Caveat Emptor...

I will never purchase a pipe from a cut-rate tobacco shop such as Smoker Friendly again.

The pipe in question is a wonderful little Italian navy-style straight with a nice narrow bowl and a perfectly round heel: in other words a perfect walking pipe for when I'm in the mood for some Virginia flake. And at $22.50, I couldn't go wrong for a new bangabout piece. So, I happily paid the clerk (who seemed less than enthused about her job), brought the pipe home, and put it to my lips in an absent-minded fashion.

The taste it left in my mouth was somewhere between vomit, seawater, and charcoal.

After the initial horror, I put the pipe down and reached for my trusty Italian bent apple, which I hastily filled and lit. Sweet relief.

Upon further research, I found that the pipe, because it had been sitting under ultraviolet lights at the shop for God knows how long and been handled by god knows who, the inside of the shank and stem had oxidised! Ergo, a thorough cleaning, nay, a zealous cleansing was in order. I soaked the stem in hot water with mild detergent for three hours. No dice.

Out comes the bottle of vodka and the extra-rough bristle cleaners. After scrubbing for at least an hour, covering my hands with vodka and oxidation buildup, and ending up with a sore shoulder, I have found that the stem is clean enough to put near my mouth, but the nasty oily smell still remains in my ill-fated new pipe's bowl and heel.

Needless to say, I am disgusted with the entire experience. Tobacco store owners, take heed: If you are going to sell cigarettes, you would take care to make sure that the cigarettes, lighters, cases and other such accessories are taken care of properly, right? Of course you would. Should not the same go for pipes? Should you not also make sure that the pipes that you are charging your customers for are not only well-taken care of, but free of any sort of debris before you sell them? Furthermore, wouldn't you want to make sure that your sales staff knows a thing or two about the product which they sell?

I realize that here in Hillbillicothe, Ohio we briar friars are a minority, but please be considerate of us if you are going to make the pretense that you are interested in catering to our needs.

I will be very upset if I have to throw my new pipe away because of someone else's negligence.

I will be calling the tobacco store tomorrow and lodging a complaint about this. I shouldn't have to do that, but they leave me no choice. Perhaps if this is brought to their attention someone will care enough about the needs of their pipe-smoking clientele to ensure that no one has to suffer this sort of frustration again.

*update* 28 October
I got the nasty taste out of the pipe, after another hour or two of scrubbing. I think that if I had had a stronger sort of booze I could have avoided much of the scrubbing...


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