February 14, 2013

An artist’s rendering of the test subjects.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is claiming that the New York Times writer who reviewed the company’s Model S electric car skewed his experience with the vehicle to prompt a bad review. Among the allegations: He never actually crawled along the highway at 45 mph, he deliberately set the car a task it told him it could not perform, and he possibly even drained the car’s battery by driving in circles in the parking lot.

I understand that there is still some controversy around this, and We May Never Truly Know What Transpired In That Freezing 72-Degree Car On That Fateful Day. The article’s author has written a defense in which he notes that unless you are some sort of evangelist for electric cars, you would not remember to plug them in overnight in 10-degree weather. I am not sure that he is wrong.

But still, after reading the review and the backlash and the apparent statistics from inside the car, I feel confident that I, too, can become a consumer reviewer! Here are just a few items I have tried.

Pencil: I was led to believe great things about this pencil, but it wouldn’t write on the page. Bit large chunks off the end in frustration but still unable to create writable tip. No sharpener was included, and I don’t think it would occur to the average consumer to use one, given the basic fact that It Is No Longer 1950. If you are using a pen now, don’t stop and switch to pencils. You will get nothing but grief, and all your notes will be blank pages. Eraser worked satisfactorily.

iPhone: They say you can reach the Internet with this thing and take pictures, but as far as I can tell it’s just a shiny black rectangle that you can use as a mirror if you have enough back-lighting. There are some buttons on it, but they don’t really do anything. Weird white cord thing included with prongs on one end — possibly a cat toy of some kind? Tried to find a cat to verify but couldn’t. Would have called Apple but couldn’t get phone to turn on. Threw it at something. Screen breaks easily. Would not recommend.

iPad: Same problem as iPhone but more unwieldy. Tried to speak to Siri but Siri would not answer. Screen very dark. Possibly a resolution problem. Company really lost something irreplaceable with death of Jobs.

Greeting Card: Couldn’t read it through the envelope. Could have contained almost any message whatsoever, and inability to tell what it said made me nervous rather than reassured. Not sure why you’d send one of these.

Toaster: Good place to store bread if you want it to grow mildew and attract rodents, but I can’t recommend it otherwise. I guess it’s a “look” some people want in their home. Does nothing to the bread. Included long unwieldy cord with prongs — decorative? Tried to call Black and Decker, but iPhone, as I noted, never turned on. Must be a hipster thing.

Perfume: I’ve been carrying this bottle around for days but I don’t think I smell any better.

Cotton Gin: Worked great! No complaints whatever.

Turtle: Fun companion for the first three days, with exception of small gift it left behind sofa, but then it tried to eat one of my ferns, grew listless and withdrew into shell. Some people came by from the Humane Society and called me some horrible names, nursed it back to health with bottle, placed me on watchlist. Nowhere on turtle were there any instructions about feeding it. Just trying to replicate behavior of average consumer. On the whole, would not recommend. Also, turtle was mind-numbingly boring, even when functioning correctly. Facial expression reminded me uncomfortably of my great-aunt, whom I love very much but do not like to think of watching me slumber.

Car: Nice. Like a small room. Could be a great home away from home if you removed the seats. Limited privacy. Not particularly warm. But nice, rich leather interior and fun compartments. Seats moved around nicely. Could store lots of turtles here very comfortably.

Big Mac: Good, if oily, hat.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.