Monday, March 29, 2010

Neutral Feedback...Negative Comment !

I encourage my customers to send me their inquiries regarding an item and I try diligently to answer them.
Also, if a customer receives an item that doesn't measure up to their expectations I'd like to know. It is so frustrating to have someone leave less than positive feedback when all they had to do was send an email letting me know that they were not happy with the size, shape, color, etc. of an item and I'd try to make restitution to make them happy.
I work hard at my shop trying to give my customers top notch service, I package carefully and ship expediently; many times I run to the post office the same day for only one order. It would be far more productive if I just waited for several orders to come in and then do them all at once but I strive to be as thoughtful and as considerate as possible to each customer, so it is painful for me when a customer doesn't approach me first but instead goes ahead and leaves a less than glowing feedback.

As of date I must admit I've not had any negative feedback and only one neutral feedback, however the neutral could easily have been averted had the customer contacted me first. The item purchased wasn't as she thought it would be. They were stud pearls and I had failed to put into the description that they were Button Pearls, she thought they were full round pearls.

So, instead of emailing me to explain this, I found myself with a neutral feedback and a comment that read; "Had I known these were Button I would not have purchased them..."

Photo above...pair of 1/2 drilled freshwater peacock BUTTON pearls. Button pearls tend to be slightly flat at the bottom, this makes them ideal to epoxy onto flat pad stud earring findings. I love these little pearls and thought everyone would adore them also. I was soooo mistaken.

Photo below...Peacock pearls are known for their iridescence, these are the same pearls as above but at a different angle, bringing out the purplish tones. Top quality A to A+ grade pearls such as these normally would cost a good $3.00 a pair, I had the price and shipping low hoping to encourage multiple purchases. Well that blew up in my face!

Never mind that I was more than courteous in all my emails, I had packaged her order carefully, had included a small thank you gift and had notified her that her order had been shipped. In that notification I stated; "Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your order, please do not hesitate to contact me." I also have a full paragraph in my shop policies about refunds etc., it states that if the customer finds their item unacceptable I was happy to offer them an exchange or a refund. Why then was I not contacted first ? I would have been happy to offer an exchange or even send her a full refund but I was never given that opportunity.

I have since issued her a full refund, telling her to please keep the pearls and even sent her a "Kiss and Make Up" but so far I've heard nothing back. Perhaps she has no idea how to reciprocate, or maybe she doesn't wish to. Whatever, right now I have this one sour feedback that spoils the whole barrel as it sits where everyone can see it and I can't do much about it...well other than cry; which I have done a bit of and believe me it hasn't helped.

So what about you...have any thoughts on the subject ? Have you had any experiences like this that left a bad taste in your mouth ? How do you or would you handle a situation like this ? And why are some people so thoughtless and never think about how the other person might feel ? Or is it that they just don't care?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Who's in the Details ?

They say that; "The devil is in the details", though I've also heard it said that; "God is in the details" but whichever way you prefer the nitty-gritty, fine tuning, nit-picking details take more time than the "Big Picture".
For those of you who have had a home built from scratch you may well remember how quickly the foundation went down, walls went up and roof attached, however things like installing base boards, trim work, tiles, cabinets, miles of chalking and painting, touch-ups and more touch-ups; seemed to go on forever. And so it has been with our media center. The cabinet boxes were a cinch to install...sort least compared to adding the crown moldings and making all the angle cuts on the furniture top that doesn't quite fit because the walls are not totally level...walls are never "totally" level...maybe that's a Murphy's Laws thing?

Photo above...doors and drawers are in and the baseboard at the back wall has been reinstalled, but the base of the media center has gaps caused by shims, the floor is not totally level. Soooo...

Photo above...we decide that something was needed to conceal the shims that were placed under the base of the cabinet and gaps resulting from these shims. Something to go around the base of the cabinets to hide this unattractive "fix" and, as luck would have it, we found a nice cove molding in a perfect color and just the right size. How fortuitous ! Sometimes things do go right !

