Thursday, April 9, 2009

Product Review: Travel Alarms

In our bedroom, my husband and I have this wonderful "thing" that is a cross between an alarm clock, a radio, and a telephone. They don't make them anymore. I like the idea of having a telephone next to your bed in case of emergencies. It beats having to get up and turn on all the lights to hunt down your cell phone when someone has broken into your house or while someone in your family is in dire need of an ambulance. The only problem with this "thing" is that you can only set the alarm to one time, and my husband wakes up at 4:45 AM Monday through Friday while I wake up at 6:00 AM unless I am suffering from insomnia. After his alarm goes off, I would have to wake up, reset the alarm for my time, and go back to sleep. What a pain.

So, years ago my mother bought me this L.L. Bean Travel Alarm that includes a digital time, a visible alarm time, and the temperature. Right away the back light broke so that I had to rely on the "thing" to tell me what time it was, and only use my L.L. Bean Travel Alarm to wake me up. It has an off switch in addition to a snooze button. Then one day the alarm just stopped going off, so it was time for a new travel alarm.

This past Saturday I drove up to the next city and bought a WalMart Analog Travel Alarm Clock. I liked the analog clock because it had a big face and easy to read, and the hands illuminate in the dark. I don't have to rely on a back light. Some digital clocks can only be read from a certain angle because of glare. However, once I got it home and put the battery in it, I discovered that the ticking sound was so loud that there was no way anyone in the house could sleep with that sound in the background! Holy cow! I thought, "Who in the world would create such a lousy product and not even consider that the ticking would be a problem?"

I took that battery out and put the unused clock away in a drawer. The clock cost $5.77, and I would have paid more than that in gas to return it. I knew I couldn't afford to sleep in another day from work, so I went right out to a local store to buy another alarm clock. I only had two choices and not a whole lot of space on my nightstand, so I took the smaller of the two digital travel alarms. I was going to steer clear of any analog clocks made in China. Talk about the Chinese water torture. Sheesh!

The second clock I bought turned out to be a SkyScan Atomic Clock (WIC# 534349, Model 31420). I put the batteries in the back and the time wouldn't set. I pulled out the instructions only to find that I couldn't read the majority of the small print, even with my magnifying glasses. From what I could read, I had to wait until midnight for the clock to pick up some signal that would detect what time zone I am in and automatically set the time for me. However, there was a long list of things that interfere with the signal, including mountains and valleys. Hello? I live in a valley next to a mountain. Check out this list of all the things that can screw up the ability for these devices to work properly:

Long transmitting distance.
Nearby mountains and valleys.
Among tall buildings.
Near railway, high voltage cable, etc.
Near freeway, airport, etc.
Near construction site.
Inside concrete buildings.
Near electrical appliances.
Bad weather.
Inside moving vehicles.
Nearby metallic structures.

Hello? Doesn't that describe every location on earth?

My husband took it outside to try to pick up a signal. When it wouldn't respond, he set every setting manually, which took him about 15 minutes, because he had to read through the long, tiny, evil instructions. Just as we were going to bed, I noticed that the stupid clock had finally picked up a signal and reset itself, but with the wrong time. It was an hour ahead. My husband warned me I'd have to set the alarm an hour ahead too, or it would wake me up at 5:00 AM instead of 6:00 AM. I said, "Tomorrow is Sunday. I don't want to be woken at all. I only want the alarm to go off on the weekdays."

"Oh," he said. "Then push the alarm button." Nothing happened. He told me that means the alarm is off and he'd give me lessons on how to set the alarm in the morning.

So, here I was dreaming of a dancing contest. I was waiting in the audience in anticipation of seeing a new dance I'd never seen before when the announcer said, "Ready, set, go!" and that damn alarm went off at 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning. I pushed the snooze button, but realized that it would just go off again in 5 minutes. I had no idea how to turn the alarm off, so I took the batteries out of the back.

Five minutes later, that damn alarm went off a second time, waking up everyone in the house. I said, "I swear I took the batteries out!" It turned out that one of the two batteries was barely still connected, and apparently keeping enough of a circuit for the stupid clock to keep running even though it required two batteries. I ripped that battery out and started dreaming of taking a sledgehammer to the dang thing. This clock cost me nearly $11.00. I was already out nearly $6.00 from that ticking time bomb, and a sledge hammer would have cost me considerably more.

I tried to go back to sleep, but the alarm woke my dog, who began licking my toes. I tried to make her go back to sleep, but she kept trying to crawl all over my husband's face. I kicked her off the bed and walked out to the family room to get the dogs away from my husband. Then they sat there smacking and licking their lips (a dog's form of water torture) in an effort to drive me crazy enough that I would feed them several hours early.

