I didn’t know I needed this

THE INTERNET GODS sent me this ad:


It’s not just an ironing board, it’s an ironing system. A whole *system*! For pressing clothes! And it’s on sale for just $1,999! And it ships free!

They’re practically paying you to take it.

The product description begins:

Whether you’re ironing table linens or removing wrinkles from a cocktail dress…

OK, hold up. If you are the owner of a $2,000 ironing system, you probably aren’t ironing your own table linens. You’re sending them out, or you’re having the housekeeper do it. I can see maybe touching up one’s own cocktail dress, say if you forgot to ask your housekeeper to do that for you before she left for the evening. Or maybe if you can’t decide what to wear to that charity gala tonight and have searched the dark recesses of your second walk-in closet (the one with all your fancy clothes in it) and dig out something you haven’t worn a couple of years. It might have wrinkles that need removing. And in that case, you would be really happy this system is still set up in the laundry room. From when the housekeeper was ironing the cloth napkins. That is, if you can figure out how to use it:

This easy-to-use ironing system features an LCD display with user-friendly navigation.

In my experience, “easy-to-use” and “user-friendly” are code words for “plan on 20 minutes to view YouTube tutorials.” I can barely program my coffee maker to brew at some future time. If my ironing system has “navigation” it’s probably too complicated for me.

I know what you’re thinking: Will the B3312 model will deliver everything I want and need in an ironing system? Fear not: The manufacturer also offers the B3847 system for just $500 more. Because spending $2,499 on a glorified ironing board seems normal.

If ironing is your jam – or you are, say, a professional seamstress – an investment in a device such as this might make sense for you. But for the rest of us – those of us who even still *do* iron – isn’t a regular old ironing board and mid-level iron enough to successfully do most household jobs? For money like that, you could buy a whole lot of professional dry cleaning. Or, a couple of really nice new cocktail dresses. Even ones that aren’t on sale. And have cash leftover to bid on the silent auction items at that charity gala.

For more things you never knew you needed, here’s a link to that time I went to Williams-Sonoma and analyzed their Thanksgiving table display.


Things you never knew you needed: Cocottes

While on my lunch break today in downtown Bethesda, I wandered around to catch Pokemon through Williams-Sonoma, because its doors were wide open, beckoning me to enter. I can't lie – it's one of my favorite places to browse. I love cooking, and while I'm generally content with the way in which my kitchen is equipped, when I'm in Williams-Sonoma, I fantasize about winning the lottery. As soon as I pose for the photo holding that big check, I will go straight to Williams-Sonoma and buy all-new gear, starting with an entire set of shiny, sturdy copper cookware. Including the fish poacher. (I would poach SO MUCH FISH if I had one of those.)

As is the case at most of their stores, there's a seasonally-decorated dining table as you walk into the store. Today's theme was, naturally, Thanksgiving, because it's never too soon to start planning. The sub-theme was turkeys. But not cartoon turkeys: REAL ones. Like this:


Turkey-festooned table setting

Right after I have them box up my new copper cookware, I'll gesture to the table and say, oh, why not – please wrap up everything on this table for me. I'll take it all: The tablecloth, the glasses, the chargers, the flatware, the holiday-themed china, the napkins, the serving pieces. Never mind the frivolity of having an entire coordinated table setting that you use only once a year (where do you store it?). Never mind that I have an entire set of my grandmother's china that works perfectly fine, and still gets used really only twice a year. It doesn't have turkeys on it. So that my guests don't somehow confuse the late-November meal with what's presented in December or late March, I need the subtle coding of turkey-themed dinnerware. That way, no one need risk embarrassment by asking questions that make it obvious that they just aren't paying attention.

In addition to the turkey dishes, the table setting in the store featured these, one at each place setting:

What are these? I wondered. Tiny copper soup kettles? Why don't they just put the soup in the white pumpkin tureen? Don't feel bad; I didn't know, either, that they had a name. But lest I reveal my own ignorance by asking a sales associate, I discreetly searched their website, where I learned that these are mini copper cocottes. 

So adorable! As I touched every single thing on the table, I picked one up and flipped it over. The price tag said $129.95. I nearly choked on my Diet Coke. Over a hundred bucks for a wee, one-cup copper vessel??

Fear not, friends. While it was not obvious in the store, I learned on the website that that's the price for a set of four. And, the website lists them at 20% off. That makes them ONLY $104! For FOUR! Plus tax. But shipping is on the house.

I mean, they're practically paying you to take these.

Alas. If you're like me, that's probably a little bit more than you've allocated to your budget line item for frivolous servingware. But these clever retailers have somehow convinced me that I'm going to win the lottery I need a set of cocottes. So, I searched the website for something more affordable and landed upon the store-brand cast iron set of four, in red, for $74.99, discounted to $60:


Somewhat more affordable cocottes.

