Our $12 Chair “Deal”

by teresalaynebennett

photo of channel-back, Rococo Revival chair

Deal or not? Read on, then you decide.

When you saw those quotes around deal, you knew something was amiss, didn’t you? That’s because you’ve already learned that – usually – when something looks like a “deal,” it probably isn’t. Nevertheless, most of us still succumb to that alluring, siren call of the word, deal.

Why would I be willing to tell an embarrassing story about our tumble into The Deal Pit? Because there are always plenty of pay-attention lessons to be learned from watching others fall headlong into The Deal Pit, that’s why. Since this blog is all about you, this is for you, dear reader. It’s too late for us.

(FYI: There’ll be a quiz at the end to see if you found all the pay-attention lessons.)

The Sad Seating Saga

Hubby bought our $12 chair at a thrift store where he volunteers. Risky business, that. It means he sees EVERYTHING that comes in the back door and, sometimes, just can’t resist, as in this case.

It was Rococo Revival from the very early 1900s, covered in dirty (and I do mean dirty) mauve upholstery (that 1990s, sickly, grayish-pink concoction). Hubby liked how he could really sink into it, with its curved back and cushy seat. Visions of himself reading a book while cozied up in it on a cold winter’s night danced through his head.

He made a convincing argument over the phone. But when I saw it, I realized (since I’m the person who deals with the upholsterer in our fam) that I was viewing a not-so-cleverly-disguised Money Pit. I explained it would take a small fortune to upholster it.

“Nah, it won’t take that much. Besides, we’ve been looking for a chair to go with our French Rococo couch for 42 years. This is as close as we’ll ever get,” said he. I had to agree. We had looked for 42 years, it did go nicely with our antique couch, and I did like the lines of the chair.

Get the picture? We’d just made an unspoken pact to pitch ALL reason overboard, as it would just prove a heavy encumbrance from this point on. (We tried to haul it back on-board from time to time, but never very successfully, as you’ll see.)

The Process

We took the chair to our upholsterer and came back with a stack of fabric samples. We chose one that would blend with our other upholstery and was about as cheap as we could comfortably choose (in fabric, as in most everything else, you get what you pay for), and returned the samples.

While we were there in her shop, she opened the seat cushion to show us the disintegrating foam. That would account for how “cushy” Hubby thought it felt, wouldn’t it? We chose new foam.

She showed us the tatty wrapping and cording she’d uncovered. We chose new Dacron wrapping and cording.

She showed us the webbing that was coming loose. We chose new webbing.

She showed us where the springs had come untied. We agreed to a re-tying fee.

She gave us the estimate. We choked. We plunked down our deposit.

A little later, she called. “You’ll need to do something to your chair before I upholster it. The frame’s broken in three places.” Hmm. That might account for the “cozy, sinking in” feeling Hubby got, don’t you think?

By now, we were in too deep to point fingers. She’d already purchased our fabric. We’d already paid our deposit. But that didn’t keep us from having many discussions about what was growing into THE Chair. In the end, Hubby gulped, retrieved THE Chair, spent a couple of weeks crafting special repair pieces and gluing them into place, and returned it to the upholsterer.

We picked up THE Chair a little later, and finished paying our $909.30 bill. Let’s see. Add that to the $12, and we’d just paid $921.30 for ONE chair.

WHY?

Now why would we, the epitome of Scottish frugality, be willing to plunk down $921 for ONE chair? I’m aware that plenty of you, my fair readers, pay this kind of money for furniture, but we do not. This was a real stretch. Did we abandon our principles? Is there a pay-attention part to our sad saga?

Of course! This saga is fairly teeming with pay-attention points – and none of them sad – for you, since you didn’t pay the $921!

The Promised Quiz

1. What does looking have to do with this story?
This is an easy one: keep looking and eventually, you’ll find what you’re looking for. It’s all about paying attention and keeping your eyes open. (See my previous post about your reticular activating system.)

Our answer? Forty-two years of looking is an awfully long time to look for something. Having found it, we should cough up the moolah and stop looking.

2. What does this story teach about the word deal?
Just hearing the term should send shivers up and down one’s spine. Seldom have I met a deal which didn’t turn into way more of something (money, time, energy, emotion) than I was expecting. When you learn the full cost of the deal, though, don’t throw it out automatically. Decide if it fits with what you’ve been trying to do or looking for. In other words, is it reasonable for YOU? It may not be a screaming deal, but is it reasonable?

Our answer? While most definitely not a deal by our standards, we have a knockout chair for our $921. The price charged by our excellent upholsterer was reasonable. Could we buy similar quality and style in a furniture store? Absolutely not. Okay then, it was as good a deal as we were ever likely to find for what we wanted. THE Chair was living up to its name.

3. Where does homework come into the equation?
It’s the very first thing you do, you know that! And you keep doing your homework until you’re satisfied you know what you need to know to make an informed decision.

Our answer? We’d looked for 42 years for inexpensive seating to go with our French Rococo couch, so we knew we couldn’t find a cheap chair. When you’ve done 42 years of homework, you know you’re paying a fair price. Heck, it was the only chair we’d found that even remotely resembled our 250 year-old couch!

4. Should quality be considered?
Say what you will about the desirability of cheap, disposable furniture, there’s something to be said for sinking into quality and feasting your eyes on it day after day. Quality lets you make a buying decision and not have to think about replacing that item for a very long time. 

Our answer? Quality wins, hands down. We’ve experienced quality upholstery on quality furniture and not-so-quality upholstery on not-so-quality furniture. Quality wears like iron and looks good its entire lifetime. Not-so-quality stuff? Not so much.

5. When does someone have to step up and be the voice of reason?
Short answer: always.

If this scenario had happened earlier in our marriage, one – or both of us – would’ve said, “Are we nuts? Why are we even discussing this? The answer is an emphatic NO!” Spending close to a $1000 on one chair would not have been reasonable for us. Your circumstances AT THE TIME – not your friends’ or your parents’ or your co-workers’ – tell you what’s reasonable (as long as you’re willing to be reasonable).

Our answer? It was reasonable for this time of our lives, though we had many discussions, trust me, about THE Chair. Seldom has an item entered our home shrouded in as much angst as THE Chair. But in the end, we agreed; it was the right time for this purchase.

6. Can you find a workaround for a “deal” that turns out not to be a deal?
This is the ubiquitous trick question that must be part of every quiz. It’s a trick because I haven’t given you a single clue.

Our answer? Of course! There’s almost always a workaround. Some would call ours pure rationalization. But, as we’d successfully hauled Reason back on-board enough to use her at least a little, we much prefer to call it a “reasonable workaround.” We simply made THE Chair:

  • our upcoming anniversary gift,
  • Hubby’s birthday gift,
  • our Valentine’s gift to each other,
  • our St. Patrick’s gift to each other,
  • our Independence Day gift to each other,
  • my birthday gift,
  • our Friendship Day gift to each other,
  • our Halloween gift to each other, and
  • our Thanksgiving gift to each other

for TWO YEARS.

Problem solved. No worrying about what to buy each other for the next two years. No buying little tchotchkes, just to have something to give on a special day. See how this works? We both got what we’d wanted for a long time and didn’t get a bunch of unwanted tchotchkes.

So how about your deals? Do you have one that comes even close to ours? Tell it! Leave a comment, why don’t you?

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Knowing when an item will provide you with years of use or enjoyment and is, therefore, worth its purchase price – THAT is a skill worth cultivating.” – Teresa Bennett

Apparently, no sage has said this, so I said it!