The worst company in America you may have never heard of

I know I shouldn’t eat at Chik-Fil-A, but I used to work at company where we only had a half-hour for lunch and we shared a parking lot with a Chik-Fil-A. It was the only close restaurant. On those days when I didn’t bring my lunch, I ate at Chik-Fil-A. Sue me.

The thing about political company/product boycotts is they have to be flexible. Some people live in small town where they only large supermarket within 25 miles is a Walmart. What are those people supposed to do?

When I can, I will not patronize businesses that are bad corporate citizens. But I don’t sweat it, and I don’t question other people’s choices. That would be exhausting anyway. I don’t have time for it.

Then again, there are some companies who are so awful, that I would probably go out of my way to do anything I can to deprive any of those companies in any way I can.

Uline, the shipping/janitorial products behemoth, is one of those companies:

Much of the cardboard and paper goods strewn about our homes — the mail-order boxes and grocery store bags — are sold by a single private company, with its name, Uline, stamped on the bottom. Few Americans know that a multibillion-dollar fortune made on those ubiquitous products is now fueling election deniers and other far-right candidates across the country.

Dick and Liz Uihlein of Illinois are the largest contributors to Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who attended the Jan. 6 rally and was linked to a prominent antisemite, and have given to Jim Marchant, the Nevada Secretary of State nominee who says he opposed the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020. They are major funders to groups spreading election falsehoods, including Restoration of America, which, according to an internal document obtained by ProPublica, aims to “get on God’s side of the issues and stay there” and “punish leftists.”

Flush with profits from their shipping supply company, the Uihleins have emerged as the No. 1 federal campaign donors for Republicans ahead of the November elections, and the No. 2 donors overall behind liberal financier George Soros. The couple has spent at least $121 million on state and federal politics in the last two years alone, fighting taxes, unions, abortion rights and marijuana legalization.

I know of one friend of mine, a medium-ranking employee in purchasing/finance at a medium-large, somewhat conservative university here in the Bible Belt, who managed to convince his employer to remove Uline as a preferred vendor in their purchasing system. While his bosses were sympathetic to his political concerns, they managed to find a non-political reason to stop using Uline so that the decision would not bring any blowback onto anyone.

BTW, the 9,000-student non-public university where I work does not use Uline. They use Fastenal instead as our preferred vendor of products which track most closely with what Uline sells. Fastenal is also what the university mentioned above started using when they dropped Uline.

Two universities choosing to not use Uline is not going to bankrupt that awful company. But if enough of us, large and small, stop shopping with Uline, it could have an effect. Even if that effect is small, that’s less money that awful family has to plow into radical right-wing politics.

TIL you can refill Glade Plug-Ins without buying the expensive little bottles

I heard a guy mention on a comedy podcast that he refills his Glade Plug-Ins. So I looked it up and it turns out it is super easy. I always assumed the bottles or wicks were designed to break or become unusable if you pried them open.

I refilled my first one a few minutes ago, and it felt like a real fuck-the-man, defy authority moment.

You can watch the video below, which probably isn’t necessary. But I like her style. Not only that, she refills her plug-in bottles with Fabuloso (with Bleach Alternative), which I think is amusing. I’m not going to use that.

I had on-hand some old dollar store plug-in refill bottles that became useless after the cheapo plug-in diffuser broke. So I was stuck with these plug-in refills I refused to throw away. (That’s my thrifty mother speaking through me.)

You can also buy large containers of scented refill oil by searching for “plug-in refills” on Google.

Don’t say you never learn anything from me.

More people willing to wear used workout gear, swimsuits and shoes

This is an interesting change:

A selection of Lululemon Athletica Inc.’s coveted leggings is available at a big discount, but there is a catch. Someone has sweated in them.

Workout gear, swimsuits, bras and other items once taboo for the secondhand racks now are widely available, as shoppers get more comfortable with wearing what someone else once did.

Not everyone’s tolerance is the same. One person’s great find is another’s grossout.

“We call it the “ick factor,” as in how much “ick” does a particular item have?” said Sarah Davis, founder and president of Fashionphile LLC, a marketplace for previously owned luxury shoes, handbags, jewelry and accessories.

Shoes have a high ick factor, leading to elevated returns by buyers who initially thought they were OK with walking in someone else’s footwear, Ms. Davis said.

Fashionphile stopped offering used shoes for a while but has sidestepped the problem. It carries only the most gently worn ones—no toe marks or scuffs—and hand-cleans them with shampoo, baby wipes and antibacterial spray.

“We get rid of all the things that remind you the shoe was worn by someone else,” Ms. Davis said.

That isn’t enough to tempt Ryan Bullock. “Your feet sit inside them all day,” said the 26-year-old real-estate investor in Philadelphia.

Yet he has no issue with secondhand workout gear, a concept he got comfortable with in high school when he played football and donned the team’s repeatedly reused jerseys.

