Among the phrases The Lovely One uses frequently, is the three-word “long story short,” usually indicating that the narrative one is about to hear is anything but brief. My bit of excitement from yesterday was perhaps the opposite — what should have been brief and simple turned out lengthy.
On the ten oʼclock news Thursday night, Janet caught a story about Walmart recalling a space heater. The image on the screen looked a lot like the space heater we bought at Walmart* maybe five years ago (perhaps a little longer; it has been around the house a while now). A lot like it. Exactly like it.
We missed brand name or model number, so the first thing I did on the computer Friday morning was try googling “walmart space heater recall” and check the thousands of hits for information. The actual CPSC recall announcement is here. It doesnʼt say much, but it specifies the model number 1013. I looked our space heater over and couldnʼt find anything, not even the label on the lower left side of the back. Even though the metal skin of the device was smoothly perfect, the label probably fell off over the years, I figured, deciding I would take the thing along to Walmart when I made a trip to get some cash for gifts and mail a letter midday. (I was supposed to deposit a check from our utility company, the rebate for our high-efficiency furnace, but I kept forgetting it — kept being the operative word, as you shall learn.)
The various web pages on the recall all told me for further details and information to check the Walmart web site — a complete joke, as their recall list didnʼt even include that space heater (hereʼs the link; check to see if they have added it yet) and merely direct the consumer to the CPSC site anyway. I was looking for more information, and it wasnʼt available. But I figured the poorly paid and overworked staff at our local Walmart Customer Service would be able to help me out.
Just about noon, I drove out of the garage, heading for downtown first and my basic errands (minus the deposit, dumb me) and then straight out south to our still relatively new Super Walmart. I trudged through the slush, ice and snow of their parking lot, past the Salvation Army donation pot and inside. The greeter guy naturally had to stick something onto my heater (the recall indicated the company, the only retailer for these firebombs, had stopped selling them more than a year ago) and I stepped smartly to my left and into a line at the service counter. While waiting my turn, I could see five other heaters looking just like mine, but all with the little silver label on the left cheek, sitting on a table along with actual returns.
The lady who handled my case was confused about the missing label, too, but once I provided my driverʼs license (and for what reason, as it was their defective product on recall, not a simple return?), she paid me my $19.36. I headed off to the hardware-store section to see about acquiring another space heater (I have made a point of not raising the thermostats but just heating, periodically through the day, just the room I am in, the office). I think I spent a half hour educating myself via the information on the boxes of various forced air, ceramic, convection and whatever heaters until I selected a little tiny $15.00 thing from Sunbeam (passing by an even tinier cousin device for only ten bucks).
Having only one item to purchase, I tried the 10-Items-or-Less line, but I quickly realized I was behind two numerically challenged line-abusers (both had way more than twenty things in those overstuffed carts), so I passed on to a different checkout (for twenty or fewer) where everyone had a firm grasp of both politeness and the intended system.
Leaving, I dropped some of my return dollars into the donation pot, receiving personalized thanks from the (changed) bell-ringer — local radio personality and news director Leighton Hepker. (Over the course of four decades, he had interviewed me and up to forty Andrew students semi-annually on KMAQ for our fall and spring plays, not to mention Peace Pipe Players publicity stunts.) Although our conversation was just about nonexistently brief, it was good to see him.
Once I got home, discovering that in my absence the city plow had been through, burying the ends of our drives in slush chunks while not evidently making any improvement or change to the condition of the street itself, and therefore also shoveling us clear again, I changed back into my at-home slovenly attire, unpacked the new space heater (photo three here), and plugged it in. As I felt it heating my legs quietly (much more quietly than the old one, which as I had figured out from finding a nearly identical device from another company was intended for a garage or, as we shall see shortly, a milkhouse), I realized the box would be perfect to hold one of my Christmas presents for The Lovely One. Then I realized I still needed a box or two for some of Janetʼs other gifts and went downstairs to my little personal storage room where… I immediately saw the box for our old, returned space heater (I had assumed weʼd pitched it right after we unboxed the device).
On the box was the model number for our space heater — 83030.
Mild cuss words. It had been a different model. Imagine that. Should I go back out and get ours back? Ours was clearly a better model, probably more expensive than the $18.00 plus tax I had taken in refund. But I would feel a fool going back to admit it wasnʼt the one they were recalling.
I checked online about our model number, finding several sites, including this one. A utility heater for farmers to use, intended to keep a milk house warm (and yet another company marketing the same Chinese-manufactured products). Clearly our model wasnʼt the item on the recall. What to do? What to do?
Eventually, after dithering and trying to distract myself for about fifteen minutes, I got dressed in clothing appropriate to be out in public, again, and, taking the box along for evidence of the real model number, returned to Walmart, getting the opportunity not only to wait in line behind five other cars at a key intersection, but also to drive all the way out to the store at a safe and insane 21.5 mph behind the lead car that had backed us all up with her indecision at turning right off Summit onto Main.
All. The. Way. Out. To. Wal. Mart. (And still without the check to deposit, too, as I had plenty of time to realize.)
Eventually, we arrived. I lugged my awkward box indoors, passing Leighton speaking with chiropractor/past PPP president Paul Horst (Leighton politely ignored my nearly immediate return appearance). No one was present to insist on stickering my empty box, so I just went to the Customer Service counter directly. Although they had cleared most of the the returned and recalled products in my absence, cooperation between the lady who had waited on me originally and the one who handled my reacquisition sorted out which of the nearly identical half dozen space heaters I wanted back. As I had already donated away some of the cash I had received not so long before, I put the “purchase” of our old space heater on my debit card. We stuffed it into its box, badly, and I headed back to my truck, greeting Paul, who probably felt jilted that I didnʼt donate anything, on the way.
Now the original device is in the garage (still mostly in the box), able to warm me on days I have to work out there in winter temperatures. The new one is doing okay (not quite as warming but okay) here in the office.
And thatʼs the short story long.
One of the most amusing aspects of this scam (what else can you call a product essentially wired to short and catch fire?) is that the heaters, marketed only by Walmart but under five different brand names (each with the identical model number) are made in China. I guess I understand now why we no longer see those Walmart ads advocating the U.S. and “Made in America” products: evidently there arenʼt any American-made things to buy at Walmart.
* It still seems strange to type that corporate name without the hyphen/star between the “Wal” and the “Mart”
Incredible. Fifteen hundred words on what really amounts to nothing. Enjoy your waste of time?