About 10 years ago, I bought my first real TV… an LG 37″ Flat screen. Back then, this 37″ cost $1500! Not many amazing modern features on it, but still cutting edge enough for me, and more importantly, a bit sentimental to me as well.

2 weeks ago, the power light started flashing and the TV refused to come on. Yeah I coulda chucked it and bought a modern 50″ for $300, but as I said, it holds some sentimental value to me… and even if not for TV, it certainly has high value as a PC or Play Station Monitor!

Plus I’m a curious, cheap bastard!

So, I took it apart and checked the power supply board… and look what I found! Three, BIG, FAT, LEAKING Capacitors! You can tell that they’re bad when the top domes over and has black gunk leaking from it!

A quick trip to ebay, and I was able to buy a bag of “upgraded” caps, for $5, which came in two days.

It took about 5 minutes to solder in the replacements, using my ass kicking soldering iron station that I told everyone about last week. And Viola… My effing TV works again!

After 10 years of service, this LG owes me nothing… But that little droid and I have been through a lot together, so I’m glad that I was able to give him life once more.

Beer-N-Cheese w/ Beef & Bacon

Please excuse the dark pictures because I was hiding from my boss in the porta-potty

If you’re like me, then you eat food, and if so, then you’re always looking for something quick and easy, and hopefully not at the YMCA.

It’s pretty hard to find soup that’s any good for you, but I subscribe to the belief that everything is bad for you now, and so on that note, this soup isn’t as bad as a lot of other crap.

I recently went to the store and bought a bunch of these soups, because I drive a tractor around marijuana fields all day, and these cans stand up well to being cooked on the exhaust manifold of a John Deer.

Just be sure to poke a hole in the can if you use my method, or else the can could explode and cause an embarrassing conversation with HR. Anywho…

While perusing the vareyeatie of flavors, I spotted this gem, and of course, since driving a tractor around pretty much goes hand and hand with beer, it seemed like a good choice.

The can lists one serving as 200 calories, but unless you’re a gerbil, you’ll be going for the whole can and that will earn you 420 calories.

Yes it has salt… OMG if one more nut sack complains about salt in soup…

Anyway… it has 75% of your daily sodium intake, so you may cancel your trip to the local salt lick after you’ve eaten this.

  • 14g of Protein.
  • No Trans fat.
  • Actually tastes like beer.
  • Low cholesterol, sugar, and sat fat.

I also dumped in a bunch of hot chili powder and I loved it. I definitely plan on having a lot more of this soup and I hope that Campbells keeps making it. If you do cook it on your exhaust like I do, I cannot stress enough that hole thing I told you about earlier.

Umm Umm good.

Chapter Three – The final part in our Consumer Awareness Series 

Most of us have already heard the used-car-sales pitch about the little old lady, who only drove the car to church on Sundays. If so, then you might fancy yourself an old pro at spotting fraud… But I guarantee you that you’re not.

Okay, so maybe you can spot a lie, but how are you at forensic, psychological marketing  and magic tricks? Not too good? Well you better get good, because that’s what you’re up against.

By design, deception is much more difficult to catch today. Specialty stores are almost gone, and “Big-Box” stores have taken over… So why does that matter?

Because if you go to a tool store and buy three wrenches, you’re more likely to catch a pricing error, than if you go to Walmart and load two carts with wrenches, deli meats, work boots, HBA, home goods, back-to-school supplies, and pet goldfish.

I can remember the first time that I became fully aware of strategic marketing and the deceptive sales tricks that were taking place in open sight. 

The Big Box Scamola

I was wandering around Target and I came across their video game section. They were broken down into two categories; Arcade Classics and New Releases. Classics were $20 (and in a bin), New Releases were $70 (and locked in a case).

I saw a hot title in the classic bin, so I threw it in the cart and went about my business… I went through the checkout, got my total, and it sounded a bit high. I checked the receipt a few times, found out that the game wasn’t $20, it was $70! There was a growing-impatient-crowd in line behind me, so I felt pressured to buy it anyway.

When I later reflected on what had occurred, it struck me…

“Everyone in here is probably buying at least 20 items and piling them into the cart. Then they get up to the register; there are 25 registers, but only 3 of them are open. The lines are long, so everyone is forced to wait, made impatient, and desperate to get out of the store”.

