Frustrated with tech? Wondering about how to save money? Frugality, computers, Twitter, and my wardrobe collided a few days ago. Fortunately, instead of surviving that and just getting a T-shirt, I expect to receive a polo shirt and a turtleneck. It all started with a hole.
Pardon me while I pause to let Twitter load.
Ah, there it is. It takes a while for Twitter to load. That’s not Twitter’s fault. One of the things I like about Twitter is that it is the simplest social media site I use. Any sluggishness probably comes from my frugality.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and definitely don’t throw it away. My MacBook is about ten years old – and still running. Sure, the hard drive’s been replaced. So has the battery during that old fiasco when Macs were catching fire. And, yeah, the DVD drive (yes, it still has one) sometimes has memory issues like not waking up to acknowledge its existence, but it still runs, eventually. Its speed hasn’t changed. Chips don’t slow down. Software, however, continues to bloat. Apple has upgraded operating systems beyond the capacity of my Mac, or at least what I am willing to risk subjecting it to. The browser is the bigger problem.
When this Mac was young, Amazon was still being laughed at for not making any money. Facebook? Facebook? What’s a Facebook? My computer ran well, was my main tool for writing several books, and has managed my life every day that I’ve been home, even the days without power thanks to the battery.
Now, we ask and expect much. Our expectations have raised and software developers have built the path and helped us move along. That also means bigger programs and more CPU cycles. That’s okay for most people who regularly upgrade their hardware, but I’m the frugal sort. Don’t spend it if you don’t need it.
My business disagreed. About five years ago I bought one of the new brand of computers, a Chromebook, a laptop that owes allegiance to the Internet. The basic design assumes everything is going to be uploads and downloads, probably with little or nothing actually being stored on the laptop. It was cheap, light, had a longer battery life, and was basically expendable – at least compared to typical laptops. Drop my Mac and lose major parts of my life. Drop my Chromebook, or have something break, and… About a year ago that happened and I was back and working in under 3 hours for less than $300.
Unfortunately, modern corporations don’t design for frugal people.
I’m wearing slightly nicer clothes now that I am a real estate broker. The shorts are in storage, unless I’m dancing. It’s a pair of jeans with polo shirts or turtlenecks depending on the weather. (Skip the suit. That’s for the mainland.) Everyday wear wore down clothes I owned for years, maybe decades. One of my co-listings sold, which meant I could replace some of the shirts with something without holes – except for the expected ones for my neck, arms, and torso. It’s time to shop!
Skip the mall. Thanks to the ferry, driving to the mall and back could cost more than the clothes. I tried shopping on the south part of the island, but couldn’t find a simple polo shirt and turtleneck. Surely, online stores would fill my simple needs. Comparison shopping is so easy. Log into EddieBauer.com, LandsEnd.com, and LLBean.com and search on each for two items: a short sleeve polo shirt without a pocket and a straightforward turtleneck, tall, large, and basic black for this trip. Lowest price wins. Except that all three failed. Whether it was my Mac, the operating system, the browser, or the full moon, I wasn’t able to find and add those two items to my shopping cart. Bizarre. Frugality was keeping me from saving money.
I vented. Venting to a friend relieves a lot of tension. Venting on Facebook can corral a chorus of support – with hecklers.Venting on Twitter is different. I’ve done it before, and it’s effective. I didn’t want to start three online chats, one for each company, but one tweet let me tell all three at least something about my experience.
Fascinating shopping experience. Gave myself a simple chore, as a break from the sweaty ones: buy 1 black turtleneck & 1 grey polo shirt. Hours later couldn’t complete the task on @eddiebauer, @LLBean, or @LandsEnd. Slow sites, misdirects, amazing. Go off-island to #GoToTheMall?
— Tom Trimbath (@tetrimbath) September 24, 2018
I chose those three companies because I’ve liked their style and support over the decades. But, phone calls, emails, and online chats are sometimes replaced with “Search our Knowledge Base”, and most queries are easy to ignore because they are effectively private. Venting to a friend only helps emotionally, with a small chance they’ll find a solution. The same for Facebook, but the size of the audience means more possibilities. Describing my experience on Twitter has a different effect. It’s public. It may get ignored, but responsive companies know to manage their reputations they must manage such issues, and managing them successfully publicly is a bonus. A short while later I received a Notification. One of them responded.
Tom, we’re sorry our website gave you a hard time today. We would love to hear what problems you encountered If time permits, please Direct Message us with the details.
— Lands’ End Customer Care (@AskLandsEnd) September 24, 2018
My task had shrunk from dealing with three companies to dealing with one. Buying clothes isn’t my top priority. There were consulting clients to consult with and real estate clients to help buy or sell houses. The next day, on a different computer, with a different operating system and browser I was successful. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the company that got the sale was the one that responded to my call. Nicely done, Lands End.
Yay, @AskLandsEnd! A successful shopping experience. Evidently, using a relatively new #Chromebook was better than my old, venerable, and slow MacBook. First new shirts for a new job in #realestate. #HappyDance
— Tom Trimbath (@tetrimbath) September 24, 2018
I’m lucky. My business doesn’t require high-end computing, at least relative to today’s standards. Any of my machines are magical compared to the punch cards I used in college. My old MacBook runs Adobe Photo Elements, not even Photoshop, and that’s okay. I hire out the tough stuff. Most business needs can be addressed online, except for one pesky corporate learning module that I had to access for seven weeks. Chromebooks are maturing thanks to the immature environment of elementary schools. The laptops are being designed to survive fifth-graders. I can be a klutz, but that’s a standard I can benefit from. I also recently received someone’s “old” PC that even runs Windows 10. Three kinds of computers means three opportunities to find a solution.
Frugality is respecting resources, whether that’s money, time, community, or the planet. It isn’t just being cheap. Respecting the different tools available helps. Acknowledging the benefits and limitations of social media expands the use of the tools. Appreciating a company that actually listens (and had some good sales) means getting more done. It is easy to laugh and smirk at things that cost little or nothing, or come with a few strings attached; but look at what they can do when they all work together. If nothing else, they might just update my wardrobe just a bit.