Shopping for the Absurd

Updated 2005-04-09 (At long last!!!)
The images shown here are original, unaltered photographs taken in generally public places. All comments are strictly the personal opinion of the photographer. No photographs or comments are misleading, or known to be false.


Grocery Store - 2003-07-14

I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the shelf tags on these products, because the price of the 10-pack was less than the price for the 6-pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (Hershey Foods Corp.). The price per pound seemed to be in order.

The '10-pack' package pictured top (above) contains 10 cups.

However, the '6-pack' package pictured bottom (above) -- which, incidentally also says it contains only 2 cups -- does not contain 6 cups or 2 cups. It contains 12 cups.

Why the inconsistency? The latter contains 6 x 2-packs, but is called a 6-pack, instead of a 12-pack, while the former contains 10 individually wrapped cups.

CVS Pharmacy, Fresh Pond Circle, Cambridge, MA - 2002-01-21

Ever since Cadbury's (Hershey's in the U.S.A.) came up with this chocolate-filled delicacy, I wait patiently every year for this special occasion to indulge (and how!).

2002-01: Imagine my disappointment when over the course of several weeks, this display that should contain the three varieties, was only stocked with the yucky creme [sic] and caramel flavors.

2005-03: OH NO! I couldn't find ANY chocolate creme eggs this year! I thought they had become so popular that every one had been snatched up before I could buy any. I worte to Hershey's to suggest they increase production next year. They told me they stopped making them just this past month!

I haven't been this pissed-off at Hershey's since...


...since this abomination.

What is it about DARK chocolate that Hershey's doesn't understand?


(and why isn't this 'cremier' instead? If you're going to misspell something, at least do it consistently)

Niagara Falls Area? - 2001-09-04

The shelf tag under this windshield washer fluid says it's chocolate chip cookies.

Thorold, Ontario, Canada - 2001-09-03

Just donuts? Donuts and Chinese food?

...Chinese donuts, maybe? Wish I'd stopped in to see.

Chinatown, Boston - 2003-07-28

More diversification

Store, Boston Area - 2003-11-30

I never considered soda to be especially a seasonal item.

Corners Frame Shop, Newton, MA - 2003-08-14

No... That's THREE corners.

Re-stating that this is a guarantee is not part of the guarantee.

Shaws/Star Market, Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA - 2003-07-11

I've been more and more irritated at the signage at this and many other grocery stores. Once again, their computer system is designed so that it can only create certain signs for certain products... even if those aren't the products being sold.

This is especially rampant in the produce and meat departments. For example, here the sign is for "Harvest Choice" Romaine lettuce. The only Romaine lettuce I could find was "Tanimura & Antle."

(Like the customer even cares about brands of lettuce anyway).

I dare you to match all the different kinds of tomatoes with their price sign.

It would be a lot easier if they at least had product numbers on the signs.


Shaws/Star Market, Mt. Auburn St., Belmont, MA - 2001-09-25

I never figured out what 'The Wild Ones' were.

Shaws/Star Market, Mt. Auburn St., Belmont, MA - 2002-08-28

New LCD Flat-panel displays at the cash register. Great Idea!

Except it's a bit hard to read the bright red text against the bright blue background. 

Target Store, Watertown, MA - 2002-09-07

Yet another approach to cramming more than one cash register into the space of one aisle. At this store, they go another step further, and stagger the front row of registers with the back row.

This really gets frustrating, because the line behind the rear row of registers can lead customers to either the closest rear register, or the front register to the left or to the right. So you--and the person next to you--never know who's in what line for what register. AAHHHhhh!!!


Chinatown, Boston, MA - 2003-07-10

Who needs shelves?

If you go to this videotape store, you'd better know what you want, because all the merchandise--thousands and thousands of VHS tapes--are precariously stacked literally from floor to ceiling. And there's precious little room to walk around, once you step down into the shop. I've watched this store over the past ten years become less and less navigable as inventory grows.

Why so many tapes? I don't read Chinese, but my guess from looking at the tapes is that there's at least one copy of every episode of every popular Asian TV series and every movie ever released.

The proprietor tells me he knows where everything is, though.

Arsenal Mall, Watertown, MA - 2003-03-26

I hope Edgar Froese and Klaus Schulze are getting royalties from this.

McDonald's, Allston, MA - 2002-01-02.

Oh, lovely! - They've found a way to make even their menu annoying. They've replaced their ho-hum normal menus with an array of flat-panel LCD monitor$, complete with live-motion SERVING SUGGESTIONS (Advertisements).

See below for more...

McDonald's, Allston, MA - 2003-05-10.

I went to the same restaurant again later and further realized that the aforementioned animated LCD screen menu boards on the wall may look great, but don't have a lot of information.

The only items on that 'big' menu were the combination meals. To see the full menu, I had to look elsewhere. There was only one menu, located on the counter, and the cashier kept putting trays of food on top of it. Argh!

And as if that weren't enough, there were one or two menu items not on either of these two menus. Mozzarella cheese sticks, for example, were advertised only on a small paper sign off to the side. Wish I'd seen that. I like mozzarella sticks.

Special note: I later tried McDonald's cheese sticks... they SUCK.

See below for more...

McDonald's, Allston, MA - 2003-05-10.

I'd call that deceptive. What don't you understand about $1.00?

