Archive | Product Testing & Reviews RSS feed for this section

Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips: PART 3

22 Sep

Okay, so maybe this site has been slightly derailed by my love and pursuit of Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips…but this story is deserving of a 3rd chapter. As my constant readers know I have a love for Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips but (alas) I have not been able to find them in Wichita since moving here almost 5 years ago. I did what I always do and took up my pen. I wrote to my grocer, my convenience store, Walmart, Target, various retailers, and of course…Frito Lay. While I was so happy to have my local grocer, Dillon’s, reply to me (read here)…there was no greater feeling than receiving the enclosed letter from Leryn Stephenson of Frito Lay which fantastically says, “I understand.” It is rare to get a brand to respond so rapidly let alone so appropriately. My letter to Lay’s was intentionally over-the-top comedic in hopes of getting someone’s attention. It appears to have worked and the response is my favorite letter I have ever received from a brand along with two delicious bags of Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips.

Frito Lay BoxWhen I came home from work last week to find a large box waiting for me care of Frito Lay, I knew exactly what it was: Chips! What I wasn’t expecting was the letter so clearly not a form response but an actual person taking the time to read my letter, respond honestly and acurately to it, quote from it, and shoot my own comedy right back at me. Leryn…you got it. This is what customer service is all about! It isn’t about online live chat sessions, customer complaint telephone lines, or Twitter help accounts…its about human connection; the ability to make a personal connection to a brand.

Here is Leryn Stephenson’s response letter to mine (Note: Personal information has been removed):

Leryn Stephenson Letter

Wow…just…wow.  I had hoped to get a response but to get one as hilariously awesome as this…wow.  As much as I loved Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips before…I love them even more now because of this.  This not only reinvigorates my love of these chips but also makes me fall in love with the brand and want to support them more because of the people they have working for them.  This is Customer Service, Branding, and Marketing 101.  If only more companies had people like Leryn working for them.  If only more companies encouraged their people to send responses like this.  Wow…just…wow.

With that said I am adding this post to the product review section of the site and giving Lay’s & PepsiCo two thumbs up, five stars, and my humble thanks.  When I write to all of you, my constant readers and those joining the discussion now, it is always my hope to simply be heard and hopefully bring a moment of laughter or insight to your day.  It was wonderful to be heard by Lay’s and thank you for the gracious gift of 2 bags to get me through til I find a long-term solution.  Tonight I’ll be snacking ferociously from the light blue bag with my boys, who have tasted this nectar of the Gods and now share in my love of tangy alkali fried potatoes, and we’ll be thinking of you Leryn Stephenson…and the simple gesture you made that brought some laughter and happiness to my family.  I hope my letter and this story brought laughter to your day as well.

20140917_225931

Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at solongfreedom.wordpress.com. Thanks for reading!

Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips: PART 2

8 Sep

dillons_logoOkay…so I know this post is ridiculous but it is near and dear to my heart so here we go!  As my constant readers know, I have been on a quest to find out why there are no Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips in Wichita, KS which you can read about HERE.  I contacted my local grocer, Walmart, local convenience stores, and of course…Lay’s.  So far I have received a generic response from QuikTrip and a personalized response from Dillon’s.  I wanted to share the response from Dillon’s because it is a lesson in A+ PR any business should practice.  Customer’s want a response when they contact a brand – this was one of the finer responses I have received:

Dear Ryan:

Thank you for contacting Dillon’s Customer Connect regarding Lay’s Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips. I appreciate the request to stock this item in your local store. There are many factors that determine which products are available to and sold in our stores– shelf space, product demand, supplier availability, and vendor contracts are a few. Special order forms are always available at the customer service desk as a courtesy to accommodate specific item requests.

I have shared your request with the store manager at our Central store as our office does not have access to inventory or ordering information. (I chose this store because it was the location you indicated in your email, if you would like to request this product at a different store, please let me know!) Your store manager has the ability to check inventory at other stores and can advise if the product can be stocked and/or special ordered.

Your second option would be to contact our Special Request Team who can see if they can order this item for a one time pickup at your store. This, however, cannot guarantee the product will be stocked in our stores as there are many factors that affect the availability. If you would like to make a special request please contact 1-855-345-5696.

I hope that you find this information helpful. My name is Sara and if I can be of further assistance, please simply respond to this email or call.

Thank you for shopping with us.