Most people never realize that they just got ripped off, and only a few of the ones who do, would ever be inclined to do anything about it”.

Every time that I returned to the store, I checked for the same trick, and I found it every time… So I started looking for it everywhere else, and I found it everywhere else.

Whenever standing in line at Home Depot; I found that all of the impulse items were strategically priced below $5. I’d pick out the coolest item that I could find, but it never seemed to have a price on it. Naturally, I’d assume that it was similarly priced to the items around it. But when I’d run it through checkout, and it was always priced 2-3 times higher.

Customers are always on their toes when they’re buying a big ticket item, but they completely let their guard down when they’re buying trinkets, and that’s what the sellers are banking on.

You’re not going to get ripped off on a $300 TV, you’re more likely to get tricked out of a buck. Why? Because when I sell you a $300 TV; I have to design a TV, build it, package it, ship it, store it, inventory it, advertise it, sell it, ring it up, and put it in your car. That’s an investment, which returns a very small profit in a competitive market…

But if I trick you out of a buck, that’s a pure profit.

Consider the fact that most consumers wouldn’t waste their time arguing over a buck, and that 5,000 customers a day visit the Big-Box stores. If you took $1 from half of them, that would be $75,000 profit each month.

To put things into perspective, a store would have to sell about 7,000 TV’s to make the same money.

The Shipping and Handling Shamu

Watching an infomercial one night, they went on and on about how their product was the Be-All-End-All, and included a satisfaction guarantee. Then they announced…

“And if you act now, we’ll throw in a second one for FREE! (Just pay separate processing).”

Now I’m thinking to myself… How could it be? How can they give stuff away… and how can they guarantee junk, which will just wind up getting returned?

First, they price it so low that most people won’t bother to return it.

Second, since the majority of the profit is in the separate processing, shipping, and handling, the seller still profits big by the few who go through the agg of returning it.

The “Would you like to Donate” Dickover

One of my all time favorite scams is the sympathy scam.

Most consumers see this one regularly, but they never question it, because the topics are so taboo, that an ethics violation seems unfathomable.

I see it on Facebook every day… A tug-on-your-heart-string tale of cancer, abuse, suicide, animal cruelty… Inevitably followed by the phrase…

I’d like to see how many of my friends will post this, but I know that they won’t. So for those of you that are my TRUE friends, please share this and then type “Done”.

It’s impossible to believe that anyone would use such devastating topics in a scam… But do you really think that someone who’s lacking any ethics, has a line that they won’t cross?

When shopping at Pet Smart one day…

After standing in line with an 80lb bag of cat food for 5 minutes,
I get up to the “single-open-register”. The cashier asks me “would you like to donate $5 to save animals that will be killed if you don’t?”.

I look behind me at the other customers, who are all giving me the beady-eyed “You better do it jack-ass-or-else” look. So I do… And then I wonder, what the Hell, how can this be acceptable?

I started noticing that a lot of other stores were pulling the same stunt, so I sat down and figured it out.

The next time that I returned the store, I get up to the cashier, and she asks the same question. This time I say “NOPE!”. I then turned to the line behind me and said…

“Why would I make a donation through the store, and allow them to get the credit for my money? If I decide to donate, I’ll do it on my own”.

This time, instead of giving me the stink eye… the crowd was enlightened. The store is using your fear of embarrassment by asking you this question when you’re on center stage. Turn the tables on them and enlighten the crowd to the scam at hand.

These stores collect your money, and then write a deductible check to charity at the end of the year for 3 Million dollars. They get treated like royalty… You get sand kicked in your face.

The Unobtainable Warranty Woes

TOOLS!

One of my uncontrollable passions in life. I was always a Bosch and Dewalt man, but years ago, a buddy tells me… Buy Ridgid brand tools, because they give you a lifetime warranty.

Set in my ways and loyal to the core… I have a hard time making the leap, but I finally do, and I’m a pretty happy customer as a result.

But I get home and discover that I have to go through a fairly involved registration process to validate the warranty… It takes a while to do it, and then a month to confirm it, and then the confirmation never comes.