K-Mart, Waltham - 2003-05-13

Not quite as interesting as the 'granite' spray paints, but still strange.

Sign, Shaws/Star Market, Allston, MA, 1998-11-03
Omigosh! Tony has no eyes!

I just don't trust corporate spokes-cartoons that you can't look in both eyes. (Are you listening, Marshall's? Home Depot?)


Note 2000-12-06: I have started seeing Tony with visible eyes recently. Perhaps they've responded to my observations.



Costco, Waltham - 2002-09-09

Frozen sushi? No. No, no, no, no, no.

What is it about the concept of sushi that you don't understand?


Stop and Shop #049, Watertown - 2003-05-19

Six packs of my favorite Summer drink: 11.15oz cans and 6.5oz bottles. Both $4.19 each. I examined the big orange 'Price Per Gallon' number and immediately grabbed the bottles; the better value by volume.

But wait!

Something just didn't add up. Follow me as we do the math:

Bottles are 6.5oz x 6 = 39oz., about $0.11/oz. or $13.75/gallon.

Cans are 11.15oz x 6 = 66.9oz., about $0.06/oz. or $8.02/gallon!!

I wasn't able to get any satisfactory answer as to how the price per gallon could be so wrong. I was told by one of the managers there that both prices are correct ($4.19 per six-pack). He told me that although both have different SKUs (Product numbers), the computer data from the distributor lumps them together as the same item. So? Where does $48.10 per gallon come from?

Somewhere along the line, the price per gallon calculation needs to be checked against the quantity and price, regardless of the data received from the distributor. After all, the store--not the distributor--is legally responsible.

Gap, Watertown Mall - 2002-08-03

One of the latest trends claiming fashion victims everywhere:

Pre-stained jeans. What a S-T-U-P-I-D concept.

Worse yet, most of these 'stain' jobs are sloppy and just plain awful.

Sears, Burlington, MA - 2002-08-03

Am I really supposed to be fooled into thinking these pillows are on sale?

Pull the other leg!

When something goes on sale, reduced from the regular price, the store is usually supposed to put a sign up.

But no, the folks at Sears are displaying these pillows in the cardboard boxes they come in... with the alleged "sale" price pre-printed on the carton.


Magazine Rack, Nashville, TN - 2002-09-06

Wow! That many pages and no hard cover?

Lift a few of these tomes, ladies, and you might fit the clothes.

Magazine Rack, Cambridge, MA - 2002-09-04

... Real big (but ask me if I care).

Bruegger's Bagels, Belmont, MA - 2002-08-27

NO!!! No. No No! Bagels are NOT square...

You DON'T buy bagels at Dunkin Donuts...

And you don't buy bagel-pork sandwiches at Burger King.

(Three rules to live by, even if you're NOT Jewish).

Marty's Liquor Store, Allston, MA - 2002-09-09

Update 2002-11-11: It was still there, and marked-down for quick sale.

...disappeared a few days later, unfortunately. What was its fate?

Amvets Store, Allston, MA - 2001-06-05

School is for sissies.

Twin City Plaza, Cambridge/Somerville, MA - 2002-03-12.

First, this sign appears to be directing people to the "Lower MaN," not the "Lower Mall."

Secondly, they've installed almost half of these illuminated signs upside down or backwards!

Chinatown, Boston, MA - 2002-05-05.

Another case of, "what's our business name, anyway?"

Shaws/Star Market, Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA - 2002-02-24

Two words that aren't normally associated: 'Kung Fu' and 'Shrimp.'

Mt. Auburn & Belmont Streets, Belmont, MA - 2002-04-24

I never did quite understand why liquor stores in Massachusetts are referred to as "package stores."

As if it were immoral to go to a liquor store, so you give it a different name. Is that supposed to fool anyone??!

So how come "smoke shops" (where you get your ciggy butts) aren't called something like "candy stores?"


Sears, Galleria Mall, Cambridge, MA - 2002-04-25

Good LORD!

What the....?!??

Hey, didn't I see one of the "Blue Men" playing this at the Charles Playhouse downtown?

Home Depot, Watertown Mall, Watertown, MA - 2002-04-25

"And With?"

(Actually, I never like to use the abbreviation "w/" for "with." I just use "w").

Shaws/Star Market, Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA - 2002-05-13

Is this a really bad omen that we're going to have mosquitos the size of birds this year?

"Quick! -- Grab the fly grenades!"

Super Stop & Shop, Broadway, Malden, MA - 1999-11-22
Honest, I'm not always out there actively looking for strange stuff. I really just happen to notice things all too often without trying. What do you see here?

1) All the aisle index signs at Stop & Shop have generic categories, like "Dairy," "Cereal," "Snacks," etc. For some reason, to my knowledge, Kellogg's "Pop Tarts®" is possibly the only product in the entire store that this signage mentions by trade name*. And it isn't like "Pop Tarts®" is its own category by default. There are similar products, like "Toaster Tarts®" for instance. So this category might more appropriately be called "Toaster Pastry," maybe?

*Actually, there is a Rubbermaid® section also. Hmmm.

2) Do you think a lot of people were having trouble finding apple sauce in this store?

Sears, Galleria Mall, Cambridge, MA - 2002-05-18.

Is there some conspiracy here?

Would it be TOO MUCH to ask for a microwave-type "oven" with a door that opens to the RIGHT instead of to the left?!?!

