30 November 2011

Penny Picks

I just received a comment on my post from a month or so ago from someone else who is dissatisfied with Bass's penny loafers (though for a different reason):
Yah, man. Bass is dead! They have traded quality workmanship in favor of trademarks. I have gone through 2 pairs in less than a year; the soles wear down too easily and the stitching tends to give way around the front upper. Decided I'll go with a look alike if I can. Thanks for the AE recommendation, BTW. Nice shop. 
This made me think about what other choices are available for someone who wants a pair of penny loafers but doesn't want them to be Bass. There are several options, depending on how much you care to spend. There are shoes that cost less than $100, like the Florsheim Cabot and Berkley, but they are made in China and will almost certainly be more of a disappointment than the Bass Weejuns.

All prices quoted below are "list" unless otherwise specified; try searching online for lower "street" pricing. And since the holiday shopping season is upon us, you might want to watch for discounts and deals at sites like Amazon, Endless, Piperlime, Shoebuy, or direct from the companies' own sites (Cole Haan was offering 30% off this past Monday, and they may well do so again before Christmas). If you don't have the option of going to a store and trying on shoes in person, I suggest buying from a site that offers free returns.

At the lower end, Sebago offers a traditional beefroll penny, in six colors and a wide range of sizes and widths, for $140. The bulk of Sebago's shoes are made in the Dominican Republic. I have a pair (not penny loafers), and they are decently made for what they cost. They used to offer a strap-style penny called the Cayman, which seems to have been discontinued but may still be available if you look around.

At the same price, you might consider the Lorenzo from David Spencer. These are available in narrow, medium, or wide, and are made in Mexico. (There's also a tassel version, but we don't talk about those.)

Cole Haan's Pinch Air penny ($168) looks traditional on the outside, but inside it's packed with Nike Air comfort technology and nicely padded footbeds. I've owned a pair of these for a year or so, and they are among my most comfortable shoes. Choice of widths, as you would expect. Made in India. Couple of things worth mentioning: the soles are leather with rubber inserts, which might matter to some people (most of the others mentioned here have all-leather soles and rubber heels); the leather is noticeably glossy, which can look a little odd if you are wearing them with more casual clothing; and there is also a version (older, I think) that does not have the Nike Air. It runs $20 less, but I can't imagine why someone wouldn't opt for the added comfort.

Brooks Brothers has a penny loafer ($188), but I don't know where they are made, I have not seen them in person or tried them on, and they are only available in medium width. If there's a BB near you, it might be worth a visit.

Passing the $200 barrier gets us to the Allen Edmonds Walden ($235). Made in USA, and available in the generous range of sizes and widths typical of the brand, these are the shoes I chose instead of Weejuns (though I found mine on eBay for far less). They also offer a similar style, the Montecito ($199), which has a lower vamp that may be more comfortable for those with higher insteps. (Why the price difference? I have no idea.) One advantage to spending more up front is that shoes like these can be resoled.

AE has a big sale once a year, but unfortunately it's already happened for this year. Sites like Shoebuy tend to exclude AE from their frequent discounts, but a week or two ago they did offer 10% off without restrictions, and on Monday Amazon and Endless were offering variable discounts depending on how much you spent, so getting these shoes for less than list can be done, but may take some extra effort.

Epaulet is a store in New York (locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan) offering a wide selection of house-brand clothing and footwear, much of it made in USA. They have a beautiful penny loafer that's made in Maine using Horween Chromexcel leather with a distinctive and subtle matte finish. It's only available in medium widths, and only in black, and at $295 it's a bit on the steep side, but this is most assuredly a quality shoe. They also have a few styles of beefroll loafers in the same general price range, done up in more casual-looking leathers.

If you're the sort of person who thinks of shoes as a lifetime investment, you should probably just go ahead and get a pair of Alden LHS ("leisure handsewn") loafers. They run about $450 a pair, but if you take good enough care of them, you'll be able to pass them on to your son a few decades from now.

