Gas station without pumps

2018 April 15

Rapid delivery

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:37
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I made a serious mistake in putting together the parts list for my Applied Electronics course this quarter—I forgot to include a potentiometer on the list. I think what happened is that in previous years I had put the trimpot on the first quarter list, but we didn’t use it until the second quarter. I had a note to move it from the first-quarter list to the second-quarter list, but the move only happened half way (it was removed from the first list, but not added to the second one).

The mistake was pointed out to me be students in my Thursday office hours (they were asking where the potentiometer they were to use was).

Late Thursday night (after the evening labs were ordered), I ordered 85 25-turn 10kΩ trimpots from DigiKey, and they arrived Saturday morning (at 36 hours, about the fastest delivery I’ve ever had for anything other than pizza—particularly good for a delivery from Minnesota to California).  The Post Office package delivery gives good service here (now that they are no longer short-staffed as they were in December).

Because the lab course fee for the Applied Electronics course has all been spent on parts and tools already, I probably won’t be able to get reimbursed for these parts. The $76.52 they cost is probably the price I’ll have to pay for my mistake. (It isn’t my most expensive mistake in the last year—I forgot to pay my first installment of property taxes on time, which cost me a couple hundred dollars in penalties.)

Although I’m very happy with DigiKey’s rapid service, I might still specify trimpots from AliExpress next year, since 100 trimpots would cost only about $12 with shipping (ePacket, not the unreliable China Post).

2017 October 8

Mail delivery problems

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:19
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For decades we had excellent service from the USPS, with prompt deliveries to our door 6 days a week.  USPS has the lowest prices for small items (I don’t know any commercial service that will deliver anything for under 50¢, as USPS still does for first-class mail), and the service used to be great.

In the past two years (since our long-time mailman retired), delivery has gotten a bit unreliable.  I hear from neighbors that the problem is occurring all over Santa Cruz—the USPS is understaffed locally, and they can’t cover all the routes, so they drop routes on a rotating basis, providing approximately 5 day a week service.

This is mildly annoying, but what irks me is not the reduced service so much as the way that they report it on their tracking service “Informed Delivery”.  Instead of something honest like “understaffed—route skipped”, they report the non-delivery as “receptacle blocked”, blatantly lying about the problem and blaming the customer for their failure.

Even in the past, when delivery was routinely good, I noticed a tendency of the Santa Cruz Post Office to push the boundaries of honesty.  For example, when you paid for 2-day delivery, they were very careful not to scan the packages when they were handed over the counter at the post office, but waited until the post office closed at the end of the day to scan the package, giving themselves an extra 24 hours to make their delivery promises.

I imagine that the USPS pay scales are set based on cost of living in some cheap part of the country and are not really living wage in Santa Cruz.  They have job ads out for “City Carrier Assistant” at $16.41 an hour, which just meets the City of Santa Cruz definition of a living wage (they require $16.21 an hour with benefits for anyone hired by a city contractor, or $17.68/hour without benefits).   These aren’t even permanent jobs: “This is a non-career position through which employees are hired to serve a 360-day term, with the possibility of reappointment to additional 360-day terms.”

The pay is a little better than entry-level jobs in retail (which everyone is having a hard time filling, because the pay scales are so low), but less than shift supervisors or assistant managers.  Anyone with skills (apprentice electrician, plumbing installer, automotive technician, …) can expect higher entry-level pay.

Incidentally, I don’t see $16.41/hour on the postal-workers’ union pay-scale chart—the closest I can find is Pay grade 4, Pay step GG at $16.4688/hour.  Does the less-than-a-year contract circumvent union protections also?  I’m beginning to see why there is a shortage of postal workers locally.

2014 August 11

Testing JanSport warranty

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:42
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I’ve had a JanSport backpack for a number of years, and it is beginning to fail rather badly (hole in the leather bottom, main zipper fails frequently, shoulder straps fraying where they join the body of the pack), but rather than throw it out and buy a new back pack as I first intended, I decided to try out the JanSport warranty:

JanSport engineers quality, durable, and reliable products. So, if your pack ever breaks down, simply return it to our warranty center. We’ll fix it or if we can’t we’ll replace it or refund it. We stand by our packs for a lifetime and since we’ve been making packs since 1967, that’s a guarantee you can stand by.  []

I filled out the form, vacuumed out the pack (“State law requires that items be clean before being returned for repair or replacement.”), stuck it in a small box, and mailed it to them today.

In the process of sending it, I found that the USPS now provides a discount for packages if you buy the postage on-line rather than in person.  Shipping the pack to San Leandro, CA only cost me $5.32, which includes $50 insurance and free tracking (it should be there by tomorrow afternoon). The web site does cleverly push you towards their more expensive products (like flat-rate Priority Mail Express), but it is not hard to get the full range of options and find the cheap one.  For most packages the post office seems to have lower rates than the competitors. Though big companies can negotiate lower rates for exclusive contracts with UPS, FedEx, or DHL, people like me who ship one or two packages a year do much better sticking with the post office.

Since a comparable JanSport pack to the one I sent in costs about $55, I think that $5.32 to get the pack repaired or replaced is a good deal.  I suspect that they’ll replace it rather than repair it, since replacing the main zipper, patching or replacing the leather, and repairing the shoulder strap will probably come to far more labor cost than just replacing the whole pack, but I’d be happy to have a functional pack again whether it is new or a repair of the old one.  They don’t make the same color any more, but I let them know which of their current colors would be acceptable replacements, if the pack isn’t worth repairing.

I’ll see in a few weeks, whether the JanSport warranty really means anything.

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