My cooking skills are on point, but a trip through Williams-Sonoma inevitably makes me feel like I need to work on my dining table game. I mean, the feast just tastes better when everything matches, are you with me? And even more so when you serve your soup in miniature versions of high-end cookware. How novel! How… saucy!

I'd like to say I treated myself, but the truth is, I'm far too practical. I did not succumb to the strong urge for a payday impulse purchase.

This time.

I'm reminded of the wonderfully giggle-inducing parodies of my favorite purveyor of self-doubt high-end cookware. If you missed these Hater's Guides, please go read Adequate Man on Deadspin. Here's the 2015 version, and here is 2014. There are others, but I'm not going to spoonfeed you. You know how the internet works. You can find them. I promise, it's worth the effort. 

Questionable Math

MOM, CAN YOU HELP ME WITH MY HOMEWORK? Eli has been pretty self-sufficient since starting middle school a few weeks ago, but he needed a little assist with his math last night. He started reading aloud:

"Ryan earns a paycheck of $52 per day at Bob's Burger World. Complete the table to show how much he earns depending on how many hours he works." When you do the math, it comes out to $6.50 per hour. 

Then my HR head exploded because of everything that's wrong with this scenario.


First of all: $6.50 is below the federal minimum wage (not to mention many localities, which mandate a minimum wage higher than the federal rate). Granted, if Ryan is below a certain age, he may be paid something less than minimum for a brief initial period on the job, but otherwise, NO. It doesn't say if he's waiting tables and earning tips, so we have to assume he's in the back doing food prep or dishes or something. 

But the worksheet says Curriculum 2.0, which ought to mean this question is not one from 20 years ago, when $6.50 would have been a damn fine wage for our boy to be flipping burgers.

Second of all, his paycheck isn't $52. He does not bring home $52. Even if he earns less than would require him to pay federal and state taxes this year, he still owes social security and medicare.  On $52, his share is $3.98, so his best-case, net actual paycheck is actually $48.02. 

Unless Bob is paying him cash under the table. (Bad, bad Bob.)

Third of all, this table goes from 1-8 hours then jumps to 12. TWELVE HOURS? How old is Ryan? Do child labor laws apply here? If so, is this during the school year, or a summer job? Does he need a work permit? Furthermore, is this 12-hour day on top of 32 hours already worked in the week? If so, Ryan needs to be paid time-and-a-half for the last 4 hours on that 12 hour day. 

I'm also wondering if Bob charges Ryan for meals, or the logo tee-shirt he's required to wear. I start to get annoyed with Bob. I wonder if Bob could use an HR consultant to help him stay in compliance with employment laws. After all, it's complicated running a business.

This is where my HR mind goes, and even more so since I sat through three days of payroll training last week. But I forced myself to set all of those questions aside, since that really wasn't in the spirit of the homework problem.

Until the next question:

"If Ryan needs to earn $390 to buy an iPad, how many hours would he need to work?"

Well, you know they want you to divide his sub-minimum hourly rate into the total of $390. But that's not really the case, is it? First of all, if Ryan buys the iPad in Maryland, he's going to pay 6% sales tax, so he actually pays $413.40. More, if he agrees to purchase the extended warranty they'll try to sell him. You know he's also going to want a cover for it, and maybe a screen saver. And, he doesn't NET $6.50 in his paycheck. Let's say his hourly rate after required taxes is actually $6.00. So instead of 60 hours, it's actually going to to take closer to 70 hours. Unless Bob has him working 12 hour days, and is paying him time-and-a-half for hours in excess of 40 per week. Or he's earning tips. Or….

MOM! STOP! Eli was becoming exasperated. So we went to the next question, wherein Ryan got a raise of $2.50 per hour, and now how much does he earn in an 8-hour workday? 

Well, at least now Bob is complying with minimum wage law! He'll gross $72, but net only $66.49. Because taxes.

I'm starting to feel bad for Ryan. I bet Bob never even had him fill out tax withholding forms, or checked his work authorization. I wish Ryan would look for another job, with a reputable employer, who pays above minimum wage and appreciates Ryan for his work ethic and attention to detail. After all, he's been slaving away in that hot kitchen for months, and yes, he got a raise, but that's probably only because someone called out Bob on that minimum wage thing and he wanted to avoid a wage and hour audit.

Eli rolls his eyes at me and finishes his homework. He doesn't understand all these questions I've been asking, and thank goodness for that. He's still in middle school. He has a few years before these problems jump off the worksheet and into his actual life.