Why This German Supermarket Emptied Their Shelves

Regardless of your politics, it’s interesting to think about how many of our products come from different places and different countries. In protest of immigration laws, this supermarket removed all products from shelves that are made in a foreign country or made with ingredients from a foreign country. Amazing how little is left.

Literally, food for thought.

How politics made their way into this grocery store

Source: Why This German Supermarket Emptied Their Shelves

The retail apocalypse is coming for grocery stores – Business Insider

Every one knows that I’m a huge fan of Aldi. I say… bring it on!

Grocery stores are aggressively expanding, and now there’s a glut of food retail space in the US.

Source: The retail apocalypse is coming for grocery stores – Business Insider

This is why I’ll never shop at OfficeMax again—even if everything is free

This sounds like:

a. Something I’d write.

b. An experience I would have.

This column is my first step toward recovering from a maddening return experience.

Source: This is why I’ll never shop at OfficeMax again—even if everything is free

Tile. A Disppointing Scam

A few years ago, I became interested in Tile, a little white tracking device that—in theory—helps you to locate and find lost items.

A little over a year ago, I bought four Tile devices through an offer that one of my credit card companies was running — I had wanted to try Tile for a while and was really excited to give it a go. The Tiles showed up in my mailbox, and that’s when the excitement evaporated and the disappointment set in. A year later, I’m more than convinced that Tile is a bit of a scam. Here’s why: The authors of the Tile website are really crafty and the language is parsed VERY carefully. What the descriptions actually say and what they imply are worlds apart. This isn’t a case of things hidden in fine print, indeed all the damning details are spelled out in clear (and large) text. A quick or casual read of the website implies that Tile can: “Never lose anything again.” However, here’s where the whole experiment becomes an exercise in semantics that rivals the intellectual slipperiness of any of my graduate-level classes on Deleuze. Like Deleuzian analysis, reading the Tile website requires excruciating and miserable effort to wade through bullshit and figure out just what it is that is really being said. Let me save you the effort: it’s never what you think it is. 

Let’s do a quick fact check the Tile website.

Front and center the Tile website shows the following graphic:

Now let’s take it step by step.

Never lose anything again.
False. This is a ridiculous and nonsensical claim antithetical to the main purpose of the Tile device. If you will never lose anything again, then why would you need this device. Patently, you will lose things. The implication here is that you will never need to search for things, becasue if you cannot locate them, Tile will help you find them, which incidentally, is also false.

Tile is a tiny Bluetooth tracker and easy-to-use app that helps you find everyday items in seconds.
True and False, but mainly false. Tiny: no. Bluetooth: yes. Tracker: no. Easy-to-Use: no. App: yes. Helps you: no. Find: rarely. Everyday items: no. In Seconds: definitely, positively, not.

Attach to anything. Designed with a convenient hole, easily hook onto keys or stick to anything.
Again, some really slippery wordsmithing here. Could you attach it to anything? Technically, yes. Does it sport a convenient hole? Yes. Could you easily hook it onto keys or stick it to anything? Yes. However, again the problem lies in the implication that by attaching the Tile to something, that you will be able to find it in the aforementioned “seconds.” This claim is patently false.

See it. Ring it. Find it.
See the last place you had it on a map and make it ring when you get close.

Here’s where the BS really gets mixed with mud. The Tile website provides several “use cases.” These include: Keys Finder, Wallet Tracker, Luggage Tracker, Remote Control Finder.

Again, the implication made by the Tile website is that when lost, Tile will help you to locate these items in “seconds.” This is untrue… and here is why:

Though the Tile website implies that you simply open the app and find your missing items, this isn’t at all how Tile works. The app associates a Tile device with a particular object. I put one on my travel backpack, one on my cat’s collar, and one on my keys. The other one remained in the box, unused. Within ridiculous proximity of about 20 feet of any of these Tile devices, I can see in the app that these items are somewhere within 20 feet of me. Where? Tile offers no clues, kind of like the childhood game of Warmer! Colder! … only Tile doesn’t even give you that much information, just a vague “warm…ish.” 

So, for example, let’s say you misplace your keys, Tile device attached, somewhere in your home… looking at the app tells you “yep… last I checked… your keys are at home.” But, the app gives you no clue as to where your keys might be. That’s a pretty major fail. The “Find my iPhone” app that locates my Apple devices is scary accurate and you can judge from the location of the dot, exactly where the item is in your home. This refined level of accuracy is definitely not the case with Tile.

This is where the “ring” comes in. Allegedly, you can “ring” a Tile from the app. I found that this worked about 8% of the time over the course of the past year. Sometimes I would be standing immediately next to the Tile-d device, but it was under a piece of paper or otherwise obstructed from view, but the ringing feature didn’t actually activate any ringing sound on the Tile itself. So, that, as far as I’m concerned is a major fail.