29 November 2011

Enjoying the Warmth

It's a little odd walking around outside without a jacket at the end of November, while looking at all the houses in my neighborhood decorated for the season. But I don't mind. Once we got beyond the days with highs in the mid-70s, I was able to enjoy the much warmer than average temperatures we've had for the past six weeks or so.

I know colder weather is coming, but I'd like to think that these warm November days are a sign that we're going to have a mild winter. I haven't checked the Farmer's Almanac or anything, so I don't know what's been predicted; I'm just choosing to be optimistic.

28 November 2011


Yesterday I needed a couple of home hardware items, but I didn't feel like spending half an hour wandering around inside a Lowe's or Home Depot trying to find stuff, so I had the thought to go to an Ace Hardware store nearby. Even though I don't consider myself particularly handy, I've always enjoyed poking around in stores like this.

Your local hardware store isn't going to be anywhere near the size of a big-box store, but that's actually a benefit. The store was of manageable size, and I was able to locate the items I needed without having to ask for assistance. I did have a couple of questions, though, and shortly after entering the store I spotted a guy who was clearly an employee, so I tracked him down and got polite, thorough answers. It was evident that he had worked in the store for a while, and knew his way around the products.

There are things about Home Depot and Lowe's that I do like, but service isn't one of them. You can probably find a person to point you toward what you need, but more involved questions may be met with answers, or with a blank stare; in my personal experience, the odds are about equal. That isn't necessarily the fault of an employee; working in such a huge store, it must be difficult to have product knowledge for even a fraction of what's sold there.

Smaller stores have had to figure out how to survive in a superstore age, and I guess service is one way to distinguish oneself. It's something to keep in mind next time you need a household item.

26 November 2011

This Week in Awesome (11/26/11)

I hope everyone had a good holiday. Now for the leftovers...

It's like doodling with your mouse, only instead of drawing, you get... well, I don't want to spoil it; just try it for yourself. (Videogum)

Huge, mind-blowing, amazingly comprehensive chart about money. There are plus and minus size controls in the upper-left corner; you'll need them. (xkcd via Consumerist)

The folks at Vulture analyzed decades of Saturday Night Live episodes to determine, among other things, which seasons had the highest incidence of repetition of characters. (Vulture via Kempt)

And finally this week, this will only be funny if you've seen Drive. Sorry, that's just how it is sometimes. (Funny or Die)

25 November 2011

Black Friday Online Deal

I have a Black Friday deal that you can take advantage of right from home: these corduroy sportcoats are on sale today for $40 at JCPenney. It's a store brand, but I have seen them in person and they are decently made, nice plush 100% cotton with a full interior lining. There are six colors to choose from, and at this price you might want to get two.

As a bonus, JCP is doing one of its frequent tiered extra discounts: spend at least $50, get $10 off; spend $75, get $15 off; spend $100, get $20 off. Use the code WITHGLEE at checkout.

24 November 2011

Watch Wednesday Thursday (11/24/11)

I wasn't at work yesterday, but it was still kind of a busy day, with my stint at a Community Servings pie pick-up location. This was my third year, and I'm fortunate enough to have been at the same location with the same person each time. I look forward to being there again next year.

Meanwhile, this quarter's watch has... a metal bracelet? What's going on?
This is another Alpha, like the one I posted recently with the new strap. These Alpha watches are fairly blatant copies of Rolex models, but technically they can't be called knockoffs because they don't say Rolex. This is a version of the Rolex Submariner, which is probably the best-known Rolex model.

Sometimes you see a Sub on one of those one-piece military-style straps, but most often you see them on a steel bracelet like this. I was thinking that I might like to have one watch on a bracelet, and I figured if there was one watch I would wear with a metal bracelet, it would be this style. Then this watch popped up on eBay, and I was able to grab it for a very good price.

It was used, but you'd be hard pressed to tell. It also came with the felt pouch and papers it was originally sold with. It's an automatic movement, and the bezel rotates in only one direction. It has a nice heft on the wrist, but because the metal surface is brushed, it's not too flashy.

