The Strumstick Saga

As part of my 30before30 goals list I decided that I wanted to learn how to play an instrument.  I can sort of play the piano (I had a handful of lessons before my lessons stopped for want of funds) and I used to play clarinet (poorly) in middle school.  I thought about getting a keyboard and working on my piano skills and while I still think that would be worthwhile; I wanted to try something new.  I love reading small farming and homesteading memoirs and in Jenna Woginrich’s delightful book Made From Scratch(Good Reads Link) she has a section on mountain music.  She mentioned a curious, three-stringed instrument that was basically idiot proof and very affordable called a strumstick.  I was curious enough to look it up and I was enchanted with the funny thing.  It’s basically a dulcimer that sounds more like a banjo.  I honestly love the sound of a banjo, but I’ve always found them an intimidating instrument.  Now I could have a training wheels banjo!
Unfortunately while they aren’t expensive instruments they’re still a couple hundred dollars new and difficult to find used.  I looked a lot and lost a number of auctions on ebay trying to get a strumstick, mostly because I’m really not made of money and I couldn’t afford to spend much more than $100 or so on it.  Finally I lucked out because the McNally Company that makes the strumsticks was having a second run sale on strumsticks with minor imperfections that couldn’t be sold at full price, but wouldn’t affect the sound.  I absolutely jumped on that and on July 29 I paid my money, gave them my address and waited for my instrument.  Now, they send all their instruments by UPS, which is cool because I generally like the company.  If you aren’t home UPS give you another two shots to have your package delivered or to make other arrangements.  Unfortunately it was a busy week for me and I kept spacing on leaving them a note to deliver the package to my leasing office (they’re cool in that they’ll accept and hold packages for residents when they aren’t home).  So third day rolls around and I missed my final delivery.  No problem, I thought, I’ll just figure out what delivery center is nearest and pick it up there.  Yeah…that’s not how UPS works.  You can arrange for them to hold it at a delivery center, but if you miss three deliveries without any explanation, they ship the package back to the original seller.
There were a lot of bad words said when I realized this was the case.
So I emailed the seller about the delivery and they said if I was willing to pay shipping again, they would send it back to me again.  Since it was my fault I sucked it up and paid for shipping again, because hell, I’d gotten the damn thing for half price and shipping wasn’t that expensive.  So they shipped it again… but forgot to send me the new delivery information.  Since I’d arranged to have them ship it a second time before the instrument was actually back with them, I guess they just forgot.  A week and change goes by with no word, so I drop them an email to ask what was up.  They reply that they sent the package out on August 13th, it’s August 18th so I check the tracking number I’ve just been given and, you guessed it, I missed the first delivery attempt.
No big right?  UPS always tries three times…except this time.  Apparently my courier was having a bad day or something so without any further attempts they decide to just send it back to the seller.   At this point I’m pissed because maybe I should have asked after the resending sooner, but the point is that I wasn’t given a new tracking number and UPS did not fulfill their contractual obligation to me with three attempts at delivery.  There’s no way to call UPS and talk to an actual person, you have to send an email.  So I send an email explaining the situation.  Next day I receive a very prompt and polite email back saying that it was a mistake and they called the shipping center and the shipping center should get back to me within the day to sort out the mistake.  I don’t get a call.
I contact the originally seller about the situation, explain what happened and warn them that the strumstick is heading back towards them and I’m trying to catch it before that happens.  I email UPS AGAIN, this time slightly less patiently, but still politely about the problem.  I don’t hear anything for another few days during which time the strumstick lands back in New Jersey where it started. (-_-)
McNally Company contacts me and very graciously offers to send me the strumstick via USPS at no cost to me which I’m grateful for, but I feel like UPS owes me an explanation and ask if they’re willing to wait another day or so.  They are and thankfully UPS gets back to me the next day, own up to the mistake and say they will resend the package for me for free.  I let the seller know that they should be able to hand the package off to UPS with the email they sent me and wait with bated breath to hear if UPS accepts the package as they should.  A few days later the package is successfully picked up, but it’s heading into Labor Day weekend.  I head home to see my family over the weekend, but make sure I tape up a note saying to deliver any packages to the Leasing Office, just in case.  Luckily, they didn’t deliver it over the weekend and finally, with no more fuss or fanfare, UPS safely delivers my strumstick on Wednesday, September 3 and I got to pick it up last Friday.
The poor instrument’s box was beaten and crumpled pretty badly on one end from 2 ½ round trips from New Jersey to Tampa, but the strumstick was fine and after I picked up an electronic tuner on Sunday (I tried tuning by ear, super hard) it’s in tune as well!  I’m going to crochet a shoulder strap for myself and get practicing as soon as I can.
So ends the saga of the strumstick! *throws confetti*

strumstick

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