Monthly Archives: January 2011

A Rough in the Diamond

Now Playing: So Long Baby, Goodbye, by Long Train Home. It’s a great version of The Blasters’ song written by the great Dave Alvin.

The name of this blog is Rants ‘n Raves, but I haven’t really ranted in awhile. That changes today.

I usually don’t identify the businesses I rant about. That also changes today.

The object of my scorn is Kay Jewelers, once my jewelry store of choice. Why? Well, I’m pretty frugal – some might say cheap – when it comes to jewelry, but the folks at Kay at Carolina Place mall in Pineville always treated me well when I was in there. They didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t going to spend a fortune, they gave me good service and I couldn’t think of any reason not to go back.

I can now.

A little background: I grew up without a lot of money, and, with journalism as my chosen field, have never had the opportunity to have a lot. But on our first Christmas together in 1992, I wanted to give Karen a ring to show her how serious I was about the relationship. It was my pink Christmas with her: Everything I bought was that color, including a ring with a beautiful synthetic pink stone.

We loved that ring, maybe because we loved each other, and she wore it for a long time. Eventually, though, the color faded a bit and we decided to replace it. What with moves and children and this, that and the other thing, I still couldn’t afford a diamond, so I bought her a really beautiful zirconia, which was mistaken a bunch of times over the years for a real diamond. And it was real to us.

But as 2009 wore down, I decided I wanted to buy the real thing, even though I was losing my job at the end of the year and we didn’t really have a lot to spend on Christmas. So I went to Kay to see what I could do with limited funds. The waitress was great. She never looked down her nose at me, and we found a small actual diamond in a beautiful ring that was what I wanted. Even better, Karen loved it when she opened it Christmas Day.

Once we got it sized, she rarely took it off.

Until last week. One of the small stones fell out of its setting. No problem, I thought. I’d bought the “LIFETIME” warranty (even though I rarely buy warranties for anything). I’d just take it in and get it taken care of. No problem. Stuff happens.

Austin, Garrett and I had some business at the mall Sunday, so we took it to the store. “Do you have the paperwork with you?” this waitress asked. “Uh, no, I don’t,” I replied. “Don’t you have it in the computer?”

She sighed, then looked it up. I did have the warranty, she said, but it didn’t apply because the ring hadn’t been brought in for inspection every six months. “But it was a LIFETIME warranty! Why should it run out in six months?” I said. I must add at this point that I started Hulking up. I didn’t turn green or gain super-strength, but I might have slammed the counter a couple of times and maybe even raised my voice a bit. The kids were mortified – Austin ambled off to look at watches or something, while Garrett stayed nearby in case he needed to calm me down.

Meanwhile I got madder as she kept telling me about the policy. “Well it’s a lousy policy,” I said, slamming the counter again. “It really sucks.”

Finally, she asked if I wanted an estimate on what it would take to repair the ring. It pained me to say yes, but I did. She promised an answer in two-to-three days. I left the store furious, and when we passed it coming back from one of our other errands, I bared my teeth at it. Austin took several more steps away from me.

Monday, I looked up the chain’s website and wrote a nasty comment to customer service to complain about the policy. I indicated I preferred to communicate with CS by phone rather than e-mail. I got an e-mail back that I could expect a response in three-to-five days.

Thursday, I got my response. By e-mail. It told me about the six-month policy on the LIFETIME warranty, which it noted that I had gotten for free. Which infuriated me, because I knew I paid for the warranty. I e-mailed back with this info. And got an automated response asking whether I wanted my response sent to customer service. I responded yes. Eventually I got another response: The warranty I paid for was on the metal, the one they mentioned was on the stones. This was news to me. I would never have knowingly bought a warranty on the metal. I responded again, railing at the policy and the lack of information about the LIFETIME warranty and the basic unfairness of it all. I sent it and got another automated response asking whether I wanted it sent to customer service. Tilter at windmills that I am, I said yes.

Meanwhile, the mall store still hadn’t called with my estimate. So I called it. Got a different waitress, who told me they’d sent it off to the estimators, who’d only gotten it Wednesday. They hadn’t gotten around to making the estimate yet. “So,” I asked, “why was I told Sunday that I’d have an answer in two-to-three days if it wasn’t even going to get to the estimator until Wednesday.” “Well, I didn’t tell you that,” she answered. She then offered to e-mail the estimator and ask to put a rush on it.

