Amazon to Collect Florida State Sales Tax…

…idiots foam at the mouth in protest.

A few excerpts from a recent discussion board conversation about the recent announcement that Amazon will begin collecting sales tax in Florida starting May the first.

“Yes, this combined with their raising the cost of Amazon Prime will probably cost them a lot of our shopping dollars.”

“How wonderful. I love giving my money to the government at all levels”

“No thanks. The tax break was what made me look on line instead of buying local and having the merchandise the same day. Bye bye, Amazon.”

“Between the LOUSY Fedex Smartpost and now 6% tax, I’m going back to Best Buy for most stuff. I’ll still use shop the deals and stuff on here but they’re losing about 50% of my business.”

And my response to the whole Kerfluffle.

‘Yes, because it’s always better to waste your time and gas as well as put wear on your car to drive to a store staffed by mental midgets AND pay the same sales tax you’re bitching about Amazon collecting which you were legally responsible for paying even when they weren’t collecting it. Yes, brilliant protest!

Gas is $3.65 a gallon. Summer’s just about here. There’s nothing better than heading out into 90° heat with 90% humidity instead of sitting in a cool air conditioned house and shopping online.

You show ’em, Lee! (Lee wrote one of the complaints above)

Oh, and the best part! When something you buy at the local Best Buy breaks. ’cause stuff breaks ya know. Instead of calling Amazon and spending five minutes arranging for them to have UPS pick it up from your house and ship it back YOU get to drive back to Best Buy and stand in line to return it! Isn’t that AWESOME!

Me? I’m going to shop online and then go jump in the pool. Have a nice time in traffic!’

Hawk (Hi pool…)

Eureka… Literally, Sucks.

Found a decent Eureka vacuum for sale on Groupon. The price was decent, about half what Amazon was asking at the time I looked, and even came with free shipping and returns.

It gets here and I’m putting it together, didn’t need a single tool which was cool. I’m following the directions and putting all the bits and pieces into the places the bits and pieces go. I end up with an extra attachment, a long, flexible, crevice tool, that didn’t seem to have a place on the body of the vacuum. Everything mounts to the body or is supposed to, right?! I check the user’s manual (snicker, six pages, three languages no real info), download the one from the Eureka web site and it’s the same thing in PDF format.

So I say ‘what the hell, there’s nothing on TV, I’ve got some painkillers mellowing out my mind, let’s try the web support chat!’

Support agent pops into chat rather quickly which was a surprise… and the only good part of the experience. Did I just ruin the story with foreshadowing?

I tell her the model I bought and the tool I can’t find a place for (stop snickering!). Then she asks me for the model number… it’s still on the screen. This is off to a good start. Each response from here takes minutes to appear. We go over exactly what my question is, again, and she tells me where it’s supposed to be connected to the vacuum. Except, she’s wrong. I’m sitting here with the vacuum and the user’s joke… manual. So we go over the model number and exactly which part I’m talking about and she tells me where it’s supposed to be attached…. Except, she’s completely wrong, again. I asked her if she was checking the wrong model and she said she was having computer problems and had to reboot and the chat ends. *poof*

S’okay… I’m somewhat annoyed now and I want an answer. It’s a stupid, simple question. It shouldn’t be hard for the company that makes the dumb thing to know their own products. The manual says their call center is still open. ‘Hey,’ I said, ‘it can’t get any worse, right?’

I call and I’m on hold and on hold and oh my gods they’re playing Olivia Newton John!

Finally someone gets on the phone. She sounds like she’s 2,000 years old and completely lost. I tell her the model number of the vacuum I just bought and the question I had about it. She asks me for my name. I give her my first name and now she wants my last name… ‘You don’t need my name to answer a simple question about the assembly of one of your vacuums.’ So now she asks me if I know the model number of the vacuum I purchased which I’d just told her. I tell her again. She asks me what part I’m asking about, which I’d just told her. She gets the part wrong. Two more times. Then she asks me if the part I’m asking about CAME with the unit I bought.

I’m back on hold but it’s generic hold music… and on hold, and on hold. She comes back on the line and asks me for the model number of the vacuum I’m calling about and what part I’m concerned with (augh!) and she puts me back on hold. Five minutes later she comes back onto the line and says “That part doesn’t mount to the vacuum body.” and that’s it. I hang up.