The cabinets are a hickory wood, I love the character of this wood, it's squirrlley patterns and sharp dark to light contrasts in its grain. Now the next problem to surmount is the furniture top that doesn't quite fix!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Truly A Work in Progress...

Progress is being made...slowly.

When we ordered the cabinets and all their component pieces John and I considered putting the unit on legs making them look more like furniture but this created a whole new can of worms. How do you brace the bottom? How big should the legs be? How far in should the legs go?
Our design consultant, Coby, thought he had the answer, instead of legs how about using a component piece called a pilaster. A pilaster is a flat piece of finished wood, about 3" wide by 3/4" thick and comes in 8 foot lengths. The pilaster that we ordered has a slightly rounded front edge to it. It arrived with our shipment and all that was required was to figure out how to attach it to the base of the cabinets.

Photo above...One of the tall end cabinets with the crown molding attached. If you look at the crown, you may see that there is a bit of a profile that juts out just a little from the molding and the cabinet top, this is the front of the pilaster...which was suppose to have gone on the bottom of the cabinet.

How to install never entered our minds while we talked with Coby but when the cabinets got to the stage where the pilaster came into the picture John and I were baffled. If we attached them to the front and side bottoms of the cabinet what happens to the back end of the cabinets ? How would you possibly be able to shim the back of the units to keep them from rocking backwards ? How do you support the interior cabinets ? Without support wouldn't the two inner cabinets tend to droop like a sway backed horse ? Then there were all those angle cuts that would have to be made to fit the pilaster neatly and attractively around all the zig-ins and zag-outs of the cabinet bases. After many hours of brainstorming we reluctantly decided to ditched the idea of using the pilasters and sat them aside to be returned.

Photo above...Close up of mitered corner of crown still needs to be caulked.

Then we got to the crown molding. It was not like the previous crown that we installed at the top of our dinning room cabinets; this crown looked identical to the crown molding you would use between wall and ceiling. A cabinet is not designed the same way nor has the same angles that you would find between a wall and ceiling. So, how to attach ? Again much brainstorming ensued. Seems the last crown we had ordered came with a flat base attached to it, making the job of installing it to the tops of the cabinets much easier. Finally we decided to attach the crown molding to that rejected pilaster that we had not yet returned. The pilaster would act as a base for the molding and would be far simpler to attach to then the narrow edges of the cabinet tops.

Photo above...taken of the top of the cabinet, a place that no one sees and is very seldom dusted. Notice the larger flat board ? That is the pilaster to which the crown molding is attached by way of tiny custom made angle brackets. I think my hubby is incredibly ingenuous, yeah I know, I'm rather biased.

Photo below...It's a bit fuzzy but you can see the profile that the pilaster added to the simple crown. The pilaster is the piece below the crown that juts out a little and transitions from the crown to the top of the cabinet. I really like this added detail.

This did work, though it required the addition of some very small angle brackets, which John had to custom make as there was nothing available in the tiny size that was necessary. Nothing is ever as easy as you think it's going to be and if it is...well it's not nearly as interesting.

Photo below...And this is what it looks like with its crowning drawers or doors yet and the base cabinet still needs its top put on. But it's progressing...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Media Center Begins...

Work is commencing on our entertainment/media center.

Photo above...installation of the base cabinet boxes begins.

Photo of the things you have to contend with are all the wires. Is it possible to have a wireless media center ?

Image above...some of you may recall this picture of one of the end units to the media center.

Photo below...the cabinet boxes of the above image. We don't have the doors or drawers installed yet, John is still leveling and attaching them to the wall and to each other.

Photo below...The basic cabinet boxes are now installed. Still have the crown moulding to do.

Photo below...and then figure out how to run all those wires and cables so it doesn't look like a rat's nest...

I'm excited to see what it will look like when finished and yet also feel a tinge of apprehension; will it look the way I envision or will it be a disappointment ?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Boxed In...

