An exercise in humility

The Cybercritic generally makes a resolution not to make a New Year’s resolution, but overindulging this past holiday season has added 10 lbs. to the physique of yours truly. The typically svelte Cybercritic naturally assumed that the scale was broken and replaced it; since the new scale reads the same unacceptable number, it’s apparently time for some machines to do some heavy lifting. Cybercritic dares not visit the gym and risk being recognized, so off we go in search of home exercise equipment.

  1. A fitness-gear neophyte, Cybercritic had to rely on search engines for leads. So many to choose from, how does one select? Though not happy with one’s own current body trend, Cybercritic likes the name BODYTRENDS (www.bodytrends.com) and surfs onto the site. Right away, the home page offers free Pilates DVDs with the purchase of a yoga kit, a fitness ball, or a Pilates circle (whatever that is). I scroll down the “shop by product” index on the left side of the page, pausing at “aqua products” (fun!), “body fat calipers” (gross!), and “elliptical trainers” (huh?). I click on the “aqua products” link for kicks; when I change my mind, hitting the back button does not take me back to the home page. That’s a pet peeve of the already peeved Cybercritic.

    Since the treadmill is one of the few exercise machines Cybercritic knows how to operate, I click that link. Several to choose from here, though Cybercritic has little interest in all the bells and whistles of each model. Rather, Cybercritic goes for one of the cheapest and selects the $1,399 Tunturi J3.5F Folding model. The checkout process is relatively painless (except for the $300 charge for ground shipping!) Take your time shipping this one, guys!

  2. The name NELLIE’S (www.nellies.com) reminds Cybercritic of that mean girl on Little House on the Prairie, but it’s actually quite a friendly site — at least from the home page. A comprehensive table of product categories on the left makes it easy to find what you want. Cybercritic decides to go old school with some barbells. On one visit I have my choice of several bars, and I contemplate the 5-ft. Chrome Olympic Bar, but where are the weights? Oh, you buy those separately. I find it hard to believe that everyone knows that except me. I decide to hold off for now. But when I revisit the site less than a week later, there are no bars to be found. I click on the “weight lifting” link, only to read “There are no available products under this category.” Hmmm… There is one set of dumbbells for sale. I click on the link to evalute features and prices and…whoa, Nellie’s, what’s this? “Call for the lowest price!”? Sorry, Cybercritic does not pick up the phone on principle.

    On a whim, I click the “Monthly Specials” link and find the ENC-200 Endurocycle Flywheel Bike for $399. Seems like a good deal, so I add the bike to my shopping cart and proceed to checkout — but the system says my cart is empty. I go back and add the bike again, and now the subtotal says I have two bikes! The checkout link on the bottom of the product page is not working during this visit, so I have to use the one on the right side of the screen. (The bottom link does work on a subsequent visit.) When I finally get to the checkout I start to suspect that Nellie’s is a b-to-b merchant. Why on earth would it ask for my Social Security number? Unfortunately, there’s no link back to the home page anywhere, nor any evidence of an “about us” link. All I could find out about Nellie’s is that it has been “fitness equipment and exercise equipment experts since 1974.” That’s nice — but not enough for me to divulge personal information about myself. Or place an order, for that matter.

  3. Cybercritic continues the quest on to eFITNESS DIRECT (www.efitnessdirect.com). The home page packs a lot of purple, from the lavender box that encloses the page’s text and graphics to the aubergine background. As such, Cybercritic is not sure that electric yellow-green is the right color for the categories box on the left side of the home page, but it certainly does stand out. Color preferences aside, the home page layout makes it quite simple to find what you’re looking for, from company history and contact info to fitness tips and, of course, products. From the comprehensive product selection (gyrotonics! upper body ergometers!), it becomes clear that what the Cybercritic doesn’t know about fitness equipment is a lot.

I’ve decided I now want to get into the mysterious practice called Pilates, so I click on that link, and up comes a plethora of Pilates equipment. It’s hard to know what I need without understanding the basic principles of Pilates — do I need a box and a pole? What about the barrel and spine corrector? And there’s that magic circle again.

The only item Cybercritic recognizes is a sticky mat (from a short-lived yoga kick), so I decide to get one. I hit the “order” button and am taken right to the order screen and prompted to enter my billing address and credit-card information. Hang on, though — I also want to order a Pilates video so that I know what to do with my sticky mat. But there seems to be no way to get back to the product pages to add the video to my order.

Without filling in any of the information I hit the “order this item” key and am taken to a confirmation screen that says “Thank you for your order,” although all the data fields except the product, the quantity, and the price are blank. There are links to “order more product” and to go “back to product” from here, but it’s too late: Cybercritic has lost interest in shopping, and with eFitness Direct. Doesn’t look like I’ll be getting a serious home workout anytime soon, but then my wallet didn’t get much of a workout either.

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