Monday, September 25, 2006

A Good Kind of Tired

What a weekend! I'm exhausted!

On Saturday I managed to get up and out and do a short but hard road ride, about an hour long, in between rain showers. It was not long enough to really work my legs hard, but I at least got the muscles completely warmed up and did a few sprints to push my anaerobic capacity just a touch. Very nice!

Grace took Isaac to see his counselor and I gave Veronica a bath and washed her hair. When they got back, we all left for Ikea. It was, at long last, the day to buy the new bed!

We envisioned a relatively short trip, just basically ordering what we had already planned. But nothing is ever quite that simple. We should just generally consider a trip to Ikea to be an 8-hour affair. The store was quite crowded.

Vera was quite hyperactive and wanted to run around while Isaac tried to keep after her. We try to emphasize that he really only needs to prevent her from doing things that are very dangerous to her safety (she shouldn't climb the bookcases, for example, or play with light bulbs), but if she wants to handle something relatively unbreakable, or roll around on one of the beds, he should let her, but just keep watchful eye on her. You can't ask a two-year-old to look but not touch, and she is used to exploring her environment actively and will not be at all happy strapped into the stroller the whole time. Isaac does not always have good judgement, though, over what is and is not a safety issue. He is often rough and abrupt with her, and she winds up bellowing in frustration.

We sympathize; she is a demanding little girl, very active, quick, willful, and fully into "terrible two" mode, so it is hard to blame him for getting frustrated, We won't want him to relapse into childish behavior himself, though. Last night he was playing with her wooden blocks, and she wanted them, so we had a situation where our twelve-year-old was in a snarling, yelling tug-of-war with our two-year-old for a baby toy which we've always told her is "her toy"... sigh). Sometimes both of them need a time out, but when do _we_ get to take a time out?

So our evaluation of beds and decision-making process had to be broken into small pieces in between lecturing Isaac and chasing Vera. That's pretty much the story of our lives right now! All rational thought or conversation has to be confined to very short bursts.

We finally settled on very nice mattress, king-sized to fit Grace, myself, and two babies, who will be, for a least a little while, both nursing. This goes on top of a king-sized frame, which is really two twin frames. The frames we chose are the "Sultan Aslarp." So we picked all that out, then paid for it all, buying a few miscellaneous other things like compact fluorescent bulbs, and then had to wait a couple more hours to get through the line for big item pick up, and then roll the stuff ten feet over to set up home delivery.

The delivery process was quite aggravating. We were initially given a twelve-hour window, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the next day, although they did call the next morning to tell us to expect the truck between ten and two. About 1 p.m. the truck showed up. We live on the ground floor, and we only wanted the mattress brought in through the front door about ten feet into the kitchen and set against the closet, and the flat-packs brought about ten feet more and put on the floor of the living room; no turns, stairwells, narrow passages, etc. The only delivery scenario I could imagine that would be any simpler is if the men just had to dump the things on the sidewalk.

Despite this, the delivery men wanted me to sign a hazardous-delivery waiver. It said, essentially, that in the judgement of Cardinal Logistics, the delivery we were requesting of them was an "atypical" delivery scenario and hazardous, and that I agreed with this assessment, and therefore would not hold Carinal Logistics responsible for any damage claims whatsoever.

Having worked long ago as a stock clerk for a museum gift shop and having dealt with busted merchandise, I saw where this might be leading, and so refused. I argued with the driver for a good five minutes: "Do you think this is an unusual, weird delivery, asking you to take the packages ten yards straight down an un-obstructed hallway and put them on the floor?" "No, it's fine, just sign it." "But if I sign this, I've agreed to something I think isn't true at all, and you are saying yourself that is isn't true." "It doesn't matter; if something is damaged, you still have 48 hours to report it." "But it says right here -- let me read the wording to you -- that I agree to give up my right to file any damage claim whatsoever, so I won't sign this." It was surreal... but I'm patient guy, and I was prepared to refuse the entire delivery rather than sign the waiver.

Finally the delivery man wadded it up and threw it away and they delivered the package. I signed only the usual "I accept delivery, merchandise appears undamaged" form. On the evaluation form I said they did a fine job of delivery, but wrote in something like "THE DRIVER DEMANDED I SIGN A TOTAL DAMAGE WAIVER EVEN THOUGH THIS WAS AN EXTREMELY SIMPLE GROUND-FLOOR DELIVERY." I'm guessing that somehow that evaluation form got lost on the way to review by the supervisor. Or, more likely, the driver is just under instructions to always try to get the client to waive all possible claims of damage, so it isn't really his fault.

Let me be clear, just in case anyone at Cardinal Logistics is reading this: demanding this kind of waiver (I wish I had kept it, or gotten a photocopy of it, but the driver destroyed it) is ridiculous and offensive; you're asking the customer to lie. The driver himself agreed, when asked, that it was not a difficult or unusual delivery, but yet stood there at my front door arguing with me for several minutes, even to the point of lying to my face repeatedly (saying "you can still claim damages," and "no, it's fine") when the document he was asking me to sign said exactly the opposite.