The truck load of cabinets that we ordered to construct our media center with have arrived. In reality they arrived a few days ago but my postings tend to lag behind the actual course of events.

Photo above...Boxes of cabinets, shelves and drawers
Photo below...More of the same...

Photo below...The small shelving unit is not part of the entertainment center, it will end up in our master bath. The tall thin boxes leaning against the wall contain doors.

Photo below...Looking across our living room into our dinning nook, at a sea of boxes

Photo below...Another perspective of the above photo...lots of boxes...Notice how we left just enough space to create a path so we can negotiate around the boxes and access our dinning to eat sometime !

Photo below...The wide thin boxes contain the wood "skins" that will be glued to the unfinished sides of the cabinets; the long square shaped boxes house crown moulding to finish off the tops of the 2 tower end cabinets.

Okay now all we have to do is put it altogether. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

And Now It's Pouring...

Going Through Money Like Water part IV..

The old idiom; "It never rains that it pours" seemed to be fulfilling itself. First it was the purchase of the new Sony Bravia HDTV, followed by the order for cabinets for the construction of our media center, then our septic system's lift pump burns out. Certainly this had to be the end of the spending spree...or was it ?

For weeks I had been getting up achy and sore, my neck creaked and snapped, my spine ached and my shoulders felt stiff. At night I noticed that when I turned over, one of the springs in the mattress would make a sound, a definite "sproing". I felt it whenever it snapped and knew that something wasn't quite right. With definite reservation I discussed this with John and we both knew the answer was "a new mattress". On the surface the innerspring mattress looked okay however it was 22 years old and it's springs were obviously losing their spring !

Since we had already sustained a small hemorrhage of cash the last thing we needed was yet one more big ticket purchase. It seemed certain that this would have to wait and we'd make due with the old mattress for awhile longer. John had other ideas, perhaps he was tired of my overly grumpy mornings or perhaps he felt sorry for my discomfort, whatever compelled him we ended up scouting out all the local mattress stores and comparing mattresses and prices. In 22 years the price of mattresses has increased as well as their thickness. Some of the new beds are now so thick one needs a set of steps just to get into bed. How does one make up a bed that is so tall ? Also crossing my mind was bedding. We had several sets of sheets but none that would fit an 18" or 20" mattress.

In the end we arrived at a local mattress firm and discussed our situation with one of their knowledgeable sales associates. Funny thing about knowledge, the more information you acquire the more confused you become. At the back of my mind I knew I would really love to have an adjustable bed as I have a problem with a condition called Acid Reflux. Our old bed had a couple of risers under its feet to elevate the head of the bed; these risers are a royal pain, always slipping out, especially whenever I tried to move the bed. Amazing how the act of my moving the bed causes the risers to slip out of place, could it be that the two are connected somehow? The idea of no longer having these annoying risers seemed most enticing.
To make a long story just a tad shorter, let me say that we settled upon a well known brand name, coil-spring mattress along with a simple, very standard, adjustable bed base. On the day of delivery, the mattress warehouse had trouble locating a standard adjustable base, so while they continue to search their warehouse, John and I waited and waited and waited. We waited until after 7 p.m. for our delivery, it was a very long day of waiting. Finally, towards evening the sales associate calls to inform us that they had not been able to locate the adjustable base we had ordered so instead they were sending us the deluxe version, one that cost hundreds of dollars more, at no extra charge.

