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Dollar Shave Club Review

25 Feb

1943_56825913834_6633_nI spent the better half of my life sporting facial hair because at age 13 my chin turned into a bramble bush and it was easier to rock the goatee than scrape a razor blade across it seven days a week.  By the time college hit the goatee was just my look and I added some sideburns to the mix because I couldn’t tattoo “I’m 20″ across my face.  After college I began my career in film by working my way through the post production ranks which meant I had little social interaction…so…beard ahoy!  I found it very soothing in the winter how it kept me warm and I lied to myself and everyone else saying “It also keeps you cool in the summer.”  The truth of the matter was it itched in the summer, my family hated it, and my girlfriends told me it itched when we kissed.  Not caring what my family thought and wanting more girlfriend kisses I began shaving it off every few weeks til I discovered the “sexy stubble” look which pretty much carried me through my 20′s.  By the time I was married I had gone to rocking a full mountain-man beard in the winter and light stubble in the summer.  You could tell the seasons of the Adirondacks by my facial hair.  I hated shaving, I hated remembering to shave, and I liked the way I looked with a beard.  Then I climbed that next rung on the career ladder and went from directing commercials to producing them.  I needed to entertain clients and look professional.  The beard had to go.

1349879338Store_details_Art-of-ShavinBy this time razors had become a joke as each month it seemed like they added another blade to the head.  Three blades seemed ridiculous and when they debuted four…I thought it was a joke.  MADtv did a sketch about a razor with 20 blades in response to the Mach 3 Razor.  Things were just getting silly.  I needed sophistication.  I needed sustainability.  I needed something classic.  That’s when I turned to The Art Of Shaving:  Their tagline: “Experience The Perfect Shave.”  It was elitist, over priced, and the salesman was condescending.  It was just what I was looking for!  The New York City salesman in the Time Warner building started off by insulting me…saying I clearly didn’t know how to shave.  Then like Elizabeth Berkley in the movie Showgirls, I was like, “I’m getting that Versace!” (She pronounced it “Ver-Say-Ce”)  The salesman went on teaching me how to shave and from what I discerned…what I was doing wrong was not looking like a richie-rich idiot in the mirror.  I bought the oil, a brush, a stand, cream, a razor handle, and after-shave balm.  Boom!  I was the balm!  (see what I did there?)  I was ready to practice the art of shaving!

taos_1280Every time I have shaved since – for 10 years – I have heard that salesman snidely talking in my ear.  I can still hear his condescending tone as he insulted every man who stopped in the store, making us feel bad for not shaving correctly, showing us instructional videos, and selling us products as he moved on to his next victim.  Little shit.  I can’t stand that guy.  Seriously…I hear his voice EVERY time I shave.  However, I will say this:  It’s a nice shave.  Expensive…but nice.  The handle and stand got lost in one of the many moves but I still used my brush and products.  When I ran out of shaving cream and after-shave I ordered more.  Expensive stuff…but I liked the shave.  Then I ran out of shave cream while out of the country for 2 weeks and bought generic shave gel from a can.  It was the exact same shaving experience at a fraction of the cost.  When I got back to the States I bought another cheap can of gel.  My brush collected dust in the drawer.  When I see the brush I hear the salesman’s voice mocking me, “Does a painter use his fingers on his canvas or a brush?”  I shut the drawer.  I’m not a painter…I’m a marketing director with 2 small kids and I just want to get to work and make my clients happy.

By this time I was using a Schick Quattro (I gave in to the 4 blade revolution) and the handle was pretty worn out.  I was reverting back to stubble because the blades got clogged so quickly, the handle was old, and the whole thing was such a process.  Oil, gel, shave, rinse, re-shave, rinse & lotion.  Blah!  I knew I needed to buy new blades and like most things in my life…I turned to the internet to just order some (Gotta love Amazon!).  That’s when I found the Dollar Shave Club.  Unlike The Art of Shaving, the Dollar Shave Club told me I already knew how to shave…why not make it easier and cheaper?  “A great shave for a few bucks a month.”  Why not?  I signed up.

There are 3 plans:

  • $1 per month (dual blade)
  • $6 per month (4 blades)
  • $9 per month (fancy 4 blades)

DSC

20140222_170026

Everything in the box is recyclable including the packing materials.

