Friday, January 5, 2007

The delicate art of couch shopping

A few months ago, my boyfriend, Torsten, decided that he wanted to purchase a couch for his apartment. He had gone quite awhile in the apartment without one, sitting on his (admittedly lovely, ergonomically sound) Herman Miller desk chair and inviting guests to share his piano bench. But with the beginning of our relationship and thus the much more regular appearance of a person other than himself in his apartment, he decided that it was time to upgrade to a real, grown-up sofa.

So he did a bit of research online, narrowed down colours and sizes and styles that were acceptable, asked for my opinion, and eventually decided on a lovely mocha brown microsuede sofa from Crate & Barrel (not coincidentally, one of my favourite stores). We walked to the C&B on Massachusetts Avenue on a weekend in late October to try the couch out in person. It was gorgeous, comfortable, and generally perfect, and I even convinced Torsten to buy the matching ottoman. As an added bonus, C&B promised to deliver the couch by November 4, meaning that it would be ready for us to sit on for hours, watching the election returns on November 7.

The couch did indeed show up on November 4, which was a Saturday. It was perfect, exactly what he had ordered, with only one small snagit was about one inch too long to fit in the elevator. I was not present, but I am told that both delivery guys, Torsten, and Torsten's doorman spent a considerable amount of time shoving and grunting in a sweaty, macho fashion as they tried to make it fit. But it didn't fit. The delivery men, who were at this point swearing like sailors, hauled the couch all the way around the building to try the stairs, but it didn't fit in there either. Questioning of the doorman revealed that when the building was constructed, a small, normal elevator was accidentally installed in the place of a larger freight elevator, and that when the mistake was discovered, it was deemed too expensive to fix. The tragic end to this story was that the delivery men wound up leaving with the couch, C&B refunded Torsten the full cost of the couch (except for the delivery fee), I received several very unhappy text messages, and we sat on the floor to watch the election returns.

The couch hunt was much more challenging the second time around. The C&B couch had of course taken on saintly status in our heads, and every couch we encountered was "okay, but not nearly as nice as the other one." This was not helped by the fact that DC is not exactly the furniture store Mecca. Then I remembered something very convenientnamely, that I grew up in the furniture store Mecca, that my parents still live in that Mecca, and that Torsten and I were headed there in just a few weeks to celebrate Thanksgiving. So on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we drove to High Point, North Carolina, to a store approximately a mile wide and four stories tall called Furnitureland South. We hiked a mile down one floor, a mile up the next, and so on until we had covered the entire place, wielding our trusty measuring tape that told us that every couch we liked was too big to fit in Torsten's elevator.

Finally, we found a nice couch, 4 inches shorter than the maximum length, also a lovely mocha microsuede, and just as nice as the C&B one for nearly $600 less. Plus, shipping all the way to DC was well under $1 a pound, which worked out to a total of about $85. (This is why High Point is the Mecca of furniture stores.) They said that delivery would take 4-8 weeks, and it only took five. And just in time, too, because the vaunted Herman Miller chair has just developed a hole in the seat, a shocking flaw that the Herman Miller customer service department claims never to have seen before.

So today is the big day, the day that the second couch arrives. Torsten is working from home in anticipation of its arrival. I had no such luck and am stuck at the office. But Torsten just IMed me with the Tragic Story of the Second Couch: it arrived on time, it fit in the elevator, it fit in the doorway, they took the plastic off to set it up, and... of its four cute little wooden feet, only two are attached. The other two are in the packaging, but do not fit into the holes with the tools that the delivery men brought with them.

Torsten has two options: 1) let them take the couch away again, back to North Carolina, never to be seen again, or 2) let them leave the couch with him and go to the hardware store himself to obtain the correct tools. Naturally, he chooses option 2, and gives up valuable work time (the amazing thing is that when Torsten works from home, he really works) to walk to DuPont to obtain the correct tools. He comes back and attempts to install the two delinquent feet himself, only to discover (naturally) that the holes drilled for the feet are in the wrong place, thus rendering their attachment impossible.

Unfortunately, I can't offer you a simple resolution to this story, as he is still on the phone with customer service. But it looks like Torsten and I will be spending the weekend at my place.

Are you kidding? Who has this much bad luck with a couch? Torsten tells me that "when it comes to the delicate art of couch shopping," I am overly optimistic. Apparently, he's right.

1 comment:

  1. Ah moving pains. This is certainly a cautionary tale for anyone in the market - like myself at this very moment. New York apartments are not known for their spacial flexibility. I'm sorry to hear your boyfriend had such a discouraging experience! How are you otherwise? I saw from your pics you were in NYC. Next time you are in the city, we should get dinner. Hope you're well. = )