Yesterday, Jody brought up a great example of something I love: The Accidental Cheap Solution that is Infinitely Better than the Popular, Expensive Solution. His example was the ZR motorcycle helmets that retail around $99 and perform better than all the other stylish helmets five times as expensive.
In order to find your particular Accidental Cheap Solution (ACS), you need a few things: the internet, obsessive chat forums, and eBay. Once you have those things in place, you will find that there is a four-dollar part that will make your $35,000 car run more smoothly. You will discover the guy who can make your TiVo hold 250 more hours of television. There is a woman who sells an ointment for $6.99 that is better than Crème de la Mer.
My personal favorite has to do with the iPod. I have become better read than ever thanks to Audible.com and fallen in love with new music again, all because of long road trips accompanied by naught but the iPod and sour gummi worms. The problem is this: if you don’t have a tape player in your car (or a specific MP3 audio jack) you are reliant on some pretty ancient goddamn technology. I refer to, of course, the FM transmitter.
Take a look at this page and you’ll see the cottage industry that has built up around these things. You’re basically creating your own tiny little radio station in your car, and hoping the signal is strong enough to go through the window and hit your own car’s antenna. If you think about it, it’s pretty ridiculous.
But the worst thing of all, is none of these bastards work in big cities. There’s simply too much interference from all the other radio stations to get a clear sound, and if you’re listening to books on tape, forget it. All of these products, the DLO TransDock, the Belkin TuneFM, the Griffin RoadTrip, costing almost a hundred dollars, become useless pieces of plastic in a place like, say, Brooklyn.
Enter the Accidental Cheap Solution. Thanks to hours of DIY sleuthing on the part of folks at iLounge, a small, disturbed following of aficionados discovered a tiny, white FM transmitter that blows all of them out of the water. It’s called the Scosche FM Transmitter and it was languishing on dusty bottom shelves at Walmart. You could get it on eBay for five bucks.
This motherscratcher has got to be illegal: it not only overpowers local broadcasts on the same channel, it’ll transmit your iPod to cars around you. Tessa and I tried it in the countryside one afternoon with two cars and it was like having IanFMRadio. Which meant lots of Smiths, XTC and the Cocteau Twins for my wife and Lulubeans in the other car! HA HA!
Anyway, someone must have figured out it was breaking FCC regulations, because they’ve come out with a new one in black: I can’t vouch for it. Oh, and don’t get the white one made specifically for the iPod – it doesn’t work for shit. You want the one that is specifically in the link above, that plugs into your headphone jack.
And so I ask, what is your favorite Accidental Cheap Solution? It can be anything from any walk of life – enlighten us!