Home Brands That We Could Do Without

Brand Names on This Page

Anvil T-Shirts

LG Electronics

Samsung Cell Phones

APC-- Universal Power Supply

Lite-On Electronics

Star-Kist Tuna

Hartz -- Pet Products

Coca Cola

Sylvania Lamps

Braun -- Razor

GE -- General Electric

Sirius/XM Radio


Another fine example of "German Engineering".  In fact the box even claims "German Engineering".  As I have explained before, "German Engineering" is an oxymoron.  In this case mostly the moron part.  I am 66 years old as I write this.  I have been shaving for 50 years.  From Gillette Super Blue Blades to numerous electric razors.  Never have I encountered an electric razor this bad!  You need a mirror to verify your shave.  If you miss a hair for a couple of days (not too hard to do), the hair grows long enough for the razor  to not cut.  The Braun razor seems to be pretty good at cutting short hairs shorter.  That is, if you hit each hair from its proper direction and apply just the correct pressure as you go over it.  Wrong pressure or wrong direction, the hair is not cut.  Missing the same hair for a couple of days means that the razor head will never again attempt to cut the hair.  This matches what I have encountered elsewhere.  The German mantra seems to be that if you make a mistake, you need to be punished by non-performance.

In order to get a good shave, you need a mirror to verify that you have not missed any hairs.  I shave by sound: when there are no more "clicks", I am finished.  This method has served me well from Remington to Norelco razors just fine.  It does not work with the Braun.  I need my glasses to shave so that I can see each hair that the razor missed and try it again.  The glasses serve another purpose.  The Braun produces a fine film of hair particles flying at high speed.  Before I learned about the glasses requirement, these high speed hair particles would hit my eyes.  I think this is dangerous but it is at least irritating.

There is an alternative.  I can go over my entire face with the razor's extendable shears to get the longer hairs.  Then I can shave with the regular razor head.  This is good at getting the hairs that are so long as to be obvious to the world that I am using a third class razor.  It does not solve the problem of the hair lengths in the middle.

Then there is the battery problem.  My Norelco and Remington razor batteries would last most of a week.  Because of the extended shaving time using the Braun (about 45 minutes), I am lucky if I can complete one shave before needing a battery recharge.

When the thin metal screen developed a tear and cut my face, I scrapped the Braun and bought a new Norelco.  Now I must remember to only go over each place once.  Made in Germany?  Maybe -- but it does not claim "German Engineering".

Coca Cola

This is an interesting company and they  have found a couple of ways to get to this list.  To be clear, I prefer Pepsi to Coca Cola.  Coca Cola made an interesting mistake some years ago when they discovered that people liked the taste of Pepsi better than the taste of Coca Cola.  The brand preference of Coca Cola had to do with the company colors.  Coca Cola reflavored their drink to be more like Pepsi.  This caused such a ruckus that they produced two products for a while and then dropped the "Coke" product in favor of their original cola.  But they retained the Coke flavor in their diet product.  Just recently they have introduced their Coca Cola flavor in diet and call it Coca Cola Zero.  All of this is interesting to people like me who have an interest in marketing concepts.

The problem that I have with Coca Cola is with their plastic bottles.  My refrigerator is one of those with the wire racks.  The Coke bottle has five "bubbles" on the bottom.  I am not sure of the reason for these bubbles as other products have similar shapes.   The problem with the Coke shape is that these bubbles are so well-formed (and an odd number of bubbles) that keeping these bottles upright in my refrigerator is impossible. I have resorted to keeping the Coke bottles on their sides.  This is also a problem because of their squeezed profile: you cannot stack them.  This is a nuisance but not serious.

The serious problem is the plastic they use for the bottle tops.  It deforms all by itself making it difficult to replace after removal.  This is more than a nuisance.  The plastic will actually deform in place causing the bottle to lose its seal.  When vertical, the gas pressure is lost -- leaving the Coke tasting a bit flat.  I have gotten used to flat Diet Coke.  I suspect that this loss of seal is a health hazard.

When stored horizontally, as I need to do because of the strange bottle shape, the actual Coke spills out on the bottom of my refrigerator making a real mess. Not a little mess.  As much as half the bottle may be lost this way.   When I have more than a 6-pack on their sides, the loss is a real mess.