Sincerely,

Sara
Kroger Customer Connect 
The Kroger Family of Stores 

Having spent a week with Cox Communication’s “Help” department trying to get my phone to work and having the Royals game drop out twice during two different games…it was lovely to get some real customer service!  Seriously, don’t get COX cable…they are terrible.  I got very excited and was ready to call the Special Request Team when a co-worker posted on my Facebook timeline:

LaysSVChips

Walmart!  On the west side!  Of course the west side!  Now I have to see if I can get the east side location to carry them…though I have a thing about Walmart and try to do everything possible to avoid it thanks to years of spending hours there for business…though if they stocked them at the Walmart Neighborhood Market I would be fine with going there.

My co-worker brought them to work today and as I type to you…oh constant reader…my fingers are encrusted with sticky vinegar and salt as my roof burns ever so slightly from the greatest chip on the planet:  Lay’s Salt & Vinegar!  As well as I type, I realize that all this time I could have bought the chips from Amazon.  Either way…I feel like life is all that and a bag of chips today!

20140908_131231

Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at solongfreedom.wordpress.com. Thanks for reading!

Product Review: KOHLER’s Touchless Toilet Flush Kit

28 Jul

With two little boys running around the house, germs are a constant factor we are combating.  Currently both boys have a virus and are running fevers of 100+ with sore throats…so this seemed like a good week to install a KOHLER Touchless “No Touch Flush” system and see how it worked. Kohler-Touchless-Toilet-Flush-Kit img_8817_draftMax (3) is potty trained and has transitioned into underwear, only wearing a pull-up at night in case of accidents while Dodge (1) hides behind the door and grunts out his business into a diaper.  One of the things I worked on with Max that I LOVE was teaching him to go on a full-sized toilet…which means when we go out to eat or travel, he can do his duty anywhere without me holding him over the seat.  All was well and fine til one night at our regular Sunday night dinner spot.  The bathroom had very nice toilets with the forward facing sensor as you see in most restaurants and airports.  You sit, you do your thing, you stand, and it flushes for you.  Unless, of course, you are a squirmy little 3-year-old.  Then it flushes while you are still sitting on it.  This toilet was also flushed with great vigor and the sound echoed throughout the high-ceiling bathroom scaring the sh*t out of Max…literally.  Since that moment, Max has been afraid of toilets and potty training has taken a step backwards.  Much of that is due to an error on my part, and it went like this:

Max:  “Why did you flush it Dada?

Me:  “I didn’t.  It did on its own”

Max:  “Why?”

Me:  “Because it has an eye, and it thought you were done.”

Max:  “It has an eye…like a robot?”

Me:  “Yeah, like a robot.”

Max:  “…and it was watching me.”

Me:  “Yup, to make sure you pooped.”

Max:  “I’m afraid of robots.”

Me:  “Oh…well…um…its not really a robot…er…its…”

Max:  “Is it watching us now?”

Kohler_Touchless_toilet_conversion_kitOops.  Smooth move Ex-Lax!  Now my kid is deathly afraid of toilets and bawls every time we go into the bathroom.  Incidentally, he hold his hands over his ears whenever we go to a bathroom (public or private) in fear of the loud sound, which means his dirty hands are touching his face and he can’t sit on the toilet without me supporting him.  He is scared to death of “THE EYE!”  Like Lord Saruman is constantly watching him as he treks through Middle Earth with the one true ring.  With that in mind…I thought the KOHLER Flushless System could be a great way for him to learn that not all toilets are loud and he can get back to going all by himself.

Kohler TouchlessThe install took about 10 minutes and is very self-explanatory.  The hard part is getting the right height because if the sensor is touching the lid it will flush every time you flip the seat up, bump the top, etc.  If it is too low it either won’t flush or you have to touch the lid of the tank to flush.  I didn’t need any extra tools, everything clipped into place, and once tweaking things a little bit my toilet was magically flushing by waving my hand over the top of the tank instead of reaching over to the handle.  Fun.  Kate and I keep reaching to the side for the handle and then remembering the sensor is on top and there is no need for the handle (which I chose to leave on for guests).  One of the things I love is that we had one of those old toilets where you had to hold the handle down for a good flush.  The KOHLER Touchless eradicates the need to do this because the kit automatically holds the flush for a set period of time.