What a bargain! I think I’ll send this to Eureka corporate. You’d think with so many people out of work they could cherry pick from at least the better phone support people instead of hiring from the bottom of the barrel.

Hawk (if it weren’t for pain meds my head would have exploded)

Thoughts… Yes, I do have them.

Of all the devices and gizmos I own I think the Kindle and the digital camera are among the two most sublime creations every developed.

The Kindle, capable of holding hundreds of books and a charge for weeks instead of days. Print as large or small as you need. Reading with the barest tap of a finger to change pages.

And the digital camera… how can I express how digital photography frees the photographer? No buying or loading film after only a few shots. No paying or waiting for developing.

I went out yesterday morning before the dawn. I stopped by my favorite beach, Pelican Beach Park in Melbourne put the camera on its tripod kicked back and watched the sunrise. I left there and stopped by the Grissom Wetlands, another favorite spot. Leaving the Wetlands I chanced upon a road I’d never taken but had read about online. A nearly four mile dirt road out to a wilderness conservation area in the middle of nowhere but only miles from a bustling city. From there I cruised by Wickham Park, found a shady spot under a tree and read a book on my Kindle for a couple hours.

While I was out I shot just short of three hundred pictures. Out of those I’ve kept thirty-six. A single roll of film’s worth. From those I will pick maybe a dozen that I’ll share with friends and on Facebook and from there I’ll put just three or four on my Flickr account.

Consider that; around $5.00 a roll for decent 35mm film. Not taking into account the aggravation and time of getting the film developed locally or sending it out and waiting for it to come back. At least eight rolls of film would cost in the neighborhood of $40.

Then processing; both York and Clark labs, two places I sent a lot of film to for developing in the past, don’t even do film processing now. I did find a couple sites online which would process 35mm film for between $7 and $10 a roll, this doesn’t include prints or shipping. Walgreens stores also still process film, for $12 a roll, again not including prints. The eight rolls of film I would have used at an average of $9.50ish per roll is over $47.

Had I been shooting 35mm color film (add lots for true B&W processing plus days of delay) yesterday’s trip would have cost me easily $80… to keep $10 worth of pictures and I try to get out and wander about with my camera at least a couple times a month.

Instead I popped the $14 memory card out of my camera, put it into the card-reader built into my PC and moved all the images to the computer in about a minute and a half leaving the memory card empty and ready for another day’s photography.

It’s astounding the freedom these technologies have given us.

Hawk (shutterbird)

A year in an Accent… (another lost post!)

Has it been a year already? Time seems to go by faster and faster as I
get older. It doesn’t feel like it’s been 365 days since we bought our
2007 Hyundai Accent, but I guess it has.

All in all I’ve got to say I really like this little hatchback. (you can
stop reading there, really, go get a cup of coffee or shoot a squirrel,
whatever makes you happy. The rest of the post is just me babbling about
the car)

It has plenty of room for my extra (extra) large frame. The headroom is
fantastic. There’s at least four inches between me and the roof. In my
old Dodge Daytona I used to hit my head on the sunroof every time I went
over a bump. No one’s gotten in the backseat and I really wouldn’t want
to do that to anyone. There’s not a lot of room back there but it’s fine
for coats assorted junk and my camera bag. The seats aren’t what you’d
call luxurious but there’s good support and they’re not really
uncomfortable. The rest of the interior is fairly nice for a sub-compact
car. Gotta be careful not to scratch the hard plastic parts as the do
mar fairly easily. The trunk has enough room for a week’s groceries or a
half dozen 12-packs of soda. The hatch opening is nice and low so
getting stuff in and out is a breeze.

Other than a finicky control knob on the A/C occasionally turning on the
system when you go over a bump everything works on this car. I think
this is the first car I’ve owned in thirty years where the cigarette
lighter works. Not that I smoke, but it works! Surprisingly the A/C
blows ice cold. Having such a small engine (1.6l) I expected it to
struggle but it doesn’t at all. I’ve had to turn the temp UP to keep
from shivering, in my car, in Florida! Really!