It took me a while to figure out how Coke does this.  I had originally thought that the bottles tops were just not screwed on tightly.  No, I could not tighten them.  Yes, no matter how tight, they still leaked.  They deform.  This is obvious because when you remove the top, you cannot replace it without extreme difficulty -- if you can replace it at all.  You can actually see that the top is misshapen as it is no longer symmetrical.

I think the tops are Ultra-Violet sensitive (sunlight).  I write this after losing at least half of my 24 bottles of DIet Coke to my refrigerator floor and the remainder tasting flat.  I drove home from the Sam's Club with a case of Diet Pepsi and a case of Diet Coke next to each other in the back of my pickup.  It was not especially hot that day.  There were no problems with the Pepsi.  All of the Coke bottles leaked.  No more Coke at all until October and then it will be covered on the way home from the store.  But then maybe I shall just alternate between Diet Pepsi and Dr. Pepper or the WalMart cola.  I resent that a company as large as Coca Cola does not bother to market test its products (we do not all live in Atlanta).  There was a reason that each of the American car manufacturers had a desert proving ground.  The desert environment is hostile -- and not just because it gets hot.

Hartz Pet Products

Samsung Cellular Phone -- Side Buttons

Fumble Fingers

When the phone is ringing or the alarm is sounding, touching any one of the side buttons will do exactly what you do not want to happen.  The call will be answered or the alarm will start again in five minutes.  After this it is not possible to perform the action that you desired.  This "feature" cannot be disabled. These operate even when the phone is turned off!   My Motorola has the same operation but its side buttons are not obtrusive and require some actual, real, pressure to activate them.  Thanks, Motorola.


As if stopping the alarm and answering the call were not bad enough, you are in real trouble if your Samsung phone has a camera.  The Samsung T339 (and whatever Samsung I had before) has no zoom nor is there any light correction.  The previous one had a light that was supposed to simulate a flash. Like the rest of the Samsung features, the light was a token.  But on both the Samsung phones, the side buttons activate the camera.  I end up with dozens of pictures of the inside of my pocket.  And I only discover that this is happening when I hear camera shutter sounds emanating from my pocket. I mean this is really dumb.  Provide a marginal camera so that you can tell your customers that you have one and then provide pictures of pockets as additional punishment for making the decision to buy a junk phone?  Do the smart thing: buy another brand, for example Motorola which has digital zoom and light sensitivity and does not photograph your pocket.

Wi-Fi Internet Enabled

Right.  I really like this feature but like the camera and side-buttons this is mostly a gimmick.  The phone only detects Wi-Fi within 20 feet of the transmitter.  It only supports unsecured and WEP-secured systems.  It only finds them when told to do so.  Also it sort of works half-duplex: you cannot talk over each other.

But if you can live with these constraints, the ability to make and receive calls anywhere in the world as if it is a local call is really great.  The receive surprised me but it works.  Sometimes it will connect automatically to the Internet and sometimes you have to do it manually -- to the same Internet source.

There is another zinger.  While in Mexico I keep getting tMobile text messages saying to use their service while in Mexico.  They all do this.  Telcel sends me messages to my Telcel phone telling me that I should use it while in the USA.


I have plenty of white T-shirts.  Mostly Hanes from Walmart.  Good prices, 100% cotton, good fit.  Mostly they are good for going under other shirts.

I only buy T-shirts that are 100% cotton.  Why? Because cotton is the reason I buy the T-shirt.  Cotton is great for absorbing perspiration and then evaporating it.  Then you are cool and dry.  Polyester does not absorb anything.  When you replace cotton with polyester, you are defeating the purpose of wearing a shirt.  Polyester is plastic:  it does not hold water.  In the same desert conditions, the polyester T-shirt leaves you feeling wet and sticky.

But what really peeves me is the pocket thing.  When I but a colored T-shirt for normal outside wear, I want a pocket.  I want a pocket on any outside shirt or jacket.  I usually hang my glasses from the collar.  I often stick my pen in the collar. But when I have something else, I want it in my pocket.  A colored T-shirt with no pocket is useless.

So. Let's presume we are talking only about 100% cotton T-shirts with pockets.  There are two more considerations.  Material weight and size.  Size is easy: buy the Hanes from Walmart.

One consideration is material weight.  I bought some T-shirts at Walmart a while back.  3 in a package instead of 2.  The material is really thin.  This is OK.  I could live with this on cooler days.  The problem is the pocket..  The darn thin material stretches.  If you put a pen or glasses in the pocket, they fall out when their weight makes the pocket sag.  Anything stretches the pocket.

