Celebrating Festivus: The Airing of Grievances

Happy Festivus, everyone!

(Don’t know what Festivus is? Pause for a moment to look this up in Wikipedia, then come on back. We’ll wait.)

One of the time-honored traditions of Festivus is, of course, the airing of grievances. I cringe at the thought of being a whiny blogger here, but a recent event coupled with the timing of this “holiday” gives me the perfect opportunity to open up my mind and let these negatives spill out. Which I’m hoping will make me all the shinier and happier for the weekend.

Back when I was buying my first house and setting up for all the things you never seem to need for yourself when you live at home, I was on the hunt for a set of dinnerware. Even in my tender early twenties I knew I wanted something that would hold up against the test of time, and never have a look or feel that would scream “90s dinnerware!” And I found it in the Restaurant Dinnerware at Williams Sonoma.

Over time they’ve held up great. But I’ve found that they’re not impervious to the occasional cat who may want to lick off toast crumbs before you put it in the dishwasher, sending the plate crashing to the floor. Nor do they really stand up to a three-year-old who wants to help load up the dishwasher. And that’s okay; that’s life.

Still, as my birthday recently approached, I got practical. It would be nice to have a few more of these plates around as our kiddo graduates from plasticware to the real stuff. And to replace that which the cats hath smote. So I asked my mom if she’d be interested in supplementing the supply of salad plates and pasta bowls (because you can order just one style of plate from a setting – in quantities of six). I found a link online that showed what I believed was the same style, happy to know that it would be so easy to do.

My very generous parents went to the trouble of purchasing them, and I opened the boxes with glee. Until I held them up to the old ones. Take a look:

The soup/pasta bowl: old is on the left, new is on the right.

 

The salad/bread plate: old is on the left, new is on the right.

I know, I know. In the average lifespan of a consumer product, this is like comparing a fossil to a young bud. But I was perplexed at how one plate style could be smaller, and another larger, than its predecessor. I was wondering if I was wrong in thinking these were so replaceable. My mother, who likes to give good gifts, was immediately concerned that she’d gotten me the wrong plates. And that had me feeling worse – because she was doing nothing but being generous and thoughtful.

So, I decided to go to the source. I sent a note to the company via their customer service, explaining the timeline, and my question as to whether or not these are the actual descendants of the original line I purchased. Here’s the reply I received:

Thank you for contacting Williams-Sonoma.

Please know that the closest match we have to the previously carried Restaurant Dinnerware is the Everyday currently carried. Please know you can always take a piece of the Restaurant Dinnerware into one of our retail stores and compare them to all dinnerware currently carried, to see if you find a closer match in your opinion, or a set that compliments the existing dinnerware.

If we may be of any further assistance, please contact us via email.  Alternately, you may contact our Customer Service Department directly at 1(800) 541-1262 from 7:00am to 11:00pm (CST), seven days a week.

Polite, to the point. And they’re not saying flat-out “you’re wrong.” They’re open to my seeking out a line from their stock that I may think is a better match. But I already know that I won’t find it; not to my satisfaction, at least.

This is a business I’m dealing with; and they haven’t lost my loyalty yet. But my loyalty is most definitely being tested in this. The test began, actually, when we looked into ordering more of our flatware pattern from them – we had registered for an everyday setting back when we got married – but when I read the customer reviews online I noticed a number of people who had sets around the same age as ours expressing disappointment that the manufacturer/production quality had diminished. And so we’re debating what to do when the time comes to add to our flatware.

My grievance: I did not want to be wasteful; I wanted to leverage what I thought was a prudent step some 15 years ago and continue with our classic white dinnerware purchased from a company that I have trusted and kind of loved over the years. But due to changes beyond my control, that’s not very possible.

There are some companies out there that guarantee an item will always be available – and here I’m talking about fine china, crystal, silver…the fancy stuff. Other companies out there will be very clear when a line is discontinued, even if it’s not as fancy or expensive an item.  And that could be a solution, here: much as you never want to tell a customer you don’t have what they want, for a longtime customer like myself who was hoping to prolong the life of her dinnerware, it’s also permission to seek out a replacement.

To the rest of the companies that may try and find a blog post “slamming” the competition: this is less a rant and more of a warning shot to all of you out there. The next time I consider a purchase from this or any so-called lifestyle store, you better believe it won’t be without some careful research to determine if I can obtain the quality I’m seeking for a lower price. Because the premium I have willingly paid for what I thought was a little consistency and reliability is not worth it anymore.

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