Christmas has finally arrived for 12-year-old Lauren Villano, or at least the dinosaur skeleton portion of the holiday.
The Berwyn girl can thank her grandfather's persistence for the prehistoric gift.
Brian Sternberg said that when he ordered the 3-foot-tall "Ultimate T-Rex Skeleton Model" from the Discovery Channel's online store Nov. 26, he did so because it was offered at a deep Cyber Monday discount.
The model, which often retails for more than $50, was only $15.74 after he applied online codes. With shipping and handling, the toy came to $24.79.
His granddaughter, a straight-A student, has always loved dinosaurs. The T-Rex skeleton seemed the perfect gift.
"She had an inkling for it," Sternberg said. "I don't blame her. To be honest with you, if she didn't want it I'd keep it for myself. It's that nice."
When he completed his order, the Discovery Channel's website showed the model was in stock and would ship within a few days.
But weeks passed with no shipment, and Sternberg grew concerned when he checked back on Discovery's website and learned the toy was no longer listed as "in stock." He called the customer service number several times and was repeatedly told the dinosaur would arrive well before Christmas, the North Riverside resident said.
"Every time I call them they're very polite, but nothing happens," he said. "I never get a straight answer."
On several occasions, customer service agents offered to cancel the order and refund his money. Sternberg said he would have no part of it — he wanted Lauren to receive the dinosaur model, and he wanted it at the price listed.
When Christmas arrived without the T-Rex, Sternberg gave his granddaughter a promise.
"I made a picture of it and put it in an envelope and said, 'This is what you'll have in a few weeks,' and she was all excited about it," he said. "Well, it's been more than a couple weeks."
When he emailed What's Your Problem? on Jan. 11, he said he was almost ready to give up, take the refund and reorder the dinosaur from another website. But the cheapest he could find the model was $44, he said.
"I talked to them yesterday and now they say at least three more weeks," Sternberg said.
The Problem Solver called the Discovery Channel and was forwarded to Dori McGuire, a customer relations employee for Discovery Communications.
Later that day, McGuire sent Sternberg an email, copied to the Problem Solver, promising to get to the bottom of the situation.
"Please know that we take issues such as these very seriously, and I am currently looking into the problem in order to improve the experience for future customers," McGuire wrote Jan. 17. "I am also in the process of tracking down the status of your order and working with our Discovery Store team to find an immediate resolution."
A short time later McGuire emailed again, saying there might have been a temporary glitch on the website that caused the T-Rex model to appear in stock when it wasn't. She promised to track down the model and fulfill his order.
On Monday, Sternberg received the T-Rex, along with a $100 e-card, good at the Discovery website.
"That got Lauren excited," Sternberg said. "She's been wanting to get a microscope for a while. I told her to come by next week and we can pick one out."
Sternberg said he was amazed by Discovery's response.
"They obviously wanted to do the right thing," he said. "That's very evident by what they did."
Although his granddaughter's Christmas present arrived late, it was worth the wait, Sternberg said.
"It worked out really good for her," he said. "She's a good little kid. She really is."