At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.


Is a Fair Way to Shop?

This shard of glass is all that remains from the top of our nifty living room lamp. Where are you supposed to go to replace a piece that you’ve owned for twenty years? It can be a lighting jungle out there…

This shard of glass is all that remains from the top of our nifty living room lamp. Where are you supposed to go to replace a piece that you’ve owned for twenty years? It can be a lighting jungle out there…

In our living room, there once stood an old-time floor lamp. It wobbled just a bit and supported a nifty white glass bell shade on the very top, harkening back to another, less tech-filled era. And for the past few years, our almost six-year-old son has been zipping by it. The lamp stood there, seemingly impervious to his growing energies.

Alas, the lamp’s time finally ran out, and a couple weeks back…. Crash…
The glass shade shattered into a thousand pieces.
(Everyone was okay… by the way.)

So now what?

Well, it was time to replace the glass shade. I figured I should be able to easily do that online…
(Who wants to schlep around to various stores to check limited stock for something as unique as this?)

Amazon… My Old Friend
I started with my old standby… Amazon. But I’ve got to admit, it was a little frustrating navigating to find exactly what I was looking for. Most of the choices weren’t Amazon Prime eligible, and many of the descriptions from various sellers weren’t as clear as I needed them to be.
(I was looking for a 2.25” base to pop back on the lamp’s mount.)

And the idea of paying $10-$12 for shipping really was a non-starter.

So I ventured into the wild, and began Googling about. I found several companies that specialized in lighting… but I honestly wasn’t really interested in starting a new relationship with a strange online vendor.

Hello, Wayfair
That said, I did run several times into something called
And on a lark, I decided to Google it.
wayfair According to Wikipedia, It’s the largest online-only furniture retailer in the United States. And it’s headquartered out of Boston.
(My old stomping grounds)


So I decided to check Wayfair out…

Zeroing In
And I’ve got to say, the website looked and felt really solid. Its interface was easy to use, and it had the look of a serious player. Plus I could easily save my choices to a ‘board’ for final evaluation later.
(Very useful!)

I was quickly able to find what I was looking for…
Alabaster Glass Shade
An Alabaster Glass Bell Pendant Shade by Volume Lighting

Wayfair offers free shipping over $49.00… so I figured I’d pick up something else to cross over the finish line.

Not quite….

You know me… I like to do price comparisons….

Lighting Jungle and Amazon Team Up
So I went to to see what was going on there.
But the inventory was limited, and I couldn’t find that particular glass shade or anything close to what I really needed.
(Bummer…. Jet has really been disappointing me lately.)

Then, I went back to Amazon to look for that specific glass shade from Volume Lighting. And in fact I found it. I had originally passed by the choice, because it was a non-Prime offering by a company called Lighting Jungle, and the description didn’t contain enough detail, including the critical fitter size at the base.

But it did contain the model number, which didn’t mean anything to me the first time around. Now I was able to do the match.

And match… they did.

The price on Amazon…?


Okay, plus the dreaded $12.99 shipping cost.

But that’s still a grand total of only $32.43.
That’s a huge difference compared to Wayfair’s $47.99.


Well, that’s disappointing. What’s up, Wayfair?

Inconclusive Data
So I decided to do a quick tour around Wayfair’s site to get a better sense of the overall pricing…

I happened to need another LED bulb for the upstairs bathroom to replace a decorative incandescent bulb that had just burned out.
(You know me in my ongoing LED bulb replacement crusade.)

I came upon this cute 4-Watt LED replacement for $19.43.

Then, I crossed check it with both Amazon and
Wayfair had them both beat by about a buck.


Okay. So I wasn’t going to easily get a clear verdict on whether Wayfair was unnecessarily marking up the inventory or not.

There’s Never One Retailer that’s Always Best
But really… is there ever a one-stop online shopping solution for everything you’ll ever need?

Amazon is great… but you’ve also got to watch the pricing. It’s often, but not always the best deal around.

You’ll recall, I had high hopes for But the selection there is still more limited than Amazon’s. And Jet’s lower pricing promise hasn’t panned out for me.

Is Wayfair Way Fair?
So now I’ve found Wayfair.
And even though it was wicked expensive on my first try, I think I’m still going to add Wayfair to my short list.


Well, I’ve just got a good vibe about this place.
(Any of you out there have other experiences with Wayfair?)

Check out this appealing Wayfair YouTube video-

Sure, my warm response to this video only speaks to Wayfair’s successful marketing strategy.

Whether I’ll end up regularly shopping there is another story entirely…

Yes, regarding my new glass shade… Amazon won the day.
But I think it’s fair to say I’m rooting for Wayfair to do more for me in the future.

Because remember, there’s no one place in the world you should always shop.

That’s way fair.

