Books Are Pretty

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Is Not a Book.

...but it's as simple to operate as one.

Last month I got an email from someone named Jeremy, offering to send me a gadget called "Peek," which enables you to access your email account while you're out and about. Peek, he wrote, was Peek is "really, truly, sincerely made for moms."

Really, truly, and sincerely made for moms? What does it do, in addition to letting you send and receive email that would make it a device made for moms? Does it change diapers? Does it watch the kids so we can get out of the house for an hour? Does it have sex with our significant others for us when we're too tired from staying up all night with a crying baby?

The answer is no, it does none of these things. In fact, sending and receiving email is the only thing that it does. The device itself is fifty bucks, and then you pay twenty bucks a month for unlimited use. There are no contracts to sign, which is nice, so you can cancel the service at any time. So sure, I said, send me one.

It arrived one day around Valentine's Day, right after I'd picked up Chris from Kindergarten, and together we sat down to figure out how to set it up. It didn't take a whole lot of thought - Chris set it up for me, and he's just learning how to read. While he was tinkering around, I split my time between watching him and looking over Peek's website to see how the device was marketed to other people. Non-moms, if you will, because I still couldn't figure out why this was really, truly, sincerely created for me.

I can only conclude, after looking at various other pitches, is that Peek thinks mothers are really, really stupid, and can't handle big scary technology like Blackberries or iPhones, which can text, email, and provide internet access. Or Peek thinks mothers really miss the good old days of 1998. Which I do, but only because in 1998 I was a size four.

All the pitches were about how easy and simple the Peek is, how frills-free and basic, for people who get rattled by a device that can be both a phone and a camera. Even more weirdly, in their "about Peek" section, it says the device was created by a man whose wife liked to take long walks when she was pregnant and came back all worried about emails piling up in her inbox. Just how long were these walks? How important are these emails? Is someone's life hanging in the balance while she's away from her Gmail account? Why couldn't she just take her Blackberry with her?

The whole thing seemed implausible to me, and while I was mulling it over, Christopher and I ran into trouble setting it up. While Christopher was tinkering, I was overseeing him using the booklet that came with it, and even though we had followed the instructions precisely, no email was forthcoming. Maybe it takes a minute, I thought. After three hours, however, I thought maybe this was too long. Maybe this was targeted at the right audience after all, I thought.

I called customer service and spoke with Sean. So far, Sean was the biggest asset to Peek I'd encountered so far, and this is not to speak ill of Peek but to commend the truly excellent customer service he provided. I think we're all familiar with the horrow show AT&T provides as their version of customer service. Not so with Peek. Sean listened to my problem, gave me several suggestions, and when none of them worked, he told me he would have to work on the problem with a supervisor and get back to me. During that time, he must have fixed whatever had gone wrong, because the next morning, all the emails had come in. He then called me again to make sure the problem had been corrected, and called a week later for follow-up, to make sure everything was still running smoothly.

Really, truly, sincerely excellent customer service.

Now that all the bugs had been worked out, I spent a few weeks playing around with it.

I sent several emails to Steve to make sure it was working.


Email me something. I want to see if it is still working.

Sent on the go from my Peek


Several hours passed, and then, a response finally came in:


No. I knew you'd be using it and I've been avoiding my email all day
because of it. I will not email you. I think it's a stupid product.

So there.


Peek: Clearly not made for dads.

Here's how using it actually works. You press a button at the top to turn it on. It vibrates at you a couple of times, then the screen says "Hello." After that, takes you right to your inbox, which it would, because that's all there is. It has a full, stiff little QWERTY keyboard with the period, quotation marks, and the comma in odd places, and an equally stiff little wheel on the side for scrolling up and down. To reply to someone, scroll down until the email in question is highlighted, then push in the wheel. It opens that email, and you can then select "Reply," type in your message, and click "Send." It vibrates again when you receive incoming mail, and a little envelope at the top left corner flashes blue.

That's it.

It's not bad, and I especially benefitted from it by sneaking personal, untraceable emails at work. The company I work for can and does monitor all email correspondence from our work computer. They let you get away with some personal stuff on a regular basis, but it probably wouldn't be a smart idea to complain about the job, or, say, carry on a conversation with a local union rep. It does not ring, chirp, or otherwise betray you like a cell phone can. In other words, the Peek is a willing accomplice in helping you hide from The Man.

The only thing I really, really hate about the Peek, slightly condescending marketing aside, is how to get rid of email you don't want. In order to delete the zillion emails I get from Bluefly every day, I have to use that stiff little wheel to scroll down to the offending email, push wheel in, scroll down again until I get to the "delete" option, and push in the wheel again. Scroll, push, scroll, push. There is no option to select a slew of emails for deletion at once. Plus, if you go into your gmail account on your computer and do a mass deletion, the deleted emails don't get deleted on the Peek, so there's no getting around it that way. I didn't check the Peek for about three days, then spent several annoying minutes on the sofa, scrolling and pushing. Instead of making me stay more on top of it, instead I began avoiding the Peek. Every time I'd think about using it, the thought of having to delete the emails made me cringe, and I just put off the inevitable by letting it ride around in my purse, turned off, letting the problem snowball into a virtual avalanche of email, just waiting to give me carpal tunnel syndrome. I have it charging up next to me right now as I'm writing this review, and the blue envelope is flashing like crazy and there must be at least fifty unwanted emails in there right now, and that's only an accumulation of 2 days. I had the Peek turned off for three weeks, people, and quite frankly, if I'm too busy of a mom to learn new technology, I'm surely too busy of a mom to have to spend time deleting emails.

Since I was sent the Peek, they've rolled out a new model. For eighty dollars, you can get the Peek Pronto, which is supposedly quicker and more efficient. I don't know if it's easier to wipe out an inbox full of spam, though. If it is, it would be well worth the extra thirty bucks to not have to deal with that. The Peek may be simpler to set up and use, but simpler isn't always the most user friendly option.

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