Category Archives: Shopping

The Science Behind Making Me Feel Bad at Malls

I hate shopping in malls and giant department stores. One reason is that I always feel like they’ve dialed back on the oxygen.1 Another reason is that large shops are usually disorienting — no directional cues (e.g. windows to see the sun), no maps, little signage, less discernible logic.

How interesting to discover that there’s a science to making me feel that way: the Gruen transfer. And that Ikea are past masters at milking this disorientation. (We used to shop at Ikea in Neasden when we lived in London.)

Now if only I could figure out what Dadeland is doing to the air to make you want to buy something and get the heck out of there.

  1. I should perhaps note that I have no other symptoms of claustrophobia, and indeed enjoyed caving when younger. 

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EFF’s Handy E-Reader Privacy Chart

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, on whose Advisory Board I have the honor to serve, has released a very useful chart about how much your e-reader can spy on your reading habits — just in time for holiday shopping.

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Final Sears Treadmill Delivery Disaster Post

Where is my treadmill?If you’re here because of the Running in Place, Before the Treadmill Ever Arrived, by David Segal in the New York Times’s Haggler Column, welcome.

To read my treadmill posts in order, just start with the first one, Why I Do Not Have A Treadmill (Sears Can’t Deliver). There’s a link to the next one at the end of each post.

In the days since the treadmill was actually delivered, I got my new receipt for warranty purposes, and I’ve had calls from four different live human non-robotic folks in the Sears delivery/fulfillment/mess-containment hierarchy asking if everything is OK. The last was the most interesting: it was from “Donna” in Sears HQ, who is apparently in charge of straightening out the delivery mess that someone in Sears has figured out they have (she made it sound as if this job predated my experiences). Donna started out by asking me who I had dealt with in a way that suggested something messy would roll downhill; I said most of the people I had dealt with had actually been very nice, they just seemed trapped in an evil system. According to Donna there is a way to stop the robocalls, and she seemed peeved that no one had trained front-line staff in how to do that. And she offered me a $100 gift certificate; perhaps I will have to set foot in Sears to use it, we’ll see.

Donna and I had a long chat, during which I think I learned that the call center operations are going to be repatriated from the Philippines, something I’ve read many other firms are also doing. And Steps Will Be Taken about delivery problems. On the one hand, it seems good that Sears is working on its delivery/fulfillment problems. On the other hand, there was one aspect of the conversation that I found very odd. I asked Donna — purportedly the person in charge of sorting this stuff out — if she’d had a look at the I Hate Sears website. If I were in charge of fixing something, the first thing I’d want to know is what the symptoms were. Donna said she hadn’t been able to bring herself to do that because of the term “hate”. Donna, if you are reading this, you really should go over there and see what all the commentators are complaining about.

Meanwhile, however, here is the full list of my treadmill-related posts:

  1. Why I Do Not Have A Treadmill (Sears Can’t Deliver)
  2. Monday Treadmill Update
  3. Tuesday Sears Update: Important Information About Your Treadmill
  4. On the Treadmill Treadmill
  5. Yup
  6. Sears Can’t Deliver Email Either (Updated)
  7. In Case You Were Wondering
  8. Sears Treadmill Saga Notes
  9. Sears Feels the Power of the Press
  10. A Quick Dispatch from the Treadmill Front
  11. The Grand Finale (Probably)
  12. The Consumerist
  13. Final Sears Treadmill Delivery Disaster Post

PS. While you’re here, look around. I also write about a politics, law, technology, and other things.

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And Another Thing (No Boingo Wifi at MIA)

While I’m on a tear about bad customer service experiences (are we jinxed?) I should mention my unhappy discovery that Miami International Airport (MIA) has reconfigured its wifi services to try to milk the customer as much as possible. It used to be that you could get roaming access at MIA through Boingo, just as you can at almost every other major US airport. If you flew an average of once a month this was a good option — wifi on this end and that end of the journey, for about half the price of two day passes, plus access at random other hotspots here and there. If you had stopovers or connections Boingo just paid for itself further.

But now although MIA still boasts about having Boingo, it doesn’t. I called Boingo the other day to ask why they don’t serve MIA any more and Boingo said that I had to ask MIA, it was their decision.

The current wifi carrier list at MIA is:

BT Openzone
T-Mobile Polska
Tata Indicom

WeRoam is I think a placeholder for some other services, but Boingo isn’t one of them. Of the suppliers on that list, only AT&T is a US-based service, and it charges $19.95/month — about double what Boingo wants…if you can even find the very well hidden signup page for AT&T’s “premium” (includes airports) service. I got as far as this page and gave up when the “buy now” button produced a “not found” error.

No doubt many people will say I either shouldn’t bother, bring a book, or just accept being ripped off for $7.95 for one day’s wifi, even though that’s almost what Boingo charges for a month, just like I have to accept being ripped off for bottled water inside security. Yet it does seem like a remarkably customer-unfriendly move for MIA. I’ve emailed MDAD Deputy Director of Business Retention and Develoopment Miguel Southwell to ask about this, but I’m not hopeful. Hey guys, don’t you know that FLL offers free wifi throughout the terminal?

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The Consumerist

The Consumerist linked to and summarized my treadmill saga with a typically pungent headline, Sears Annoys The Crap Out Of Customer For Weeks, Still Doesn’t Deliver Treadmill.

[Next Installment: Final Sears Treadmill Delivery Disaster Post]

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The Grand Finale (Probably)

At about 9am, a big truck pulls up outside my house.

The other truck is AWOL, but the guys on this team decide to go it alone. Four guys wouldn’t fit on my staircase anyway, one of them says.

A bit after 9:30 the other team arrives. Apparently they had to go back en route to pick up an extra mattress, and didn’t get the call from the first team not to bother showing up.

So everyone pitches in and is busy screwing things in.

One piece goes in backwards at first, but they quickly get it right.

And by 10am….I have a treadmill:

I haven’t gotten a new bill yet, though, so perhaps this isn’t quite the last chapter….

[Next: The Consumerist]


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A Quick Dispatch from the Treadmill Front

Where is my treadmill?A different Sears bot called last night to say we should expect delivery of our treadmill between 8am and 9am today. Last night we moved the dining table and the heavy sofa to clear a path to the staircase; this morning we made the bed so the room would look nice for the delivery people.

Yesterday I also got an email from telling me they were refunding my payment.

Dear Sears Customer, 
Thank you for your order with!
In regard to order number ##########, a credit in the amount of $#####.## was issued to your account today.  This credit was issued because of your cancelled order.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. 
This credit should be viewable by your financial institution within 72 hours.  If you have any questions, please contact your financial institution after that period to verify receipt of the credit to your account. Please note, your financial institution may have processing guidelines for posting credits that may impact the time it takes for the credit to be reflected in your balance.
If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail us at or call us at 1-800-283-6940.  We hope you visit us again soon at 
Karla G.
Sears Online Customer Care

(It’s odd that no one at Sears seems to have last names.)

I took this to mean that Sears has no other way to book what it sees as an ‘exchange’ of my non-existent treadmill for an actually existing one – that thing the rest of us call ‘delivery’. And I presume that I’ll have to sign a new credit card slip for the new treadmill when they deliver it.

This morning around 8:10 – just about when the other bot used to call – a human phoned to say they’d actually be here between 9am and 9:30.

I’m still hoping that the end may be in sight.

[Next installment: The Grand Finale (Probably)]


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