20140222_170358

Everything In the Box

I signed up for the $6 per month plan which ships a razor handle and 4 blades (Quattro-style) to my house – then every month they automatically ship me 4 new blades and automatically charge me $6.  Easy.  I added a tube of their Shave Butter for an extra $8 to try it out.  It arrived the next week and the first thing I noticed is everything in the box from the packing materials to the blades is 100% recyclable.  Already a fan.  The handle had great weight to it and felt nicer than my Schick.  The DSC handle is ever so slightly smaller than the Schick Quattro which for me is a plus because I travel and less bulk is awesome.  It felt great in my hand, had great grips, and was clear a lot of R&D went into it.  The same goes for the blades.  The attachment method is obvious, easy, and feels solid…not cheap.  It looked like a redesigned Quattro with a nicer handle and better blades.  Namely, the blades are fully exposed on the back so it is easier to rinse.  Since clogged blades with the Quattro was my #1 complaint I was eager to test this puppy out!

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Quattro (left) DSC (right)

I tried the Shave Butter and it was weird…good weird.  It looked like lotion and my first reaction was, “Uhhh…is this for afterwards?”  I applied to my face and it is like smearing butter…it doesn’t soak in.  The first thing you notice is that the butter is translucent so you can see your whiskers.  It was strange…I looked like I was about to dry shave.  Then I shaved.  Nothing dry about it.  Smooth as butter!  Not having all that goopy shave gel or shave cream allowed me to see what I was shaving and I only needed to do one pass instead of 2.  I’ll admit…the butter was nice.  The blades were fantastic!  It took a second to realize I didn’t need to apply as much pressure as I was used to with my Quattro.  The DSC razor gave a great shave on the first pass.  To be fair I tried the butter with a new Quattro blade as well and it wasn’t even close…DSC wins hands down.  It gave a better shave, rinsing out from the back was so much easier, no clogged blades, no cuts, and in the end my face was as smooth as it has ever been.  It even shaved my bramble bush chin in single strokes!  Afterward I felt like my face had gone to a Nebraska County Fair and eaten fried butter on a stick.  I rinsed my face and still felt buttery so I rinsed again.  With the butter gone and my face smooth I needed something to put the exclamation point on this shave and I went with the Art of Shaving’s After-Shave Balm (lavender) which is still my favorite.  The little idiot salesman’s voice was gone and instead was my own manly voice saying, “Looking good Mr. Gates…looking good.”

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So long snarky Art of Shaving salesman…hello Dollar Shave Club!

After a few shaves I can tell you the DSC is awesome.  The razor is so much better than the Quattro that I might downgrade to the $1 month club because I’m guessing the old fashioned double blade will get things done just as well if I shave daily.  $12 a year to shave!  That is HUNDREDS less than what I was spending before.  Quattro Titanium blades are about $15 per 4.  That means the DSC is offering a better shave, with no shopping hassle, and it saves you $9 a month ($108 a year).  The shave butter is cool and I’m sticking with it.  I still like the lavender After-Shave Balm from the Art of Shaving and will order that again ($40).  So do I recomend the Dollar Shave Club?

  • Quality ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Value ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Ease ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Yes, I highly recommend the Dollar Shave Club.  Ladies, it is a great gift for your man.  Father’s Day is coming up this spring.  Guys, you don’t have to shop for razors anymore…they automatically come to your door and it is cheaper.  The $6 (or $1) is shipping & handling included!  You can leave the club any time or pause your membership if you are getting too many razors.  You can order a second handle and give half your razors to your significant other because seriously…ladies are just using a pink version of the same razor.  It is cheaper, better, and easier.  5 stars to the DSC!  Shave time. Shave money.

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Max Gets A New Hoop

19 Feb

My son Max, who is a month past his second birthday, is obsessed with basketball and the Wichita State Shockers.  Every day he begs to wear his Shocker jersey and all day he shoots baskets on his Little Tikes basketball hoop…seriously, all day.  I would estimate he takes between 100-300 shots per day depending on his schedule.  Recognizing he had great hand-eye coordination I started working with him on some skills…

  1. Catch and shoot
  2. Posting up
  3. Shooting with both hands (he’s lefty)
  4. Blocking shots
  5. Stealing the ball
  6. Dribbling
  7. Using the backboard
  8. Free throw shooting

Here is Max shooting on his old hoop:

Now I know that sounds excessive for a two-year-old but it’s what he wants to do!  So I teach him some stuff and he practices it all day.  Then it all got to be too easy for him and I realized while he loved his Little Tikes hoop, he had outgrown it physically and was just dunking it every time and bending the plastic rim down.  I wanted to challenge him so I formulated a plan to create a tougher shooting environment while giving him a feeling that he was practicing on a real goal.  The Little Tikes goal got moved outside to the backyard where he’ll use it more and I transformed Max’s play area!

