Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Rant and a Plea for Help




The Sophia Flush Mount


The Basil Flush Mount


"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

You know how I try to keep things positive on my blog, and I'm a firm believer that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Well.... most of the time. But there are times when I can really get mad as a hornet, and that's the state I'm in right now.

You see, I'm majorly irritated with Circa Lighting. I've been a long time customer of Circa because I think they have a wonderful selection of lights and the prices are really affordable. I'm hardly one of their bigger clients, but I furnished my last house with sconces and ceiling lights purchased from them. And in my new condo, I found some great ceiling mount lights that I ordered back in early August (see above). The Sophia Flush Mount light was to go in a hallway, and I chose to use the Basil Flush Mount in my closet. And what was even better was that I found out later that these two lights were part of Alexa Hampton's collection for Visual Comfort (a company that is related to Circa), and I'm a big admirer of Hampton's work.

The Sophia was supposed to arrive on September 5, 2008 and the Basil was due in at the first of last December. So... where are my lights?? Well, I've just checked on them again, and now I'm told they should be in sometime in May. May??? Come on, that's nine months after the Sophia was supposed to be in stock. That's ridiculous. When I checked on the lights last Fall, I was told the delay was due to the hurricane and because they were waiting on UL approval. And now the explanation is that they sold more of these lights than they anticipated. Did my order get shoved to the back of the line??

I'm obviously very disappointed because I love these lights and thought they would be perfect in my new home. But can I live with wires hanging out of the ceiling for five more months? Nope. Sorry, but there are too many light fixtures out on the market for me to wait around.

So, I'm asking for your help readers. First, do you think that I should sit tight and wait for my Circa fixtures? Or should I cancel my order? Secondly, I would really love some suggestions for alternatives to these two lights. I would especially like to find a ceiling mount star fixture that is similar to the Sophia. I figure that if anybody can help me find other options, it would be you.

And tomorrow, I'll go back to being positive!


Update: I want to let everyone know that I spoke to the top brass at both Circa Lighting and Visual Comfort. First, I want to say that Circa is not responsible for the delays as they are simply a retail outfit that sells Visual Comfort. The delay is due to a longer than expected production process. In addition, the lights I chose have turned out to be far more popular than anticipated, which meant a larger production run than expected. Both Circa Lighting and Visual Comfort were very concerned about my experience and stressed that they do not take customer service lightly. Visual Comfort is doing everything they can to get these lights in stock and they should be available by sometime later this Spring. I appreciate that they contacted me, and as I think the lights are so good looking, I think I'm going to wait. Thank you to everyone for their help and their suggestions!

68 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:22 AM

    I'd bypass Circa and instead contact Alexa Hampton's office and let her know that her name is being associated with a product line that has big distribution and production problems, plus lousy customer service. (And I would cc the president of Visual Comfort.)

    If you frame it as a problem that is eroding the brand's reputaton, there could be swift action from above.

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  2. Anon- That is a great idea. A constructive way of handling this. I'm curious if others are having these problems with Circa/Visual Comfort.

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  3. Unless these are being handmade by monks on a remote island, there's no excuse for this kind of delay. They should have been pro-active about keeping you posted as to the arrival date. Bad customer service.

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  4. Anonymous9:40 AM

    It's time for retailers to respect their customers. Make your feelings known by canceling your order and depriving them of moola. If you have the time and inclination, see if you can write to one of the higher-ups in the company, telling them the story of your order.

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  5. I really do need to write a letter. I would hope that it would help!

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  6. Matthew White9:44 AM

    We have the exact same problem with Circa, both personally and with our clients. It's a BIG problem with them. But good lighting is hard to find. As much as I hate how they handle these delays and abuse buying customers, the product quality and price are often worth the wait.

    Hopefully your completely rational rant will make them realize they need to change their ways and be honest about delivery dates.

    Circa Lighting...you are on notice!

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  7. Matt- Since I posted this, I've received numerous emails from others who have had the same issues! It's a shame, b/c like I said, Circa has a great selection of lighting. Glad that you thought the rant was rational. I had to calm down before I wrote it!

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  8. I agree with all of the above-and it would be a pity to not have these gorgeous fixtures. I especially LOVE THE BASIL flush mount!!! You must get them so whatever you need to do to speed up the process, DO it!

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  9. I also had this very same problem with the Savannah store. Orders are happily taken by Circa, however, I believe that Visual Comfort is actually the problem. Apparently, they do not produce all the fixtures readily, rendering them late for delivery. I actually ordered a shell-shaped pharmacy lamp (Bill Blass, I believe) which I loved. After many months, I cancelled as it still was not ready for shipment. Fixtures do not disappoint though, when and if they are finally received!

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  10. When you hear so many excuses as to why the fixtures are delayed, you start to wonder what's actually going on! I love that shell-shaped pharmacy lamp though!

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  11. Circa Lighting is quite well known for their lengthy lead times...I have heard that if you put in an order, and they say January, it will almost always be months and months after that.

    There is a chance that they may have it at one of their stores, and could ship the store model. You could try that.

    I ordered a Niermann Weeks mirror (another company known for its exquisite products, but very long lead time) and it took 20 weeks for it to arrive. During that time, I gnashed my teeth, but now that I have had the mirror in my house for over a year, I can't even remember my frustration. Coincidentally, I am posting tonight with a picture of my front hall, which has my mirror in it. I love the mirror, and now I think it was worth the wait even though I literally had an empty front hall for many, many months.

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  12. I agree with you, these are the best of their type. I'd sit tight and wait. What may be the problem is not enough have been ordered to warrant a new run. And let's face it — the price for this product — is very good value.

    To have these handmade comes in at about 5 times the price.

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  13. Hello, try www.visualcomfort.lightingNY.com they have the lights on the site and on sale!! I go through a store i Lambertville NJ Heritage Lighting for all my visual comfort pieces rather than rely on Circa because I had a similar problem for a client , quite a delay in shipping! Good Luckk , great lights, I also love Vaughn, although pricey!!

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  14. I'd walk across hot coals for the Basil Flush Mount.

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  15. Anonymous11:09 AM

    "What may be the problem is not enough have been ordered to warrant a new run."

    If that's the case, they need to be upfront in their marketing and state: "This product is subject to production delays. Expect delivery delays of up to XX months."

    Otherwise it is unfair and unethical to market these as if they are like any other retail product: available immediately or with only a short delay.

    I disagree with the advice to sit and take it.

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  16. Mamacita- I know, that's a great light isn't it!

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  17. Anon 11:09- I think what has angered me is that I keep getting different explanations. I'm starting to wonder if they'll even be in stock in May!

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  18. Anonymous11:23 AM

    I think the real problem is the fixtures only take 2 - 40 watt bulbs. It's hard enough to find a good looking fixture, much less one that lets off enough light to be able to see. Then, to be able to actually get the fixture. I guess I just want it all...

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  19. Anonymous11:55 AM

    Circa isn't the sole distributor for Visual Comfort, is it? Can you identify other retailers that carry Visual Comfort products and start working the phones/emails?

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  20. I'm glad you 'outed' these people. I wish more design bloggers were as honest as you-- I get sick of the happy talk when I know from experience there are a lot of problems with the home furnishings industry. In this economy, you'd think they'd be bending over backward to keep their customers. Unfortunately, there are some people who let them get away with it, and so they don't have an incentive to change. Please don't accept this abuse-- it just perpetuates the problems!

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  21. Anonymous12:04 PM

    Cancel. Find something else. Write a letter to the company about your displeasure. Period.

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  22. Anonymous1:07 PM

    it's just a light people!

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  23. I have had many encounters with Circa's terrible customer service. They are genuinely nice when you call them (maybe it's just the accent), but just clueless as to why you have been waiting since the Clinton administration for your freakin light fixture. It's like their order system is some sort of giant oracle that only gives them information if you sacrifice a goat to it. Great product, pretty good pricing, bad service.

