Archive for Bushel of Currency

You’ll buy it anyway, suckers

When Matt Rutledge founded Woot back in the early 21st century, he chose to refrain from the usual fawning product descriptions: often, in fact, the merchandise was described with references to small flaws or implications of unsuitability for the intended purpose.

But Bags O’ Crap aside, I don’t remember anything as ferocious as this paragraph at Rutledge’s meh.com today:

The only headphones in the world where you can drop the price by $60-$80 and they’re still overpriced. Unlike most Beats deals on Black Friday, these are the current model, the Solo2, not the old Solo or Solo HD models. We’re told they get the bass balance better than the notoriously bottom-heavy original Beats headphones. But you can get better headphones for the same price or less. We still wouldn’t pay this much for Beats even if Dre himself threw in a quarter of chronic from his personal stash. Let some other chump pay for those relentless Beats ad campaigns. They’re just headphones. Not good enough? We’d say we hate to disappoint you on such a special day … but the truth is we actually sort of enjoy it.

For the record, they were selling these nominally $200 headsets for $120, and as of this writing, had moved 572 of them, meaning there were about 50,000 site visitors who weren’t interested.

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They said “meh”

In June of 2010, Amazon moved one step closer to Total World Domination by buying Woot from founder Matt Rutledge for somewhere in the low nine figures. Rutledge eventually wearied of being a cog in the Bezos machine, and decamped in 2012 to found Mediocre Laboratories, floating several ideas, one of which was code-named “Pavlov”: “The simple fun of a single daily event store went downhill with the added clutter of selection — is a rebirth possible?”

It is. Rutledge shelled out moderately big bucks for meh.comwe said “meh” — and resumed doing what he presumably loved best. If anything, it’s even more barebones than the original Woot. From the FAQ:

Q: Ok, got it, simplicity and focus, one thing for sale each day, no hype, a community. So where do I follow you, like you and sign up for daily emails?

A: You don’t. If you want to find out what’s for sale, come to the site. Shit, meh.com is a 3-character domain, just type it in already.

Shipping remains $5, but new products now come on at midnight Eastern time instead of Central. And Mediocre is “concocting other experiments to rid you of excess cash,” perhaps as elegant as Rutledge’s Kickstarter for the site, which raised $14,000 in four days.

What you want to know, though, is this: Do they still have the infamous, um, Bags? Yes, they do.

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Mehcanized for your protection

The invaluable Nancy Friedman treats us to an explanation of the handy Japanese term “fukubukuro,” which turns out to be basically a Woot Bag O’ Crap that lacks actual crappiness.

Speaking of Woot, if you’ve been thinking that it’s been a lot less fun, or at least a lot more complicated, since Amazon bought them out, you’re not the only one who thinks so:

How come every time something simple gets popular, people want to make it more complicated? And less fun? And then eventually less popular? Like how raw, energetic rock ‘n’ roll turned into pompous, sluggish stadium rock. Or how superhero comics mutated into a baffling mess of retcons and reboots. Or how daily deals turned into … well, whatever the hell you call it when an online store has too much selection to be easy to use, but too little to find what you want.

That’s why the guys who invented the daily-deal thing are embarking on a grand experiment to bring it back. Back to its simple roots. Back to when one deal every day meant one deal, not a compacted mass of overstock matter plugging up the Internet like that stuff they found inside Elvis. Back to when a trained chicken could literally have done your shopping for you.

So saith Matt Rutledge, head honcho of Meh, which drew 147 percent of its Kickstarter goal in a mere four days. Mr Rutledge is also known for creating, um, Woot. And somewhere in the Mehzzanine, I sort of hope there’s a fukubukuro with a silly name.

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We know it wasn’t a pair of socks

In the weird world of women’s wear, the function of an article of clothing is not always immediately recognizable:

While shopping the other day I held up a filmy $300.00 piece of I-don’t-know-what and asked my daughter, “What’s this?”

“IDK,” (she speaks in text) “but it’s marked off 60%.”

“It’s either a skirt or a top,” I say with great confidence.

“No, it’s a dress!” She shows me the little bralette insert at the top.

Well, I’ll be damned. In addition to the price, manufacturers should include the type of clothing and how to wear it — you know, skirt, top, dress, pants. Wear with buttons in back — something like that.