When you work 60-hours a week and you get a chance to sleep in, you take it. I was so angry with both travel alarm clock manufacturers that I decided writing a bad review would be good enough revenge. So, here goes: DON'T BUY THE WALMART ANALOG TRAVEL ALARMS AND DON'T BUY ANY SKYSCAN ATOMIC CLOCKS! You will thoroughly regret it and wish you had a sledgehammer. Worse yet, I found out that my son has another atomic clock that has decided the correct time is two hours ahead, so apparently atomic clocks do not work at all.

Of course, the irony of all ironies is that I discovered that the alarm on that LL Bean Travel Alarm Clock never broke. My eyesight is getting so bad that I can't differentiate between an A and a P. When the time changed, I set the clock to say PM when it was AM, so the alarm wasn't going off at 6:00 AM, but would have gone off at 6:00 PM had I left the alarm turned on. So, I do have a travel alarm that works after all, despite not being able to read the time due to the back light being broken. I'm still irritated that I wasted half my Saturday and all that cash searching for a travel alarm clock that actually works without keeping me awake with its ticking.

I know some people will tell me that I get what I pay for, but if you pay anything at all for a brand new product, it should at least work properly. Yes, if you buy the cheap option, you will end up with cheap materials and it probably won't last as long as a more expensive models, but it should still WORK right off the shelf. There's no excuse for selling products that you know do not work. That is deceitful and shameful.

Simply based on that list of everything that can prevent an atomic clock from picking up a signal, I can argue that the manufacturers of atomic clocks know they don't work. They have it right there on paper, but of course you can't read that part until you've already bought the product, cut open the plastic packaging, unfolded the tiny piece of paper, and got out your magnifying glass. You should be hanging your heads in shame.


Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, you showed a LOT of restraint! I would have put that @#$% alarm clock under my car's tire and driven right over it!!! I'm with you...I HATE stuff made in China! 99% of the time, the stupid stuff DOES NOT WORK! Ugh! You should see the train loads of cars from COSCO (China Shipping Co) that go by my school...unending. WHEN are we going to wake up and realize what buying all this cheap JUNK from China is hurting our economy?

Andrea said...

oh my goodness!! What a mess!! And to think all along your original alarm clock was working just fine!! Oh my!! All the things that the Atomic clock wouldn't work with, yes is every place on earth!! LOL. I am sorry you had such a tough time. Will you be mad if this kinda made me chuckle? One of those things that you can look back on and laugh about? I hope you got a nap in on Sunday!!

Alex said...

geeze- what a nightmare. (pun intended!) I just recently wished out bedroom alarm had an option for 2 alarm settings. I get up at 5:55a with the eldest, then after shes out the door usually sit down to the 'puter or what not. sometimes though, i do lay back down and need to have the little guys up and ready by 7:30a... one day last week i fell asleep instead of the usual dozing i do. I woke up to middle daughter telling me it was 7:58. the bus comes at 8. and, of course son wants cold lunch!! silly guy is afraid of the lunch ladies, and wont eat school lunch. man was i mad at myself, and wished i could set 2 times on the alarm, incase i ever fall back alseep~ im too lazy to reset it twice each day!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Wow! It's only 8:00 AM and I've already got three comments. Honestly, this rant was so long that I didn't expect anyone to read it.

Cheryl Ann - People who sell crap do make the consumers be buy-shy -- that's for sure.

Andrea - I think I need to go to comedy school. I've written posts that were supposed to be funny, and no one laughed. Then when I write one out of pure rage - you laugh! No, I'm not offended.

Alex - That is too cute that your son is afraid of the lunch ladies. I was just terrified of the entire cafeteria process when I was a kid. I stressed out that it would be my turn to get my food and I wouldn't know what to do.

I think this is an opportunity for people to invent more clocks that allow multiple alarm settings and snoozes that let you choose between snoozing for 5 minutes or snoozing until the next alarm. I know they have some out there. I just can't find them locally. I'll have to search the Internet.

Katharine Swan said...

I used to have a clock that had two alarm settings. It was a CD player and radio too. The CD gears made a lot of noise, but everything else works fine.

We have an atomic clock on our wall, but it's not an alarm clock. It seems to work okay, but then again, we're in an older urban neighborhood where the houses are one story and NOT made of concrete. So apparently there is ONE place on Earth where those things work.

Glad your favorite clock turned out to still work. :o)

OnceUponAnEquine said...

