Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Dear suburban headquartered big box retailer,

Filed under : New York City,Stores
On August 4, 2010
At 9:30 pm
Comments : 4

On the heels of my recent car-free post, I’ve been reading lately about how the multi-story, suburban style parking structure at the East River Plaza in Harlem is shockingly empty. Now, the shock is on the part of the builder and owner of said parking lot, not of average New Yorkers, I’m sure. East River Plaza is a new-ish shopping center in East Harlem and I’ve been going to the Costco there for about a year, since I started needing large quantities of baking supplies. For a while, Costco was the only tenant but since this was designated as the landing spot of Manhattan’s first Target, I figured I’d be going there long into the future.

Well, to make a long story short, it’s a pain and a half to get there for those of us on the Upper West Side, because anything that involves a crosstown bus in Harlem will inevitably take years off your life. Years spent on that bus. Or waiting for that bus. Or waiting to get on that bus. But it is the only game in town as far as bulk groceries, so I do what I have to do. Today, I headed over there primarily to try the new Target but also picked up a few things at the Costco. In the future, when I need something from Target, I’ll be going back to the one in the Bronx which is a direct shot by subway. Target has a temporary shuttle (it goes till 8/22, a month after they opened) to hype the place but it only took me 1/3 of the way across 116th street, whereupon I waited 20 minutes for a bus, which is crazy in New York, sorry.

But while I was there, I checked out the parking lot which was indeed mostly empty while both Target and Costco were quite busy (there are other stores, Best Buy, Marshall’s, Petco…. I don’t know if they’re all open yet as they were on higher floors and I don’t care about any of them). If you’re wondering, Big Box Stores who insisted on the parking garage, how people are shopping, let me describe the following sights which I witnessed today to you:

  • The family filling a little red wagon covered in a blanket.
  • The lady walking down 117th Street with a ham under her arm.
  • The shuttle, chock full of downtown types.
  • The woman looking over the average supermarket size carts at Target in wonder, who said to me, “look how huge these are! They really want you to shop, don’t they?” (hint, if your customer is a person who has never seen a regular grocery cart before, she does not have a car.)
  • The large family with each member carrying one bag.
  • The innumerable little hand carts.

This all leads me to my letter:

Dear Target,

I have a great idea for all those empty parking spots in your big ugly structure! Why not fill them with shuttles which will ferry us sans-automobiles across 116th St. to all our respective subway lines? It can be every 15 or 20 minutes; I realize 116th is crowded as it is. Then, at night, they can have that whole parking garage to themselves.

You may also want to think about selling little red wagons.


As for you, lady with ham, I’ll see you on the shuttle.


Play to win

Filed under : Baseball,Gadgets,Stores,Tennis
On June 24, 2010
At 7:30 am
Comments : 5

Was yesterday the greatest day in sports ever or what! You notice I didn’t put a question mark there because there is no other option. Of course, you’d have to have the unique set of circumstances I did and be American, a tennis fan, and a Yankee fan to feel this way and I know that’s true for only .0008% of you. I was reminded of the fact that I started my blog in earnest about four years ago during the last World Cup because I used the title I wanted to use today then, Magic Jewball, Sporting Fool. But let’s count all the great things that happened:

1. USA! USA! (That was the soccer part, duh). I knew this because they announced it during the Wimbledon match I was watching which was…

2. … thirty hours long! I swear, I woke up late-ish as usual and since John Isner and Nicolas Mahut were carrying on from the day before and just finishing their match from the previous day (it had gone too long and Wimbledon doesn’t have lights or final tiebreaks), I figured I’d eat breakfast when it was over. Folks, in case you weren’t following, I had breakfast at 4:30pm. And they still weren’t done, it was like 118-118 in the final set or something. Maybe it was infinity+1 – infinity+1. I’m not really sure these guys are human, I think they might be comprised of those machines that just shoot balls at you across the net. And they finish today.

It’s the third day now and the longest tennis match ever. Actually, the fifth set alone is the longest match ever. The really important thing to note, though, is that suddenly tennis is on the news which it never is and even more so because soccer which never is has been using the last 30 seconds of sports time that is allotted to sports no one cares about. So, right, wow. But the pinnacle, I think, of shattered earth is the fact that Deadspin is reporting on a tennis event which doesn’t involve a shot of jiggling breasts or a view upskirt. Mind blowing.

3. The Yankees won in the middle of the night in an extra inning thriller. I made up the thriller part, it was actually a very poorly played game, but the ending was teh awesome.