So, let’s say instead, that you lose something away from home… like your backpack or keys. Again, the Tile app will show you where it last remembers you having it. Now, that in and of itself is a significant problem, becasue the Tile app isn’t constantly in contact with your stuff. It kind of checks in from time to time, and let’s you know where it last remembers seeing it. That is only helpful if you never move. It’s the equivalent of looking for a friend in a small town. Someone might say, “yeah, I just saw her at McDonald’s… but that was about 4 hours ago.” Dashing over to McDonalds would likely not help you to locate your friend (unless she really likes McDonalds), becasue she probably moved since the last time she was spotted there. This is a MAJOR fail on part of Tile, and the part that I feel is most misleading. While you may be able to track some movements of a Tile-d item, the information is not real time, not linear, and not even sequential. Which makes the information not only random but utterly useless. 

Devices also need to be in range of a Bluetooth enabled device. That’s not clearly explained on the website, and means that if you are out to dinner and want to double check to see if your Tile-enabled cat is home or not, that you are out of luck… unless your cat has a spare iPhone sitting around that you have “shared” the Tile with. The only problem is that the “share” feature worked exactly 0% of the time for me when shared with family and friends. So, that was a major fail too.

So at this point, if a Tile won’t ring when I’m standing next to it, won’t actually help me to zero in on the location of a missing item, and can’t tell me where my item is unless I am right on top of it…what is the point of this product?

Allegedly, when something is *really* lost, you can mark it “lost” in the Tile app. That reportedly activates a network of other Tile users and borrows Bluetooth bandwidth and battery to scour the earth for your item. Keep in mind that these unsuspecting Tile spies would need to be within 20 or so feet of your item and have their app active (which most people deactivate, becasue it’s such a battery hog) to have any chance of finding your lost item. Then, once it’s found, you get a message indicating that Tile “last saw” your lost item in a specific location. Again, the location is incredibly vague, comes in hours after the spy app actually pings the Tile-d device and the information is all but useless. Without exaggeration, I tested this feature eight times in the past year, as I traveled from North America to Europe or from Europe to North America. Of eight times, I received two notifications that my “lost” item was located. (Hardly scientific, but enough to know that it doesn’t work.) The problem is that (despite my Tile app being active and working, and within 20 feet of my “lost” item), my lost items were reported “last seen” more than 6,500km away. So, needless to say, not very accurate and not very timely, and again a major fail.

To add insult to disappointment, after using Tile for 6 months, I received an e-mail telling me that my Tile devices were getting old and would expire soon. Apparently, the battery life is poor, and Tile de-activates the Tile devices one year after they are activated. This information isn’t prominently displayed anywhere on the website, and while its unrealistic to expect a Tile device to last forever, it seems like a bit of a scam to disable it exactly one year after activation. 

Not to worry, though, because the constant pop up notifications that you will receive on your iPhone (even when notifications are turned off for the app) will never let you forget that your useless Tile devices are about to be killed by Big Brother. 

So, in short, Tile is a great idea that comes up horrifically short on execution and perhaps a bit before its time. What Tile really strives to be is a GPS tracker AND locator and sadly it is neither, but instead a clever idea that grossly under delivers. 

My advice: hold off until the technology is actually in line with your basic expectations. 

A New Mattress

The bed in Florence is a peculiar size. It’s just smaller than a full and is in fact a “three quarters” size. The peculiar size was once a common bed size in America until the old bedding size system was standardized after WWII. The mattress is also rounded at two corners to accommodate the rounded sides of the Airstream frame. This makes finding bedding difficult and more complicated. 

When I purchased Florence, I made a mental note to buy a new mattress. Three years have passed and I never found the time to do it. After purchasing a Casper mattress for my home, I wrote to Casper asking if they could make a custom size one for the Airstream. They never wrote back. 

So for a few years I slept on a sturdy cot-like mattress. It wasn’t uncomfortable but it wasn’t luxurious either. I began shopping around for a mattress and was surprised to find that the cost was not insignificant. Ballpark was about $800-1200 for a custom mattress. 

Which, as always, is when my very favorite store in the world came through for me. This past week, ALDI featured memory foam mattresses for $219. That was the lowest price I could find anywhere and just like the Casper mattress, the ALDI version came with a 10 year warranty. 

So, I bought one. I used my mom and dad’s electric turkey carving knife to slice the foam and replaced the cot-like mattress. Amazingly, it was easy and is tremendously comfortable. Honestly, it’s as comfy as the Casper, of which, I am a huge fan. 

I also made a friend with a slug while I was cutting the mattress. I interrupted his happy home with my cutting activity. Mr. Slug is nownhappily living in a paper towel tube outside my Airstream. 

