It's always in the place you least expect.
The thing you're searching for; the thing you need. Let me explain.
You may recall my adventures in trying to locate something as simple as a blender. The problem is compounded when all you need is a small part, and in this instance, that part was completely unavailable.
Here's how it began: a few months back I'd picked up a Bodum® Eileen French press at a local coffee shop that appeared to be high quality. It was much sturdier than my previous press, which had suffered an unfortunate kitchen accident. But what I hadn't noticed at the time of purchase was that the pressing knob was made of a soft rubber compound instead of solid metal or plastic. I surmise it was meant to be comfortable, but instead it was quickly rendered useless.
Within a short time the rubber stripped from the post threads; pulling upward caused the knob to pop right off. Cleaning the press suddenly became an annoyance. I might have lived with that, except that the rubber was so soft the knob began to bulge in the center. Each time I used the press, the bulge became more prominent and I knew it was only a matter of time before the post would poke a hole through it, which is exactly what happened.
So now I had a mostly useless press, unless I could find a replacement knob, and trust me, you don't want to get between me and my coffee. The first place I looked was the small pamphlet that came in the box, but the only available spare parts listed were the mesh screen, base plate, post and beaker. No knob.
Next, I did a Google search for the parts and came up with the same list. Then I went directly to the Bodum web site, but trying to find a parts list was painful, and when I eventually found it, again no knob was available. What the Hell were they thinking?
So I sent a fax outlining my problem to Bodum's Hong Kong office, but no one ever replied. Typical Hong Kong customer service, that, so I followed up with a phone call to the office, which in turn referred me to a supplier for service. Now I'm getting somewhere, I thought. But I was wrong. After explaining my situation, I was promised that someone would try to locate a knob and let me know, and to be doubly certain, I sent another fax with all my contact information.
I never heard from Bodum again.
Now I had to take matters into my own hands. I could still make coffee, but it was no longer a pleasant experience, not with steel post trying to poke a hole through my palm every day.
Knowing that Hong Kong has no big box hardware stores, I had to think laterally: who would carry a knob that might fit the threads of the post? The only place that came immediately to mind was Lockhart Road in Causeway Bay, because I had seen numerous home outfitter shops west of Canal Road and some of them had door-sized displays of knobs, ranging from expensive crystal to plain steel. They were bound to have something that would work.
But again I was wrong. In every instance, the knobs on display were for furniture or fixtures, and none had the correct gauge: they were either too thin or too thick. Only one knob would fit, but it was a gigantic round white knob one would find on a child's dresser. I wanted to fix the pot, but I didn't want it to look ridiculous.
And then, later that day while cutting through our neighbourhood wet market, I stopped at a small shop crammed full of basic housewares, thinking that perhaps it might carry something that could attach to the threads. A browse through the aisles quickly dashed those hopes, and I began to think I might have to fork over some cash for a new press. I'd almost left the shop, but on whim, made one last pass through the section with the woks, pots and frying pans, when suddenly I spotted a small, solitary red plastic bin in the corner of one shelf. Inside were several types of black plastic pot lid knobs in various sizes.
No way. I pulled the post from my courier bag and was amazed to find that each knob fit the threads perfectly, as though they'd been made for it. Selecting one I felt was just the right shape and size for the design of the press (and made of nice, hard, solid plastic), I turned it over to find it was all of eight dollars. That's about one US buck, which is a heck of a lot more attractive than shelling out hundreds of Hong Kong dollars for an entire press.
And that's how it is in the Big Lychee: the people you expect can help or the places you expect to find what you need often turn up nothing, while the places you think unlikely to be able to solve the problem often end up doing just that. Believe me, the next time I need something like that knob, I know where I'm going to look first.
Because my coffee will go cold long before customer service ever gets back to me.
January 28, 2010
Next Tale: What Goes Around