22 November 2011


I was thinking about getting one of those Timex Weekender watches that I mentioned a while back. They're cheap and nice-looking, and I guess I was buying into the idea of "low cost, but also fashionable." Over the weekend I got a close look at several different styles in a store, and I decided I'm not going to bother buying one.

The main reason: there are three or four different case sizes, but they all take 18 mm straps. The largest style, the one I was thinking about getting, is about 39 mm in diameter. When I saw it right in front of me, I realized that the strap looked disproportionately narrow relative to the size of the watch's case size. It's not egregiously noticeable, like a World War I-era trench watch, but it just doesn't look quite right.

A watch's strap should be at least half as wide as the diameter of the case, if not slightly larger than half. Even the Timex I got several months back is 38 mm on an 18 mm strap. After I'd had it and been wearing it a while, I realized that its case should have been made to take a 20 mm strap. It's a small thing, but it's one of those small things that I tend to notice.

21 November 2011

Too Many Vowels

I'm playing Scrabble on my iPhone with an old friend who lives in Texas. It's a close game, and at the moment my rack holds six vowels, two each of three different letters. My word options are thus rather limited.

20 November 2011

Study Buddy

Since I wasn't broadcasting at full strength last week, I thought I'd throw out a weekend bonus: here's the dog "helping" the Mrs. study.

19 November 2011

This Week in Awesome (11/19/11)

My deadline week is over; my reward is a short, easy week and a food-filled holiday.

You don't want a boring computer voice giving you your GPS directions; you want a couple of characters like these. (Neatorama via Videogum)

I stumbled across a site with lots of interesting info about the city.

Canada's getting plastic money. Cool. Why can't we have that? (Consumerist)

Ooh, time-lapse time: Dubai, a 24-hour period. (Gizmodo)

And finally this week, as a young adult in the 1980s, I had a lot of fun, and I didn't think there was anything particularly strange or odd about the time. But looking back now, there was some weird shit going on. (First one: The Trad via VideoJug; second one: Jalopnik)

17 November 2011

Seasonal Thoughts

I make an effort to avoid repeating myself in here, but I'm still in the midst of a deadline week, so it seemed like a good idea to revisit a few semi-connected, seasonally relevant thoughts from years past:

Thanksgiving Comes First: credit to Jim Sullivan for starting this one. I offered my thoughts on it a few years back, and Lisa weighed in more recently. There are some houses in my neighborhood that even have Thanksgiving decorations in their yards, which I really appreciate. (I ought to go for a walk and take some pictures, huh?) And let's remember to give props to Nordstrom for their ongoing policy of waiting until after Thanksgiving to roll out the holiday decorations.

Black Friday Blackout: again, something I've shared my feelings about in the past. There's no justification for putting yourself at risk of bodily harm by venturing out to a mall or big-box store the day after Thanksgiving. I like a good deal as much as anyone, but shopping online is so much easier, and I bet you could accomplish at least 75% of your list that way.

I would also suggest you consider visiting a neighborhood shopping district near where you live: check out what's available right in your community, and help support a small, local business instead of contributing to the bottom line of a huge corporation that doesn't really need it.

Buy Some Pie: I neglected to mention Pie in the Sky last year. Community Servings is a Boston-based nonprofit that provides nutritious meals to hundreds of residents in the area who are ill and unable to take care of themselves. Each year they sell Thanksgiving pies to benefit their programs. I've been ordering pies from them for years, and volunteering for a few as well. You can order pies right here.

15 November 2011

Live from 1980

I'm in the midst of a busy week, so I'm going to suggest something to occupy your time: concert archive site Wolfgang's Vault has recently added several sets from the Heatwave Festival (sometimes described as the "New Wave Woodstock"), which took place in Ontario, Canada on August 23, 1980. (The easiest way to get to these shows is to go to the site and search for "heatwave.")

Bands appearing at this festival included the B-52's, Pretenders, Rockpile, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and Talking Heads. If you are a member of the WV site (which is free, and takes just a moment to sign up) you can listen to these concerts by streaming them on your computer.