Had to replace all four tires right after I bought it. The salesman’s
misrepresentation of their condition, assuring me they were easily good
for another year, got me a major discount on getting the timing belt
replaced, a needed service due to the car’s age. I also had the radiator
and transmission flushed right after we bought it. The oil’s been
changed (lifetime FREE oil changes!) by the dealership every four
months. Other than the cabin and engine air filters all I’ve really had
to do was put gas in it, about once a month. Currently the car’s average
MPG is 31.1 with quite a bit of slow driving around dirt roads while I
photograph wildlife and not much highway driving.

It drives… good. It’s no sports car but handling is okay. It’s got a
nice small turning radius. The ride’s firm without being jarring. The
rear gets a little squirrely when you try to flip it around corners but
no big deal. Even my 81 year old mom had no problem driving it and even
enjoyed the couple weeks she had to chauffeur me around after I had

The car likes to get up and go. I’ve found I’ve got to keep an eye on the
speedometer. On city streets it loves to cruise at 50 mph and on the
highway even when the speed limit is 70 I find myself creeping up over
that and hitting 75 – 80. The ride on the highway is surprisingly nice.
The car has a, for its size, large profile but doesn’t seem to get blown
around by the wind. With the extra large windows open it’s loud as hell
at highway speeds but with them closed and the A/C on it’s… not quiet
but you can hear people speaking.

Some numbers and stuff…
Bought June 26th 2012 with 26,703 miles.
Have put 3,957 miles on it.
Fueled 14 times for a total of $343.97
Average MPG 31.1 (best – 34.9 worst – 27.3)
Fuel Rewards savings: $68.70

Service costs:
4 tires $378 (mount, balance, fees, lifetime rotate/balance)
Coolant and transmission flushes – $250
Timing & drive belts replaced – $80
4 NGK Iridium spark plugs installed $118 (I admit, I got burned)
Engine and cabin air filters – $17 (to replace each twice)

Not counting car washes, air fresheners and such junk the total to run and keep the car running for the last year was: $809

I’ll eventually have to fork over the money to get the A/C control fixed and I plan on replacing the power steering and brake fluids this year but I really can’t complain. It’s… fun to drive and gets me there and back again. Really can’t ask for much more.

Hawk (Hy YUN Die!)

A Lost Post From July… OOPS!

So how was my day? Oh my day was wonder-freaking-ful. It started off with getting two hours of sleep and then dealing with a grumpy as hell mother who hates mornings. She’d gotten five, six hours of sleep but still grumbled and bitched about being up at nine AM.

Our first stop was our insurance agent’s office. AS we walked in the door he had just started a call writing a policy over the phone for someone who wanted to explore the price for EVERY possible configuration and option of their auto policy. We finally get into his office and he goes over the policy, line by line, TO HIMSELF. We sit there and sit there and finally mom gets to sign and initial about a dozen times. We shell out almost fifteen hundred bucks for a year’s coverage. Then we find out the bastards at the insurance company had raised our hurricane deductible from $2,500 to $3,100. With this insurance company if there’s a hurricane loss we have to pony that money up up FRONT before they’ll cover damages. You can’t, as we did in 2004, cover the deductible from the check they write. Hooray for us!

The next stop was Dick’s Sporting Goods to find mom a new pair of sandals. Stood around the footware section for ten minutes, couldn’t find a single pair of sandals on display. I eventually had to walk all the way to the front of the store to get the cashier to call someone over to footware. The girl arrives and says “Oh, I’m sorry, I think we only have one pair of sandals in.” No, that wasn’t one STYLE that was one PAIR. They actually had one, single, pair of sandals in the entire store. Of course, they weren’t my mom’s size. She also had no idea when or if they were ever going to get more in. Hooray for us!

Next we swung across the street to Bed, Bath & Beyond so mom could get some new sheets. Do you know where the sheets are? They’re all the way at the BACK of that giant store. Mom browses around a while and finds some nice percale sheets, bing, bang, zoom, we’re out the door.

Then she decides she wants to go home. We had other stops planned but her knee was bothering her. Of course I’d told her to take a couple Tylenol before we left and she got cranky and said she didn’t want to. So heigh-ho off we go home.

