Monthly Archives: September 2012

More Fake Gold Bars

You may not recall The Great Gold Bar Hoax (Hoax?) from March, but it seems that ten more tungsten-filled supposedly gold bars have been found, this time in Manhattan, at least according to zerohedge’s Gold Counterfeiting Goes Viral: 10 Tungsten-Filled Gold Bars Are Discovered In Manhattan.

So far, the rot is limited to bars with one particular set of markings (Swiss Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux (PAMP)), but zerohedge, which sees financial crises all the time everywhere, sees one looming for the gold trade. Unless of course, they warn, this is a false-flag op to discredit gold. But then again it might be a Chinese money-making plot.

At least there was something there; things could be even worse.

Posted in Econ & Money | Leave a comment

Be Afraid

This is perfect:

spotted via panGloss.

Posted in ID Cards and Identification | Leave a comment

Tuesday Sears Update: Important Information About Your Treadmill

I really wasn’t going to blog about the treadmill today. Enough already. Maybe too much. But then, this evening, the third thing happened.

The first thing was that the phone rang at 8:04am just like it did yesterday, instructing me that I had to call to reschedule delivery of my treadmill. I didn’t bother. (But I’m betting they call at 8:04 am tomorrow and wake me up on Yom Kippur.)

The second thing was that when I got into the office there was a message from “Stephanie” at the Sears executive offices, who wanted to talk to me about my “treadmill experience”. This although the problem with my treadmill experience is of course that I have not in fact had any opportunity to experience the F80 treadmill. I called right back and identified myself, name, order number, zip code, address, and Steffane found my record. “This shows as complete” she said. I started laughing.

Eventually we got that sorted out — there is no treadmill here. None. Nada. Ziltch. And Stephanie agreed that it “looks like it needs to be reordered”. But it is on backorder, so they can’t do that now. I explained my fear that my model is gone, and they are bringing in a new model, and that as a result I may be on hold forever. Stephanie seemed to grasp that point, and suggested that maybe I should pay the difference for the newer version of the F80. I suggested as how since Sears had taken my money and promised me a brand new, not damaged, F80, that is what they should deliver. We left it that Stephanie would research the matter, which I took to mean calling around trying to find one of the old ones to send me. And if that didn’t work, getting permission to offer me something or other. There were three F80s in Aventura yesterday according to the web site, and they’re still there today, so maybe that isn’t it, I don’t know. Anyway, I was content to leave it in Stephanie’s hands for a few days, and see what she cooked up.

But when I got home and picked up the mail, we got to part three. The outside of the envelope announced the topic clearly:

I really had no idea what to expect, but I sure didn’t expect this:

Let’s deconstruct the key parts of this, shall we?

Continue reading

Posted in Shopping | 4 Comments

Monday Treadmill Update

AM: Just after 8:00am this morning the sears robot called. There was a problem with my recent delivery and it was “urgent” that I call 888 567 3452 today to reschedule. Urgent, eh? Maybe they have found a treadmill to deliver to me. (Previous post, for those who came in late, Why I Do Not Have A Treadmill (Sears Can’t Deliver).)

So, I called back right away. After about a minute of hold time, “Molly” at the call center answered. Name. Address. Zip. Address. Having pulled up my file, she seems surprised I am calling — the file says I have already been told it has been backordered and they don’t know when one will be available.

But your robot said it was “urgent” I said. And your website says you have them to deliver on Saturday in my zip code.

Mention the web site, and the jaws of the script snap shut: any questions about that and I have to call She’ll connect me. Wait! I say, what do I do if I’m disconnected? Call 800 349 4358. There are clicking noises and a very ominous moment of silence. But, again, having a fallback plan saves me from disconnection, and I am through to “Joyce” who sounds like she might be from somewhere a little south of the Mason-Dixon line. She wants my order confirmation number, and having pulled up my file quizzes me to make sure I know my name, my email address, and my home address. Satisfied that I’m not some whacko who calls Sears with counterfeit confirmation numbers just for kicks, Joyce tells me that my treadmill is backordered, and they don’t know when they will come in.

But, I say, on the website…

You wouldn’t want us to schedule you until we know we have one, would you?

But if I was buying a new one, you’d give me Saturday as a delivery date! That’s what I want.

Joyce clearly has worked in politics, because her spin on the situation is that they are treating me extra well, better than the people on the website, and not taking any risk of misleading me. It would be funny if it was not so frustrating.

What about the phone call this morning, I ask, will I keep getting them?

Yes. We want to keep you up to date about your order.

(Never mind that the robocalls don’t actually tell me anything — they want me to call in whether or not there’s any point to it.)

Joyce says she will request that I get emails instead of phone calls. But she’s too honest, and warns me that “I can’t promise that will happen”.

Meanwhile, I check the website. Now they have two entries for the the F80. One is the high performance F80, which I think is what I ordered, and the other is the fitness F80 for $500 more. The “high performance” model is available for pickup at some stores, but not for delivery. The “fitness” model can be delivered as early as Saturday. [PM Update: now the website says it could be delivered as early as 09/28/12. But not to me, it seems.]

Is the problem that Sears wants to send me the old one, but can’t find any? Is Sears hoping it will wear me down and get me to cancel the order? Or are Sears’s computer systems designed in a way that doesn’t let Sears replace the SKU for the old model for the new one? And would I even want Sears to do so?

Looking at the specs I cannot see any significant differences between them, although the tread on the “fitness” model seems 2″ wider. If the “fitness” model is the 2013 version that could be good or bad; new models of popular products sometimes fix bugs, but they also sometimes involve doing some corner-cutting. Without reviews there’s no way I can tell.