SKLZ Pro Mini XLI bought a SKLZ Pro Mini Hoop XL which is designed to hang off the back of a kid’s door.  Max is too short for it to be hung from the door but I had another use in mind.  I removed the U Brackets from the backboard and only attached the top bolt of the rim to the backboard and wall plate.  Then, using drywall screws, I mounted the backboard to the wall and secured the rim and wall-plate to the wall in place of the remaining two bolts.  The result?  A professional looking mini hoop installed directly on the wall!  Wanting it to be a challenge I hung it eight inches higher than his old hoop and rearranged his play area into a mini court with a free throw line.  This morning he woke up and it was like Christmas!  “New hoop!”  He kept shouting with joy as he began shooting.  His percentage-made went way down but he immediately grasped the idea that the hoop was higher, harder, and required more concentration.  Who knows…after a few weeks it may be too easy for him and we’ll have to move it up higher.  Either way, there is nothing more fun than making your child happy.

Here is Max shooting on his new hoop early this morning:

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Best Baby Monitor For Travel

4 Dec
mydlink - Max sleeping

mydlink – Max sleeping

My wife Kate and I travel a lot so we are always testing out new gadgets and software to make things easier for us with our 22-month-old toddler Max.  Things have changed quite a bit since our parents had little kids so they are often shocked by the things we can do with the technology that is out there.  At home, I have installed a mydlink webcam as our baby monitor which Kate and I can log into from our phones, tablets, or any computer.  When the sitter comes we have a closed circuit standard baby monitor that is great – we also have used it in the past when we travel.  The mydlink camera is perfect for the house but isn’t very versatile for mobility as you have to reprogram it once you switch to a different WiFi network   Standard video monitors are more mobile, however, you are still limited by the range of the camera to the unit which we found annoying last year when we went to the beach and couldn’t go anywhere for 2-3 hours at a time when Max would nap after lunch.  There had to be a better way!  There is…and here is what we have had great success with:

Best Baby Monitor

Best Baby Monitor

Best Baby Monitor

Best Baby Monitor was developed by Martin Man and has a 4+ star rating on iTunes.  After using it on a few trips I can tell you it is genius!  We have it on our iPhone and our iPad or you can substitute a laptop or desktop as well.  What we did was set my iPad as the baby unit next to Max once he was asleep in the hotel room.  We set my iPad to wait for 20 seconds of crying before activating…at which point it places a Facetime call to Kate’s iPhone.  You can also set it to voice call any phone so if you have an iPhone you can use that as the monitor and set your neighbor’s home phone as the number to call.  Get a call from a crying kid?  Your kid is up.  You can also set the devices to look for each other over the same WiFi and use the cameras as a standard baby monitor.

While in Kansas City we had friends come visit after dinner.  Max was asleep and our hotel room was on the 4th floor, so we did the baby monitor setup and went down to the lobby bar and were able to see friends, feel like adults, have a cocktail, and keep an eye on Max real-time.  Later in the trip we were just down the hall so we set the iPad to Facetime Kate’s iPhone if Max woke up.  He never did but we tested it out before hand and it works perfectly.  You can even turn on your microphone and talk to your little one since they can see you too.

Now, I’m not saying we should use technology like this to ditch our kids and go to the grocery store but if you are like us and want to snag a drink at the hotel lobby bar…this was awesome.  Also, no extra stuff to carry around with us.  So before you invest hundreds in a video baby monitor for travel, consider spending $3.99 on iTunes instead and get a tool that is versatile enough to adjust to what your needs are wherever you travel to.

BBM iTunes

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The Best Rental Car Company When Traveling With Infants

31 Oct

Kate and I are jet-setters by nature;  Always ready to hop on a plane and fly to a business function, wedding, party, whatever.  When our first son Max was born he flew with us to Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day. New York for the NIT Finals, and other trips to various cities in the first few months of his life.  He is now one and half years old, we have our second due in February, and traveling isn’t as easy as it used to be.  That said, I’d like to single out 2 rental car companies in America for comparison, Enterprise and Hertz.  I travel so much for business that I am fortunate enough to be in the benefit programs for most car rental companies, airline miles, and hotel rewards.  This also gives me great insight into who is doing what the best.

ENTERPRISE

(a.k.a. “The Worst”)

Jump on Travelocity and check rates for your destination and chances are Enterprise (or their subsidiary companies National or Alamo) have one of the best rates.  If you are a single dude heading to a weekend bachelor party than this is a great option because when it comes to rental cars…you get what you pay for.  I started using Enterprise as my go-to car company back in 2009 after a few shaky experiences with Thrifty.  I had decent experience with enterprise in my personal life so why not give them a shot in my professional life?  My first professional experience was terrible.  They rented me a beater in Mesa, AZ that didn’t have AC during a heat wave.  When I swapped it out they gave me a car that was so dirty inside I had to have it detailed on my own dime just to feel comfortable enough to have clients ride with me.  The cleanliness issue continued over my next rentals around the country and I eventually gave my business to Hertz who’s Gold program far exceeded the Enterprise Plus program.