The 2 in a package weight Hanes T-shirts at WalMart do not have the pocket stretch problem.  The heavier material makes a difference.    And I noticed last week that the package advertises that the pocket actually works and does not have instant sag.  I guess someone else has the same pocket problem as me.


Then again there are the Anvil T-shirts.  They advertise their weight.  They make it sound like they are really heavy duty.  With a name like Anvil, you expect heavy duty.  No.  Not a chance.  The heaviest weight Anvil at the store from which I ordered is the same weight as the light T-shirts from Hanes.  There is nothing heavy-duty about them.  Why do I shop at Walmart? I expect quality and I usually find it.  Trying other places or brands just gets me in trouble.

I made the mistake of ordering some Anvil (brand) T-shirts online this month.  Extra large.  This is the size Hanes I always buy.  The Anvil T-shirts are so small that I have large size T-shirts in my closet that are larger.  Not just one of them is too small. They are all too small. If you want to buy an Anvil T-shirt, buy it two sizes larger than the name brands.  It arrives one size too small and then it shrinks another.  Save yourself the trouble, avoid off-brands like Anvil.  Maybe the "pre-shrunk" means that they know the shirts were too small when they made them.

Later:  I thought maybe I was too hard on the Anvil t-shirts.  No.  I was too easy.  The shirts quickly developed little holes, like bleach holes except without the bleach.  Then the underarms tore out.  I know I perspire a lot and that my perspiration is corrosive.  But this is a new thing.

I thought maybe I had gained enough weight that I really needed 2-XL shirts.  I bought two other brands of shirts at 2-XL.  One Hanes and another brand I never heard of.  The 2-XL Hanes works OK but the Target store Hanes XL is a better fit.  The Target (not Wal-Mart) Hanes is longer.  It says so on the package -- and I have a long back.  The Anvil always rode up on my tummy.

The other brand 2-XL is so large that I replaced them with XL.  They fit just fine.  The material of  both other brands feels softer than the Anvil as well as the fits.

In other words, I was too nice on my original opinion of Anvil:  I doubted myself.  Avoid the Anvil t-shirts -- there are too many other brands out there to buy junk.  I do have a rag bag of old t-shirts now.

GE -- General Electric

When I was a kid GE was the name you looked for.  Then they got into absolutely everything.  Electric dynamos/generators.  Turbines. Engines.  But my experience was with their appliances.  They bought out Hotpoint and Hotpoint became their appliances for contractors.  Your new house might have Hotpoint appliances.

I liked my GE irons while in college.  But then GE sole its small appliance division to Black and Decker.  Not bad.  I liked Black and Decker.  They made good second-line power tools for the amateur.  But they are back and they have found the dirt under the rug and cll it quality.

Air Conditioner

I bought one of these at Sam's Club.  It ran for a couple of weeks and then quit.  This was one of their larger 110v window units.  SInce the nearest city to home is Yuma, I tried to find a GE repair center in Yuma.  No luck -- or at least no luck on warrantee service.  I called their 600 number on the big tag that came with the unit.  After a few hours one the phone it became obvious: they were not about to honor any level of warrantee.  Since I had registered with GE at my legal address in Texas, they found a few of their service facilities in Texas for me to try.  They actually sent someone to my mail box address in Texas.  Quite contrary to my conversation with any of their pretty-voice stupid phone agents.  I finally got someone in another division of GE who told me that that unit had no repairable parts and that I should return it to my place of purchase for a refund or exchange.  This took a couple of weeks or rather almost the month of August.  Sam's Club took it back without question.  No more GE AC units.  Now I have a couple of Korean units that together offer less BTU's than the GE but produce reliably more cool air.  11,000 BTU's for less than 8 AmPs.  Their yellow label put them off the end scale for  efficiency.  GE was on the lower third.

Toaster Oven

I live on my toaster oven.  I have it outdoors on the picnic table and do all of my cooking there.  That serves multiple purposes.  First off, the RV has sort of a carpet-fabric ceiling.  It readily accepts any floating grease or dirt.  Even the ceiling and range fans will not get it all.  Second, I never add heat to the RV in the summer time. Third, I go outside even for just a little bit.  Good exercise and good vitamin D.