That is so funny...only because I can relate and I feel your pain. I knocked my clock radio off my nightstand last year and the radio came on and would never turn off unless unplugged. So I used a travel alarm with a loud obnoxious buzzer. Drove DH crazy, so he gave me a Homedics Sound Spa iPod playing clock radio for Christmas. I love it because I go to sleep with the sound of a babbling brook or rain. But I never know what time it is because the backlight, even on the low setting, is so bright it illuminates the whole room, so I have to turn the backlight off.

And dogs...they are very reliable alarm clocks, but annonying on the weekends. My husband used to feed them at 5:00 am Monday - Friday. So of course on Sat & Sun they were bouncing around in our bedroom at 5am. So I said, stop that, I'll feed them at 7am. So at least we sleep til 7 am on Sat/Sun before the cold wet noses start nudging us.

There's nothing better than a good night's I hear.

dp said...

Good 'ol LLBean -- I love most of their stuff. Poor 'ol alarm clock, causing so much trouble even though its still working.

Ms Martyr said...

Atomic clocks do not work at all in Alaska. We're too far from the main "station" (I don't know what it's called) for them to be able to set themselves. I have at least two alarm clocks that have dual alarms so I know they're available, or at least used to be.

Leah Fry said...

I have an atomic clock and it works great, but I guess that's because I live in flat old Texas. I admit it took me a long time to get used to how it functions, but I finally get it! I leave the alarm function on all week, then turn it off Friday nights. Ooh, I get mad if I forget!!

sue said...

and you know.... that if the LL Bean clock had been broken, you merely ship it back and they will send you another!!! we live just 45minutes from LLs and go there fairly often, because you do pay a bit more, but they really stand behind their items!!!!! I have never been disappointed by them... even things bought long ago, they will stand behing... but I am glad that it wasn't broken and sorry you went thru so much other stuff with the others.....

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Sue - I had to laugh when I read "merely ship it back". I totally go out of my way to avoid the post offices around here. You can be the second person in line and still have to wait half an hour while the postal clerk finishes her conversation with her friend or wanders around aimlessly looking for a roll of tape while people who have taken off time from work to be there are waiting to be helped.

The last time I waited in line at the post office only to be told that they didn't have any stamps! That's like going to a car dealer and being told that they don't have any cars.

They also have really odd hours and each branch is different, so half the time when I drive all the way out there they are closed. As far as shipping goes, I need to get myself set up for UPS pick up at my house since the nearest UPS office is a 30 minute drive away.

We also can't leave any important items in our mailbox to be picked up, because they will get stolen. I'm constantly chasing off strangers who pull up alongside the mailboxes and start rifling through them, and have personally had my bills and checks stolen over a period of several weeks, which destroyed my credit rating. Anyway you look at it, shipping is a hassle around here. There's nothing simple about it. Of course, it would have been even more difficult in the days of the Pony Express.

HorseOfCourse said...

Oh NuzzMuzz, you really are funny!
First your story about all the woes with the alarm clocks, and then the last comment about the post office. Hilarious!
I have an alarm clock where I can choose between radio and a signal. I choose the radio because I need some time to wake up, and having a fierce signal going off gives me a bad start on the day.
But I find that I often wake up by myself, at the time that I need - before the clock goes off. Strange.

I recommend cats. They let you sleep. At least most of the time...

sue said...

oh my.. I had no idea about the PO... I totally agree, I wouldn't want to "waste" that much time either!!!! goodness what they pay postal workers and the fact that they have pretty secure jobs, you'd think they would jump thru hoops to keep us happy... oh well, the clock is working now....

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Ugh!!! And I hate it when something wakes you from a really great dream!! We all deserve to enjoy some awesome dreams, don't we?
Darn alarm clocks.

I have the LL Bean,too. My husband uses it and really likes it.
Had it for over a year now and no problems.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Jeez your PO is a royal pain!

Ironically, within 10 miles of our house we have THREE post offices. Is that crazy? None of them are ever crowded and I've never had to wait more than 2-5 mins to be waited on. The workers are very small town and always recognize their patrons, too.

I'm glad now that we don't have individual mail boxes. I never considered the theft issue. But I often get tired of having to stop off at the communal boxes down the road if we want our mail. And if we ever get a really large package that won't fit in the parcel box, we have to drive to the PO to pick it up, instead of them dropping it off at our house.

But I imagine that the postal drivers love the communal boxes. It's a one stop drop off for them.

Oh! And I meant to tell you to be sure to wash off your hands after handling any appliances made in China because of the possible lead content.....