I'm SERIOUS here! - I'm damn tired of awkwardly reaching around the door from the left side of my microwave, when it would be so much easier to have a choice.

(Yes, I know, it IS too much to ask for a reversible door, like on most refrigerators, because of the safety interlock mechanism. But I'm sure if some hotshot designer put his or her mind to it, IT CAN BE DONE!!)

Filene's, Galleria Mall, Cambridge, MA - 2002-05-22.

Two words that (especially these days) Should NOT go together!


Supercuts, Commonwealth Ave., Allston - 2002-05-08.

Okay, I admit it. I don't usually go to the kind of "boutique" salon where my wife plunks down a wad for haircare and conversation.

So I'm looking at this price board, and start getting really curious about that blow dry. I understand that a regular adult haircut is $12.95, and that if you want a shampoo as well, it's only $5.00 more.

But when you get a blow dry on top of that, it costs ANOTHER $5.00 (and Up)!!! What for? Hmmmmmmm.

Downtown Crossing, Boston, MA - 2002-04-30.

Sure, I'm not the only one who doesn't know when to properly use the word "comprised" or "comprises" versus "composed," but I know for sure, this is not the way to use "comprises."

Is this store "composed of" five jewelers? Or should it be that five jewelers "comprise" this store? I'm so confused.

Super Stop & Shop, Broadway, Malden, MA - 2002-04-27.

YES! - It's "Slip-and-Fall" Carlos, the wacky and accident-prone pizza guy - immortalized in this clever cast statue.

(Can anyone else explain better what this is?)


A.C. Moore, Medford, MA - 2002-03-23.

Okay, nature-lovers: Which end of the apple attaches to the tree? (Clue: what is the purpose of a stem on fruit?)


Cambridgeside Galleria Mall, Cambridge, MA - 2002-03-28.

For goodness sakes, man! - Take down one sign before putting up the other. This is truly absurd!

Grossman's Bargain Outlet, Malden, MA - 2002-03-18.

What I love about this place is that you can find so much cheap stuff that's perfectly good, except for small defects.

In this case, someone goofed bigtime and accidentally made all these white shelving units black.

Grossman's Bargain Outlet, Malden, MA - 2002-03-18.

"Do Not Do Not Open Boxes...."

File this under "Double Negative."

Grossman's Bargain Outlet, Brighton, MA, 1997-11

The shopkeeper finally explained to me that this sign did not mean that the items it was hanging over were sold.

File this under "No I don't believe everything I read, but unless I have reason to believe otherwise, don't assume I'm psychic!"

Petco - 2002-02-16.

So I'm buying my cat food here, and when the time comes for me to pay for it, the electronic authorization gizmo says "Please Wait..." while it dials in and checks my number for validity. Then it shows the screen above, but still says "Please Wait..."

So I'm waiting for the "Please Wait..." to disappear so I can sign the damn thing. But instead it times out and goes back to a previous mode or whatever. The cashier doesn't understand why I didn't sign it and brings back this screen for me to sign.

Vittles Vault by Gamma Plastics- 2002-02-22.

This company's "specially designed" airtight pet food containers are pricey at Petco, so you can understand my interest in purchasing the smallest size that will accommodate my 20lb bag of cat food.

Well, the first problem, ladies and gentlemen, is that both the bag of cat food and the plastic storage container are oriented toward weight, rather than volume.

The manufacturers of the storage container have attempted to provide a table of weight-to-volume capacity for their product. Unfortunately, they're way off. As you can see, with their container full to the level of the lid, I have plenty of leftover kibble to store.


Shaws/Star Market, Porter Square, Cambridge, MA - 2002-01-28.

This was obviously not written by someone with marketing experience.

I didn't see any "ugly" tomatoes, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Truly! I later discovered that what this store considered "ugly" were the only tomatoes there that actually looked and tasted like tomatoes, rather than those perfectly round orange things passed-off as "tomatoes."

Circuit City, Somerville, MA - 2001-12-24.

I don't know about you, but I think they should get with the times. 1.44 Megabyte floppy drives just don't count as "Mass Storage" devices these days. Megabytes? Try Gigabytes!

Harry And David Catalogs - 2001-11.

These are mail-order catalogs received by a friend this holiday season. Can you believe this company would send out FIVE (or more) different holiday catalogs to the same person in one month!!?!? What a freaking waste!

Staples, Fresh Pond, Cambridge, MA - 2001-11-26.

"Ugh. Mongo hate Error 404. Mongo hit keyboard. Mongo boo boo."

K-Mart, Somerville, MA - 2001-11-24.

I give TDK a failing grade for this packaging. Their products come in multi-packs, including three-packs and two-packs. Looking at prices for three-packs, this item has a significantly lower price. One is likely not to realize at first that this is only a two-pack, since it has the same three compartment configuration as the three-packs nearby.

Urban Outfitters Boylston St., Boston, MA - 2001-12-08.

File this under "Jumbo Shrimp." At least they got the color right.

Home Depot Waltham, MA - 2001-11-16.

Not completely accurate. I admit I never witnessed any of this merchandise actually move, but the Amaryllis is one of the faster growing flowers.


St. Ives Shampoo Bottles - 2001-11-12.

Old bottle on the left. New bottle on the right. Why the change in design of the cap? I like the ease with which I can open and close the "valve" style cap on the old bottle. The new bottle has a flimsy "hinge" that makes it slightly more difficult to align the cap when closing.