If I had the choice, I would never, ever deal with such dishonest people again. However, they seem to be the only delivery option availabe at the Canton Ikea itself. We just could not manage a king-sized mattress ourselves, even if we had borrowed a pickup truck; it is just too big. I only hope that the next time we want to bring home something large from Ikea we'll be able to come up with another option.

OK, so after all that we had our bed. I had to assemble it. I've put together a lot of Ikea stuff -- many bookshelves, desks, etc. The Aslarp frames were by far the most challenging, not because any particular piece was that difficult, but just because there are a _lot_ of those hex bolts to drive in, and many of them were unusually long and went into wood. Oh, and although I've committed to buying _wooden_ pieces from Ikea whenever possible -- for example, the new bookshelves we've been getting are almost all wood, except for the backing, and that makes it them so much nicer to move around -- the main body of the Aslarp frame is particle board. It's damned heavy!

Add to that the various slightly misaligned parts. At several points pieces didn't quite fit perfectly, and each time I had to make a choice -- is this a defect worth going back to the store over, and trying to resolve, or can I fix it myself with reasonable time and effort, without destroying the particle board panels? For example, there are wooden cross-beams that fit snugly across the bottom. In both frames, the wooden pieces that they fit _between_ were slightly misaligned (one gap was thus slightly two wide, and the other two too narrow) so the beams would not fit. I could get the cross-pieces to fit by sanding about 1/8th of an inch off of each side of the gap, so that's what I did. More work, but I judged it to be less painful thatn trying to get the heavy particle-board pieces replaced.

In other cases, pilot holes were misalighed, so I had to take off metal plates and re-align them before the machine screws would go into the plates; sometimes, more than once. So there was a lot of cursing involved. In the end nothing was so badly out of whack that I couldn't get it securely and (mostly) squarely put together without damage. My hands are seriously chewed up today from twisting those damnable little metal hex wrenches.

The next time I go to the Ikea store I've got to find out if they have some better versions with plastic handles, or some bits that will fit an electric screwdriver. I had a brief diversion into sending Grace to the hardware store for hex drivers, but the ones she brought back almost, but not quite, fit the screw heads. Then she borrowed some other drivers from a friend of the family, and they also almost, but not quite, fit the screw heads.

Imagine that you're reading a long and sarcastic rant about America versus the metric system, tools that almost but don't quite fit, chewed up screw heads, and the rest of the world laughing at me while I am trying to remove misaligned screws with chewed-up heads. Thanks, now I don't have to write that rant; I'm too tired. You know, in grade school I learned the metric system, not the English system, because we were soon going to move over to all-metric. I'm still waiting.

Anyway, what with the cloth covers, the particle-board frame, the wood cross-pieces and their attachment points that all needed sanding to fit, the fiber-board bottom panels that attach to the cross-beams with far too few wood screws, the metal slat frame, the slats themselves, the hinge mechanisms, the ratchet mechanisms, and the hydraulic pistons, all with too little room to work, it took me a full eight hours of nonstop work to get the two frames assembled. Wow.

Imagine you're reading another long and sarcastic rant, this time about paying almost a thousand dollars for a bed, but still having to spend an entire day of labor and aggravation to put the whole thing together. Good, now you won't have to actually read that rant, but you get the idea.

It is interesting how in the Ikea pieces there are no extraneous fasteners, and almost nothing, except possibly stain, is not structural. Even the cloth cover that stretches over the frame provides additional stability. This means that I constantly had the nagging feeling that a couple more bolts or screws would have made the whole thing feel a little more solid. The bottom panels inside the storage space definitely need more wood screws; they are far too unsupported to actually hold much weight, and since they are going into soft wood, it is far too easy to strip the holes.

I'm also imagining how I can possibly move the things later without damaging them; at some point I want to replace some of the bolts that I stripped. The cloth cover allegedly comes off to wash, although it would be quite an ordeal to get it off and back on without destroying the foam padding stapled to the sides.

But, despite all that, at the end of the day we had two really nice-looking bed frames with no sharp edges or corners, with slats that have cool hydraulic lifts and ratchet mechanisms that allow the whole mattress to be fairly easily raised up to access storage space underneath, and a brand new king-size mattress. It's a good thing, too, because I desperately needed to lie down!

Postscript: the mattress is actually very comfortable, even without the separate foam mattress that goes on top of it. We may get that part later. It feels firmer than the queen futon with foam pads on it, but the firmness is superficial, and it provides more "deep down" support, so my hips and neck were not as stiff when I woke up. Grace and Isaac and Vera and Auntie O ate pizza sitting on the new bed, and even though they were sitting on a cover on top of the mattress, managed to stain with tomato sauce the mattress and the cloth covers on both frames, less than an hour after we finished putting it together. Awesome. Inspiring, really!

