Archive for the ‘Consumer Activism Hall of Fame’ Category

Das Keyboard comes from behind for the win

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

I recently received a package from Metadot, the creators of Das Keyboard. It contained:

T-shirt, magnet, note pads, note of apology, daskeyboard Space Pen, daskeyboard pens

Here’s what the enclosed note says:

Jonathan, We're sorry we messed up! Please accept these goodies as our thank you for being honest and patient with us. Das Keyboard

The day before, I’d received another package from them, containing a brand new Das Keyboard.

From the “We’re sorry we messed up!” you might suspect that there’s a less positive back story leading up to the seemingly happy ending, and you’d be correct. But I told the ending first for one simple reason: what Metadot did at the end made up for everything that came before, in a way that most companies nowadays just don’t seem to understand. Yes, they made a mistake (quite a few of them, actually), but they acknowledged and apologized for it, they didn’t make excuses, they fixed it, and they went the extra mile to show they were sorry.

Here’s the whole, long story… (more…)

UPDATED: Awesome flash charger for portable device power on the road

Monday, June 24th, 2013

UPDATE [2013-07-31]: I have withdrawn my recommendation for No More Rack, and I discourage you from patronizing them.

It’s rare for me to be so pleased with a particular merchant that I feel compelled to rave about them on my blog, and even rarer for me to feel that way about a particular product, but now is one of those times.

I recently spend more than $20 on a flash charger from CVS, which (a) turned out to hold only 500mAh of power, which is a pittance, and (b) worse, turned out not to be able to hold a charge for more than a few days when not in use. This was obviously not acceptable!

Then I saw an ad in my Facebook feed (yeah, I know they’re incredibly annoying, but surprise! sometimes they actually advertise things you want) for a 2600mAh flash charger from No More Rack. I bought it, and I just had the opportunity to use it for the first time, and boy, does it deliver the goods.

I was on a five-hour bus ride from NYC to Boston (traffic! ugh) and the charging outlets weren’t working. I was down to less than 30% charge left on my phone. I had nothing else to occupy myself, and there was no way the phone was going to make it all the way to Boston with constant use. I whipped out the flash charger, and it was able to bring the charge on my phone up to more than 90% while I was streaming Netflix. That’s a lot of power in a little device.

Seriously, if you’re ever on the road worrying about if your phone or tablet battery is going to make it, and you don’t want to lug around a big charging brick, this is the deal for you. And it’s a great deal! You won’t find a comparable charger for less anywhere else.

If you’re interested, go to No More Rack and search for “2600mAh Flash charger” to find it.

Rec: BlueRigger

Friday, March 15th, 2013

I recently bought a Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter from BlueRigger, because I wanted to use a wireless headset on my desktop computer at home, and it doesn’t have Bluetooth built in. It didn’t quite work… I was able to listen to music just fine on my headset, but when I tried to switch it into telephony mode (i.e., activate the microphone), it stopped working.

I emailed BlueRigger about the problem. They worked with me aggressively to find a solution to the problem. Eventually, they concluded that the Bluetooth 4.0 adapter, which has a relatively new chipset in it, is incompatible with Linux, but an older version of the same product is fully Linux-compatible. So they sent me one for free, and indeed it fixed the problem.

Well done, BlueRigger.


Rec: Colonial Shoe Repair in Boston, MA

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

We love A-Z Auto Center

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I want to give a loud shout-out to our favorite auto-body shop and service station, A-Z Auto Center in Brighton, MA.

My wife and I have used them numerous times for many different services, including routine maintenance (e.g., oil and filter), auto-body work, repairing a broken automatic minivan door, and tire repair and replacement.

In all cases they have been friendly, responsive, and affordable and have delivered high-quality work on time.

Here are two examples of how great they are:

1. We needed a couple of body panels repaired and repainted after someone borrowing our minivan ran it into the side of his garage door (d’oh!). Stadium Auto Body said that all of the damaged panels would have to be replaced and gave us an estimate of $2,400. A-Z repaired the existing panels — no replacement parts needed — for only $860. While they were at it, they detailed the interior of the minivan at no extra charge!

2. Herb Chambers Honda said it would cost $400 to fix one of our automatic minivan doors, which was repeatedly sticking when we tried to open or close it. A-Z did the repair for only $169.

In all of our dealings with A-Z, it has felt like they were being completely honest and up-front with us. Not once have we gotten that unpleasant feeling, so common with car-repair places, that they were trying to jack up the price of a repair or sell us something we didn’t need. In short, these guys are great, and we heartily recommend them!


Saturday, July 24th, 2010

(click for a larger view)

Our family is celebrating my oldest daughter’s bat mitzvah in Israel this summer in a somewhat non-traditional way. She chose the David and Goliath story as the text for her bat mitzvah study project, and she will be giving a presentation on what she has learned followed by a tour of the Elah Valley, where the battle took place. You don’t take a busload of people into the Judean hills in the middle of the summer without having enough water for everyone, and we decided a neat way to accomplish that would be to give souvenir water bottles to our guests.