Close as I’ve seen to that was the Woot Shirt instruction: “Not to be used as pants.”

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A caricature, not a copy

Reader “canadienne” kindly dropped this story into a comment, and I’m pushing it up here because — well, because it sounds so freaking weird:

If you think your photocopier is producing exact duplicates of your documents, you might want to double-check — some popular Xerox scanners and photocopiers change text and numbers documents scanned and copied under the “normal” quality setting.

The “character substitution issue” might occur with “lower quality and resolution settings” — which are labelled “normal” quality on Xerox machines — confirmed Francis Tse, principal engineer for Xerox, in a blog post Tuesday, several days after German computer science student David Kriesel first noted the problem in a blog post that spread quickly around the internet.

This is evidently the imaging equivalent of auto-correct. And what makes it worse:

Kriesel wrote in a blog post early Tuesday that based on his experiments, using a “higher” quality setting did reduce the errors. However, counterintuitively, it reduced the readability of scanned documents, prompting many people to choose the “normal” setting.

Meanwhile, my crummy Kodak printer/scanner, which I bought from Woot for fifty bucks (plus $5 shipping), gives me nice, clean 300-dpi scans with little effort. Admittedly, they may take as long as a minute, and I don’t mean a New York minute; but I never have to question whether the output is true to the input.

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Déjà views

Begging for Web traffic is one thing. This, however, is something else:

Yahoo! Answers screen shot: How do I view a webpage repeatedly but make it so the website thinks its my first time?

I wonder if this is one of those guys who F5s himself into apoplexy trying to snag a Woot Bag O’ Crap.

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I remember when it used to come in a bag

Random Crap

For instance, here.

(Via Engrish Funny.)

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Seasons change

Lynn feels that her birth month is getting the shaft from publishers of calendars:

I’m usually disappointed with the May calendar picture. My birthday is in May and that makes me feel that the May picture should be the best on the whole calendar but it’s usually not and, most notably, it is almost always less pretty than April. Take this calendar for example. April’s picture is of a lake and lovely multi-colored hills. May’s picture is of a woman hanging laundry. Come on! That’s not fair!

My archives suggest a solution:

[I]n 2007, Woot sold a vast number of “Crappy Calendars” — that’s how they were billed — and during the following year issued Replacement Art which you could print out and then paste over the “pretty but very boring” picture in the original product.

With that in mind, here’s a possibly-less-boring picture of a woman hanging laundry, an 1887 painting by Camille Pissaro (1830-1903), which she may want to paste over the original.

Woman Hanging Laundry by Camille Pissaro

Feel free to click to embiggen.

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Still a jump ahead

In the spring, I told you about Michelin’s Smart Jumper Cables, which incorporate a sensor to see which clamp is where and adjust the polarity accordingly, thereby making it impossible for you to hose up your electrical system by hooking them up backwards.

If you saw and thought “I want,” now you can get. Amazon carries them at around $27, which is a third off the $40 list, but just for today, they’re on Woot for $12.99 plus the usual $5 shipping.

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Next: Bag O’Crap Prime

Woot CEO Matt Rutledge, on being acquired by Amazon:

[W]e plan to continue to run Woot the way we have always run Woot — with a wall of ideas and a dartboard. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are simply adding one person to the organizational hierarchy, except that one person will just happen to be a billion-dollar company that could buy and sell each and every one of you like you were office furniture. Nevertheless, don’t worry that our culture will suddenly take a leap forward and become cutting-edge. We’re still going to be the same old bottom-feeders our customers and readers have come to know and love, and each and every one of their pre-written insult macros will still be just as valid in a week, two weeks, or even next year. For Woot, our vision remains the same: somehow earning a living on snarky commentary and junk.

And in case you didn’t get it the first time:

Woot and all our various sites will continue to be an independently operated company full of horrible, useless products and an untalented jerkface writing staff, same as it ever was.

Inasmuch as Amazon has thus far failed to ruin Zappos.com, I suspect we don’t have a lot to worry about, Woot-wise.

