Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Last-Minute Online Holiday Gift Guide!


If, like me, you’ve put off holiday shopping for too long, and find yourself in a community lockdown due to COVID-19, and are now forced to buy all your gifts online, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve got the hottest deals on the best merchandise this side of Amazon! Naw, just kidding … but I will help you navigate the world of strange and unique gifts, highlighting the salient features—and the most helpful reviews—of a number of products available online. (My blogging budget—i.e., zero—does not allow me to actually purchase and try these things, but at least I’ve saved you the legwork.)

M3 Naturals Himalayan Salt Scrub - $33

This M3 Naturals Natural Exfoliating Body and Face Soufflé is a very special product because it contains both collagen and stem cells. This strikes me as the kind of product that lotion snipers would be demo’ing if the malls were all open right now.

So is this the real deal? Well, these aren’t the same stem cells that help treat cancer. The product details explain that this scrub contains “a preparation of apple stem cells derived from the ‘Uttwiler Spätlauber’, a rare Swiss apple variety.” Now, I realize “Spätlauber” sounds a lot like “spit-lobber,” so you may suspect I made that up, but honestly I didn’t. (I wish I did.) Is it obvious this would help your skin? Beats me.

The most important positive review I found declared, “I have battled with have little pimple looking bumps all over my legs and arms cause by ingrown hairs under skin since I was in high school. I would pick them and make ugly places on myself which would make me look awful and made me feel so bad about myself. This product took care of that and more!” I have zero reason to suspect this reviewer is dishonest. In fact she is heartbreakingly candid. So at a bare minimum we can assume this product is a strong placebo. But can a placebo be given as a gift? That’s a tough one … how well do you know the intended recipient?

The top negative review, however, ought to give you some pause: “TERRIBLE PRODUCT, PLEASE DO NOT SWALLOW OR USE OR SENSITIVE AREA'S - GENITAL'S. This product is from the devil .. I have only seen bad effect's from this product. it is highly toxic & dangerous if swallowed also please heed advice and do not use on sensitive skin area's !!!!!!” So, knowing this … is it conscionable to give this as a gift without providing the disclaimer? But wouldn’t that kind of warning cast a pall? I’d say proceed very cautiously here…

Internet password journal - $9

This journal is unlike any other in that it has the phrase “Internet Passwords” embossed right on the cover.

Now, the cynic might say, “Couldn’t I just write my passwords down in the back of an existing journal, or even on the blank pages at the back of a paperback novel?” Well, yeah … you could, but that wouldn’t create the security risk of a burglar finding it and stealing your identity along with your silverware and electronics if he acts quickly. And more to the point, that wouldn’t enable your children to find all your passwords and start snooping on your email, checking out your bank balances, removing firewall restrictions, etc. How is your child supposed to become a hacker when you give her nothing to work with? Where has this journal been all your life?!

White sage stick - $7

The White Sage Stick from OurAncestorsRoots is the gift that says, “What the hell is it for?”

It’s surely worth $7 just to watch the recipient try to figure out what this thing is. Prolong the magic by helpfully explaining, “White Sage sticks are great for clearing and cleansing the energy around you and in your spaces.” The most helpful positive review declares, “The sage stick smells wonderful and I can't wait to get the smudging.” Smudging? Beats me. But this is helpful, in the sense that by quoting this, you can further draw out the sacred giving ceremony. And what about the most helpful negative review? There aren’t any! After all, on what basis could anybody possibly be disappointed by this product?

Beer chiller sticks - $33

These beer chiller sticks for bottles purport to solve the problem of forgetting to put beers in the fridge and facing the chilling terrifying prospect of drinking them warm. All you have to do is remember to put these sticks in the freezer at least 45 minutes advance of wanting to drink beer, and then insert them in your warm beer to cool it off.

Granted, you have to sip some of the warm beer to make room for the stick, but that may be nostalgic for you, taking you back to your college days when you’d occasionally find a can of warm Meister Brau in your roommate’s car and guzzle it down before he could stop you.

It’s hard to choose a single most helpful positive review so I’ll just do a mash-up: “I was impressed by the packaging and he loved it,” “I liked the gift package,” “More than expected the package was amazing top quality works great,” “The design and presentation of this product is excellent! I did give it as a gift, and don't know how well it actually functions, but it was spot on as a Christmas gift.”

As for the most useful negative review, it could be this: “Not sure what happen … put it in my beer and took a few sips then pulled it out to look at it and noticed the cap inside the tube popped out and the coolant had been seeping out in my beer the whole time..” Okay, maybe this guy just got unlucky. Another 1-star review: “Doesn't work. Followed directions, and just looking at the design, it does not direct beer through the cold part of it for long enough to make a difference. There is no way to make this heat transfer work out.” Should we take this amateur scientist at his word? Well … there are about 40 other reviews saying the same thing. An alternative to this gift might be a 3x5 card with the following message written in your very best handwriting: “Next time you forget to put beers in the fridge, just chuck a couple in the freezer for 20 minutes. Thank me later!”

