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Umbrellas: a serious ecological issue

by Barbara Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 12:07:29 PM EST

A few weeks ago I bought a lovely stick umbrella at a great discount price at TK Maxx. The company that made it is proud of the product and offers a lifetime warranty. My umbrella is raspberry red with about three hundred miniature pictures of various female accessories, very cool and contemporary. It has a dark wooden handle curved generously so that you can hold it with both hands, the kind of handle you just want to stroke over and over, velvety smooth. It's also fitted with a rather sharp and long metal tip, which could prove useful when I walk back home from yoga late in the evening (and also during rush-hour to make my way through the crowds). It opens automatically in one fluid movement. The embodiment of grace and elegance, you could say.


Or at least, it was, until about 10:13 a.m. today, when I decided to use it for the first time. About ten seconds after I stepped out of my house, a gush of wind attacked my beautiful, life-time warranty equipped umbrella and gave it a few good slaps. The ribs were strong, with joints like knees, not designed to be turned up (warning: grave injury), which was one of the reasons I bought it. I wanted a sturdy umbrella that remains an umbrella and doesn't turn into a wobbly water tank at the first sign of bad weather. Well, my umbrella bravely resisted the violence for a few moments, but the wind was cunning. No matter which way I turned, it kept slipping underneath with the force of Midwestern tornadoes. Before I thought I might be temporarily transformed into Mary Poppins, I heard a metal SNAP! and my dreams of lifetime elegance and stroking smooth wood during peaceful walks in Kew Gardens or Hyde Park got dissolved in piercing rain that pummelled my unprotected face. Mixing guttural sounds of frustration with various four-letter words, I stomped into the surgery where I was supposed to interpret this morning, almost ready to ask the receptionist whether my insurance coverage included broken umbrellas, and if she said no, attack her with the only useful part of the umbrella that was left, the metal tip. I sat down, opened the wreckage of my raspberry wonder, probably to the horror of all superstitious patients in the waiting room (ladies and gentlemen, don't worry, the worst has already happened), and began to inspect the damage. Three dangling broken ribs and one of the six supporting (read: key) top bars broken in half. Ouch. Nothing I could even try to fix. Needless to say, I was one grumpy interpreter when they called me into the office.

So. As I hate the thought of "just-throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one-it's-cheaper-that-way", and I don't want the velvety handle to become a part of the London landfill after having held it for mere minutes, I would like to ask you for an advice as to how to find, in this day and age, a place that will be willing to repair my umbrella without charging me triple of what it cost me. How do you deal with your broken umbrellas? Do you try to bring them back to life, or just dump them? Do you have any tricks as to how to prolong the life of an umbrella? You might think it's a trivial subject, but every day I see at least two broken umbrellas sticking out of a bin somewhere on the street. People throw them away like newspaper. Very polluting, to say the least. All this metal, plastic, cloth and wood (sniff) thrown away just like that. It's a serious ecological issue. Don't you agree?

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But how about the lifetime warranty?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 12:10:34 PM EST
The life-time warranty extends only to an imperfection in the umbrella, which was not the case. However, here is what the good soul at ShedRain wrote to me after I complained bitterly about my loss:

"I am so sorry to hear about your umbrella.
Due to the high cost of international shipping, we will not require you
to return your umbrella.
I do need to see if you can tell me what style it is.  There may be a
white tag on the inside of the umbrella.  
Please give me all numbers that are on this tag and we will see what we
can find out.

Thank you,
Brandy Jameson
ShedRain Corp"

So there is hope.

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:25:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's probably my fault,  having rained down inelegant curses upon the heads of the wielders of umbrellas on my last trip to a big city. Strangely, all the people I meet carrying umbrellas tend to be quite short, which brings umbrellas steaming down the pavement towards me to roughly eye level. Having once agin run into a flotilla of their wielders and nearly lost an eye I did have a somewhat unsubtle chat with the west wind, and he agreed to destroy, along with his brothers and sisters any umbrella held too tight by people on pavements.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 12:22:05 PM EST
With umbrellas, as with humans, there is no homonculus and therefore when the brolly is dead - it is dead. One cannot resurrect a broken brolly. If you break it, you own it. The breaker, in this case, was the forces of nature, who now wish to claim their right.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 12:40:56 PM EST
and other grammar worthy of strict PNing!

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 12:42:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A most hearty recommend for the Diariste, who should clearly do a regular series of amusing and well written anecdotes from the life of the 'lady what do yoga'

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 12:44:45 PM EST
Thank you, Sven! :)

My next diary will be called Should banks be bombed? I'm dealing with an extremely frustrating issue with my bank a t the moment (the moment has been lasting for 2.5 months) and gathering all my knowledge as well as mental strength to depict the wrongdoings of several financial instituions without having to rush off and meditate in padmasana or else God help me. So, stay tuned :)!  

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:04:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is this a UK bank?

If so, it should certainly be bombed.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:17:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it is, indeed. But there is also Citibank Buffalo involved in the process, so this vast screw-up has not been limited only to the UK.

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon
by Barbara on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:19:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that would be an interesting discussion on here ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:23:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I need to compile the diary first... you need to have all the facts, see? It gets better with each day.