4. Jonathan Papelass had his save blown in Colorado by a former Yankee. I’m sorry, I just don’t like that guy and I wouldn’t no matter what team he was on.

So right, that was all good. It was a good day to be a sports fan in New York. And even if you are a Mets fan, Jerry Seinfeld was calling the game at New Shea, so you had that. I don’t know who won that game, I only tuned in to hear Jerry call Lady Gaga a jerk and to see Keith Hernandez look embarrassed as they showed his old scenes from the show. And it was worth it.

In non-sports news, it was also an exciting day for me because I finally got a new phone. If you remember, my old one had a giant crack formed in its screen as I attempted to check email at 4 in the morning. You may think based on the timing that it is an iPhone but you would be wrong! That’s a red herring because I actually used the release of the iPhone to convince T-Mobile to give me a free smartphone since I was thinking of switching. In fact, I was thinking about having no money but you know, I might switch in a few years. They didn’t ask me when. And the Internets informed me that T-Mobile took that as a good reason to give away phones so I am now the new, proud owner of a BlackBerry Bold which I lovelovelove. Everything looks good and sounds good and moves quickly and it can do all sorts of fun things.

But this is also good news for you because I took that occasion to change my mobile theme to one that works on more devices. If you normally visit me on a mobile phone, you are probably looking at it right now and I hope it’s clear and legible, if lacking in the frippery of my normal theme. If you’re looking at a little screen and seeing my normal black & gray & flowers, please let me know in the comments what device you’re using so I can get on that. If it’s an iPad, I can’t help you… yet. But they say they’re working on it. You are very important to “them.” They will be right with you, please stand by.

By the way, and back to sports for a moment, people sometimes ask me why I’m a fan of one person or another. Is it their nationality? A big forehand? Hotness? Sometimes! But not usually. Most often it’s by personality (see the Papelbon example above there) and I find that out by sitting through my yearly matches at the US Open and seeing who appeals to me. Someone determined and classy, who respects the fans and doesn’t argue with the linespeople, and who seems to be having a good time. I know, it’s a tall order. A few years ago, in fact, I saw Nicolas Mahut play and he was an ass. I even mentioned it in a post. But see, if you can maintain your composure and give it your all for ten hours (and counting), I will become your fan. Of course, I was already a fan of John Isner because of Twitter. If you are funny on Twitter or even just talk to your fans on Twitter, I will be your fan. New rule. Also, tiebreaks. That should be a new rule. But of course, then I’d just be reading articles about Venus Williams’ underwear on Deadspin, so there’s that. Hooray for week long matches!

Heaven 17 – Play To Win


You can’t download a cupcake

Filed under : Gadgets,Stores
On April 28, 2010
At 3:00 am
Comments : 7

While I wait for answers I need for my next post, I’m focused somewhat on getting myself a new cell phone, something that wasn’t supposed to happen for a while. And when I say cell phone, I use the accepted term, but I rarely if ever talk on it; I use it as an all-purpose internet access machine, just as I have since I originally discovered that I never, ever have to be away from the web. This one is 2.5 years old and while I know it is sadly out of date, the phone I really want is financially out of my reach, so I just stick with it. Until this weekend when I knocked it off the night table and cracked its screen. Oops. But I have a list of things I need and I won’t bore you with them, the only bit of information you need to know here being that the phone that fulfills all of these requirements doesn’t actually exist. But I almost bought a phone today anyway!

I went to the T-Mobile store, just to play with the phones to maybe get used to the idea of simply replacing my BlackBerry with a newer, better, faster BlackBerry. Not to buy one. But the guy talked me into it! Really! And maybe in my heart of hearts I really did want it. Then something went wrong and as they were ringing me up, the credit card literally in my hand, the transaction couldn’t be completed because of my cheap and ancient plan. I felt disappointed, but, whatever, I could just phone up T-Mo and get it done. But that’s the thing: I haven’t. And I doubt I will. I probably will just keep on waiting for the Perfect Phone to come along and in the meantime use my sad Curve with the cracked screen. I have worked in retail sales, although never on commission, so I have a vague idea of the psychology of this. But a big purchase like this one is something I never imagined letting myself be manipulated into making. Weird!