Wallet card for Mom - $14

This engraved wallet card tells your mom exactly how you feel about her, in the eloquent words of an anonymous sage:

The amazing thing about this Engraved Wallet Card is that it doesn’t have a single grammatical gaff in it. That’s saying something, when the product manufacturer describes it thus: “The most aspiration words you want to say to your mom are engraved on the wallet. He will feel the deep love of you when he takes it out and sees it.”

Is this special enough to fork out $14 for? Well, the elephant pictures really are top notch, and aluminum is notoriously difficult to work with. Still, it’s hard not to suggest an alternative, such as a 3x5 card with the same message, written in your very best handwriting. Worried about copyright infringement? Don’t be. I’m not an intellectual property lawyer, but I can say confidently it wouldn’t be difficult to establish that every single sentiment on the card is the epitome of cliché. It’s the cumulative fusillade effect that makes it so sweet.

Whiskey glass with cigar rest - $26

This Kollea Cigar Whiskey Glass with Cigar Rest Holder is perfect for assholes. They’re always looking for a way to kick off a long stream of bloviating, and this “conversation starter” does the job. Meanwhile, it frees them from needing to have an ashtray to set their cigar down on, so now they can spread both foul smoke and ashes across their environment.

Do we care what the negative reviews have to say? Naw. The recipient of this gift is such an asshole, you almost hope he’ll hate it.

Death discussion starter - $10

It can be difficult for a father, especially the strong, silent type, to discuss his own mortality with his daughter. And yet, it needs to happen. This talisman necklace, reminiscent of military dog tags, does the job beautifully.

At first, the inscription just seems like an expression of love, but upon reflection the message is clear: “In all likelihood you are going to outlive me. I will die during your lifetime and you will need to deal with that. And then I will not be around to love you anymore.” And that bit about safety? It reminds her that nothing is for sure: she herself could die in an accident or something. These are hard things to discuss. The talisman does it for you. Brilliant!

And the reviews? My favorite 5-star review simply reads, “Wonderful gift – made my daughter cry.” The most useful 1-star may be this: “Broke withing 2 days of my daughter wearing it xxx disappointed.” But the metaphor of the broken chain kind of helps make the point, huh?

Mug for dangerous father - $10

This Protective Dad Mug is the gift that says, “I recognize that you are a dangerous man, possibly psychotic, but far from wanting to hide this disturbing fact, I think it should be celebrated, and by the way I consider myself pretty and you should know that.”

There is only one 1-star review and it’s blank. That’s too bad … I would like to know what the problem was. Either the mug arrived broken, or the printing was poor, or this gal learned the hard way that her dad is either a liberal or doesn’t consider her pretty enough to kill for. There are 19 5-star reviews but they’re all blank, too … I guess this mug speaks for itself.

Stainless steel “soap” - $9

The AMCO 8402 Rub-a-Way Bar Stainless Steel Odor Absorber purports to remove cooking odors, like that of crushed garlic, from your fingers.

This is one of those products that’s so wacky, it’d be super cool if it actually worked. And yet, how could it? Fortunately, there are over 10,000 consumer reviews of it, so establishing is effectiveness should be pretty easy … right?

Well, over 70% of reviewers gave it five stars, which seems compelling at first blush. But the 1-star and 2-star reviews all say pretty much the same thing: it doesn’t work. (Why would someone give 2-stars to a product that fundamentally fails to deliver on its primary function? I have no idea. I guess people are just nice.) So, over 600 people attest it does nothing. And it’s not like they’re doing it wrong … I mean, how hard could rubbing your fingers on steel be?

I researched this, and discovered that almost nobody has tested this who doesn’t have a vested interest in promoting it. NPR did a spot on the concept for “All Things Considered” and, based on hands-on testing by a professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, concluded it’s bogus. The New York Times also ran an article on it, but all they did was cite the NPR article with the caveat that was an awfully small study.

I’d try this out for you and report my findings here, but who am I to weigh in when a professor emeritus has already done so? Besides, I’m highly skeptical and don’t want to have stinky hands for the rest of this blog post. Next time I handle garlic or onions I’ll rub my fingers on the side of a chef’s knife and see. For now, here are my favorite reviews. Positive: “Works like a charm. Even gets dead mouse smell off your hands.” Median (3-star): “I gave my mom one of these and she was confused, she thought it was an actual bar of soap.” Negative: “Tried this ‘wonder bar’ which removed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Don't know about others who have reviewed it removes armpit odors! Really??? Use deodorant or something. Just the though groused me out.”

Lip balm for insecure men - $5

Macho men of the old school may think it unbecoming—effete, even—to fuss over their lips. Well, help is here at last. Well, not help exactly, it’s not like these big tough men need help—it’s just, well, look:

Check out those tough, soiled working man’s hands. He’s not some little girlie-man working a desk. He’s rugged even though he’s dapper. So is this Rugged & Dapper Lip Balm good stuff? Well, as the manufacturer tells us, it’s “TESTED ON MEN, NOT ANIMALS.” Think how cruel it would be to try this on, say, a pig. Haven’t the pigs suffered enough, with the lipstick? And of course this isn’t tested on women. That would be weird.

