I’ve just entered some pretty awesome company! I’m going to have a regular column on WowOWow.com, a site for Women on the Web that was founded in part by Lesley Stahl (yep, that CBS synergy paying off again), along with some other pretty big names–the regular contributors and founders are, in addition to Lesley, Peggy Noonan, Liz Smith, Joni Evans, Mary Wells, Sheila Nevins, Joan Juliet Buck, Whoopi Goldberg, Julia Reed, Joan Ganz Cooney, Judith Martin, Candice Bergen, Lily Tomlin, Jane Wagner, and Marlo Thomas.
I will be, not surprisingly, bringing the tech to the party. I’ll have a weekly post tied to or based on the Gadget of the Week segment in that week’s Buzz Report episode. The Wowowow audience is definitely less tech-savvy than the CNET audience, so look for these to be more informational or explanatory posts about the trends behind the Gadget of the Week, some buying advice about the category, or just an explanation of what in the heck a “netbook” is, as in the first post, which went up today!
Check it out; I’m pretty excited. I’ll post a link to each week’s column as it goes up!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen demonstrations in support of Proposition 8 in and around my neighborhood in Oakland, California.
If you don’t know by now, Proposition 8 would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to legally marry. Proposition 8 proponents have refused to comment on whether they would actively seek to invalidate the marriages of those couples who have been united since same-sex marriage was legalized in California.
Let me be perfectly clear. I am, to the very core of my being, opposed to Proposition 8. I believe that passage of Prop 8 effectively creates a religious dictatorship in California and would export bigotry and discrimination to the rest of the nation and the world. I believe that the right to marry is universal, constitutionally protected, and that it is a civil rights issue to the core.
And that’s why I can hardly keep myself from jumping out of my car when I see African Americans and other people of color demonstrating in support of Proposition 8, and why I can hardly breathe when they are also women. Notwithstanding the fact that slavery itself was only abolished in this country about 150 years ago and discrimination in all forms is still thriving here, interracial marriage in the United States was still banned in 17 states as late as 1967. That is forty-one years ago. If there were a Proposition 8 41 years ago, Asians, blacks, Samoans, and Hispanics I saw with a Yes on 8 signs this weekend, it would have been about you. Interracial marriage was banned because it was considered unnatural, it was thought to be “against God’s will,” and it constituted illicit sex. Sound familiar?
That long, rich history of marriage-related discrimination in this country ought to be enough to get any thinking person, and particularly a person of color, on the side of the Proposition 8 opponents. For whatever reason — probably the simple fact that it’s human nature to find someone out there you disagree with and go messing around with their lives — that doesn’t cut it. And that brings me to women.
Less than 100 years ago, women in the United States would not have been allowed to vote for or against Proposition 8. In some countries, they still cannot. In the U.S., women were still considered chattel who could not own their own property or even the clothing they wore until 1890, when Kentucky finally changed its laws. The Equal Rights Amendment, which says “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” wasn’t even proposed until 1923, has only been ratified by 35 states, and is still not part of the U.S. Constitution.
Then there’s the religious question. Proposition 8 comes from a fundamentally religious argument — our society rejects homosexuality as a sin that is specifically proscribed by the Bible. But here’s the thing: the Bible is not the law. If it were, we’d live in a pretty chaotic, contradictory society that allowed for putting people to death for all kinds of minor and outdated offenses and let guys like King Solomon have as many wives and concubines as they want. And don’t get me started on the teachings of Jesus — nearly all of which flatly contradict the spirit in which Proposition 8 was proposed at all. And before we use religion — again — as a tool for oppression in this country, can we please remember that our nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom and that our Constitution was created out of the desire for a democracy that did not specifically endorse one religion over another, did not put the beliefs of one religious group over the beliefs of others, and did not force its citizens to believe and act based on the will of a religious majority?
