Friday, January 23, 2009

Arr Bafffroom Adwenshur, Pahrt Fo-ruh

So after we got the bathroom pretty much torn out to our satisfaction, we went ahead and ordered a new drain system for the new tub (cause Kohler wants it that way) as well as new fixtures for both the tub/shower and the sink/vanity. Really, we should have done all that back when we ordered the tub and toilet, but the whole project just didn't seem real enough until they were in hand.

We decided to go with chrome fixtures, which we thought would look good with the white tub, white toilet, white vanity and white subway tile we plan to use on the tub walls. (Our plan is to go with a creamier colored tile for the floor, though tiling in general is still a ways down the line at this stage.) So I dug around on the `net and found some chrome fixtures I liked by Delta in their "Leland" line. They looked old-fashioned enough, but with a bit of a curve to them that spoke to their non-vintage roots. We ordered them through Faucet.com and, amazingly enough, they came with free shipping and were actually in our possession the very next day, having been shipped from a supplier in Virginia.

The sink faucets set was beautiful all around and were just the sort of big old, shiny, solid brass fittings with a satisfying heft we were going for. The Delta "Leland" tub/shower set, however, lacked almost all of that. Oh, they looked nice enough, but both the shower spout and the tub spout were composed of chrome-coated plastic, reducing their coolness factor dramatically. Now, I don't guess I really expected the shower head to be solid brass, but it should at least have been a thinner, lighter metal of some sort. The tub spout, on the other, had no excuse at all. In my opinion, it should have been the same solid, heavy, chrome-coated brass as the sink spout, but the only part of it that was metal was the diverter knob. And the only piece in the entire shower trim kit that was indeed heavy brass was the water flow handle.

I immediately went to Faucet.com and checked the entry. No where in it is there any indication that either the tub spout or shower head are anything but metal. Granted, the only part the entry specifying any part of the system as being composed of metal was the water flow lever handle. Even when you took a look at the product specifications .pdf, written by Delta themselves, under the Standard Specifications section the phrase "Solid Brass Fabricated Body" is listed. What exactly this description applies to is not readily evident, until you look at the other items in the list and realize it's only describing the water flow lever. There are no descriptions of the tub spout nor the shower head, nor their composition in the entire document. One is left with little recourse but to assume that they are as metal as they appear to be in the pictures.

Now, I don't know if this omission in the text is Faucet.com's fault. Frankly, I think Delta is to blame as they're the ones supplying all the item descriptions on their faucets. But we were still pissed off enough to call up Faucet.com and ask them, "What's the deal?" The person we spoke with seemed astounded that we would have assumed a chrome-coated, apparently metal faucet was actually made of metal. He also seemed mystified that anyone might expect their online entry to actually specify the composition of any of the parts. In the end, though, he did offer to take everything back and issue a refund. He even said he would waive Faucet.com's usual 15 percent restocking fee, (a fee which, while listed on their website in the Returns & Cancellations page, to me flies in the face of their Satisfaction Guaranteed page where they promise "no surprises").

Next we phoned Delta and asked them "What gives?" They too seemed perplexed that we would assume a shiny, chrome-coated, metallic-looking tub spout would not be made of plastic. Furthermore, they said they were unaware of any other tub manufacturer that actually made metal tub spouts. Horse-Effing-Ess!

True to their word, though, within hours we received an email from Faucet.com with a Return Number we were supposed to include with our faucets when we sent them back. Infuriatingly, in their comments section, it noted: "Customer to return, waiving restock as customer upset because components were plastic and they were not aware of that." I was tempted to write in: "Customer was not aware components were plastic because YOU JAINKEE, MONKEY-EFFING BASTARDS DIDN'T EFFING TELL US!!" but refrained.