St. Ives marketing department replied to my inquiry and said that customers preferred the new style.

What customers? And how do I get into these screwed-up marketing departments' focus groups!?!?

Simon Cambridgeside Galleria Mall, Cambridge, MA - 2001-11-14.

This is a great deal! - Only $48.00 for a child's winter coat, size XXXXXXXXL. Kids that huge are usually hard to clothe.

And why the emphasis on the word "PLACE" in this store's rather generic name? Shouldn't it be "The CHILDREN'S Place," rather than "The Children's PLACE?"


To read my letter to Sears Roebuck & Co. regarding their Gift Registry: Click Here.

Harvard St., Brookline, MA - 2001-11-04.

Clever, Clever! What a nifty gimmick, to put a Brookline Highway Department detour sign in front of your store to draw in the public.

That must be what this sign is for, since it's not placed anywhere a motorist is likely to see it, if there were a road detour anywhere nearby.

Simon Arsenal Mall, Watertown, MA - 2001-11-03.

Simon Malls Have created this new uniform for their security force. Looks a lot more "official" with that State Trooper's hat and utility belt, don't it? Sure, that's on purpose. After all, nobody's intimidated by a mall security guard that looks like a "rent-a-cop." Maybe not so absurd after all.

Simon Lenox Square Mall, Atlanta, GA - 2000-11-24.

Simon Malls (Geez... they're suddenly everywhere!) have these annoying new advertising signs that move while you're reading them and startle you when you don't expect it. A lot of them sport photos of artwork by Jacques Carelman that struck me as very interesting. Unfortunately, I have no idea what these posters have to do with anything. There is no store in the mall that carries this artwork. The posters don't advertise a traveling exhibit of his artwork. And I have no idea (yet) who this artist is.

What's the scoop here?

Great American Cookies at Simon Lenox Square Mall, Atlanta, GA - 2000-11-24.

I was shocked and disgusted to see this retail foodservice vendor located directly under a busy open-tread staircase.

Ewwwww. Gross!

Food Court, Simon Arsenal Mall, Watertown, MA, 1998-09-05

OPINION: Just plain unacceptable. Hey, I'm eatin' here!

Until 1998, we had a really nice food court here. Then this monster sits down at the table next to us. The food court is now half the size it used to be, and much less than half enjoyable.

This Foot Locker / Lady Foot Locker store has taken over the entire food "court" (Ha Ha, Get it?). It is large, obnoxious and overbearing, with blinding lights and deafening pyrotechnic sound effects. I don't buy shoes here because too much of the money would be going to glitzy hype, not the shoes (and, certainly not to impoverished third-world laborers)!

And while I'm on the subject: Why is it people find the need to differentiate between the men and the women like this? What especially hurts, is that the default always implies the male. They don't say 'Guy Foot Locker' and 'Lady Foot Locker'. At schools and universities, it's always 'The Basketball Team' and 'The Ladies' Basketball Team,' as if they're only a secondary team; an afterthought.


Honda CR-V Automobile, 2001-08-22

My Subaru has what they call full time "All Wheel Drive."

But what's this "Realtime 4WD (Four Wheel Drive)" that Honda has? "Real Time" as opposed to what?... "Prerecorded?"

Costco, 2001-08-26

I don't smoke.

A friend of mine asked me to pick up a carton of cigarettes for her while I was out shopping. Cigarettes are (apparently) on par with small electronics and jewelry in value, such that they are kept in a special cage instead of open shelves.

So I go to check-out, and get grief from the cashier, in aisle 8 or so, that I'm supposed to go to register aisle 17 or 18, like this sign says.

Okay... I didn't see the banner (big as it is). My goof. I just wish this wasn't the only one in the whole store. I also wish this sign was placed somewhere near the cigarette cage, so I'd know where to go when I want to actually buy them.


Family Dollar, 2001-09-05

Uh... hasn't Mel Brooks used that name already for a movie?

Shaws/Star Market, Allston, MA, 1998-10-15

The problem here is that they never turn off the sign. Customers never know when they're supposed to take a number and wait in line, or just wait in line without a number. File this under "Hey, I'm not psychic!"

Stop and Shop, Allston, MA, 2001-09-25

You know... this must be a conspiracy, 'cause when I spoke with the geniuses behind the counter at this competing store, they too couldn't understand what I was talking about when I suggested they turn off the sign when it wasn't being used.

Shaws/Star Market, Cambridge, MA, 2001-09-07

HELLO! - Do you understand the concept, here? Shaw's (among others) sells prepaid phone cards in denominations of $10 and up.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! - You should never buy a phone card unless you know how many MINUTES you're buying. How is anyone supposed to know what the per minute rate is if all you know is how much the card costs!?

TJ Maxx, Fresh Pond, Cambridge, MA, 2001-09-27

Question #1 - Why do these tea products sport the designation "Boston's?" I don't think this is the kind of tea made famous by the "Boston Tea Party."

Question #2 - Why is the Boston Tea Co. in Secaucus, NJ? (This is like the Boston Market company being based in Chicago and Pizzeria Uno being based in Boston, I guess).

Furniture Store, Concord Ave., Cambridge, MA, 2001-09-18

Let's see: Everything is discounted 20% unless it's on sale?


