Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Plot to Sell a Cheap Coffee Grinder

I'd like to thank my readers in advance for reading whatever part of this they get through. I am venting here. I need to write this ... but I suspect that some of you will not feel the need to read it. That's perfectly ok.

BURR grinder by bigleehimself I bought an inexpensive Black and Decker coffee grinder a few months ago to replace another (nearly as cheap) Melitta grinder that, after years of service, had found a small pebble in a bag of beans and died. I installed it in the kitchen next to the coffee maker and the Teleospouse took an immediate dislike to it. Her stated reason was that, while the Melitta stopped after grinding enough coffee for one pot full, the new machine didn't. The more important reason was probably that the Black and Decker machine makes an even-more-annoying noise than the Melitta did. So I picked up a refurbished Cuisinart grinder (at Comp USA of all places) and put the Black and Decker on EBay.

My main vice with ebay is that I work too hard on my listings. If I had a truckload of coffee grinders I could justify the time I spent crafting my description, but for one yard-sale-class item it was absurd that I wrote all this:

B&D Coffee Grinder - Stainless - burr (not blade)
Are you looking for the ultimate coffee grinder to go with your $2400 espresso machine? Well, keep looking; this ain't it.

What you have here is a nice-looking, stainless steel coffee grinder that makes a nice companion to a drip coffee maker. It is for people who don't want to spend a month's pay on coffee-making gear but who also know that fresh-ground coffee tastes better. Exposure to air makes coffee go stale. Whole bean coffee stays fresh longer since the air can only get to the outside of the beans. Once you grind the coffee it goes stale quickly. Better brands of pre-ground coffee, which are packed in nitrogen, start to go stale as soon as you open the bag. The cheaper stuff was probably stale when it went in the bag. A week after you open the packages you will find that cheaper beans, ground just before you use them, will make better coffee than the pricier pre-ground product.

Amazon describes this grinder thusly:

Dial adjusts so you can set the texture exactly how you want – from very fine Turkish blend to coarse percolator grind. Dual safety mechanism ensures that unit will not operate unless top cover is closed and ground coffee receptacle is in place. Electric coffee burr mill grinder with Auto Shut Off function. Dial adjusts so you can set the texture exactly how you want.

This grinder is lightly used and is being sold because my wife prefers a model with a large input hopper and an adjustable timer that can be used to grind enough coffee for one pot and then stops. This model has a small hopper and, while it does have an auto-shutoff timer, it runs long enough to grind all the beans you put into it. Personally, I find measuring the beans into the grinder and then grinding them all gives a more-precise dosing than timing the grinding -- since beans don't feed evenly -- but what the boss wants, she gets.

Grinder is used in original box and comes with the cleaning brush but no instructions. It's a fairly simple device so you won't need the instructions. Open the top. Put in enough beans for a pot of coffeee. Turn the grind selector knob to the desired fineness. Make sure the lid is closed and the receiving hopper is in place (or it won't run) and push the button to start it up. When all the beans are ground push the button again to stop it. It will stop itself after a minute or so if you don't mind listening to it whine -- me, I push the button.

The top burr comes out (turn left to remove, right to lock in place) if you want to clean the grinding chamber, and the little brush that comes with the grinder is helpful.

Can you find all the stated and between-the-lines negatives I put in there to try to control expectations so that people who bid on it would be happy with it when they received it? Not expensive or high-end? Check. Small hopper? Check. Not great for espresso? Strongly hinted. Annoying noise? See "listening to it whine."

I was way more than clear about what I was selling.

It sold. The buyer paid slightly too much for it. He paid $20.50 for a used item that Target sells for five dollars more. And he paid more than that for shipping it to Canada. (I would have said Quebec but that would make the rest of this posting pointless since you would all know what was coming.)

Several weeks after the item was shipped. This message appeared in my EBay messages inbox (which I don't look at every day if I don't have any currently active items).

Dear bigleeh,

I buy a grinder without blade ( you write NOT BLADE) and i recive a grinder WITH BLADE. I am in passion. Your description is deception.

- ?????

I was sorry to hear he was in passion about this. To try to help, I replied:

Dear ?????,

Désolé, je n'ai pas vu ce premier message. Je ne sais pas pourquoi je l'ai raté.

S'il vous plaît excuser mon français - Google translate n'est pas parfait.

Peut-être c'est parce que la traduction imparfaite que vous ne comprenez pas le moulin à café que vous avez acheté de moi. Voici la description qui est donnée par le fabricant. "Black et Decker"

Il est dit ...

