Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Search Continues

Last week I drove down to Upper lake to see a man about a vanity. The guy’s name is Sheldon, and he's the owner of The Antique Plumbing Society of America. The name should have warned me as to who I was dealing with. Without question the guy had the biggest selection of antique plumbing supplies I have ever seen in my life. And this wasn’t the everyday stuff either. He just had a stunning array of super high-end Victorian plumbing parts from the 1880s and 1890s.

Ever seen a Victorian cast iron Bathroom Pool? Picture a super fancy cast iron tub that is 4-feet square and stands about 3 feet tall with huge furry paw feet. I didn’t even know such a thing existed, yet there it was sitting in his showroom. Most of his stuff is mansion quality and is so far out of my price range, it’s not even funny. I called him asking about marble vanities and he said he had a few, so I made the drive down anyway.

He is only open Friday through Monday, but I told him I could only make it down on Thursday so he opened up special for me. I thought that was very nice and I had high hopes of finding a vanity. It started out well enough. He seemed a bit talkative, but I was so star struck by his inventory that I didn’t notice at first. After about 10 minutes of talking to him I noticed he interrupted me almost constantly. There is nothing more irritating than to be constantly interrupted by someone who talks like they’ve had 2 too many cappuccinos. On top of that, the vanities he had wouldn’t do, so my mood turned sour quickly.

He was really a high pressure salesman. When I started to mention the problems with his vanities he would cut me off with some ridiculous ways to change them or fix them. He would pepper his comments with expressions like, “What’s the matter, you don’t want to spend the big bucks to do it right?”. To which I would snap back that I didn’t care about the money I just wanted what I wanted and what he had wasn’t it.

The type of vanity I’m looking for is rather common place and would not have been in the mansions that most of his stuff came out of. The simple marble vanities he showed me first may sound high-end, but they were middle class for the day. We moved over to the expensive stuff and he showed be a stunning 4 foot long, 2-inch thick marble vanity and again gave me the, “Uh, you want to do it right and spend the big bucks? How about this?”. The vanity was leaning up against the wall. It was in pristine shape. I had seen one of these before and I knew it should have 3-inch thick glass legs with nickel/brass feet. I asked if he had the legs for it. He said, “Oh, I can get them”. To which I replied, “Yea, well, when you get them, give me a call”, and I walked over to the next one.

The next one was another monster marble vanity only this one was pink marble with the original hand painted sink and all the hardware. It was beautiful and I asked how much. He said $4,500, to which I said, “I don’t like the color. What else you got.” At this point I knew I wasn’t going to be buying anything from him, but I was enjoying strolling through his collection, while at the same time giving him a hard time about his stuff. The guy was unbelievably annoying.

Again, he started egging me on about not willing to shell out the big bucks for a proper bathroom. He showed me a very nice faucet, but badly in need of replating. He wanted $750 for it. I didn’t flinch at the price, but just waved it off as if I was unimpressed. His most ludicrous statement was when he told me I should be willing to spend $20,000 on my bathroom, and if I do, I can expect to get an additional $100,000 for my house when I sell it. I told him he was nuts and I asked him to show me some embossed toilets.

He had about 30 antique toilets in the shop but only 4 of them were the really nice embossed toilets. Of those, 3 of them were the wash-out variety (old technology) and one was the wash-down variety. The wash-down works like a modern toilet. He again started in with the, “So, what do you think? Are you going to spend real money on a proper toilet, and do it right?” I was really getting sick of this by now. I looked in to the bowls and asked, “Is this all you’ve got? I don’t want a wash-out bowl”. He pointed to the last one and said it was a wash-down. It had a bad break around one of the bolt holes with an absolutely horrible repair job with silicone adhesive. All of the pieces where there but it looked like a 2 year old made the repairs. I looked at him with a disgusted look and asked him if that was one of his repair jobs. He told me he didn’t do it, but he could repair it good as new and I could have it for $1,700. Again, I didn’t even blink at the price and just said, with an air of irritation, “Yea, well, I wanted something today. What else you got?”

I don’t think he listened to half of what I said , but finally he was starting to show a little irritation of his own. He started to get a little animated and said, “Ok, ok, you want to see the good stuff now. Uh, you want to see the museum. These are my private pieces. Come one, I show you the good stuff”. His shop was in a huge red barn and there were stairs that led up to a loft. As we walked up the stairs he kept muttering about how this was his private collection and none of it was for sale.

We got up to the top of the stairs and there were about 12 of the most stunning toilets I’ve ever seen in my life. Each one was made from fine china, hand painted, and over-the-top with a capital T. This is the stuff that the Vanderbilts and the Carnegies crapped in. A lot of them had their original toilet seats and some of the plumbing was still there. It was just an amazing collection. I walked down the row and back and all the while he was saying stuff like, “Uh, come on, you ever see stuff like this before?” I tried to tell him about an 1880s HAJOCA toilet that sold on EBay 2 weeks ago for $2,200, but he kept interrupting me. Finally, I looked down the row once more and then back at him and said, “Yea, these are pretty good, but you should see the one my friend Chuck just got. Now that’s a toilet!”. He went on with more of his blustering about how his was the finest collection on the west coast. He’s probably right, but I would never give him the satisfaction of hearing me say that.

As I was about to go downstairs, I pointed to one of the least ornate toilets in the group and asked if it was for sale. It was something I’d never seen before, but it could almost be considered common when grouped with the others. It was made by JL Mott and was just stunning. He looked at me with a big smile and said once again, “These aren’t for sale. I told you, this is my museum”. I said, “Don’t tell me that. Everything’s for sale”. He said, “Nope, not these.” I said, “You mean to tell me, if I offered you $4,000 for that bowl, you wouldn’t sell it to me?”. He blanched and almost choked. His eyes bugged out and he asked, “Are you offering me $4,000 for that bowl!?”. I said, “No, of course, not. I just saying, everything has a price”, and with that I turned and headed down stairs.

At the base of the stairs was a small room with shelves, soap dishes, and toilet paper dispenser. As a parting shot I went in a picked up a very nice nickel plated toilet paper dispenser and asked how much it was. He couldn’t just give me a price, he had to sell it to me. “Well, that one’s only $40 because it’s missing the wooden roller. If it had the roller I’d want a lot more for it”. While I was looking at it he grabbed another one out of a box and once again started giving me shit about “not willing to spend the big bucks”. He holds it up to me. It looked brand new and he says, “How about this one? New old-stock: $150”. It was stunning. I looked at it and said, “I don’t really care for that style”, and then I held up the $40 one and said, “But I’ll give you $20 for this one”. That was the last straw. He started saying stuff like, “All right! What do you think this is a garage sale? This isn’t a flea market here”. I headed towards the door. When we both got to the door I politely thanked him for his time and thanked him for opening up for me. We had our moments, but I think he kind of enjoyed it. I know I did.


Patricia W. said...

I know it's not funny but your story is hilarious and put a smile on my face. Sorry it didn't turn up what you wanted but nothing ventrued, nothing gained.

Jocelyn said...

Wow- how obnoxious can a salesperson get? I love how you gave it right back to him though. Nicely told story too.

Kristin said...

Hee hee, I adore this story! I grinned all the way through it. I sure would love to see that collection, but I wouldn't want to deal with that guy! You handled him just right!