Thursday, April 17, 2008

What's the big secret?

One of my biggest pet-peeves about shopping online is when I have to call a store to find out the price of something. Apparently, some manufacturers get upset when websites advertise low prices for their goods, and I just don't get why. Because a website might compete with some other retailer? Why on earth would the manufacturer care? Don't they sell their stuff to the retailers to make their own profits? God forbid, customers might be decide to buy something based on price and the convenience of not having to put on clothes and leave their home, instead of wasting days driving around to mom and pop "local" businesses that are hard to find and never open when you need them (and lets hope they actually carry what you are looking for, because there is no way to know until you arrive!). Given the high cost of shipping some items, it's really a wash for the customer, many times. You would think that getting a little name recognition, and having products available for customers to purchase when they want to purchase them would be key practices.

Let me rewind a bit. I have been starting to window-shop new office/craft furniture. My current setup is two folding tables, one with slightly broken legs. They provide a large amount of flat space for cutting fabric (should I actually have a few minutes to sew), but absolutely no storage. Like most horizontal surfaces in our house, my "desk" is currently covered by piles of stuff. My chair probably is too. I have been attempting to re-work the space with baby steps, starting about 3 years ago buy buying a laptop that could be used on my "desk" and then easily put aside to make room for fabric. I've been cleaning out old craft supplies that are piled in our office closet (luckily, it's a LARGE closet, but organizing it is a whole 'nother thread, so to speak). My husband recently installed a wall-mount for my little TV (which I rarely watch, thanks to my lack of time in the office), that gets it up and off of my "desk" as well.

Now, I want to tackle the actual desk issue. I have wall space that is completely blank. I have floor space that holds nothing but table legs (plus whatever junk has been moved off of the tables). I have junk that needs shelves or drawers or somewhere else to go. It's not really junk, it's fabric and yarn, patterns, notions, etc. But it looks like junk right now, and may as well be in its current state of disarray. And I have two heavy sewing machines (one's a serger) that need someplace secure to live, safe from dust and curious little hands. High shelves are impractical because of their weight (hard for me to lift, hard for a shelf to sustain the weight without bending, and dangerous if they ever fall).

Now back to my gripe. There are some sewing cabinets on the market where the machine rests inside, with a air-lift mechanism to bring it up to desk height, and the ability to close doors and hide (and protect) the things in what looks like a small cabinet. Dragging small children to shop for furniture is impractical. The large chain fabric stores have little to nothing in stock in sewing tables (they refer you to brochures and websites), and any small sew-n-vac shops are hidden in out-of-the-way parts of town and lord only knows what they actually stock (if all they have are brochures, then they're no better anyway). Large retailers like Walmart or Office Max don't carry them at all. So I'm left with the internet, and the oddly reclusive behavior of the sewing furniture manufacturers.

Some sites show cabinets and prices, but only for certain brands. Other brands, like Koala (which makes excessively expensive and complicated sewing tables that expand and collapse like wooden Transformers) force you to visit their own website for a simple price. Regal/Horn of America also must demand that retailers not list their prices, but their own website doesn't either. I'm not shopping for this, I'm looking for something more like this. I refuse to pay $2000+ for particle board, no matter how nifty their air-lift mechanisms.

Depending on the ultimate price list, I may abandon the search entirely, and just go buy a normal desk from an office supply store (something that costs hundreds of dollars less, btw, than many of the specialty cabinets), and give up my hopes of protecting my sewing machines. Won't that be great for business. At least they won't have somehow lost out to a discount website.

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