Obtenez la saveur et l'arôme phénoménale de votre café avec un système de moulin de meulage de précision bavure. Avec moulin de meulage, vous obtenez des résultats plus uniformes, tout en préservant les huiles naturelles délicate des haricots - pour une meilleure tasse de café. Un sélecteur de mouture permet de régler automatiquement la texture de la mouture - à partir d'une mouture très fine pour un espresso à une mouture grossière pour le café turc et de la brasserie percolateur. Mill Burr système de broyage. Sélecteur de mouture. Pieds en caoutchouc antidérapant. Grincement des conteneurs amovibles et d'assemblage. Bouton-poussoir.

Il ya peut-être des sites Web de langue française qui parlent lames en acier inoxydable sur mais ils sont de mauvaises traductions.

Here is the description that is given by the manufacturer. "Black and Decker"

Get phenomenal flavor and aroma from your coffee with a precision burr mill grinding system. With burr mill grinding, you get more uniform results while preserving the delicate natural oils of the beans - for a better cup of coffee. A grind selection dial lets you automatically adjust the texture of the grind - from a very fine grind for espresso to a coarse grind for Turkish coffee and percolator brewing. Burr Mill Grinding System. Grind Selection Dial. Slip-Resistant Rubber Feet. Removable Grinding Container and assembly. Push-Button Control.

There may be French-language websites that talk about stainless steel blades but they are bad translations.


- bigleeh

His turn

Dear bigleeh,

The problem is not the translate of the text, it's the title: Stainless - burr (not blade). It's a BLADE grinder. Your title is false. With the shipping, it's expensive for an use BLADE grinder.

- ?????

I looked at the feedback he had left for other sellers on EBay -- to see if he was generally hard to satisfy or if he had singled me out for special treatment. The second seemed to be the case: he seemed mostly content with his heavy-metal CDs and first-person-shooter games. I was interested to note that after complaining about his purchase from me, he had bought the same model of Cuisinart grinder to replace the Black and Decker that I had. His new grinder uses exactly the same grinding mechanism as the B&D grinder -- underpowered motor driving set of disk-shaped steel grinding burrs that spin too fast, causing the beans to rattle around in the grinding chamber which produces lots of coffee dust which makes a mess and compromises the flavor of the coffee through over-extraction. More expensive grinders have more powerful low-speed motors and step-down gearing to fix this problem. I will buy myself one... someday.

Determined to get the last word in (hey, you don't have to be a Canuck to be hard-headed), I replied.

Dear ??????,

J'ai démonté l'appareil quand je l'ai nettoyé. J'ai vu les bavures. Deux disques en acier inoxydable. Ils ont grincements de dents. Le café passe entre eux et le broyage. Il moud du café exactement le même que votre Cuisinart que vous avez acheté plus tard. Les bavures sont les mêmes. Je ne suis pas un menteur. Vous vous trompez. J'ai un feedback ebay parfait pour dix ans. Ce n'est pas une meuleuse cher. Ce n'est pas un moulin à très bonne. Mais il comporte des bavures.

J'ai remboursé votre argent, car vous n'êtes pas satisfait. Je n'ai pas le faire parce que vous avez raison.

I disassembled the unit when I cleaned it. I have seen the burrs. Two stainless steel disks. They have grinding teeth. The coffee goes between them and is ground up. It grinds coffee exactly the same as your Cuisinart that you bought later. The burrs are the same. I am not a liar. You are mistaken. I have a perfect ebay feedback for ten years. It is not an expensive grinder. It is not a very good grinder. But it IS a burr grinder.

I refunded your money because you are unhappy. I did not do it because you are right.

- bigleeh

He lodged a complaint with EBay against me asking me to refund price plus shipping. Trying to be the adult in the story I made a counteroffer of refunding the purchase price (but not the shipping) which he accepted. (I think... the PayPal computer has us wrong-way-round, thinking I am the buyer and he the seller.) He left left negative feedback for me (the only one on my over-ten-year history) and I guess we are done.

In retrospect I regret the counter-offer. If I had let the claim proceed, EBay would have investigated the claim and I could easily have provided documentation of the accuracy of my item description. Assuming that the EBay investigator was an English-speaking grownup the claim would have been dismissed. I would have kept the purchase price unless the buyer was willing to pay to ship the grinder back for a refund, but more important, EBay does not allow buyers who lose a claim against a seller to post negative feedback.

So, I am out the twenty bucks I refunded to him (or a cheap burr coffee grinder, depending how you look at it) since the grinder wasn't worth shipping to Quebec and wasn't worth shipping back. And I am also without my perfect feedback score. And the lady in Ohio that he was bidding against -- the one with something about "Cat Lover" in her EBay id -- is out a coffee grinder that she would have been happy with.


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