Pro and con reviews? Pro: “Its just so sleek and simple.” Con: “First off, this is not matte. It's misleading to claim it to be matte when it leaves your lips shiny, like lip gloss.” Gosh, that might be tough given the target market … what man wants to have glossy lips?

And does Rugged & Dapper offer SPF protection? Naw … that’s for sissies!

Phone sanitizer - $70

The UV Sanitizer & Wireless Charger kills bacteria using UV light. That’s what differentiates it from other Qi phone chargers (which typically cost only $13-20). All you do is place your phone in the special chamber, turn it on, and wait three minutes. Now all the invisible bacteria are, apparently, gone!

So does it work? Well, that’s a tough question because … well, this product reminds me of a joke. A guy boards a city bus and sees a fellow passenger holding an imaginary box, from which he pinches an imaginary powder that he then flings around in the air. The first guy says, “What are you doing?” The second guy replies, “It’s to keep away lions!” The first guy says, “There are no lions on this bus!” and the second guy says, “See? It’s working!”

But wait, there’s more to this product! It also does aromatherapy. “Add a few drops of plant-based essential oils (not included) to the built-in essence box and take in the soothing scents.” Um … could you add the oils to, say, a napkin or a kleenex and smell them that way? Well, yeah, you could … but how high-tech is that?

As for reviews, that’s easy because there’s only one (five stars!) and it’s so short I can quote the whole thing: “He uses it at home. When he gets home from work he puts it in the case to clean and sanitize his phone very practical.” And who is “he”? I have no idea. But I’ll bet he knows his stuff.

So yeah, you could drop $70 on this if the intended recipient isn’t the skeptical sort. If he is, you might consider instead giving him a 3x5 card with the following message written in your very best handwriting: “Next time your phone seems grubby, just wipe it on your pants!”

Wine filter – 8-pack for $20

The Wand Wine Filter by PureWine is a metal thingy you put in your wine glass. If you stir your wine with it intermittently for eight minutes it will remove 95% of the histamines and sulfites that make some people get “Headaches, Stuffy Nose, Skin Flush, Next-Day Hangovers and Upset Stomach.”

How’s it supposed to work? Beats me. One Amazon customer asked, “Could you publish results of any independent testing you have done, comparing the level of histamines and sulfites before and after using the wand?” Alas, the only response was, “I love it and it works.”

I suppose one risk of using this (after the pandemic, anyway) is that when you explain what it is to a fellow drinker, he’ll say, “Get a fucking backbone!” But then, this is speculation. I have no idea how wine people actually talk. I drink with beer people who a) never put wands in their glasses; b) never take anything close to eight minutes to drink a beer; and c) never have a histamine response to anything they drink.

My favorite positive review: “My boyfriend has never been able to drink wine due to an allergy to the sulfites … after one taste he would begin to get itchy and wheezy so I'd give him a Benadryl and take his glass away before we had more severe issues. These wands are super easy to use and we have been able to enjoy multiple bottles of wine together with no reactions!” Imagine being that guy, having his glass snatched away like that. These wands probably saved his relationship! I want to find that guy and give him—no, not a hug, you fool! Give him a tube of Rugged & Dapper lip balm.

But you should be aware of this negative review, too: “I ordered 8 wands to start and then a case because they work so well for the histamines. But every time I use them I have a problem with loose stool. It's now gotten so bad that I am having severe cramps and have had to give the wands away.” While this could obviously be a problem, I see opportunity here, too … somebody should market these as a stool softener! Say, that reminds me: wouldn’t “Loose Stool Event” be a good name for a rock band?

18k Gold Paper Clip - $1,500

Tiffany describes this product on their website: “An oversized paper clip is reimagined in 18k gold as a whimsical bookmark.”

Wow, what a generous and beautiful gift! The tricky part is to tactfully mention to the lucky recipient that a) this thing cost $1,500 so don’t you dare lose it, and b) since 18k gold is so soft, it’s actually very poorly suited to the task of clipping paper, so the paper clip should just be closed flat in the book, or employed solely as an objet d’art.

Care should also be taken to choose the right recipient; i.e., somebody callous enough to ignore the fact that over 12 million Americans are currently unemployed. We’re talking about somebody with a sufficient sense of entitlement that he would simply enjoy this curio for its beauty, ignoring the reality that for $1,500 you could provide lifesaving vaccinations for 8,000 children, or feed a malnourished child for almost 2½ years.

Any reviews for this product? Naw. Tiffany customers evidently don’t worry about such things.

A gift for the blogger?

I’ll bet I know just what you’re thinking: what gift should I get for Dana, as a reward for his tireless blogging all year? Aw, shucks … you don’t have to get me anything! But if you feel you must, I sure wouldn’t mind a stack a 3x5 cards…

Other albertnet holiday posts

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