A Retail Horror Adventure

In November 2010, with some extra money I recently received, I decided that my 15-year-old bathroom fixtures needed an upgrade. After all, they barely worked. The commode, or toilet as most of us know it, uses a ton of water with each and every flush. For the past several years, we would only flush the bigger stuff, leaving the fluids for a couple of uses to try to save water. This, of course, made cleaning the thing a bit nastier as bacteria built up faster in the sitting fluids.

My house is a five-room ranch-style on one floor that has no character at all. Since I am an artist and my spouse and I are both craftsmen, we decided that develop the character on the inside with elegant fixtures. So with this money, I decided to get some new stuff. We called a plumber we knew and asked his opinion on what brands to order that would last the remaining of my time on this planet. After all, we only get extra money very rarely so I wanted to put it to good use.

Toto is one of the best brands of toilet. It is very expensive as far as brands go, but I knew it would last longer than the house. I still had no idea what I wanted for the other fixtures, the sink and shower/bath. I would have to get back to him on what to order. I did, however, ask him to order one duel flush Toto toilet, 17 inch height for us older folks, and elongated bowl with one of those soft seat jobbies that make it impossible to sham shut.

OK, so that was progress. The nearest salesroom for the rest of the fixtures is in the next town 20 miles to the south, and that’s where I went to see the great display of everything made for your bathroom.

A couple of days later, my plumber called and said that the toilet was in. When would I like it? I asked him if it was the bone color I told him I would like, since the tub and sink were bone or almond, depending on which manufacturer you ask. No, it seems he ordered white. OK, please order the bone and when you come to install it, I will tell you what I want for fixtures.

After four weeks, I called my plumber and he said the toilet was not in. He tried calling the parts section of the supply company, but could not get an answer as to when it would be in.

It seems I needed to go ask in person and then choose what I would like to have for the fixtures. I spent nearly three hours there trying to decide what will go best in my tiny bathroom that we recently painted a deep gold and stained the woodwork a medium brown. I loved the bronze look and color to go with my somewhat crafty-style home (After all, we are craftsmen). Now, all I had to do was to find a faucet, shower-hand-held tub faucet and drain fixture to match and work with my tub (There was no way I was going to cut out a wall to get in new tub. I didn’t have that much extra money.)

Well, wouldn’t you know, not one manufacturer of all that great looking stuff made all of the fixtures I needed in the color I wanted. So I could not get all of these fixtures in the same manufacturer and I had to mix and match. That was not easy.

Finally, after more than three hours and some very helpful, albeit perplexed and ready-to-get-rid-of-me sales people, I had a list of what I liked and would work in my little space. I copied the numbers down, went directly home and emailed the websites of all the fixtures to my plumber. Now, I waited.

Two weeks, three weeks and nothing. I finally called the store and asked if the stuff had been ordered. They said my plumber had not contacted them at all and nothing had been ordered. OK, I decided to go and order the stuff myself, pay for it and find out about the toilet that had been ordered but still do not have.

Once I got there, I inquired about the Toto toilet in bone and when could I expect it? The woman helping me looked up the order, called the supply place and they said the bone color was discontinued. Toto no longer made any toilets in bone, almond or any other off white color, just white. Well, that would not work. They did have one in the sales showroom and I asked if I could purchase that one for a bit lower price since it was on display for several years. No, that could not be possible.

Well, I asked her to find a toilet, bone or almond or off white, 17 inches tall, elongated bowl with a soft close seat. She searched and said the only one she could find was made was by Kohler. Only one make and style with all those companies and all those different styles? She said that was the only one she found in all those pages in that huge ordering book.

OK, that is a good brand, so please order it. I then proceeded to pay for all of it to aid the delivery along a bit. It seems to take forever to get something in the plumbing supply area, and I figured if it was paid for it might come a little sooner. Besides, they would not order it unless it was paid for. It should be here in about two to three weeks. No problem. I could wait that long.

Three weeks went by and nothing. Four weeks, five and finally I called to see where everything was. Nothing yet. Please check and call me when you find out anything about when the stuff will arrive.

Three more weeks and still I had not heard a thing. I called again and this same woman didn’t even know what I was talking about. I, of course reminded her and that it was all paid for. “Oh, of course, I’ll check on it right now and call you back.”

Two days, three days, a week and still did not hear from her. I called again and she said it was on its way. From where, the moon? I had originally placed and paid for the order on Dec. 12, 2010. It was now Jan. 14, 2011. So what is taking so long?

Finally, on Jan. 20, the supply place called me and told me that the product had been there since Dec. 20, but the toilet came in the wrong color – white – and they were waiting for the almond to come in before calling me. They delivered it the next day. I called my plumber and he came two days later to install everything.

