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Friday, March 1, 2024

Five technology products we regret buying

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During this Black Friday week, you’ll see pitches to BUY THIS AMAZING STUFF.

While experts may recommend the best products for everyone, we are all unique. A product that I love might be one that you hate.

So my colleagues and I are sharing five tech (-ish) purchases that we regretted. It’s a subjective guide to products you should not buy.

They include a keyboard tray that broke three times, a pair of wireless headphones that never fit right and pet technology that failed to help a dog “speak” to its human friend.

Our regrets show that even journalists who question everything can be swayed by what’s popular or what can seem too good to be true — and sometimes is.

Learn from our grumpiness and read advice on heading off your own purchase mistakes.

Two computer mice and one terrible keyboard tray

My colleague Nitasha Tiku said the Apple Magic Trackpad, a $129 mouse-like computer controller, was so large that it crowded out her keyboard.

Then this Kensington Orbit trackball mouse was balky and didn’t help with a type of wrist pain that can affect parents who pick up small children. Nitasha’s son even grew bored of the mouse as a toy.

(In a statement, Kensington said it has multiple designs to fit people’s different needs, from computer mice and trackpads.)

To complete her unhappy trio of computer accessories, Nitasha bought this keyboard tray three times in three years. Each one broke.

When screws fell out, she ignored them or tried halfhearted repairs until the tray fell apart.

“You fix it, it breaks again, you use tape, then the situation becomes untenable, you buy another. Then the third time it’s too shameful, you must stop,” Nitasha said. “So here I am: keyboard-tray-less.”

The Baratza Encore coffee grinder

I’ve heard raves about how burr grinders — which chop coffee beans into consistently-sized pieces — make a better cup of coffee.

I respect those of you who love burr grinders. But sorry. I can’t tell the difference between the coffee I make with the $150 Baratza Encore grinder and the cups I brewed before with a $20 Krups coffee and spice grinder.

And the burr grinder takes up far more counter space in my small kitchen.

Call me a clueless coffee cretin. But I’m not alone.

The cooking pros at America’s Test Kitchen have said that using a burr grinder wasn’t a surefire upgrade in its coffee taste tests.

The Baratza grinder is good. It just wasn’t worth it for me.

The Amazon tablet is proof that a cheap product isn’t necessarily a good deal.

Heather Kelly, a reporter with The Washington Post’s Help Desk personal technology team, bought Kindle Fire tablets for her kids years ago because they were far less expensive than iPads.

But Heather struggled with too many junky apps and found the parental control features difficult to use.

Amazon said it has child-friendly entertainment and educational materials and features for its Fire Kids tablets.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post. Interim CEO Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.)

By contrast, Heather said that she’s “ride or die” for her Kindle Paperwhite, the $140 Amazon e-reader that does just one thing.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless ear buds

Sure, some people love these Sony wireless headphones that list for $300.

Chris Velazco, the go-to gadget guy for our Help Desk team, used an expletive to describe them.

Chris said that none of the foam tips that came with his Sony headphones fit his ears properly. He bought extra ear tips from a different company that fit better, but made the headphones sound worse.

Also when Chris used the touch controls on the headphones to play or pause music, it felt like he was mushing the headphones around his ear canal.

Sony and most other companies named in this article didn’t respond to questions or couldn’t be reached for comment.

Chris is using Apple’s AirPods Pro for now. He’s still hunting for wireless headphones that work equally well if he’s using an iPhone or an Android phone.

(Some AirPods features including surround-sound audio don’t work properly if you’re not using iPhones or Mac computers.)

‘Talking’ pet buttons

My colleague Andrew Van Dam couldn’t resist technology that went viral online and promises to help dogs “speak” by pressing buttons recorded with words such as “outside” and “love you.”

Finally your pet can communicate his needs and feelings!

Andrew programmed his pet buttons to say “peanut butter,” “outside” and “dinner” in his voice.

But he said that Shorty the Dog, an “almost perfect” Chihuahua mix, never figured out how to push the buttons despite Andrew’s coaching and copious peanut butter rewards.

“Now they just sit near the kitchen, collect dust and dog hair, and quietly shame me for my awful training skills — and my dog for his utter lack of button-pressing acumen,” Andrew said. “I blame the tech.”

(Dis) honorable mention: Another colleague regretted buying an Upright Go gadget that monitors your posture and vibrates if you’re not sitting up straight. My colleague said it was so sensitive that the annoying vibration constantly went off. She gave up.

And for a positive spin: We loved these 7 amazing tech products

Here’s how to avoid your own regretted purchases.

Be cautious about internet-famous products. My colleague Tatum Hunter has confessed she bought a hair-removal product that was inescapable on Instagram and it ripped off her skin.

Tatum said she wished she had looked at the Amazon reviews for the Bleame “crystal hair eraser,” which had gripes from other bruised and unhappy buyers.

Products like Bleame’s or Andrew’s pet buttons that go big on social media can be polarizing. Just because a product has many happy customers (or the company is a genius at marketing) doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Be wary of products that you hope will turn you into a different person. I’ve definitely bought fitness equipment or gadgets like the Upright Go hoping that they’ll transform my life.

Usually, though, buying a product doesn’t magically give you time to exercise or cure a bad habit.

Consider buying a used product or borrowing it. At least you’ll pay less for a product that you might regret later.

If you’re on the fence, you could also borrow a product from a friend or a Buy Nothing group to try it before you buy.

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