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  24. Anonymous1:38 PM

    Circa Lighting is a retail outlet owned by the sister of the owner of Visual Comfort. The Texas based company (brother) supplies lighting to his sister and other retail outlets. Almost all the lighting is produced overseas and is container shipped. So the lighting has to be manufactured then shipped and then go through customs. Hence the long lead time for orders if an item is not in stock. If Circa Lighting doesn't have an item in stock it is truly out of stock. All other online retailers drop ship (shipped to customer directly from VC in Texas) meaning these websites have NOTHING IN STOCK. Going through another retailer won't get you your lighting any sooner. Also, other retailers will charge a 30% cancellation fee if you order and cancel due to item being out of stock or change your mind and return! I waited many many many many months for lamps from VC. Frustrating but worth it. Small decorator shops sometimes carry pieces on the floor (Kellogg Collection in the DC area). Sorry comment is so long.

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  25. Anonymous2:12 PM

    I've ordered from Circa for years. Whatever information they give you is just what they are being told by the manufacturer.

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  26. You can have a baby in nine months so should you wait that long for light fittings.....I don't think so!
    You will find something you like better I know it, xv.

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  27. Anonymous2:57 PM

    My advice...

    Go antique. Why bother with a manufacturers whims when something already exists out there that will suit your needs perfectly! Happy hunting!

    Jonathan

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  28. Anonymous3:10 PM

    I would wait for Circa. The quality is second to none. These are handmade peices and not the stamped steel lights you find just about everywhere else. It's definitely worth the wait and that's why there featured in every shelter magazine out there. I tried another company with a similar looking item once and the difference was obvious!

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  29. I love Circa...I've always just waited...but I don't typically spec them for a client due to the long lead time. Try 1st Dibs. They may have a cool fixture.

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  30. I' ve had the same problem with Circa which as others have already said is actually a Visual Comfort issue. I've waited beyond the beyond and more and this was for client orders and its torture. The truth is the product is great and there isn't really anyone else to go to with the same style at the same price. There are some more basic items from Visual Comfort that can be found other places but its their designer lines that are so great. I'd wait and put up paper lanterns from Pearl River in the mean time.

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  31. Anonymous3:56 PM

    I experienced the same thing with them - 11 months after ordering my lights showed up. The fact that you can make a baby in a shorter amount of time than a light fixture is crazy.

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  32. Anonymous5:18 PM

    i have heard that VC lights are also sold private label under the WS Home brand. so they might have some similar fixtures.

    also, you can try decorati. they have some custom lights that might have shorter lead times.

    hopefully this economy will force these inefficient businesses to improve (or close).

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  33. so frustrating! I think Gracious Home in NY carries Visual Comfort stuff....it might be worth a phone call to see if they have what you want in stock. http://www.gracioushome.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay_10001_10051_10007_Y_10007_true_10007

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  34. Anonymous6:16 PM

    If they are waiting on the UL approval there is nothing they can do. It's a safty issue! They need to get approval! The company wants to make the fixture and sell it!
    Alexa Hampton wants her money as well. I feel sure if they could ship 1,000,000 a day they would.
    They both are TERRIFIC designs!

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  35. Anonymous6:26 PM

    Call Visual Comfort and see if another retailer has ordered it for stock. I have an order in for my store. The Basil is not new. The star shaped one is, probably no one has it. You also might try Darnell and Associates in Charlotte (look up number). Stuart is a distributor and might know who ordered it for stock and has received it. The real problem is that VC takes orders at market, and then place the order with the manufacturer. I have waited a year for some lights to show up!

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  36. As a matter of principle, canceling the order is the righ thing to do. Why should you give a company who clearly doesn't care about your wait your hard earned money.

    But I really do love that Basil light so I think I might be coming down on the waiting side.

    Unless there is something you want that is a very close second -you'll likely be seeing this fixture for a while and you don't want to wish you waited a few months for the one you really wanted.

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  37. Anonymous7:03 PM

    As a designer, this happens ALL the time. I had a production issue with some wallpaper twice (one from England, one from France) and same thing: delayed for 6-12 mos. It happens. I also have it with a current local vendor making a sofa; I'm going to have to change vendors as he's behind (but the fabric coming to him was three months late and he scheduled accordingly).

    It's not ideal. At least they were honest and if they're reputable, they'll return your money. Jen... I sent you some other alternatives, perhaps you can call your designer and use one of those options??

    Design Guy STL

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  38. Hi Jennifer,

    I have to confess that I've kind of been a bit of blog stalker for quite some time, but probably should introduce myself. Loved seeing you on Eddie's blog. And love your site.

    About the lights, the exact thing happened to me last year with Visual Comfort. Out of desperation I chose to wait. It was both insulting and agitating, and they kept stalling even longer. Nine months and two ulcers later, I had my pretty sconces.

    For an alternative, have you considered looking at:

    Urban Electric (they're pricey but gorge)
    http://www.urbanelectricco.com/2008.html

    Schoolhouse Electric (no flush mounts, but classic with reasonable prices)

    http://www.schoolhouseelectric.com/fixtures-type.asp?type=SurfaceMount

    Hudson Valley (very low price point)

    http://www.hudsonvalleylighting.com/lighting/detail/6513

    Otherwise vintage is always fun. Good luck and hope this helped!

    xoxo
    Seleta

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  39. Peter S.7:40 PM

    yowza!
    I think Circa is getting the short end of the stick. Visual Comfort makes the lights. Have you tried to get in touch with them?

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  40. I LOVE Circa just like everyone else (the prices are great too!)
    What I find is the EXACT same thing and have been there with them before. For clients...there is just no choice but to move on to a different source (but who?) But if it was me and my house I would wait and end up getting what you really want. It will be worth the wait.
    A tip to other designer who love Circa too. I look on the site (which is not updated with what is in stock and not) and pick out a whole group of similar things. Then I have my office call on each of the things (before I present to a client) that I like and narrow down what is not in stock and such. I am not joking- but I can pick out 5 of similar things and then we call and 1 is around in the finish that we like. When showing the clients I tell them that we They have told us it is due to their business is set up for more commercial use and hotels and public spaces will order from them and wipe them out. Doesn't help us who order 1 of this and one of that. I see the light at the end of the...

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  41. The Basil flush mount light was featured recently in an article on the quatrefoil shape. I believe it was in Domino. That may account for the delay on that light. But good lighting is hard to find, especially if you are really design passionate. I think I'd wait and put up with what's there. But I wouldn't wait quietly. I still believe in the squeaky wheel theory.

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  42. Anonymous8:51 PM

    Hey, folks.
    I wonder if anyone can chime in to say that they ordered something great from Circa and it came in right away? I have never had any problems. I didn't order these flush mounts (although I think they are sweet) but have bought from Circa for several years. I don't do a lot, but when I wanted something it worked out. They must be doing something right, because every time my UPS driver comes by I see lots of Visual Comfort boxes in the back! I agree with your decision to blog about it, and feel bad for you. However, it sounds like every comment has one commonality - they love the product. So - once in a while it takes far too long for some people. Try buying Barbara Barry Lighting from Boyd .$$$$$$$ Anybody out there really take a look at what else there is? The real problem probably is that everyone wants it and it is really hard to make it for this price. Happy hunting all those out there who love great design and can't stand the thought of walking into another room and seeing one more faux finished aluminum and resin anything!

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  43. Anon 8:51- Absolutely you can chime in! I'm glad you've had no problems, and in the past I haven't had to wait for fixtures either. I agree with you that you can't beat them for the style AND the price. And that's why I haven't found any flush mounts that are comparable to what I've ordered.

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  44. Would you like the owner's name so you can call and tell him what's going on. I wonder if he is made aware of the situation if he'll work to change it? It might be worth the shot. He's a really nice guy and I just wonder if he knows?

