Wednesday, July 02, 2008

LIFE: Brushing Up Against That Ol' Rage

It's my brother Wayne's birthday today, starting that 16-day period once a year when he can claim to be only a year younger than me. It also happens to be his 50th birthday. I think he thinks the latter is the more significant fact today.

I gave Wayne his gift three days ago. It seemed meritorious of a 50th birthday. The acquisition of it almost made me commit murder. Yeah, there is a story.

Last winter, Wayne mentioned he'd really love a brush for washing cars. "Why?" I asked, since I couldn't imagine why I'd be buying the local carwash (used once every three years) equipment. Turns out, Wayne likes to handwash his cars. Weekly. The way he sounds when describing the process can not be repeated here. It's almost pornographic.

Okay, I asked. Details.

Turns out, he once was given a brush from the local wash. He loved it dearly, for the one time he used it. He left it outside to dry after using it that first time. And hasn't seen it since. "I live in a neighbourhood with old farts, all 70 years old and up. And I can't trust even them not to swipe my stuff?" he asked, with tears welling up in eyes, describing the long-missing brush. He wanted that brush replaced. But it was a 'tad' expensive. Eighty bucks.

Well, eighty dollars is indeed a ridiculous amount to spend on a brush. But for a 50th birthday present? Seemed reasonable to me. I got the company name and the part numbers. I started to get a tickle when I found out the brush handle was a separate item for purchase. Hmmm, this might be more trouble than it's worth. Oh, and by the way, I couldn't purchase the brush anywhere around here. The company in question, was in the USA.

Now, Wayne might want to do business with this company in the future. Since he shares my last name, to keep the chance they won't turn him away at the phone, I won't name the company. Other than to say it sells brushes and is named after, either a Great Lake or a town in Pennsylvania.

I went to the company's web-site and found one of the two part numbers I had been given. The brush itself. The other part didn't exist. Not wanting to bother Wayne, I sent an email describing my plight. Five weeks later I still hadn't gotten a response. So I broke down and called.

A very nice lady answered the phone and helped me with my purchase. The FIFTY dollar brush needed a handle. She walked me through my choices and I chose a ten-dollar model. The total came to 60 bucks, Canadian or American, since the local loonie had just that day, gone back over par with the America peso. Not only was Wayne going to get a gift he wanted, it was going to be a sawbuck less than he and I expected.

I asked about expected delivery times, knowing I could afford 5-6 weeks, but not 6-8 weeks. "Oh no, you should have this by the end of next week," she said. I was calling on a Thursday.

Remarkably, she was telling the truth. And that's the end of the good part of the story.

The knock on the door the following Friday was an ungodly early hour of the day. It was about two hours before I normally get up. It was UPS with a four-foot long box... And a demand for 40 bucks. Of that extortionate amount, 30 dollars was for brokerage fees and a further 10 bucks was GST. Whether it was too early or I figured this was penance for not asking about shipping costs (which I hadn't and the lady hadn't offered), I got the money and paid off the delivery man. The box was moved over into a corner, to await the long month before Wayne's birthday.

Before the weekend was out, curiosity got the better part of me. I had to see this brush. Turns out, it might be worth the loot. A flat plastic panel, about the size of a good omelet pan, topped eight inches of long soft hog's hair. I was expected mink, but the hog's hair was plenty soft, yet rigid enough not to flatten out to the plastic base. Impressive.

On the following Tuesday, the paid invoice arrived from the company. The invoice amount was for the stated 60 dollars. Brightly in yellow in a far off corner from where total amount was figured, was the annotation. "Charged to VISA: $80." I'm rounding off the pennies. And I was also rounding into form.

The $60 brush-and-handle had now cost me $120.

I was seeing green spots. The invoice, and I had pink, white and blue copies, all showed cost, shipping being zero and a total amount of $60. On the top one, a white copy, was the Visa charge annotation. I called down there to ask what was going on.

"The extra charge is shipping, sir," a different lady assured me. "But I have THREE copies of your invoice and there is no shipping amount listed," I answered, somewhat calmly. This ping-ponged back and forth until the "Please fax it to us" request was made. I told them that I would email it later.

I continued that it was very wrong for me not to ask about delivery methods and charges (Remember, I DID ask about delivery date), but that it was wrong for their clerk not to tell me the charges, or ask me my preferences. I hate using UPS because they show up early (I'm close enough to be first or second on their delivery route) and they try once. After that, you have to haul butt TO their place and sometimes what you get is a pain in the same butt to get into your car and to the house. They also use the most piratical of the brokerage houses. Thirty bucks. FIFTY percent of the value. Forget gas executive, you should want your progeny in the brokerage business. I would have vastly preferred getting the Post Office to deliver the item. It would have saved me nearly 22 dollars.

In summation, because of the brokerage house and delivery method, plus the non-informed shipping charges, I told her, "Frankly, I won't ever do business with your company again."

That's when she replied, "Well, sir, you could have saved the brokerage fees at least, by ordering from our Canadian distributor."

WHAT!?!?! "Are you kidding me?" I asked in a screech guaranteed to wake up the West Coast. Turns out, the company has TWO, count 'em, TWO Canadian distributors. Both are in B.C. And neither will ever see my business ever again.

A week later, amended invoices arrived. This time, the white, blue, pink AND green sheets all showed shipping and a total amount of 80 dollars.

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