Cracker Box, DeMoulas Super Market, Salem, NH - 2001-09-15

It seems absurd that the secondary descriptive word "CHEESE" should get top billing to the product type, "Snack Crackers." Even the wedge of cheese is more prominent in the foreground of the photograph.

Liquor Store, Harvard & Washington Sts., Brookline, MA - 2001-09-07

How did this store get this name? They only sell liquor, not food.

Hess Gas Station, Rtes. 6 & 99, Malden, MA - 2001-09-06

It's August. It's hot outside. Wouldn't you like a Coke®?

Nope. Not when it's been sitting out in the sun all day!

Irving Gas Station, Rte. 3, Tilton, NH - 2001-10-06

Apparently the kind of service that means "everything" is only "self service."

Come to think of it, "self service" is an oxymoron!

"Kitchen Rug," K-Mart, Brighton, MA - 2001-08-27

I wasn't able to get any information from K-Mart customer relations regarding the reason why this small rug was called a "Kitchen" rug, when it would seem perfectly appropriate in the bathroom, where we intended to use it.

K-Mart couldn't tell me whether this product was unsafe or inappropriate in some other way to use in the bathroom, and could not tell me why they decided to potentially limit sales to consumers looking for bathroom rugs, finding only kitchen rugs (and figuring there must be a reason why this rug doesn't indicate it is safe to use in other rooms).

Sub Shop, Waltham, MA - 2001-08-26

Amazing! - On the front of this 12-pack of soda, it says the probability of winning a "Great Prize" is 1 in 8 (which means that on average, you'll find a "Great Prize" in every 12-pack.

But what are these "Great" prizes? - as shown on the back panel, the prizes are more soda and popcorn.

I agree... that's "Just Great!"

Madras Masala Indian Food Store, Brookline, MA - 2001-07-26

I wonder how Hindus feel about their god, Ganesh, being used as a product trade mark on this food item.

I wonder what Christians would feel if their god was found on a package of linguine.

New Hampshire State Liquor Store - 2001-08-11

Hanschell Inniss Barbados Cockspur and Pusser's British Navy Rums:

I don't know, and I'm not going to comment.


MicroCenter, Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA - 2001-08-02

Notice that the package is the same size, but there are a full 50 blank CDs in the Sony package, but only 25 in the same-size Memorex package, half full of foam filler.

Fire Alarm Lever, McDonald's Express, Harvard Ave., Allston, MA - 2000-12-27

The post-fire, former McDonald's Express, Harvard Ave., Allston, MA - 2001-03-16


For more than a year, every time I walked into this McDonald's Express, I suggested to the employees that they fix the fire alarm lever. But did they listen to me?


(Okay, actually according to my sources, it was the adjoining dry cleaning store that caught fire, permanently closing this McDonald's and an electronics store).

Columbus Place, Northeastern University Cafe, 2001-07-6.

Who was the brains behind the naming of these literally flavorless sandwiches "Out Takes?!" (Out takes are usually the part of the product thrown away before they reach the consumer, such as movie out takes). This cafe is run by Chartwells.


Diving Kit, 2001-06-02.

File this under "Oxymoron."

You can't be "Junior" AND "Professional."

Post-new year's party Beer can, 2001-01-01
"Red Dog" (Miller Brewing Co., a Philip Morris Company).

File this under "Oxymoron."

Premium beer doesn't come in cans.


L.L. Bean, Freeport, ME, 2001-04-16.

Does the (Joseph) Lodge Manufacturing Company really think bacon is "natural healthy cooking"?

Shaws Supermarket (Formerly Star Market), Waverly Square, Belmont, MA, 2001-03-11.

File this under "Unclear on the Concept."

Newbury St., Boston, MA, 2001-04-06.

Curious wording. Well, I guess everything will be going regardless of whether it is purchased during the sale or is moved to the new location.


Au Bon Pain - Brattle St., Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA 2000-07-21.

This Warburton's has been here for many, many yeas. For the past few years it has actually been an Au Bon Pain restaurant masquerading (at least on the outside) as its former self. It's nice that they maintained the old building facade, but the awning should have been changed.

I'm told by Beth in the company's Facilities department, that this may have been due to Cambridge's desire not ho have two Au Bon Pain restaurants so close to another (there's a large ABP around the corner). Or, it was a Harvard Square community organization's desire to preserve the appearance of the neighborhood.

That being the case, where was this organization when "The Wursthaus" and "The Tasty" disappeared; replaced with a "Abercrombie & Fitch" and "Pacific Sunwear?" Great losses to the flavor of Harvard Square (R.I.P.). The Wursthaus may have been forced out of business by its landlord during troubled times (1996?). However, The Tasty, also a Harvard Square institution, was apparently forced into oblivion (1997?) by the same bank.

Interesting, too, that at some time within the last decade Au Bon Pain stopped claiming to be "The French Bakery Cafe," and is now merely "The Bakery Cafe." I guess that explains why I no longer enjoy their petit pains ("little breads") or lemonade as much as I used to.

Sears - 2000-03-06.

At last! A clothes-washing machine for us geeks!

Marty's Liquor Store - Harvard & Comm. Aves., Allston, MA 2001-06-25.


I found this great new flavor of beverage from Nantucket Nectars (Tom & Tom): "Savannah Mint," from their "Squeezed Nectars" line. This stuff is FABULOUS!

Unfortunately, I can't find it again anywhere. When I ask shopkeepers and sub-shop owners to carry it, it doesn't seem to sink in.