It is unfathomable to me that America can have such a deep wellspring of hate and violent discrimination from which to draw its lessons, and that we can still have Proposition 8 on our ballot; that we still have not risen above petty, passionate, semantic bickering about who has the right to be a legally sanctioned family. It’s unthinkable to me that women and minorities can look past not just their own history but the active discrimination that still thrives in this country, and still try to find a target for their own bigotry. And it’s frankly abominable that so many people feel it’s acceptable, in 21st century America, to create a “separate but equal” caste out of productive, successful, law-abiding citizens with whom they happen to have a “lifestyle” disagreement.
Proposition 8 is un-American. Period. And I am begging you, no matter what your personal or religious beliefs may be, live your own life. Go your own way. Teach your children that they don’t have to worry about being discriminated against or marginalized in this country, no matter what future determinations our society decides to make about who is “anti-family” or “against God” or somehow the unacceptable “them” to the greater “us.” Because make no mistake: as long as we think discrimination and marginalization is ok, we’ll never stop trying to pick on somebody. In the future it could be the anti-technologist religious sect or heck, scientists and software engineers, or the half-robot people, or why not, women again, who are somehow picked out as somebody that it’s ok to hate and make laws against. Think this is about the children? Unless we make a stand as Americans and human beings, no child is safe from becoming a victim of somebody’s beliefs.
Like the right of women to vote, the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, and the possible election of an African American man as President, this change is coming. There’s no good reason to tell gays they can’t marry, other than pure, naked, ugly discrimination. Don’t be the pro-segregationist of your day. Don’t become a villain in the story of America’s march toward tolerance and freedom. Vote for the America we should be, instead of the America we have been. Vote no on Proposition 8.
I’m in Las Vegas right now, because tomorrow I’m hosting the i-stage event at the Consumer Electronics Association’s Industry Forum event. By “hosting,” I mean that I am sort of the Ryan Seacrest of the event: Kevin Kelly of Wired, Jeff Pulver, and Ryan Block are the judges. It’s a pretty interesting and cool sounding contest, actually: it’s software, hardware, and services, and the winner gets $50,000 and a free booth at CES. And while the organizers assure me they’ve got a really big check for the winner, I think it might be the free publicity (and pre-show publicity) at CES that’s the really big draw.
The finalists haven’t been much-publicized, but from what I gather, they include everything from a price-comparison engine to a glove that can control your car doors. It should be pretty cool. Kara Tsuboi is covering it for CNET TV, so look for video of the finalists late tomorrow (Monday) or the next day. The event goes on all day with voting in the evening, and I’ll try to blog as much as I can during breaks. You can also follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the day.
So, since CBS went and bought us, certain things are a little bit different. For example, I get to be Katie Couric’s Internet correspondent! Here’s the deal.
CNET is providing the video player for these live webcasts immediately after the debates (we did the same thing for the conventions) at the CBS News site. And for the VP debate webcast tomorrow (and maybe the future ones, depending on how I perform), I’ll do a little chit-chat with Katie to talk about the reaction to the debate on political blogs, Twitter, the Technorati election site, and so on. Tune in! The Webcast starts at 8 p.m. Pacific, right after the debate ends, and goes for about 30 minutes (I’m not sure what time I’ll be on, but I’ll Twitter it before I go on).
If you’ve got suggestions for sites I should be sure to monitor, let me know, and let me know how I do! I’m pretty excited, and it’s funny to end up back in the “actual news” after leaving it behind for tech so many years ago.
I confess: I stopped watching the Emmys. It was shortly after Tina Fey won (yay!) and some idiot announced that I should “love TV and fear the Internet.”
But honestly, I’d been offended for quite a while before Sonnenfeld’s crack. And my other confession is that I love television, particularly the crappy reality type, and the shows that are constantly overlooked and undervalued by the Emmys and the ratings types, like “Buffy” and “Arrested Development” and “Sports Night” before that and, heaven help me, “Jericho.” So, I’m predisposed to oppose the Academy. That’s America.
