Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Urns are still among Us

Someone seriously needs to spend some time coming up with a better design for Shabbos hot water urns. Those flat, round pieces to push on the top to dispense the hot water will take only so many "pushings" and then the urn gives up the ghost. Since we use our urn all week long we seem to end up replacing the urn on a 1-2 year basis. Yesterday was a replacement day.

I was in Flatbush and stopped into a major purveyor on Coney Island Avenue. And, as I blogged about before many months ago, I found that nothing had changed with the urns they carry. Oh, the price was good, and two were on sale. But none of the urns had the UL approval. Out I walked empty handed. There are urns with the UL approval and I have no idea why such a major store in the heart of Flatbush should not carry even one of them.

For those who aren't familiar with it, the UL is the Underwriters Laboratory. What do they do? "UL is the trusted source across the globe for product compliance. Benefiting a range of customers - from manufacturers and retailers to consumers and regulating bodies - we've tested products for public safety for more than a century." Their website is a very informative one and is searchable so you can check on any products, particularly electronic ones, that you are considering buying.

The strange part is that the salesperson tried to convince me that since the urn was manufactured overseas it did not require a UL certification and it couldn't get one. The urn I have with UL certification is also made overseas. And the UL tests globally.

When a product mixes water with electricity and may be left on for 1-3 days at a time or more why would we want to be the guinea pigs to see if it will perform safely?

There's a little postscript to this story. I walked into the store looking frum but definitely not Brooklyn frum--red striped top, denim skirt and denim hat. One of the other sales people asked my salesperson "Vos vill zie?" What does she want? When my salesperson answered the other person said "An Amerikanerishen mishegas. Inzereh lie koynim veisen nisht fin UL and darfen is nisht oychet." An American crazy-ism. Our type of customers don't know about UL and don't need it either. Nice to know that the store that is more than ready to take your money has decided you don't need the protection of a safety inspection.

Time to send my hubby to the only store in Boro Park where we found UL tested Shabbos urns. Just so you should know, however, the store charges about twice the price for these urns as the non-certified urns because, as the salesperson put it to my hubby the last time, you pay extra for the better "hechsher."


Anonymous said...

Until reading this post, I had never heard of UL - please would you advise on what the 'hechsher' looks like.
I don't think it is well know (or known at all!) in Britain or Europe, so some further info would be helpful.

ProfK said...


The basic symbol to look for is a bold black circle with the letters UL inside of it. For Europe you may have different symbols such as a circle with an R inside of it. If you go to the UL site they have a listing for UL symbols. Click on it and then click on the Europe symbols and you can see what to look for.

G6 said...

I'm embarrassed to say that up until I read your post, I had NO IDEA that the urns sold in these stores could possibly NOT be UL Certified!! I just took it for granted.
This is truly frightening.
{dashing home to check my urn....}

Lion of Zion said...

which store are you talking about on coney island? if it's "the buzz," i stay away from it because of a bad return policy (unless it's changed)

ProfK said...

I have no idea if their return policy has changed because I didn't buy anything to have to worry about returning. I never buy in Brooklyn the types of things they sell because there are plenty of places in SI to do so. But shabbos urns aren't carried anywhere in SI so I'm stuck with Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

Like G6 I never bothered to check the urn because I assumed it would have the UL. Every other item in my house has it except for the urn! Do you have the address of the store in BP that sells the UL urns?

Anonymous said...

Prof. K, you didn't mention if you were tempted to answer them in Yiddish.

Secondly, sometimes buzz is a sign that something is not working properly. The modern slang connotation of the word has not totally superceded the standard old meaning.

Anyway, thanks for another fine and important post, keep on stirring the pot !

Anonymous said...

It just dawned on me, they are not makpid on the UL, because to them it's like the O-U. They want a 'heimishe' hechsher, even if it's inferior. Typical foolish provincialism of certain (but not all) Brooklyn types.

When you were in the area, did you Pomegranate too ?

ProfK said...

My hubby knows the store by sight but I've asked him to get the specific address and then I'll post it.

D, not one of my finer moments but I was not only tempted I did answer them in Yiddish as I was walking out of the store. I'll save all your tender ears from the gist of that dialogue, but there was some satisfaction in watching their mouths fall open.