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Let there be crap (5)

From a Woot Bag O’ Crap, 26 May:

1 Olive Green Wine Bag (holds up to four bottles) [$5.00]
1 Kittrich Officially Licensed NBA Playing Cards (with New Jersey Nets logo) [$3.98]
1 Powerful Greetings Disney Winnie-the-Pooh 4 AA Battery Gift Pack [$9.99]
6 Digital Blue Cinderella Director Pack Software for Disney Flix Video Cam [$89.94]

Total crap: $108.91

Total price: $3 (plus $5 shipping)

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A series of tubes

Dallas-based retailer Woot.com is not, as a general rule, your most reliable source for sharp social commentary, but once in a while something comes up in a product pitch that’s worth mentioning.

For instance, this:

Television takes a lot of grief, have you noticed? “Television is poisoning politics!” “Television is coarsening the culture!” “Television is making our children stupid!” (The next time you hear someone say that last one, take a good look at her and evaluate whether her kids’ stupidity might not have a genetic component.)

And then there are those people who are always telling you they don’t have one. “Oh, I don’t watch television,” they say, as if they’re living some monastic life of the mind, and spend their free time sitting quietly, reading Herodotus in the original Greek, or listening to the birds and learning their songs, when really they just mean they watch all the same crap as you, but on Hulu.

Let’s put the brakes on this disdain train and remember some of the wonderful things television has given us: The ability to watch events unfold live all over the world. A forum for nationwide debate and exchange of ideas. Pamela Anderson in a swimsuit, running in slow motion.

Incidentally, the product being pitched was a small (22-inch) Vizio LCD HDTV. I own a similar set in a slightly smaller size — for which I paid $80 more, now that I think about it — and it’s been a gem.

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Let there be crap (4)

From Santa’s Sack O’ Crap, 25 December:

2 Sanford PhD mechanical pencils [$17.58]
1 LG Bluetooth Stereo Headset HBS-250 [$117.99]
1 Belkin Zipper Case for XM Xpress [$19.99]
1 GFM Digital Camera and Camcorder [$179.99]
1 Décor Digital Picture Frame [$69.99]

Total crap: $405.54

Total price: $3 (plus $5 shipping)

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Crap for the holidays

You just can’t beat it.

And yes, I scored some of my own.

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Not quite the usual Bag O’ Crap

This is Ché Guevara’s granddaughter Lydia, with a literal Bandolier of Carrots, which she did not get from Woot.

Bandolier of Carrots

This image of Lydia Guevara, twenty-four, will be appearing in a PETA campaign in South America.

(Found at Armed and Dangerous, where Eric S. Raymond has some highly-appropriate commentary on the subject.)

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Finally, some free-market medicine

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O wicked Woot!

Their fifth-anniversary promotion is even more devious than usual.

Today’s item is a real-life replica of the infamous Woot-Off Lights that appear on the screen during the infamous Woot-Off. (It runs on a couple of LED bulbs and plugs into any convenient, or inconvenient, USB port.) The price is $3 (plus $5 shipping), about what you’d spend for a Bag O’Crap, were they being offered.

But here’s the twist: one out of every ten buyers of the lights will be sent an actual Browsing of Castoffs. And the selection is randomized as follows: if the last digit of your order number matches the last digit before the decimal point of the Dow Jones Industrial Average at closing Monday, in addition to the crappy lights, you get crap.

Historically, a 10-percent chance is better than I’ve been getting when vying for a Battery of Clamshells. The trick, though, is actually to get the lights in the first place: it took about twenty minutes to get the order through, albeit without the usual system glitches.

(Disclosure: I already have a set of these damn lights.)

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All this crap looks the same

Oh, wait. No, it doesn’t.

Come to think of it, neither does this.

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Well, that’s a first

I got through a Woot-Off without actually buying anything. (Okay, I came close once.)

Didn’t even try for the Barrage of Criticism.

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Cold crucible

The blessed fog of forgetfulness has settled over most of the therapy sessions I had in the late 1980s, though I haven’t yet cleared out all the memories about that one afternoon with the Holtzman inkblots, ostensibly an improvement over the workaday Rorschachs. Think “frustration coming to a sudden boil” — and a story very much like the story of this T-shirt design at Woot:

The Snowflakes Are Whiter on the Other Side

The irony could’ve killed him, if the boredom didn’t get him first. Here he was, a “snowman” in a “snow globe” full of “snow”, and he’d never touched real snow in his life. He’d never know how it feels on his plastic skin. He’d never construct a stalwart snow fort, or whiz a lethal snowball through the air, or catch the lacy flakes on his tongue. All he could do was watch it fall. And wonder. And wish someone would come by and shake his globe, just so he could pretend for a moment that a blizzard raged around him as powerful as the one inside him.

