Call it unnecessary. Call it compulsive. Call it way expensive. No matter what you call it, I gave in to the fad on Saturday. I went ahead and bought an iPod, those things that so many of you already have. I’d been thinking about getting one of these things for quite a while, a few years even. Up to now, my portable music solution was a MiniDisc player. Since some of you are probably thinking to yourself “what is a MiniDisc?,” it’s the format after CDs that was introduced to the US from Japan, but never really caught on here. They’re available, just I’ll bet you don’t have one in your house. Anyway, I went with that a few years back because I was able to get a good deal on eBay, and to be honest, it worked pretty good and served me well for a few years. It was nice because I could transfer MP3s to it from my computer, although since it was an American Sony model it couldn’t display Japanese text, and also I had to use the crappy Sony proprietary software. I used my MD player mainly for those long train commutes in Japan, etc. Here at school in the states, I didn’t really need a portable music player since I drive most places and/or just listen to music on my computer at home.

I figured since Japan’s mass-transit system, longer commute times, and lack of a car are sneaking back up on me very soon, it might be worth picking up a new music player. iPod time, right? But it’s so freaking expensive! Also the batteries gave lots of people problems, as apparent by the huge class-action lawsuit we all heard about. Regardless, I saw it at Best Buy last Thursday, and I didn’t realize how thin the current model actually is. Pretty sweet. So really, cost and the concern of the warranty or battery were the main things holding me back. As I tend to do before a major purchase like this, I thought about it back and forth in my mind, followed up by trying to dig up a lot of info online about reviews, prices. etc. I stumbled upon a pretty interesting bit of information about Costco, the large warehouse club store that is pretty much like Sam’s Club. St. Louis got a Costco about 4 years ago, so I had known what it was. Up to now, however, my main interaction with the chain was the Makuhari branch, where I once witnessed a Japanese man cover his pizza in every condiment available, including mayonnaise and chopped onions. I never really thought about buying a major electronic gizmo (or anything besides pizza and sushi) there. The thing about Costco that I found out was that they offer a 100% guarantee on everything they sell, with the exception of computers which only have 6 months. But still, everything?! Including iPods! This means, according to what I read, that I could probably buy an iPod there, and if there were any problems or if I decided I just didn’t want it, I could take it back with the receipt and return it very easily. Or better yet, take it back in a few years when the current 5th generation iPods are obsolete and exchange it for a shiny new model. Sound a bit too good to be true? Apparently a lot of people are doing that with a much more expensive item, HD TVs. Cnet has a good article about this (link).

I decided that this would probably be worth it. Worse comes to worse, I try it out for a bit and if I don’t like it, I can take it back after the Japan trip in August and get my money back. I called Costco to make sure they had iPods in stock, and they did. The guy on the phone said he wasn’t allowed to quote prices on the phone, but the nearest electronics store down the road sells them for 10 dollars more, plus at Costco you have a lifetime guarantee. Bingo. He said the magic words. Went to Costco with my dad, who has a membership card (note: me and Seth both used my dad’s old Costco card for over a year in Japan). I got the 30GB black iPod with video (I think they all have video now), and I do have to say, it is a sweet piece of machine. I even double-checked with the cashier girl, who confirmed that everything in the store but computers have a lifetime guarantee. Even the other employee who was helping her check out didn’t know about this policy. The 100% guarantee even works on car batteries! I don’t understand that, because it seems too good to be true, but apparently that’s how they do business. They must keep it kind of hush-hush too, if an employee didn’t even know about it.

I was reading online that Costco sets up agreements with the manufacturers to let them send back old stuff, which makes sense because otherwise Costco would have gone out of business a long time ago with this policy. But anyway, the iPod cost me $289.99 before tax, which is cheaper than Best Buy and even the Apple online store. Expensive as balls, but with this whole lifetime guarantee thing not so bad I guess. I can have the newest iPod forever! I can bring this thing back whenever I want! Keep in mind that at Best Buy, you can purchase the optional extended warranty, which costs $60 and is only good for 3 years. I’ll take the lifetime option for -$10, thank you very much.

The iPod is pretty sweet. It’s very slim and shiny black and silver, although fingerprints and stuff show up really easily. It comes with the trademark white iPod earbuds, which I won’t be using because I don’t want to necessarily look like an iPod owner when I’m outside, although Japan doesn’t have the mugging problem that New York did (article). Also I’d rather use my Sony earbuds, which are better sounding and are black to match the player. The thing, obviously, syncs up perfectly with iTunes, and I was able to put all of my music on there with just a few clicks. Disappointingly, I also realized that I only have just over 10 gigs of music on my computer. I thought for sure I had more. Thank god I don’t pay for music. I mean….I buy CDs all the time… uhh.. Video encoding is pretty easy with this Videora program I read about on Lifehacker (link), and it looks pretty sweet on the glossy screen of the iPod. Battery life for watching video is about 2.5 hours apparently, in comparison to the 13 hours you get when just listening to music, so I’ll most likely just use this thing for music when I’m on planes or trains in Japan. Having the video and photo ability is pretty nice though, and if nothing else it will give me stuff to show off to people.

it's so shiny
This entry has gotten way longer than I planned. I’m going to go watch more of Frasier season 8 and get to sleep. Japan in about 22 days!