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon
by Barbara on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:26:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
either that or enough dynamite.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:33:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you tell it barbara!

i xpect the invisible hand of pure market forces will provide an umbrella sturdy enough to handle the most howling of winds...

however it will cost £5,000, because of its titanium joints.

the more ostentatious will take the model with heraldic family crest, from briggs, ramsbottom & sons, for a measly pittance of £2,000 extra...

while the one-trip throwaway model from formaldehyde-free biodegradable hazelnut shell chaff composite can be yours free if you sign for a new account from natwest!

the logo washes off in the rain, no worries

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 06:17:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here some old shops do umbrella rib replacement, but the craft probably died out more to the West. You could also try bicycle repair shops, maybe.

Myself, I only had three umbrellas in my life, and it would have been two had I not been an idiot to leave the second on a train (I think).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 01:15:49 PM EST
There's a shop here as well (or at least there was the last time I needed an umbrella).

When my last umbrella wore out, the man there gave me a discount of 15 DM (yeah, I know, it's been a while) on a new umbrella as trade-in on my old one - he could reuse the (wooden) shaft.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 01:25:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, DoDo, I bow down to you. Either you don't mind getting wet like a dog, or you spent a fortune on the three umbrellas you bought. Or, it's very dry in Hungary. But I though it does tend to rain there, at least occasionally...

Really, just three umbrellas???

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 02:59:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it definitely rains less here than London or even Prague, and when I was a child, I just used a raincoat, so comparison might really be unfair. But the second (damn why did I lost it!) and third were indeed expensive... and solid. What I wrote about repair reflects experience only with the first.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 04:49:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the throwaway society. I have sitting around the house several pieces of electronic stuff which are inoperative for one reason or another.

The problem is the cost of labor. I just got a quote on fixing my old home movie projector. It needs two rubber belts (glorified rubber bands) and a cleaning. The quote: $150. The cost of materials $.10.

Some entrepreneur could make a living off taking in broken stuff shipping it off to a third world country for repair where labor is cheap and then shipping it back. This seems to work for fixing people and didn't I read that some fishery is Scotland is shipping local shrimp to Thailand for cleaning and then shipping them back to the UK?

Many items are made in automated factories and contain parts too small to be manipulated by humans, so fixing them is impossible.

The whole thing started with the demise (in the US) of the returnable glass milk bottle and has just gone down hill from there...

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 01:16:28 PM EST
That's also because (and to me the main reason) of intellectual property madness.

If constructors gave away schematics and didn't sue reparators all the time (and try to control them), the situation would be very different.

Another negative effect of intellectual property.

by Laurent GUERBY on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 01:47:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the shrimp argument is the killer :-) As the pervert


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 07:22:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember when "non-returnable glass" was introduced as a great advance in Spain about 20 years ago. Within 10 years everyone was already wringing their hands about recycling, but it didn't seem to occur to anyone to go back to returnable glass.

Another howler was when drink cartons acquired a plastic spigot, making them a lot harder to recycle, this within the last 10 years.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 6th, 2006 at 10:24:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've given up on umbrellas a long time, a good water proof coat, preferably long, with a hood and a pair of good shoes or boots provides all the protection i need. If it's windy my legs get wet anyway, with or without umbrella.

The other day there was a stormy afternoon in Lisbon with strong winds and rain. Guess what object was ubiquously featuring in all the news? Broken umbrellas...

by Torres on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 02:13:01 PM EST
James Smith and Sons

53 New Oxford St, Hazelwood House, London, UK - England WC1A 1BL · 020-7836-4731

They used to do umbrella repair in the old days, but I haven't been there in years so I don't know if they still do.

If you come to the point of buying a new one sometime in the future, I would heartily recommend buying the new fangled double layer ones. They have vents, to let the wind out before breakage occurs. I have one, but the label has worn off, so I can't recall the make. It's been relatively indestructible, even in the winds of Harrogate.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 02:24:32 PM EST
Ha! An umbrella with vents! What an idea! I will look for one like that. I assume in case of need it can serve as a miniature tent without posing the risk of suffocation.

Also, thanks for the address. I actually heard back from the company (I emailed them this morning) and they might even send me a new one... which still doesn't resolve the issue of what to do with the old one. So I will check that place out.

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:18:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
here's one

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 03:26:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by newropeansinlondon (newropeansinlondon_at_googlemail.com) on Wed Dec 6th, 2006 at 10:18:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have one similar to ceebs and it works fine.  My suggestion to Barbara is don't bother to get the broken one repaired.  Those winter gales in England will have it needing repair again too soon.  Try
Brookstone.  That's where I got mine about 5 yrs ago and it's still going strong. Not as elegant as Barbara's red one though.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 10:13:38 PM EST
I first came to Wales in 1997 as a student and bought an umbrella then.  I realised very quickly that there was no point whatsoever and now I have a hooded coat wherever I go. It does mean that I fail spectacularly in looking elegant but I do stay warm and dry.

I have a little umbrella that I only use when it is drizzling and not windy, and too warm for a hood.  

Especially when we get 'taken by surprise' with bad weather, the town centre is littered with the miserable looking skeletons of many umbrellas and it is a sad sight.  The only umbrellas that seem to withstand the really nasty weather are huge golf umbrellas that poke everyone else in the eye, shove people off pavements and generally act rather selfishly. I hate them.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 6th, 2006 at 06:33:24 AM EST


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