The mere fact that I could see something like that in an amorphous blob of whatever suggested, to me and maybe to the therapist, that I was seriously screwed.

This does not mean, incidentally, that I am today frivolously screwed.

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Not what they mean by cheap dates

Lynn figures that free calendars are pretty much worth the price:

I don’t expect free calendars to be especially attractive. My dentist always gives out free calendars that have photos of perfectly manicured formal gardens. Pretty but very boring. All the pictures look the same. I’ve never taken one. Some people say, “Why would you pay for a calendar when you can get them for free?” I say, why settle for free calendars when, for around 10 to 15 dollars you can have art on your wall all year?

Like, maybe, Art Frahm.

I’ve seen this issue addressed only once: in 2007, Woot sold a vast number of “Crappy Calendars” — that’s how they were billed — and during the following year issued Replacement Art which you could print out and then paste over the “pretty but very boring” picture in the original product.

Me, I’m waiting for my insurance man to cough up the usual Photos of Classic Cars calendar, as he has the past three years — or, lacking that, I’ll dig through the archives for a 1981 calendar. Calendar buffs will note that 2009 follows the same pattern as 1981, except that REO Speedwagon isn’t on the radio every 45 minutes.

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Nor does it rattle

My gaming credentials are nil, but one day I picked up a fairly-spendy Razer Copperhead mouse, which is now the official pointing device of my work box. (One advantage of being in IT: we get to customize our machines in any way that doesn’t actually impair production.) It was a delight, its price notwithstanding, and I decided that next time I caught one on Woot, I would buy another.

Well, I didn’t catch a Copperhead, but I did snag a Diamondback 3G, which apparently is the next model down, and it’s been pressed into service on my desktop at home. These are fabulous meece, and I am not about to mention that Trini has been telling me so for more than a year now.

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Let there be crap (3)

For my third Woot Bag O’Crap, this is the take (prices where not known set to arbitrary $5):

1 Lowepro Ridge 10 Digital Camera Bag [$10.00]
4 iGo Universal Auto Power Adapter (not including tips) [$119.96]
1 Wristlinx X33X1F 2-Way Radio Wrist Watch (set of two) [$44.95]
1 Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum Porcelain Hinged Box [$9.99]
1 OEM Dell (by ATI) TV PCI card with DVI and S-Video Output (used, does not include VGA) [$5.00]
1 Mystery auto power cord with 5-female connector [$5.00]
1 Kodak Rechargeable Digital Camera Battery KLIC-7003 [$29.95]

Total $224.85

(Previous crap here and here. More crap revelations at BagsOfCrap.com.)

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Cheez en bouteille

Recent Woot contest:

Show us a label for a wine marketed by another tech or web company.

I’m not quite sure this met the strictest standards for entry, but it was my favorite:

Lolcat wine labels

Although you really should see the whole thing in its full glory.

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A tankless job

One item I would never have expected in a Woot-Off is a water heater, fercryingoutloud, but there it was, a little twenty-pound box that hangs on the wall and promises to keep you warm in the shower.

I wasn’t in the market — I’d replaced the water heater here last year — but I did pay attention to this little blurb in larger-than-fine print:

Not recommended in climates where average ground water temperature is less than 60°F. This unit draws 80 amps, please check your service panel for compatibility.

My gas water tank, of course, draws no amps. I concluded that this thing could melt down my 100-amp wiring in no time if I persist in such antisocial activities as turning on the lights. And what about that ground-water temperature? This document [link goes to PDF file] from the Office of Scientific & Technical Information had a tidy little map of such things, used for heat-pump analysis, and it appears the southern half of Oklahoma has a ground-water temperature averaging 62°F; the 57°F line more or less bisects Kansas. Florida and south Texas get into the 70s, while much of the Rust Belt is in the upper 40s and low 50s. Obviously this gizmo isn’t for everyone, though they did sell fifty of them in about twelve minutes. Inexplicably, there were buyers in Nebraska and South Dakota, way out of the 60-degree range; perhaps they’re buying them as backup systems.

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How sweet the sound

Received in the ol’ inbox:

Thank you for your purchase.

