The checkout aisles of your grocery store are lined with word-search puzzle books. Children make the most of long car rides by playing I Spy. That’s because one of life’s little pleasures is the satisfaction of finding something, be it a hidden word or Waldo, a goofy guy in a striped sweater. So when you lose something you need or cherish and – gasp! – can’t track it down, there’s no wonder your frustration level soars. But filling in the proverbial blank can be as easy as the click of a mouse with the following tips.
China, crystal and silver
What to know: You can usually find the name or number of a china pattern on the back of a plate. Before you approach a manufacturer or a replacement service about matching a piece of cut or etched crystal, take a photo or wrap a sheet of lightweight paper around a glass and make a rubbing of the design with a soft pencil. For silver, take a photo or make a photocopy of both sides of a fork (the back may bear a trademark or other information). Your insurance company may also offer replacement services for these items.
Where to go: Replacements, Ltd. (www.replacements.com), which offers free searches, claims it has the world’s largest selection of dinnerware – 10 million pieces, some more than 100 years old, in 200,000 patterns, all at market prices. Pattern Finders, Ltd. (www.patternfinders.com), offers a similar free service, but only its china inventory is online. If these services don’t have what you need, they’ll notify you if your missing piece is found.
Paint and tile
What to know: Many large paint stores can custom mix a close or even exact match for your color. All you need is a sample about the size of a quarter. Matching tile is oftentimes a much trickier proposition, although you do have a few options.
Where to go: Lowe’s (www.lowes.com) and Home Depot (www.homedepot.com) offer free paint-matching services. If you need only one replacement tile, head to www.daltileproducts.com, where you can browse through more than 75 tile collections and request a sample ($8) from the nation’s largest manufacturer of tile and natural stone products. If you can’t find a match, consider removing a tile from an unnoticeable area, such as a lower corner. (Warning: You’ll probably have to break several tiles for every whole tile you remove.)
Toys and games
What to know: For items still in production, check first with the manufacturer. If you can’t find what you need through official channels, try a Web search (toy name plus “parts”) or check eBay.
Where to go: To order parts from the world’s largest toy maker, Mattel, go to www.mattel.com, click “Customer Service,” then select “Shop for parts” in the Quick Finder box. If your Scrabble set is short a few tiles or your Monopoly bank is running low on cash, the world’s second-largest toy maker, Hasbro, can help. Go to www.hasbro.com and click “Customer Service,” then “replacement parts.” You’ll find drop-down menus of spare-part order forms to fill out and send in by mail or fax. (At www.hasbro.com/monopoly, you can also print sheets of Monopoly money at home.)