“Our hot air poppers are not designed with an on/off switch.”


Didn’t I just email & tell you that?  I think I did.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself again.  Did you read all about the Evil Popcorn Popper?  It wants you to tempt death by electric shock each time you feel like making a tasty air-popped snack.  Others chimed in on Facebook with their tales of appliance treachery.  In the comments, I formulated an email. I sent it.  Here it is:

Hello Presto®!

I recently bought one of your popcorn poppers because we had one when I was a kid and air-popped popcorn is always better than that microwave stuff. We can agree there, right?

I have a few questions about your design choices.

First… The butter tray. Why doesn’t any butter that I put in it melt? I’ve tried actual butter and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®” both to no avail. Did you guys test this out in the factory? Does anyone there own one of these poppers? They’ve never pointed out this problem? I can certainly melt it in the microwave, but it’s amusing to me that the popper has a butter tray that clearly doesn’t work (even long after all the popcorn has popped). Yes, I have sat there stubbornly for a while waiting for the butter to melt for many minutes after the last dead kernel spits out of the popper. When I was a kid, our popper had a metal tray. I think it did a better job of conducting heat & melting the butter. I think it even fit an entire artery-clogging stick (as long as my parents or the babysitter weren’t looking). Do you guys have any poppers for sale that actually pop popcorn AND melt butter? I’d like to see one.

Second (and more importantly)… The power switch, or lack thereof? It’s kind of scary. You guys seem to gloss over it on the video located on your site: http://www.gopresto.com/products/products.php?stock=04820

Is that guy a chef and an electrician? Is he certified to plug in live wires? Do you guys not see the spark(s) when you plug the thing in? Have you ever actually plugged one in? Do you feel that it’s dangerous? I almost want to plug it in to a mulch-outlet power strip with an on/off switch and use that to turn it on so I don’t accidentally put my thumb in between the prongs as I’m plugging it in.

Speaking of switches, you can get a nice rocker switch from Grainger relatively cheaply: http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/CARLING-TECHNOLOGIES-Rocker-Switch-1A822

I’m sure you can get them even cheaper if you buy in bulk… and I’m sure they’re not all that difficult to install.

Can you imagine if other electrical products didn’t have an on/off switch? Toasters? Curling irons? Hair dryers? (They almost all come with circuit breakers now!) Electric knives? Electric hedge trimmers or weed whackers?

You really don’t feel that it’s dangerous? Not so much as a warning label adorns the power cord? Do you use gloves to plug yours in? Why was the plugging done off camera in the video?

I really look forward to your thoughts on these issues. I might go make some popcorn while I wait. I’ll be sure to melt the butter in the microwave first, and I hope I’m not electrocuted when I plug the popper in so I can read your reply!

Inquisitively,
-Waldo

This was the reply:

From: Presto Customer Service <contact@gopresto.com>
Date: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 3:01 PM
Subject: RE: Where’s the switch?
To: Waldo Lunar <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>

Good morning,

I’m sorry to hear of your dissatisfaction with your hot air popper.    We have not received complaints of butter not melting in the butter melter.  Please note that the instructions do indicate that soft/room temperature butter or margarine needs to be used, refrigerated butter will not melt during the short popping period.  I do not recommend that you let the unit run after the corn has popped, as this could cause the unit to overheat.

Our hot air poppers are not designed with an on/off switch.  I talked with our Quality Manager and he indicated that there are no plans to change the design to include a switch.  The unit has been tested very thoroughly and meets all UL mandates.  If you read and follow the instruction manual,  you can feel assured that this appliance is safe to use.

Have a good day.

Colleen
NPI Customer Service
Shipments made to U.S. or Canada only

Well, that was unsatisfactory.  Letting it run empty to melt butter is bad, but plugging in a live appliance is OK?  I call shenanigans.  Shenanigans because we keep butter in the ‘fridge, and shenanigans because plugging something in that sparks feels kind of dangerous.

I do find the sentence “I talked with our Quality Manager and he indicated that there are no plans to change the design to include a switch” highly amusing.  They had a discussion about my email.  This has never come up before?  Say it with me: Shenanigans.  I’d like to know what the quality manager really said.

Who exactly are Underwriters Laboratories and why do they put their logo on everything?  How did they decided that plugging in a live wire is safe?  Maybe I should write to them and ask about it?