Just a little note: the UL urn that my hubby found for me is not one of those "pretty" ones with the flowers on a white background. It's a brushed steel look on the outside. I'll gladly trade the "pretty" for the safety.

I walked into Pomegranite and walked out without buying. Yes, it's a pretty store on the inside and very airy, but I don't shop in stores for their ambience; it's their prices for products that interest me. I suppose for Brooklyn residents a store with a parking lot attached is a real plus, but I'm used to large parking lots everywhere I shop in SI. I saw no particular bargains in the store. I'm used to a different type of shopping then you get in the heart of the Brooklyn communities. I'm a 5-10 minute drive from 5 major supermarket chain megastores. Ditto for 3 large fruit and vegetable markets. All the stores have large kosher departments. For whatever few items they don't carry we have two kosher grocery stores here. And for the rare items that I can't get here or that I think the price is too high on, my hubby works on the Boro Park/Flatbush border and there are plenty of places for him to pick up something for me.

Anonymous said...

I'd seen the UL before but I always thought it was just some kind of marketing tool, not something to do with safety. I went to their site and I got a real education. And please, yes post the address of the store that has the urns with the UL. If you have the brand name of the urn that would be helpful too.

concernedjewgirl said...

I use this:
Even though it sais its for coffee I just take that addition out and use it for hot water. It does 42 cups. I've used it for about 21/2 years and its doing its job just fine.
I would recommend that with a 20% off coupon and you've got yourself a UL pot for around $32.
However, I do not leave it on all week long, really because we have a tea pot and we can freshly boil water and conserve energy when we don't use it. Just a suggestion but our tea pot was $10 and it does a good job :-)

Lion of Zion said...


"I'll save all your tender ears from the gist of that dialogue"

i can't speak for any other readers, but believe me, my ears are not that tender. so stop teasing us! what did you say?

(my mother-in-law is not religious and lives in BP, so people comment about her from time to time in the stores. they don't realize that understands fully what they say, as yiddish is her mame loshn and she was active in active in the soviet yiddish theater back in the day.)

Anonymous said...

For the most part, we have decided that we can do without boiling water on Shabbat. But we do have an urn (one of the big plain metal ones with a spout on the bottom) that we fill once every year or two when we have guests that require hot water on Shabbat. Frankly, we can do without hot beverages once a week, it's really not such a big deal (of course we live in South Florida and I bet we might feel differently in the winter if we lived up north).

ProfK said...


As I said, not one of my finer moments. It started out with "di shtik ferdt" and went downhill from there. I did leave him with this though: if c"v someone is burned or injured through the malfunction of something he sells so gladly even though he knows it has no safety certification, the Ribboneh Shel Olam is going to hold him responsible, and I wouldn't try to argue with God that "zei darfen es nisht."

Anonymous said...

We're a big tea and coffee family and also a large family so we leave two urns on for Shabbos. But we keep the urns in our laundry room so the younger kids don't get near them. We have a sliding latch we use on the door that is high up on the door. The rule is that if you are tall enough to reach the latch without standing on a chair then you are old enough to go in and take hot water by yourself. Those who don't meet the height requirement have to wait for an adult to get the hot water.

Our urns do have the UL and you are right that they cost more.

Anonymous said...

We have an urn (pump type) that we use both on Shabbos and during the week. It is UL certified, has a locking top, and works as well as ever after 5 years of steady use. I will happily share the brand, if you like.

ProfK said...

Yes, please share the brand!

Anonymous said...

"Innovative Consumer." Our daughter bought it for us at our local Jewish Bookstore.

Anonymous said...

Gee thanks for giving me another job for today. I bought an urn last Sunday that I thought I would use for this Shabbos. Checked the box and no UL mark in sight. Now I have to take it back. And I'll let the store know why it's coming back. I just assumed that all elecftronic products were tested. Now I know better.

Gila said...

(singing) ProfK told off the shopkeepers! ProfK told off the shopkeepers!

Good for you for speaking up!

Anonymous said...

I also bought a UL urn at Bed Bath and Beyond with the 20% coupon. Cheap and works great!

Just as someone mentioned above, we keep it in the laundry room in the basement high out of reach. That's where our cholent crock pot is too. Much safer and keeps the kitchen cooler in the summer.

Perfect Memorials said...

Nice and informative blog about urns and urns with UL approval or Underwriters Laboratory approval.