January 3, 2007

A Tale of Two Easels

(or three. Or four, depending on how you count....)

As promised, I must explain what happened. I do preschool-ish stuff at home with both girls (which is a little tricky, because obviously they're at pretty different developmental stages; but Laura's gotten a lot better about keeping things Emily shouldn't get into out of her reach.)

I thought one thing that would make our experiences better/more fun/more educational would be an easel. So I shopped around a bit online, and ultimately settled on one sold by one of my favorite vendors, Discount School Supply. They have furnished most of our classroom stuff. Let me say here that my faith in them has been fully justified thus far, in spite of the harrowing account you are about to read: they're good people, and they really do stand by their guarantee (see title, above!). Using our budget amount and trying to get the most uses out of the dollars, I picked the "Elite 5-in-One Easel", put in my order, and waited for it to arrive (they're just down in California, so it doesn't take long for things to get to me--another reason to like them. I might feel differently if I lived on the East Coast...).

A few days later--very early in December; plenty of time for Santa to do his thing--the easel arrived. I noticed that there was a small hole in the shipping carton, so I opened it up and...there was a hole punched right into the chalkboard side! Waaaaah. Right through the bubble wrap, leaving a nasty jagged edge. Naturally, I called as soon as possible during their business hours; they said they were very sorry and would send another one. Having actually read the back of the receipt enclosed, I asked where I should leave the damaged goods for UPS (since usually, to file a claim with a carrier for damage, you have to show them the damage. Makes sense.) They said, "Oh, just chuck it. It's not worth it to ship it back."

Uh-huh.

Okay.

It's not going to fit in my garbage can. Do I want to pay $3.00 to have the garbage people haul away the "extra"? I do not.

Let's take another look at that hole, shall we? Hmmmm...I bet Matt has some trim pieces out in the garage that would cover up that hole; it's really not very big, and if the jagged edges weren't out where little hands could get them....So I put it on the back burner, did not put it in the trash, and waited for the new, improved easel.

Easel #2 arrives. I happened to meet the UPS guy, and was very glad; this time, there was a ragged tear about a foot long on the carton; I only needed to peel back its edges a bit to see into the awful truth: there was also a huge crack on THIS one's chalkboard. So I refused delivery and back it went.

This time, I was a little more direct on the phone. "You've GOT to see if the people in the warehouse can do a little better packing; obviously, the bubble wrap just isn't cutting it for UPS. Can they stuff some newspaper around it or something???" Christmas isn't getting any farther away, after all. They apologized profusely for the trouble, and cut the price 10%. Fair enough.

Easel #3 arrives in due course, and by the grace of God alone (for they had not particularly improved the packing), it was all in one piece. It was wrapped, easel #2 was fixed, and my speech for how nice it will be not to have to fight over them (because there is now one for each child) is all prepared.

This is not, however, the end of the story. One of the things I really wanted the easel(s) for was the magnetic board; you can do a lot of fun stuff with magnets that are more of a pain to set up in felt. So I, on a whim, tried seeing how strong a little magnet would be on the board and....it just fell off. I tried a bigger magnet. It slid right down; no stickiness! The only things I could get any magnetic attraction from on the whole easel were the hinges (faint) and the clips for holding paper (pretty strong, as they work partly by magnetism.) Argh. Is this worth the 10% they already took off? I don't think so...so, I call again.

Aha! The nice lady says yes, they've been having some problems with the vendor; I'm not the only one who has had this issue (glad to know the universe isn't targeting me and my easels [s] alone!). Before she can offer, I say quickly: "DON'T SEND ME ANOTHER EASEL!" My office just isn't that big! (and who knows how many tries it would take for it to get here whole?) So she asks what I'd like; I would like enough of a refund that I can purchase something that IS magnetic, as that's what I didn't get. It's even fine if it's a store credit; I have no problem ordering from them, and it's clear it's the product, not the seller. She checks with the manager, then calls back and gives me more than I had asked for (they decided on something like a third of the original price, ignoring the 10% that I had already gotten, and refunded it to the credit card--leaving me free to spend it anywhere); again, quite fair.

So, I went back to their site over break and ordered a table-top easel (which is also supposed to be able to be attached to a wall, or standing easel...if it just attracts magnets, I'll be happy!).

So far, in spite of the tribulations, I have been happy with the reception they've gotten in preschool. We have not fully explored all the things they can do, but the girls picked up right away the potential for coloring "on the up-and-up" that they provide. That's a good thing, because after all that, I'd be feeling pretty cranky if they weren't appreciated!

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