Ever the diligent consumer, I follow up, repeatedly, and after a few weeks, I reach someone at TTi Headquarters. TTi… or Techtronic Industries, is the company that owns;

  • Ridgid Tools
  • Milwaukee Tools
  • Ryobi
  • Hoover
  • Dirt Devil
  • Homelite
  • Oreck…

I explain to them that my registration never works, and they fix them for me, so I’m a happy customer again.

As with most Tradesmen, because I’m so fanatical about brand loyalty, I sell all of my other tools, and I replace them with Ridgid Brand.

In fact, I even go so far as to “not buy” a tool unless Ridgid makes it, and I become the company’s staunchest walking advertisement.

After buying over 100 tools, the registration process never works as it should, which requires me to email them after every single purchase, and then spend weeks tracking the registration. 

Four years later, one of my TTi tools breaks and I need to get it replaced. I figure that my hardcore loyalty has probably earned me some serious cred with them by now, so I’m excited to call up and get my warranty service.

When I do, they ask for a receipt, which is understandable, however…

I explain to the woman, I buy 200 tools every year, and shop at Home Depot twice a week. Your request will require me to sort through thousands of receipts in order to replace a $30 tool.

TTi could’ve cared less, and they found nothing unusual about having an essentially unobtainable warranty… Why essentially? Because if you buy a hammer and then carry the receipt in your pocket, every day for the rest of your life… Then you’re covered.

If I was a Consumer Protection Investigator, and I had an intimate and loyal relationship with this company… and they’re ignoring me, how are they going to treat you?

I escalated my concerns through the company, and I was shunned at every turn. The reps were rude, short, and unconcerned about what I was going through… So I went online and found their Chief Executive Director, Joseph Galli.

His Bio read like St Jude, so I figured that he’d flip when he found out how poorly I was treated. I confidently sent him a certified letter and I awaited his response, but it never came.

For all of my effort, loyalty, and dedication, they didn’t even feel that I’d earned a response.

But in the end… They need me, and I don’t need them.

I started doing some research, and TTI’s own employees post horror stories about their ethics and tactics, so now I’m and educated consumer.

I know what they own, so I know what to avoid now, and most importantly… whether it be on the internet, or during the classes that I teach to the trade unions, I spread the word.

This is your only defense against a corporation.

Todays market is a heartless place. We shop every day, and we’re forced to put faith in merchants, based on the hope that they’ll honor us when we need service, as we did them when they needed our money.

Do your homework… Take names, business cards, pictures… Protect yourself… Expect the worst… Stick to your guns…

Instead of using your $800 PC to hang out on Facebook looking at fart jokes, use it to spread the word about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you don’t do your part, then don’t complain when no one else does either.

Chapter Two  – The 2nd part in our Consumer Awareness Series

When the big gas crunch hit, fuel in this area went up to almost $5 a gallon. As a result, I was frequently asked; “where can I buy the cheapest gas?”. My response was always the same…

Why would you want cheap gas?

I understand wanting a bargain, but at what point does bargain hunting become counter effective? At this point.

Thanks to the craft brew movement, it costs $6 for a beer, which no one complains about, but charge $4 to get to work, and we’re ready to start burning crosses on the lawn.

30 years ago: College was optional, jobs were everywhere, and yet no one had money to drink.

Today: College is mandatory, there are no jobs, and yet the bars are filled with kids drinking $6 beer from a tap.

So what data can we collect from this? Well to start off, what consumers say and what they do, are two different things, and if you think that your empty threats are causing the merchants to shake in their boots, then think again.

We live in a statistic age… You think it’s a Godsend, but it’s the Devil in disguise.

Thanks to Twitter, Snap Chat, Google, and Facebook… (You know, the billion-dollar companies that no one finds suspicious are free) merchants know exactly what you’re up to… and they know it better than you do. I guarantee it.

So stand on your soap box and slam your fist to palm as you rage against the machine! $5 a gallon and you wont pay it! Just remember, thanks to “free apps”, I know that you’re full of crap… and more importantly, so does the government, and so do the manufacturers.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that when fuel was more expensive than it had ever been in history, the number one selling vehicles in America, were giant, gas-guzzling SUV’s.