I Bequeath My CD Collection to My Five Year Old

But before I do, I need to buy a new portable CD boombox, so my son can continue to listen to all of those near-abandoned discs I have yet to rip to my computer. The question is… which boombox should I get?

But before I do, I need to buy a new portable CD boombox, so my son can continue to listen to all of those near-abandoned discs I have yet to rip to my computer. The question is… which boombox should I get?

When my five year old was just a baby and beginning to crawl, he wasn’t really moving more than a few inches. One day, he spotted our old Sony CD boombox on the other side of the family room. It was playing a nursery rhyme. He stared at the magical device, and it was love at first sight. Now, he had some real motivation to advance his locomotion.

He had to touch it. In that moment, he crawled an entire foot towards it.

Over the next week, I watched him repeatedly return his attention to the CD player, and observed his effort to crawl over and touch it. When he eventually made it to the singing device, his face lit up as his stretched hand made first contact.

It felt like my son taught himself to crawl at an accelerated rate, because of this need to get to his CD boombox.

Yes, his boombox.

Music to His Ears
Since then, his attachment to the wonderful music box has never waned. He’s learned that pressing buttons makes it sing, and that there are different songs.

Eventually, he mastered the entire interface, plus the CD track numbers. He also enjoyed popping different CDs in and out to create a seemingly endless supply of music.

Like a boy and his dog, it was my son and his music.
(A dog is a conversation for another day.)

End of Life Lurking
But now there’s trouble lurking in his magic kingdom…

Our boombox is over a decade old, and his sometimes rough handling of it over the years has taken its toll. It’s finally starting to malfunction.

And before the CD player totally breaks down, I’ve got a decision to make.

Should I replace the Sony or introduce my son to the more current world of iPods and MP3 players?

Hanging on to CDs
It should be an obvious answer, but part of the problem is I still haven’t ripped all of my old CDs to iTunes. There’s a whole bookcase of them waiting for rainy days that never come… thanks to busy parenthood with other priorities.

Plus, somehow he’s picked up his own personal CD collection over the past few years. (Gifts, mostly)

My conundrum is CD use is still alive and well throughout the Lester household. As much as I want to, I can’t pull the plug… not yet. So I decided it was time to get a new boombox for my boy.

You Get What You Pay For
What made the decision a bit easier was the expected low price point of this near dead tech.

Sure CDs are still selling at the same prices as a decade ago.
But who’s really buying CD boomboxes anymore?
(Besides me?)

And in fact, Amazon has a whole host of no name CD boomboxes to choose from in the $30-$50 range. But user reviews are absolutely terrible for the whole lot of them.

Whatever I buy is going to take its share of wear and tear from my son’s use.
It needs to take a little licking…


A Sony CD Boombox on Steroids
So expanded my price point and took a look at what Sony had to offer…

Of course Sony is selling its current boombox model for a hefty 100 bucks.
(You pay more for the brand, right?)

Sony ZS-RS60BT Boombox






But as it turns out, the black Sony ZS-RS60BT CD Boombox has a few updated tricks up its sleeve.

  • It has Bluetooth connectivity. So I can stream music to it from my iPhone.
    (Much like my nifty Logitech UE speaker)
  • It can play music files from USB devices.
  • It can rip CD files to USB devices.
    (As MP3s)

Not too shabby…

Sticking with Sony
Okay… so I’m spending twice as much as I need to… but I’m technically getting a superior unit with newer tech to future proof it somewhat.
(Plus, Daddy can use it too.)

Okay, let’s shop it…


No Magic Bullets
Most portable CD boomboxes on the market today have seemingly become glorified toys at ludicrously cheap price points. But if you want a good one, you’ve still got to spend some coin.

Does my son need a premium ‘Sony’ product? Well, I’d like it to last for a few years, and the Amazon reviews on this one are mostly solid.
(And don’t forget, my last Sony held up to normal toddler abuse like a champ.)

Equilibrium Restored
So my five year old is getting a new CD boombox.
(The holidays are just around the corner…)
No, he won’t be the coolest kid on the block, but thankfully, he doesn’t know that yet.

Soon, I will expose my son to newer musical tech. But for now, my boy will continue his reign as the CD king of our household.

He’s happy. I’m happy.

Yes, I blew some bucks on dead tech.
But I got a Bluetooth speaker along the way…

Rock on.

Is Jet an Amazon Killer?

If you’re not a big fan of Amazon these days, you might want to check out to save some money… Does that mean Jet can beat Amazon at it’s own game? It depends…

If you’re not a big fan of Amazon these days, you might want to check out to save some money… Does that mean Jet can beat Amazon at it’s own game? It depends…

Okay… so Amazon may not be the friendliest place to work. Recently, a few of my friends mentioned to me that after reading The New York Times article on Amazon’s toxic work culture, they’re thinking of ending their Amazon relationship. As I tried to consider my own ethics position on all of this, my conscience was quickly interrupted by the ‘hunting and gathering’ part of my brain…

“Where else is there to shop?!”