⚡⚠⚡ The Evil Popcorn Popper ⚡⚠⚡


A while ago I bought a popcorn popper similar to one we had when I was a kid.  It’s a rather simple appliance, and I have many fond memories of making a mess by trying to use a bowl that was too small and putting way too much butter on it.  I still like popcorn, and the stuff from a popper is leaps & bounds more awesome than the microwavable kind (but not as cool as the little foil pan that puffs up when you hold it over an oven burner).

Presto® PopLite® hot air corn popper
Presto® PopLite® hot air corn popper

I have a popcorn popper that looks a lot like the one in the photo, I think it’s a Presto® PopLite® hot air corn popper.

The one we had when I was a kid was a little fancier… it had a cup that you filled with a trap door where the butter cup here is… and a butter tray made of metal about the size of a stick of butter in front of that. The one pictured here is like the one currently at home, and it sure doesn’t melt butter… even if you leave it long after all the popcorn has popped.  Did anyone test this at the factory before they boxed & shipped it?  No one that works there has ever tried to use this thing?

One similar feature to the one I remember form my childhood is a distinct lack of a power switch.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the video from their site:

One of the first things you learn as a child after the word “no”, not sticking things up your nose, and not eating stuff you find on the floor is to not stick your fingers (or anything else) into an electrical outlet.  Everything else comes with a warning label. directly on the electrical cord.. like your hair dryer, a toaster, or even a lamp.  This thing just plugs right into the outlet with a crazy little spark and a jarring whir of sound.

Perhaps one has to be a chef to operate the thing?  Maybe the guy in the video is just in a costume, I don’t know.  Maybe he’s an electrician.  Do they have professional popcorn chefs?  Was he trained to properly plug a live cord into a receptacle?  I like how they don’t show you that part.

I can’t think of anything else that’s on as soon as you plug it in.  You can buy a rocker switch rather cheaply.  Are they that hard to install?  Are they that much more expensive?  Should I write to Presto and ask them why they let his dangerous chaos continue?  I just might.

What kind of popcorn popper do you have (if you have one)?  I’ve never tried one that uses oil… or on of the ones that looks like a tiny cart.  Do you have a tricky death-tempting popcorn popper at home, or any other appliance that dares you to dance with 110v?

How to walk to your car in a parking lot: A public service announcement


There’s a problem I’ve noticed over the years since I first got my driver’s license.  It’s ridiculous, rampant, and totally uncalled for.  It doesn’t have as much to do with driving as it does walking, but I consider it a road-related  issue.

People don’t know how to walk in parking lots.  They have this “pedestrian has the right of way” mentality that has inexplicably warped into a strange sense of entitlement and devilish pleasure in making you the motorist yield to their ambling nonchalance.

Below, I have an illustration (thanks to Google Maps) of the new Market District parking lot in Robinson.  Please take a moment to study & understand before you move on to the next paragraph.

How to walk across a parking lot.
WALK IN A STRAIGHT LINE, NOT AT AN ANGLE.

I get worked up about this quite easily (obviously I guess), and my thoughts are all over the place…  so I’ll try to make my points concise with the aid of a bulleted list.  (I have blogged about this before too, if you find that you need further reading.) I really would like to start a discussion on this in the comments if you’re so inclined.

  • When there’s a cross-walk on the ground, use it. I understand that the crosswalk isn’t a magical safe-zone, and that jaywalking laws are rarely enforced in Southwestern PA… but it’s there for a reason;  So you can move across the road in an organized and quick fashion in a designated spot.   Yes, the parking lot is a potential mine-field of car vs. person vs. shopping cart accidents, but you can help minimize the danger by using cross-walks… and drivers will know exactly where and when to have a heightened awareness.
  • Walk in a 90° angle (or close to it if at all possible) when crossing the road. This may seem stupid, but if you look at my beautiful illustration above… you can see that a person walking a green path would move across the road much more quickly than the same person walking at the same speed using a red path.  Using the green path reduces wait time (and thus aggravation) for the driver trying to get into or out of the store.
  • Walk one one side or the other of each row. The beauty of this one is that you have a choice.  You can walk on the left or the right.  JUST. DON’T. WALK. DOWN. THE. MIDDLE. These are the  most annoying people.  There’s typically room for two cars to pass each other when moving in opposite directions, and a little extra walking room in most parking lots.  When you walk right down the middle of the aisle, you make all of this room disappear.