Now here I'd like to enlighten you with the difference between the standard and the deluxe. A standard base is one that can raise the head and/or the foot area of the bed to suit ones comfort. The deluxe version not only does this but also has various "message" settings from constant "message" motion to waves of "message" and many different speeds to these "massage" motions. As you've probably noticed I've placed the word massage into quotation marks as I feel that perhaps message isn't quite the word for it. Even though the mattress store calls it "massage" it is nothing like the popular Shiatsu massage chairs and machines. A more adequate description would be "vibrator". If one likes to be "vibrated" this would be right up their alley. As I mentioned we chose the no frills adjustable bed frame and it wasn't solely because of price constraints; I had tried the floor model massage bed, laid on it for awhile and was not impressed. Nor did I appreciate the obvious noise that the unit emitted. By-the-way you've no idea what it's like to reach over in the dark of night, drowsy and not altogether with it, reach for the mattress control to lower your head a bit and hit the darn massage button. HUMMMM, BRRRUMMMM, HUMMM, BRRRUMMM. Heart attack city !!!

Hang in there friends, unfortunately this story isn't quite over. Our new mattress had a 30 day exchange program and after a couple of weeks of breaking it in, I noticed that, upon awakening, my hip would be stiff and sore. John said he had the same problem. So off to see the wizard, the wonderful mattress wizard of Ahs. The Wiz diagnosed our problem, our mattress was too firm. So now we had two choices; either we could exchange our new mattress for a softer mattress that was the same price but it would not be a brand name mattress, it would be the store brand, a no name brand or.....drum roll....we could upgrade to a super duper Tempur Pedic foam mattress...for more of course...much more. John and I were dubious about having a no name mattress, the fear of the unknown. Whereas Tempur Pedic is a well known brand, the elite of the elite and the epitome of foam mattresses...all foam mattress aspire to be a Tempur Pedic ! So ka-ching, ka-ching and you can add in a few more ka-chings.

We may end up with the bank repossessing our home and living under a bridge in a cardboard box but dang it we'll be sleeping really well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tomorrow Cometh...

Going Through Money Like Water, Part III

Shortly after having placed an order for all the cabinets, their hardware and the paraphernalia necessary to construct our built in entertainment/media center, a problem arose. Some problems you can ignore, put off for another day and some you can not, this was one of those that could not be ignored. It began with a sluggish toilet in the guest bathroom, it had given us trouble in the past, enough trouble to call in plumbers. Turned out the lift pump to our septic tank had never been connected. Once an electrician was called to run the wires and connect the pump all was well...for awhile.

Photo above...This lovely eyesore is control center for the septic system lift pump. Should the pump fail, it is supposed to light up its flashing warning signal. If it did so, we never saw it !

Now the same scenario was playing out, same sluggish toilet, a repeat performance; encore if you prefer. Soon other drains were being affected and John surmised that the culprit must be the lift pump; the pump was not functioning. Of course this had to happen on a weekend so the possibility of contacting someone to come out and survey the situation was nil. The problem would have to wait until Monday. On Monday the professional confirms John's diagnosis...the pump is kaput...we'll need a new one...he doesn't have a pump with him...he will have to get a pump...we'll have to wait a couple of days for him to get one and then return to install it.

Photo above...All one can see of the lift pump is a small metal box jutting out of the ground.

Photo below...In both pictures you can see evidence that the pump site had been dug up and filled back in as the pump unit is buried beneath ground; digging is the only way of getting to it to remove and replace it.

Usually a lift pump last for years and years, I'm talking like 15 or 20 years much like a good water heater. Why did ours conk out after only 2 years? Just our luck I guess or Murphy's Law, we had indebted ourselves with the purchase of the plasma HDTV and then the cabinets for the media center, so naturally something had to quit. Had it not been a $2,000 lift pump it would have been our refrigerator, or stove or maybe the front load washing machine.
But as they say; "It never rains that it pours". ...TO BE CONTINUED...

Monday, March 8, 2010

On The Drawing Board...

Going Through Money Like Water part II

John and I had discussed what we needed and wanted in an entertainment center. First priority was for storage, unless I can come up with some crafty way to use old VHS video tapes...make them into tables...bookcases? If I were Hildi, (Santo-Tomas) of Trading Spaces fame, I'd probably just glue them to the wall.

Photo above...Papa's brand new toy, temporarily housed on our folding buffet/banquet table. Cable black box, video recorder and DVD player keep it company.