The problem was the GE Toaster Oven.  From day 1 it never worked correctly but I thought that it was just because I did not understand the controls.  I mean little space heater overheat and you have to unplug them, wait, turn the dials a certain way, and then plug it back in.  The directions for this are printed somewhere on the heater.  I thought that GE had just forgotten to print the directions.  No such luck.  The oven would work with the temperature set to maximum.  This in an of the broil or cooking positions.  The problem was when the temperature was set lower.  It would reach that temperature and turn itself off.  I might be able to get it back on again in a day but it generally took a week of playing with the knobs.  Is the unit got a little older the problem got worse.  But it had a guarantee: return tit to any Walmart in its original box and original receipt and it would be replaced or refunded.

So when it finally got so that I could not get it to turn on at all, I took it to a Walmart.  They told me that I had to call the 800 number for sending it back to GE and that they only warranted it for 90 days.  I showed them the receipt: two- years, any Walmart.  They refunded my purchase price against another unit.  Sunbeam/Oster.  The only comparable unit in the store.  The problem is that the Walmart price for the particular Oster unit was high for the model unit that they had.  But it seems to work and I will get used to passing other units in other stores that give me more for my money.

But GE?  Not in this lifetime.


In 1949 my grandfather gave us an Emerson TV for a present.  A 12 inch black and white screen, wooden console TV.  Puny by today's standards.  Giant for 1949.  A roof antenna to reach Detroit from Brighton and we were set.  It left a good feeling for when I ran into Emerson brand items later.  I had one of their radios.  Red.  I loved it.

But now I buy an Emerson Microwave.  Electronic display microwaves have been around for 30 years.  I know -- I bought one in 1977.  So you would think that after 30 years that these companies would have found a common denominator in control functions.  If they have, Emerson has not seen them.  But what I did like about Emerson's controls was the lack of the large number of buttons for particular items that always seem to cook things for the wrong time and the wrong power.  To me the start, stop, digits, and the necessary control functions are just fine.

But the Emerson makes life difficult.  To cook an item for, say, 45 seconds.  You push the "Time" button then 45 and then start.  The print on the buttons is so small that I mst put on my glasses or I will push the wrong control button ad nothing useful happens.  Most of the other microwaves that I have had just permit you to type the number of seconds and then start.  If you want other controls, you push them first but the default is timed cooking.  Not the Emerson.  Nothing happens when you push the digit buttons.  You must push something else first and the the digits.

The Emerson does have sort of a nice feature: push start and you get 30 seconds.  Each time you push you get 30 seconds more.  Not a bad idea but then I always over or under cooking my food.

The other part I dislike is when the cooking is complete, the time of day display returns.  My microwave is in sort of a cabinet space.  I can barely hear the beep beep beep beep when the food completes with the fans off.  I am used to looking at the display.  If it says "END", then I know the food is ready.  If I forgot that I was cooking food and I walk by I can see the "END" and look to see what I forgot.  Not so with the Emerson.  WIth its quiet beeper and missing "END" display, I have already left food in the microwave overnight.  What's wrong with these people?

When I worked at SIemens the president of our division issued the ultimatum that looking at competitor web sites was grounds for termination.  If an engineer or a marketer can not see what the competition is doing in the same product area, the company is likely to repeat the original mistakes of the original product.  The one thing you can learn from your competition is what you want not to do.  Emerson has what appears to be a good product.  It just have refused to learn what not to do from its competition.


At Costco or Sam's Club I bought a package of 8 Sylvania light bulbs.  You know, the ones that say "extra long life".  My GE light bulb had burned out after a couple of years so I bought an 8-pack as I usually do.  I mean light bulbs have been around for a long time and they should have reliability cornered by now. This concept turns out to be a mistake.  I went through 4 of the 8 Sylvania the first month.  I got tired of reading the label saying "Extra Long Life".  I called and complained.  There is a 800 number on the package.  They sent me 4 new ones.  So now I had 12 bad light bulbs.  I should have waited a few more weeks then I could have said all 8 were bad and then I would have had 16 bad light bulbs.  If you can follow the math.  They had the nerve after sending me the new 4 to request the old ones back.  I save dead light bulbs?  Sorry guys.  I went out and bought an 8-pack of the GE.  I kept two and gave my daughter 6 for her apartment.  I still have an extra GE.  She still has the box on her shelf.

I do not buy standard light bulbs any more.  I buy the little fluorescent lamps (CFLs).  But the one thing I make sure of: I buy nothing with a Sylvania label.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice: not going to happen.

