Monday, May 31, 2010

Paying for Bags: Maybe a Good Idea?

It's a truism: air travel ain't fun.

Perhaps a couple of decades ago or so, flying was a relatively pleasant experience. Back then, security checks were generally quick and easy, packing whatever you wanted was commonplace, and need a pack of playing cards? well the airline often provided them (and newspapers, and blankets, and peanuts...) at no charge.

Now, you have to get to the airport at least an hour early in order to ensure you can get through the security line on tine, many airlines charge you for checking your bags, and playing cards?, well, you're lucky if you get a morsel of food for free, let alone 52 pieces of glossed paper with markings on them for a time killing game of rummy.

One positive side effect of all this, however, is that, scientifically speaking, flying lighter helps reduce the expense of fuel and thus making the trip more efficient. It reasons to say that every ounce of weight that is kept off the plane means the less amount of fuel that is needed to keep the plane flying. Pack less, save fuel.

As consumers, we have to keep in mind that despite the annoyance of paying for bag fees, perhaps we're making a small dent in the amount of fuel being burned. And burning less fuel is always a good thing...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cookie Wars

I have a soft spot, sweet tooth, special love, whatever you want to call it, for chocolate chip cookies. I generally eat them at least once a day.
Over the past couple of years I've gone back and forth in trying to find just the right cookie that accomplishes multiple personal goals. When I buy cookies, I look for ones that are:
  • Affordable: I'm not a cookie snob, per se, just looking for something I can enjoy. I am, however, always interested in saving money when I can, so I don't necessarily need to go with the high end luxury brands

  • Tasty: Again, basic chocolate chip cookies satisfy me just as much as the fancier brands, so as long as the cookies taste good, I'm on board.

  • Packaged Properly: This has been the Holy Grail of my search. I hate having to buy cookies that come in plastic cartons that are not recyclable. It's just such a waste, environmentally speaking and it's something that I would like to avoid where possible.

Now for my thoughts on a few of the major brands that can be found in most markets...

Nabisco's Chips Ahoy and Keebler's Chips Deluxe, among others, are guilty of having wasteful packaging. For each brand, a thin plastic sleeve surrounds a rigid plastic carton. Quite shameful. It's unfortunate, too, because I happen to enjoy both brands of cookies, and they both fall on the cheaper end of the cookie spectrum (I think Chips Deluxe may be the cheapest of all major brands), but I just don't want to have to live with the guilt of throwing away packaging that will sit in a landfill for thousands of years just so I can get my sugar fix.

Fortunately, I have found two options that are affordable, tasty, and packaged properly:

  1. Famous Amos: These cookies come in a cardboard, recyclable (or at least biodegradable) box and a foil bag which is at least tolerable. The cookies are really good, and the price is a bit higher than Chips Deluxe and Chips Ahoy, but not dramatically so.

  2. Trader Joe's Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies: Though I don't necessarily think these are the best tasting of all the cookie options, they are satisfying, they don't break the bank, and they come in a recyclable (and/or reusable) plastic bowl, which is a pretty good alternative to the non-recyclable packaging mentioned earlier.
So if you're like me... a cookie lover with a conscience(?)... I'd suggest Famous Amos and Trader Joe's brand cookies. But if you have any feedback about other brands that meet these criteria that I should try out, feel free to drop a comment. That'd be sweet!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's Been a While

So... it's been a while since I last put fingers to keyboard and uploaded my thoughts for the world (or at least a few people, maybe) to see. Not sure why I took the hiatus... perhaps the creative side of my brain just shriveled up around the end of 2009, or, more likely, perhaps with a new baby in the house, I've decided to focus more time on him.

But whatever the case, I'm back. At least for now.

It's also been a while since I shopped at LL Bean. Admittedly, I am a big fan of this store, but I haven't bought much from them in the past couple of years because I felt that their selection has gone a little flat. Seems like the same stuff year in and year out. Nice clothes and other goodies, all of great quality, but not much in the way of new and exciting.

I decided yesterday to stop by my local LL Bean store to check things out and do some shopping. But not only that, I brought back two long sleeve shirts that I bought there at least a couple of years ago because both shirts developed holes in them from wear and tear. The store took them back, no questions asked, and I got store credit in exchange.

That's really tremendous. Those shirts didn't owe me anything, though I did find it quite odd that they both gave out around the same time. At any rate, I am very appreciative that LL Bean took them back and gave me credit towards my purchase yesterday, which wound up covering about half of what I spent on new clothes. That, my friends, is true customer service and an honorable way of doing business, and I will certainly continue to stop by in the future. Hopefully it won't be a long while till the next time...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kudos to HP

After months of informal searching for a new laptop to replace my dying desktop, I finally came across a great price on a laptop, courtesy of Office Depot. Spending a few hundred bucks on anything will almost certainly cause sticker shock, but I must say, I'm quite pleased with my HP G60-530US laptop.

But there's another reason I'm quite happy with HP: packaging.

Yes, packaging. When I opened up my laptop from the cardboard box, I expected to find the laptop surrounded by foam packaging. Instead, I was treated to rigid cardboard. Recyclable cardboard. As a "treehugger" at heart, this really made my day!

Typically, when a product needs to be kept secure in a box, foam is, unfortunately, the go-to packaging protection. So seeing cardboard surrounding my new laptop was a pleasant surprise.

