Fabric Fiasco

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From October 2014 to January 2015 I lived with my daughter and son-in-law up in Washington to help them with their newborn daughter.  During my stay, I asked if they wanted me to reupholster their sectional couch.  It was a “freebie” from a neighbor and the white covering was thin and stained and out-dated and scratched all to hell by the cats.  The first week of November, daughter and I went to the local JoAnn’s up in Silverdale, WA and picked out a fabric for the couch and cushions.  Since we needed 30 yards, I opted to buy the entire thing via special order.  The issue being there was only 18 yards in the warehouse, so we found 12 yards at two stores in Washington and California, and on-line ordered the 18.

Of course, this being my first attempt at upholstery, I knew something would go wrong along the line .. and sure enough, it did.  I posted my rants about this to Facebook beginning about 4 weeks after we ordered the material …

December 13, 2014
Hello [Facebook] friends … It’s been a while.
Want to hear a rant? Yes, peeps … a rant!  (warning to those not willing to listen to rants at the moment: scroll past this and all will be ok …).

About November 6, I ordered 18 yards of $49.99 fabric at 60% off plus an additional 50% off “one time coupon” for the couch, plus 2 yards of a clearance fabric at $9.99 for pillows for a re-upholstery project. The 18 yards was “out of stock and no longer available” … the 2 yards was sent to the wrong address. After 8 e-friggin-mails later I was told that I was to blame for the address issue. I send a screen shot of my order with the correct ship to address to JoAnn’s and received no reply … zippo, nada, nil, silence until the cows come home.

I and my family called UPS 5 times asking where the damned fabric was … and we were finally told I had to drive to the regional distribution center which was about 30 miles away to ask that question and receive a response. On November 13, I did so and I was met with the rudest people on planet earth. The manager of the facility literally threatened to have me physically thrown out of the building because I called one of his employees a “dumbshit” to his face (not hers) because she could not find my order despite my giving her the email, tracking number and god knows what else. (She wandered around the facility for over 2 hours, then gave up and went to lunch without telling me or anyone else.)  All this for 2 yards of fabric?  I was FINALLY told by another employee that the fabric had been returned to JoAnn’s warehouse and I should contact them for a refund.  Finger-pointing 101 classes.

The next day I received a postcard telling me that the USPS had “found” my fabric and was being held at the UPS distribution center (oh damn and facepalm!) until 5 PM that day. I had to drive back there, give them the card, and was told by a different manager from the day prior that it wasn’t their fault I didn’t tell them that the USPS was a “partner” in the delivery. EXCUSE ME!!!???  How the hell am I supposed to know that when the tracking number is a UPS issued one?  It took me two trips of 120 miles total to be insulted?  I could have stayed home and posted to social media for that … AND saved gas and wear and tear on the car to boot.

Flash forward to November 29 … I received an email from JoAnn’s telling me the 18 yards of fabric that was “not available” had been shipped (oh good Lord Almighty!  Seriously?) … to … you got it … the WRONG DAMNED ADDRESS AGAIN!  I emailed them and said I had already ordered and paid for a transfer of the material from 2 different local stores (more on in the next post since it is its own “fun” story), and that I didn’t need the fabric. The response from Customer Service?  “Thank you for your inquiry. Do not reply to this email. We are checking into your issue and will respond within the next 14 to 21 days.” What. The. Fucking. Hell?!  In addition, the tracking number on the second shipment was completely wrong .. it did not belong to UPS, FedEx or the USPS (we found out later it was a JoAnn’s internal number). After another 15 plus messages back and forth I was told, “Thank you for your inquiry. It would appear this has been answered therefore we are deleting the complaint from our system.”  ARRRGGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!  This was yesterday December 12 … 14 damned days after the fabric I didn’t need and which wasn’t available was supposedly shipped.

Shockingly and much to my surprise, the 18 yards was delivered at 9 am on December 13 (today), and I promptly emailed JoAnn’s and told them I don’t need it. Their response: “Since the item you ordered is cut on demand it is not returnable.”