But what really got me irate was when I went to this beverage store that carries Nantucket Nectars, they said they just didn't have enough room to add one more flavor of beverage.

Of course they don't have any room: They've got to sell all those televisions first.

"Hey, Bob, I've been looking for a new television. Do you think I should go to the electronics store or the liquor store?"

Update: 2001-09-01: Savannah Mint was discontinued by Nantucket Nectars. PLEASE, PLEASE! - IF YOU LIKE MINT TEA, ASK TOM & TOM TO BRING THIS FLAVOR BACK!

White Hen Pantry - Brighton St., Belmont, MA 2001-06-25.

I can't explain why this new influx of "energy drinks" is strangely unnerving. "Red Bull," I think was the first. Followed by several others, probably very similar. I've never heard of "Venom" before. They all use the same size and shape can, too. Weird!

No, I admit I've never tried one.

One thing I do know I don't like about these drinks is the way they are marketed. Not much detail in the commercials about what they are.

And in grocery store and convenience store coolers, they don't take up shelf space. Instead, they stick a rack of the product to the inside of the cooler door... thus, blocking view of the competing products behind!

Are you paying attention, Snapple and Nantucket Nectars?


Haymarket Farmers' Market, Boston, MA - 2000-08-02.

Baldini's, Stuart St., Boston


I will not put up with missing prices. It's annoying and its illegal.

Yet the majority of pizza/sub shops do not post prices for most of their beverages (especially the bottled drinks). Paranoia or not, I'm convinced there is some kind of industry 'conspiracy' to keep this information from the consumer unless they ask.

None of the fish mongers at Boston's Haymarket ever have prices posted for their wares (though surprisingly, most if not all the Haymarket fruit and vegetable vendors post their prices).

Whenever I ask store clerks why their prices aren't posted, they usually get all 'dumb' on me and pretend that's the stupidest or strangest question they've heard and that nobody has ever asked why before. But none of them agree it's a good idea and none of them start posting prices.

DeLuca's Gourmet Market, Charles St., Boston, MA - 2000-08-02.
"Of course we have sushi! -- This is a cheese shop, isn't it?"

(The punch line to a very old Monty Python routine?)

Shaws/Star Market, Lexington Ave., Waltham, MA - 2000-08-02.


Okay... I did learn something when I went to Melissa's web site. Even though I do most of the cooking at home, I did not know that the spice Coriander is also the seed of the parsley-like herb, Cilantro.

However, I still found it strange that the packaging of their product would indicate "Cilantro" on the bottle and "Coriander" on the pegboard packaging.

Update 2000-12-29: Melissa's tells me that they've discontinued this product (which product... the Cilantro or the Coriander? And why?)

(Former) WordsWorth Abridged, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA - 2000-19-19.

For when you absolutely must mix drinking and driving?


(Former) Ann & Hope, Arsenal Mall, Watertown, MA - 2000-12-23

I was looking for a cheap large pot for simmering a holiday meal. At this store I found these items, among several, made by Columbian Home Products of Terre Haute, Indiana.

The one on the left, item #6132, is a "Corn Pot," while the one on the right, item #6135 is a "Soup Pot." Both are exactly the same size, shape, and 10.9L capacity. Both are the same finish (thin low grade enamel), color ("granite") and metal gauge (also thin).

The labels appear nearly identical, with the exception of the name and graphic. So what's the point? Do they think people go out and buy one of these for corn only and the anther one for soup only? Frankly, I hope to use mine for seafood someday, but I didn't see one labeled "Seafood Pot." Is their market research department conducting a study to determine which sells better, a product called a "Corn Pot," or a product called a "Soup Pot?" Is it a seasonal thing: same product, but in the summer its marketed for corn and in the winter its marketed for soup?

By the way... when the label is removed, you can't tell which pot you're looking at, so if you do buy two, you'd better mark them somehow (and the identical lids).

Mt. Auburn St., Watertown Square, MA - 2000-12-23

Sure they're cute and all (maybe), but I wouldn't want to base a business on a fad like Beanie Babies.

Not to worry... this space has probably already been rented to its new tenant who plans to open up a Pokemon shoppe!

Washington St., Brighton Center, MA, 2001-03-14.


How did we get from computers to stuffed animal toys here?!?!

Why can't businesses diversify into more logical sidelines?

Marshall's, Arsenal Mall, Watertown, MA - 2000-08-17

Maybe at Las Vegas High School.

"Super (?)" K-Mart, Somerville, MA - 2000-06-25

So much for the "service economy!"

Why do so many stores, like K-Mart and Ann & Hope, mess-up such a simple concept as price tags? If it's too much effort or expense to put a price sticker on every box, why can't they at least maintain the shelf tags?

I spent an hour in this store and most of the items I was considering had no indication of price. I finally found a surly "customer service representative," who pointed me to this device. Apparently it is now the customer's job to locate the nearest one of these bar-code scanners, which will indicate the current price. You mean I gotta lug each of these big heavy, bulky boxes of furniture halfway across the store? And then take back the ones I don't want?!?

Give me a freakin' break!


RCA product, Home Depot, Boston area - 2000-06-26

"Will this device help if I'm getting bad reception from my Hi-8 tapes, too?"

"Rabbit Ears:" It seems someone in the product labeling department at RCA got confused about the difference between VHF (a frequency band) and VHS (a video recording format).