I still haven’t heard anything.

At this point, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not repairing it. It’s not a symbol of love anymore, it’s a symbol of frustration.

Karen’s wearing the old rings for now. We’ll get a new one, but it won’t come from Kay. I’ll never shop there again, and I hope none of you will either. I hope no one shops there.

In the meantime,  maybe we’ll try to get a De Beers diamond. They’ve been saying “A diamond is forever” since the 1940s. I just hope FOREVER is longer than six months.



Filed under Uncategorized

Without Reservations

Now Playing: What Is and What Should Never Be, by Led Zep. “So if you wake up with the sunrise, And all your dreams are still as new, And happiness is what you need so bad, Girl the answer lies with you.”

“What’s this, some sort of secret society?” the maitre’d asked our table. It was a weird question, especially given his earlier coldness. He mumbled something about the kids being so quiet. That’s probably one of the reservations he had when we’d checked in.

The other folks there were great. The timid cute waitress that filled our water glasses really did look like something out of the 1700s or before. The older waitress with the scratchy loud voice was more of a broad. She might not have seemed like she belonged there, but she was good at what she did.

And both the girls and boys – and Karen and I – enjoyed our food, so it was a good choice.

As we admired all the old stuff in there, I kidded with Garrett. I’d gone to the bathroom, which was past the bar, downstairs and to the right. When I got back, I told Garrett there was no TP there, only a bucket full of corn cobs. He asked what the cobs were for, and I just looked at him. (I don’t think he bought it completely.)


Lauren and I were pretty familiar with Old Town Alexandria. She’s interned there, and I spent a week or so there when I worked at Jacksonville, getting training on libertarian philosophy (it wasn’t as boring as it sounds). It was there that I’d met a professional fundraiser who guaranteed she could get public and private grants to bankroll one of my pet projects, the Institute for Frivolous Thought.

When we decided to go to Northern Virginia to see the girls right after Christmas, I really wanted to go to Old Town for at least a short visit and a meal. I didn’t mention it to Karen, but Lauren had the same idea and she did. So we decided to go. We settled on Gadsby’s Tavern, built in the late 1700s and preserved by the city. It hosted most of the Founding Fathers at one time or another, and I thought it would be a cool place to eat.

We got there pretty early – we were going to an Ice thing at the National Harbor later that afternoon – and basically went in right as the restaurant opened. The place was empty. But within a few seconds, the maitre’d arrived. He looked — maybe I should say looked down — at our group and, nose held high, asked, “Do you have a reservation?” (It reminded me of the airport scene in Meet the Parents when the flight attendant, in a deserted airport, won’t let Ben Stiller board the plane yet because she hasn’t called his row yet.) We said no, and he fumbled through his papers at the lectern before deciding that he could, indeed, seat us at one of the vacant tables.


It turned out there was a pretty large gathering there at the restaurant, and members started arriving pretty soon after we were seated. That might have been why he asked about the reservations. He wanted to know if we were to be seated as part of the big party.

At any rate, it was pretty weird. The waitresses were dressed in 1770s garb, but he hand on a business suit like you see at any bank.

We ran into him again on the way out. The kids had to use the bathroom – I think maybe Garrett wanted to be sure there was no bucket of corncobs there. So Karen and I were sitting up front. He came over to chat.

He asked where we were from and we said Charlotte (it’s easier than saying Indian Trail), and he started telling stories about his old days of being a sales rep for an apparel company and how he’d call on Belk. He was actually an engaging guy, and pretty friendly. once he got over the fact that a six-member family was eating there without having made previous arrangements.

The funny thing is, Karen asked a couple of times which apparel company he represented, and he acted both times like he hadn’t heard. I guess you could say that when it came to talking about his past,  he had reservations …

This has been another experiment in  mixed-up writing (remember the backwards one?), in which the middle of the event is first, the beginning is in the middle but the denouement comes at the regular place. Hope you enjoyed.

“I’m not one of those complicated mixed-up cats, I’m not looking for the secret to life. … I just go on from day to day, taking what comes.” _ Frank Sinatra


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized