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Not only did every ornament come out of the box perfectly intact, they were also relatively easy to unwrap!
I mean, what good does it do to package something so carefully that it arrives unbroken, only to make it impossible to get it out of the packaging without cutting or breaking either the item or parts of your own body.
Patience Brewster ceramics are packaged and shipped with better protection than babies in the womb – and with a far simpler process of extracting them from the packaging.
Nobody else meets that standard, but then few items are so delicate as to need it.
Art that we ordered from FineArtAmerica.com, whether it was printed greeting cards, rolled-up prints or stretched canvases, arrived with flawless packaging.
(Their printing was also excellent; this is a company that means to win the trust of artists and customers alike, and I'm recommending their services to my artist friends who don't want to mess with printing and fulfilment, yet want to ensure high quality.)
So with pieces ranging from Tom Dickson's artist in-joke "Realist," which I bought framed, to a stretched, frameless print of Dave Allen's photo "Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset: The Great Blue Yonder," with mirrored-image sides, I was delighted with the excellent way they were cradled in transit.
FineArtAmerica.com's greeting cards – not just Christmas cards with customized messages I wrote myself, but also one-at-a-time cards from Christian Jackson's witty series of think-for-a-second fairy-tale posters – arrive in sturdy black boxes attractive enough to use for gift-giving, and sturdy enough to protect the cards thoroughly.
The place where shipping gets tricky is with rolled-up prints and canvases shipped in cardboard tubes.
I don't know why, but packagers often get confused by these tubes and think that they're shipping hazardous materials or liquids, so that they tape the ends down with plastic tape so thick and tight that nothing, not even cosmic radiation, can get through them.
Here's a clue: The plastic inserts that close the ends of these tubes are sufficient protection for the content. If you fear that they might work free in transit, a single piece of plastic packaging tape across the ends and running a few inches down the sides will be all the protection you need.
Such a single strip of tape would be easy to remove; then the plastic plug could easily be pulled free. No pain. No harm.
But when the tape is thick, you have no choice but to take out a knife and start slicing.
The trouble is that because you're slicing on a curve, nothing works right. It takes great precision and many microadjustments in how and where you apply pressure on the knife to keep from having the knife break free and slice other things – like fingers, table surfaces and so on.
Shippers who seal their rectangular boxes with a single strip of tape across each seam become paranoid (or sadistic) and hermetically seal their cardboard tubes. Do they own stock in artificial-finger manufacturers?
Those of us on blood thinners really don't appreciate having people go to so much trouble to require us to carry out delicate knife work. Nor do I want blood on my art, however eloquent a "statement" this might make.
FineArtAmerica.com passes this test – I open their tubes with no trouble.
Art Renewal Center (www.artrenewal.org
), alas, requires just a bit more training of their employees. Even though they do a fine job of printing – almost (but not quite) as good as FineArtAmerica.com, and I wholly subscribe to Art Renewal Center's philosophy, I do have to warn you that they aren't always paying attention.
You can receive tubes that are nearly impossible to get into.
And, when you pull out a canvas, it can leave you standing there in bafflement. When you buy a rolled-up print on canvas, the idea is to have a local framing store stretch the canvas on a frame.
This means that you need several inches of canvas beyond the edges of the printed art, so the framers are able to wrap it around two edges of the wooden stretching bars and firmly attach it behind.
So imagine my astonishment when I unwrapped a favorite Bouguereau (their signature artist) and found only a half-inch of free canvas on the two ends!
My resourceful framers at Irving Park Art & Frame, instead of stretching the canvas, mounted it for me, and the result was quite stunning. But really: What were they thinking at Art Renewal Center?
Then there's the matter of shipping costs. Because Amazon.com is working very hard to be an even more evil monopolist than either Microsoft or Apple, I would dearly love to do more of my book buying at Barnes & Noble.
But it seems that nobody at B&N has checked to see what the competition is doing. With my Amazon Prime membership, I never have to pay more than four bucks an item for overnight shipping of in-stock books.
But at BarnesAndNoble.com, as a Member my free shipping guarantees one to three days instead of Amazon's two days, while expedited delivery promises only one to two days instead of Amazon's overnight – and the cost, instead of $3.99 per item, is $15.48, essentially doubling the price of the book.
I'm sorry, but there is no way I can move my book buying business to Barnes & Noble as long as they're not serious about competing with Amazon.com.
And that just kills me, because Amazon.com really is trying to create a monopoly on the ebook business – and our insane government is trying to help them bring about that monopoly by suing publishers for "collusion" in refusing to set the price of ebooks at Amazon.com's ludicrously low, publisher-killing price.
Amazon.com intends to be the only publisher and seller of books, and the government is trying to help them with this frivolous yet expensive lawsuit. (See how your tax dollars are spent? Promoting monopoly in the name of preventing it!)
Are we going to be left with only Google to try to provide us with an effective alternative to Amazon, as they are trying, with Android, to be the only effective alternative to Windows and Apple?
And what's to prevent Google from behaving just as badly if they succeed in breaking the market dominance of any of the others?
Meanwhile, Amazon.com continues to be the most effective department store online, and I continue to be a regular customer, because they do almost everything better than anybody else.
It's only as a writer that I find Amazon.com terrifying. I dread the day when they are the only publisher. How will they punish me then, for my opposition to their monopoly now?
For they have already proven themselves to be punishers – when my publisher refused to go along with their impossible demand for too-low ebook prices, Amazon.com temporarily stopped selling their print books as well – including mine.
The message was clear: If you don't obey Amazon, you will be punished.
Fortunately, people did want my books enough to buy them from other sources, and Amazon finally relented. For the time being.
But if the government prevails in its pernicious lawsuit to force publishers to meet Amazon's price, it will eventually put many publishers out of business and leave us with only Amazon. And then we'll see how they punish holdouts and resisters like me, who believe the free market must be protected against the monopolistic practices that are the natural tendency of capitalism....continued on page 3