Otherwise, there was only a small amount of plastic used to protect the charging cord. Not bad.

Thank you HP, not only for a great laptop but for your determination in using recyclable cardboard for your packaging. This subtle distinction did not go unnoticed by this consumer.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Attention College Grads: Ignore the Job Reports!

I remember back when I was in college (give or take, oh, about 10 years ago), I would read reports that projected which occupations would be the fastest growing over the next few years. These reports still pop up regularly today, with predictions and statistics and dialogue about which jobs will be most highly in demand. Problem is, with the nature of a dynamic economy that we have, I can't see how it's possible to predict which jobs will be hot even just a couple of years out.

Take, for instance, this story by the Associated Press that was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The gist of the article is that there is now a glut of teachers looking to get jobs in schools across the country, when just a few years ago a shortage of teachers was predicted. Whoops.

In my mind, all of the demographic predictions, economic analyses, and expert opinions can't give a definite answer as to which careers will be in most need in a few years. I think college students and recent grads, heck, even seasoned workers, need to determine what they want to do and go out and do it and do it the best they can, rather than trying to follow these ever-changing predictions and simply trying to ride the next wave of hot jobs.

Think about how many people wanted to be a real estate agent just a few years ago. Now it's one of the most challenging fields to get started in due to the housing crunch. Jobs in "green technology" were pretty much unheard of just a few years ago, now there seems to be a strong growth in these positions. And consider how many law school students are graduating and can't get jobs since law firms are suffering as spending on legal matters has dropped precipitously.

In a nutshell, the folks producing these job-prediction outlooks should get new jobs...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Internet Annoy-vertising on

I have been a long time reader of the Philadelphia Inquirer to keep in touch with Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey news. For a couple of years I read the hard copy of the paper, but gradually grew weary of using all of that paper day in and day out. So I have since become a daily peruser of thenewspaper's online portal,, which is much more environmentally friendly, and free for anybody to read, which is also nice.

It's a widely known fact that newspapers are bleeding subscribers due to the ease and efficiency of the Internet and its virtually infinite number of news sources. And it's also widely known that newspapers are having a difficult time making a profit in this changing world of news production.

So I empathize with the fact that newspapers are looking for new, creative ways to make money. But two of the Inquirer's latest undertakings on, are quite annoying.

First off, when you click on to, you don't realize it, but a pop-under ad often sneaks behind your browser. This in and of itself is annoying, though a fairly common practice across the internet, unfortunately. I frequently get ads from Netflix, for example, in this manner, and promptly ignore them. But the more annoying fact about these pop-unders are that they consist of a list of low rate ads, the likes of which you might see on Facebook's platform. Here's an example of one recent ad (out of six) that popped up:

'See How a Mom Drops 53Lbs!'

See how a mom of 3 drops 53lbs by obeying this 1 old rule... Learn more [link]

[ad accompanied by a cropped photo of a thin woman's belly exposed between tight white shirt and tight jeans]

My suggestion: at least provide some ads of value if you're going to sneak them in there. Perhaps post ads for local houses for sale, sporting event tickets, or other specialized deals, rather than ads trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator of internet surfers.

The other flustering thing that does revolves around their sports articles. Click on a link to an article about, say, the Philadelphia Eagles' next game, and a video automatically starts playing when the page opens up. Most of these videos start with a commercial and then contain generic clips or photos of recent games. The main business page also does something similar when clicking on that page. I think it's a sensible idea to have videos incorporated into the site, but I would prefer them to start only when I click on them, and also make the commercials less intrusive.

I do hope that the Inquirer and are able to find a way to earn a profit off of their news production, I just hope that they can find a more user-friendly way of appealing to loyal readers by avoiding intrusive ads and videos. Just my 2 cents.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's Missing at Supermarkets?

Supermarkets have become a scientifically formulated masterpiece in the art of getting more people to spend more money.

Aisles are arranged in such a way that you are directed past oodles of products you may never need, just to get a bottle of milk. But perhaps, just perhaps, you see something that you might like, and you decide to buy it, even though that's not what you came to the store for.

Endcaps promote products to seem like they're on sale, even though they may not be; but the sheer appeal of that endcap entices shoppers to at least take a look, and at most buy 10 whatever it is that's being promoted.

Cheaper versions of a particular item are often placed on the bottom shelf where people don't look as frequently, and instead go for the higher priced item in the middle.

And so on and so forth.

But I think that anybody who has ever shopped at a supermarket on a Sunday morning will tell you about how aggravating it is to check out and pay for all this food you've dumped in your cart. There are 10 check out lines that are up and running, but each line has six people in it and each person has a cart full of Doritos, string cheese, and marshmallows that all need to be unloaded, scanned, bagged, and reloaded into the cart. Can't get much more inefficient.

So couldn't there be a way to make this process more efficient and build in a register right in the shopping cart? That way, you grab your box of Count Chocula, scan it, and drop it into your cart. Then, when you're finished, you roll up to the front register, pay your bill, bag your goods, and you're off.

Well, that's my simplistic, unrefined idea. Whether it's doable or not, I don't know. But the fact is that an otherwise satisfactory shopping experience can be totally destroyed by standing in line for 10 minutes just to have the honor of handing over your money to someone else. In other words, it's an aggravating way to end your pleasant morning.

Streamline the check out process, make people happy, make more money. That's my suggestion. Now go enjoy your Twinkies.