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:

Epinions -- Users review everything including electronics, toys and books. It even has a Gifts section with perfumes, flowers, watches and wines.

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.


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Guest's picture

Your article caught my attention because we use the Grind & Brew every morning at my house! We had one for a long time and when it needed replacing we went out of our way to buy the same machine! It is not that complicated to assemble and I think that people might be being a little bit dramatic. I have no idea what they are talking about when they say that there are 7 different parts that all have to be perfectly in position... that's just wrong.

It is true, though, that you have to wash a couple parts between uses, but we just throw those in the dishwasher or rinse them out. No big deal.

It's VERY convenient to be able to just put your coffee beans in at night and then set it to grind & brew in the morning before you wake up!

Guest's picture

FYI, the link to the "amusing review" is taking me to a generic "Welcome to CNET reviews" page. I don't see a review on that particular page.

Carrie Kirby's picture

Link is fixed now.


And to Guest #1, I'm glad you liked the product. I did notice that some of the reviewers did. But enough people -- on Epinions and elsewhere -- mentioned having to clean the parts every single day that I knew I didn't want it. 

Guest's picture

I totally agree - online research has saved me from more than one potentially bad purchase (I tend to avoid anything that has tons of bad reviews - if that many people disliked it enough to go online and post their experiences, chances are it is not worth the risk).

Here's one more site you might find helpful - http://3luxe.com.

It's a human-curated product review that features the top three products in each category (and they have lots of categories covering everything from premium denim to mp3 players). Yes, the products tend to be from the higher end of the price/luxury spectrum, but at least you'll know that they are worth it.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I find myself researching EVERYTHING (especially kitchen appliances) before buying.  Amazon is my favorite because people feel like they can say anything (even nasty things).  I figure I can get the best and the worst opinions, and make a decision from there.

Guest's picture

Oh YES. I've been reading reviews for a few years now, and it's to the point where I can't buy anything without them!!
From simple, cheap toys on my kid's wish list, to major appliances and expensive electronics...I read it ALL.
I go to several websites and read every review.
Sometimes you can tell right away that it's just not worth it, and sometimes you have to read a while, and sometimes you take a chance, with mixed reviews. It's a tough call sometimes!
Always save your reciept, is all!!

I love it when everyone has the same problem with a product, cause that saves me time, money, and frustration!
And some people leave really good, detailed reviews, which are very helpful.

I was just going to buy a crock pot today, but came on here, just to check out reviews for different ones, first, before I go to Walmart.

Almost no one needs to buy a "dud" anymore!! (except the first reviewers, I guess! Bummer for them!

Guest's picture

Reviews can be very helpful at times, and though it has saved me MUCH grief while buying computer parts, I have learned that some reviewers are just plain stupid. You just have to know how to tell which reviewers know what they're talking about. For example, when I purchased my computer monitor, so many people talked about how horrible it was, and all the problems it had. Of course, I love my computer monitor and have never had any of these problems; it's likely that those who complained simply hooked the monitor in wrong and messed something up with it along the way.

Who knows, it could be different with kitchen appliances, I'm only 16 and wouldn't know much about coffee makers, but I do know it's worth the time to read the reviews before you buy something, you just have to be sure it's not a bogus review or just and angry poster who doesn't know what they're talking about.

And to the poster before me, you have a good point. Those poor first reviewers!