Entry 121: Let a Smile Be My Umbrella (Because It Would Be Much Easier), Part II

Previously on The Upsizers

…our hapless heroes were standing on their deck watching water leak from the large plastic umbrella base they had just spent 20 minutes filling while a patio umbrella lay at their feet unassembled because the large plastic umbrella base was leaking and a second umbrella base was missing parts. Oh, plus it was starting to rain.

There–now you’re up to date.

The first thing we did was attempt to get the 200 pounds of water out of the plastic base. Of course, we could have just waited until it all leaked out, but that might have taken longer than we wanted, considering that we’re in our late fifties.

I got the thing upright against the railing of the deck so that water started pouring out of the hole meant for water to go into. This was fine for about half the water, but the hole was in the middle of the thing, so after awhile, I had to turn it upside down and start tilting it back and forth like one of those games where you try to get the ball in the hole.

Then I went inside to call the website from which I had purchased the umbrella, Par Pool & Spa in upstate Connecticut. It became immediately evident that Par Pool & Spa in upstate Connecticut was not a large operation because when somebody finally answered he said he was on another call and would get back to me. That’s the problem with online shopping. You never know if you’re dealing with a multi-million dollar corporation or a 14-year-old in his bedroom. I suspected that Par Pool & Spa in upstate Connecticut was somewhere in between, but closer on the scale to the 14-year-old.

Meanwhile I noticed that the cover of the umbrella’s instruction booklet had a big STOP sign and this warning, in all capital letters: IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, PROBLEMS OR NEED ADDITIONAL PARTS PLEASE DO NOT RETURN TO THE PLACE OF PURCHASE. CONTACT OUR CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT TOLL-FREE AT 1-800-729-5033.

So I called the manufacturer, Southern Patio in Atlanta, Georgia and was told that they had sold the umbrella portion of their business to an outfit called Southern Casual Living. I was starting to think that perhaps we should have just let the south secede from the union and keep their damned patio umbrellas.

When I called Southern Casual Living, they informed me that:

  1. Southern Casual Living had changed its name to At Leisure.
  2. They could get the missing parts I needed in a couple of months.
  3. At Leisure, nee Southern Casual Living, had not purchased the umbrella base part of the business from Southern Patio and I would have to talk to them about that. They told me to ask for Helen, who, evidently, was the only person at Southern Patio who knew what portions of the business they still owned.

Instead, I again called Par Pool & Spa in upstate Connecticut, which had not gotten back to me.  The guy there became somewhat belligerent and told me he had just gotten off the phone with Helen at Southern Patio and that everything I had heard was wrong because while Southern Patio had, in fact, sold the umbrella business to At Leisure nee Southern Casual Living, it had kept the existing inventory and parts, and that Helen would be calling me within minutes, which she did.

Helen sounded like a fine, old-school southern lady who would be right at home sitting with a mint julep on a veranda, under an umbrella, probably purchased from some other company.

She asked if I would prefer the missing parts for the base that was packaged with the umbrella, or a replacement for the leaky base I had purchased separately. I said I wanted both, because I had paid for both.

She sighed, ruing the day she had ever agreed to work a customer service line that might occasionally have to deal with unreasonable Yankees, and wondering why only people in the south rue, while the rest of the country regrets.

She then said I’d have the stuff in about three days. I said why not tomorrow? She said because they ship UPS. I mentioned that I was pretty sure UPS had overnight service.

She sighed.

I was working up a good head of steam now. I am, I should point out, famous within my family for the color my face gets when I’m on the phone with customer service representatives.  I told Helen she could either overnight the stuff or send a truck to pick up the stuff I had, which I could not pack up in its original condition because once you take the disassembled parts of anything out of a box it can never be put back in its original condition unless the packer has an engineering degree.

A day later she informed me that they would be sending UPS to pick it up.

So now I have to find another umbrella and start all over again.  And as my trusty dog Toby and I are sitting on our deck, unprotected from any elements, I realize that you might be thinking that this was an anti-climactic ending for this post, particularly considering it was a two-parter. But it was certainly better than sitting through six seasons of Lost and never finding out what the deal was with the friggin’ polar bears!

See you soon.

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