Category Archives: Shopping

Do-it-yourself iPhone 5 advertising

Apple had billions of dollars worth of free pre-release advertising for the iPhone 5, ranging from publicity on news programs to slick ads produced by various mobile phone vendors and resellers.

And then there was this Radio Shack store in Columbia, Maryland. Want to grab everyone’s attention? Use a white board and not one, not two, but three different colors of marking pen! Complete with a somewhat odd happy face and sparkling stars.

iPhone 5 advertisement hand-written on a white board.

One Radio Shack store in Columbia, Maryland, used a high-tech white board and colored markers to advertise the iPhone 5.

Poor memory management

For most of human history, people had only their own memories for storing information. Most people who have lived did not know how to read or write, and if they wanted to remember something, they had to memorize it. Stories and poetry helped people to remember things.

With the advent of mass printing, and then typewriters, duplicators and photocopying machines, the printed word came into its own. Memory could be put to paper; the memories could be profound — the Iliad, the Bible, Shakespeare — or trivial: an order for a hamburger and fries.

One of the great advances of the latter part of the 20th Century was the mechanization, then automation, of memory. Originally, computers were designed to compute: they were custom-made for things that could be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided things. Today, by far the largest and most important use of computers is for memory: storing photos, songs, movies, bank records, electronic books, and anything else that can be described with ones and zeros.

Alas, automated memory is not perfect, as seen in this photo. A shopping mall placed a computer in the ceiling over a hallway in a shopping mall, with a projector pointing down onto the floor, advertising something. Exactly what was being advertised is not clear; the poor Windows XP computer had a memory management problem, and projected its problems onto the floor instead of the advertising.

Memory management and the blue screen of death.

Memory management caused this Windows XP machine to spill its guts all over the shopping mall floor.

Getting charged up for the road

After years of research and development and billions of dollars in investments, the Chevy Volt finally started appearing on roads. Initially, sales were modest, but they’ve picked up over the past couple of years. Also picking up are placement of electric vehicle charging stations.

For months at a time, the charging stations seemed to be bereft of customers, lonely outposts of a sustainable environment that showed no interest in sustainment. Eventually, the Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts made an appearance, and at times even had to wait their turn at the electric nozzle, eagerly awaiting their fare share of ions.

Electric vehicle charging station in Silver Spring, Maryland

Electric vehicle charging station at Blair Plaza in Silver Spring, Maryland

Blair Plaza and the Blair Apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland, have made a strong commitment to sustainable development. This was done for both economic reasons (it costs less to operate without wasting materials and energy) and marketing purposes (most Americans, given a choice, choose to protect the environment). With 2013 threatening to unlease a flood of new plug-in hybrids, they may need to add a few more charging stations.

Adventures in shopping

There are some things that are overwhelming, such as seeing the ocean for the first time, or gazing on the Grand Canyon, or hearing a symphony in person. Or visiting a Wegmans.

Most of the planet has never visited a Wegmans, which at this point are concentrated in a small strip running from Massachusetts to Virginia. A regular supermarket is to a Wegmans much as a gas can is to a supertanker: same basic idea, but vastly different scale. Just the lunch area at a Wegmans is often larger than an entire supermarket anywhere else. Or, possibly, Delaware.

But size is not the only consideration; there is also breadth, or scope, or something. Into the “something” category, we offer Exhibit A,

Your choice: incontinence or hair color.

Given the two choices offered, I’ll go with Hair Color.

in which the brightly lighted, brightly colored shelves offer some interesting choices, according to the signage.

Wegmans excels at specialty foods, having a very generous gluten-free food section, for example, and “ethnic” food that seems to encompass all the continents except Antarctica. Given the gradually rising average age of the U.S. population, it is not surprising that Wegmans caters to this audience, too, but few stores offer aging customers food that is also aging:

Salt and pepper squid.

Salt and pepper squid: will Grecian Formula help?

Come to think of it, I’m not sure Antarctica is overlooked. There may be some krill back there in the fish department…

Literate scam artist

Pretty much everyone on the planet that is both literate and has an Internet connection has purchased something from Amazon. And if you purchase something from Amazon, there is an excellent chance you have a valid, active credit card.

Having a credit card, in turn, makes you a valuable target of Internet scam artists. Internet scams now rake in more money than bank robberies, and they do so without the risk of being shot and killed committing the crime. The conviction rate for Internet scams is also lower. And if you are going to commit an Internet crime, you might as well pick a big, juicy target.

Like Amazon. But not Amazon the company, since Amazon itself plays no role in the scam. Instead, the scam victim receives a message that appears to be from Amazon, and in fact several of the links in the message point back to Amazon:

Your Amazon order that you never ordered comes to $82.99, and includes an $80 Kindle book.

Your Amazon order that you never ordered comes to $82.99, and includes an $80 Kindle book that normally sells for $12.99 and a $2.99 gift certificate, clearly for someone you don't care about.

The links that point to Amazon: Amazon.com at the top, Amazon.com in the Order Information section plus the Learn More link on the same line, Amazon.com in the Oder summary section, the book title, the advertisements across the bottom, and the bolded Amazon.com at the bottom.

The links that work and point to scum bag scammers: Your Account at the top, and Your Account at the bottom. Click on these, and you’ll be prompted with an Amazon-appearing page that requests your name and password.

And that’s it: you’ve now provided the scammers with a name and password tied to an active credit card. Using this information — and nothing more — the scammers can log into Amazon and spend your money buying gift certificates for themselves and others, or pots and pans, or almost anything else Amazon sells.

Isn’t technology wonderful?