It’s that time of year. Summer is long gone, the yomim tovim are behind us and most of us are about to face a long, cold and dreary winter. I could regale you with enchanting seasonal ideas, like how this is the perfect time to mull cider with cinnamon sticks and to cozy up by the fireplace and get the whole family together for a spirited game of Monopoly, but as I sit down to write this article, my thoughts are turning in a different direction. It’s time for another column on pet peeves.
Number one on my list this time around is gas stations that charge more for credit card customers. I am sure I am not the only one who remembers the last time gas stations pulled this shtick and it was indeed a joyous occasion when they stopped that uber-annoying practice. Yet charging more for credit card purchases is back in vogue again and worse yet, the large signs that beckon as you drive along the roadway don’t always list the credit card prices, so you may not find out the actual price until you pull up to the pump, or worse yet, they hand you the receipt. Technically, most gas stations will tell you that they aren’t charging more for credit cards, they are just offering a discount for cash transactions, but let’s face it: no matter how you slice it, the price difference, which can be just a few cents per gallon, or at some stations, close to a dollar a gallon, ranges anywhere from bothersome to highway robbery. How best to combat this exasperating trend? By voting with your wallet. Find a gas station that doesn’t charge more for credit, if that is your preferred method of payment, and start filling your tank there. As always, money talks.
Just a single word can sum up one of the most disturbing trends that continues to sweep our supermarkets: downsizing. It wasn’t that long ago that ice cream came in half-gallon containers, sugar came in five-pound bags and a jar of mayonnaise was a full quart. Yet today, not only do prices continue to rise, but product sizes continue to shrink. Keep in mind, next time you make tuna casserole and the recipe calls for a can of tuna, that depending on when the recipe was written, a can of tuna could have held six ounces of albacore or even seven and that you need to compensate accordingly for today’s skimpier cans. The most heinous offenders? Companies that promote their new slimmer packages as “customer improvement.” Yes, it may be easier to pour orange juice from a 59-ounce container than a 64 ounce one but don’t insult our intelligence by pretending that you are doing us a favor by charging us the same amount of money (or even more) for less product.
Anyone else out there astounded by the life expectancy of today’s major appliances? For years, I lived with the outdated, antiquated Caloric wall oven that came with my house. It had no bells and whistles, the clock broke decades ago and it didn’t have a self-cleaning cycle. All it did was bake and broil. For over 40 years. Today you can consider yourself lucky if your oven lasts half as long. According to the National Association of Home Builders as reported by CBS News, the average life expectancy of an electric range is 13 years, while a gas range might just make it to the 15-year mark, although typically with the heavier-than-average-usage these appliances encounter in Jewish homes, you can expect them to give up the ghost even sooner. I recently found out firsthand that problems can crop up far earlier when my almost four-year-old oven mysteriously stopped heating up one day. A call to the service center brought about a speedy resolution for what turned out to be a broken igniter, a repair that would have run about $300 had I not purchased an extended warranty. Worse yet was the news that the typical life span of an igniter is only three to six years. Anyone else out there miss the days when all ovens did was cook your food instead of trying to “sense” when the food is done and do a zillion other things? Call me crazy, but I prefer a reliable oven to a smart one any day of the week.