But this! This parade of calcification, this Piven’s-second-win sleepwalking, this revolting attempt to re-create the glory days of “Laugh-In” (really? Is this the Emmy demographic? What am I doing here?) and “remedy” past sins by offering up a lamely presented, lamely conceived, and embarrassingly received “we suck” emmy to Tommy Smothers, even as TV serves up worse dreck and more castrated drivel than it possibly ever has … this was downright gross. I mean, my god. Josh Groban was the highlight, and I’ll tell you, I was not expecting that.
And lest I sound like a neo-Republican … the sexism of this charade! It is truly astonishing. Five reality hosts hosting the show and the best they can come up with for a bit is a Heidi Klum strip-tease? Seriously? And oh, hey, look, the “Desperate Housewives” bitches are still such bitches, all these years later! Isn’t that hilarious how they all hate each other because women are such bitches? I admit, my tone might also be colored by the stupendously witty pre-show, featuring Jimmy Kimmel slobbering in musical style all over Salma Hayek, because women aren’t worth talking to unless they’re hot and apparently men aren’t worth talking to unless they’re hot, either! It’s a gross-out two-fer!
And then these oblique references, and blatant references, in the case of Sonnenfeld, to how the Internet is making things so much harder for television are, honestly, anything but pity-inspiring. You know what you can do to counter the effect that the Internet has had on television viewership? Be better than the Internet. You can probably pull it off, if you put even the tiniest bit of money and talent into it. Try, just try for one second, one day, one season, to actually pay attention to the sea change that’s happening in modern culture and put just a smidgen of your energy into attempting to hear it and understand it, instead of acting like nostalgia-drunk old dickheads who can’t see past a chasm of cleavage and insider Hollywood jokes.
Stop telling six million people that their show isn’t worth keeping (“Jericho”). Stop trying to get me to watch the endless and indistinguishable parade of overly scripted, patronizing, gender-stereotype ridden sitcoms you pump at me every single season. Stop kicking shows like “Arrested Development” off the air, stop giving Jeremy Piven Emmys, and most of all, stop pretending that I don’t exist. Hey, you, television. Can you hear us? We’re the millions of people who are on the Internet instead of watching this crap, and you’d be wise to throw us a bone once and a while, because at some point, we’re going to be all you’ve got left. It’s really great that you’ve caught the snap with “Daily Show,” “Colbert,” and “30 Rock”, but you’ve got a lot to make up for, know what I’m sayin’?
Well, would you look at that! My jokes are so good that Daily Show writers use them, too! No, seriously. Check out this week’s episode of the Buzz Report, which was recorded Wednesday, Sept. 10 and posted Sept. 12:
And now, go watch this Daily Show episode from last night, Sept. 15. I’m not saying they’re not 10 times funnier than me, but I’m claiming this one as my own. Well, as Tom Merritt’s, really. It was his idea. But STILL!
This should, in no way, be considered an official review — see CNET and News.com for the proper shebang. I’ve just been using Chrome for a few hours and thought I’d dash off some quick thoughts.
First: it is fast as you-know-what. It feels super-responsive, so much so that I first thought it must be a trick. The tabs almost seem to click themselves; the autocomplete is so speedy that I thought it was reading my mind. After download and launch, it pulled in not only my bookmarks but, apparently, also my Awesome Bar history. Once I loaded it up and typed “T,” Twitter.com was almost already loaded in the tab. It was slightly terrifying, actually. One note: Chrome did not import my Firefox Live Bookmarks–the RSS feeds that appear in a drop-down from the menu bar, and it sadly doesn’t have this as a feature at all.
There’s not even a separate search bar; you conduct everything from the URL bar. I did discover that the Ctrl-K keyboard shortcut that normally puts your cursor in the search bar in Firefox adds a little question mark to the Chrome URL bar, so the browser knows for sure that you’re conducting a search. But it’s not really necessary. If you type anything but a URL into the URL bar, Chrome does a search. I like it, but it takes a little getting used to.
