Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas Tree Hunting...

What a whirlwind of activity around the Valca home, these past many weeks.

Lavie noticed I hadn't been on any of our home pc's for some time and asked when I posted last. When I looked, I couldn't believe it had been that long!

Thanksgiving passed us like a roaring locomotive. Lavie and I have been swamped at work with special projects and technology challenges. Alvis dropped one long-distance boyfriend, then asked another longtime boy-friend at her school to be her boyfriend, was on top of the world, then got dumped three days later.

It is really Christmas time?

I saw indications that it was indeed that time a few weeks before Thanksgiving this year. It never fails to amaze me as the commercial ramp-up to Christmas continually progresses further before Thanksgiving each year. Before long we will be seeing holiday decorations during the summer.

But for this post, let's talk trees.

Last year, I promised Lavie we would get a new Christmas tree. Although we have been "real" tree folks when we were newlyweds, a few years after we got married, Lavie's parents handed down one of their artificial trees to us.

It was from Houston's "Christmas Tree" store. That store has long since closed down, but as a kid growing up, it was magical. Giant rooms filled year-round with Christmas trees, holiday decorations, and the like. It was almost like going to Santa's Texas hideaway. Amazing. I recall they first bought it when Lavie's niece was born. That would make it around 18 years old.

It was a beautiful tree. Dark needles, dense branches. One year it struck me as being kinda hour-glass shaped in the branches. So I took all the branch-rings off the center poles and laid them all over the living-room floor. I then carefully re-ordered them on the pole to give it a "traditional" cone shape. It was amazing we put up with the mis-match for so long. Lavie's dad would also tell the story how the top section was actually from a different tree than the bottom. Something about this "Franken-tree" was very endearing to us. After many years, Lavie's dad treated us by having it permanently strung with lights. That was a wonderful gift as well. I hate stringing lights on a tree.

I'm not sure what happened, but last year came and went without it being replaced. We actually picked one out that we liked but never went back to buy it. Our cherished tree was shedding its artificial needles worse than a real tree starved for water. It was time to go.

So this year I had to fulfil my promise. We set a date two weeks ago to go out and find it.

I did some pre-work before that date. I did some heavy web-searching at the major stores and got some good leads. I was amazed to find so many "upside down" Christmas trees this year. I honestly hadn't even heard of this until I was on-line, but am told that this is a new trend. Umm..yeah.

Being somewhat more conservative, we were sticking with the green-trees, not the all white ones. We also were looking seriously into finding a "slim" tree. That would work much better in our living-room and give much more flexibility to us in placement.

So the date for our family foray in tree-replacement began.

I had gotten up early and sadly but lovingly placed the old tree out on the curb for pickup. I also found my old slalom water-ski in the far back corner of the storage shed and put that out as well. I figured the ski would be gone before the tree was picked up. It was in great shape, but too small now to carry my, um, "adult" weight.

There was no going back. I had committed our family now to finding a new tree in time for Christmas.

Unfortunately Lavie came down with a migraine and couldn't go. Against our protests, Lavie shoved Alvis and I out the door. We told Lavie we would just scout them out, and unless something special was found, wouldn't come back with anything.

We went to a few places that looked good on the web, but in person the trees just didn't work. Finally, a few hours later we found one. The price was right. The height was right. It had dual types of leaves and needles. It wasn't a slim-style, but more in-between that and a really wide-bottomed tree. It was pre-lit with white lights. Alvis was impressed! She was no longer begging me to just go home and take the old tree off the curb and put it up for another year. We matched the stock number showing on the tree and found the box and were on our way home!

Much later that night when Lavie joined the land of the living, she inspected our prize.

"Why did you get the colored lights? They are pretty but don't we usually like white lights?" (She is so tactful.)

"Umm. What dear?"

A close family inspection of the (still unopened) box found it clearly labeled as being "multicolored" lights. Hmmm. That wasn't what was expected.

Upon the objections of both Lavie and Alvis (it was getting pretty late) I loaded up the tree and was back in route to the store.

I explained to the customer service desk what had happened and that I would like to see about exchanging it for a white-lit tree (if possible). I was hopeful I could, but if not, things might be complicated. See, with the purchase of the tree came a free $25 store gift card, which Alvis had already spent on-line. This might get dicey. Would I have to pay for the gift-card if I couldn't exchange them?

I went back to the display area where we got it and there was the display model we had seen and the sign. However now I noticed that while the model tree clearly had white lights, the sign on it (with stock number) was for the multi-colored light model. I didn't see any boxes with the clear lit one. Hmmm. That explains things...time to ask for help.

I found a store elf and after some puzzled looks, got her to understand the issue. She snapped to and quickly sent another helper-elf to the back. Sure enough, they had a clear-lit model. Whew!

So I hauled it back to the customer service desk. Now things got crazy.

See, the white-lit one was something like $4.00 cheaper than the multi-colored lit one. Even though both boxes clearly had the same price marked on them.

Then there was the issue with the free $25 gift card.

See they had to give me another one of those as well. Really. Even for an exchange.

I explained to the clerk that I was just trying to exchange them, and since I had already gotten a $25 gift card, it didn't seem right to give me another one (yeah, I'm kinda honest that way). She checked with a manager and the manager explained that since the computer (register) was recording a new qualifying purchase going out, they had to issue me a new $25 gift card as well.

Reading the incredulous look on my face, the manager shrugged and explained that this was how the computer sale was set up.

Leaving the store, I quickly worked out that under this policy, it would only take a few exchanges to recoup the entire price of the tree. Wow.

Sure the store made a mistake by putting the wrong stock sign on the tree, but I really should have checked the box description before walking out. That was my mistake, but because of it, I ended up coming of out of the store with an additional net gain of $29 on the same box-priced tree. Isn't America great? And that doesn't count the first $25 gift-card we already got and spent. That was like a total of $54 off the original price of the tree.

Oh well.

The tree went up. Lavie and Alvis decorated it the following day and it is looking very warm and cheery.

Thus begins the holiday season here in the Valca home.

I can't wait to see how the rest of the month will go.

Oh, and the old-tree I put on the curb? It was gone by the next morning...hopefully in a new home shedding all over them. Too bad they don't know the story it already has hung on its branches. And the water-ski? That sat for three more days until the garbage truck came by.

See you in the skies,


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