This sent everyone on a frantic search for discount fuel… and as I mentioned in Chapter One of this series, the industry responded accordingly.

You want cheap fuel, you got it!

So now, rather than continuing to patronize your neighbors Hess Station (as you had been for the last decade, and as your parents did before you), all of the sudden it makes sense to drive 15 miles away, to start buying fuel from guy that looks like he’s probably got dynamite taped to his underwear.

Good plan!

Let’s recap:

  • Thanks to “bend-over” economics, a family car costs $35k.
  • You’re fueling said family car from a questionable source.
  • You drive an extra 15 miles to save 75 cents.
  • The staunchest advocates for this madness are your wife and daughter, both of whom have no problem paying $6 for a double shot, caramel swirl latte, with almond milk, and then peeing it out 30 minutes later.

And the whole country runs with the ball… WTF indeed.

Now, here’s the truth.

  • Octane… The most misunderstood label on any product. Simply put, high octane is good. If a car gets 14 miles to the gallon, requires one annual tune-up, and has a motor life of 190K miles, you can expect it to get two more miles to the gallon, need no annual tune-up, and have a motor life of 240k miles if you run high octane fuel.
  • Most cars have a 12-gallon gas tank, so if cheap gas is $1.75 and good gas is $2.00, then you’re paying an extra $3 a week to protect the thing that’s getting you to work and paying your mortgage… Or in layman’s terms, 10% of what the average 15-year-old girl spends at Starbucks every week.
  • Cars are all computerized now. The computer constantly monitors your car, and it automatically adjusts for performance, economy, and health, as needed. When a fault is detected, the computer waits for the same condition to occur several more cycles, before it compensates for it. So if you switch fuel indiscriminately, your computer will never fine tune your car.
  • Cars are easily capable of getting well more than 50 MPG. Ask any mechanic, and they’ll verify that statement. So why don’t they? Well, because “fear” drives the market place. Talk of war and shortages make consumers quickly disregard sensible buying. But the number one reason that cars get poor mileage is…. We’re stupid enough to allow it.
  • Perhaps most importantly… all failures give notice. If your car holds five quarts of oil, and six have leaked onto the driveway, what should you expect? So If you feel like a dirty whore as you’re sneaking into the unscrupulous part of town to save $3 on gas, then don’t be shocked when the wheels fall off your car.

Find gas that you like, from a station that you like, and go there every time, regardless of what fuel costs.

They’ll have business, so they’ll stay in business. Your computer will automatically adjust for it in order to maximize performance, and best of all, if you ever have an issue, you’ll know where the fuel came from. Plus… since you’ll be a familiar face to the station, they’ll likely help you resolve it.

This wraps up awareness in the series. Stay tuned for deception!

 

Style? Sour Tripel
ABV? 9.5%
Serving temp? Average fridge temp

Appearance?
About 1 inch of white head. Nice, golden colour.

Nose?
An initial smell of a lemon/lime soda like 7-up followed by the typical tart smell of a Brett brewed beer.

Mouth feel?
Nothing too out of place here. Smells like a typical, medium bodied ale to me.

Taste?
A characteristic, sharpness, typical of a sour, followed by a certain “fizzy” quality of a sparkling wine. The 9.5%abv is well hodden. There was a somewhat “apple” like flavor and finish when cold, but seems to disappear when warmed. When warmed, it’s mostly tart, fizzy and boozy.

Overall?
A decent introduction to the sour-beer catagory with enough character to let you know what a sour’s all about.

Chapter One

Over the last few weeks, my shopping exploits have left me frequently frustrated, and at times, downright wicked and evil.

As an expert in Consumer Affairs, I understand better than anyone what I’m entitled to, and how to get it when it’s not there… But even with all my knowledge and experience, I was ill-equipped for what I was facing.

Whenever I run into problems like this, my first thought is always; “If I’m having this kind of trouble, what chance would the average consumer have?”. I know a lot of smart people, but I’ve never met anyone whom understands the depth of deception in todays market place.

Thanks to the internet… deception has the high-ground on the battlefield, leaving us defeated before we even get to face our foe (I emphasize this, because at this point, it’s likely that you don’t even know who you’re up against). How can you survive? Arm yourself with the tools to detect, understand, and resolve this unique circumstance.