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  45. Anonymous12:14 AM

    I hope you get your fixtures and love them. maybe post soem photos of them in place. make sure you use a good electrician - flush mounts should be installed properly - especially in older buildings.

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  46. Anonymous1:11 AM

    I had a similar experience with a fabric that I ordered from Cowtan & Tout. I ordered the fabric in April of 2006, it was backordered for 30 days, than it was October, than January. I did not receive the fabric until March of the following year. I won't bore you with the detail, but is was a manufacturing issue. I put forth a valiant effort to reselect the material, but I did not find anything that had quite the same aesthetic. In the end, it was worth the wait. I would have always felt that I compromised the look I was going for.

    In short, you've waited this long, hang in there and be a bit more patient. Unless you find something that you love as much as the circa lights, and are comparable in price, just wait. It's a pain and a bummer that you've had this experience, but it may be worth the wait. i know that I am glad I did.

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  47. I'll chime in - I just bought two lanterns from them for a client and we didn't wait longer than a few weeks at most. This month. If these are new items - that is probably the problem, no backstock. Jen - I dont' blame you - I'm going to forward this to a blogger who's husband works for them, ok? I think the problem is that it's new to their line, maybe. Ive ordered many lights and have never ever had a long wait. maybe I was lucky though apparently?

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  48. i completely understand your frustration- that lead time is excessive even for custom lighting being manufactured from scratch. for items that are part of a company's existing line? inexcusable. i would definitely try to speak with someone high up on the food chain to attempt to resolve your problem in a more timely fashion (they are gorgeous fixtures, so i hope you can get them. so many flush mounts deserve to be flushed).

    in circa's defense, my last order for a lantern with them was shipped within 30 days, and is a spectacular value for the price. i like it as much, or more than the vaughn fixture i was considering for, literally, thousands more.

    i hope your post gets your situation resolved post haste. really, you'd think they'd be bending over backwards to fulfill an order for a design blogger with a large and loyal following like yourself. don't they realize, that with magazines shuttering like crazy, WE are the future editorial outlets for their products? silly, and short-sighted on their part.

    good luck!

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  49. Just out of interest, are the light fittings from VC/Circa made in the US or elsewhere?

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  50. Anonymous5:22 AM

    Hi Jennifer...I feel for you. It's especially frustrating when they keep changing their delivery date. Are you sure you can trust the May promise date? I just went on the Circa website and the Basil Flushmount is not shown. What's up with that? Maybe you should investigate.

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  51. Anonymous5:31 AM

    Oops--Went back to website and the Basil DID show up as a new light under Alexa Hampton....with an early 2009 availability! Whew.... that is if you want to wait for it. May isn't too far off and it IS a beautiful light.

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  52. When I buy from Circa, my credit card isn't charged until the products ship. It's not like they take the money and run.

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  53. Karen- You're right. They don't charge until they ship, and that's a very good thing.

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  54. Anonymous3:04 PM

    I have had this problem time and time again with Circa Lighting. It is difficult to explain to a client that you have no control over a light that was promised to them months before. I just wish they didn't always have one lame excuse or another. And of course, they always say it is not their fault and beyond their control. What a disappointment! It wouldn't be quite as annoying if they would take the time to call you when a light is delayed instead of waiting for you to realize that it is just not going to arrive for many more months. Surely they can do better than that!

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  55. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Welcome to the world of interior design. I work with Kristi from Circa and have excellent, friendly and honest service. They are the middle man. We should be thinking more about making items in the USA and stop the shipping instead of wanting items at a reasonable price( which have to be made in China) and then expect them to be delivered like a take out.
    Of course there are delays and it is frustrating but I will stand by circa on this one. However, I really understand what you are feeling because I almost took off an upholsterers head when my personal curtains were not ready for a party yet tell clients to be patient.

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  56. Anon 3:42- Good point about mfg. in China. We've gotten very spoiled about being able to buy things that are reasonably or low priced.

