Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Open Letter to the Charlatans at Groupon

Dear Groupon:

I feel it is my duty to inform you that the purveyor of one of your daily deals is providing less than the level of service it advertises. In fact, I would go so far as to say this business is approaching fraud in the way it conducts itself. Since your service is by far my favorite online provider of belly-dance lessons, permanent eyebrow tattoos, and discounted meals at obscure area restaurants, it seems to me you would appreciate being informed when one of your participating vendors is giving your reputation a black eye by association.

Allow me to briefly lay out my story in hopes that others may be spared my experience. It began, as most visits to my inbox do, with a new Groupon email.  By the way, the frequency and inevitability of receiving your offerings is on a par with that of the Valu-Pak mailers that arrive in my mailbox and are similarly brimming with relevant local deals, and I thank you for that. I scrolled past the romantic getaway to Houston and the BYOB crockery-painting class - there are only so many weekend trips and drunken art studios one can fit in, no matter how delightful - but I stopped when I saw the deal for "mole removal."

The abstract graphic representation of the mole was intriguing.
This was a real stroke of good fortune for me. With the onset of Spring gardening season, I've found myself battling these pesky critters in my yard, where they root and dig and generally make a mess of my lovingly-planted flower beds. Also, while their blind shuffling about is undeniably adorable, they've bumped into my patio support columns so often that I fear they're becoming structurally unsound (the columns, not the moles). And so I jumped at the opportunity to have up to three moles removed for the astonishingly low price of just $39 (a $350 value).

They're only cute if they belong to someone else.

When I contacted the featured business, the representative was initially very polite and friendly. She asked me about the moles I wanted removed, and I said they were the standard variety - small, hairy, and generally obnoxious. She said she understood completely and promised their removal would be discreet and painless. This I appreciated very much; there's no shame in having a garden plagued by varmints, but there's no need for the neighbors to know, and really no call to visit cruelty upon them. We're all God's creatures.

We set up a date and time for an initial consultation, which I thought was very thorough. Unfortunately, the representative failed to arrive, even though I waited at home the entire day, during which time I personally witnessed the moles having their way with my succulents. I called the business to inquire whether there had been some miscommunication regarding our appointment. I was then informed that it was in fact I who had failed to show up at the arranged time. I was incredulous.

Do you mean to tell me, I asked, that you expect me to bring the moles to you?

Upon which I was told that the business does not make house calls, and would I like to reschedule my appointment.

At this point I'm afraid I became quite flustered. Trying to keep my voice calm and reasonable, I asked, If I'm paying you $39 to have my moles removed, yet I'm required to catch, cage, and transport them to your establishment myself, what exactly am I paying for? What will you do upon taking possession of the moles that constitutes "removal" beyond what I've accomplished on my own?

There was a long pause on the line, and then the representative rather timidly explained some procedure involving lasers. Lasers?! Good Lord, I want the beasts humanely relocated, not subjected to spy-grade weaponry.

I told the representative I would prefer to try traps, loud noises, or perhaps spreading a mild pesticide on the affected areas. She hung up on me.

Is this the kind of negative customer service experience Groupon wishes its clients to have? If so, then you should continue to offer deals from this business, because my experience has left me wanting no part of this particular operation. I believe I've wasted my time and money, and I still have the problem of voracious rodents among my plants. I really feel this company has no expertise in the service it claims to provide. Frankly, I'm baffled that it chose to advertise on Groupon at all, or that you agreed to let it do so without making some attempt to ascertain that it could deliver on the promise of low-cost, effective pest control.

If it is at all possible, I would like a refund of my $39. Under separate cover, I will lodge a complaint against another of your advertising businesses, which claimed to offer "custom framing" yet refused to arrange for my abrasive neighbor to be falsely accused of any crime at all, let alone one tailored to my specifications. This apparent pattern of disappointing Groupon deals is worrying to me, as it should be to you.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Charles Baudelaire
(not the 19th century French poet)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ten Things You Forget When You Stop Sewing

Or, Ten Things You Remember When You Start Sewing Again.

1. Choosing fabric for your project is terrifying. It has to be perfect. What if you get it wrong? Worse, what if you mess up your project? That one-of-a-kind vintage bolt end is gone, baby.

2. Pinning and cutting the pattern pieces is soooo tedious. How can it possibly take so many different parts to make a simple top/dress/skirt?

3. Was it this hard to thread the needle last time I sewed? The eye must have shrunk from disuse. That's the ticket.

4. You have to keep the tension when you're winding a bobbin, or you end up with a loose, saggy mess of thread. There's probably a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

5. The cleanest, straightest seam you ever sew will be when you didn't notice the bobbin thread ran out halfway through.

6. Nothing is quite as specifically, exquisitely painful as sticking a pin into the pad of your fingertip.

7. Pressing is even more important than actual sewing. Getting a perfect press does more for the quality of the finished garment than sewing a perfect seam.

8. Stay-stitch, slip-stitch, edge-stitch, tack-stitch...so much sewing that no one ever even sees! But it all totally counts.

9. Pattern pieces under a type of fission and expand in size once released from their package. Once out, they will never, ever, ever go back in again.

10. Sewing time doesn't work the same as regular time. The phrase "just give me five minutes to finish off this edge" bears no relation to reality. Five minutes means you've missed two meals and all your favorite TV programs.

I've really missed sewing.