We get home and mom wants to put our copy of the homeowner’s policy in the lockbox. A few minutes pass and she can’t find her keys. We tear apart the place she keeps her purse. The car. The place we keep the lockbox since she was just in it the other day. No keys, no where.

I call the insurance agent, Dick’s and BB&B. Nope, no one’s turned in any keys. Mom’s more upset about the mementos ON the key ring than the potential giving access to our house and car to anyone who finds the keys.

Just in case she dropped them I head back out… I check the parking lot where the insurance agent is, six stores on the same side of the strip-mall where the agent is. No keys. I head over to Dick’s, or I try to, the traffic light freaks out while I’m in line and won’t turn green (augh!). Finally get to Dick’s. Parking lot, footware department, front desk, no keys. I go across the street to BB&B, I check at the service counter. I walk the store where we had shopped. I checked every cart I could find in the store which annoyed quite a few people who were using those carts at the time. I checked all the carts in the parking lot. No keys.

I head home. On the way I stop off at Mickey D’s for an ‘I deserve this’ lunch. They screw up my entire order. My knee’s killing me and the drive-thru line has suddenly wrapped around the building. AUGH!

I get home. I ask my mom “Did you look EVERYWHERE?” and she says she has. But hell I’ll tear the house apart again anyhow. I grab the flashlight and… “Did you look in the junk drawer, mom?” No, of course she didn’t. Why ever would her keys be in there? There’s no way her keys could… oh hey look at that…


Guess who’s buying me a pizza for supper tonight 🙂

Hawk (at least the car has A/C)

The New 52x “Nodak” Camera

The Astro Zoom AZ521 (ok, I hate the name already, that’s the name of the dog in ‘The Jetsons’ for Pete’s sake) It may have the Kodak brand on it but it’s a JK Imaging product lacking the Schneider lens Kodak had been using. This is no Kodak, it’s a Nodak!

I downloaded the user’s manual ’cause no one local has one to look at and they’ve committed a cardinal sin against camera users which I cannot forgive so I will not be ordering one. Will get to that in a minute.

They have packed on the features, wow have they, in color modes alone in PASM there is Japan, French, Italian, Punk and numerous other styles (which aren’t described at all).

They have done some nice things; You can turn off the auto-focus assist lamp. You can finally turn off the digital zoom, max shutter speed is up to 30 seconds. All things the Z990 would have been even better for having.

Design wise… it looks old. It looks dated. It looks like the found the molds for something else from six or seven years ago and crammed their optics and hardware into it. It doesn’t look refined at all.

And sorry “Nodak” (you ain’t Kodak) the big NO SALE light rang up the instant I saw the camera, a 52x mega zoom camera lacks an optical view finder. Pow! I went from “I kinda like this…maybe.” to “What the hell were these idiots thinking?!” in all of two seconds. One glance at the back of the camera and it became immediately clear that no matter hoe big the lens. No matter how many features and options they cram inside, this is a casual user’s camera. What were they THINKING?! A 52x high end bridge camera with no view finder? *sigh*

I wear Xtractive Transitions lenses in my glasses. They get pitch black in even mild sun. Trying to see an LCD screen is impossible. Even the OVF on the Z990 is hard to use with these glasses.

Kodak cameras are well and truly Dead. As far as I’m concerned the Z990 was their pinnacle. They are no more. This makes me sad.

Hawk (sad bird)

I Encounter an Idiot…

On the way home from Wickham park this past Sunday I stopped at a Walgreens that was on the way to pick up a few things. Now, normally if there’s parking spaces open that are a reasonable distance from the store I’ll leave the handicapped space open for someone who needs it more than I do but this time the lot was packed and the only open parking spot was handicapped.

I pulled in. Made sure all my gear was out of sight, pulled the handicapped parking placard out of the glove compartment and hung it on the mirror.

As I’m getting out of the car I have the following encounter:

Nitwit (NW from here on in): “Hey! Hey, you!”

Me: I have no idea who she’s talking to so I ignore her.

NW: “Hey, hey! You can’t park there!”

Me: I turn around and see a middle age, middle weight white chick dragging a kid by one arm. I ask “Are you talking to me?” (wishing I could say it like De Niro in Taxi Driver)

NW: “You can’t park THERE!”

