Monday, August 30, 2010

The Whole Couch Situation

I hate red-tag sales. I hate one-day-only sales. I hate pressure sales. When I make purchases under duress, I end up with Buyer's Remorse. The latest instalment in that story is my couch.

One week ago I decided to go couch shopping. I meant to go out and look. Sit. Lie down. Take measurements. Compare prices. My furniture budget had been depleted down to about $360. I didn't intend to buy - at least not that day.

I went with the McQueens. They have an eye for things like colour and design, etc. I don't. They're artists. Actuall artists. I draw on coffee cups. I'm an engineer at heart, and a computer programmer by profession. I value things like function and efficiency. To me function comes way before form. When my brother and I were both learning to program, he'd create beautiful user interfaces. I'd have black and white command line programs.

Before this ouch-shopping day, I had been to Ikea countless times sitting on their couches, trying to decide what I might like. I like Ikea furniture.  I realized the other day why Ikea doesn't have salespeople.  The furniture sells itself.  So far, I have bought a chair, ottoman, stool, a dinning table, 4 dinning chairs, and DVD/CD shelves from Ikea, and I don't regret a single purchase. But, I haven't found an Ikea couch I really like that's comfortable - at least in the Ottawa Ikea. Perhaps cushions become softer with use?

I decided on a few things I wanted, and didn't want in a couch:
Not leather
Leather looks nice, but if it's hot or cold, the couch becomes very uncomfortable.
None of those little buttons in the upright cushions
I always manage to cause them to pop out. If I'm going to spend at least a grand on my couch, I don't want to have to worry about damaging it so easily. It would be one thing if I did it, but if someone else did it, that's frustrating in a different way.
Flat arms
When I was in university I had the ugliest couch and chair set. but the arms were about 5" wide, solid wood, and flat. I would often use it as a TV tray, and would leave my glass, pop can, and/or plate on the arm.
Long enough for me to sleep on
I figure a couch is like a substitute bed. It's going to get slept on. You want that to be a comfortable sleep. My couch in university was like that. I took a lot of naps on that couch. It was the perfect size, even if it was ugly.
Right price
If it was too cheap...well, I believe that you get what you pay for. If it's too expensive, I'd break the bank. I don't want that. I don't want to think about how much flying I could have done with that couch money. I had about $360 in my couch fund, but, given a few more pay-cheques, that could increase. I was planning on spending about a grand on a couch.
The first store the McQueens and I walked into was Dufresne (pronounced Dufrane, rhyiming with Moo-Frame, with the epmhasis on "Frame".). We were greeted by a loud salesman informing us it was their VIP red-tag day. One day only! We were shown a bunch of couches. Most where "meh". Then we sat on one. Oh my goodness! So comfortable! So soft! I just sank in! I wanted it! There was a couch and love seat. There was also a single chair, end tables, and coffee tables too that could come as a package. I wanted the couch. The loveseat was negotiable.

But, I wanted to look around first. After Dufresne, we went to Sears, Lay-Z-Boy, and United Furniture Warehouse. I sat in nothing that compared to that couch at Dufresne. So I went back to Dufresne, got a good deal on the couch and loveseat. I saved $700 from the list price. I set up the delivery for the following Saturday.

On Saturday it showed up. After much struggling to get it into the aprtment, I played with a few different arrangements. I sat in them for a while. I looked at my bank accounts, and finance spreadsheets. Buyer's Remorse started sinking in. Now I'm thinking of returning, either just the loveseat, or both. The return policy is that they'll refund 90% of the money (10% is a re-stocking fee), and I'll have to pay for a pick-up. And, I only have 48 hours to decide. 48 hours, presumably, from delivery, not purchase. That's not a very long period, especially when you're spending, potentially thousands of dollars.  I kinda feel like punishing the company for such poor customer service policies.

I have the following issues with the couch and love seat:
  1. It's big. It takes up a lot of space in my small apartment.
  2. It's heavy. This is a problem if I want to move it around.
  3. It's big and heavy. It had to be disassembled to get into the apartment. You should have seen the delivery guys grunting and sweating trying to get it in. If I have to move without the convenience of professional movers, that's gonna be me - except that I'm not a big, strong, professional furniture delivery man.  I'm a computer programmer.
  4. It's expensive. Even though I got a wicked deal on it, I'm still gonna have rob, not only Peter, but Frank, Chester, Sebastien, and Mary, just to pay Paul. This is actually the least of my concerns. I have the money to pay for it. I just have to pray that I have no unexpected expenses for the next few months while I recoup the losses.
  5. It's expensive. I don't like having expensive things. You always worry if it's gonna break down or get stolen or something. I've seen someone puncture a car seat simply by leaving a pencil in their pants pocket. I don't want to worry about things like that.
  6. It doesn't have removable cushions. Removable cushions are nice if you need to turn them over if someone spills something, or if you need to lay them out on the floor as a make-shift bed.
  7. It's not _quite_ long enough for me to completely lie down on. I know this conflicts with problems 1 and 3, but if it's gonna be too big to get in my apartment without disassembling it, I want a good bed substitute.
  8. It's not _me_. You know how some furniture just has _you_ written all over it? I bought these chairs from Ikea. Solid pine. Light. Assembly was ridiculously easy. $25 a piece. And they go with my table, which is also me because of the way it extends. My problem is that I don't know if a couch exists that is Me.
I should also list some of the positives of the couches (and my answers to them):
The two of them together makes sitting possible for 5 people. That's good for entertaining lots of guests.
I rarely entertain. I don't like entertaining. Having super-comfortable seating is just an invitation for people to want to come over.
It's super-comfortable.
At least at first. After sitting in it for a while, I'm not sure it feels all that good. I bought an office chair from Staples once. Felt great there. When I got it home and sat in it for a couple of hours, as computer programmers are wont to do, my back was killing me! I had to sit in my old, uncomfortable chair for a while before I could sleep at night. It turns out the comfortable chair was actually uncomfortable, and the uncomfortable chair was actually comfortable. This is important, as I will no longer be regularly seeing a chiropractor at the end of this month.
The green couch goes well with my burgundy carpet.
I don't care. I am such a form-before-function guy. I only know that it goes well because the McQueens told me it would. I would have still bought the couch if they said "No.  It will totally clash with your carpet."  I bought it because it was comfortable.  In fact, my decorating mission statement was "I want the apartment to look like a grown non-student lives there. I don't want your used stuff. I want new stuff. But I wanted to leave room for a "woman's touch".  Furthermore, if I move in a year or two - which is entirely possible - it is unlikely I'll be moving into a place with burgundy carpets. I suppose I could get a burgundy rug. Or just spill some red wine on the floor, and not clean it up.
If I return it, they keep 10% of the price as a re-stocking fee. I also have to pay for, and arrange (including reserving the service elevator in my building) a pick-up. Plus, I'd have to do all this shopping all over again. This could turn out to be a $200+ oops.
So I have to decide by tomorrow what I'm going to do.

For reference, here's a picture of my couch from my university days:

And here's the couch I just bought:

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