The design to be printed on the bottles was produced by Deb Houben, who also did our invitations. She’s a fabulous artist and a fabulous graphic designer, and if you need some design work done, you should definitely drop her a line (more info here).

We turned to Google, of course, to find a company to produce the water bottles for us. We ended up at, which has a huge selection of all different kinds of water bottles at reasonable prices and with easy, straightforward ordering. We ordered our bottles from them after business hours on July 15, and they arrived July 23. I was able to easily watch their progress of our order through a tracking page on their Web site. The end result is exactly what we wanted.


JanSport inaugurated into the Consumer Activism Hall of Fame

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Recently, the JanSport backpack I’ve been using for many years broke — the pull tab broke off of one of the zippers.

JanSport packs have a lifetime warranty.  Following the instructions on the JanSport Web site, I sent the pack in for repair or replacement.  The Web site promised a turnaround time of about two weeks.

About a week and a half later, I got this amusing postcard in the mail:


Zipcar! w00t!

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Join Zipcar and get $25 in free driving!I recently joined Zipcar.  I have been incredibly impressed in all of my dealings with them.  Some examples…

Like just about every other company nowadays, Zipcar has a form on their Web site you can use to send them a message.  However, unlike most other companies, they also publish an actual email address you can use to contact them, whether you’re a customer that.  And unlike just about every large company in the world, real people actually read and respond to those messages in a timely fashion.

You can also reach them on the phone.  It’s easy to get through to a real person, and when you do, the person you’re talking to is actually able to help you. What a concept!

I discovered shortly after joining that if I had enrolled as an MIT alumnus, the application fee would have been waived and the annual membership fee cut in half.  I sent them email and asked: could I switch to the MIT alumni plan; could they refund my application fee; and could they refund half of my original membership fee?  I expected the answers to be no, no and no, or at best yes, no and no, but I received a response less than an hour later indicating that my account had been updated and a credit would appear in the next few days on my credit card for the application fee and half of the membership fee.

I sent some suggestions to them by email about car features, and I got back a detailed response (>1000 words!).  Much of it was explanations of why some of my suggestions were unworkable, but the person who responded took the time to explain why they were unworkable in a way that made perfect sense, rather than just ignoring me or sending a generic “we will take your suggestions into consideration.”

These examples make it obvious that Zipcar is one of the few large companies nowadays who actually understand how to provide exemplary customer service.  On top of all that, of course, is the fact that the service they’re providing is incredibly cool!

P.S. If you’re not a Zipcar member and you want to try it out, email me and I’ll send you a referral, and we’ll both get $25 in free driving!

Product recommendation: Skip Hop’s “Pronto” diaper changing kit

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Much of what I attempt to pass off as useful content on my blog is criticism of products and companies that, in my opinion, just don’t measure up.  I have very high standards, which means that I’m often disappointed.  However, it also means that when I’m happy with a product and recommend it, you should sit up and pay attention. :-)

A nifty little item that my wife bought a few years ago, Skip Hop’s “Pronto” diaper changing kit in denim, has turned out to be such an amazingly useful and high-quality product that I feel I must recommend it to others.

In a nutshell, the pronto gives you a large, comfortable changing pad that can be wiped clean; a container for wipes; pockets for wipes, diapers, cream, etc. as well as extra pockets for pacifiers, keys, wallet, phone, or whatever; a nice little carrying handle; and a clip-on strap you can put around your wrist or hang on your stroller, all in a nifty little package that rolls up and fastens closed easily.

Diaper bags wear out, but this one just doesn’t seem to.  We’ve had it for several years, and it looks as new as the day we got it.  The changing pad hasn’t cracked, faded or become discolored, all of the pockets and zippers are intact, and not a single stitch of the sewing that holds everything together has become undone.  We did have to replace the wipes container when one of its hinges broke, but this doesn’t bother me at all, considering that I keep a stash of several such containers because their nature is to get lost or break all the time.

If you’re at the stage in parenthood where a huge diaper bag is necessary to carry all the items you consider essential when you go out with baby, then the Pronto isn’t for you.  But if, like us, you can sometimes make do with a few diapers, some wipes and a changing pad, then I can’t recommend this product enough.

I haven’t tried any of Skip Hop’s other products, but since small companies tend maintain a similar level of quality throughout their product line, I suspect that their other stuff is top-of-the-line as well.

Kudos to Shaw’s

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Apparently it’s a good week for customer service.  Following up on my compliment to CVS, I also want to single out the Shaw’s at 1065 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.  Here’s the letter I sent them through their Web site:


I want to commend the performance of the cashier, [name elided], who rang up my groceries last night.

I bought three bags of pizza dough.  While ringing up my groceries, he checked each of the bags carefully and noticed that there was some discoloration in the dough in one of them.  He brought this to my attention, and I was able to go back to the refrigerated case and get a replacement.

When I got back to the checkout aisle, I noticed that he was checking my eggs to make sure that none of them were broken.

I was impressed by, and grateful for, [name elided]‘s conscientiousness.