Sylvania Emergency Flashlights

Oops.  I did it to myself. I bought a 3-pack of Sylvania emergency flashlights again at Costco or Sam's Club.  This was really dumb but where I live without power, it is truly dark.  The Sylvania name should have warned me off.  First off, they have a 3-position switch on the side: Auto, Off, On.  Off is off.  On is on.  Auto I do not know.  There is a flashlight at one end and a night light on the other. Cute.   There is also a red indicator light on the side.  Now mostly I have figured that LED's like these are a charging indicator.  On while charging.  Off when charged. Sylvania went one step further.  On while charging. Off when the product stops working.  Maybe off when it finishes charging but I shall never know.  After a few months, the Red light is off and 2 of the 3 do not work any more.  At least I discovered the problem before I had a real emergency.  And these things are expensive. 

Sylvania Under-Counter Spot Lamps

I really wish that Sylvania did not have a monopoly at Sam's Club.  Maybe they cannot sell their junk elsewhere -- and at best it is junk.  Who designs their products?  German engineers?  I mean for several years I have been seeing ads for little lamps that go on the underside of counters to give you good light at specific locations.  These are battery operated so I have avoided them.  But my 2008 Ford Ranger dome light is not useful .  The location of my freezer and my nighttime access means I want a lamp to see the depths of my food supply.  A few other locations and reasons.  So I bought a package of 3 of the Sylvania things at Sam's Club.  I should have realized that there was a problem by the weight of the package -- and opening these packages requires anything from a buzz saw to industrial shears.  But the amount of stupidity found in this product overwhelms me.

The lamps are LED and spot-focused.  Unless you are looking at something the size of a quarter directly below the lamp, you are out of luck.  And do not look at the light directly.  A label warns you about this.

There is no on-off tap switch.  There is a cute little motion sensor makes the LED's go from bright to soft and back to off.  Except the sensitivity is such that which position you get is sort of random.  And then they go back off after a while.  A tap switch is at least predictable.

The units are steel.  Very heavy -- and they even come with a strong magnet.  Talk about useless and really stupid.  Maybe German cabinets are metal.  Maybe German cars have no ceiling insulation.  The only place I could find in my house where a magnet mount of a spot lamp would work at all is on my range hood.,  But then the bevel front would aim the spot at my pants/shorts and not at the food.  If I mounted the lamp on the flat part where it might do some good, I would waste more time tying to find it than it is worth -- and it would soon be covered with grease or get too hot.  Maybe it could mount on the underside of my medicine cabinet -- but the lamp is wider than the cabinet and the lamp -- preventing closing the cabinet door.  Nothing else in my house has a metal underside and I doubt that many houses have extensive steel underside cabinets.  For at least the last 30 years, steel has not been the preferred domestic cabinet material in the United States.

The lamps are too heavy to mount using simple double-sided tape.  I mean these things would be better weapons than under-counter lamps.  I cannot use them in my car since they are too heavy to use Velcro to hold them on the Ranger ceiling.  And all that I need is for one of these steel bombs to hit me in the head when I hit a bump and need to simultaneously simultaneously determine which direction the Ford Ranger will jump when it lands.

Ah.  I guessed wrong.  The magnet comes with adhesive on one side.  I thought that the adhesive would go to the unit side.  Now I figure it belongs on the cabinet side.  If the adhesive worked, then you could remove the lamp at will and use it for an unwieldy, sharp-edged  flashlight.  But the adhesive does not work.  It does not work for multiple reasons.  The first is that the magnet disk is very strong and attaching to a heavy steal object (the lamp itself).  Pulling on the unit only tears the magnet away from the adhesive.  Just the weight of the lamp causes the adhesive to release overnight sending you searching the floor in the morning behind some furniture for your missing lamp.  Maybe the German nights are cool enough for their adhesive to work.  I don't think so but I can tell you my average room temperature is about 85°.  And the temperature in the Ranger averages 85° when I am in it and driving.  You can figure 150° otherwise.  At these temperatures Velcro falls off -- and they have pretty good adhesive -- not the cheap Sylvania adhesive.  And then the amount of adhesive is insufficient.  I mean why would Sylvania waste more than a token amount of adhesive for something they know does not work. 

And you can forget mounting this thing inside the freezer.  Other than it would only be useful then the freezer were closed, I doubt the motion sensor would work at below zero temperatures.  And the inside of the freezer is plastic -- not good magnet material -- and I need to see the insides of the freezer not just the drain plug in the bottom.

There are more cons.  There are zero pros.  There is nothing good about these lamps unless you live in an environment that has many flying objects (such as bullets) which would damage plastic.