Max Kohler ToiuchlessThe real story though, is Max.  Max thinks the Touchless Sensor is the coolest thing since sliced bread.  The old handle was too hard for him to flush and this one is a piece of cake.  He liked it so much we had to have a talk about how it isn’t a toy since he was flushing it over and over and over again.  I like that he can get up on the toilet and do his thing, then flush the toilet without touching the handle and spreading…whatever he has touched to the rest of us.  We also picked up a KOHLER Transitions seat which has a seat for the little guys as well a seat for the adults which is going to be a blessing when Dodge is ready to stop hiding behind the door and grunting.  Max is pretty excited about it too.  The seat fits our downstairs toilet while the sensor was installed upstairs and Max has asked if I am going to put one on the downstairs toilet as well…and I think I may have to.  Maybe a touch-less faucet too?

Here is the breakdown of PROS vs. CONS:

PROS

  • Easy to install
  • No more touching the toilet
  • Less germs/cleaner
  • Can leave handle on for guests
  • East to use
  • Kids can use it easily
  • Makes potty training fun for kids

CONS

  • Can accidentally flush when lid is bumped
  • Can’t place anything on top of lid
  • Can be confusing for guests
  • Can’t set length of flush hold

20140728_092248The pros greatly outweigh the cons and honestly, the only part that I don’t like is that we can’t place anything on the lid of the tank anymore since that is where the sensor is.  Also, I had to make a little riser to get the sensor just right for my old janky toilet.  Not being able to put things on the tank lid is why we chose the upstairs bathroom over the downstairs.  In the downstairs bathroom the tank lid is home to a vase of flowers, 2 picture frames, and a box of Klenex since it is the only surface in the small powder room.  If we installed the sensor, the Klenex would have to go.  I like that the kit holds a timed flush but it would be great if there was a way to set it for short, medium or long depending on your toilet…or a way to do a long flush if you held you hand over the sensor for a long period of time.  This would allow you to do short flushes for water conservation when flushing #1 and having a little more force for #2.  I also think future models should look at the idea of a remote sensor so you can put it wherever you want instead of only on top directly over your canister or flapper, you could even install the sensor in the old handle hole.

In conclusion, I think this is a low-cost and effective way to reduce the spreading of germs on any toilet and I would definitely recommend it to anyone with little kids that like to touch everything…which is every little kid.  It has helped Max start to get over his fear of auto-flush public toilets, made going to the potty easier since it is now fun, and made me feel better knowing that I’m not touching a ton of germs on the toilet handle.  I think it would be great in houses without small children as well, as a sophisticated option for guests to show you care about sanitation.  I am also recommending my office buy them as it is a great option for small businesses or restaurants.  For me, I like going to a restaurant and having the toilet, sink, and hand drying all be touch-less.  It shows the restaurant cares about sanitation and is a direct reflection of how clean the kitchen is.  The KOHLER Touchless Kit is the same concept but in your home.  Great for kids, great for parents, great for adults, easy to install/use, and an affordable upgrade.  I give it 2 thumbs up and Max jumps for joy!

UPDATE:  After 2 months of use we began having issues with it not giving a full flush and needing to touch the lid to get it to respond.  I pulled the generic batteries and replaced them with Duracells, it immediately went back to good working order.  However, the problems came back about 2-3 weeks later.  I swapped the batteries again and confirmed that the unit we have is now only holding a full charge for 2 weeks, tapers off in the 3rd, then ceases to function properly in the 4th.  This is a much shorter time period than advertised for the product and more upkeep than I am personally looking for.  I am glad we chose to keep the handle, otherwise you would not be able to flush after 2 weeks of use.  I think this is a great product in theory but in practice results will vary.  Our toilet’s tank lid is very thick and I think the sensor is working twice as hard as it was designed to in order to work.  If you have a modern toilet (preferably a Kohler) I think you would have good success and around 2-3 months of battery life vs. the 2-3 weeks I am experiencing.  For me and my circumstances though, the best solution was to remove it.  Thumbs up for the concept – thumbs down for the practicality.

20140728_100257

Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at solongfreedom.wordpress.com. Thanks for reading!

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!

20140222_170707

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.”

20140224_092035

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.

Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at solongfreedom.wordpress.com. Thanks for reading!

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:

Did you enjoy this post?  If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at solongfreedom.wordpress.com.  Thanks for reading!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,037 other followers

%d bloggers like this: