Monday, December 17, 2012

Someday, when Sadie thinks of rugs...

It feels like I spent a good part of my childhood in Persian rug stores.  I know that the actual amount of time I spent waiting while my mother looked at Persian rugs is not even a small fraction of what my memory built it into -- and most likely it was all during a discreet six month period of my childhood.  But whenever I smell the blend of dust and lanolin typical of rug stores, I clearly recall afternoons spent jumping from one huge pile of Persians to another or, at least on one occasion, sliding down a steep carpeted staircase, face down, feet first, buppita buppita buppita the whole way down - over and over.  One suspects that men with last names ending in 'ian' or 'yan" would just as happily have rolled me up in one of their rugs and tossed me in the dumpster out back.

Probably as a result of that period, rugs, and especially oriental rugs, hold a certain mystery - I feel like I cannot buy one unless it is exactly the right one, and the right one is elusive.  I have stood in ABC Carpet (and countless other rug stores) looking for just that right rug.  No two rugs are alike, the rugs I like most are never the right size and no two similar rugs I like are ever in the same stack.  The experience becomes progressively more uncomfortable standing there feeling like I'm the indecisive one while small men who look like they just stepped out of the Ganges and badly need a sandwich flip rug after heavy rug propelling that wooly dust into the air.  

The choice of a rug is more paralyzing than the choice of almost any other home furnishing.  Consequently, with a single exception, I have elected to avoid the choice altogether.  I own 8 rugs.  The two rugs I own and walk on every day are both Tufenkian Tibetan rugs: one was given to me by a friend who was re-decorating and the other I bought cheap off Craigslist.  They are lovely and they do their job well enough, but they aren't exciting or inspiring.  I also have six oriental rugs, all well worn: I picked up 5 at various tag sales or thrift shops and I overpaid for the sixth and then had an awful argument with my mother because she let me know she didn't like it and I very much wanted her to ratify my choice.  Point being, I have never successfully bought a rug in a store. 

The time has come to get over it though.  Now that we have taken over the upstairs, we need to cover the floors.  I rolled out all the older rugs and we put the biggest one under the bed (which hides the big holes in it).  I rolled out three more in the sitting room - overlapping one another.  The stacked ones in the sitting room are nice to walk on and the aesthetic effect is something, but it isn't what we want.  We need a big rug for the sitting room - something that covers most of the floor, dampens noise and goes a little bit under the front legs of the sofa.  

The prospect of going out shopping for rugs did not appeal.  I began by searching Craigslist and found one I liked - something called an Oushak.  But something about that seemed very haphazard - what are the odds that the one rug I find on CL is good enough for me.  I would always wonder, did I get this because I like it or did I get it because it was easier than the other thing?  So I did what I always do; I turned to eBay.  And lo and behold, eBay is just about the most amazing rug market ever.   A few big vendors have posted tens of thousands of rugs with plenty of photos and no dust or little men waiting while I consider.  

I spent a couple hours surfing hundreds of rugs and showing them to V.  We found one we agreed onIn order to make sure I didn't overbid I looked at a lot of the same seller's completed listings for rugs in the 8x10-9x12 range (he had hundreds of sales in the past two weeks).  Strangely, rugs similar to the ones I liked most had sold for anywhere from $400 to $2000 with no evident difference in the descriptions to explain the price variationI bid at the low end and figured I would lose.  Then, at 10:00pm and 34 seconds, my droid went 'DING!' And just like that, we bought a rug!  I didn't know how to feel since I hadn't expected to win - but V was very excited and then I remembered that we had looked at it and agreed on it and now we were getting it for less than expected -- nothing but good things.  So it is pretty exciting.

Another thing: the experience of buying a rug in an online auction is the absolute opposite of buying one in the store pricing-wise.  Every time I go into a rug shop I am amazed that they still put price tags on the rugs that say something like "Original Price: $19,784 -- Sale Price: $2200" -- or some version of that.  And then they actually tell you what a bargain you're getting as if someone out there would have paid the $19K.  On eBay, most of the rugs start at 99 cents and go up only if someone else is willing to pay more so there is some sense that the price is related to value (as dictated by demand)Such a happy surprise.

So, please welcome our new: OUSHAK HERIZ 9'x12' CUACASIAN TURKISH RUG -- This thing is going to make our sitting room POP!!  (when it arrives in a couple weeks from Maryland).  I hope everyone likes it.

Don't go yet! There is a little denouement to this story.  
The title of the auction for the rug called it a 9'x12', but in the description in the listing it says "approximately 9'x12'" so I began to worry, "what if it is six inches wider?" Because we could do smaller than 9' wide but not bigger.  Anyway, the seller's shop number was included in the listing so I called him and said, "Hi, I bought a rug from you on ebay over the weekend." And he said (in the heavy accent befitting a man named Azad), "Which one? I sold 180 rugs on ebay this weekend."  I told him which rug I bought and I asked him to confirm the size and his response was, "It is a true 9x12.  But it's okay if you don't want it.  If you don't want it, just tell me and I'll give you a refund plus $50."  I said, we wanted it but asked him why the $50 and he told me that he basically starts all his auctions at 99 cents and then lets them sell for whatever they sell for.  Apparently a lot of his auctions sell for less than he paid for the item, but he says that in this economy, it all works out at the end of the month and he is always ahead for the month.  Still, he is happy to buy back a rug that sold too cheap.

So anyway, that made sense given the wide range of prices his rugs go for. He said it is anybody's guess why some go for more and some for less, but there is no difference in the rugs.

We're looking forward to seeing our rug in a couple weeks and, if it is as nice as it looks to be, I am positively thrilled to have found a way to buy rugs for the other rooms without the horror show of rug store shopping!!    

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