One of the cool things I got for Christmas is a Freeloader: a solar charger for cell phones and other small electronic devices. It has an internal battery so it can store up charge from either a USB power supply or from sunlight gathered from its included solar panels, and use it to charge your devices. It doesn't gather enough power to charge a smartphone as fast as you use it, but you can let it soak up power for a while and then recharge when you need it to get some extra runtime out of your devices. It's very light and small.
It comes with about a dozen different tips letting you plug it into any of countless smartphones, MP3 players, and other devices. Of those tips, only one works for me: the standard USB mini plug that's becoming the most common connector on phones and other devices. The other devices I would like to charge are my Archos, which uses a very proprietary connector, and my Kindle, which uses the up-and-coming micro-USB connector. I can still charge those by using the clunky and bulky approach of carrying around the USB cables for those devices and using the Freeloader's female-USB tip, but having the right tip would be much more compact.
The trouble is, the Freeloader is made in the UK and its accessories are not widely available. I can buy them for £4.99, but shipping to the US triples the price. So while I was in the UK a few weeks ago I thought it'd be a good idea to try to find a shop that sells the tips. But there weren't any in the area. So I went through some painstaking efforts to ensure I could receive mail delivery at the rented apartment and got the tip delivered there during the week. This was inordinately complex because of the way the apartment handled keys and post, and my troubles with Internet access, plus the fact that Google Checkout refuses to let me specify where to send its emails and insists on sending them to a GMail account I no longer use. So the purchase kept getting denied and cancelled without me having any notice of that fact.
But I finally got the Kindle tip. Only it turns out it wasn't the right tip. The people who make the Freeloader don't actually advertise any of the tips as being for a Kindle as they don't have one to test on. So I'd gone by the pictures and descriptions, and I struck out. So frustrating.
Well, I had one final chance. Janice is heading from the UK back to the US today, and it's the last time we know for sure that someone will be heading from there to here. So I did some research last month and found what I'm 99.5% sure is the right tip, ordered it, and had it sent to Janice's house. She could pop it into her luggage and bring it over with her, and finally all would be well.
Google Checkout screwed me again by cancelling the order without warning me, sending an email to that unused account saying "warning, log in and fix this in 15 minutes or your order will be cancelled". I found out a month later, with only four days until Janice's departure. I placed the order again, watched it closely, and sent a separate email to the company asking them to make sure it'd arrive by Wednesday so she could have it when she left, and they said it would be there, but it wasn't. (The people I've spoken to there have been unfailingly helpful and generous, and I don't even know if it's their fault it didn't arrive when they said it would. I don't mean to sound like I'm slamming them.)
When I look back at the ordeal, it's clear I've spent several hours and now £10 on trying to get the tip and still not getting it, all in an effort to save £10 on shipping on something that only cost £5 in the first place. If I had it to do over I'd just have paid the damned £15 and been done with it. Instead, I'm just going to give up in frustration.