While the sink faucets were being sawed off by one guy, the other was taking out the old toilet and trying to install the new one. Oh-oh, it did not seem to fit! How could that be? All toilets are standard measurements, are they not? At least as far as the hole in the bowl is away from the back of the fixture. But this one did not fit over the existing hole in the floor and he would have to make this one bigger and have to extend the piping to make it all work properly. Nope. That wasn’t going to happen. I would return the toilet and order the style and model he suggested.

Now, remember I did send him all the information on all of the fixtures I ordered and paid for to him over a month prior. Why didn’t he tell me then that this particular fixture was not the best one for this bathroom? I would have changed the order right away. He said he never received the email or heard from the company. Hmmmm.

OK, now I had to return that toilet and order another style. So back to the store I went with it loaded in the back of my little Rav4. When I went in, they said because it was a special order, they could not take it back. Well, first I heard of that. I certainly understand that that this store could not possible have every style in ever color in stock, as that would require a huge store house, but they had nothing stock. So everything they had on display had to be special ordered. However, if the fixture simply did fit over the existing hole for the drainage, this is something that I could not make work. This is a sound reason for returning it.

For the store to take back the toilet, tank and seat, I would have to have authorization from Kohler, saying they would take the fixtures back and credit me for the amount of each toward a new Kohler product. This was OK by me since I needed a new toilet.

I called the company and they told me they would gladly help and said they never before had any situation like this one. They emailed me the two forms for each fixture (one for the bowl and tank and one for the seat) and told me to bring it to the store and if they filled in the proper amounts, they would credit me for a new fixture. I printed them out and went down immediately and handed over the forms. They would call me when they received the credit and I could pick out the new toilet.

A week went by, two, three and nothing. So I called again. They had not heard anything from Kohler even though they had sent in the forms. Two days later I received a call saying the company needed the mailed letters from Kohler to send in. OK, another trip south and I gave the sales people the letters I received in the mail. I gave them a Kohler number and told them to speak with the reps as to what to do next. Then I waited again.

All this time, I had the new sink faucet put in, we attached the shower head, which I loved immediately but the new water valve and drainage pieces were sitting in the basement waiting to be put in. Because it involved getting into the wall space and readjusting the copper piping, we were not able to do that ourselves. So it sat in the basement.

When I still had not heard from these folks at the fixture store after three more weeks, I called Kohler again. After explaining the situation for the third time, the representative told me I had to order the toilet first and then they would issue the credit. This was the first that anyone told me this. So I went back to the store and ordered the name, style and color of the fixture my plumber suggested. I also specifically said to order the soft closed seat as well. I made a special effort to make sure they ordered the exact seat I wanted.

I called again in two weeks. They went to check on the order and when she called back she said it was in and they would connect me with supply to set up a delivery date. Forget that. After all this time, I was not going to wait for a delivery and drove down directly to pick it up myself.

Before loading it in my car, I asked to please open the boxes to make sure if the color and style was what I ordered. They were. Hallelujah!! But wait, where was the seat? We did not find a seat included with the order and when the person checked, no seat was written on the original order. Great. Exactly how were we going to use this without a seat?

After all this time, I still could not get a complete toilet, which I had paid for months earlier. The man who retrieved my order thought he had a Toto seat in the back that should match the color I had. He retrieved it and it looked as though it would fit. The color was a great match.

So home I went, and since the next day was Saturday, we decided to install it ourselves. We did need a couple of things to install it that did not come included, but after an hour of fiddling, it was installed and working. Finally.

Almost exactly six months to the day after ordering the toilet, I finally had a new duel-flush, elongated bowl, 17 inch height with a soft close seat installed and working!!! And what a great commode it is. It is extremely comfortable and saves a tremendous amount with each flush. I am ecstatic.

I called my plumber, and on the following Monday he installed the remaining tub hardware and I was finally all set. The fixtures look great with the style of the bath and I could not be happier with my choices.

OK, now about that new kitchen sink I need?

I want to stress that the point of this little tale is that you many not always get what you pay for, and it is imperative to be specific with everything. None of this would have happened if I had gone to one of those big box home improvement stores to order everything. After all, it certainly is easy to return items, especially if they do not fit, and they are far less expensive than what I paid for those from the showroom. I did not do this because even though these things are made by the same companies, much of the interior parts are plastic rather than metal and the product is not constructed as well as those found in the sales showrooms. It is just too bad that dealing with all those involved, from the showroom people, the storehouse where the item is kept and the manufacturer is such a hassle. This is the main reason why these huge chains are so successful.