OK … so … JoAnn’s … Here’s the dealio:  I am reporting the $330 charge to my bank card as fraud. I am letting the Attorney Generals of the State of California, State of Washington, and whichever sorry-assed damned state you are incorporated in that I am pissed as hell. I do not need the fabric, I will not pay for the fabric, and you WILL take it back. And I will tell everyone I have ever known since the day I was born that your company is a pile of dog shit in the customer service area.

Speaking of that … in case you haven’t noticed, we have been in a recession for the past 8 years. People who have skills making others happy have been laid off yet you, JoAnn’s, have hired people with no brains, no skills, no empathy, and a don’t-give-a-crap attitude. In today’s environment, you seriously need to rethink this from a HR point of view because I can, and will, order from others online who can, and will, meet my expectations.

In other words, JoAnn’s … YOU SUCK AND YOU OWE ME $330 plus my time and energy of about 24 hours at $50 an hour to figure out YOUR screw ups.

As we say in California even though I am currently in Washington state … have a nice day assholes.

December 14, 2014
We pick up the story when I was told that the 18 yards of fabric I needed was not available from the warehouse (November 14). George and I had already found 12 of the 30 yards necessary for the job (6 in Southern California which he shipped to me, and 6 up here in Washington). I looked up stock on-line at each of the locations around the Seattle area for the remaining 18 yards, and viola! Federal Way, WA had 13 in stock and Lynnwood, WA had 9. George called Federal Way and had them confirm the 13 and hold it for me. Lynnwood was a different issue. He was placed on hold for at least 30 minutes, then was told “I’m the only one here. I’ll call you back when I have time.”  He eventually hung up after giving them his number, but they did not call back.

I then went over the to the Silverdale store, and told the woman at the special order desk that I wanted to transfer 18 yards from the two stores (the only other option was my driving “around the horn” to Seattle which is about 80 miles one way to pick it up). It took almost 2 hours to complete the transfer tasks (this is starting to sound like JoAnn’s Standard Operating Procedure, huh?) and this was just about as laughable as ordering the yardage on-line:

1) The clerk had to find the store numbers and phone numbers for Fed Way and Lynnwood, and sure enough the special little, black 3-ring binder was missing the “Store Listing” page. She had to page a manager who spent over 20 minutes going through EVERY 3-ring binder behind the desk, in the office, and under the cutting tables to no avail. In the meantime, I pulled out my cell phone and looked the store numbers and phone numbers up and handed them to the clerk. It took me all of about 1 minute to do this, and I was told by the manager that I “wasn’t funny” for showing her up. (I personally thought this was hilarious and commented that it wasn’t my fault JoAnn’s didn’t allow them to use cell phones while on the clock).
2) The clerk called Federal Way and confirmed they had the 13 yards held in my name and it would immediately be placed in the transfer area. Awesome … that was easy.
3) The clerk then called Lynnwood and was placed on hold for 20 minutes. When she finally got hold of someone, there was a rather heated discussion between them as to why I had not put the fabric on hold BEFORE going to Silverdale. I explained that we had tried to do this, but Lynnwood was “busy” and didn’t call us back. It took Lynnwood about 20 minutes to confirm the 5 yards was indeed in stock and would be placed on hold and in transfer.
4) After being at the store for 1 hour, all of the fabric is on hold and in transfer area. So far so good, right?  Wrong.  The clerk had never rung up a transfer sale before. She paged the manager, who showed her how. THEN the computer didn’t recognize the sale price. She paged the manager again, who “fixed” the price (I was told the sale had expired and I had to look THAT up via my cell phone too to prove the price was still valid until 11/22 … the manager wasn’t happy about my “showing her up” again). THEN the computer would not accept my 30% off coupon. She paged the manager again, who by this time refused to make eye contact with me. THEN the computer system went off line and we had to wait 10 minutes for it to reboot … and had to start all over again.
5) We finally got the Federal Way fabric order out of the way, then tried to ring up Lynnwood’s transfer. Key word there … tried. Since I was ordering it under the same name as the Federal Way material, it wouldn’t let me use the 30% off “one item per day per customer” coupon. We had to start all over using my daughter’s name.

