Avoid the Gift That Belly Flops
I keep seeing the Cuisinart Grind & Brew coffeemaker this holiday season -- in the Sunday circulars, in the stores, online. Every time I see one, I feel a pang of sadness over all those Christmas turkeys that will be unwrapped come Dec. 25. The gifts about which the giver was so excited, but which give the recipient nothing but frustration and disappointment.
I thought about buying that particular coffeemaker earlier this year when a heavy can fell off a shelf and chipped the water reservoir on our old maker. (Philip -- there's at least one downside to stockpiling kitchen staples!) I love red Cuisinart products and I have always been annoyed by the coffee dust that ends up here and there when you transfer the grounds from the grinder to the coffeemaker. A coffeemaker that grinds the beans inside with no muss no fuss -- it sounded great.
However, once I read the reviews of the product on Epinions, I bought a different machine. While a few people loved the Grind & Brew, enough people said it was a pain in the neck that I knew I didn't want it at any price, much less the extra 50 bucks it cost over most decent coffeemakers.
One reviewer said "It literally has 7 separate removable parts that you must take out and thoroughly scrub clean between each pot of coffee ... Reassembly is a bit frustrating as well…you have to put each part PRECISELY in it’s place and you have to be dead on target." I am not a person who likes to clean or assemble anything, ever, so I knew right off the Grind & Brew was not for me. Nor would I give it to most anyone I know as a gift.
I imagine that retailers -- especially discount places like Aldi, where I saw the Grind & Brew advertised -- are able to unload a lot of products that look good but don't work well during the holidays. After all, people are a lot less likely to march into the store and return something when they didn't pay for it to begin with and may not have the receipt. While the stress of the holidays may prompt you to grab and buy without doing any research, let the thought of Christmas joy dissolving into disappointment be a jolt to your conscience.
So here are some links for quick and easy ways to research that gift idea before you wrap it up:
CNET -- The authority on electronics, with professional and user reviews of cameras, computer, TVs and the like. Especially helpful are the site's boiling each product down to a single rank number and its ability to compare multiple items all on one page.
Amazon -- Even if you're not shopping online, it's a good idea to look up your target product on a major retailer site such as Amazon, where others who bought the same thing will share their views. And by the way, check out this amusing review.
Consumer Reports -- The best stuff is for members only, but its worth the investment, especially since you can join for one month for just $5.95. Holiday-related reviews featured on the site right now include GPS systems and sparkling wines.
Angie's List -- This fantastic resource is more for home services and contractors. However, in the Chicago area it has several categories of shop and business reviews helpful to Christmas shoppers: gifts, bicycles and massage therapy, for example. Angie's List is a paid service, but I can almost guarantee that you will use it all year.