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  57. And, that's what has turned our world economy upside down. They can manufacture for less in China, and now they are loaning Americans money too. Their per capita saving exceeds ours. The number of millionaires in China is rising also. Looks like that's where all the new design jobs will be going...

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  58. Grrrrrr, I so feel your pain. I've ordered the Sophia and was told by customer service that it will be out of production at the end of March. If they told you May, I'm going to assume that they were just trying to lessen the blow for me? I've had this problem before with them, but I've also experienced the complete opposite - receiving a shipment within a couple weeks of ordering. I just wish that they wouldn't make it seem that these items are readily available.

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  59. Anonymous9:09 PM

    I've had good luck with Visual Comfort (not through Circa), but generally pass on anything not in stock as wait times have been pretty long this last quarter...

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  60. Anonymous10:16 PM

    You know, this just REMINDED ME that I ordered this light ages ago...so long ago I had forgotten. Well, I am a deigner and I know that sometimes these production issues come up, but 9 months is insane. It may be time to go shopping for an alternative - fun!

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  61. Anonymous4:23 AM

    You are much too kind. Circa is more than a just retailer for Visual Comfort; they're different branches of the same family business. (They can call it what they like, but that's the deal.)

    A retailer is your paid ambassador to the manufacturer and should accurately gage your expectations before they take your order and/or money. Repeated delays and lame excuses are evidence of not acting in good faith. If this happens frequently, as your readers attest, then of course it's Circa Lighting's fault.

    Paying retail means you don't manage up or monitor vendor fulfillment - that's Circa's job, the job of a retailer. That kind of phony baloney is very "Old Economy."

    Unfortunately, HOBAC and Jonathan (2:57pm) are BOTH right: the price point for the Circa fixtures is reasonable; but "go antique" - as Jonathan says, something equally appealing is out there waiting to be discovered.

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  62. I actually had the opposite experience with Circa. While the Atlanta store could not get me my light fixture, when I pre-ordered it online, even though it said "available in Spring" and was not actually online as available yet, they got it to me right away. I received personal customer service from one of their reps online and I was extremely impressed!

    BTW, it's the Goodman Medium light in Nickel:
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2257/2491876228_4e75b34394_o.jpg

    becky

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  63. Its really poor stocking, inventory control and customer service, on both Circa and Visual Comforts parts. If the items are virtually handmade, they should say this and that there is a significant wait time. They also should get ahead on orders, hire a few craftsmen, whatever. On demand supply doesn't work in this world. Neither for the car manufacturers who invented it nor for the customers. At this rate of delay, you have a claim for false advertising I think. I would suspect funny accounting and profit recording as well. Personally, I'd go shopping again.

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  64. Has anyone ever ordered from Maitland-Smith or Theodore Alexander? Sometimes it can be literally years before something arrives! But it's always worth the wait! Good Luck!

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  65. Let me start by saying, I hear your pain. However, I have dealt with both Circa and Visual Comfort for many years, and over time have developed a great respect for the way they run their companies. Having said that, you did the right thing by venting, but I can only imagine the headaches of dealing with inventory in a market like this.

    Be patient they will make good, and please keep supporting them, they bring a great product to market at a great price.

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  66. Anonymous1:00 PM

    Why not have something similar custom-fabricated by your local metal shop with the wattage you want? Small businesses are hurting for work in this economy, and you could probably get it faster and more reasonably priced than usual right now. Why give your business to a company that a) is slow and b) has the carbon footprint of being fabricated 5000 miles away?

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  67. Kate T.4:53 PM

    I heard about Circa Lighting through several designers in the LA area. Kristie is my rep for them and she is always honest with me regarding lead times. It's very refreshing in this crazy field of interior design. They also don't charge your credit card for a light that is back-ordered. You only get charged when the product ships. Funny accounting and profit recording can't apply to them.

    I hope you get your lights soon. I know you'll love them!

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  68. Anonymous7:39 PM

    I have bought many Visual Comfort pieces from the Kellogg Collection in DC. They seem to keep a lot of the lighting in stock. Maybe try there next time instead of Circa.

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