Two hours after setting foot in the store, I walked out with my sale rung up and the promise that the transfer would be completed within 14 days. WHAT!!!??  (To their credit, the fabric arrived 3 days later.)

I don’t know what was more insanely funny about this whole fiasco … 1) the complete lack of organization, personnel training, and lack of customer service from JoAnn’s management and employees; 2) the completely pissed off looks I was getting from other customers who were waiting in line (JoAnn’s only had 2 registers open this entire time and management was pretty upset they had to lower themselves to cashier status to take care of holiday shoppers since I was basically hogging the Special Order Desk the entire time) and by the store manager who was “shown up”; or 3) my truly awesome control of my anger level … I was actually cracking jokes and entertaining the clerk while she was apologizing over and over and over and over and over for their ineptitude. Apology or not … it was truly difficult to watch this without face-palming every 5 minutes.

January 6, 2015
The couch is finished! Yea! In order to complete this, I had to do the following during the insanity of the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) and helping take care of a newborn:
1) Endure 2 fabric shipment problems;
2) Endure tracking down and transferring material that was supposedly “no longer in stock”;
3) Travel to two locations 10 miles apart (Silverdale and Port Orchard) to find 3 out-of-stock items (bulk zipper pulls which are manufactured by Dritz and which stock is “maintained” by a vendor service that only comes in every 4 to 6 weeks according to the store employees, and upholstery thread in the colors I needed which are also a vendor service maintained item, and bulk zippers by the yard which I decided to substitute prepackaged zippers that were too long and which I modified to fit);
4) Return a defective staple gun (also manufactured by Dritz) 1/2 way through the project (and by the way, I recommend going to Lowe’s or Home Depot and getting a “better” gun for the same or lower price). The second gun also kept jamming toward the end but I made it through by pulling about 2x the number of staples I was using versus those that were going in correctly. (It was suggested when I returned the first gun that I was not educated in the proper gun use and technique. After explaining my experience working for Home Depot, the manager apologized for her assumption);
5) Figure out a substitute fabric for the area under the bottom cushions since JoAnn’s does not carry it in stock.  (No JoAnn’s, the bottom dust cover is NOT the same thing and no I will NOT “special order” it).  I just used the upholstery fabric which looks good; and,
6) Make a judgement call as to whether I could substitute 1/2″ foam for the thin 1/4″ that was on the couch originally. Not one single employee in either of two locations could answer the question.  I opted to use 1/2″.

January 11 – 12, 2015
I drove from Washington to California with the 18 yards of fabric needing return in my car.  Hey JoAnn’s and UPS!  Listen to this … IT ONLY TOOK ME 19 HOURS (2 DAYS) TO GET IT THERE.

January 16, 2015
Customer service issued a Call Tag for the 18 yards of fabric according to an email this morning … it’s supposed to be picked up on Monday January 19th. I’m not holding my breath because the idiots will probably send the tag to Washington.

January 22, 2015
The fabric has left the building!  (I’m glad I didn’t hold my breath for 3 days.)

January 30, 2015 – February 2, 2015
I got an email from JoAnn’s:  “A refund has been issued to your method of payment. If your payment included Jo-Ann Gift Card(s), a new gift card has been issued.  If your shipment included a prepaid return label, a return shipping fee has been deducted from your refund. If you chose not to use the prepaid return label and shipped on your own please call our Customer Service Team.
I received the refund 2 days later and they did not charge me for the return freight.

So … A project that should have taken 2 weeks most from beginning to end (buying fabric to sitting on a newly reupholstered couch) took instead 12 weeks (not including the week I took off for the holidays) mostly due to inventory and shipping issues. All in all, I spent 16 hours taking off the old material; 8 hours stapling on new foam; 8 hours cutting and sewing new material; and 24 hours stapling on the new material (about 7 days), plus about 7 days back and forth for various supplies.

