Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christmas FAIL

Let me preface this post by saying that Charming Suitor and I had a wonderful Christmas.  We were both on vacation, we honored the traditions of my people by having a Chinatown Peking Duck feast and movie on Christmas Eve.  And the traditions of his by spending Christmas Day with my brother from another mother Officer K and his family, twinkly lights and presents and glorious ham. 

Let me also say that I completely own my personal part of the failure of which I am about to speak.  I do not want to imply that this situation wasn't of my own making. 

And yet... can suck it.

Not familiar with NapaStyle?  They are the retail catalog and online store owned by Chef Michael Chiarello.  They sell tableware, gourmet presents, home decor, you know, my heroin.  I had never ordered anything from them before, but in the pre-holiday internet surfing, I came across their site, and wandered about for a while.  I have always had respect for Chef Chiarello.  From all reports he is a skilled chef, and genuinely nice guy. I have watched him on shows like Top Chef Masters, and thought he seemed a good competitor, made interesting food, and seemed universally well liked by his peers.  Charming Suitor and I have always said that on our next trip to Napa, we want to eat at his restaurant.  So I do not blame him for the issues I have with his side business.  I'm pretty sure he doesn't run it himself, but has a team of people managing the retail side for him.  And they can suck it.

I will start by saying that CS and I discussed the Christmas Tree thing back around Thanksgiving.  Being Jewish, I've never had one, but was certainly not adverse if CS wanted to have one, I think they are beautiful.  However, CS gave me a quick lesson in the less than fun aspects of having a tree.  We agree that neither of us like the look of the fake trees.  They seem all plasticy and trying to be something they are not. 

Real trees, apparently, are a major pain in the butt.  They get needles and sap everywhere, which is not ideal when you have really nice antique rugs that cost a fortune to clean.  They are a pain to set up and an even bigger pain to take down.  There is no earthly way to prevent the lights from becoming a tangled mess. 

Then there is the cost.  Having had cats for the better part of the last two decades, CS never had a tree, because tree + cats = broken ornaments and possible catrocution.  So CS does not own a single ornament, string of lights, or tree topper.  He smiled at me and my willingness to go all decorative for his holiday, but gently suggested that if he let me loose on designing a tree, we might have to hock a kidney to pay for it.  Having looked online at some ornaments, some of which were upwards of $20 EACH, I recognized that he was right.  Starting from scratch sounded very expensive, and we were both looking forward to the post-holiday sales, I knew I'd much rather have new boots than a tree.

Fast forward to December 14, and my discovery of NapaStyle.  While looking around the site, I see it.

A Christmas Tree. 

Made out of reclaimed French oak wine barrel staves.

Let's think about this....

They take old French wine barrels, which have given their all in the creation of delicious wines, take them apart, and craft Christmas trees out of them.  So while they technically fall into the "fake" tree catagory, they do so in a stylish way and without plastic greenery.  They are a repurposed product, so very "Green", which we like.  And Charming Suitor is a serious oenophile and wine collector, so I knew he would appreciate a wine barrel tree.  It is only 45" tall, so not some enormous monstrosity, and folds flat for easy storage.

My heart leapt.  It looked like we could have the best of both worlds, a sort of a holiday tree, that would look great, last forever, and not be a huge pain in the ass.

At this point, I realized that all over the NapaStyle website it said "Order ground shipping by December 18 for guaranteed Christmas Delivery."  I could picture the whole thing.  If I ordered that moment, I would get the tree by around the 20th.  The 21st was CS' last day of work before vacation, so while he was gone I could set up the tree, add a few little white lights, and maybe some trinkets from around the house...I have every champagne cork from every bottle we have shared since our first date, I could just place some of them on the "branches" and call it a day.  No enormous investment in ornaments.

The tree was not inexpensive, and CS and I had agreed not to do presents for each other, but I could not resist.  It was our first Christmas as a married couple and I wanted to do something special.

And I failed.

I ordered promptly.   And waited.  I got an order confirmation, but no shipping confirmation.  No tracking number.  By the 18th, I was getting worried that the surprise element would be impossible to pull off.  I checked my order.  It listed it as Processing.  I e-mailed Customer Service, asking why there was no shipping confirmation, when I had ordered within the advertised time for Ground Delivery by Christmas. 

Customer Service?

Did not reply.

