I ordered each of my nephews a really cool bean-bag chair with the KU Jayhawk on it (their Dad went to the University of Kansas, and the boys have been appropriately indoctrinated). You see, my sister and brother-in-law are always telling their boys (ages 7 and 5) to stop crawling on the furniture while watching TV and sit on the floor. (I should point out here, in case my sister reads this, that the TV time is strictly limited). I took mental note of it when I was there for Thanksgiving and thought what perfect gifts these bean-bag chairs were going to be.

I was doubly impressed with myself when I got the order placed a couple weeks before Christmas, with plenty of time to spare. (This is very unlike me – the nephews are accustomed to an “Uncle Bren Christmas” sometime in February.) The website of the online seller of the product (a reputable company, or so I thought) was brimming with wonderful holiday news: “In stock!” “Your items ship FREE!” “Estimated delivery date: 12/18 to 12/20.” Wow – it’s gonna be a bean-baggin’, Jayhawk kinda Christmas.

Except that it isn’t. Yesterday, during the window of time when the chairs were supposed to be arriving, I got my email from the seller:

Our vendor has informed us that the University of Kansas Bean Bag Chair (2) you ordered is on back order and unfortunately has not yet shipped. The estimated time of arrival is on or about the week of March 15, 2017. We apologize for any inconvenience this delay may have caused.

If you would like to continue to wait for the merchandise to arrive, no action is needed.  Your order will be fulfilled and shipped as soon as the merchandise is received by the vendor. Once your order ships, you will receive a confirmation via email with your tracking number(s).

The “vendor”? Who is the “vendor”? The website from which I ordered these bean-bag chairs was not some vendor’s website; it was your website, seller. And either you or the vendor or whatever hack is running your or your vendor’s website told me that the items were in stock. I’m just spitballing here, but it seems that “on back order” and “unfortunately has not yet shipped” are not things that you would have to say about an item that actually was “in stock.” And it also looks like you pulled your “estimated delivery date” out of Santa’s posterior.

And wow – that new delivery date. Don’t hurry or anything. Late March will be just fine. By then, I’ll have missed Christmas by three months and one of their birthdays by two. I’ll be uncle of the year!

In a word, this is bullshit. The sellers knew these things were not in stock and wouldn’t ship on time; and they knew that if they told me that they were in stock and would ship on time (seeing as how I, like every other chump on their website in the middle of December, was obviously Christmas shopping), then I would part with my money and place the order. And they knew that they’d just send me an email on the would-be delivery date and explain to me that they’re just so sorry, but don’t worry – the boys will have their bean-bag chairs before they hit puberty.

This should be illegal. It’s a scam that has a substantial impact on interstate commerce and that is perpetrated by use of a channel of interstate commerce (the internet). That brings it under federal jurisdiction, and I have half a mind to get on a federal consumer-protection website and raise holy hell over my two missing bean-bag chairs. In fact, it even occurred to me to write to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and suggest that she propose new legislation creating a bean-bag-scam-prevention-type agency.

One foundational policy Democrats proposed for the years to come, had they won a 2016 race here or there, was to strengthen consumer-protection agencies and broaden their jurisdiction.

But alas, Americans have sent to Washington a Congress whose only consumer-protection interest is in dismantling or defanging consumer-protection agencies and protecting corporate fat cats. And Americans have sent to Washington a president whose consumer-protection appointees will be reliably anti-consumer. And why not? His Education Secretary is against public education; his EPA Director is against environmental protection; and his Labor Secretary is anti-labor.

In other words, as Americans, we have ratified with our votes a world where we can be fleeced and abused and ignored and kept in our place. We do this to ourselves.

So I think I’ll pass on the consumer-protection website and the letter to Senator Warren. I’ll just add another moniker to the long list of them I have for Donald Trump: the Grinch who stole my bean-bag Christmas. Or at least the guy who dashed any hope that there would be a price to pay when an internet scam operation stole my bean-bag Christmas.

If we want a world for my nephews where corporate overlords can’t jerk Americans around like this with impunity, then I guess we progressives will have to learn how to properly frame issues and win elections. The Chimps are on it.

Stay tuned.

 

-BB