I've listened to the Pretenders and Talking Heads sets, and both are excellent. Talking Heads' performance is particularly notable, as the band are just in the process of debuting the expanded lineup that accompanied the Remain In Light tour and became famous through the Stop Making Sense live album and concert movie, and a couple of the songs performed here sound like works that are still in progress as far as the arrangements are concerned.

Cool stuff—enjoy.

14 November 2011

The Inevitable

It's a law of the universe, or something: new shirt, worn first time = splash-back from salad bar. A Tide To Go stick in the desk drawer is a necessity, and of course I'll blast it with OxiClean when I get home. (That stuff is seriously amazing; someday we'll find out it's given us all cancer, or it is cancer.)

13 November 2011

This Week in Awesome (11/12/11)

Nice weekend... hope you're enjoying it.

Ever wish you were agile enough to do parkour? This guy found his inner... parkourer? (The Daily What)

My wish for a collection of old Boston photos has been answered, by the city itself. (Flickr via Old Boston)

Chevrolet is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Here's a great story of two brothers who spent years tracking down their father's beloved 1965 Impala SS, which he was forced to sell in the 1980s, so they could return it to him. Sure, it's a commercial, but one with some actual resonance behind it. There's also a longer clip explaining more of the background of the story. ((Jalopnik and Hemmings Auto Blog)

And finally this week, it's been 25 years since the release of David Lynch's Blue Velvet, which was somewhat controversial at the time. To mark the anniversary it's been released on Blu-Ray with nearly an hour of additional footage that didn't make it into the final theatrical cut. (Numerous spoilers, so if you'd rather just watch it without knowing what's in those scenes, I suggest not following the link.) (Slate via The Awl)

11 November 2011

Retro Video Unit (11/11/11)

All right, let's move back to what I tend to think of as the beginning of the music video era: 1981. The Tubes were always an odd band, but when they gave in to their poppier instincts they got some great results. Their 1981 album The Completion Backward Principle was their first for a new label, and they were matched up with David Foster, a producer who understood how to make the most of their songs.

Sometimes I choose these clips because I think the videos themselves are significant or outstanding in some way; other times I just choose clips because I like the songs. This one, for the single "Talk To Ya Later," is one of the latter: the video is nothing special (again, looking back from the vantage point of 30 years later, it's easy to see that a production like this would not have cost much), but I've just always thought this is a great song and the video doesn't get in its way.

Denim, Revisited

Denim is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Women work out and starve themselves in order to fit into their "skinny jeans." Guys who care about style and clothes often favor pricey selvedge denim jeans from obscure labels. People get mocked for wearing "mom" or "dad" jeans.

I've had my own ups and down with jeans over the years. I realized that I was wearing jeans with legs that were too narrow, both because they were getting caught on some of my boots, and also because the legs were not wide enough in proportion to my taller-than-average frame. I found that I didn't like wearing relaxed-fit jeans because they looked bad on me in the opposite way. Trying to find a decent compromise takes effort and can be difficult.

Over the past three years or so, I've tried a number of different brands and fits, in an ongoing effort to find what works best for me. I have no interest in selvedge, because it tends to stretch out with wearing and because it's expensive. Another tricky issue with jeans: an awful lot of the stuff looks like it's been dragged behind a truck for 50 miles. I'm a middle-aged guy, and I don't want to be seen in jeans like that, even on weekends.

Also potentially embarrassing: wearing jeans that are cut too low. It's probably obvious to say this, but slimmer jeans also tend to have a lower rise. Depending on how you are built, a lower-rise jean can make sense. It elongates the torso, so it might work better for a shorter guy, but taller guys have to be careful that their shirts are long enough to stay tucked in and that they don't end up looking out of proportion. Beyond that, I've found that sitting all day in lower-rise jeans tends to cause my shirt to come untucked in the back more quickly.

I had bought some jeans from Lands' End Canvas because they were marked down to around $15, but after wearing them for a while I decided that they were cut too low and too slim, and didn't look right on me. Finding a reasonable mid-point is not easy. The Levi's 501 and 505 fits represent the lower limit for me in terms of rise and slimness. J. Crew's "slim straight" cut fits me very well and is comfortable, but their "484 slim" is too far in both rise and leg width. So while going through all my clothing for donations, I made some decisions about what was staying and what wasn't, which left me with a slight jean shortage in the "jeans nice enough to wear to work" category.

