Friday, December 28, 2007

...forty-seven paperweights...

I was excited about registering at Crate & Barrel, especially after the fiance and I visited one of their Manhattan stores and beheld their collection of shiny kitchenwares. Crate & Barrel is hip, cool, urban, as we can only aspire to be. Even better, it's an efficient mail-order company, with an easy-to-use website supplemented by a relatively comprehensive catalogue. Registry heaven.

The website is definitely better than the others I've discussed for general shopping, but as a registry tool it could use some improvements. Like I said when I critiqued Bed, Bath & Beyond, I think I ought to be able to sign in to my registry once and then browse like a regular customer. Crate & Barrel, like Macy's, has a separate "registry" interface they make you use once you sign in, focused on pointing you in the direction of adding more stuff (per their "recommendations"). This makes it harder to look up things you already know you want (like items from the catalogue), and if you manage to break free of the registry frame, you'll have trouble going from search results to registry list and back.

My other complaint is that, like BB&B (and all the other stores), Crate & Barrel doesn't notify me when something I've registered for goes out of stock. And since many of their items are presented on a "seasonal" basis, this happens a lot. I've had to reconfigure my list many times since I set it up. I got an email when they changed their returns policy (although I still don't know what changed). When I sign in, I see a message, in red letters, alerting me that my list is down to only X number of available gifts and encouraging me to "add more." And we get a new catalogue every three days. So I don't see why they can't send an email when something I'm hoping to receive is no longer available.

I do like Crate & Barrel's gift packaging -- their black-and-white boxes are simple and elegant, and so sturdy I've saved a few for storage purposes (at least until we get those baskets we registered for!). When it comes to gift packaging, I'm a confirmed recycler and re-user -- one of those people who folds up wrapping paper and puts it away for future use -- and I wish I could find a use for the yards and yards of black-and-white, C&B-branded ribbon I've received. The fiance suggested tying one particularly long sample around me like a sash. I could be "Miss Crate & Barrel" for Halloween next year! They get further kudos for not stuffing their boxes with the dreaded styrofoam peanut; generally they use crumpled paper to pad things for shipping. This is commendable, but I did contact them with a suggestion regarding the rolls and rolls of paper in which they swathe certain items. I'm not saying I know anyone dumb enough to make a mistake like this, but if they sent out a package that included some items rolled in paper this way, and if those items were very lightweight -- like, for example, champagne flutes -- and if the person opening the package didn't know what was inside (because it was a gift), she might accidentally discard the rolls of paper, thinking they were just padding. And she might not realize her mistake until she sat down to write her thank-you notes, and noticed that the packing slip said something about "champagne flutes," but there were no such flutes inside the smaller boxes she opened. And she might have to call home and ask her mother to check the boxes -- already on the curb, waiting to be picked up -- and retrieve the missing flutes. So I think they ought to tie a little ribbon around those nondescript rolls of paper, just to make it obvious that there's something inside. You know, just in case someone should ever make such a silly mistake.

C&B is my favorite so far -- but make sure you stay on top of your list! Stay tuned to hear about my remaining stores...

(To read all my wedding-registry reviews, click here.)

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