August 30th, 2009
The toilet tank lid (or TTL): fragile and deceptively expensive ceramic.
I write this for those unfortunate souls of the future world who find themselves in the unlucky position of losing—or smashing, or cracking, or irreparably chipping—their toilet tank lid. Curse your luck (or whoever broke your damned TTL) because the quest to find a replacement can get complicated. There are two questions you are no doubt asking yourself, so let’s see if I can be of some help.
I took a hammer to a few things in the house after an angry shouting match, and now my toilet tank lid needs replacing. Can I even buy a toilet tank lid by itself?
This is the kind of question that is rarely considered until that ill-fated morning when you wake up and realize that yes, the party was out of control, and wow—someone totally walked out with your toilet tank lid. Bummer! But listen: you can purchase a TTL by itself if you’re willing to do some leg work.
My lid was unceremoniously shattered on a recent Saturday night when a shelf broke free from the wall in my bathroom and sent its far-too-heavy contents crashing down onto the tank of my toilet. I’m pretty near positive that one of my cats orchestrated this disaster, but the crash occurred under the cover of night and thus far no witness (namely, my other cat) has come forward. Surveying the scene the next morning, I decided there was no way I could plausibly glue the TTL back together. I checked the model number of the toilet (which is usually stamped on the inside of the tank) and set off to the hardware store in search of a replacement.
Well, surprise! Hardware stores don’t carry solitary tank lids, because who breaks just the lid? They will happily sell you an entire replacement tank with lid intact, but I wasn’t ready to make such a drastic and, I assumed, more costly concession. So it was off to see my old friend the internet, where I immediately took to my Twitter account to complain about hardware stores not carrying TTLs and imploring anyone who might have a spare Kohler tank lid lying around to get in touch. A cursory search of Kohler’s site was little help, so I googled around and quickly found a couple of places that specialize in reselling nothing but tank lids of every stripe—how’s that for specialization? Which brings us to the next question:
I managed to split my buddy’s toilet tank lid in two after tampering with the flush in an embarrassing bathroom mishap I’d rather not recount. Just how much is this damned thing going to set me back, anyway?
Purchasing a tank lid is a lot like shopping for a car part, I’ve discovered—it all depends on the make, the model, and the year your toilet was made. Most run-of-the-mill modern tanks can be covered for somewhere in the ballpark of $25—$60, but add in some age and a little embellishment (turquoise tank, anyone?) and you can easily spend $100—$200 or more to get a replacement. There was also the shipping variable: Could I trust that such a fragile ceramic part would survive shipment to Chicago? I weighed this against living with the embarassing wreckage of an un-topped toilet tank, which introduces a social cost to this whole situation, too. You can forget about having guests over until you’ve sorted this whole mess out.
Thanks to the power of modern computing and a consumer culture in which corporations now troll social networks for mentions of their name, a Kohler representative contacted me on Twitter to suggest that I call their customer support line to secure a toilet tank lid replacement:
Hello. KOHLER toilet tank lids are available by calling 1.800.4KOHLER. You’ll need to know the toilet model number and color.
Making an old fashioned phone call to the company hadn’t really occurred to me, so after shaking off the creepiness of a corporate rep making contact over Twitter, I called up Kohler directly.
I was helpfully informed that the utterly basic lid I was looking for was out of stock, that it would take a month and a half for my TTL to ship, and that it would set me back $31.30. Add in ground shipping for another $7.95 and I’m just shy of spending $40 for the promise of having a complete toilet a month and a half from now. I hung up and hit the hardware store circuit, relenquishing my frugal tendencies in the face of reality: who wants to stare into a topless toilet tank for a month and a half, anyway? I lucked out at a local shop and returned an hour later with a backup tank and its replacement lid, haggled down to $45 from a closeout price of $55. In the end, it worked out better to just buy the whole tank, which is something fellow shoppers should keep in mind. For the rest of you, respect and protect your TTL, and may you never know the hassle of having to replace it.