Not long ago Target started selling a brand of jeans called Denizen, which is a really stupid name, but what are you gonna do? They are free of external branding except for a back waist patch, which is easily removed. They come from Levi's discount-store sub-brand Levi Strauss Signature, and seem to have replace that brand in Target stores. There are maybe half a dozen different fit styles, and after looking them over and eliminating the ones aimed at younger guys, I bought two pair in a fit that's called, appropriately enough, "regular."

They come in a dark blue and a medium blue, both of which are of a consistent finish without any whiskering or other distressing. I can wear either one to work and feel confident that they look appropriate. Both go nicely with my various shoes and boots. They aren't as slim as the J. Crew and Levi's jeans I have, but they aren't big enough to be considered relaxed either. (They do offer a looser "relaxed" fit, for those who prefer it, as well as other fits.) Perhaps best of all, they're only $23 a pair. I suspect they were originally meant to be priced at $20 a pair before the cotton supply problems; they have been on sale at least once for $20, and probably will be again in the run-up to the holidays.

09 November 2011


The grinder in my coffee maker really doesn't like oily beans, but unless you buy beans from a bulk container, you have no idea whether they're oily or not.

08 November 2011

Case Closed

After some deliberation, I've chosen a case for my iPhone. As much as I liked the idea of the book-like case from Twelve South, I didn't need the wallet part of it, and the brown exterior of the "book cover" turned me off somewhat. I'd love to see this company offer more options down the road, though.

After I saw the Moleskine case, I contacted them to see if I could get an explanation about why they hadn't updated it for the iPhone 4, never mind the 4S. That was two weeks ago, and I haven't heard a word from them. You let me down, Moleskine.

Then I had the idea to look on Etsy, thinking there might be someone making something similar to either of these designs. Almost immediately I found the storefront for PadandQuill, makers of device cases for the iPhone and iPod Touch, MacBook Air, iPad, Kindle, and Nook. They had exactly what I had in mind, and at a lower cost than either of the other options I'd considered.
The cover is bonded leather, lined with book-bindery cloth:
That's a ribbon sticking out at the bottom, to help you remove the phone. One other cool thing about it is there's a cutout on the back so you can take pictures while the phone is in the case:
The tray that holds the phone is made of birch, lacquered in a satin finish. It's lightweight, and the inner corners are lined with thin strips of rubber to help grip the phone, but the overall fit is really sung and precise:
The case is slightly smaller in height and width than the Moleskine calendar book I use. Obviously this is not the most streamlined option, but that isn't what I was after. When I'm at home or at work, I remove the phone from the case; that's what I always did with my previous smartphone. I wanted to ensure the phone was protected when it's in my bag, or when I'm carrying it in a pocket.

After I received the case, I realized that it would be cool to have my initials stamped into the spine, like the logo on the back cover. I'd like to find someone who can do that for me. Ideas?

(Sorry for the shaky pictures; my camera needed to be recharged, the older one doesn't have image stabilization, and I've never been very good at keeping it still through the entire shot.)

07 November 2011

Store Credit

Last week I ordered some stuff from Drugstore. I've found that their prices on a lot of everyday items like toothpaste are about the same as Target or CVS; sometimes that's true only if you buy two and average the price, but I'm fine with that. They also lowered their free-shipping threshold to $25, and I've never had an order from them take longer than two days to arrive, plus they give you a small percentage of your purchase in the form of a credit to use on a future order. So if you can plan ahead and order things before you've run out of them, and order enough at one time to get free shipping, it's a nice deal.

In this particular order I got some tea-tree shampoo. The site listed it as a 500 ml bottle, and given how little hair I have, that's enough to last me quite a long time. But when the order arrived, the bottle was only 400 ml. I emailed customer service before going to bed, and by the next morning I'd received an email saying that they had credited me half the price of the shampoo. The one catch is that the credit was applied to my Drugstore account, basically like store credit. But as long as I order something again, it's not a problem, so I'll probably just get a second bottle of the shampoo.