So there we sat, feeling angry and betrayed. The trouble was, we couldn't quite tell if we'd been betrayed by Delta, Faucets.com or by our own lack of knowledge of faucet manufacturer standard terminology. Perhaps it was normal to expect anything not specified as being metal to be made of plastic. After all, the Leland sink faucet entry had spelled out that it was made of solid brass. Looking around at other faucet sites, the vaguery continued. Even somewhat higher end brands such as Price Pfister and Kohler didn't seem to specify component composition. Were they plastic too? And, furthermore, if all manufacturers worded things this way, was this some sort of conspiracy to get us to shell out good money for plastic?

(For the record, I'm sure the plastic tub spout would have worked perfectly well. If yours is plastic, then go with God. My beef isn't really that plastic faucets don't function exactly the same as metal ones, but that I really wanted a metal one, thought I'd ordered one and felt as though I was given the bait and switch by The Man yet again. That and I also admit to a prejudice against chrome-coated plastic on a conceptual-level. I can't stand just about any "faux" item manufactured of cheap materials designed to appear of higher quality--i.e. Cubic Zirconium, fake brick sheeting, pleather, Paris Hilton, etc. Just makes me angry. Plus, when I was a kid, any toy I had made of chrome-coated plastic wound up breaking prematurely because that particular mix of plastic was always far more brittle than regular, rubberier plastic. I mean, did anyone out there actually own a Super Powers Brainiac action figure that didn't have an arm eventually break off?! [Little known fact: Brainiac can't kick without arms.])

To assuage my paranoia, the following day I headed to Lowes to have a look at their tub spouts, figuring I'd be able to touch a few and tell which ones were made of what. Imagine, if you will, the chill that ran up my spine when I saw that that each and every tub/shower trim display was located on the upper most tiers of Lowes' gigantic shelves, well out of reach of the average human being. And the few boxed sets of them stocked on shelves below were sealed in a double-layer of thick plastic packing straps, preventing me from simply opening the box to inspect.

IT WAS A CONSPIRACY!

Before I could commandeer one of Lowes' giant rolling staircases (the kind with signs on it telling customers to stay the hell off of it), and touch all the display models anyway, the wife phoned and said she had a five second window in which to go to lunch and asked if I wanted to join her.

Over lunch, I told her of my suspicions of conspiracy and that I thought Price Pfister might be in on it, too. I'd seen some of their tub spouts that I liked the design of, but they were suspiciously higher on the shelves than the Delta spouts. She seemed dubious, but couldn't argue so much in the face of my evidence. After lunch, we phoned Price Pfister and asked them point blank if their tub spouts, specifically the Portland model, were metal. They said they were and seemed surprised that we had to ask. We explained that Delta's weren't and that they'd told us no one made them of metal. Price Pfister said they were surprised at this, too. They didn't go so far as to call Delta a bunch of jainkee monkey-effing bastards, but we could tell they were thinking it. And later, when perusing Price Pfister's site, I noticed that they did call attention to the metal construction of the tub spout and lever, but noted that the shower head was "decorative," indicating to me that it was chrome coated plastic.

We ordered the Price Pfister Portland trim set, after all. It might have a decorative shower head, but I don't care because we were probably going to replace that with a hand-sprayer anyway. I even found a set very cheap on ebay. I won that auction a week ago. We're still waiting for it to arrive.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Having completely ripped out and replace an entire bathroom, I know just how you feel when you open the Delta faucet package to find most of the visible bits are plastic. Ours were purchased at a Lowe's. The fact that these plastic bits cost almost as much as the steel and porcelain tube is quite ridiculous.

crsunlimited said...

I think the pricing of this plastic stuff is wrong. However every Bathtub I have ever been in since birth has had the plastic faucet with chrome covering. How do I know this? As a kid I would unscrew the faucet and use it as a submarine. Makes a cool looking sub in a bubble bath.

As a kid you don't pay attention as to what it's made of, but if you have ever taken the faucet off while in the bath you know a few things about them. Like the insides are normally white, and they just screw on to a threaded pipe that sticks out of the wall. When your 7 that's a pretty cool trick to see how this stuff is put together.