The other thing it made me realize is why the Nexus One, the phone I covet (although it doesn’t fulfill all the requirements either) has less than 2% of the market. Because it’s only sold on the Internet! I can’t go into a store and play with it and feel like I can’t leave without it and have the slick salesguy convince me that this promotion will end TODAY and I need to get it NOW. I think Google, which does so many things right, has done this thing wrong. When it appears in the store next to the lesser Blackberry or G1 or whatever, then people will want it. Now, it doesn’t work this way for Apple, but people didn’t run out to buy the original iPod either. Apple had to build that “I’ll buy this sight unseen” fanboy clientele and Google hasn’t accomplished that. Not to mention, I also coveted an iPad and happened to have a torture session dentist appointment this week which put me next to the Apple Store. All through the drilling, I kept saying to myself, “survive this and get to go see an iPad!” Well, I did survive and I did go to the Apple Store and guess what? I didn’t like the iPad. It didn’t feel comfortable in my hand and there wasn’t multi-tasking, at least as I’m used to. So now I don’t feel bad that I can’t afford one because I wouldn’t buy one. But I had to try one to figure that out. And I had to be in a physical store to do that.

Zappo’s comes closest to replicating that, by sending shoes overnight and allowing you to send them back free with no repercussions. But if you’ve seen even one episode of Sex and the City, you know people can be talked into shoes like a tech nut can be talked into a 3G BlackBerry. But not by websites… yet.

There is a story to this post title. When I started the baking business, while I was still at the record label, I told a co-worker about it and he said, “Good idea! You know, you can’t download a cupcake.” There are some things that the Internet still cannot provide.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Sdtk – I Want It Now


Merry. And Bright.

Filed under : Rants,Stores
On December 12, 2007
At 1:30 pm
Comments : 11

Thanks for taking over for me, fun commenters! Sorry I had to take a short leave but the fact is, I was in a bad mood and you know how those things are contagious. I couldn’t risk spreading it to you. Now that I’m all cheerful again, it’s time to share my negativity in a more constructive way. How? By a rant about stores. After all, it’s the holiday shopping season. Although, we Jews are all done. Burn! No, I kid, I have some goyim on my list too.

Yesterday, I went to the Genius Bar. This is my name for Jacques Torres’ Wicked Spicy Chocolate Bar but for some reason, it’s also the name of the repair desk at the Apple Store. Apple seems to have the same attitude towards appointments as my doctor’s office because when I got there for my 1:20 appointment I saw my name up on the big board as #12. Out of 12. This is something you do not want to see when you have gone across town on your lunch hour to basically show your power cord (heh, she said power cord) with the wires all frayed to some geek so you can get a new one a week before your warranty expires.

So, instead of spending five minutes and then walking out with a new power cord, I sat against a wall and waited. The first thing I noticed was that the stools for customers at the various desks (iPod Genius Bar, Mac Genius Bar, Studio – that’s the training one) are clearly designed to show off your underwear and buttcrack for the amusement of people forced to wait for appointments. This also goes for the various Apple store employees doing one-on-one training with the customers. The employee, sorry, genius, nearest me wore boxers, if you must know. I also noticed that everyone being trained was over fifty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The woman waiting near me, who was probably sixty, kept looking at me and trying to catch my eye to start a conversation. Did I mention I was in a bad mood? Don’t talk to me, lady. But she tried. “Are you here for training?” she asked. “Nope,” I said, and took out my BlackBerry. I’m not sure non-iPhones are allowed in the Apple Store but I went for it anyway.

After that, I worked on naming all the Geniuses based on their appearance. The one with the kipa was FrumGenius, then there was HipsterGenius, TattooGenius, PerkyGenius, and CurlyGenius. They were all white guys. I watched myself move up the board. After about 40 minutes (40!), I was number three. Then I disappeared! I went up to one of the “concierges” (I should have asked him for tickets to The Lion King too) and asked him what happened. The conversation went like this:

Me: I was #3 and then I went off the list!
Him: Did you check in with me?
Me: Did anything say I was supposed to do that?
Him: What is your name?
Me: Becca
Him: Your appointment was canceled because you didn’t check in.
Me: I’ve been waiting 40 minutes! Can you put me back?
Him: Let me see…. OK.
Me: Am I at the back of the line now? I don’t see my name on the board.
Him: The board doesn’t really mean anything.
Me, thinking: well, if it’s meant as entertainment it is sorely lacking
Me, out loud: Your website should really mention that you have to check in.
Him: Melanie L! Melanie L!