06 November 2011

This Week in Awesome (11/5/11)

I thought about posting these last night before going to sleep, but I was just worn out.

Did you watch the annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons? I though this year's vignettes were just okay. If you're feeling obsessive about it, Splitsider has gone and ranked all of them.

Do you remember Robert De Niro's crazy '70s outfits in Casino? Would you like to see them collected in the form of a poster? You can even buy it, if you like. (Welcome to Obsession via Kempt)

The folks at Late Night With Jimmy Fallon keep cooking up delightful zaniness, this time in the form of "found" video from a dating service that they claim occupied their studio in 30 Rock back in the '80s. (But what about Letterman?)

When I followed this link I thought it was for another time-lapse video. It's not, but you should watch it anyway: it's just a really nicely done compilation of everyday life in New York City. (Uproxx via The Daily What)

And finally this week, a series of alleged IM conversations between a man at work and his cat, whom he's taught to use IM, at home. It helps if you can suspend your disbelief, but even if not they're still hilarious. (The Hairpin)

04 November 2011

Pearl Snaps

I have a tendency to get lodged in my brain the idea that I want or need a particular item (usually an item of clothing), and then spend weeks or months trying to find it.

Recently I was noticing and thinking about how popular Western-style shirts have been for the past several years, and how I've never felt comfortable with the idea of wearing one, mostly because of the association with cowboys and rodeos and horses and things that have nothing to do with my life up here in New England.

I thought to myself that it would be nice to find a denim shirt that had snaps instead of buttons, but without the Western yokes, which are the thing about Western shirts that I dislike the most. I looked in many, many places online, including reasonably well-known retailers like Sheplers that specialize in Western wear.

I found nothing even remotely close, and had basically decided to give up on the idea, when I was somehow reminded of the Denver Western-wear emporium Rockmount Ranchwear. It's a store that's popular with a lot of musicians, and looking through the clothing on the site it's easy to see why. They have a whole page on their site just for denim shirts, with about 15 variations. Near the bottom of the page I found what I'd been looking for.

Funny thing, though: when I finally found what I'd been looking for, I was somewhat surprised to realize that (a) I didn't think it would look especially good on me, and (b) I was no longer interested in it. The time I'd spent searching had actually helped me figure this out, and thus saved me from making a $75 mistake.

[Side note: who remembers Walker's Western Wear on Boylston Street? That was a cool store. I had some nice Justin boots I got there, and some gloves, and probably a few other things...]

03 November 2011

We Are Experiencing Delays

My morning commutes have been horrendous since Labor Day. In years past there has been a definite change when people come back from summer vacations and kids go back to school, but this year it has been noticeably worse.

It typically takes a few cycles of the traffic lights for the bus to get through Wellington Circle, but on many days the traffic is snarled across route 28 and onward toward the river. On a good day the bus ride into Wellington takes 10 minutes, but for the past two months it has taken closer to 20 on most days. I have no idea why this is happening, and there isn't anything I can do about it. Fortunately, no one notices or cares what time I get to work.

In the mornings I check NextBus to track my bus's progress, but lately I've also been opening Google Maps to see how bad the traffic is. The buses are supposed to run every 20 minutes, but with the delays I can sometimes catch the "earlier" bus, which isn't really early anymore, if you know what I mean. If I don't catch that bus, I'm faced with what often turns out to be a 30- or 40-minute wait for the next one.

If the weather is agreeable, rather than wait around I'll walk the 10 minutes to where two other routes converge with the one I normally take, thereby increasing the odds that I won't have to wait long for a bus. I still need the bus to get through the circle (there's no way I'm crossing all those roads on foot) and into Wellington, but a brisk walk in the morning is kind of nice: it helps clear my head, and it's good for me. I don't mind walking when it gets cold, but as soon as it gets snowy or icy, I can't do it. Maybe by then this delay will have sorted itself out?

