Monday, February 27, 2012

How Renovations Turned Me Into a Spy.

This one will take a while.  You'd best settle in for a long read.

Last week Monday, our counter guy, Patrick came to measure for our new quartz countertops.  It was a bit tricky to sort out the shape of the island given the constraints of island and light placement, but in the end we agreed on a plan and Patrick meticulously measured for the counter.  As he was packing up, he asked for the template for our sink.

I didn't know he needed it to fabricate the counter tops but I knew I could check with our project manager and he would get it for me. 

I had left no sink unturned in my dogged search for the sink-of-my-dreams (SOMD).  I wanted a square-ish modern one, undermount, but also one with a low divide, off-set (one sink smaller than the other) and in stainless steel.  We went to a plumbing supplier recommended by our contractor and they did not think that such a sink existed.  They obviously did not have as much time to google as I did and I found one:
And it was a recognizable brand name (Kohler) so I really only worried about the sink costing more than a college education. I didn't want to have to choose between Jackson becoming an astrophysicist and the SOMD.  I was pleasantly surprised when the sink came in at a reasonable price.

We ordered it. In January. I only thought of SOMD in my actual dreams when I dreamt of the future times when the renovation was done and there was not an inch of sawdust on every flat surface and I could be washing new dishes in my new sink.

So I called Project Manager and he said he would pop over to the plumbing supply place to pick up the sink, which would have a template.  On my one day in the office last week (Tuesday) I got a call from Husband that the sink was on backorder for 10 weeks.  "Back order" is renovation speak for you-can't-have-it-unless-you-want-to-delay-your-project. Or really, it's a 'no'. 

Our conscientious supplier called the state of Wisconsin, the international Kohler hub.  This sink is new.  And had not even been manufactured yet.  Yes, SOMD was elusive.  It was but a sketch on paper in China, and not yet formed.

Over the next few hours, Husband and I recreated every google search we had ever done on sinks to find what would be our 2nd, 3rd and 4th choices.  We decided quickly that our second choice was also a Kohler one, in the same line as SOMD but with 2 equal sinks.  We expected the same 10 week backorder, but were moderately happy to learn it was available in 3 weeks. While it might delay the end of our project, it was due about the time as our project was originally due to end (you see, we're ahead of schedule). Not the worst news.  But of course we still needed the template. Or the counters couldn't be done. And the back splash had to wait.  And so the dominoes would fall.

But my crafty plumbing lady had been to this rodeo before. She had a printing guy, who could take a "dxf" file, which I think is Autocad, and have it printed on the large paper we needed.  The dxf files are on the manufacturers' websites just for these exact situations.  Crafty lady told me not to worry about the template, that could be sorted once we chose a sink.

We found another sink we loved, even more than the SOMD.  We thought about ordering this one, until we realized it was $1000 more than the 10 week SOMD (and it's 3 week backup), which we could not in any way justify.

Our project manager had a steel fabricator who he thought could fabricate anything.  We ask for a quote on the plus $1000 sink, thinking we might get lucky and get this one fabricated in 12 minutes for $150.  We waited about a day to find out that the price was in line with the manufacturer's price and the wait time was still 3 weeks.

So we resigned to order the almost SOMD, the 2 equal sinks that could come in 3 weeks.  While it was a shame to set back our schedule when we worked so hard to gain days and sometimes hours,  getting what you want is also worth something.

As the order was about to be placed, I asked crafy plumbing lady if we had it shipped to the US, whether we could receive it any sooner. Even a week sooner would get us back on track for an early arrival on the overall project.  She liked the idea, and said she would look into it.

In the most generous-hearted gesture in all of the land of plumbing,  crafty plumbing lady told me I could probably get the sink right away it I bought it straight from an American supplier.  She even gave me a name of a US firm, even though her firm would make no money from it.

And so I called America and asked for quotes on the SOMD, the 3 week almost-dreamy sink and the tantalizing plus $1000 sink.  The plus $1000, was still plus $1000 and the favourable exchange rate quoted nightly on the busniess news was just not that favourable one you added foreign exchange spreads and credit card fees.  But, surprisingly, the SOMD came in $150 less than the Canadian price.  Curiously, they said it was theoretically available right away (i.e. had been manufactured), but to get that price, I would have to wait for a bunch of other people to want sinks and then they would get a good bulk rate.  And that would take a month. Or more.

I could special order it and pay extra for shipping but we could have it inside of 2 weeks.  That price was $8 less than the Canadian price I had to pay.  I know a good deal when I see one. Although I would have to take a cross-border trip to America to pick up my dreamy sink, I considered a trip to the outlet stores, just one of the sacrifices I am willing to make for this project.