So, that’s pretty terrifying, and I guess as security features go, it’s hard to miss. Hopefully it’s not a false positive. In any case, like I said, I haven’t done exhaustive testing on Chrome, and I haven’t yet tested it with Google Docs or other Web-based Google apps. But at first blush, I like the speed, but it’s certainly not ready to be my daily browser. At least not if my mom ever hopes to get an anniversary e-card.
Eli has entered toddler-hood. This means, in essence, that he’s almost completely uncontrollable, has absolutely zero sense of self-preservation, is lethally curious and almost just as lethally clumsy, and has a temper that’s as quick and unpredictable as a rattlesnake. It also means that I frequently find myself in situation where I think I must look and sound like either a sitcom character or a cartoon. Some examples:
Eli comes running out of the bathroom carrying a plunger in each hand. I take them both away and put them back in the bathroom. In the time it takes me to do this, Eli is coming out of the other bathroom carrying the toilet brush.
Eli says, “bye bye!” and closes the bathroom door with us on the other side. When we open it one second later, all the toilet paper has been unrolled and is on the floor. This does not actually seem humanly possible.
Eli would like some crackers. I am standing at the sink, and he’s three feet away, at the counter. In the time it takes me to get to him, he stretches his little arm to an almost inhuman length and reaches the box on the counter, removes one cracker, then dumps the entire box onto the floor. I get the broom out to clean up the crackers. Eli LOVES the broom, which means that he grunts, whines, and shrieks to get me to give it to him. I give him a handheld broom in order to distract him. Then, as I attempt to sweep up the crackers, he follows me around and disperses each pile with a sweep of his handheld broom. This goes on for several minutes before I finally turn on Noggin and put Eli on the couch. I will not be judged. See for yourself. What would you have done?
My brother and his girlfriend come over to visit. Eli refuses to play with them, because he Only Wants Mommy right now. As they hang out on the couch watching TV, their heads follow Eli and I like we were a tennis match as I chase him back and forth, trying to retrieve: 1) daddy’s iPod; 2) mommy’s iPhone; 3) a CD case from the office; 4) my chapstick, which he likes to remove the lid from and “apply” (chew on), and then attempt to inhale the lid; 5) a partially open water bottle; 6) the plunger, again; 7) a heaping handful of cat food; 8 ) the plastic garbage bag that he yanked right out of the trash can in our bedroom. Things I do not even attempt to retrieve include my, Justin’s, or Eli’s shoes, hairbrushes, travel mugs, glasses cases, sunglasses, magazines (which will be virtually ground into pulp), or any of the plastic dishes and cups that Eli can access from “his” drawer in the kitchen. We’ll find these later.
Eli is a master at the Steal-and-Stash. Examples include Justin’s car key, which I have variously discovered inside Eli’s toilet-training potty and in the bedroom garbage can. Also Justin’s iPod, which was discovered under a bathroom cabinet after a two-day search. Discovery of toys, pieces of cheese/banana/Cheerios/raisins, small flashlights, baby shoes, children’s books, or other stashables inside my purse no longer amazes or amuses.
Eli is not interested in dinner/lunch/breakfast. This is common, and when it happens, Eli simply: 1) throws his food onto the floor or at one of us; 2) mashes it into his hair (leading to such sitcom-esque statements as, “are you going to eat that or just rub it in your hair?”); 3) scatters his food carefully across his tray and then uses both hands to make “food tidal waves” that rocket off the sides of the tray; 4) requests his water (“waydoo”), takes a token sip, then pours as much as he can onto the tray of food before we snatch it away. This results in increased awesomeness and blast radius of the food tidal waves.