Everyone is a consumer; whether you’re buying gas, a guitar, or a sandwich, this is what you need to know.

First off… a little history on how you found yourself facing uphill at an unbeatable opponent. 

Walmart didn’t put Mom and Pop out of business… You did. Lol… and I’ll explain why I had nothing to do with it later.

When the corner hardware store had great tools and expert support, customers complained about price. Merchants and manufacturers took this data and they applied it to the very first marketing tactics that we encountered. Obviously, if the number one complaint is high prices, then whomever offers the lowest prices will get all the business.

The problem was; when store A lowered its prices, then store B countered, but when the winner had all the customers, their prices were so low that they were unable to make a profit.

Once you’re selling a wrench that cost $2 to make, for $2… Then what?

Enter Foreign Manufacturing…

Back in the 70’s people hated foreign car companies, but I’ll tell you a little secret… Chevrolet was already foreign by then. However, they were slick about it… They only went to Canada, because they figured that Americans wouldn’t catch on, so long as cars were still being made on the same continent.

Why would a Michigan company go to Canada to work? Because Americans wanted cheap cars, and they wanted them cheaper than Americans could build them for. At this point, I should probably define “Made in America”.

In that example; Chevrolet’s were “Manufactured” in Canada, but they were “Assembled” in America, which from an economic stance is opposite of how I’d prefer it, but that’s another story.

Made in America is a very slippery play-on-words, and perhaps you’ve seen it in the newest audio equipment advertising?

“Dreamt of in America, Designed in Canada, Engineered in Japan, Manufactured in China, Assembled in Taiwan, Painted in Indonesia, Packaged in Mexico, and then branded and sold and priced in California (that’s because CEO’s like their desks in America)”.

Now back to our Mom and Pop hardware shop…

The customer still wants a $2 wrench, but there are none in America, so the store gets them from China and we’re back on track. Or are we?

Well now, the American brands lost all their business, so what did they do? They fired their workers, bought their wrenches from China, put their name on them, and we’re all caught up again.

But what just happened?

It was a simple story and explanation, but there was more to it than meets the eye. In that instance, we let go of the reins and began our distant trek from the “good old days”.

Craftsman Tools, RCA, Zenith, Maytag… and all but the most loyal American Manufacturers followed suit… It was at that moment that commerce stopped being about “getting what you paid for” and became all about “paying for what you thought that you were getting”.

American manufacturing jobs… which were what 2/3 of the country had at the time, disappeared in order to make room for the unskilled youth of America and their low salary demands.

Enter the age of the warranty and marketing…

Our Great Grandfathers always bought Craftsman tools because they had a lifetime warranty, so right away, foreign manufacturers started giving lifetime warranties on their wrenches. But how could they do this when they were so inferior? Simple… who cares?

When your product is mass produced in a cave, by a guy who makes 14 cents a day, lifetime replacements are just what the doctor ordered.

So let me break it down…

1975: Craftsman manufactures a quality wrench; it cost $1.75 to make, and they sell it for $2, which nets them a $.25 profit. In doing so, they’re able to employ dozens-of thousands of Americans and pay them decent wages so that they can live well and support their families.

2018: Craftsman buys its wrenches from a generic foreign wrench manufacturer for $.25 a wrench. It sells them for $4 a wrench, which nets them a $3.75 profit. They employ a few hundred part-time people to market it all… and trust me, you don’t want to know who pays Americans to live now.

Oh… You do? Or should I say… You do.

So….

I told you that I had nothing to do with getting us into this mess… and that’s because I put my money where my mouth is.

I don’t shop bargains. I determine what I want, I find the best price that I can, and I purchase it. That frequently includes paying more for it, in order to buy it from a company that offers better service, or that simply has a better business model.

I avoid internet commerce at all costs, and unless there is no alternative, I don’t patronize Walmart, Target, Home Depot, or the likes. No matter what, I always let merchants know how fortunate that they are to have my business, and above all else… I take the time to educate my community.

Now you know where we are and how we got here. In Chapter Two, I’ll tell you who’s at the top of the naughty list and what you can do about it when it happens to you.

