finally phoned at half past midnight! The worst Customer Support I’ve experienced. Made even worse by paying for it.

The Reply

Our staff has read your review and values your contribution even though it did not meet all our website guidelines. Thanks for sharing, and we hope to publish next time!

MS is full of BS.