Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The High Chair Fiasco


After the birth of our 3rd child, my wife and I found ourselves in need of a stand-alone high-chair. She found a well-reviewed model from Amazon and soon it was on its way. I was about 10 minutes into assembly before I realized that a crucial structural component of the item had been damaged in transit.

The prospect of attempting to repackage this monstrosity was daunting to say the least, and it seemed silly for one broken part. Fortunately, the manufacturer had included a flyer meant to address the very conundrum I found myself in. It implored me:

DO NOT RETURN TO THE STORE!!!! PLEASE CALL US FIRST AND WE CAN ASSIST YOU WITH ANY BROKEN OR MISSING PARTS!!!

So I gathered all of the pertinent model information and called the number. At first, things were looking up. I was told that they would get that part out to me and in short order my first-world crisis would be averted. Then, they informed me that they no longer sold that model and could not get me the part, but they were willing to offer me a comparable replacement model.

My wife selected a replacement from the list that they sent me, and I called back in to get the ball rolling. The representative told me that all I would have to do is comply with their warranty destruction policy. It would be easy they said. Just takes a few minutes. They promised to e-mail me the details.

Several days passed without word, so I called back in and it was explained to me that I would need to go to a website to schedule a “video-chat destruction.” This was to ensure that the high-chair was no longer functional and couldn’t be sold. I pointed out that if the item was functional, our entire correspondence would be unnecessary. Be that as it may, they were adamant that I go to this website and schedule a time.

When I got the link, I was presented with an option for a 20-minute session or a 30-minute session. When I clicked the 20-minute session, it was booked out for the next few months; so I backed up and selected the 30-minute. Now I was given an option for a 2:30 PM weekday slot almost two weeks out. Because the exact nature high-chair desecration process could not be revealed ahead of time, I was left with two options:
1.      Take time off work in order to sit at home and further disable an already worthless high chair.
2.      Transport the entire contents of the box to work and explain to my supervisor why I needed a half-hour break to video chat with a complete stranger while defacing children’s furniture.
Furthermore, I did not understand why this process would take 30 minutes. Was there a sacred blood-oath involved? Would the company provide a proctor? I countered that if they wanted complete and total obliteration, I could simply write “fragile” on it and give it back to UPS. This comment did not play well with the home office.

I asked if there was a fast-pass option for people whose children were being forced to sit on the floor like an animal while the rest of their biological family dined at the table like civilized humans. (There was not.) Finally, they agreed that at a predetermined time they would text me and I could immediately send back detailed photos. While the process was still shrouded in mystery, they did tell me that I would need the seat cushion, the safety straps, and the chair-back. I was also asked to have a sharpie and scissors on hand. My inquiry as to whether or not explosives would be used went unremarked upon.

So, on the fateful day, I was contacted by an unidentified number via text and asked to cut a 1-inch square hole into the seat cushion and submit a photo. Then, I was instructed to take the sharpie and “draw over” the sticker with the model number and submit that picture. Finally, I was asked to cut the straps so that they could no longer properly restrain an infant. I placed a Michael Bolton CD jewel case in each of these photos for scale.


It should be noted that none of these actions would render the high-chair unusable, just less safe for a child unfortunate enough to be placed into it. The entire ordeal wreaked of spycraft. It was as if John Le Carre had been hired as a warranty compliance manager.

Then I got to wondering; who was supervising these people on the other end of the video chat? What if one of them goes broken arrow and starts making outrageous or inappropriate demands?

Customer – I guess I do not understand why I would need to remove my shirt and refer to you as “Big Daddy Cornbread” for the remainder of this process……

Warranty Rep – Look, I have two crib annihilations and a sit-n-spin bonfire after you so do you want a functional high-chair or do you want to spend the rest of our allocated time together arguing about semantics?

Once I had provided proof-of-death, I was told that they would begin processing my order and I should expect the new high chair next month. Trying to be as diplomatic as possible, I explained that one of the compelling reasons that I ordered the item from Amazon in the first place was that I would receive it within two business days. I lamented that by the time I got the replacement high-chair, there was a good chance that it would no longer be developmentally appropriate for my child. They placed me on hold to confer with their “team.” In my mind, this involved the president of the company being choppered in from his summer home for an emergency meeting.

In the end, they relented and agreed to “put a rush on it” and my child was able to join us at the table. In hindsight, I suppose I owe “Big Daddy Cornbread” an apology.

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