Eli doesn’t care for having his diaper changed, as this takes away from playtime. The result has been some truly horrifying chapters, such as the “reach down and grab the poopy diaper while laying on the changing table, rip it out from under me with terrifying speed, and smear poop over nearly my entire body” trick, or the “insist on being changed while standing up, then, as soon as the poopy diaper is removed, spread legs wide and sit brown-eye-down on the nice clean changing table cover.” Or, and this is really the best, “scream uncontrollably while being changed, due to diaper rash or simple whimsy, then attempt to leap off the changing table so that mommy simply has to grab my poop-covered self, resulting in a bubble bath for me and at least an hour-long shower for mommy plus the burning of all the clothes she was wearing.”
Eli is playing in a puddle of dirty water. It’s close to naptime, so Justin picks him up to leave. Eli utters an inhuman shriek and commences Tantrum. Tantrum means that he thrashes and squirms so much, while screaming at permanent-ear-damage-decibels, that he cannot be set down because he’ll crack his head open on the sidewalk. Similarly, attempting to hold him safely in your arms is akin to trying to land a shark on a fishing line, as he thrashes, bites, and wails. This lasts 20 minutes or so, and he can only be pacified by fistfuls of raisins. Again: I will not be judged.
I am still too traumatized from this morning’s outing to discuss what it’s like to go to a restaurant.
So, do you think if this all starts before he’s even 18 months old, we can hope that it’ll be over by 2? Yeah. No. That’s what I thought. On the plus side, he’s really, really, really cute. When he’s not slathered in dooky, that is.
In this day of high gas prices, the death of the SUV (and with it, GM) and the triumphant return of the tiny car and the rise of the hybrid, here’s what I want to know: when are we going to see more wagons?
If I were Honda or Toyota or even GM, I’d be doubling down on station wagons right about now. Station wagons were the original SUV, and I think they can and should be the new SUV. Carmakers put a lot of time and money into crossovers like the Ford Edge and the BMW X3 because they’re good-sized cars for families that don’t stray all the way into SUV territory. But they stray far enough–my X3 gets absolutely shameful gas mileage, and every iteration of the formerly trim crossover cars (the Honda CR-V, the Rav4, the Subaru Forrester) seems to get bigger, heavier, and thirstier.
Is the “original SUV” poised to become the new SUV?
So, why not roll out good, affordable wagons with decent gas mileage? They’ve got yuppie cachet, thanks to Audi and Volvo. They’re more versatile than sedans because they’ve got room for hauling, thanks to those big hatchback boots. And they’re a heck of a lot more practical and easy to deal with for families than a teeny-tiny Toyota Yaris or a Honda Fit.
But let’s consider the wagon options available to those of us in the market now.
BMW: There are wagons in the 3-series family (328xi), which are cute, but $35,000-plus and tiny, and then there’s the 535 i or xi (drool), which is $55,000 and up. So, that effectively ends that conversation for most of us. Plus, mileage is 17/26 and 16/23 — my X3 is rated for 16/23 and I live a lot closer to the 16 side of things.
Volvo: the V70 and the XC70 are the big family-sized wagons, although the V50 is a smaller alternative. But all are big, heavy, expensive, and EPA estimates for the Cross Country and the V70 aren’t much better than my X3 — 16/24 for the V70 and 15/22 for the XC70. You’ll probably average 19 or 20, tops. Worse, the reliability ratings are about average, at best.
Audi: Hot as hell, if you can afford one. But an A4 with front-wheel drive (and mind you, that is a small wagon) starts at almost $41,000, and you haven’t even discussed options. Mileage isn’t bad (21/30), but once you upgrade to the family-sized and super-stable A6 Quattro, you’re pushing $50,000 with any options and the mileage drops to 17/25 (again, you can expect about 20, if you do a lot of in-town driving). Reliability? Average to below-average.