Again, avoid Sylvania if you value your pocketbook (and people do these days) or you have a low frustration threshold with junk products.

Costco:  I returned the Sylvania junk to Sam's Club and bought a set of three from Costco.  The Costco package had no recognizable brand name but the difference is extreme:



Sam's Club (Sylvania)

Light (9-LED's)

3 sets of 3 each -- Each set swivel adjustable

9 in the center -- spot lamp

On-Off Switch

Separate On/Off and motion sensor

Motion Sensor Only


Only On Motion Sensor: 30 or 60 second



Plastic, silver Gray

Steel, black enamel


Triangle -- rounded sides and corners

Circle -- sharp bottom flange


Screws (supplied w/template) or Velcro (supplied, big, black)

Magnet (Supplied)


Easy -- Rotating collar on removable mounting bracket

Difficult -- not necessary with single spot lamp



$22 (reduced to $18)


3-Each (9) AA Duracell

3-Each (9) AA Off-brand

Sirius / XM Radio

What's the latest figure?  25%?  40%?  I do not remember. Maybe I never knew.  But 12% of Americans speak Spanish in their homes.  At least twice that can speak the language.  But Sirius/XM?  1 Spanish music station (and no self-respecting Mexican would listen to the stuff it plays).  No talk.  Oh.  And ESPN in Spanish.  2 stations total out of, what? 150?  I mean what next, Sirius support of the KKK?  Within the next two decades more people in the USA will speak Spanish than English.  Maybe you could give us at least one Mexican talk show or one Mexican music channel or even a Spanish-American news station.  Some of us like to hear news from home but  as far as Sirius/XM is concerned, home is Atlanta or Albany.  Why would anyone in any of the southern border states waste their money?  And if anyone at Sirius can count, California is a border state with almost 10% of the total US population -- with a large percentage of them preferring Spanish.  This could be an enormous customer base.  Could be.  For someone else and not Sirius.

LiteOn Electronics

This is just a warning about a bad product.  I bought one of the LiteOn DVD recorders from Sam's Club.  The product is just bad -- buy another brand.   Problems?  Push the wrong button on the remote control and the main computer controller gets lost and turns the unit off.  In order to turn it back on, you have to pull the power plug to reset it.  This is a pain in the neck.

Strangely enough I think that either American or German engineers designed what the buttons do  My hunch is that it is German.  Why?  The choices are counter-intuitive on what buttons, what menus, and what choices you have at any one point.  The Japanese work very hard to make sure that Americans find easy, intuitive choices.  This is exactly why Japan has been so successful in this country.  On the other hand, Detroit still has not figured out that they should make cars people want rather than make people want their cars.  German are so egotistical that the engineers do not even test their own product: -- they expect a test team (or the customer) to test their product.  The result of this is an engineering patchwork quilt that works most of the time with failures spread throughout the product just waiting to be discovered.  This is where Americans prevail: the implementation engineer is responsible for the quality of the product and takes pride in his/her work.  On the other hand, what does an engineer know about menu choices and what to do when the wrong button is pushed?

LiteOn Electronics

This is just a warning about a bad product.  I bought one of the LiteOn DVD recorders from Sam's Club.  The product is just bad -- buy another brand.   Problems?  Push the wrong button on the remote control and the main computer controller gets lost and turns the unit off.  In order to turn it back on, you have to pull the power plug to reset it.  This is a pain in the neck.

Strangely enough I think that either American or German engineers designed what the buttons do  My hunch is that it is German.  Why?  The choices are counterintuitive on which buttons, what menus, and what choices you have at any one point.  The Japanese work very hard to make sure that Americans find easy, intuitive choices.  This is exactly why Japan has been so successful in this country.  On the other hand, Detroit still has not figured out that they should make cars people want rather than make people want their cars.  German are so egotistical that the engineers do not even test their own product: they expect a test team to test their product.  The result of this is an engineering patchwork quilt that works most of the time with failures spread throughout the product just waiting to be discovered.  This is where Americans prevail: the implementation engineer is responsible for the quality of the product and takes pride in his/her work.  On the other hand, what does an engineer know about menu choices and what to do when the wrong button is pushed?

After a few months I have given up on the LiteOn DVR!  It will work for a few minutes then quit leaving a destroyed DVD+R behind.  Not only will it not record but it will also not play back -- not only the DVDs on which it wrote junk -- but will not play back any DCD.  I went to their web page for support.  There is no support but there is a PDF version of the user manual.  The big print title of the unit spells recorder as "RECODER".  But then I understand that in America we say "Recorder" and elsewhere they say  "Recoder".  WalMart does a lot of business with the Chinas.

