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Monday, November 21, 2005

A tale of two watch repair shops

I'm a cheap watch kind of guy. The batteries in both my cheesy Timexes were gone, and so I headed out to get them replaced. I always go to the Meier & Frank at Lloyd Center for this, and so off I dutifully went.

They've taken all reference to the watch repair operation off the store maps and directories in that place, but I just went to the spot I always go, on the top floor, and it was still there. In charge on this particular day was a young woman who didn't exactly look like a watch repair person. She was working with a wooden mallet on something, and studiously avoiding any eye contact with me or the two other middle-aged white guys who were waiting for her. Not so much as an "I'll be with you in a moment." After at least five minutes of that (tick tock), she finally emerged to hear my request for assistance. She took one look at the first of the watches and informed me that the battery simply could not be replaced, since the back of the watch could not be removed.

Of course, that was totally wrong -- there was a replacement battery number printed right on the back of the watch -- but why argue? I wasn't going to let this person open it, anyway. Out of the mall I strolled.

After brooding about it for a while, I headed over to the Hollywood Fred Meyer jewelry store. There a very watch-repair-looking guy took one look at the timepieces and informed me that a new battery could be installed in each for 10 bucks apiece. Agreed. In 10 minutes it was a done deal. I paid him in cash and was out of there.

Neither of these watches is worth much more than 10 dollars, but I'll be darned if I'm going to throw them away when all they need are batteries. And I'll be darned if I ever set foot in that Meier & Frank watch repair shop again.

Comments (16)

Yeah, I run into that a lot. If the repair person does not look like they were out of high school when the technology was introduced, I go somewhere else. I have some vintage motorcycles and have been told that such models were never made by a few guys behind the counter. Even when the bike is right outside the window.

Jack--FYI, there is also a good watch repair place inside Sorrel's, at 37th and Hawthorne. (I'm not affiliated with the store in any way, shape, or form.) Watches are one of those things that I think we're supposed to throw away now, rather than have repaired. Into that categories you can also put phones, DVD players, shoes, and virtually everything else. My dad's mom, who raised a family in the midst of the Depression, would go bonkers if she could see how wasteful people are. Beyond the money, there's something, I dunno, lame about the mentality that we should just throw something only slightly broken away and buy a new one rather than having it repaired.

I replace the batteries myself. I picked up a set of very small screw drivers years ago for $2 at Walt Pellett's Surplus. Every watch or device I've had has a small slot on the back where a small screw driver can be used to gently pry off the back or slots that allow pushing with a screwdriver blade to screw the back on or off. Batteries can be gently slid out of their compartments or the cap holding the battery in place can be removed by removing the screw holding it in place. Onece removed, I take the spent batteries to Radio Shack or a supermarket and buy the prescribed replacement #s on the backs of the batteries. The stores will dispose of the old batteries.

The key is to avoid forcing anything. If you find yourself stalemated, you can put everything back and then take it to a repair concession in a store.

Kassab's at Clackamas Town Center (although I believe there is also one in Lloyd Center) has provided me excellent watch repair in the past. Once I went in to get a battery replaced, and it ended up being a repair that would cost more than the watch was worth, so they didn't charge me a dime for their time diagnosing, or the new battery that they placed in my watch in the meantime.

You just saved me a trip, thank you! I have a Timex watch that needs a new battery, and usually go to that Meier & Frank as well. Now I know to go elsewhere instead...

The next time you get a watch, though, you might want to check out one of those solar-powered battery watches. I had one (until it broke & I lost it) and it ran wonderfully for years.

I haven't shopped at M&F for years for the very reason you experienced.

In my "still shopped at M&F" days, I went with my sister to the downtown M&F- she wanted to buy a new table. She found one she liked, bought it, and then asked the clerk what she needed to to to have it delivered. The clerk told her to go to the back room and find the box with her table model # on it, then come back and get the clerk.

M&F used to sell tickets to events. Again in my "still shopped at M&F" days, I went to the ticket counter at the downtown store to buy tickets to the PDX airshow. There was a young woman behind the counter. I told her I'd like to buy 2 tickets to the airshow, please. The clerk said she couldn't help me, she didn't know how to run the ticket machine, perhaps I could come back later. I asked if she could find someone who knew how to operate the ticket machine and I wasn't in a hurry I could wait. The clerk said the only person who knew how to run the ticket machine was too busy "in the back". I turned around, looked at the empty aisles on that floor, and asked the clerk, "there is no one here but us. What could she be doing that's more important than serving your only customer?"

I forget what the clerks response was, but as I left, I told her I knew why the store was empty of customers. That was my last attempt to shop at M&F.

Maybe it will get better at the downtown store when there's a taxpayer-subsidized luxury hotel upstairs.

How old is the one on the left? My Timex sports watch has been around for thirteen or fourteen years. I wear it every day. I figure that's at least sixteen watch bands and nine batteries, not to mention all the cracks in the plastic casing from, um, smacking my arm into doorframes on a regular basis (no joke). "Takes a licking, keeps on ticking." Very true.

After a relatively brief time with more expensive watches, I happily returned to the Timex family many years ago. A simple analog face with a mechanical, monthless date window in place of the 3 and I am more than happy. Add a handy Indiglo light for nighttime viewing and I have the perfect watch.

The one on the right's actually older. I've lost track of how old these babies are. They're on at least their third watch band each.

That's really too bad. I had a buddy who worked at the Lloyd Ctr M & F watch repair shop back in the early 90's. He was a young lad who had learned his craft from some ancient watch repair master back east and was quite proud of the fact that watch repair was his trade- not just his job.
I too, took the inexpensive, no frills watch in for repair rather than replacement...

The watch repair shop at Meier and Frank downtown is closing and they are sending cutomers to your
"doesn't look like a watch repair person" girl over at the Lloyd Center. I hope she's prepared for the extreme rush.

Maybe she was just holding down the fort over lunch hour.

There are quite a few jewelry shops downtown that would do the job, aren't there?

I bet it will improve when Macy's takes over. It's sad what has happened to the once regal M&F store.

Folks say watches are throwaway--ok maybe. But what do you do with your one very nice dress watch. I can replace my own batteries on most, but this Citizen has a hellish back cover, I don't want to scratch it, I've had problems putting the back on high quality dress watches before ..

Freddy's here I come.

Try Bi-Mart where their batteries are about $3 and they replace them for you. Or, if you like Wal-Mart, they have batteries for $2.66 and if you are lucky and get one of the "older" assistants, they can replace for you.

I have 2 Swatch watches I bought in 1989. I always take them to jewelry store counter in the Hollywood Fred Meyers. 2 minutes, 6 bucks apiece and I'm on my way! I've also had the crystals on both watches resurfaced, numerous batteries replaced and the wristbands replaced on both.


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