Volkswagen: Passat and Jetta wagons are available, but since the its redesign the Passat wagon has gotten abysmal reliability ratings and the pricing in 2008 was laughable–adding all-wheel drive to it meant committing to a $10,000 package, bringing the price to almost $40,000. Thanks, I’ll take an Audi. For 2009, it’s front-wheel drive only, near as I can tell. Cheaper, and that kicks the mileage to 19/28, but the reliability is a concern, and the mileage isn’t stellar. The Jetta is actually a decent option–inexpensive and cute in wagon form, but again, the reliability appears average (empty dot from you-know-who), and it’s actually quite a small car, especially where rear-seat legroom is concerned.
Subaru: Meh. I know the Outback is the gold standard for American wagons, but the newer models are small, in legroom and headroom. Mileage is 20/26, which is fine, but since Subaru is the only affordable, reliable option in this category, I just can’t get excited about it. The car’s not comfortable, and the stripped-down Subie thing just isn’t for everyone. Well, ok. It’s not for me. And the not-stripped-down models are well into $30,000-plus territory.
Really, the point here, is that there are only two genuinely affordable cars with good mileage on this list–the Jetta and the Subaru. Maybe the BMW 328 xi, but it’s a little pricey and it’s definitely on the small side for a family car. And if you care a lot about reliability, there’s only one: Subaru. So, where are our affordable car-makers in the wagon game? Honda has an Accord wagon that it’s been selling in Europe for years: I want it! Toyota’s Matrix is cute and roomy in the more-a-hatchback-than-a-wagon category, so why not come out with say, a Camry Hybrid wagon? I’d buy that in a heartbeat. Saturn could easily do a wagon.
I guess I know the answer–CR-V, RAV4, and Vue. But I wonder if even the crossovers will start to seem too thirsty and, as the environmental peer pressure rises, too big. If that starts to happen, I predict a wave of station wagons to rival the 1970s, and I’ll have my wallet at the ready! (Unless I get tired of waiting and decide I can’t live without an Audi …)
I am a big and vocal fan of Zappos.com for all things shoe. Huge selection, decent (if not bargain) prices and free shipping. Returns are dead simple, and my love for Zappos has, at times, bordered on actual zealotry.
So, when the Gap Empire introduced Piperlime, I wasn’t buying. It seemed like a Zappos ripoff with a more yuppie-friendly design scheme, and even though I’m a Banana Republic card-holder and Gap Empire devotee, something about Piperlime just didn’t work for me. Plus, they gave me the Website hard-sell — a constant barrage of coupons and insinuations that my BR outfit just wouldn’t be complete without some Piperlime pumps. Feh.
But this weekend, I had a little bit of a Piperlime revelation, thanks to, well, my child. See, he won’t wear shoes. In fact, if you put anything but Robeez on his delicate little tootsies, he shrieks and growls and moonwalks until you remove them and set his soles free. So, a friend told me about See Kai Run shoes, which have a more flexible sole than the standard Old Navy fare, and might be more palatable to Mr. Picky Toes. When I Googled them, Piperlime had them for less than Zappos, with the same free shipping. Plus, checkout was super easy, since I could use my Gap Empire login and get all my saved info, just like I do at Zappos. I got to wondering … could Piperlime be better!? I decided a super-scientific evaluation was the only way to go. Let’s begin:
I found the See Kai Run shoes at Piperlime on sale for $25, down from $38. Zappos had a much bigger collection of See Kai Run shoes, but they were all $42, with nothing on sale at all. These Naturalizer Memento wedges are $59 at Zappos and $55 at Piperlime. A quick scan seems to suggest higher prices at Zappos across the board, and Piperlime has a much more price-conscious presentation — “great finds under $75,” or “Fantastic finds under $100″ under handbags.
Plus, according to recent reports, Zappos no longer matches prices from other retailers, and has stopped offering free overnight shipping. Now, both Piperlime and Zappos offer the same free 4-5 day shipping, although Zappos will often “upgrade” you to two-day shipping. However, the price discussion leads directly to …
Zappos may be more expensive, but it’s also the source for all kinds of designer brands that Piperlime simply can’t match. Piperlime doesn’t carry Badgley Mischka, Cole Haan, Marc by Marc Jacobs or Marc Jacobs, for that matter. There’s no baby phat, no Michael Kors, no Stuart Weitzman, and absolutely no D&G Junior. Then again, that keeps Piperlime’s ratio of $500 shoes vs. $50 shoes on a much more realistic plane than Zappos’.
