Admittedly being a lousy swimmer, it stands to reason that I’m not much of a fan when it comes to being in the water, or even on the water. I would say I’m more of the type who likes to be by the water, looking at it, beachcombing, walking along the sand and letting the incoming waves wash over my feet and ankles. Exploring tide pools. Plopping into a low beach chair down by the side of a creek, wallowing in the shallows, so the water gently laps around my legs, just enough to cool off….that’s my speed.
Swimming pools are a no. It’s been a number of years since I’ve taken a dip in a lake or reservoir or gone snorkeling in a sea. Even if I wanted to, having fragile, expensive hearing aids has eliminated much of those options. Removing them to go into the water means being rendered almost totally deaf and frighteningly disconnected. Leaving those exorbitantly priced instruments behind on the shore, a beach towel or on a boat has also been worrisome.
There have only been a few times over the most recent years where having a quick-drying bathing suit has been useful, so we are talking about actually wearing one for maybe five days a year, if that. I thought I could get away with keeping the same one for another decade or so, but last year one of my sisters informed me that mine was “pretty stretched out” and “probably time for a new one”. Considering I hardly ever wore it, I don’t understand how that could have happened. The last suit was a pricey little one-piece wonder called a “Miracle” suit, meant to hold you together in a flattering way. Honestly, it was a miracle I was able to struggle in and out of that thing, although it somewhat did the job. Less of a miracle is that it did not last for very long. OK, bodies change. Over time I have become more and more of a Shar Pei in a bathing suit – a real fluff-bucket. Admittedly, those rolls are much cuter on the dog. The thought of going through the process of getting another suit fills me with dread. Apparently this is almost a universal phenomenon among women, even the ones who look great in a bathing suit. Body image issues are not exclusive.
When I have mentioned my upcoming quest for a new suit, almost every woman I know – friend or family – has responded with the same reactions over and over. “Oh God, that’s the worst”. “I absolutely dread having to do that”. “Horror show”. “I feel your pain”. “I’ve been avoiding it for a long time”. After reluctantly tossing the stretched out one condemned by my sister, I went digging through the bottom drawer of Those Just-In-Case Clothes Kept But Seldom Worn, because I knew somewhere in there was yet another bathing suit. I found it – it’s at least fifteen years old, bought during an impromptu opportunity to visit Maui, a place where there was a plethora of bathing suits to choose from – and I was much younger and smaller then. Although if I honestly think back on it, it was about as painful and horrific trying to buy a suit then as it is now. In reflection, once upon a time I looked kind of OK in that suit and would be pretty happy to look like I did then, as compared to now. Unfortunately, that suit no longer fits in the same way. Funny thing about perspective and hindsight. As someone once said to me, “You are never going to be any younger than you are right now at this moment, so you might as well embrace it”. True words spoken.
In the area where I reside, the shopping malls are pretty much gone. The anchor stores have folded. There is an extremely limited choice of where you can go to actually try on a bathing suit in person these days that does not involve some travel. I went to one of the few local places remaining, which had a limited, pathetic variety. While this situation has spared me from the horror of having to deal with a bathing suit clad visage in a dressing room mirror, it means having to order from a catalog or on the internet, a frustrating experience in itself, and a real crap shoot.
There is a very well-known, long-standing catalog of clothing that has an annual collection of somewhat conservative swimwear, which has historically been aimed at “Mature” women. Back in the way distant past (my way-back days being that of bikinis, and even of care-free skinny dipping), I thought most of these catalog suits were a bit frumpy and meant for Old People. Having eventually arrived at the big “M” for Maturity myself, they suddenly are looking pretty doable. I have to wonder though, why the women in the catalogs modeling these suits aimed at older women are still fairly young. They all look like they probably have kids in elementary school and work out at the gym. I’ve got grandkids in elementary school, and the gym is a thing of the past. It would be nice to see older women with bellies and fluffy thighs being depicted. But then, I suppose that might not sell too many bathing suits.
My sister suggested I get a “tankini”. You can order a different size top from the bottom, and you can mix and match them. The top is like a tank top, except in bathing suit form. There were choices involved, like wire or soft cup, and a “firming tummy control option”, which seemed like a good idea for me. They were on sale too, with free shipping. So I took the plunge – followed the link in the catalog to the website, found something I thought I could live with, entered the discount code. I chose the sizes based on their recommendations and measurements. Despite stating it, there was not a “firming tummy control option” to be found anywhere when ordering. This was a bit disappointing, but I soldiered on.