Osco Pharmacy, Chicago, IL - 2000-06-13

File this under "Computers are only as smart as the people that program them."

Tags Hardware, Cambridge, MA - 2000-06-08

Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!

(Dr. Who Dalek look-like bathroom gadget)

Harvard Square MBTA Station, Boston, MA, 2000-06-06

Bogus Branding: Someday I will add a separate expanded page dedicated to this topic.

As if it weren't pointless enough for people to wear apparel emblazoned only with its trendy-yet-trashy designer's logo (Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, FUBU, etc., etc.)...

Have you ever seen jackets, shirts or accessories littered with meaningless crests, logos, and slogans like this one?


What comes to mind is a foreign clothing manufacturer slapping together a few "American" phrases whose meaning they have no knowledge, assembled by sweatshop laborers equally oblivious of the absurdity.

And we BUY this junk!

Want to see some more botched Americana on clothing and other Japanese consumer goods? Check out S. Caires' Japanese Engrish pages. They're hilarious!

McDonald's, Anywhere, 2000-05-01

File this under "everything is relative"

Portion sizes should be expressed in terms relative to that restaurant, not to perceptions of sizes relative to other restaurants. As I've said before, there can't be a medium if there's no small.


Warning! Warning! Warning! -- Any time a grocery store item needs to use the words "food product" you know it's just plain wrong. Think about that next time you reach for your favorite can of "processed cheese food product."

Similarly, any time you see the word "chocolatey," watch out. It's a giveaway that no chocolate died to make this product.

See also this external Link: Jeff Lee's Tribute to Armour Star Potted Meat Product.


See what I mean?


Let's not go there, okay?

Former Frugal Fannie's Brighton, MA 2000-01-01

Here's to three-day weekends!

Okay, I can understand thinking of the weekend starting after hours on Friday, but this store is open at 10:00am on Friday. I think to most of us, that doesn't count as a weekend, right?


More recently, I discovered some businesses, like ski resorts, have weekend rates and midweek rates. I found the term 'midweek' curious, since to me, midweek is Wednesday, or maybe Tuesday through Thursday. Days Monday through Thursday are usually called weekday days, as opposed to weekend days. Come to think of it, every day is a weekday, technically, since there are seven days, not just five. I guess that's why they use the word 'midweek,' but there's got to be a better word that more accurately represents those five days.

K-Mart, Brighton, MA 2000-01-01

I got livid when I couldn't tell what items on this rack were $12.00 and which were up to $22.00! Nothing was marked with the discounted price!

BJs Wholesale Club, Medford/Malden, MA 2000-01-22


I got a painful surprise when I wasn't looking where my shopping cart was going. At the check-out counters, these "handy" writing platforms give only half an inch of clearance above the shopping cart handles. I managed to jam my fingers between the cart and the bottom of this platform, but good. Would I be the first and only such victim? Perhaps.

Mobil Gas Station, Malden, MA 1999-12-20
I think it's strange how often I see something finally done right... and at the same time something just plain goofy.

For instance, the retail gasoline industry has figured out how to include sales and other taxes into the price of the product. How often do you go to a store and try to buy something for a posted price, and realize you still need to fish around for change to pay the tax? Why can't everything you buy be priced to include taxes? If any politicians are reading this... think about the possibility that consumers might not be as averse to paying taxes, if they didn't have to calculate them all the time! Note, however, it would still be important to always show how much tax is applicable. On this gasoline purchase, how much of the price goes to what taxes?

But here's what's goofy: Why is it that this very same industry that gives us tax-included prices, still insists on posting prices accurate to the mil (1/10th of a cent)? Isn't this just a bit ridiculous? Even more dumb is the fact that the price is always expressed as $X.XX and 9/10 of a cent. It's not as if the price constantly fluctuates within a one-cent range (where one day it's $1.295 and the next it's $1.298) and the consumer needs to be charged accordingly, instead of the retailer rounding up or down at will.

You realize, of course, that a one-mil increase in price means only an additional $0.01 (one penny) for every $10.00 of gas. Think about that the next time you drive half way across town to save a penny per gallon.

(Yes... gone, too, are the days of cheap gas)

Shaws/Star Market and Osco Drug, Allston, 1999-05
Lots of stores have been installing these credit / debit card reader keypads, and it really does streamline purchases. Sometimes.

However, here are two identical keypads: I get aggravated that they function differently, depending on what store you're in. With the Star Market keypad (left), the screen asks you to approve the purchase amount. It isn't immediately clear that you're supposed to press the brown "Cash" button for "yes" and the brown "Balance" button for "No" - as evidenced by the need for the store to affix a "Yes" (but not a "No") label after the fact.

The Osco keypad (right) more reasonably has a red "No" (Clear) and green "Yes" (Enter) button. I keep wanting to hit these buttons at Star Market.

Furthermore, the Star Market system from the very beginning suffered from the deficiency that even though you enter the kind of card you're using (credit or debit) at the time of the transaction, it fails to inform the cash register. You have to tell the cashier what kind of card you just used. Yet the cash register can tell the keypad the amount of the purchase. This problem has still not been fixed.


I'm also not sure I like the idea of the new credit card point of sale systems that require you to sign only the merchant's copy. Thankfully, almost gone are the days of carbon paper slips, but now I often don't get a signed copy of my own transaction slip, even though they could use the pressure-sensitive paper.