Your order number [redacted] for 3 Random Crap has been received by Woot on 11/20/2008 and your credit card has been charged $8.00.

Which, for the uninitiated, is $1 per Crap plus $5 shipping.

(Previously-received crap here and here. Explanation of What It All Means here.)

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Down at the Woot trough

When you get an account at Woot, you’re offered (perfunctorily) their newsletter, which comes out basically when they get around to it. And the edition that arrived last night came with this bit of whimsy:

WOOT, INC. INTERNAL EMAIL
STAFF EYES ONLY

Attention Woot employees –

We are now entering the final phase of preparations for the Woot-Off planned for midnight tonight. This is when we depart from our usual deal-a-day model and sell one product after another, offering a new deal as soon as the previous one sells out. For some reason, Woot members like [insert user name here] continue to have high expectations for this event. We must make every effort to ensure that they feel disappointed and betrayed.

It never occurred to me, given Woot’s propensity to yank their customers’ chains, that this meant they were actually going to have a Woot-Off. But they were, and they did.

Now I’m worried about this bit, not even concealed in this actual product listing:

Friday, 4:20 PM
Jason T.: Pretty good Woot-Off, I guess.
Matthew N.: Well, I’m steppin’ out, y’all. Somebody get that Saitek P2600 Rumble Force with FPS Gamepad, would ya? Talk to you dirtbags on Monday, most likely.

Had it been any time other than 4:20, I’d have to believe they were going to stretch this thing to two and a half freaking days.

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Existence, meet bane

I have grumbled at length about the dumber members of our customer base, who by the usual reckoning bring in 15 percent of the revenue and cause 85 percent of the extra work.

This ratio holds for pretty much any form of commerce, I suspect, but I have reason to believe that this particular goober fighting with Woot is also one of the goobers we must endure — the level of doofusness is that high:

Millard is mad at deal-a-day site Woot because he bought a black iPod from them and it came with white headphones. He demands black headphones.

Millard does not care that Apple only makes white ones (unless you’re getting special U2 iPods, which this wasn’t). Now he wants Woot to pay for the black headphones he was “forced” to buy so they would match. It was very important to both him and his daughter, for whom the iPod was a birthday gift, that the headphones and iPod matched.

It evidently wasn’t very important to him to look at the farging picture on the page offering the iPod; had he clicked on the picture he would have seen exactly what phones were offered. This is a standard Woot procedure. But hey, that would have required effort (to learn how Woot works) and initiative (to go beyond “I Want”), neither of which is characteristic of these, um, characters.

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Schadenfreude as a marketing strategy

Hey, it’s worked for Woot. Founder Matt Rutledge explains:

Tens of thousands of folks signed up in the first month or two Woot was established, many to observe the expected other shoe to drop and laugh at the victims. However, in month two we passed 5,000 actual customers who bought something and it started to become fun to participate (in between the server crashes). Incredibly the crude we’ll-do-this-as-a-hobby store that we set up off to the side of our wholesale business was gaining attention and traction. The NY Times and bunches of other media dropped in and things really picked up from there.

Then again, Firefox (2.0.0.16) still apparently considers Woot slightly disreputable: the word spelled that way triggers the spellcheck alarm. This doesn’t happen with “w00t!”

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Snaking along the screen

On occasion, Woot has offered items from the Razer line of meece, and I bought one as a backup for home use: whichever failed first, the Logitech that travels with the notebook or the Microsoft on the big box, would be duly replaced by the Razer. Neither of them has given me the slightest bit of grief, but the Microsoft mouse on the work box eventually ground its innards into slag, and Trini fished a mouse out of somewhere or other to fill in. “It’s probably not too good,” she said, and she was being generous; it was terrible, and nowhere on the applet to set its double-click speed was there a setting at which it was happy.

So I brought forth the Razer, from their Copperhead line in “Anarchy Red.” It is a fearsomely precise device, and its capabilities as a pointer are well beyond my ability to point with it — it comes with five preset “profiles,” depending on your needs, and I wound up taking one of the slower ones. If this sounds to you like driving an Indy car to Burger King, well, so be it, but I’d rather have a good product that’s not being stressed rather than an inferior product that’s being worked beyond its design capacity. If you’re a Serious Gamer, which I am not, your mileage may vary.

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