Me: “I can’t?”

NW: “That’s for handicapped peoples!” (yes, she said peoples)

Me: I look directly at the handicapped parking permit hanging from the Accent’s mirror.

NW: “Your NOT handicapped!”

Me: I look down at the cane I’m leaning on and tap it with my foot. “I’m not?” I say.

NW: “You can’t park THERE! I’m gonna call the cops!”

Me: I reach into my pocket, pull out my cell phone, flip it open (yes, it’s old) and hold it out to her. “Here, use my phone.”

NW: “Your NOT handicapped!”

Me: “Are you a doctor? Have you seen my medical records?”

NW: “Your NOT handicapped! Move your car or I’m calling the cops!”

Me: I shrug and say; “Whatever…” Then I turned and walked into the store.

When I came out 10 or 15 minutes later there’s a cop car blocking me in. Nitwit is still standing there dangling her toddler like a Cabbage Patch doll. She shrills “I TOLD you I was gonna call the cops!”

Cop: “Is this your car? You know you can’t park in a handicapped space with someone else’s handicapped permit.”

Me: “I don’t walk with a cane because it makes me look all dapper and British…”

Cop: “License, registration, proof of insurance, please sir.”

Me: I pull out the documents he wants and add the paperwork from the motor vehicle department that I received when I was issued my handicapped parking permit.

Cop: “Stay here.”

Ten minutes later he’s back with my paperwork, he hands it to me and says “Sorry to have kept you so long, sir. You can go now.”

NW: Who has been standing there gloating and tugging on her toddler the entire time sees the cop get in his car and back up so I can get out screams “Why ain’t you giving he a ticket! He’s breaking the law!”

Me: As I’m rolling out of the parking long past the nitwit I call out the window “Have a very nice day, ma’am!” and then… “Hey kid, sorry you had to see this.”

I pulled away in a hail of profanity and toddler tugging. As I looked back the cop was getting out of his car with storm clouds around his face and heading toward the nitwit and her poor kid.

Hawk (still feeling sorry for the kid…)

Hey, Fuel Rewards Network

Just a suggestion… How about next time, instead of spending what must be millions painting and driving RVs around the country, buying silly costumes, filming TV commercials and creating games to make people play, you just divvy up the money as fuel rewards evenly among all Fuel Rewards members so those of us who had absolutely no chance to partake in the festivities can benefit as well. Being excluded, simply by not living near enough to one of the places you showed up kinda sucks.

The nearest you were to my house was over 150 miles away. A 300 mile round trip to save a few dollars off my next gasoline purchase is patently silly. It would be nice if you helped ALL your members and not just a lucky few. I’m sure more people couldn’t make it to these events than could.

Love the program. Hate being excluded.

Hawk (gassy…)

Nope, NEVER Again! *sigh*

Nine years ago the pair of glasses I bought from Eyeglass World fell apart on the ride home. This time I didn’t get to wear them for thirty seconds. The temple on the $180 Stetson frames snapped in two(!) places when they were being adjusted.

Of course they didn’t have another pair in stock so now I’ve got to wait for new frames to be ordered and surely won’t see them until sometime next week.

The frames I purchased online from Zenni Optical two years ago for $10 haven’t had as much as a loose screw.

I feel like I’m being punked.

Hawk (there goes the good mood…)

Well, Maybe Again…

Okay, so I spoke too soon. Never again? Perhaps one, actually two, more times. Less than twenty four hours after I contacted Eyeglass World through Facebook the district manager for this area called me. We went over everything that I’d mentioned in my eMail and he sounded honestly upset by what had gone on. He said they would refund the full cost of the eyeglass exam and have a different doctor do a second exam, free, to make sure I received an accurate prescription. He asked my why I had only gone for an exam and had opted not to buy glasses. I told him that honestly I knew they couldn’t match the price I could find online and my previous experience with Eyeglass World years ago had soured me to their company name. I’d only gone there for the exam this time because they’d offered it cheaper by far than anywhere else.

