This Iteration was originally going to be a story that bordered on a rant about trying to buy a new mouse from Amazon that went a little sideways. I’ll share some of the details in a bit, but the short version is that it took three attempts to get it right and I’m still not totally convinced that there isn’t some shady merchandise being sold as “real” by the world’s largest retailer. The best part of the thing was the title—I was going to call it “The Tale of the Mouse.” Clever, right? But as I’ve been thinking about it for the past few days, I think it’s really about something bigger and I think it’s something that nearly all of us can relate to—and that is how and why we buy the things we do.
I’m not what you’d call an early adopter of anything, nor am I an impulse buyer. I prefer to think of myself as a very well-informed consumer. Another way to say it is that I research pretty much every purchase. A lot. I’ll give you an example. Before I bought my first new car in 2000, I made a list of every car I could see myself driving that was under $40K. I then proceeded to pore over specs, read a ton of reviews, and test drive every car on the list—most of them multiple times. It got to the point that several of the dealerships I went to knew me by name and when one of the salespeople saw me, they would just ask which one I wanted to drive.
The upside of my nearly obsessive level of research is that if and when I do get to the point of actually buying whatever it is that I’ve been researching, I rarely have buyer’s remorse. Sure, there have been occasions over the years when all the research and comparison in the world couldn’t prevent getting a lemon. And a few times, the item may have been great on paper, just not great for me once I had it in hand. But by and large, once I get something, I keep it and use it until it dies.
The other side of the research coin is figuring out whether or not I actually need—or more accurately, deserve—whatever thing I’ve been looking at. In the case of the new car, it was a pretty easy decision. I had just gotten a job as an Art Director at Universal Studios and I needed a reliable way to get there from Rancho Cucamonga. Things that don’t have such an obvious need or use case are more difficult. Is it for work or pleasure? If it’s for work—or if I can convince myself that it is—I will be more likely to allow myself to actually click the “BUY NOW” button. Also, everything is a trade off. Whether we’re talking about big things or small, there’s always an internal negotiation. T-shirts or underwear. A book or a record. Basically, I can have this OR that, but not both. This could probably be an entire Iteration, but the short version is that the more trivial I perceive the item to be, the more internal work I have to do in order to justify buying it. And it is work because ultimately, it’s all tied to my own sense of worth and value, which I’ve struggled with for decades. My mom used to tease me about picking up things at Target and carrying them around the store, only to put everything but the absolute essentials back on the shelf. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve added to and ultimately taken out of my Amazon cart, or the weeks—and sometimes months—I spend going back and forth over purchases that would be routine for most people. I’ve had a box of pencils in a cart for about a week now but am unable, for some reason, to complete the transaction.
A recent purchase threw another stick into the spokes that I hadn’t ever really considered. And even if it’s not the case, the possibility that it is gives me something else to think about when it comes to making decisions around what to buy.
Until recently, I had been using the same mouse for about 15 years, and it was the most comfortable mouse I’ve ever used. A few weeks ago, it started acting up—the left button started to become erratic, sometimes registering one click as two, other times not registering a click at all. The other day, the left button gave up the ghost completely. Fortunately, I had an even older Logitech Marble Mouse that still worked perfectly. One of the only things I don’t like about my Mac Mini is the fact that it has limited USB ports. Going Bluetooth would free up a USB port that I need to connect one of my synths—also, Cooler Master stopped making my mouse years ago. There are a ton of no-name Bluetooth mice available on Amazon, but since my 20-year-old Logitech Marble Mouse was still working, I decided to go with them. There are two Logitech mice that seem to be getting all of the juice: The MX Master and the M720. The MX Master is a high-end performance mouse, complete with not one but two scroll wheels, along with gesture support, and an 8,000 dpi sensor. The M720, on the other hand, has 6 buttons, a tilting scroll wheel, and its two-tone black and white design would look great next to my Keychron keyboard—plus it can connect to three devices simultaneously, which is great since I just bought a new MacBook Air. Sold.
