I am not a particularly handy person around the house. Fortunately for me, what I lack in actual ability for home repair I make up for with an eternal optimism about my capabilities. This compensatory effect, however, is not shared by my wife. It does not prevent her from normally leaving the house when these projects get underway, as she has an aversion to both bleeding and profanity laced tirades. Also, she doesn’t like whimpering. 

About 6 months ago we decided we needed a new faucet for our kitchen sink. After much deliberation and numerous sleepless nights, we settled on a model and purchased it at our local The Home Depot on Cattlemen Road in Sarasota (Note the official name is not “Home Depot”, rather “The Home Depot”). I love The Home Depot. I could spend hour after hour wandering it’s massive aisles, thinking of all the projects I could do if I had the time or money. Or aptitude. I often require extensive advice or assistance, and the people there never seem to mind. In fact, the people at The Home Depot recently dedicated a reserved parking spot just for my use. Unfortunately it is at Lowes Home Improvement Center. Not to be outdone, the folks at Lowes, which I also frequent, feel the same, and will be dedicating a spot for me as well. The ribbon cutting is next week in The Home Depot parking lot.

At any rate, we came home after purchasing our new faucet, placed it on a shelf, and completely forgot about it. Until last week, when the cartridge in our existing faucet failed and we couldn’t turn it off. 

This seemed like a good time to install the new faucet. I removed the old unit, during which time I discovered it had been leaking and had rotted the cabinet floor. I then assembled the new two piece faucet and mounted it to the countertop. Before hooking up the water, I crawled back out of the cabinet to check the unit from the top side. There was a problem. It was fixed in one position, and would not pivot as we expected it should. I briefly considered whether my wife would accept a fixed position faucet that continually ran over the two sink divider; and summarily rejected the possibility. I crawled back under the cabinet, removed the unit, and took it apart to see if I had done something wrong. Finding no different way to assemble it, I repeated the process. Again the faucet was fixed, and would not budge. I removed the faucet once more, and both my wife and I reviewed the installation instructions. Realizing it was either designed to be stationary or it was defective, we decided that I should return it to The Home Depot.

I should mention at one point in the morning I was writing a phone number down, and realized I was using the instruction sheet I would be returning, so I found another piece of paper. That seems an irrelevant point, but it will be useful later in the story. 

I packed up the faucet, placing all of the loose little parts in one zip lock style baggie. I placed one piece of the faucet inside another parts bag that had been ripped open. I packed everything back in the box, took my original receipt, and went to the store. It was about 10:00AM.

The Home Depot cheerfully took the return, issuing a store credit, since I had owned it longer than many of their stores have been in existence. I bought some plywood to repair the cabinet floor, and headed home; knowing we would return later to select a different faucet. 

About 4 PM, after I had removed most of the splinters from my cabinet floor project, my wife and I returned to the store for that task. While looking at the various models, I happened to reach up with my heavily bandaged hand and grab the display for the model I had returned. It pivoted beautifully, just as we originally expected it should. I found a The Home Depot Plumbing Aisle Dude to assist us, and he surmised that I may have assembled the base backwards, or that I indeed had a defective unit. Assured that it would work the way we expected, we decided to buy another. The boxes were stacked on the shelf, each encased in nylon packing straps and alarm sensors (apparently our model is popular with thugs and shoplifters). I picked up one of the boxes, we bought it, and headed home.  

Once home, I placed the box on the counter, cut the nylon straps, and opened it. Something immediately seemed wrong, yet eerily familiar. All of the little loose parts were in one zip lock style baggie. The bottom piece of the faucet now lay next to a ripped open parts bag. And the instruction sheet had a partial phone number written on it. In my own handwriting.

I had purchased the exact same faucet that I had returned just 6 hours before. Queue the profanity laced tirade….

I tried to assemble it again, under the The Home Depot Plumbing Aisle Dude’s theory I might have had the base on backwards. No go. The damn thing still wouldn’t budge. Everything went back in the box, I gathered up all the receipts from my now multiple transactions, and drove back to The Home Depot; this time to make the personal acquaintance of a The Home Depot manager. 

At the store a manager named Paul and several people at the Service Desk patiently listened to my exasperated tale of multiple purchases of an obviously defective faucet. I told Paul that if he could show me it was something I was doing wrong and that the unit would indeed pivot, I would be more than happy with that unit. Paul started to assemble the faucet, and one of the ladies at the counter pointed out he was doing it backwards. Clearly Paul did not cut his teeth as a The Home Depot Plumbing Aisle Dude. Probably was a The Home Depot Floor Center Dude. Anyway, he assembled the two pieces, grabbed the faucet arm, and proceeded to spin it like a helicopter. It worked beautifully, while I sat in stunned silence, suddenly realizing why my parking spot is at Lowes. I asked him “how the hell” he did that. He grabbed the disk holding the faucet handle, and pulled it up causing an audible click to be heard. It was a locking mechanism. Meanwhile, Paul shrugged and said “I had a hunch”.  

That’s why he wears the orange apron. Not everyone can pull that off.

So what does this have to do with workers’ compensation? For that I need to again pull out my big rubber mallet, which I coincidentally also bought at The Home Depot. When I opened that box and realized I had purchased the same faucet, the feeling was eerily reminiscent to one I had experienced years ago, as a restaurant General Manager for a large self insured company. The reserves from our claims in those days hit directly on our operating statement, which wreaked havoc on a managers’ ratings and performance bonus. This was compounded by the ability in Florida for claims to magically “reopen” long after they had been settled and closed. 

I will never forget the feeling when one particularly nasty and expensive claim, after being closed and off the books for over a year, inexplicably (to me, anyway) reopened and once again hit my operating statement. The ways of workers’ comp, just as with many employers today, was a mystery to me then, and I remember the completely helpless sensation that I had just somehow bought the same claim all over again. 

In that situation, I had an adjuster who took some time to educate me as to how that might happen. While it doesn’t make it easier to accept, proper information does make it easier to understand what is occurring in cases such as this. The magically reappearing claim is not something that can happen in every state, and they have tightened the standards here in Florida since the 1980’s. Still, it is a reminder that communication is key throughout the claim management cycle, even when the cycle ends up repeating itself with a claim that seemingly will not die. Or a faucet that won't stay unsold. Whichever.

And my faucet? Well, it is installed and working beautifully, thank you. When I was done with the task, I mentioned to my wife how easy it was to install. She replied, “It should be. It’s the third time today you’ve installed it.” 

(I actually cleaned the sink before taking this picture. When my wife saw that she suggested I blog about the entire house)

So sometimes we end up owning the same problem more than once. Whether it is home plumbing or managing an injured workers’ claim, communication and perseverance can make sure we see the project through. Meanwhile, if you are ever visiting my home, I will be happy to show you our new kitchen faucet. We really like it. 

We like it so much, we bought the damn thing twice. 

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