Even where there is brand crossover, though, Zappos has many more options. There were 27 choices in the aforementioned See Kai Run brand at Zappos, just eight at Piperlime. And while Piperlime also offers handbags, Zappos has taken their shoes-and-bags formula and branched out into accessories, electronics, sunglasses, kids’ clothing, and even watches. Mission creep? Maybe, but Amazon hasn’t gone wrong with their one-stop shopping approach.
Ease of use
Zappos has been on a bit of a marketing spree lately, announcing its rollout of the new categories mentioned above, along with plans for a redesign that will make the site substantially easier to use. They haven’t given a date for that redesign, though, so for now: my GOD is Zappos a pain to navigate. They know it, so I don’t want to go on too much, but it’s just a weird, kludgy, crowded little site that feels a bit like a tiny little boutique crammed with an entire Macy’s worth of goods. You strongly sense that you might stumble upon something fabulous, but you’ve got to be willing to spend a whole Saturday there.
Piperlime, on the other hand, has the clean design of all Gap Empire sites, and once you get past their standard useless splash screen, makes excellent use of the left-hand nav to promote within appealing categories. Choose from “The weekend shoe,” “Fabulous flats,” “Designer favorites,” “Fantastic finds under $75,” or by category or brand. Here, the lack of selection feels more like something you can wrap your head around, and you have the sense that you’ll find what you’re looking for.
But design alone isn’t enough, and Zappos has a killer feature that Piperlime can’t touch: the user reviews. At Piperlime, I can sort by Featured, Price (low to high or high to low), or What’s New. At Zappos, I can start out by determining shoe type, heel height, size, width, and color, or just hit “Sandals,” where I can then drill down by all the previous categories, plus “new,” “name,” “low price,” “high price,” and the Holy Grail: “popularity.” That one click gives me the most highly rated shoes in the category, and they’re rated by the people who actually bought and wore the shoes. BOOM.
I can’t tell you how valuable this one thing has proven to be, over and over, when it comes to ordering shoes online. I’ve ordered shoes half a size too big, thanks to Zappos, and had them fit perfectly. I’ve rejected adorable flats when five people in a row said they were miserably uncomfortable. Anyone who orders shoes or clothes online knows that fit is the ultimate crapshoot, and Zappos’ user reviews take so much guesswork out of the ordering that I’d bet it contributes to a much lower instance of returns overall.
Piperlime has matched Zappos on free shipping and free returns, but Zappos has bought the love of women everywhere with the free overnight shipping … that it no longer offers. It’s definitely a blow to the brand to discover that some of their most customer-friendly features, like free overnight shipping and price-matching, are gone. Still, I ordered running shoes from Zappos last week, and they were here within two days. I can’t say much about Piperlime in that respect, as I just placed my first order today. I did, however, get an email that said the shoes should arrive within seven business days. I’ll tell you one thing: if it really takes seven days for those shoes to get here, Piperlime won’t be beating out Zappos anytime soon.
But as I said, Zappos’ best feature is not just their customer service. It’s their actual customers — the ones who take the time to review shoes and offer tips as to sizing, fit, and comfort so you can actually buy with confidence. It’d take a lot of mistakes and mishandling of orders to undue the value of that community.
So, winner? Well, I only have four categories in my little head-to-head, and I seem to have ended in a tie. From a purely emotional standpoint, I’m still a Zappos fan, because I think the idea of customer reviews for shoes is sheer, unparalleled genius. But check back with me in a week or so to see how it goes with the kid-shoe adventure. Piperlime is coming up fast from behind.