So my colleagues and I share five tech(-ish) purchases we regretted. It’s a subjective guide to products you should does not buy.
They include a keyboard tray that broke three times, a pair of wireless headphones that never quite fit, and pet technology that didn’t help a dog “talk” to its human friend.
Our regrets show that even journalists who question everything can be swayed by what’s popular or what may seem too good to be true – and sometimes it is.
Learn from our grumpiness and read advice to remedy your own buying mistakes.
Two computer mice and a terrible keyboard tray
My colleague Nitasha Tiku said the Apple Magic Trackpad, a $129 mouse-like computer controller, was so big it crowded her keyboard.
Then this Kensington Orbit trackball mouse was bearded and didn’t help with a type of wrist pain that can affect parents picking up young children. Nitasha’s son even got bored of the mouse as a toy.
(In a statement, Kensington said it has multiple designs to suit people’s different needs, from computer mice to trackpads.)
To complete her hapless 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 half-hearted repairs until the tray fell apart.
“You fix it, it breaks again, you use tape, then the situation becomes unsustainable, you buy another one. Then the third time, it’s too embarrassing, you have to stop,” said Nitasha. “So here I am: without a keyboard tray.”
Baratza Encore coffee grinder
I’ve heard raves about how burr grinders – which chop coffee beans into uniformly sized pieces – produce a better cup of coffee.
I respect those of you who love burrs. 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.
Cooking professionals at America’s Test Kitchen have said that using a burr grinder was not a safe upgrade in their coffee taste test.
The Baratza grinder is good. It just wasn’t worth it to me.
The Amazon tablet is proof that a cheap product is not necessarily a good deal.
Heather Kelly, a reporter with The Washington Post’s Help Desk personal technology team, bought Kindle Fire tablets for her children years ago because they were far cheaper than iPads.
But Heather struggled with too many junky apps and found the parental controls difficult to use.
Amazon said it has kid-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 she “ride or die” for her Kindle Paperwhite, the $140 Amazon e-reader that does only one thing.
Sony WF-1000XM5 Wireless Earbuds
Sure, some people love these $300 Sony wireless headphones.
Chris Velazco, the go-to gadget guy for our Help Desk team, used an exclamation to describe them.
Chris said that none of the foam tips that came with his Sony headphones fit his ears properly. He bought extra earplugs from another company that fit better but made the headphones sound worse.
Also, when Chris used the touch buttons on the headphones to play or pause music, it felt like he was running the headphones around in the ear canal.
Sony and most of the other companies mentioned in this article did not respond to questions or could not be reached for comment.
Chris uses Apple’s AirPods Pro for now. He’s still on the hunt for wireless headphones that work just as well if he’s using an iPhone or an Android phone.
(Some AirPods features, including surround sound, won’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 “talk” by pressing buttons recorded with words like “outside” and “love you.”
Finally, your pet can communicate its needs and feelings!
Andrew programmed his pet buttons to say “peanut butter”, “outside” and “dinner” in his voice.
But he said Shorty the Dog, a “near perfect” Chihuahua mix, never figured out how to push the buttons despite Andrew’s coaching and plentiful peanut butter rewards.
“Now they just sit near the kitchen, collecting dust and dog hair, quietly shaming me for my terrible training skills – and my dog for his complete lack of button-pushing acumen,” said Andrew. “I blame the technology.”
(Dis)honorable mention: Another colleague regretted buying an Upright Go gadget that monitors your posture and vibrates if you’re not sitting upright. My colleague said it was so sensitive that the annoying vibration kept disappearing. She gave up.
And for a positive spin: We loved these 7 amazing tech products
How to avoid your own regretted purchases.
Be careful with internet-famous products. My colleague Tatum Hunter has admitted that she bought a hair removal product that was inevitable on Instagram and it tore 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 make it big on social media can be polarizing. Just because a product has many happy customers (or the company is a marketing genius) doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
Be wary of products that you hope will transform you into a different person. I’ve definitely bought fitness equipment or gadgets like the Upright Go in hopes that they will change my life.
Usually, though, buying a product doesn’t magically give you time to exercise or cure a bad habit.
Consider buy a used product or borrow it. At least you pay less for a product that you might regret later.
If you’re on the fence, you can also borrow a product from a friend or a Buy Nothing group to try before you buy.