He asked me what I would pay and what options I would get online. I told him then things I’d ordered; photo reactive lenses, anti-glare coating, alloy metal spring-hinged frames and the exact price they’d be, $36.90 plus shipping. He asked if I would give them a second chance if he matched that price, option for option. I agreed. You honestly get better fitment when (hopefully) trained professionals adjust them to your face. He ended the conversation telling me that he would have the doctor who held the lease on the Opticians office at their location as well as the temporary manager (it turns out the entire management staff at the Melbourne, FL location had been recently fired) call me and make arrangements to get me in and get things resolved.

That was on Wednesday the tenth. By the next Tuesday I’d not heard a word from Eyeglass World or the doctor. I called the number for the district manager in my caller ID. It went straight to automated voicemail, that didn’t look good, I left my message and figured it would either be a while or forever before I heard back from them.

A couple hours later the phone rang and it was the (temporary) manager from the Melbourne store. He said that he’d just, that day, received my complaint and was bothered by the way things happened and asked how he could make things right. I asked if he was going to honor the district manager’s promises and he assured me he would and that he would even try to beat the online price to make up for the inconvenience.

He made me an appointment for the upcoming Friday to get a new eyeglass exam with a different doctor that covered the office a couple days a week and said that he and his (also temporary) assistant manager would both be there to work with me and get things figured out.

Walked in a little after eleven on Friday morning and asked for the manager, who had ‘Just stepped out.’ but his assistant was there and she knew what was what. I barely waited a few minutes in the doctor’s office before they started my exam. I didn’t even have to ask the doctor to measure my PD (pupillary distance) he either always does it or was told it was one of the points of my complaint having asked the previous doctor if he would provide that service and his refusal on the ground that ‘The company (that he’s supposed to be independent from) doesn’t provide PD measurement to people who take their business elsewhere.’

Exam over, the receptionist quickly processed a refund of the fee I’d been charged the week before. I then finally met with the manager who apologized profusely, told me to pick out any frames (any!) I wanted and handed me off to his assistant to help me put together my glasses.

She said she was going to ‘look in the drawer’ to see if she could find any frames similar to the ones I currently wear (which is what I wanted). The ‘drawer’ by the way is the place they keep frames so crappy and inexpensive that they’re embarrassed to display them. I on the other hand headed straight for the quality goods and found several pair that were similar in shape and size to what I’m wearing now.

I met her back at her work station. She had two or three pair of $29 – $39 frames that looked like crap which I immediately dismissed. We went over the four pair I’d brought back and settled on a pair of $179 Stetson brand frames with 180° flex hinges. She spent a lot of time with me going over the options, poly-carbonate vs. plastic lenses even going so far as to take my current glasses apart to verify which material they were made from. She never once made me feel like this was a hassle or that she resented having to practically (we’ll get to that in a moment) give away a pair of glasses. The only sour moment was when the woman I’d dealt with first the last time I was there made some quip while looking at me and laughed. I didn’t quite catch what she said so I didn’t say anything. Unfortunately they didn’t have my prescription lenses in stock so they had to be ordered. Should be a week or so before they’re in.

The assistant manager double checked my PD to make sure we had the numbers right and then put together the order. Once she’d done that I showed her the invoice I’d printed from the online company. She read through it, typed for a bit and gave me a price which was $5 higher than the total I’d brought it. That was the only sour note with her, she seemed annoyed when I pointed out that she’d taken the grand total from the invoice which included shipping fees. She read the invoice again and charged me $36.60 She actually did ‘beat’ the online price as the manager had said he’d try to do but only because she read the price wrong and charged me a whole thirty cents less. 🙂

In the end she had to knock $318 off their price for these glasses to price match Zenni Optical online. Three hundred and eighteen dollars?! Their price was $355 for a pair of glasses they expect you to replace in a year or two. Who can afford that?! As much as I appreciate the way Eyeglass World handled my complaint and went to extremes to make things right I honestly can’t say I’d go back for a pair of glasses from them, not when they’re nearly ten times as expensive as a decent pair are online. One pair of their glasses is literally the same cost as four local eye exams and four pairs of glasses ordered online… assuming prices don’t change much over the coming years.

Thank you Eyeglass World. It was a true pleasure to see you honor your word and live up to your promises. Not many companies will do that these days.

Hawk (seeing the world better, soon)