And you'd think that by now when you make a credit card purchase, they'd figure a way to print just one slip for you. Instead, you often still get an itemized register slip along with the credit card slip, which you invariably need to ask to have stapled together (makes year-end expense tracking difficult when this information is on separate papers that get lost).

Store 24, Harvard & Brighton Aves., Allston, MA, 1999-05-27
Didn't the owner of this new store go to "Store 24 school?" I couldn't believe this sign in the shop window [File this under "Unclear on the concept"].

Furthermore, there's already a Store 24 at the next corner in one direction and at the next corner in the other direction. Do we need THREE so close to each other? [File this under "Starbucks."]

Shaws/Star Market, Allston, 1998-10-06

The store manager obviously couldn't figure out which is more grammatically correct either.

Shaws/Star Marke, Allston, 1999-05-06

I later revisited this store, where I found yet more absurdity. In an attempt to streamline checkout, this supermarket has a few lanes with two cash registers each. The oddity here is that this pair of cash registers sharing a lane is for two different amounts of items. Customers in line with more than eight items but fewer than (or less than) twelve can't really take advantage of this system (of course, who pays attention to these anyway?)

Dunkin' Donuts, Logan Airport, 1998-11-20

File this under "everything is relative"

One sign says "Small" and "Large" (Larg) coffee; the other says "Small" and "Medium." If there are only two sizes, then they must be "Small" and "Large," since there is no "Medium." Didn't they ever watch "Sesame Street?"


We really need to see Polyester and Spandex in three languages?

And no, I did not buy this article of clothing.

Radio Shack, 1998-10-23

"Specifically" for "Everyday" use?!?

This could be interpreted one of two ways... neither of which makes sense.

(I once participated in a focus group discussing "all purpose paper" and when I suggested that the product be called "multipurpose" instead, they looked at me like I was speaking Martian. No, but obviously, I don't speak marketing either.)

See what I mean?

Shaws/Star Market, Allston, MA, 1999-01-29

Sign of the times from Broadleaf Venison: The instructions tell you how to use the microwave, but don't include directions for preparing in a conventional oven or on a conventional stove.

(Former) Purity Supreme, Harvard St., Brookline, 1992

Notice the absence of a shelf? Nice job... Actmedia!

Sears, Cambridgeside Galleria Mall, Cambridge, MA, 1998-11-07

They only have one vacuum, but several sewers on sale, I suppose. Would that be a vacuum cleaner or a black hole? Sewing machines or septic systems? (I noticed the misspelling of "clearance" after I took the photo, too.)

Downtown Crossing Discount Store, 1998-10-22

Duh! File this under "Truth in advertising"

Marty's Liquor Store, Allston, MA, 1998-10-17

Confusing prices throughout a local liquor store: Identical tags with different prices. Both tags tell you how much the item is, and how much it is for a whole case of the item. However, one tag is the price for a six-pack, and the other is the price for a single bottle. Both tags are not always present (and at these prices, it isn't always easy to tell if you've just grabbed an $8.00 bottle or an $8.00 six-pack). Why can't one tag have the single, six-pack and case prices for each item?

Marty's Liquor Store, Allston, MA, 1998-10-17

The same liquor store... mismatched price tags everywhere.

Cape Cod Potato Chips, Sub Shop, Boston, MA, 1992

OK... lemme get this straight: The little bags on the top shelf are "King Size" - so what does that make the big bags on the bottom shelf?!? "God Size?"

Talbot's, Prudential Mall, Boston, 1998-09-29
also at The Paradies Shops (Chicago O'Hare Airport?)

Look out! - Potato People disguised as mannequins. Oh no!

Children's Department of Department Store, Boston Area, 2003-12-20

...and now the chicken people mannequins?

Shaws/Star Market, Allston, MA, 1998-09-26

I don't think so.

Back Bay MBTA Station, Boston, MA, 1998-09-29

"Bagel and a phone card, mister?"

It sure is strange how these phone cards are being sold by everyone everywhere! It's almost as bad as... Beanie Babies.

"Everything for a Dollar" type store, Boston Area, 2004-08-24

These may look like parodies of the Kellogg's ceral products with which many of us are familiar, but they're not.

These are REAL boxes of cereal.

Evidently, these stoner knockoffs of Tony the Tiger and the Kellogg's rooster (does it have a name?) weren't as popular.

Yeah... but for a dollar! And no plastic toy or Star Wars toy inside, either.

Costco, Waltham, MA, 2004-09-30

You usually go to Costco for bulk items at discount prices.

Here's a roll of 100 37-cent U.S. postage stamps, which would normally cost you... $37.00

But buy them in bulk and you save... a quarter. Wow!

It's also very interesting that here there are a lot of small, expensive items that for security reasons, they don't include the product in the packaging. To buy the product, you grab an empty package from a pallette full of empty packages and have an associate from the cash register area get the item for you. What a (even more) senseless and gross waste of materials!


Best Buy, Cambridge, MA, 2004-12-29

Absolutely astonishing!

Now all you need is a colostomy bag and you need never be far from your fridge full of Bud and your favorite game, thanks to this TV-equipped refirgerator, brought to you by the innovators at LG Appliances.

Pizzeria Regina, Boston, MA, 2005-01-13

Nice try, but that ain't no brick oven.



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