This past weekend I had a trip to Houston, TX with my family and Enterprise was substantially cheaper.  We were on a tight budget since we had Max with us and decided we’d take the cheaper option.  Again…you get what you pay for.  Upon arriving at the Enterprise counter the only word that could describe the scene was “chaos.”  It looked more like the stock exchange than a car rental company.  I got in the “Plus” line much to the chagrin of the people not in the “Plus” line and the representative at the counter continued to call on people from the standard line instead of me.  Now I’m not trying to sound like I’m better than anyone or deserve more…absolutely not.  However, Enterprise offers “Plus” services which I am a member of and I hold them to their promises.  There is no point of a “Plus” line if the representatives aren’t going to use it.  I finally got to the counter and my having made a prior reservation (as I always do) made my counter time very quick.  We then took Max upstairs to the garage where there was an even longer line and no one working the kiosk.  Twenty minutes later a kid (who was clearly stoned) took us to the row of midsize sedans where we get to pick out our car.  I picked the Ford Fusion (which is what I had reserved) and he suggested the VW Passat instead.  I agreed to his suggestion and reminded him I needed a car seat for Max which seemed to blow his mind.  He had no clue what size car seat to get, how to install it, how it worked, etc.  Worst of all…the seat looked like he had just pulled it out of another car that had just been used (which he had) and it looked disgusting.  We sighed and continued ever onward.

We had a fun weekend in Houston and on Sunday we returned the car to the IAH garage (where we rented from) and the guy checking in the cars said, “Are you sure you rented from here because I’m not showing you in our system.”  I assured him I did and showed him my receipt from when we picked up.  He asked if we could swing by the counter, I explained I didn’t have time to wade through that chaos, and he said it was fine and we would just have to get our receipt online.  That was fine with me.  However, two days later I get an email stating:

Our records indicate that the car you currently have on rent was not returned by the date listed in your rental agreement, and has still not been returned. It is important that we hear from you as soon as possible to resolve this matter.

Please call our Rental Extension Department as soon as possible to arrange the return of our car. The number is 855-298-0380 Please have your rental agreement available when you call.

Our Rental Extension Department is available to take your call Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., or Saturday, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Central Time). If you reach us outside of these hours, you may leave a message, and someone will return your call the following business day. You may also contact your local rental office for immediate assistance.

Thank you

This email coincided with an automated phone message from Enterprise continuing to accuse me of not returning the car.  I then got a call to my cell phone and office phone from Enterprise asking me to return the car…though there is a possibility that the error may be on their end due to a minor clerical issue.  I contacted Enterprise via the number they supplied, waited on hold, spoke to a person who didn’t know what to do, got transferred to another person who didn’t know what to do who took down my number so the person who would know what to do could call me back in 5 minutes.  Its been 24 hours since then…no call.  I have been and am still battling with their “customer care” service people who didn’t offer an apology until I asked for one hours into the process on Twitter.  Don’t you think “sorry” should be the first thing you say when you make a mistake?  They all ask the same question, “Do you have the pink copy of your rental receipt.”  To which I respond, “No, the guy who checked in the car took it.”  To which they respond, “Well he shouldn’t have done that, are you sure you don’t have a copy of your rental contract?”  Clearly they think the issue is either my fault or that I still somehow have their car…in fact I just now got another call from a new representative who is still looking for the car and wanting to make sure I did in fact return it.  So unprofessional!

HERTZ

(a.k.a. “The Best”)

Most people may not realize that Hertz was founded in 1918 with Model T Fords so they know a thing or two about how this business works.  No doubt, Hertz is often a bit more expensive in some locations (as they were in Houston for me) but their standard experience is great and the “Gold Member” experience is the best in the United States.  As a “Gold Member” I get in the dedicated Gold line at the counter, I am helped immediately, and all I have to do is say my last name, show my drivers license, and they hand me the keys to my car.  Done.  Its really that easy.