“Most of the clothes I buy for the gym are secondhand. I feel no reason to spend big bucks on clothes I will be sweating in,” Mr. Bullock said.

I don’t see the problem with any of this.

You can read the rest of the Wall Street Journal article by Suzanne Kapner at this link.

In these inflationary times, Americans are flocking to dollar stores

If you think dollar stores are everywhere now, you’re not imagining things. And they’re doing big business.

More Americans are embracing frugality as they face rising prices at every turn.

With energy costs up 41.6% and groceries 12.2% more expensive than they were last year, according to June’s Consumer Price Index, many families say that skipping vacations and restaurant meals is no longer enough. They are now finding ways to cut costs on essentials.

One way they are doing so is by relying more on dollar and discount stores for groceries. Average spending on grocery products at discount chains increased 71% from October 2021 to June 2022, according to analytics firm InMarket. Over that time period, spending on the same items in grocery stores decreased by 5%. Many large consumer brands—including Walmart and Unilever—attest that their prices aren’t going down anytime soon.

In San Antonio, Lily Penelope is eating mostly canned chicken, vegetables and peanut butter from the Dollar General down the street. Mx. Penelope, who uses gender neutral pronouns and has a disability that makes them unable to drive, says they can no longer afford the cost of groceries plus an Uber to and from the HEB grocery store 3 miles away. Before January, $120 covered a round-trip Uber plus two weeks of fresh ingredients for meals for them and their wife, they say. Now, the same trip costs nearly twice as much.

Since Mx. Penelope’s dollar store doesn’t sell fresh produce, they add spices and salt to camouflage canned ingredients. “My health and the quality of my life has gone down,” says Mx. Penelope, 26, who relies on their wife’s call-center income. “I’m in a position where I’m having to choose between making meals I can afford and putting my health on the line.”

Roughly 2,300 Dollar Generals across the country currently stock fresh produce, out of more than 18,000 total locations, according to a Dollar General spokeswoman. “While Dollar General isn’t a full-service grocer, we consider ourselves today’s general store by providing nearby and affordable access to daily household essentials, including the components of a nutritious meal,” she says. The company plans to expand fresh produce to a total of more than 10,000 stores in the next several years.

I have a Dollar General not far from me. I shop there for non-food items like aluminum foil and paper towels. Same for Family Dollar.

My local stores don’t have produce (yet) so I might take a look around if they ever do. But most of the food sold there is pre-prepared and therefore loaded with fat and sodium. Perhaps when I was younger, but not now.

I keep meaning some day to compare prices there on a dollars per unit basis with the same or similar items in my local supermarkets. I’ve never really figured out whether these places are that much cheaper, or if they sell everything at low prices because the boxes, etc. seem to be smaller.

A project for some weekend.

You can read the rest of Rachel Wolfe’s Wall Street Journal article at this link.

By chance I happened upon the best iced coffee travel mug

If I do any kind of product reviews, it’s generally about some tech gadget I bought and am totally impressed with (or not).

But I’m going to do this one primarily because I’ve had terrible experiences with coffee travel mugs.

Iced coffee is my go-to drink nearly any time of day and I must have had dozens of coffee travel mugs by now.

Mostly I’ve had that many because I kept putting the mug of coffee on the top of my car as I placed whatever items I’m taking to work that day in the back seat.

Then I would often get about a block away from my house before I heard a THUMP, THUMP, THUMP on the roof of my car and then watched a coffee mug slide down my back window and bounce off the trunk into the street — nearly always irretrievably damaged in some way. (I broke myself of this habit.)

I never missed any of those broken mugs because every one of them had something wrong. They didn’t keep the coffee cold for very long. They leaked if they tipped over — as coffee mugs often do in a fumble-fingered morning — even if they were allegedly sealed with a lid. Some of them had those annoying “permanent” straws you find in some travel mugs — straws that are health hazards and difficult to clean after only a few uses.

Then last week I was in an office supply store looking for work stuff and there it was: a lime green travel mug by a company called Takeya, on clearance for $7.98. Last one on the shelf.

I ended up using my new Takeya mug all week and it is, hands down, the best iced drink travel mug I’ve ever used.

No nasty straw. Easy-to-clean stainless steel inside. Rubber-y soft plastic outside. It kept my iced coffee cold all day — still plenty of ice at quitting time. And, best of all, it seals tightly with an attached screw-on cap and doesn’t leak even if it’s full and laid on its side as I drive to work. (18-oz version won’t fit in my car’s cup holder.)

I love it so much I bought two 24-oz versions today at full price.

Anyway, just a tip for all you iced coffee lovers.

BTW the marketing literature says it also works to keep hot things hot, just not as long as it keeps things cold.

You can buy one at the Takeya store.

The ones I bought look just like the ones below and can be found specifically at this link.