Luckily, I showed up a second later on the board as #1. Board doesn’t mean anything, my ass! I got TattooGenius. Every other Genius was smiley and friendly. Except my guy. He seemed suspicious of my motives from the start and told me my warranty was up. I said, “I checked, it’s December 19th.” He looked skeptical. Listen, bud, if you cannot read your own system, I can’t really believe you are a genius. Albert Einstein would probably have realized that if I purchased my computer on December 20th, 2006, and today is December 11th, 2007, and the warranty is one year, then it is not up. Finally, that information sunk in and he replaced my cord. He also told me I had been pulling it out of the computer wrong, even though I never actually told him the method I use to remove it from the computer. Genius! When I mentioned a problem I read about with the hard drive on my model, he insisted there had been no such problem reported or he would know about it. Might I suggest Google, oh Genius? I suppose I’ll just wait for the catastrophic failure to happen after my warranty ends, which is how these things usually go.

But, you know, I did walk away with my cord. And it could be worse. It could have been CompUSA, which you may have heard is going out of business (shocking!). Now, no one could beat their prices, and by that I mean be more expensive than them, but they were always good for just grabbing a spindle of recordable DVD’s or whatever. However, their customer service, to me, was exemplified by these two experiences I had.

The first was a conversation I overheard in the Mac section.

Customer: Are Macs any good?
Employee: Sure, I plan on getting one soon myself.
Customer: Can I ask your reasons?
Employee: They look really cool.

Super. Just last week, I was waiting on line, the one line that existed for 20 customers because “everyone is on their break” at 7:30pm. One of the employees walks along the line and asks everyone if they have received a sales pass or something like that. He hands each of us a piece of paper with nonsense written on the back. I ask him what it is for. “Organizational purposes,” he says. When I get to the cashier, finally, I hand it to her, she rolls her eyes and throws it away. On the way out, I am forced to show my receipt to the security guard who does not bother looking in my bag, scribbles a circle on it and I leave.

There goes a well-run organization. With their 30% off sales they may just bring their prices in line with everywhere else. But hey, at least they never called themselves geniuses.

Title comes from the slogan on the Geniuses’ Christmas shirts.

Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love



Filed under : New York City,Stores
On November 15, 2007
At 12:30 am
Comments : 27

Speaking of dreams, one of mine came true this week and it’s going to change my life. Dear diary, it’s really happened, they opened a Target near me. If you are savvy, and you know New York or Target or both, you will say, “Becca, there’s no new Target near you – the last one opened like last year. Or the year before.” True. But I thought it was in The Bronx. It turns out, it’s in Riverdale. If you are inclined to think that Riverdale is actually in The Bronx, hey, just ask someone from Riverdale. Or plug the address of the Target into Hopstop and use The Bronx as the borough. Nothing, right? Well, try Manhattan. Yes, Hopstop considers 225th Street in Riverdale to be Manhattan. Nice.

I just consider it somewhere safe to shop. And shop I did. It’s 25 minutes away by subway! And no changes! One line, up, down, etc. Do you know how nice that is with bags filled to the brim with inexpensive merchandise? I may never shop at Duane Reade again, I don’t care if it’s on every corner of my intersection. Which it is. On the way back, I ended up talking to some lady from the Village (she didn’t understand the weekend service changes on the IRT, which have been going on for most of my adult life, it seems, so I am a fount of information) who had only come so far because she had a gift card. For ten dollars. And she said it took her an hour to find anything she could possibly want. Are you kidding me? I made comments to the effect of “$5 toothpaste at Duane Reade, $2.39 at Target” and such, and her answer was, “I shop at the 99 cents store, I never go to Duane Reade.” Well, if you want to die of poisoning from Crist brand Chinese toothpaste, have at it, sister! It later emerged that her handbag cost four hundred dollars. I cannot make this stuff up. By the way, I spent $165 at Tar-jhay. And I may go back this Sunday.

I want you to know, I have nothing against The Bronx. It’s actually my third favorite borough! Right in the middle. Here’s how it shakes out:

1. Manhattan – This may surprise you if this is your first day on this website.
2. Brooklyn – Sentimental favorite – I’m half Brooklynese and have swell memories.
3. The Bronx – Yankee Stadium, The Bronx Zoo, Botanical Gardens – what’s not to like? Please don’t answer that.
4. Queens – I suppose I just don’t really like Queens, maybe it’s the fact that I only find myself there in a huge hurry to make a plane. But it has the National Tennis Center and until they move it to somewhere better, I’ll continue to just enjoy it one week of the year.
5. Staten Island – I’ve seen it more often in Working Girl than real life. I believe I have spent one day there ever. I think I was ten.

So there you have it. And actually, I’m not sure I want a Target in Manhattan. Have you seen Union Square lately? And by lately, I mean in the last ten years. No, really, it’s beginning to make even I, who love chain stores, kind of queasy. So let’s keep it just over the border in The Bronx Riverdale, shall we?

KRS-One – South Bronx