Also, for those interested, I have found that European-size bedding including square pillows and “single” comforters fit the Airstream perfectly. You can find great bedding at Hema in The Netherlands and Central Europe or Hemtex in Estonia and across Northern Europe. 

Taking Aim at Target.

Yesterday, I spent the day in Canada, and driving over the border, something hit me. Not literally, but figuratively. The Canadian side of the border was bustling and vibrant, full of shops, pedestrians, successful businesses. We crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and entered the U.S. It was like we were entering a third world country. Desolate, bombed out buildings stood with weeds growing out of the windows next to shuttered factories. Poor people sold food and junk on the street corners from folding tables in front of the abandoned shopping mall. The only sign of life was the Native American-owned casino, and the vagrants propped up on street corners. It is, as Arianna Huffington has termed it, third-world America, and it’s literally at our national doorstep.

All this got me thinking… why? What has happened to our country? Why—solely on the basis of looks—does our northern neighbor seem to be so prosperous, and why do we seem to look so poor? I think the reason is what writer Bill Bishop has termed “the big sort.”

The big sort holds that conservative or liberal, we tend to gravitate toward people that think like we do.

Unfortunately, that’s creating two philosophically parallel countries that happen to physically overlap.

In one country, it’s OK to hate your neighbor because they are black, or jewish, or gay, or catholic, or educated. This is the America of Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh. It’s the America that believes purple wooden stakes at the end of your driveway will prevent U.S. marshals from treading on your property. It’s the America that looks to yesteryear for inspiration and longs for the way things were. It’s the America that is afraid and suspicious and believes in the boogie man. It is the America that looks out for number one.

In the other country, tolerance is the aspirant. This is the America of far less inhabitants. Maybe Rachel Maddow, Michael Moore, and Phil Donahue. It’s the America that believes we can rule by example, and that we can make life better for others. It’s the America that is hopeful and believes in the future. It is the America that believes it is our moral responsibility to look out for those who cannot look after themselves.

Which America is the correct America?

The first country, believes they are right and everyone else is wrong.

The second believes they may be right and that everyone else is buried in the sand.

I’m going to digress for a moment: I’ve had this blog for about 5 years, and consistently, the story that gets the most traffic is over 4 years old, and ironically is about a bad experience I had purchasing a giant piece of furniture at Target. [You can read the whole post here.]

Unfortunately, despite my anger, I went back to shopping at Target. Until about 2 weeks ago.

Around my birthday this year, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel was outed for making a large donation to an organization called Forward MN. It’s a political action group that supports extreme right wing candidates for election in Minnesota.

That upset me.

What upset me more is the official Target response to the donation. Essentially, they said “we’re sorry, BUT we can do what we want” read: “we don’t care.”

Why is that upsetting. Because Forward MN has been associated with political leaders and groups that advocate violence toward gays and lesbians. So while Target has argued that they gave to Forward MN to support their “pro-business” stance, I wonder, would Target have made the donation if Forward MN publicly advocated violence toward blacks, or asians, or women, or muslims, or born-again christians, or people with brown eyes… see where I’m going with this? It’s inexcusable—in this day and age—for any group to advocate for violence against any other group. It’s unconscionable for any corporation to openly support it.

It’s unconscionable especially when companies like Target have relied on gay and lesbian designers to make their company what it is and to catapult its cool quotient… which, shamelessly, Target has. I call upon the many gay and lesbian and GLBT-friendly designers (Todd Oldham, Isaac Mizrahi, Mossimo) to cease their support for a company that is doing such damage to the community and to our society.

Why is this acceptable? Why does the first country, in sneaky, cowardly ways support murder and violence? Is it not hypocritical that the same people that lead this country do not live by its rules? The recent revelation of former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman—who was the brainchild behind anti-gay, anti-gay marriage, and defense of marriage legislation—has admitted that he himself is gay. Why is it OK for Sarah Palin to speak about abstinence when her own daughter has a child out of wedlock?

The place that bickering about who puts what where in the bedroom has gotten the US to a place that is quite ugly. It is a place sprouted in fear and intolerance, and it is a place that is eminently un-American. It is led by religious extremism that has bastardized the meaning of christianity, and it is gobbled up by an increasingly edutained, undereducated, desperate, bored, and financially less prosperous American society. The solution to this problem is not government. In the words of Ronald Reagan. Government is the problem. It is the enabler that allows this divisiveness to prosper, because without it, we would have no political system, and with no political system, our economy would fall to the wolves.

I write this today with the hope that this will become the most read, most “hit” story on my blog. Not because I want to bitch about the state of our country, but because I hope that it gives pause to those who read it, and maybe that will help to make a difference.