The top part of the bathing suit arrived about a week later, with a notation on the packing slip that the bottom was on back order. I discovered they had charged me full price for the top part of the suit (which was significant – almost double), and that they had also charged for shipping it, despite saying shipping was free. What was equally annoying was that the suit was way too small, even though I followed their measurement guidelines. The straps cut into my shoulders, it was so tight around the chest that I could barely breathe, and parts of me that I never knew existed were blasting out of it. With tremendous disappointment, I went onto their live chat option with customer service to try and straighten out all the problems. I chose the chat option because of my hearing loss – it is a struggle to try and deal with issues on the phone, with so much depending on the quality of the connection and the the frequency range of the speaker’s voice. I will say that chat option is a blessing and even a necessity for people who can’t hear well – it’s something I very much appreciate and depend on.
Unfortunately, I could tell right away that chat person and I were getting off on the wrong foot. I was informed that I had used the incorrect discount code – apparently the code in the catalog is different than the code on their website. Why they don’t match is beyond me….. and why is it that if they are both discount codes at the same time for the same products, they are not giving the same discount? It seems like kind of a bait and switch tactic to me. Apparently, the website asked for “Sea” to be the code and the catalog asked for “Sand”. So I had to ask to have “Sea” switched over to “Sand” (or maybe it was vice versa) and the difference credited back to my card. When I asked her to confirm the amount that would be coming back to my card, she told me she didn’t know what that would be. Putting it into a calculator, I told her what it would be, but she would not verify that, saying she was unable to. I asked to make sure that the bottoms on back order would also be switched to the appropriate “Sand” or “Sea” so the discount would apply. She assured me that would happen.
Next I mentioned that the size recommended for the top was too small, and I would like to exchange it for the next size up. Chat person informed me that you cannot make an even exchange – that I would have to return the top – and be responsible for the return postage. Then I would have to make a whole new order for the larger size top. I could not believe there was no option on the return shipping form for an even exchange, but there is not. So now I am out postage and having to order all over again. I also asked, since we were discussing everything here, where do you choose the “firming tummy control option” that is advertised for that very suit? She said there is no option for that particular suit. I said it is stated right there that there is an option. I took a screen shot of where it says that (printed right next to the very picture of the suit, and again stated next to the item number) and sent the photo in the chat. She told me if they had to mention every detail of what is and is not actually available, that the catalog would be 200 pages long. Although the customer service person was polite, I could feel that they probably couldn’t wait to get rid of me. I was feeling similarly on my end.
At that point she suggested that I should probably call and speak to someone about all these issues. I agreed that was the path to take, although I was dreading having to go through the entire thing again while struggling through a phone conversation. Never the less, the following morning I packed up my tankini top, mailed it back and called customer service. The person pretty much told me the same thing, that I had to make a whole new order. I wanted to make sure I was going to get the same discount. She said she had to check and make sure it was still valid…it’s a good thing it was or I probably would have thrown a fit at this point. We used “Sand” this time. (Of note – and just to throw a little wrench into everything – the code of the day before, “Sea”, has suddenly been changed to “Ball”. Go figure on that one). She said I could place the new order on the phone with her or go back on the internet to do it. I decided to do it right then and there with her so I could be assured it was going through OK. When it came time to pay, I was told the original method I used to pay on the internet the first time could not be used to order over the phone. So I had to charge it to a different card. The bottoms are on one card and the new top is on another, just to add to the confusion. That all occurred a few days ago.
Today the second top in the larger size has arrived, and my return for the first smaller top was received by them. The replacement is a bit looser, but I think it will be doable. I have not seen any refund for the difference of the sale price, nor any refund yet for the return of the first top, although they did refund what they had charged for the shipping that was supposed to be free. Why they could refund only part of it and not all of it has me wondering. Historically, when you return things it seems to take weeks to “process” a refund, which has always amazed me, considering it takes about thirty seconds for a company to charge you for a purchase.
The bottoms still have not arrived, although I received an email this morning saying my original card from the first order has been charged some random amount, so I am assuming that is for the back ordered bottoms, even though it is not quite the price listed on the invoice. Based on the inaccuracy of the site’s measurement guidelines, I am wondering if this too will run small….although I am cautiously hopeful that will not be the case. If I do have to return them, it would mean yet another return postage charge on my end. After a few of those return charges put on the customer, it sort of negates the point of something being “on sale”. It would be great if these items could be returned in person, but the only store that carried clothing from this company and facilitated returns for them around here went out of business. The closest store for this actual company is in another state. Of note, funny that last year around this time I went through a mail order fiasco regarding trying to get a pair of gold sandals for a wedding (Quality Control…or The Golden Ticket.) Feels slightly like a time warp…..
I called customer service today to find out where everything stood. This time I got a very pleasant woman with a clear voice. I am hoping the proper refunds will arrive soon and that the bottom part will fit so I can be finished and out of Tankini Hellscape for the next decade.
If this all ends up being a giant fail, I think am going to just wear a sports bra with a tank top over it, a pair of cut-off shorts, and call it a summer.