I notice that there are no more LiteOn DVRs at Sam's Club.  Just a guess but I suspect others smarter than myself returned their units and burned a few ears when they could not burn DVDs.

Star-Kist Tuna

The other day at Sam’s Club, I picked up a pack of tuna cans.  You know Sam’s Club and Costco: nothing comes small.  If it is a small can, they package a group together.  So it is with Tuna.  I always liked the “Sorry Charlie” ads and Sam’s Club sells good things generally so I thought I was getting good food.

I was wrong.  After I opened one can and drained the water, less than half a can of tuna was left.  Worse, it was just mush.  I thought I had a bad can.  I opened a second: same results, I added them together to make tuna salad for my sandwich.  Not rotten but not good.  I added a can of Kirkland (Costco) tuna and improved the mix.

Then I went to the Star-Kist web site and sent in a customer comment form.  I even included the code off the bottom of the cans.  I received a nice (glib) email back saying that sometimes things get past their quality control and they were sorry and they would mail me coupons to make up the loss.

They did not do this.  Instead they sent me a coupon for two packages of tuna.  Not 8 coupons to replace the 8 bad cans of product.  Not 1 coupon to replace 8 cans of product.  1 coupon for 2 packages.  I emailed back with an appropriate response: you sold me bad product and when confronted, sent me a piece of paper not worth going to the store to redeem.  Companies like this deserve to be put on my permanent grudge list. Star-Kist has sent me a check for the other tins: the company made good on the money loss.

What now?  After all, they paid me for the money.  I met a couple in Sam's Club checking out the tuna.  I told them my experience.  They said that they had had the same experience with the standard tuna and now only bought the albacore tuna.  This is wrong.  If a company puts out a bad product and you buy it and do not like it, you do not buy from the same company the higher priced product.  This is the absolute last thing that you should do as it encourages the expansion of both products!

Second TIme Around

I did it again.  October, 2005, I went to Sam's Club with some friends and bought some Star-Kist tuna.  People had told me that the Albacore was better than the cheaper stuff.  This is the only brand Sam's Club carries.  This stuff is indeed cheaper than the Star-Kist regular.  The next time I shall go without:  the Star-Kist albacore is about the same quality as I would expect from the cheapest can in a supermarket.  I mean this stuff is really bad.  I shall not complain to Star-Kist this time.  Just complain here.  After all there is the old adage: "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."

Just to make an objective comparison so you know that this is not a only gripe.  If I open a Costco-brand albacore, I drain the can of a little water, add some mayonnaise to lubricate it, some celery seed and pickle relish to add a little flavor, and some cheese, I have enough for two sandwiches and some crackers.  If I try the same with the Star-Kist Albacore, I drain a lot of sick-looking water, and have enough for one sandwich and a couple of crackers.  There is enough water added to the can to make up for enough tuna for almost an entire sandwich.  When I pay for tuna, I should get tuna.  When I pay for water, it should come in clear bottles and be labeled as water.  I do not want to blame the runs I got later that day on the tuna.  I do not think it was the pickle relish or the mayonnaise either.

Third Time Around

No, I did not buy more Star-Kist.  I noticed last week that Sam's Club now carries a brand in addition to Star-Kist.  But it has been several months and I have time to think more about this.  Am the only person in this country that buys for quality?  I mean, Star-Kist would not exist if the buy-for-quality population were very large.  In many cities, people can buy at multiple stores with multiple brands.  Most people who like tuna will buy multiple cans.  Do they not try multiple brands to see which they like better?  Is it not good to buy a product containing more fish than water ?  Is not fish with the consistency of fish better than fish with the consistency of mud?  Does not anyone care what they put in their mouths?  I mean when I open the can of premium Star-Kist and scrape the pink slush away from the remaining fish I have to tighten my stomach.  I tell myself that hundreds of people eat this with no second thoughts and it will not poison me and I have only a few cans left.  The alternative is to give or throw the remaining cans away.