Style: Maibock brewed with ale yeast.
Bottle: 12oz.
Price: $26/case
ABV: 6.8%
Serving Temp: Approx. 45 degrees.

Appearance: Deep reddish brown hue; amber honey.

Nose: Yeast and bread notes with light floral and fruit hop notes.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with a head that tops 1/2″ and holds at 1/8″ and a dry finish.

Taste: In the traditional Maibock style there is a prevalence of hop bitterness that makes this a refreshing alternative to the Bock style of lagers. This bitterness pushes some rich caramel and brûlée notes to the back of the palate just before finishing dry. Nothing is out of balance here and each flavor profile moves in a logical progression.

Overall: Dead Guy Ale has been around for a while now. It has won awards globally at various beer competitions. If you are familiar with it then consider revisiting this comforting, yet refreshing beer. If you haven’t had Dead Guy Ale then consider it as a great alternative to the more contemporary IPA beers flooding the market these days.

Master of Cobs Score: 7/Who cares because this is good beer and you should drink it.

Up for sale is my LeBass preamp. I am amazed at the tonal possibilities this preamp is capable of. The clean channel A is amazing on it own and the dirty channel can give you a slight OD as well as a nice grindy gain. Fuse them together and you’ve you open up doors that will send your imagination and creativity soaring!

It was bought new from Sweetwater in April 2018 and is in like new condition and functions flawlessly. I have since switched over to all-tube amps so no longer need the tube preamp. This was mounted on a pedal board but no longer has any velcro on it.

$225 shipped to CONUS includes original packaging and manua

Review time!

Beer tasted? Evil Twin Brewing’s “I love you with my stout”
Style? Imperial Stout
Bottle/Can? Bottle, 12oz
Price? $5
ABV? 12%
Serving temp? From my garage, so maybe ’50s. Dark beers/Stouts seem to do better at this temp.
Poured into a glass.

Appearance? Dark, very dark. Only small amount of light getting through the top edges of the glass.

Smell? A nice sweetness of cola, with some tobacco coming through as it warmed up.

Mouthfeel? Medium-to-full bodied. Not the thickest stout I’ve ever had, but there’s enough body there to let you know it’s a Stout you’re drinking.

Taste? Combo of dark fruit/dark chocolate with some tobacco coming through as it warmed up a touch. There is some booziness in the middle, due to the abv sitting at a sizeable 12% which leads the way into a nice, dry finish that linger with flavors of toasted malts. If you’ve ever had a Guinness Extra Stout, you know what I’m talking about.

Overall?
A very enjoyable Imperial Stout. It’s got enough good things going for it that I’ll most certainly buy this beer again.

To my fellow, beer drinking brethren,
Be Safe, Be Responsible,
And wage on!

I can remember being maybe 6 or 7 years old and going to my first piano lesson. My brother had already been going for a couple of years and it was now my turn. I can remember all of the lessons and recitals and never really understood what that would all lead too.

In 5th grade we were presented instruments. The flute looked like it had too many buttons (along with clarinet and sax) and my brother already played drums so trumpet it was. I figured three buttons couldn’t be that hard anyways…

So then trumpet began and piano stopped at some point. I played throughout middle school and in 8th grade was allowed to join the high school jazz band.

Then high school came and I was playing in the concert, marching, and jazz bands.  (Don’t forget I was also president of the jazz band 👍🏻)Outside of school a friend of mine was learning bass and I couldn’t get enough. I spent countless evenings printing out Green Day tabs and playing along to my CDs.

Then as luck would have it the bass player of the jazz band got kicked out my junior year. I already knew how to read bass clef and jumped right in.I loved jazz band! I thank the kid who got kicked out to this day…

I then joined a ska band with some friends and played my first show. I was hooked from that point on! A few other little bands along the way and a good 5 year hiatus from playing and…. I’m here. In Mammothor. Opening for Megadeth. Sold out show. You get the point.

We aren’t famous and honestly I’m totally okay with that. But I’m having a ton of fun playing with bands I love and being challenged to play better every single day.

Endorsing artist for Ernie Ball Strings, Barlow Guitars, Headrush FX, In Tune Guitar Pics, SMS Cables, & Wornstar Clothing.