Caveat Emptor

0
by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

In the commercial environment it would not be an exaggeration to trumpet a wariness of youth.  While normally the retail precaution centres upon what the House of Lords dismissed as “mere puffery“, all that has changed with the racing evolution of technology. Normally the unsuspecting customer is considered susceptible to the deceit or deliberate inaccuracies of a seasoned and calculating salesperson not a bright-eyed and seemingly ingenuous youth. The danger of merchant bamboozle is not uncommon particularly where the buyer is a member of the “older generation”. Now, however, the threat isn’t a mean-spirited vendor but rather an ostensibly friendly and well-intentioned youth.

The paradox arises from the fact that so many of us middle-aged and older people mistakenly assume that the younger generation has kept pace with the developing technology which insinuates almost everything we buy. It turns out that being a knowledgeable salesperson requires more than youth; it requires experience – and that normally is something associated with anything but youth. The unfortunate coalition is compounded by its incidence with older people who are often the ones who can afford these latest gadgets. The simple truth is that a more experienced salesperson has knowledge not only of what is coming but what has been; and there is no denying that old and new technology have to be reconciled (and sometimes they are irreconcilable).  It doesn’t help in the least to deal with a vibrant youth who does not recognize the possible incompatibility of new and existing hardware or who presumes that “everyone knows” about what are essentially the current sine qua non for the effective operation of the more popular devices.  If you have any doubt about the meaning of SD, LAN, WAN, CPU, POP or USB then you know what I’m talking about.

All this is to say that although the youthful salesperson may not be maliciously intentioned – and while the corruption may be remedied with further attendances and reconsiderations – what remains is the standard time-worn admonition, “Buyer Beware!” Regrettably the circumspection entails that one mustn’t rely upon what is said.  This of course is a dreadful assertion when applied to an advisor of any description but it most certainly constitutes an utter contamination when settled upon a salesperson. I have no doubt that the result may be as shocking to the salesperson as it is to the customer. Yet all the apologies for oversight or innocent misrepresentation do little to assuage the sting of the misadventure. For the time being I am more concerned that I temper my own sphere of trust, not by being jaundiced but rather by being suspect.  And I have no desire to undertake anything other than a corollary utility as an instructor – I’ll leave the edification to the store managers. My contribution to the enlargement of youthful wisdom will derive from the School of Hard Knocks.

**********

Should you care to know, the basis from which this particular rant springs is a matchbox sized video camera which – unlike the comparatively more complicated iPhone or MacBook Pro laptop computer – is completely functionless without the addition of a Memory Card and perhaps an adapter for downloading the data to one’s computer.  It boggled me to be told by one salesman that the reason the memory cards are sold as stand-alone items is that the manufacturers can produce them more efficiently.  Apparently the convenience of the customer was either negligible or rationalized. I suppose that anyone who purchases an automobile knows that it is necessary to buy fuel as well but at least the dealership customarily includes a full tank to get you going!

Post Scriptum

Not one to be defeated, I persisted in my researches.  To be honest my stamina (if I may dignify the trite tirelessness) is likely nothing more than a combination of unabated curiosity and a childish fascination with toys. I further elevate my tenacity by aligning it with an intellectual enquiry into technology generally. Technology – though obviously a highly specific spectrum – is nonetheless as illustrative as any other orbit of experience of the abstract lessons of life. There is for example no reason to assume that when confronted with an obstacle that “you can’t get there from here“. To be flummoxed by anything is mere frustration. Except in the most esoteric realms of philosophy I refuse to ascribe victory to temporary mystification. And I certainly will not be outdone by a toy!

My inclination today was so casual and lacking in focus that I was persuaded to alter my putative pursuit of “action cameras” by detouring to “The Source” to investigate what that particular retailer might offer.  Having already canvassed the stock of Walmart, Staples and Best Buy I thought I may as well visit this store which I recall is the successor to Radio Shack.  It is not in my opinion known for its high-end products but otherwise my perspective is ambivalent.

What caught my eye almost immediately upon entering the narrow electronics store was a portable wireless bluetooth speaker.  It is a mini sound cube called Sony SRS-X11.

It was for “clearance” sale for $49.95.  My instincts told me it was a deal.  After making a few preliminary enquiries of the sales clerk, I asked him to set it aside at the counter for my purchase.  Meanwhile strengthened by this find I continued my prowl about the store in search of what else might catch my attention.  I was rewarded moments later with the discovery of a hard-shelled camera case for the extraordinary clearance price of $8.68! I scooped that up as well.  I had previously asked the clerk if the store sold action cameras, which he said they did not.  Though I saw several digital cameras they were not in league with the Go Pro action cameras. But I knew the little camera case would accommodate my Vivitar action camera. I paid for my purchases and pushed off towards the adjacent Staples big box store.

At Staples I was rescued in my patent shopping floundering by a tall unshaven sales clerk who evidently knew what he was talking about.  He grasped what I wanted in an action camera in an instant.  I easily narrowed his focus by my description of what I sought.  To my complete surprise he informed me that the Activeon CX Gold camera not only came equipped with a battery and a memory card but also the capacity to upload videos directly to my MacBook Pro laptop computer through a USB cable without having either to remove the memory card and install it in the computer or to purchase some other device to accomplish the same result. My prayers had been answered!  So much for my hope of having unearthed a retail bombshell!  Clearly the Chinese had beat me to the punch!

 

Both devices – while naturally presenting the usual learning adjustments – have proven on balance to be “user friendly” and perfectly adequate from my purposes.  The Sony sound cube for example is connected by cable to my computer (to keep it perpetually charged) and wirelessly streaming my music from iTunes. As for the Activeon CX Gold I have turned off the touchscreen capability (so I won’t inadvertently mess with my settings) and set the device to default Video mode including date/time stamp.  I have been able to upload the videos to YouTube where I will effectively maintain my library of productions until such time as I discover I’ve exhausted the default maximum space available for free (though it may be that YouTube recovers its money from selling other add-ons beyond the standard service). YouTube is of course a video-sharing web site which enables people to market themselves and their wares by enlarging the viewing scope to a wider public audience.