Everyone has their own favorite brands of things.  My friend Gale likes Kellogg's Raison Bran better than Post.  I have always liked Post better.  When I was a boy, my mother would buy Post for me.  When I started eating too much cereal, she would toss in a box of Kellogg's to slow me down.  In those days I did not read the box.  I just knew that something had changed for the worse.  My friend Gale likes his brand for the same reason I like mine: plumper raisons, bigger flakes, and resistance to soggy flakes.  I am sure that Kellogg's has people who taste-test the competition.  I am sure the same is true for Post.  I am sure they each make adjustments according to contemporary tastes and the relative costs of raisons.  I have tried Kellogg's recently and I think Gale is wrong.  Once of us is technically  in error.  But this is a brand preference.  These are both quality products.  Someone is paying attention to what the customer wants and the quality difference is less significant than the decisions of the taste-testors.

I know there are people who are brand-loyal in spite of poor quality.  This is why they sell more Toyotas than Dodges -- but Dodge still exists.  When it comes to large-dollar purchases, loyalty to American product is given up in favor of seeing a balance in the checking account and a reduction of wasted time in the service-center lounge.  I have spent months in Chevrolet and Dodge service areas.  I have only spent hours in the Toyota service centers.  The Nissan dealer picked up and delivered.  He is probably no longer around.  But they still sell Chevys and Fords and Dodges.  Probably mostly in the iron or rust belt.  I guess some people just do not care.  Maybe there are a lot of first-time buyers who believe the TV ads.  But buying a couple dollar can of tuna or cereal for comparison purposes will seriously improve the quality of your diet and a mistake will leave you a better person and not seriously impact your food budget.  So why can they still sell Star-Kist?

LG is the new name for (Lucky) Gold Star

This may not be important but I know a lot of American engineers and marketing people who lost their jobs do to below quality component replacement in products their company bought from Gold Star.  When the products failed in the field, the selling company took the loss.  The fine print in the contract with Gold Star made them not liable for component failure. Gold Star made components to replace the original high-quality, purchase components.  Their argument: the Gold Star components meet the contract specifications of the original components.  Most honest manufacturing companies attempt to make their components such that the specification is a minimum requirement.  Gold Star treated the specification as a target or goal.

I did not lose my job but we had to reprogram a lot of chips to deal with the Gold Star short cuts and since the problem is dealt with at a corporate level and not an engineering level, there was little chance to defend myself or my programming.

The objective in Japan is to make products that people want to own.  The objective in the USA is to overwhelm the marketplace with marketing gimmicks to sell products that people do not want in the first place.  The objective in Korea is to make cheap copies of what the Japanese are making.

Remember (South) Korea is so paranoid that until recently, you could not legally belong to a religion where you faced east to pray (Japan is to the east of Korea).

APC -- Universal Power Supply

UPS or Backup Power supply.  This brand is dangerous.  It will not only destroy your computer equipment but is capable of destroying anything attached to it.    I always recommend people use an UPS for any electronic equipment.  I bought several of these over the last 10 years.  I thought things were dying of old age but I never thought an UPS was killing them.  So far I have burned up two desktop power supplies and a couple of wall lamps.  It was the sparking from the wall lamps that led me to the UPS.  I mean I buy the insurance to protect my equipment and the insurance is pathological!

I live in an RV.  I have line voltage gauges to measure polarity, grounding, and voltage levels.  When my lamp started sparking, I plugged the monitor gauge into the battery backup side of my APC UPS.  It read within range.  Then my power went out.   The UPS kicked in with acceptable voltage and started beeping to let me know I was on battery power.  So far, OK.  Then my house power came back on.  My voltage gauge cycled up from low voltage, normal polarity, normal ground to high voltage, no ground.   I do not know how high but the gauge stops at values over 130.  It remained at this value for a minute or so and then returned to the 120 voltage registering on my Tripp-Litte UPS.

I thought maybe the house power did something strange.  I turned the APC off and then back on.  Same thing: higher than 130 volts and no ground.  What if I had not been home?  What if I had attached it to something that went into flames. I mean sparks from a wall lamp is pretty high voltage.  The wall lamps are now trash.  Lamps?  I lost one a few months ago and thought it was just another appliance failure.  The two computers?  I replaced them thinking that the problem was worse than an internal power supply.  Now I regret that.  Who would have thought that the devices that you buy for protection are the cause of your power problems?

This was with DIFFERENT APC UPS devices!  Not the same one!  One was an UPS I installed on my daughter's computer in Berkeley. The others in my RV. There is a serious problem here and it is not from the power company.

Suggestions?  Questions?  Comments?  Push Home/eMail above.
Written:  2002          Updated:  May 24, 2011             Back to Top