Hildi had a penchant for gluing or stapling anything that didn't move or breath to hapless walls and I think that's only because she just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Certainly she had a list of things like; Styrofoam restaurant doggie boxes, abandoned old tires, empty beer cans, small automobiles, somewhere on that list she must have had, dogs, cats, pet goldfish, etc. I always felt sorry for those poor souls that ended up "Hildi-ized" and even now I wonder about the lady who had straw glued to her walls, since she had small children I'm sure she ended up with straw strewn from one end of her home to the other. How long before she freaked out and called her Trading Spaces buddy to say; "Get your arse over here and help me get this _ _ _ _ _ _ _ mess off the walls." Yes, that was definitely THE reason I never considered auditioning for Trading luck I would have gotten Hildie !!!

But I digress ! Boy did I ever digress ! Back to the media center...

John and I probably drew up dozens of different designs, most of which just didn't fit our requirements, which were:
  1. It had to be able to store ALL our "media" stuff
  2. It had to fit within the space of the wall, and
  3. It could not cost more than what we spent on building our house.

photo above...unfortunately Coby tossed out all the designs that were nixed so we'll just have to envision them on the final draft. Our 1st draft had banks of drawers across all 4 of the lower cabinet boxes. Yes it looked nice but...

Ultimately we came up with a plan, albeit a rough plan but it was a start. Thinking it would be fun to be different I designed the whole base of the unit with drawers instead of doors, however once we got to the home improvement center and sat down with Coby, the Home Improvement Center's design consultant, things changed.

Coby really liked the idea and thought it was great to have all the drawers on the bottom and perhaps it was, it looked good but...oh yes that awful contradiction...but where were we going to put John's record album collection ? The drawers weren't really deep enough and it would be an inconvenient way to access our albums . We decided to remove the section of drawers on the two end units and replace them with door cabinets, thereby giving us space for John's records.

Picture above...Imagine the drawers on the 2 bottom end units being replaced with doors.

Deftly, uncomplainingly, Coby drafts this change on his computer cad program and as I watch the units dropping into place on the PC screen, it dawns on me. NO, it's all wrong! Now the unit looks like it is flanked on each side by two overly tall, overly thin towers; an illusion caused by the vertical lines of doors above doors and no space between them to break up this tall linear effect.

photo above...Imagine this end unit with a set of doors on the bottom and then picture the top cabinet with another door cabinet mounted above it, making the upper cabinet 48". Now close your eyes and try to imagine one on each end !

STOP! Coby stop! Don't click finish, don't finalize it, don't pass go and don't collect $200; just give me a moment to rethink this. Okay, how about drawers on the bottom units of each end tower and doors on the middle unit ?

Patently Coby complied and deleted the drawer units. This is much more involved than simply highlighting, clicking delete and then typing in a new word as virtual upper cabinets have to be lifted and moved out of the way in order to remove the ones on the bottom, then the new lower cabinets have to be set into placed and finally the upper cabinets can be replaced above them; exactly the way you'd have to do it real life. It's most difficult, more like impossible, to place a wall cabinet in the air and expect it to stay there without responding to a force we call gravity.

The next draft was better, much better but...well you get the picture, this went on for quite some time. I decided to have decorative glass doors on the flanking end cabinets and we tweaked this and modified that until finally John and I agreed it was the way we wanted. So now Coby begins printing out what must have the 8th or 9th version of our media center design but this time he prints out the sheet with its estimated cost as well. Both John and I concur, the design looks great...the cost however is another story. Waaaay more than we anticipated!

Picture above...yes this is the finale draft of our media center but we really weren't done re-designing. Though we had added drawers the upper cabinets on the rough draft were still a combo of 4 cabinet boxes; two boxes on each side one measuring 30" and the other 18" in height to total 48".