Focusing mostly on the middle-of-the-lane walkers, but also on the anglers, and the “too cool for the crosswalk”-ers, I’d just like to comment on the types of people that I believe they may be.

First, there are the truly oblivious.  I believe this to be the smallest sect of the parking lot meanderites.  I think some people are just really not all that aware of their surroundings, and have no comprehension of the havoc that they wreak around themselves.  (Arguably,  stopping time in a parking lot is not exactly “wreaking havoc”, but it sure bites my ass.) These people are just like Mr. Bean, and since Mr. Bean is somewhat of a lovable character, I can forgive these people.  If you know one of them, please tell them about parking lot urgency.  If you don’t know one of them… walk more quickly, in straight angles, in designated areas, and close to the cars in parking lots.  (Because you are one of them.)

Then we have category #2.  The entitled. They’re a pedestrian.  They always have the right of way, and that’s it.  In their minds, anyway.  I’d like these people to see what Pennsylvania law has to say

Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, contains the laws which govern the operation of vehicles on Pennsylvania roads.

Chapter 35: SPECIAL VEHICLES AND PEDESTRIANS
Subchapter C: Rights and Duties of Pedestrians

Section 3541. Obedience of pedestrians to traffic-control devices and regulations
(a) Traffic control devices.—A pedestrian shall obey the instructions of a police officer or other appropriately attired person authorized to direct, control or regulate traffic.

(b) Traffic and pedestrian-control signals.—Local authorities by ordinance may require pedestrians to obey traffic and pedestrian-control signals as provided in sections 3112 (relating to traffic-control signals) and 3113 (relating to pedestrian-control signals).

Section 3542. Right-of-way of pedestrians in crosswalks.
(a) General rule.—When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

(b) Exercise of care by pedestrian.—No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to constitute a hazard.

and…

Section 3543. Pedestrians crossing at other than crosswalks.
(a) General rule.—Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a crosswalk at an intersection or any marked crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

(b) At pedestrian tunnel or overhead crossing.—Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

(c) Between controlled intersections in urban district.—Between adjacent intersections in urban districts at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

(d) Crossing intersection diagonally.—No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic-control devices or at the discretion of a police officer or other appropriately attired person authorized to direct, control or regulate traffic. When authorized to cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only in accordance with the signal pertaining to the crossing movements.

And the best part…

Section 3552. Penalty for violation of subchapter.
Any pedestrian violating any provision of this subchapter is guilty of a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $5.

Interesting, no?  I’m not sure if these apply any differently in a parking lot, as it’s probably private property… but I’d love to see an officer out there passing out $5 tickets for every butthole who steps boldly out in front of a moving car with the incorrect assumption that “pedestrians always have the right of way”.  Why not?  I mean, they’re cracking down on parking in the South Side after years of chaos.  Is this any less ridiculous?

The third and last group?  The spiteful. They know you’re anxious to get by, but they don’t care.  They derive pleasure in knowing that you’re most likely impatiently waiting to move forward at a speed that actually registers on your speedometer, but that they alone have the power to prevent that from happening.  Maybe they had a bad day and want to pass along the crappy karma.  Maybe they have a controlling spouse, boss, or family member, and this is how they lash out.  This is the group that turns to look at you, but continues to walk down the middle of a driving lane instead of moving to one side so you can get by.  This is the woman that stops mid-stride and mid-lane to dig through her purse for her car keys while you idle and boil.  This is the group of teenage boys that walks 4 wide and dresses “hard” like they from the streets thanks to mom’s credit card and Journey’s or Hot Topic.  This is the wide-angle walker who sees you approaching, but instead of walking straight across the lane quickly looks straight ahead in their “5 rows over from where they started” path.  They’re also the ones who let you follow them down the echelon of filled  of parking spaces during the holiday shopping season, and cut over to the next row or put bags in their car and proceed to walk right back where they came from without giving you the courtesy wave-off or  the universally understood over-exaggerated mouthing of “I’m not leaving” while shaking their head and pointing or waving their arms.  I suspect that they’re also the people who double-dip, don’t flush public toilets, and kick puppies.

That should just about cover it.  So please, pass this along so we can all get on the same page.