PM: Four random afternoon facts:

(1) For some reason I’m having trouble keeping this song out of my head:

(2) I have found an amazing website called I Hate Sears. It sounds as if many other people have had similar experiences to mine. [Update 2015: the site is gone but I’ve linked the archived version.]

(3) From that web site I learn that Sears has a “Sears Social Media Support Team,” which I prefer to think of as the squeaky-wheel brigade, and they can be reached at I emailed them. And in no time I got this reply:

We apologize for the difficulties you have encountered. A case manager has been assigned to address your concerns. We will contact you within 24 business hours.

Thank you,

Eric O.

Social Media Support – Senior Case Manager
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM (CST)

But what do people without blogs do?

(4) Sears stock (SHLD) is down $1.12(1.93%) today, no doubt entirely due to my efforts.

[Next installment: Tuesday Sears Update: Important Information About Your Treadmill.]

Posted in Shopping | 13 Comments

Why is No One Discussing the Bradley Effect?

Although the picture is not entirely clear, it does appear that Barack Obama is drawing ahead in national and especially swing state polls. But can we trust the polls?

Before the 2008 election, there were numerous discussions of the Bradley effect — the name given to the propensity of black candidates to get fewer votes than their pre-election poll numbers would predict.

One hypothesis explaining the discrepancy was that some white voters were reluctant to tell pollsters they were going to vote against the black candidate, but did so in the privacy of the voting booth.

On the other hand, there were also suggestions of a “reverse Bradley effect” in which black candidates did better than polls suggested in states with many (over 25%) black voters. Explanations included the reluctance of black voters to tell pollsters who they were voting for, and under-sampling errors in the polls.

According to Wikipedia, the 2008 Presidential election did not provide evidence of a Bradley effect, but did provide some limited evidence of a reverse Bradley effect. This may be why talk of the Bradley effect is off the table.

But 2008 was seen as an historic moment: electing a black President would not end racism but it would be a big marker en route to that goal, and decisive statement about how the US had changed since 1960, not to mention 1860. Now we’ve been there, done that. Does that re-open the door to the Bradley effect? Maybe not. Maybe we’re past all that. But I don’t think that one data point proves it.

Posted in 2012 Election | Leave a comment

Why I Do Not Have A Treadmill (Sears Can’t Deliver)

On Aug. 27 I ordered a treadmill online from It seemed like a pretty good deal for a Sole F80.

Ironically, given what was to follow, I picked Sears because of its delivery policy: for a $100 extra, Sears would carry the treadmill up one flight of stairs and assemble it. There were better or equal prices online, but not from companies that did their own delivery (I wanted one company responsible for the whole transaction), or would do stairs; one other company would sell me the same model for the same price, but wanted more than double for the install. So Sears, at least on that day, offered the best deal. Consumer Reports liked the model, and I figured it would pay for itself in a couple years of gym memberships, and be far more convenient too.

I wanted the treadmill in my upstairs bedroom, but the same heart condition that makes a brisk walk the only exercise my doctor permits me also means I can’t lift up anything heavy. So I needed the delivery and setup. We scheduled delivery for the next Saturday ($10 extra) so I wouldn’t have to risk missing something at work. Although I have some flexibility in my day, Sears won’t promise a particular delivery window more than a day in advance and there didn’t seem to be any way to choose one. I didn’t want them to pick a time I had a class or a meeting. The next day Sears charged my credit card for the treadmill, for the delivery, and for the Saturday delivery supplement.

A few days before the Sept 1 delivery Sears robocalled me to confirm someone over 18 would be home on Saturday. The robot said it would call me again on Friday night to tell me what time the delivery would be. That’s not ideal – it means you can’t plan to do anything else all day, but I did want the treadmill. And on Friday evening the robot called back to say delivery would be between 9-11. We got up early to move the dining table and the heavy sofa to clear a path to the staircase and to make the bed so the room would look nice for the delivery people. That’s a bigger issue than it sounds – we have to get up at 6:15 on workdays to get our son to school, and we really really like to sleep a bit later on weekends. Ever since my operation I find that it’s much more important to get that extra sleep, or I really don’t feel as good or work as well. But I wanted the treadmill.

Eleven o’clock on Saturday, Sept. 1 came and went. I called Sears to find out what was happening. The truck is running late, I was told, but it will be there soon. And indeed, a few minutes later a truck pulled up and two friendly guys, one of whom even spoke English, came in the house to survey the route to the bedroom where I wanted the treadmill, where a rubber treadmill mat awaited. Looking at the stairs, the delivery guys announced that it looked like a tight fit, and it would be better to open the box outside the house, take up the two big pieces separately, and then assemble the treadmill upstairs. I was fine with that. They lowered the large box on the truck’s tail lift and opened up the box. The treadmill was all smashed up, as if someone had taken a giant machete to it front and center, or maybe dropped it from several feet.

Having read many online horror stories about how hard it is to schedule treadmill repair, and generally believing that it would be nice to have the new and undamaged unit I’d paid for, I told the delivery guys that I would not accept it, and to please take it back and bring me an undamaged one. They called dispatch, and a very annoyed lady made me recite all my personal information – name, phone number, address, zip code – even though they were delivering to me, and their delivery guy had called her from his phone – before asking peevishily why I wouldn’t take the damaged treadmill. I explained it was smashed. Continue reading

Posted in Shopping | 34 Comments