I guess we'll find out tonight whether the cover is stain-resistant when we try to use the little spot-lifter vacuum on it. And we'll start enforcing a "no eating on the bed" policy. Yeah, that'll work! What exactly were we thinking when we decided to buy bed frames with rounded corners, padding, and cloth covers again? Oh yeah, "no bleeding head wounds when our babies bash their heads on the family bed." I think that will ultimately be worth it! But we will have to keep some towels at the ready at all times to catch new-baby barf!


Veritas said...

I used to work THROUGH Cardinal Logistics as a delivery driver. what Ikea (Home Depot) does not tell customers is that the delivery driver doesn't work for Ikea or Cardinal. We were independent contractors. Small business men and women who pay for our trucks, gas, insurance, and helpers. What Ikea does not tell you is that the delivery you are receiving is CURBSIDE DELIVERY. So yes, DELIVERING YOUR MATTRESS INSIDE YOU HOUSE WAS AN UNUSUAL DELIVERY. (no matter how unobscured the path) I'm sure no one told you this at the store. So the person being protected by the waiver is the DRIVER, who is solely responsible for the damage. Has nothing to do with Cardinal. If something is damaged in your home, Cardinal doesn't pay for it, it comes out the delivery drivers pocket, because the driver is not an employee, he is a small business owner. Now, Ikea, and Cardinal use this business model to keep costs down. But the fact is your request was unreasonable because at the point of sale you were left with the wrong expectation of what would occur at the time of delivery. Which leads to your rant on your blog. The sad part is, the delivery guy is trying to make a living and claims and accidents erode is his very small margins. That's why he asked for a waiver, to make a delivery inside you house. It doesn't matter how simple YOU think the deliver was, the second they step through your door "Joe the Driver" is on the hook for any damage to you property. Your dog that runs out of the next room and has something dropped on his head. A rambunctious child that darts out of the bathroom. Its the little guy making the delivery who is responsible for anything that occurs. (by the way, stupid stuff occurs in customers homes everyday. it's not personal, but to trust no one is to trust everyone equally)

It's your sales person you should be angry with, not Cardinal or the delivery driver. Because they let you walk out of the store with the wrong expectation of the delivery process. IF I WERE YOUR DELIVERY DRIVER I WOULD HAVE TAKEN THE SHIPMENT BACK TO THE STORE IF YOU REFUSED TO SIGN THE WAIVER. THE RISK OF DOING 300 DOLLARS WORTH OF DAMAGE TO YOUR DRYWALL (NOT SAYING IT WOULD HAPPEN) IS NOT WORTH THE 30 DOLLARS BEING PAID TO MAKE THE DELIVERY. THE DRIVER WAS STUPID FOR GIVING IN TO YOUR REQUEST. Day in and Day out consumers like you put the drivers in positions outside of the provisions of contract and the call up saying your lawn was damaged, or the tires on the truck left marks on your drivway, and THE DRIVER ends up paying for the claim. NOT CARDINAL, NOT IKEA.

Paul R. Potts said...

Hi veritas,

Thank you for your comment. It is interesting to hear the perspective of someone who worked as a delivery driver.

If, as you say, Cardinal's services are being mis-represented, the last thing I want to do is try to get the driver to do something he is not responsible for. I did not ask the driver to bring the matress into our kitchen as a _personal favor_. That was the service I thought I had _purchased_.

If that isn't the service he can actually provide, there was been a serious breakdown of understanding somewhere. Had the driver told me about the issue with curbside delivery versus in-home delivery, something different would have happened. I would have called Ikea, and probably bounced the delivery back to them on the grounds that I was not getting the service I signed up for.

You wrote:


That might have been a good thing to have happen, actually, so I could have gotten things clarified with the store and Cardinal.

My undestanding was that Ikea was switching over from Cardinal to a different delivery service. The next time we buy something big from Ikea (which may be soon) I will make sure to try to get as clear an explanation as possible of exactly what service they can provide.

If things go wrong with the new delivery company, I will refuse the delivery and get supervisors or other epresentatives on the phone to clear things up at the slightest sign of misunderstanding. I don't want to go through this again, and as I said I don't want to try to coerce anyone to do a job they are not prepared to do.

One last comment. I should have filed a complaint of some kind against the driver. Because despite possible misrepresentation by Ikea, etc., I still maintain that there is ABSOLUTELY no excuse for the driver to stand in my doorway telling me a bald-faced lie, which he did. He _repeatedly_ insisted that the waiver did not actually mean what was written on it: that if I signed it, I was _not_ waiving my right to claim that the item was damaged in delivery. That is inexcusable, despite everything else that might have been going wrong that day. I probably should have bounced the delivery at that point just to try to get this cleared up.