Last time I rented from them with Max was in Albany, NY.  I walked to counter, got in the Gold line, and was helped in less than a minute.  I showed them my ID and was greeted with, “Mr. Gates, welcome back and thank you for choosing Hertz!”  What a nice greeting.  She handed me the keys to my car, explained that they had upgraded me to a luxury, and informed me that the car seat was in the car and a member of the garage would be happy to help me install it.  When we reached the garage it was easy to find my car and in the back seat was a clean car seat wrapped in plastic.  Plastic!  Meaning it had been cleaned and wrapped so the next person to touch it was my son.  Professional!

When we returned the car it couldn’t have been any easier and the garage manager knew me by name and greeted me.  He asked, “Did you enjoy the car?”  We did.  “May I help you with your bags?”  He did.  “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”  There wasn’t…and off we went.  Then, as we were about to go through security we realized we had left Max’s train and sippy cup in the car.  I ran to the garage and asked if they had found it, they said no but they would look for it…and the search began immediately before my eyes including searching the lost and found at the kiosk and a series of calls on the walkie-talkies to find the car.  The garage manager asked me when my flight was and I told him.  He suggested I go back to security and that they WOULD find it.  Impressively, he apologized for not finding it when they checked the car with us at check in…as if my losing the train and cup was their fault.  Professional.  He went on to say that if they found it before our flight they would page us, if not they would ship them to us.  They found both the train and the cup before our flight and Max happily flew home with his choo-choo train in hand.  Professional.

CONCLUSION

So Long Freedom endorses Hertz as its American rental car company of choice.

Hertz far exceed their competition in customer service, cleanliness, speediness, and professionalism.  Throughout my time using them I have always received a free upgrade as a “Gold Member,” been offered exclusive savings even before I was a “Gold Member,” and received the best customer service in the industry.  Enterprise on the other hand has lost my business due to their lack of organization, unprofessional employees, and lack of cleanliness.  I understand that sometimes a budget is the most important thing for parents and Enterprise may look very enticing -  you can consider National or Alamo as an alternative (both are owned by Enterprise) if Hertz won’t fit your budget needs, however if they are all at the same location it doesn’t matter as you are renting from the same team.  You get what you pay for.  Often if you call Hertz they will work with you to find a car and a rate that works for you.  At the conclusion of this trip I came down with the flu…now I’m not saying I caught the flu from our dirty Enterprise car, our unsanitary car seat from Enterprise, or our stoner garage representative from Enterprise…but when it comes to the cleanliness of a vehicle, a brand I trust, and the safety of my wife and children I go with Hertz.

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Maclaren Volo Stroller Review

29 Oct

The Maclaren Volo

This weekend we put the Maclaren Volo Stroller to the test as we flew to Houston with our one and half year-old, Max.  Overall I had a positive experience with this lightweight stroller and only found a few things I would add to my wish list.  We had shopped extensively for a stroller around $100 and I am extremely pleased with the Volo stroller.  Not only did it meet our needs but we received compliments from other parents, airport staff, and strangers.  It fit easily in the trunks of all the cars we traveled in, went through the security screening easily, was easily stashed in the hotel room when not being used, and Max really liked it.  Here is my list of pros and cons:

PROS

  • Easy to fold and unfold
  • Could fold with one hand (two much easier)
  • Rolled great on concrete
  • Very maneuverable
  • Lightweight
  • Sturdy
  • Large basket
  • Nice design
  • Large bonnet
  • Max could get in/out on his own

CONS

  • No recline
  • Can’t see child when bonnet is on
  • Small wheels performed poorly in grass
  • Unfolding slightly awkward
  • No cup-holders

My biggest regret is that it didn’t recline (which other Maclaren models do).  Max fell asleep in it twice and I wanted to lay him back so he’d get a nap in…but truthfully the bumps in the pavement would have woken him up no matter what.  When the large bonnet was up I had no view of Max and couldn’t tell if he was sleeping, eating, awake, etc.  I would have liked a little viewing flap like some other models.  The small wheels were useless on grass…but its a lightweight stroller so it performed as expected.  The unfolding process could be a little easier and I often found myself either not fully unlocking it or locking the wheels as I snapped it into place.  They say cup-holders are the number one thing a woman looks at when purchasing a car…the same may hold true to men for strollers as we HATE to have to carry anything.  We’ll push something…but don’t make us carry something, that’s why we have wallets not purses.  Cup-holders and such on a stroller are a big bonus so we can put our water bottle somewhere or more more likely, Max could place his juice cup somewhere instead of constantly handing it to me.  Obviously we can add one on later…but it will effect the folding process I’m sure.  Other than that I was quite pleased with our new purchase and enjoyed the large basket underneath, the handles which were comfy to hold, the smooth ride, and most importantly…how much my son Max loved it.

On a 5 star scale I give this lightweight stroller a 4 star rating.

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