That photo of Lance and Beloki I snapped on La Plagne at this year's Tour got posted on Lance's website.
Cure for poor customer service

For the most part, I've had a good time ordering online, and I'm a fairly prolific online shopper--I rarely go out to shop anymore. Occasionally, though, I still have that bad experience shopping online, and one bad experience will stick in your craw for months. The only relief in these cases when I can't get any help from the company itself is to complain about it on my blog. In a few weeks, several hundred people will see my gripe and think twice the next time they decide to do business with company XYZ. That means some more lost sales and market share for that company, and it feels good knowing you've hit them in the wallet and their reputation.
So here are a few of my recent gripes:

  • Don't ever buy from PCNation: I made the mistake of getting all bug-eyed over a low price on PCNation for a photo printer. I placed the order in July, when the availability was listed as 1-2 weeks. Well, I haven't gotten my product yet, and I've only received a reply to half of the four e-mails I've sent to customer service over there. They don't have any information on when my product will arrive. At this point I just want my money and credit card # back from them. Sites like this remind me of why people buy from Amazon, because it's a name you know and trust.

  • Dell: I received an e-mail from Dell pushing a 15% off memory promotion. Well, with all the massive file sizes I deal with while photo editing, my PC has been slowing down quite a bit and even crashing, so I decided a RAM upgrade was a good idea. I went to the website, punched in my serial #, and Dell pulled up a few memory chips based on their stored profile of my computer. Pretty nifty, I thought. Here's where customized customer profiles were going to simplify my shopping experience. So I ordered another 128Mb of RAM. Got it, plugged it in, turned on my PC, and...nothing. Didn't register. So I call Dell up, and the guy says that for my computer I have two channels and both must be filled with RAM for things to work. Funny, that wasn' t in any of the fine print. Fine, so I order another 128Mb of RAM. Plug that in, crank up the PC, and BEEEP. My computer doesn't even boot. Just beeps at me. I try reversing the RAM, shuffling the four DIMMs around, pulling them back out. I rummage through online documentation at, and finally I find an old PDF file that says I must have the same size memory DIMM in every slot. Since I have 2 256MB DIMMs in my current PC, I have to buy two more. My two 128Mb DIMMs are worthless. Great, thanks for the heads up. So much for Dell's customized ordering wizard. Turns out if you don't return the memory within 30 days, you can't. Well, I ordered the first DIMM more than 30 days ago because the guy on the phone told me to order another one, so they better let me return both. I tried calling customer service today, and some guy who'd clearly been drooling on his keyboard in a slumber told me the computers were all down and to call back in the morning. Stay tuned on this one. Dell has a reputation for great prices and an innovative business model, but they need to make good on this one.

  • Adorama: very impressive selection of photography equipment at this site, but a small incident recently has me peeved. I ordered 3 photo album binders from them. Each came with 100 sheets of sticky photo paper. Well, once they arrived, I used one and set the other two aside. Recently I developed a few more photos and tore open the shrinkwrap to the second binder. The binder rings were broken. They didn't close. So I called Adorama up for an exchange. No good--they had a 10 day exchange policy. Here's a site that might make hundreds of dollars off of me in future business on equipment like Nikon lenses, and they wouldn't exchange a simple photo album binder. What a short-sighted policy. I'm taking my business elsewhere until they make good.

  • Air France: still haven't received an apology from them for not having delivered my bike and clothing for the first 5 days of my 7 day trip to France for the Tour de France camp in July. Hey, I defend the French when people denounce Parisians as rude and snobbish, but their damn airline isn't helping their cause. In fact, at this point, a damn apology isn't good enough. I'm making it a point to encourage all my cycling friends to fly another airline to France for next year's Tour, or for their next bike trip. Frankly, I've never met an airline I've liked. People think lawyers are evil, but at least some of them will get you out of jail in exchange for your money.

Aaaaah. I feel a little better already. Thanks for listening.
De Le Hoya vs. Vargas

Saturday, HBO re-aired the De La Hoya-Vargas fight from the previous week. I've never seen De La Hoya fight, but the story behind this fight was the stuff of high drama.
Vargas, the young, powerful up-and-comer, taunting the veteran De La Hoya for years, trash-talking, calling De La Hoya out. Vargas potrayed himself as the fighter who stayed true to his Mexican roots, representing his people against De La Hoya, who Vargas demonized as the rich, pampered pretty boy, corrupted by his wealth and the comforts of America, drained of ambition by his beautiful wife. De La Hoya, who many regarded as a finesse fighter with the quick hands, against Vargas and his pure punching power. Even their faces seem to conform to the story lines: De La Hoya with the softer features and handsome, boyish face, while Vargas had the fierce scowl and sharp, defined features of someone who survived the mean streets, the tough neighborhood fights.
Vargas goaded and prodded and shouted for years, and finally De La Hoya could take no more. Vargas had called him out, and they'd settle things in the ring. Nothing like a fight between two men who deeply hate each other. De La Hoya was the one with the most to lose. He had the greater reputation, and if he lost after being called out by Vargas, his reputation and legacy in boxing would be tarnished, perhaps irreparably. That De La Hoya put everything on the line after not having fought for 14 months is gutsy.
That's what I love about boxing. You put on a pair of gloves and settle everything in the ring. Talk isn't just cheap in the ring, it's free.
The first few rounds, Vargas came out in a fury, bloodying De La Hoya in rounds 1, 3, and 5, and the crowd was in a frenzy, chanting "Vargas! Vargas! Vargas!" De La Hoya had to be wondering what he'd gotten himself into. Or that's what I thought, looking at the blood dripping from his face. But De La Hoya continued to box, stayed calm, fought back his fear, and somewhere in round 6 or 7, Vargas began tiring, and De La Hoya knew it. Then he began to just box Vargas to death, left jabs and hooks peppering Vargas' face in rapid flurries.
In round 10, De La Hoya staggered Vargas with a left hook, and as De La Hoya moved in for the kill, the bell rang. In round 11, De La Hoya saw the opening. He waited and waited, and then Vargas threw the jab, and De La Hoya cracked Vargas in the head with a left hook. Down went Vargas, and he popped up just as quickly, but De La Hoya smelled blood. He moved Vargas into the ropes and then unleashed a non-stop rampage of left-right-left-right punches to Vargas' head--we're talking about Agent Smith with the body shots on Neo in Matrix--until Jose Cortes, the referee, rushed in to save Vargas who was just holding his fists to his face helplessly.
The interview was fascinating. De La Hoya is a good interview, extremely well-spoken and honest. He admitted Vargas was a strong puncher, and he admitted to accepting the fight because Vargas had finally gotten under his skin. When asked what he thought when he saw Vargas bleeding, he confessed, "I know it sounds brutal, but when I see blood, I want more."
There aren't many sports which have the confrontational drama of boxing. In basketball, stars routinely avoid guarding each other. In football, offensive players from each team don't play against each other, they play against the other team's offense. Mono y mono keeps everything pure and clean. Sure, you have your ringside support, but it's a bit ridiculous sometimes. You've just had your head knocked around by your opponent for 3 minutes, you're bleeding from your nose and both eyes, sweat is burning your eyes out, and your coach is slapping your face and shouting at you, "C'mon, man! Whatchoo doin? Get out there and whoop his ass! Move your feet! Don't let him hit you!" I can't wait for the day when some boxer gets up, throws his stool out of the ring, and shouts back at his coach, "Why don't you get your ass out there in the ring? Yeah, that's what I thought. Now shut up, give me some water, and let me rest!"
De La Hoya and Vargas. Great fight. And I didn't pay for it, unlike the Tyson Lewis fight, which cost $55 and was barely a contest.