After John and I returned home we sat and studied the plan, went over all the many components, itemized each unit's cost and tried to rationalize some means of cutting it down; getting the dollar signs back into our ballpark instead of the ballpark in Donald Trump's neighborhood. It was agonizing but I decided to forgo the lovely, carved glass doors that were about $200 extra per cabinet and we decided it wasn't necessary to have the 2 end towers be so tall. So instead of having two wall cabinet boxes, one above the other on each side, we could replace the 4 units with two 40" units and save a few dollars.

I was sure that when Coby saw us returning he would probably want to duck inside a tall display pantry and hide, I could even imagine him cowering in the dark, whimpering like a frightened puppy but for some reason he stood his ground and greeted us warmly. Maybe he's used to it? He listened to our requested modifications and began the redesigning process. With time we managed to scratch off a few hundred dollars, however the total was still mind boggling and the dilemma was; do we do it or do without? We decided to take the plunge, to go ahead and order the cabinets and all those little bits and pieces that are needed to put it all together and finish it off. Had we a crystal ball we might not have committed ourselves to this project but one can never tell what tomorrow will bring. And believe me, tomorrow had something in store.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Going Through Money Like Water...

And so it begins, a simple project that snowballs into an avalanche.

Photo above...This was taken during the conversion project where John and I transformed an old kitchen cabinet into an attractive coffee table. The old entertainment/media center is shown in the background.

It all began a couple of years ago with our old entertainment/media center. There was nothing wrong with it, it was attractive enough and storage was ample but originally, in our previous home, it resided in John's den. It provided him with his own private TV so that he could watch his football games or golf tournaments while I wallowed in HGTV home improvement programs and girlie craft shows such as Carol Duval. This worked splendidly in our other home as our family room contained a whole wall of built in cabinets that housed TV, stereo, video and DVD recorders and players, storage for record albums, tapes, video cassettes, toys, puzzles, name it and it was probably in there.

Photo above...Old media center, doors all closed.

Photo below...Old media center, door open to show antiquated TV.

All of that however was built in, attached permanently and remained when we sold the house and moved. Our new home had only a blank wall in the family room and that's where John's entertainment center was placed, along with the promise that we would build another unit similar to the one we had left behind. Well in the movies the seasons would be drifting by; a montage of scenes splashing before you. First a vignette of bright sunshine and daisies,then fading into the purples, reds and golds of autumn foliage, then melting into scenes of wintry snow and icicles, and eventually focusing into a cheerful spring garden, filled with pastel flowers and butterflies; these snippets of time would flash before you heralding the passage of time. First one year and then another and now onto the third and the media center remained implanted in the family room.

Photos...Winter- frost on my oregano/Spring-Magnolia blossom/Summer- Fiesta Lantana plant

Perhaps it was our son-in-law that put the bee in John's bonnet, he mentioned how there were numerous sales going on for the big flat screen plasma TVs. In reality our daughter and son-in-law were trying to bring us into the 21st century, hoping to get us to shed our woolly mammoth hide clothing and come out of our cave and into the modern world.

John, being one attracted to electronics like most men, was curious to see what was out there. He spent weeks scouting out the discount stores and electronic stores, studied literature about plasma TV for hours, read Consumer's Reports, searched the Internet and finally settled upon THE TV!!!
I suppose he could have picked out a larger unit, though it was considerably bigger than what we had first agreed upon...yeah, can you hear the ka-ching, ka-ching? Thankfully it's nowhere near as big as it could have been.

Photo above...the new kid on the block, our HDTV sitting on its temporary home, our heavy duty folding buffet table.

We had now committed ourselves; fortunately it wasn't into an asylum, which would have been less expensive than our commitment to this massive blank eye that stared at us unblinkingly. It needed it's space, it's own abode and so we shuffled things around, cleared everything away from the family room wall and drug the heavy, folding buffet table out from under our bed. The old entertainment center was moved into John's den, along with the old TV, making room for the new flat screen HDTV unit and, ultimately, a new media center...however this part of it was still on the drawing board. TO BE CONTINUED. . .

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