Shopping for Chairs

December 18, 2013

My friend Julia, is always nagging me to blog more.  It’s hard to find the time and mental space.  I showed her the new chairs I purchased for the deck at Babette’s.  “Well, you should blog about that!”  OK, I bought new chairs.  It’s a little more complicated than that.

It took me five months.  It’s a big deal for me to spend $4000.00.  We live on a very tight budget at Babette’s.  We were needing to buy more chairs.  I was having trouble with the fake leather on the current chairs splitting.  I had many of them reupholstered and the gentleman informed me they would never hold up well outside, even on a covered deck, because of the change in temperatures. The heating and freezing will split the fabric.

OK, I would first look for outdoor chairs.  Metal are too heavy and uncomfortable.  It wasn’t until I was in Turkey and Greece this summer that I came upon resin chairs. They were EVERYWHERE!  They looked like wicker, but for anyone who has owned wicker, it’s not very strong.

So my search started at the end of June.  It took me a month to find styles that I liked. It took me a week to narrow down the field to commercial chairs (good to 300 pounds).  It took me another week to research the details on the height of the seats.  There is nothing worse that sitting at a table with the chairs too low.  This eliminated 80% of the options.  I studied the spec sheets with a microscope.  I measured the distance from the front of the chair to the back of the incline.  A lot of the outdoor chairs tilt back.  The sales reps say that is so people can lean back and relax and drink a beer.  Well they are supposed to be dining chairs not lounging chairs.  They are shown in the pictures as being pulled up to dining tables.?????

The first chair I fell in love with was very expensive, custom made.  And believe it or not, no one had a sample.  I would have to order and pay for one, wait 10 weeks and then decide if I liked it.  Not in the plan, wanted them by September.  You know…fall…nice weather…everyone wants to sit outside….

I returned to search for chairs that weren’t made to order.  I contacted 12 companies through their websites, .  It took three weeks of me calling them several times a week to ask about models and samples.  No one in Atlanta stocked samples.  With all the hotels and restaurants in this city, I can’t believe no one had samples.  I guess most businesses have designers and purchasing agents that do all this.  I even considered flying to New York to see a showroom. I would have to order a chair, pay UPS to try it out. Shipping the chair back would cost as much as the chair itself, so I would just keep it.  I envisioned my back porch at home being littered with a half dozen mismatched, uncomfortable or ugly chairs. When I spoke directly with the manufacturers or importers really, I was told I had to go through a local distributor.

I found one rep in Atlanta, so I latched onto them.  No, they didn’t rep the ones I liked most. No, they didn’t have samples of the ones I liked next.  They did have a couple of samples of something that might work. Now it’s mid August and fall is just a couple of weeks away. The rep came.  Well he didn’t have exactly the chair I wanted with him. He had an arm chair that was only 17 inches tall.  But the side chair, which I wanted was 18 inches tall and could be ordered.  The armchair tilted back a little, but the side chair looked like it didn’t as much.  They were a little taller in the back than I wanted. They no longer had the color I wanted, (it’s August…the end of the season).  They were a little wider in the seat than I wanted.  But here I was with a real chair to look at.  It was in stock and delivery was two weeks away.

I double checked the specs with the rep.  The side chair was 18 inches tall.  My local supply company carried them.  I even had 30 day credit with them.  Yippee.  I ordered them.  I was so excited.  My staff kind of smiled and nodded, knowing that I am so often disappointed.   What are they talking about?

One of my managers, David, walked in when they were delivered and the first words out of his mouth were “Do you hate them?”  Well yes, David, I do.  I had pulled a couple off the stack and set them up.  The table top came to my boobs.  The seat tilted back.  I thought of buying pillows so people could sit up and eat.  More money, more replacement issues.I had my kitchen staff sit in them.  The tall boys, who lean back and drink beer liked them. The girls did not.  They would not work.  I measured the chairs.  They were 18 inches IN THE FRONT, but tilted to 17 inches IN THE BACK.  Not one spec sheet showed this.

I sent them back.  My local supply company was very cool about it.  I used the spec sheets as my reason.  The manufacturer was called.  He reluctantly accepted them back because I had not unpacked them completely and we had kept all the shipping materials.  I was not charged a restocking fee, and I offered to pay the shipping.  I’m not unreasonable. I should have ordered a sample, but now it would be sitting on my back porch at home.

Now I’m pissed, “over it” and really need chairs.  I got back on the web, looked for a chair that was FLAT. I started looking at more expensive chairs as I have found that more money usually works.  I contacted a manufacturer for a really pretty and expensive chair and told him my problem and what I had been through. Low and behold, I found a customer service person who gave a darn.  He talked to me about which chairs really were flat.  He went back and measured the one I liked while I waited on the phone.  I told him how much I had wanted to spend and these were 30% more.  He offered them to me at the lower price if I ordered directly from them.  “I thought I couldn’t order directly from you?”, I asked.  “Well, sometimes we do it.”

Now it’s mid September.  Despite the delay, I ordered a sample.  Lesson learned.  I paid as much in shipping as the chair.  Lesson learned.  It was perfect!  Ordered the remaining number needed.  Delivery was great.  The chairs are a great color.  The fake wicker doesn’t look too much like plastic.  They sit almost straight.  The width of the seat is good for when we have to put tables together for a “build”.  And the customers like them!

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