And, I highly recommend that if you have arthritis, you not attempt this … my hands are killing me!

couchbeforefront

couchbeforeback

Postscript March 30, 2016: 
It’s been over a year since this adventure.  I continue to receive emails from JoAnn’s about sales and clearances and % off coupons despite my numerous requests to remove me from their mailing lists.  I avoid JoAnn’s at all costs and order directly from the manufacturer or purchase from local suppliers or via Amazon.com or eBay or Craigslist, or I shop at Michael’s when absolutely necessary.  What is interesting and in retrospect is JoAnn’s bought out House of Fabrics back in the 1990’s, and the Controller from HoF became my supervisor at Home Depot Western Regional for a short period of time.  I can now see why he left JoAnn’s.

The couch has been moved with my daughter’s family to her new home in Japan, and it seems to be holding up well despite my amateur skills.

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Stuck in the middle

Anyone else notice that no matter which political party you subscribe to, you probably don’t agree with either or any of the candidates running for office?

I’ve watched some of the debates on both sides, Democrat and Republican, and it’s embarrassing that this is supposedly the best America has to offer to lead 330 or so million people.  Back when I was a kid, we were told “ANYONE can someday be President of the United States!”  Obviously the current candidate pool believed that, and now voters are stuck in the middle of multiple conflicting and often times dirty mudslinging.

stuckinmiddle

I’m Glad I Didn’t Wet Myself

There are many reasons and finger pointing with respect to why California’s drought started and hasn’t ended … global warming, some moron’s decision to drain the reservoirs here in 2009 in anticipation of rains that would never come, legal protection of the Delta Smelt (a nasty non-native fish that is now officially extinct which begs the question as to why we are still trying to “save” it) which requires we route water to the ocean instead of to farmland, failed El Nino/La Nina cycles, failure to put in desalinization plants, etc.  One fact is undisputed:  California is hurting for water.

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Our little neck of the woods was asked in early 2014 to reduce our water use (based on 2013 numbers) by 10%; four months later, that was raised to 20%.  In 2015, the “voluntary” reductions were replaced with MANDATORY budgets of 30%, 50% and now 70% of 2013 use … specifically with respect to outdoor watering.

This doesn’t really sound like a big deal but in a state that gets an “average” of about 12 inches of rain per year, not washing our cars, turning off the beach showers, not watering our lawns, or not filling our swimming pools is like telling people to cover themselves in honey and lie down on a red ant hill.  We can go to the gym and soak away the dirt and grime in the pool or sauna or hot tub, or use their showers, but there aren’t many ways around the lack of outdoor water fun.  And … California’s economy is based on three things:  tourists and computers and farming.  Telling people on vacation to not come here if they expect to bathe is the death of all that is holy in the amusement world.

Farmers and home gardeners face even more issues … no water = no crops; no crops = no food or money.  California is the “breadbasket” for 80% of the nation (100% on some crops).  We can put up with stinky people and only showering once a year whether we need it or not, but starving to death isn’t really something most people agree is a good thing.

So … what to do?  Tell the world to “eff off” and pay the “excessive water use” fines?  Not many people I know can afford a $100, $200, $300, $400, or $500 hit on a $50 water bill. Besides, sooner or later even those people who do pay the fines will find the taps empty.  Nope … best way was to bite the bullet and make changes:

  • Like most people, we opted to kill off the lawn and put at much as we could on drip and timed irrigation … and we found we still had enough allocated to our budget to grow some vegetables and herbs!  Yeah, dead grass looks like crap, but oh well.
  • In a way we were lucky … although we have 1/2 acre (a 110 x 180 ft. lot), we never put in a pool.  That problem solved.
  • Next, we had already put in 16 irrigation timer stations.  Only 5 of those are allocated to the lawn, and 13 water the planters, 3 were unused or capped off long ago… and all of the planters were already on drip heads.  Third issue checked off.
  • BUT … of the 13 timers on drip irrigation, 12 of them had holes in the lines or the ends had popped off.  We spent about 4 weeks checking every single head, replacing lines, and adjusting timing.  Fourth issue out of the way.

Did we meet the voluntary and mandatory goals?  Yes most of the time, and no a couple of months.  We are allowed about 7,480 gallons of indoor water per month for 4 people (about 62 gallons per person per day to shower, do the dishes and laundry, personal hygiene).  Our outdoor budget changes from month to month depending on the season and weather.  The problem we face now is the possibility that our mandatory 70% outdoor use cut will be a 100% cut by October.  That will prove to be difficult.

Here are the outdoor numbers and math (I promise to make it easy and not do equations and word problems.  You’re welcome for that).  Blue is the base year; red means we missed our goal; green means we made it …

January
2013 used 40 BU
2014 used 38 BU (allocated 36 BU)
2015 used 16 BU (allocated 25.2 BU)
2016 used 0 BU (allocated 12 BU) (I doubt this but I’ll take it)

February
2013 used 40 BU
2014 used 9 BU (allocated 36 BU)
2015 used 12 BU (allocated 25.2 BU)
2016 … (allocated 12 BU)

March
2013 used 39 BU
2014 used 30 BU (allocated 35.1 BU)
2015 used 32 BU (allocated 24.6 BU)
2016 … (allocated 11.7 BU)

April
2013 used 57 BU
2014 used 30 BU (allocated 45.6 BU)
2015 used 30 BU (allocated 31.9 BU)
2016 … (allocated 17.1 BU)

May
2013 used 57 BU
2014 used 44 BU (allocated 45.6 BU)
2015 used 14 BU (allocated 31.9 BU)
2016 … (allocated 17.1 BU)

June
2013 used 74 BU
2014 used 59 BU (allocated 59.2 BU)
2015 used 20 BU (allocated 41.4 BU)
2016 … (allocated 22.2 BU)

July
2013 used 70 BU
2014 used 62 BU (allocated 56 BU)
2015 used 9 BU (allocated 39.2 BU)
2016 … (allocated 21 BU)

August
2013 used 72 BU
2014 used 68 BU (allocated 57.6 BU)
2015 used 16 BU (allocated 40.3 BU)
2016 … (allocated 21.6 BU)

September
2013 used 52 BU
2014 used 55 BU (allocated 41.6 BU)
2015 used 19 BU (allocated 26 BU)
2016 … (allocated 15.6 BU)

October
2013 used 42 BU
2014 used 31 BU (allocated 33.6 BU)
2015 used 13 BU (allocated 21 BU)
2016 … (allocated 12.6 BU)

November
2013 used 26 BU
2014 used 24 BU (allocated 20.8 BU)
2015 used 7 BU (allocated 13 BU)
2016 … (allocated 7.8 BU)

December
2013 used 45 BU
2014 used 8 BU (allocated 36 BU)
2015 used 9 BU (allocated 22.5 BU)
2016 … (allocated 13.5 BU)

How many dollars does this equate to? (these numbers include indoor, outdoor, sewer, and infrastructure fees) …
2013 … $2,826.42
2014 … $2,192.52
2015 … $1,387.97

So … about a $1,500 annual savings which just about paid for building the vegetable garden boxes.  Win/win … I grow my own food AND feel good that I helped save water.

 

Build a Box

A question came up recently in a gardening group I’m a member of as to which wood is best for raised planters. When we first laid out our garden plan, we had to choose a type of material for the planters and had that same question.

We wanted to save on cost, be able to replace any broken bits and parts easily, and have quick access to buried irrigation lines. The choices were wood, plastic or molded boxes, brick or stone, metal or a combination of each.

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gardenboxbrick  gardenboxblock

gardenboxplastic  gardenboxmetalwood

The biggest issue with plastic or molded boxes or metal is the cost. A 4’x3’ box costs about $55 to $125 depending on depth. With over 30 sections in our plan that would be over $1,750 for just the planters. Yikes! Add $1,000 in planter mix, gravel, weed cloth, plants and it would take a full year to recoup costs via lower food and water expenses.

