On The Internet, No One Knows You’re Making a Scene

The internet is a wonderful tool in many ways, but as recent incidents reveal, it leaves the beleaguered victim of lame, indifferent corporations that critical tool of last resort when one has been ripped off, or more commonly, simply told that what they want isn’t available at any price, so they must cough up for what’s on offer or basically pound sand:  That is, the fine art of making a scene.

Of course with my crazy grandmother, Etta, as my scene-making model, I was, to my considerable chagrin, able to witness both her stunning successes (and sometimes spectacular failures) at this tricky and demanding but undoubtedly worthwhile form of performance art throughout my childhood.  Watching carefully, I concluded that scenes should always be avoided unless one was, importantly, plainly in the right, other customers and co-workers could hear the scene, and the grievance was of the sort that could be quickly settled then and there to one’s advantage.  I also noticed that yelling and personal attacks tend to be counterproductive; one must assume the role of prosecutor rather than harridan, and this is where Etta often slipped up.  No matter how much I wanted to yell, “No wonder you have such a crappy job,” I insted would instead calmly rumble for all to hear, in my arresting haggish baritone, “The item was paid for weeks ago and has long since been promised, and I don’t care whether or not it is in stock.  I have an installer putting it in today, and I’m either taking this floor model right now or I’m taking my money back.”   As they loaded it on the truck, I thought that Etta would have been so proud of me, watching from Heaven, or as my mother more realistically assumed, “the other place.”

Now, this hard-earned skill has been rendered all but useless, to the infuriating advantage of grabby, unaccountable corporate fleecers of the public, by none other than Al Gore and his danged internets.  Imagine my frustration when I discovered that a light switch (!) I needed from Lutron cost $19.00, when it was little different from the ones that cost 99 cents but was not stocked anywhere, so I had to go to the online “store” to get it.  Then, they charged $9.23 for shipping, bringing the total to $28.23.  For a light switch.  My inner Etta seethed, but what can you do?  Then, today I received an email, a full five days later, crisply informing me that the the switch had finally been shipped, and I might receive it Tuesday, a full twelve days after they’d taken my money.  Where do I go to make a scene about this?  Did Etta live in vain?

Well, perhaps not.  Over the past week I have been in something you might call contact with three of the larger and better plant nurseries in Seattle, offering them a spreadsheet of a couple of hundred plants I needed delivered to a site up there the first week in May to install a garden.  You’d think, having been hit pretty hard by the collapse of the building industry over the past few years, that Seattle nurseries would be interested in, well, selling plants.  Surprisingly, this isn’t the case.  I got back two replies, half filled in, that indifferently gave acceptable to absurdly high prices on whatever plants they happened to have lying around, both flatly refusing to look anywhere for any of the many missing items, even when it’s time to order anyway, and they have a whole month to do it, to boot.

My first tastefully incredulous responses included such ineffectual niceties as “perhaps you misunderstood me,” but as the dismissive (or nonexistent) emails fell like Northwest rain, toward the end I found myself typing, “I’m well aware that you’re supposedly a commercial nursery, having attended a wedding at your rather convincing facility, but I’m now increasingly convinced that you’re a front for something else.”  It would have been a great scene, had it only been allowed to occur where anyone could have borne witness.  And with it, I might have, in a small way, helped American capitalism stop making itself the embarrassment of the civilized world, but thanks to the internet, that battle is already lost.  With pained resignation, both the homeowners and I have discovered that the project of putting in the garden has morphed into an undeniably “educational,” as Etta might have put it, tour of of the nurseries of the Puget Sound Area, trying, maybe in vain, to find people who will simply sell us what we want to buy in the “free market.”

I’m bringing Etta, at least in spirit.  It’ll hurt them more than it hurts me.




  1. mikeinportc says:

    Try smaller places . ( The ones that might actually appreciate the business . ) Send me a list of the missing ( to the mms….. email) I might be able to figure some subs for you, if there are any good enough, or even point out if the original was perhaps….. subpar(?). ( This is a rougher neighborhood, horticulturally , so I can’t guarantee familiarity. There are some primadonnas that are good for the PNW, that’ll die here, if I even think about them. ;) ) Don’t know who specified them ,but I frequently find that people want certain things because that’s what they know about, rather than because it’s the best choice. It’s easy to get as fixated on the it, as the customer , so often have to remind myself ( & my colleagues) to ask “Why?”. The answer to ” Why?” can make the solution (almost) self-evident. Good luck , CH . :)

  2. mikeinportc says:

    ps You could ask the growers, as to where they shipped the desired items . There’s so many in the PNW , seems as though somebody would have them.

  3. avelna says:

    I admit, I’ve never quite understood how businesses get away with this kind of behavior. I guess I can sort of see them dissing small, inconsequential customers who don’t add much to their bottom line (though one would think that would add up over time), but I would guess that you aren’t one of those. Anyway, I hope that you and Etta’s spirit succeed in making the whole episode acutely painful for them.