Oh goody, another day of consumer regret

Shopping holds no joy for me; I particularly dislike returning defective items that fail to perform as their manufacturers proclaim so that I must return them to the store for a cash refund or a replacement.

Recently a Bionaire plug-in electrical heater which had warmed my kitchen cold mornings over several winters began to sizzle, spit, and smell of hot plastic. Rather than push my luck, and aware most modern electrical appliances are cheaper to replace than to repair (if repair were even possible) I pulled the plug and set the heater aside to go to Terrace Bottle Depot for recycling.

It happened heaters were on sale at several dealers. I drew up a list of key features I wanted, and proceeded to a store, warned by a friend to check for added clear tape sealing a carton which could signify the heater had been bought once, found unsuitable or defective, and returned to the store.

I chose an oscillating model in my price range with two heat settings and simple controls. I do not do well with electrical gadgets of any kind, and certainly not with those sporting many buttons for multiple setting choices.

Within 20 days it quit oscillating. What else might soon quit? That’s when I noticed it was made in China, had a limited one year warranty, and no address to return it to if repair were possible.

The sales slip said the store would refuse to take it back if it had been used. Oh, goody.

Over the years I’ve had to return so many defective electrical products I’ve come to expect it, begin girding for the eventual event before I walk into the store to buy anything.

My return preparations begin when I arrive home before opening the new product’s carton. I assemble an array of tools to deal with modern packaging, from an Olfa knife for slitting loose the top flaps which are invariably welded with a never-fail glue, bandaids for paper cuts or mis-aimed Olfa nicks, loose-leaf notebook and felt tip marker to record order of unpacking in case I ever need to re-pack for return.

These measures I’ve honed over several trips taking my desk top computer to the “doctor” to remove a virus. Odd shaped styrofoam chunks snugly wedged the computer into its shipping box for safe transport. Once out of order, turned upside down, or fitted on the wrong side and none of the styrofoam packing will go back. That’s why I stuff a pillow in front of the screen and drape all with a blanket.

I’m reminded of the Christmas when our kids were small and they received a number of gifts from campers who had visited our campsite that summer. In our girls’ excitement, they opened parcels faster than I could keep track of the givers. All the thank you’s I wrote were non-specific as to the gift the girls had received.

If you hope to re-package an electrical gadget properly, you would do well to be meticulous as a detective recording a crime scene. Calling on my years of sewing together sometimes as many as 28 or more sections for a sofa cushion, I give each successive piece of packing a number and indicate the Up and Down, left or right end, front or back. Even then coping with many odd shaped pieces of styrofoam can be as confounding as a Rubik’s cube.

Next time I buy a heater or some such I’ll look for a Canadian or American manufacturer, a three-year warranty, from a store with a liberal return policy.

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