OK, my fabric from Fabric Mart has arrived, and I have to say, the whole experience was a huge pain in the ass. The company has just changed its international shipping policy (yes, Canada is considered to be international, although Pennsylvania - shipping hub - is closer to Toronto than, say, half of the continental US) and, new courier firm, FedEx won't actually leave parcels at a receiver's door - even if a) the vendor and then b) the receiver indicate this preference.
I spent a good, stressful, 30 minutes on the phone with both Fabric Mart and FedEx to try to resolve this. Fabric Mart, apparently, lobbied unsuccessfully with FedEx on my behalf. In the end, I convinced the shipping dept. to leave the parcel on my porch "as long as the courier felt comfortable with the security of the environment". The alternative would have been to return the fabric as I'm not hauling ass for an hour by public transit to pick up a parcel. Fabric Mart agreed that this wouldn't be reasonable and agreed to refund my money for returned fabric - though not for the $30.00 of shipping (half of the total charge for 4.5 yards of fabric).
Every fucking time I order fabric online (twice now) or other stuff that arrives from America via courier (too many times to count), I have such a dicey experience. Somehow things never implode when I order from the UK.
Yes, I've got an axe to grind. I shouldn't have to order things to my American parents for re-post to me (USPS creates fewer difficulties). I shouldn't have to pay $30.00 for the privilege of crappy service. I blame Fabric Mart as much as FedEx. If they cared about my regular business, they wouldn't be charging me almost 400% more in shipping than they do someone who lives 2 hours drive away from me (on the other side of the Canada-US border). And they wouldn't expect me to manage the stupidity of bad courier service. Indeed, they wouldn't be using bad courier service.
In brief defense of Fabric Mart, they have recently changed their shipping method because the post office in the region is closing. And they were assured, so they told me, that FedEx wouldn't erect barriers to simple delivery. Of course, they should have beta tested that on someone other than me, no? They did say, were I to order from them again, that I could indicate a preference for USPS shipping and they'd find a way to make it happen. I wonder if they're advertising that to others, or if they'll change their newly minted FedEx arrangement in light of what they've just discovered about FedEx.
The sad thing about this situation is that the fabric I received is good. The modal is actually of excellent quality and the colour is great. It came with matched thread (for extra $). And the lavender sweater knit, while synthetic to the touch, does not look it. It's got lovely drape and hand.
But you know what they say: Challenging fabric-buying experience, good sewing experience. Or is that something I made up?
Update to respond to Kay's comment about shopping local: Trust me, I shop local more often than I order online re: every kind of item except for RTW lingerie. If I can buy a) Canadian-made products and/or b) anything from local shops I will every time - unless the prices are sincerely out of control (as is the case with RTW lingerie). When the costs are outrageous, I have to decide how to spend my money and, sometimes I will buy online. Note: Vis a vis local lingerie - I bought at bricks and mortar shops for 10 years before I got sick of the mark up. So I did my time supporting that local import, IMO.
Now, on the topic of buying fabric locally - except for 2 occasions (the latest from Fabric Mart, documented yesterday) - I have done this every time. I am frequently dismayed by the lack of good knits, specifically sweater options, in luxe textiles. I've been known to spend 30 bucks a yard on fabric at a local shop, simply to support my continued ability to purchase locally in the future.
This summer, the last large-scale Canadian fabric store (FabricLand) closed shop at the only central location they had remaining (at Yonge and Bloor), despite the fact that I spent hundreds of dollars a year there while it was around. Now there are no full-service options left that I can get to with any convenience - I don't have a car and I don't hoof it to the middle of nowhere - I live downtown for a reason.
I support King Textiles, World Sew and numerous other small shops in the garment district on a regular basis. Sometimes, I want something that I can't find in TO so I go off-road. I'm not apologizing for it. I very strongly believe in shopping locally. I also believe in getting what I want.
PS: I have routinely spoken with shop-keepers of all ilks about stocking my preferred items. Sometimes they're game - and I keep on with them. Other times they decline for a variety of economic or logistical reasons, in which case I look elsewhere. Thanks for raising this question, Kay.