Material is more important than material things

My wife and I are hosting the family at our home on Christmas Day. It will be the first year we’ve done this. And, as you might expect, the stress level increases as the time draws near, and not just because it’s sure to be remembered as the Christmas we spent on the floor.

The adventure began Thanksgiving Day, when we decided that playing host meant it was time to spruce up our home. That led to the conclusion that we had to part with the couches each of us had brought to the marriage. Although I had resisted this final step into adulthood, I went willingly to our Westside Macy’s furniture store and stepped into the red-tag obstacle course. A sale was on, and it promised free delivery before Christmas. With little effort we found the couches we wanted, and at a good price. It seemed all too easy, especially for the busiest of shopping weekends.

The salesman was all smiles and introduced himself as our “new friend.” He said the store had three sets of the couches we wanted in stock, then endeavored to talk us into a new credit card (APR 21.6% or 24.9%) and an extended service plan (10 percent of the purchase price). He even demonstrated the marvels of microfiber technology by marking showroom furniture fabric with a ballpoint pen. “Soap and water will wash that right out,” he said. After that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him launch into an impersonation of all three Stooges.

We rejected both the credit card and the service plan, and sought to finalize the order, only to be told that all three “in-stock” sets had disappeared from the computer in less than 10 minutes. Poof! They were gone. The only one known to exist at that point was the one on the showroom floor that the salesman had just stained with ink! But, not to worry. More were expected. Our new friend promised delivery within two weeks.

Unfortunately, two weeks passed and nothing happened.

After several futile phone calls and a visit to the store’s administrative offices, a furniture supervisor rang me up and promised delivery in another 9 days. That made it almost a full month after the order was placed. I was trapped beneath heavy thoughts of having to start shopping for furniture all over again. I just wanted the couches before Christmas. I agreed to give Macy’s another chance to make it right.

The manager even sent along a $50 gift card to ease the pain.

In the meantime, the old couches were taken to the Salvation Army store in Santa Monica. The man at the loading dock seemed puzzled when I pulled up to deliver them. “Why are you giving these away?” he said, surprised that they weren’t ripped, torn, or stained. (I got the impression some people try to disguise trash as a donation.)

Our new furniture arrived this week, but it never made it to our living room.

The delivery men got one couch into the elevator and that’s as close as it got to our home. It was too long for the hallway. There was no way to get it out of the elevator. Who knew? It’s a discovery that would have been nice to learn about two weeks earlier, when the furniture had been promised. But, as it was, a month was gone. Christmas was days away. Even if we found something else it could never be delivered in time. We were out of options. We sent the furniture back and went shopping for floor pillows.

This will be the Christmas we spend on the floor. And I can’t say I mind.

The family is still coming over. There will be presents, and, of course, we’ll feast on my wife’s Greek cooking. At the very least, this has given me material to write about. The nieces and nephew will have something to giggle about. And we’re all that much wiser about the pitfalls of shopping for furniture during the holidays.

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