Brick and block work well cost-wise but you need to have some masonry skills to pull this off and have it look good. Plus, the stones or bricks are heavy. If you need to replace any one of them or get to the irrigation system, removal can be difficult.

Wood is a good choice but there are issues with respect to the type of wood. Here’s a good table explaining the pros and cons of each type:

Species Pros Cons How to source sustainably
Ce​dar – Beautiful, smooth, elegant appearance

– Easily takes stains or paint

– Fairly long lifespan – 20+ years for Western Red Cedar

– Chemical-free

– Possible to buy sustainably-grown

– Often untraceable sourcing

– Much cedar is imported

– Source products that are harvested and milled in the United States

– Choose Select Tight Knot instead of Clear grade to minimize waste and reduce demand for Old Growth

Juniper – Very long lifespan – 50+ years

– Great for gardens where a wabi sabi, modern look is preferred

– Chemical-free

– Inexpensive

– Rustic look doesn’t appeal to everyone

– Juniper is more prone to movement than other species, which can be a challenge for vertical installations
– Not easily acquired in all areas

– Juniper is sourced from grassland restoration projects in Oregon

– Its harvest helps improve an ecosystem, not damage one

Pressure-Treated  – Easy to find

– Fairly long lifespan – 20+ years

– Inexpensive

– Contains chemical preservatives that are designed to impede biological activity, which may damage garden soil

– Chemicals may migrate from soil into food

– Buy wood that is treated with an alternative to CCA (chromated copper arsenate, which contains arsenic), such as borate, ACQ, or CA (copper azole) (California requires CA use for all treated lumber)
Reclaimed Wood – Keeps material out of the waste stream

– Can be rustic and charming

– Usually inexpensive

– May be challenging to find the right sizes

– Wood may contain unknown chemical additives

– Lead paint may chip off into soil

– Unknown species may not offer much durability

– Try to find cedar, redwood, or another naturally durable species

– Try to find wood that is untreated and unpainted

Redwood – Beautiful color

– Elegant

– Fairly long lifespan – 20+ years

– Chemical-free

– Can be very expensive

So … after we figured out that we wanted to use pressure treated 4×4” posts and cedar or redwood fence boards, it was just a matter of putting them together, right? Ha! There are hundreds of “styles” and ways to do this. What we opted to do was cut a groove in the 4×4 posts and drop the cedar fence boards in, then cap the top of the post with something that would look “nice” (we opted for recycled wood scrap toppers painted white). Here are the pictures of the steps to build the boxes:

  • Take an 8 ft. 4×4 post of treated lumber and cut it into quarters (24” each).
  • Router the middle of one side with a 1” router bit down the length of two fence boards (about 10 to 11 inches depending on board width)
  • Turn the posts upside down so the tops are facing the concrete.
  • Cut the fence boards to size. Slide two boards into the routed slots and nail or staple in place. Do this to all 4 sides.
  • Turn the box right-side-up and place in pre-dug holes (the holes we dug were 14 inches deep which allows for 10 to 11 inches above ground and enough space under the posts to raise or lower as necessary to level the box).
  • Level the box as you fill in the post holes. You may need to cut back a “groove” from post hole to post hole to do this.
  • Fill in the post holes completely, water and tamp down, then let it sit for a couple of days to settle. Fill in any sunken areas as needed.

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Cut wood, boards, and routed the posts.

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Built upside down then placed into the holes.

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There are definitely easier ways to do this, but we liked how this looks and the slots allow us to replace boards easily.

The cost of wood per 4×3 ft. box? … About $31.75
1 4×4-8 treated posts = about $11
6 6 ft. 5” dog ear cedar fencing = about $15
4 top caps = about $5.75 ($8.50 for a pack of 6)

Total cost for 30 boxes and a trellis … about $1000 (we spent the remaining $750 on planting mix, pea gravel, and weed mat, plus seeds and plants) J The garden is about 1450 sq. ft. so the cost is just about $1.50 per after all is said and done (not including any new irrigation items).

More later on how much water we saved by taking out most of the back lawn.