The mouse arrived a couple days later from Amazon, but when I took it out of the box, I immediately noticed a problem. This mouse was all-black, not two-tone like the product photos. That, and the scroll wheel rattled and there were a few faint scratches on the bottom. I was able to pair it to my Mac and it worked fine, but the color thing really bothered me. Every photo I had seen of the M720 on multiple websites showed it as black and white. I even called Logitech tech support and asked them whether they made an all-black version of the M720. “No,” the representative said, “the top is black, but the bottom is white with black feet.” Weird, right?
I called Amazon customer support and explained the situation and told them what Logitech said about the color. The representative told me that it was likely just a glitch and that I should return it and request a replacement. I repeated the part about Logitech saying they don’t make an all-black version and if that’s the case, then one, how does Amazon even have an all-black version to sell, and two, won’t ordering a replacement just end up sending me another all-black one that shouldn’t exist in the first place? She didn’t really acknowledge the thing about the color and just assured me that it was a glitch and that the replacement would be correct. Okay.
The replacement arrived the next day. I took it out of the box and just like the previous one, it was all-black, though this one did look new, so I guess that’s progress. I called Amazon again and explained the situation about the first mouse, about the call with Logitech, and the fact that the previous person said that it was just a glitch and that this one should have been right. He said that he understood my concern and could clearly see in the product photos that it should be two-tone, not all-black. He put me on hold and when he came back he said that he found some reviews that showed an all-black version, which he thought looked nice and he said that maybe I could get used to it—or if it was still a problem, I could just send it back for a refund. I told him I would think about it and thanked him for his time.
While I was on the phone with Amazon, I decided to check Best Buy to see whether I could find one locally if for no other reason than to see whether the all-black version was legit. After all, I’ve read stories about knockoff Apple products for years, so why would Logitech be any different? My local Best Buy had them in stock, so off I went. Two things: the version at Best Buy is indeed two-tone, just as I’ve seen in all of the product photos. The other thing was the packaging. The two I got from Amazon came in small brown boxes overprinted with product information. The Best Buy version was in a clear plastic blister pack. Again, weird, right?
I bought the two-tone version from Best Buy and when I got it home and looked at it alongside the two from Amazon, there were some very obvious color and material differences. Also, the scroll wheel doesn’t rattle on the Best Buy version like the two from Amazon. Then there’s the packaging thing. I really don’t know what to think. Could it be that the two from Amazon are legit products that are maybe made for different regions? Or is it something else? I don’t know. What I do know is that Logitech said they don’t make an all-black 720 and I’m looking at two of them.
I spend enough time working through the research and my list of reasons for buying a thing, whatever the thing is. Is it the right thing? Do I need it? Do I deserve it? Will I actually use it? Is it too expensive? The list goes on. After getting through all of that, I shouldn’t also have to worry about whether or not the thing that I end up with is real and not some third-party knockoff. And again, I’m not saying that it is, but when the manufacturer tells me one thing and the retailer tells me another, I’m left with an uncertainty that, if I’m not careful, can collapse—or at least erode—the faith I have in the rest of the process for future purchases. Or, it’s just a reminder that there’s always a little bit of uncertainty and there’s not much you can do about it. That said, maybe I’ll keep the receipt handy, just in case.
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As Justus says, Amazon has a knock-off problem. The bigger problem is that Amazon has little way to control it, because when you "buy from Amazon," you may not be buying /from/ Amazon, but rather, /through/ Amazon (the same, by the way, is true of Walmart online). And, it takes a lot of complaints for Amazon to decide there's a problem and shut a bad seller down.
When I buy on Amazon's site, there are two things I look for. First is Prime, second is whether or not the item is sold by Amazon or a third party. I've never had a problem with an item that was listed as eligible for Prime /and/ sold by Amazon, except for an instance where the incorrect item was pulled for shipping in the warehouse -- an honest mistake. I've also had excellent success when the item is sold through a manufacturer's brand store on Amazon -- in these cases, the seller is the manufacturer and the shipper is Amazon.
When the seller is not Amazon, even if the item ships from Amazon, what shows up at the door is anybody's guess, and I've had more than one instance where the item received is obviously a knock-off.
1) If I had your address, I'd buy you the pencils (or whatever). Just to say thanks for all you've written/said/done over the years. You're worth it.
2) The two mice from Amazon are bogus. It's that simple. They are a channel, and people will abuse that channel. Return the product, report the product, and move on as a better-educated individual.