In Praise of Esther Williams Swimwear
You see this swimsuit, folks? This is my New Favourite Swimsuit. And I almost didn’t get it. Allow me to explain…
You see, the swimsuit in question is by a company called Esther Williams. (Yes, named after THAT Esther Williams.) They make these gorgeous, retro-inspired swimsuits, and I’ve been coveting one for a long, long time. Specifically an emerald green one. Because if I can’t be wearing a 50s-style green dress, I want to be wearing a 50s-style green swimsuit.
But the swimsuits aren’t cheap, and although the brand is stocked by a handful of UK retailers, I had my heart set on an emerald green one, which was only in stock at the time on the company’s own, US-based website, meaning that international shipping and import duties would make an already Not Cheap swimsuit a Very Not Cheap swimsuit. I, however, was going to be in America myself at the very time I’d be needing the suit, and so it was that I hatched a cunning plan. I would wait until I reached San Francisco (where I wouldn’t be doing any swimming, and therefore wouldn’t be needing any retro swimwear) and once I was there I would order my suit, and I would have it sent to the house we were renting in LA, planning the purchase carefully so that the swimsuit would arrive at roughly the same time I did.
But things didn’t go according to plan. Because I’m an idiot, basically.
You see, these suits are made to order, and go through a meticulous quality control process, which means that it generally takes around 6 weeks from you placing the order to you actually receiving your swimsuit: a fact which is mentioned on the company’s website.
I realised this fact approximately five seconds after placing my order.
Realising that the swimsuit would, therefore, not arrive at the house until long after I was back home in freezing old Scotland, I did a bit of whining, and then I emailed the company, apologised, and asked them to cancel the order.
But they didn’t.
No, the next day I got an email from the lovely Marq at Esther Williams, who offered to have the suit sent to me in the UK, at no extra cost.
Now, even if that had been the end of the saga, I’d have considered it the best customer service I’d ever had, because this company was basically offering to absorb the cost of the international shipping, just because of MY stupid mistake. Which was pretty damn nice of them, I thought.
Of course, the problem with that was that swimsuits aren’t much use to me in the UK, and it seemed like a lot of money for something I wouldn’t get to wear until God knows when, so I apologised again and said that as much as I’d love to prance around my hometown in an emerald green swimsuit, people look at me funny as it is, so I’d better resist. And then I hung my head in shame, because honestly, they were being so nice, and I felt like a total heel for messing them around like that.
Anyway, I figured that would be the end of my Esther Williams swimsuit plan, but I had figured without Marq, who, it turned out, wanted me to have that swimsuit almost as much as I wanted it myself. So he called the company’s manufacturer, managed to track down a suit in the right size and colour, and had it overnighted to the company’s HQ, so he could send it on to me.
SERIOUSLY, IS THAT NOT AMAZING SERVICE?
Well, I was all a-tremble at the thought of the imminent arrival of my new swimsuit. Every day we would come home from wherever we’d been, and I’d rush to check the mailbox.
It didn’t arrive.
Like, AT ALL.
I was devastated.
So, I emailed Marq and asked if it had been sent yet. “Er, yes,” replied Marq. “In fact, according to the tracking, it was delivered last week…”
I typed the tracking number Marq had given me into the USPS website, and sure enough, according to them, they’d delivered the suit to me the previous week.
Except they hadn’t. I’d checked the mailbox faithfully, and nothing had arrived. So I double-checked to make sure the address they said they’d delivered to was correct, then I went out and searched the perimeter of the property, to see if the mailman had simply thrown the package over the fence. (That had happened the previous week, with another package, which landed under the sprinkler and got a good soaking. Mailmen: they hate me.) Nothing.
Now, the house we were staying in was at the top of a hill, so we didn’t really get people just passing by. There were only two houses nearby, and they both happened to be empty at the time. The house was also surrounded by a high wall and gate, so no one could get into it without being buzzed in. The mailbox was on our side of the fence: people could put packages into it from the roadside, but you could only get them out from our side. All of these factors made it highly unlikely that the package had been stolen – and for that to have happened, USPS would’ve had to have left it outside the property, which would’ve been an odd decision given that there was a mailbox RIGHT THERE for them. So, basically, the only way USPS could possibly have delivered this package without us knowing about it was if they’d thrown it over the wall, which they hadn’t. My extensive search of the grounds proved this, and I also may have drafted in reinforcements to allow me to extend the search. I’m sure my dad really enjoyed those five hours spent searching the undergrowth for a swimsuit, too.
The upshot was that if USPS had delivered the package, I had never received it. At this realisation, a cold chill went down my spine. You all know about the lack of luck I have with mail. I’d assumed those issues were restricted only to Royal Fail, here in the UK. Now it seemed my luck had followed me to America: and had claimed my prechus swimsuit into the bargain.
Well, we called USPS. “Meh, we’ll look into it,” they said, in a tone which clearly told me that they would do no such thing.
So Terry and I jumped into the car and drove down to the local post office, which was where the package had last been tracked to. We stood in line for 30 minutes, before being granted an audience with The Grumpiest Man Who Ever Did Live. “Reeeallly?” he said, sarcastically, after hearing our sorry story. Then he rolled his eyes dramatically (“Hey!” I wanted to say. “Enough with the drama, old dude. I’LL be bringing the drama here, thanks very much.” But I didn’t, because I think he would’ve killed me with his eyes.) and went to get the manager.
The manager came shuffling out apologetically, refusing to look us in the eye.
“Yeeeaaaah,” he said nervously. “See, there’s not much point in me asking the delivery driver what happened to your package. Because he’ll just say he delivered it?”
There was a short silence as we all digested this piece of information.
“Soooo,” said the manager. “I dunno, really. Maybe just ask the company for your money back? And, like, hope they say yes? Otherwise you’re basically screwed?”
OK, he didn’t say that last bit. But it was what he meant.
I was really upset by all of this. I didn’t think it was fair for Esther Williams to have to bear the cost of the lost swimsuit, but at the same time, I didn’t really know what else to do other than to contact them again and tell them what USPS had said. So I emailed Marq, hoping that perhaps the ground would open up and swallow me before he got to read his mail.
THIS time would surely be the end of the matter, I thought, as I guiltily pressed “send” on my email. But I had seriously underestimated the lengths that Esther Williams Swimwear were prepared to go to to help out a Scottish girl in need of a retro swimsuit. You see, Ether Williams are based in California. Marq, as it turned out, was going to be at a bar not far from where we were staying, that very night. And that blessed man had managed to track down another swimsuit in my size. I could collect it from him at the bar, he suggested, and cut out USPS altogether?
That’s how I came to find myself collecting a mysterious package from a strange man in Canoga Park late one summer night. And that, my friends, is how the world was saved.
Oh no, wait, it isn’t: it’s how I came to have a green, retro style swimsuit. Ah well, same thing.
In conclusion: Esther Williams Swimwear = best customer service EVER.
Marq = MY HERO.
USPS = Don’t even get me started.
(As an addendum to this story, Marq tells me that the original suit was returned to them a couple of weeks later. My guess is that there’s a mailman somewhere in California who just really liked the colour green…)