On the 19th, I checked again.  Processing.  There was no way this thing was arriving by Christmas.  I went back to the listing for the tree just to look at it again, and then I saw it.  In tiny little print at the bottom "This item ships directly from Manufacturer, allow 3-4 weeks for delivery."

F***.  F***ety F*** F*** F***.

Now, I know that it was my responsibility to read the whole page before ordering this thing.  I get that they put that on the listing so that people knew it took a long time for the thing to get delivered.  And therefore I know that the Christmas failure, in almost every aspect, is my own.


For NapaStyle to have a CHRISTMAS item listed in their SEASONAL GIFTS section on December 14 on their website, which is screaming at you all over the place that you can order things Ground Shipping by Dec. 18 for Christmas delivery, and not make exceedingly clear that there is no freaking way to have that item by Christmas, that is just crappy.  Even if you keep the listing up, make the shipping restrictions BOLD, big letters, top of the listing.  THIS ITEM WILL NOT ARRIVE IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS.  Which is worse, even if they decided not to do that, it is not hard to have your checkout set up with a ping that would tell you the item is a 3-4 week delivery time.  I ordered a bra the same day, and at checkout was informed that it was backordered and would not ship before 1/20, and it asked did I still want to order it?  A $45 bra.  Just a heads up, this will take a while to get to you.  But a $300 CHRISTMAS TREE?  That won't arrive for Christmas?  You're on your own, lady.

I took a deep breath.  It was the holidays.  Magical things happen all the time.  I sent Customer Service another e-mail.  Explained the sitch.  Asked for the phone info for the manufacturer, figuring maybe I could light a fire directly and still make it in time.  Wouldn't be as big a surprise, but we could decorate it together and still have it for the holiday.

Customer Service?

Never replied.

But suddenly @NapaStyle was following me on Twitter.

I gave it another shot, and tweeted to @NapaStyle AND @ChefMichaelChiarello  Hoping for a Christmas Miracle.

Neither replied. 

I direct messaged @NapaStyle "Having a issue and no response from customer service.  Help?"

No help was forthcoming.  I fessed up the whole mess to CS, who laughed, said it was a sweet thought, and that I was just really ahead of the game for next year.  Which made me feel better, but still....

Yesterday evening Charming Suitor and I returned from the Farm to discover a huge box on the front porch.  Yep, FIVE weeks later, our tree has arrived.  And to be clear, it is everything I thought it would be.  It is truly lovely, the perfect size, smells deliciously of oak and aged wine, and will be a wonderful addition to our holidays for years to come.  Charming Suitor absolutely loves it.  And we agree on two things. 

We have the coolest Christmas tree of anyone we know.

And NapaStyle is off our list. 

Because I get that ultimately the initial problem was my own idiocy and lack of careful reading....but the complete and total unresponsiveness, particularly at that time of year, is just unforgivable.

Yours in Good Taste and Festive Spirit,
The Polymath


  1. The tree sounds truly unique - glad it worked out for you, although terrible customer service! Absolutely no excuse for not responding to you. Just so you know, Land's End has fresh greenery every year - we have ordered their table Christmas tree for my inlaws in Florida - all the green, the gorgeous smell, enough room for a some lights and ornaments, without all the mess.

  2. Ewww, I hate bad customer service! I wonder if they will respond now that you have blogged about it.
    It is a nice tree though. A very nice holiday piece indeed. I hope the manufacturer has other places they sell through.

  3. I'm sorry that you had such a problem with NapaStyle. One of my pet peeves is poor customer service. I hope that they do eventually get back to you with at least an apology.

  4. Okay, I know this is all about the whole tree debacle, but I look at that adorable pic at the top with CS and I giggle a little and think, "They're MARRIED now! How effing cute is THAT!?!" So I guess I sort of missed the point. I do get your frustration. But seriously? How CUTE are you two!?

  5. It is important to note that the picture at the top is from the website and is Michael Chiarello. Who is not NEARLY as attractive as my hubby.

  6. HA! Where is Charming Suitor pic with tree? I'm blushing now, but thinking "Thank God they didn't still have wrapped gifts!" And? Still pretty damn cute with the whole Married Life thing.
    Michael Chiarello, with whom I was obviously previously unfamiliar? Also pretty damn cute.

  7. My wife pulled the pic from Napa style and has been on my to do list for 5 years. Well I'm making one as I type. She is away and I'm ready with the staves!! So much cheaper than NS!!!