02 November 2011

Empty Basement

Perhaps by now you've seen/read/heard the news that Filene's Basement is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, for the third time in a decade or so. But this time it's permanent; all stores will close by January 2012, and parent company Syms will be shutting down along with the Basement.

This is sad to hear for anyone who has spent time searching for treasure in the Basement (and by that I of course mean the real one, the original Downtown Crossing store) over the years, especially for people who are, say, at least 40. When I arrived here 30 years ago to start college, I was already familiar with the ways and wonders of the Basement, including the famous automatic markdown plan. My mother used to take a bus to Boston for shopping day trips with a friend, and eventually I got to go along. I don't remember if I ended up buying anything or not, but by the time I got here as a college freshman, I knew the Basement was a key source for great deals.

I have great memories of hopping on the subway and heading downtown to shop at the Basement, both alone and with friends. Back when I was a student in the first half of the 1980s, I used to get stuff like Brooks Brothers shirts, Italian-made corduroy pants from Louis Boston, and Shetland wool sweaters from England. And the suit department was a joy to behold: the suits came from the best stores and were made of the best fabrics. I bought suits from the Basement to attend at least a couple of weddings.

Finding an item that had survived long enough to hit the Basement's 50% markdown was a point of pride, and of course that 50% was off the original Basement price, which was already significantly less than what it had sold for (or at least had been priced at) farther back in its history. At one point in my post-college years, I scored a $500 suit (which would be at least a $1000 suit today) for $125. It still had its price tag from Saks attached.

Back then, there was hardly any competition in the off-price corner of the retail business, but that soon began to change. Along with stores like Marshalls, there were changes in manufacturing patterns, and even higher-end stores had more of their merchandise made in the Far East. Now there are more sources than ever for low-price clothing, yet the merchandise that's available just isn't as good, and the divide between the mass-market stuff and the really good stuff has grown even wider.

When the Downtown Crossing Basement closed in 2007, that was essentially the end, though we didn't want to think so at the time. But even before it shut down, all you had to do was walk through the store to realize its era had passed. In the later years the stuff the Basement was selling was mainly just past-season overstock from mainstream mall chains and department stores, nothing like what you could get back in the good old days, if you were willing to do a little digging and, occasionally, successfully hide something in an out-of-the-way corner until its next markdown day arrived.

01 November 2011

Data Blindness

My lack of foresight has come back on me.

Earlier this year, I was looking over the account info for my cell phone plan. I was paying $30 a month for data service for my smartphone, but I wasn't using all that much data. In the time since I'd gotten the phone, Verizon had added the option of paying $15 a month for a smaller data allowance.

I thought about it and, even though paying the cell phone bill was not a hardship, I figured saving that $15 a month would still be nice. I looked at my data usage patterns and saw that I had not exceeded the amount being offered at the lower price, so I made the switch. I figured if I went over, I could switch back.

I did go over my data cap (150 megabytes) in July when we went to New York, because I was using the phone's map capability a lot, plus looking up other assorted info on the web and checking traffic on the drive down. But worse, now I have an iPhone, which means I'm using data on the network a lot more, to do stuff like play Scrabble with a friend in Texas.

But there was one aspect of the data plan I did not take into account. When I had signed up for the smartphone data plan, Verizon was still offering unlimited data at that $30 a month. At some point after I'd switched to the lower amount of data, the unlimited option had gone away, but customers who still had it were grandfathered and allowed to keep it, at the same rate.

When I made the decision to downgrade my data plan, I already knew at that point that I was going to bail on that phone as soon as I was able, but I still didn't take the long view of my future wants and needs. Had I just left the plan alone, I would now have an iPhone with unlimited data access for $30 a month. Arrrrgh...

Today I checked my usage for the two-plus weeks since I got the iPhone, and I could already see that I was going to pass the cap before the end of the billing period, so I switched back to the $30/month plan, but for that I now get 2 gigabytes of data. It seems unlikely that I would exceed that, but it wouldn't have mattered—I could have streamed Spotify or Pandora 24/7 without caring about my data usage. That stings.