I spewed the credit card numbers and heaved an enormous sigh of relief.  All that had to be done was get the template printed and to Patrick, who was already wondering 3 days later, where the template was.

I called the printer my crafty plumbing lady had recommended and said I want to print out a sink template.  I was told I had the wrong number and that I had called a printing company and they did not sell sinks.

I was transferred to a more knowledgable person  someone else and she thought I wanted them to print out the sink installation directions.  I know when to phone a friend so I called my crafty plumbing lady and she gave me the name of the guy who would know what I was talking about.

I talked to my new best friend and he assured me he would have the template printed and available for pick up the next day.  It was Thursday, late afternoon, or if you're counting three hard days of research, phone calls and plumbing angst to solve this little problem.

Or so I thought.

After dinner I got an email from new-best-friend and he said that what I thought was the template file (and I could not view it as I don't have Autocad) was actually a 3D rendering and not a template.

So Friday morning, I called the State of Wisconsin and advised the customer service people at Kohler of my need for the sink template.  I was transferred to the "literature" group at Kohler and was assured they could get me what I wanted.

My call was initially taken by someone who thought she had a great working knowledge of the Kohler website and brought me, with great condescension, to the exact document that I had found on my own. The wrong one.  She eventually owned up to the fact she was filling in in the literature department and she would check with a colleague.  She came back with a 'no'. 

I did not argue the point with her but asked to speak to a supervisor.  Said supervisor claimed, with the type of logic popular with the segment of the population that still finds peek-a-boo magic, if they didn't have the template, it didn't exist. 

 So I asked specifically "if I had the sink and I opened up the box, you are saying I would not find a template in it?" I tried really hard not to sound sarcastic. I believe I failed.

"Yes" she said.  "They just didn't make one for that sink."

I know when I'm beat. I called my American supplier. After a mere 3 hours she found the template and said it would be couriered to my house and would arrive in 5 business days.  That's a week. If you add to that the week I just spent on the phone sorting this out, that was a delay I had hoped to avoid.  If I was willing to pony up $50-60 I could have it overnight messengered (if that is a verb).  Meaning really 3 nights over the weekend.

So I accepted the additional courier fees (honestly at this point, it's like playing with Monopoly money) and told Patrick the somewhat not too bad news that I would have the template on Monday.  I was under the impression that he was waiting to even put in our counter order until he had the template. He told me that he had the counter finished and he was only waiting for the template to cut out the sink.

I had one more call from my American friend who told me that because the template was crossing into Canada they could not guarantee arrival on Monday but that  they would also not charge me $50-60.  They said arrival would be in the Monday to Wednesday range.  By this time, I was channelling my optomistic self and decided it would arrive on Monday as I had absolutely no more emotional energy to invest if the kitchen sink arrived Wednesday.

First think Monday morning I got an email saying that the template would arrive that day. Happy news! Patrick called and all I could tell him was that it was slated to arrive by 5 p.m. and that somehow I could get it to him.

An hour later, the flooring installers called down to the basement that I had a parcel at the door and I had the template in my hot little hands.  Because my luck would have to change for this to go smoothly, I opened it up and noted it had a different sink model number on it.  A few phone calls ascertained that according to Kohler and its website this was the right one.

Patrick was very happy to hear from me.  As it turned out he was working on a job not too terribly far away and could I meet him at 1 p.m. in the Home Depot parking lot?  Since I thought I would have to drive over an hour to the fabrication shop, a 15 minute drive to Home Depot would be a walk in the park. And I needed to buy new vent  registers anyway as the dirty looking plasticky ones were defintely not in the same design style as the 1500 square feet of new flooring.

So at 1 p.m. I stood in front of Home Depot and waited for Patrick.  And I completely felt like a spy (you knew I'd get here eventually).  I felt like I had a microfiche of government information, choosing a public innocuous place to hand over the information (I do realize I am dating myself with the microfiche, but the last time I saw a spy movie in the late 1990's).  If I wasn't a spy I felt like a dial-a-doper, a drug dealer who delivers drugs to customers.  I wasn't sure if I should be expecting national security or the drug squad to come around asking questions. Everyone else was walking into Home Depot with swatches of fabric or wood samples. Or they were contractors needing 2 3/4 inch screws or another gallon of paint to finish up the job. I waited. And waited. So long that I wondered if I was at the right Home Depot. 

But Patrick arrived, took the template and tomorrow, we look forward to new counters.

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