First off, I’ve got to admit the irony of my own question, because it was only a few short years ago when I was still dipping my toes into the water of online shopping. I remember calling it,
“The Joy of Shopping at Midnight in your Underwear.”

Now, I simply can’t do without online shopping… day or night. I’ve long ago applied those former brick and mortar shopping hours to other aspects of my busy life.

Married to Amazon
So yes, Amazon has firmly become my go-to online shopping site for quite some time now.

  • It’s simple.
  • There’s always a huge selection.
  • Amazon Prime’s free shipping seems like such a deal even at $99/year.
    (Not to mention the load of other benefits Amazon is piling onto Prime)
  • And Amazon’s pricing usually beats the pants off of brick and mortar stores.

But even without all of the bad press Jeff Bezos has received, I’ve grown a tad uncomfortable with the idea of shopping at only one URL.
(How do you know if the pricing has remained competitive?)

To be fair, I do go to a few other online destinations…

Cheating on Amazon

  • If I’m looking to buy some tech, I usually log on to B&H Photo. The best price is usually there…
  • When my son was still in diapers, I frequented and eventually dropped some coin on its affiliated websites-, and The pricing was sometimes competitive, but the free shipping (if you spent more than $49) always seemed to beat out Amazon’s 2-day Prime delivery.
    (The huge irony here is Amazon has owned Quidsi, the parent company of since 2011. I didn’t know this until I started writing this post.)

I also spend my money with a few specialty online merchants, such as…

…But for the vast majority of my home staples…

  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Kleenex
  • Cat food
  • Ziploc sandwich bags
  • Cree LED light bulbs
  • My favorite crackers
  • Toothpaste
  • Batteries
  • Dish Soap
  • Vitamins
  • (As well as an assortment of other items)

…I’ve been hitting up Amazon.

And while the convenience can’t be beat, I really don’t know how good the deals are anymore.
(No, I haven’t yet taken the obvious step of price comparisons at my local supermarket.)

I think it would be nice (and appropriate) if Amazon had a little competition… right?

Well, guess what?…. Hello,!

Jet has Landed
Jet launched a couple months back, and it’s clearly looking to undercut Amazon’s pricing.

Co-founded by Marc Lore, who used to run (note the irony), Jet is structured somewhat like an online Costco with a $49.99 annual membership fee. (The first three ‘trial’ months are free, before you have pay up.)

And then you get ‘club-price’ discounts in several ways:

  • The more you spend, the greater the discount.
  • If you waive your right to a free return, you get a little more off.
  • You also get additional discounts for certain payment methods. (like debit cards)

Jet claims its profit model is focused entirely on its membership club fee, which allows it to sell items at the lowest prices.

Taking a Ride on
So I signed up for my free trial and took Jet out for a spin…

  • First off, it’s base pricing usually just seemed to match Amazon’s.
    (Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo and Wash was a price match.)
    Sometimes the pricing hovered a few cents either way.
    (Brown Rice Snaps were slightly more expensive.)
  • Jet gives you an Amazon comparison tool right there on the page.
  • But then, Jet applies an immediate discount, which grows if you order multiples of the same item. And as you put more things in your cart, your overall discount keeps growing.
  • When you’re ready to check out, there’s indeed a significant savings. On my first order I saved $17.54 off the $72.54 subtotal. Plus free shipping. And no tax.
  • I don’t pretend to understand how all the discounting is applied.
    (‘Smart Items’ are supposed to save you more.)
    But at the end of the day, it’s less than shopping on Amazon.
  • And Jet even has a guarantee that if you don’t save at least $49.99 with your membership, they’ll refund the difference.
  • Just like Amazon, Jet sometimes finds your item through another retailer.

So what’s the downside?

  • Selection
    Jet doesn’t have (yet) the same massive selection as Amazon. I couldn’t find everything I wanted… No bags of Caribou Coffee… and Ziploc sandwich bags only in quantities of 500.
  • Delivery speed
    Every order doesn’t get to you in two days. Sometimes the free shipping takes 2-5 days.
    (And that’s fine, as long as you’re not in a huge rush.)

Jet Vs. Amazon
Is Jet an Amazon killer? No, not really.
(Not yet)

But I can’t tell you how happy I am that finally there’s some good, old-fashioned competition to Amazon out there.

And it doesn’t hurt that Jet gives you $10 off your first order (over $35) with a ‘TENBUCKSNOW” discount code.
(That’s on top of the other savings.)

So all this said, will I still continue to use Amazon?

(Even though it may be a terrible place to work.)

But now, Jet has immediately become a cost-savings alternative for much of my general online shopping needs…

Am I rooting for the little guy?

Can Jet beat Amazon at its own game?

We’ll have to wait and see…

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