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Retail Follies

We need a new office chair. The one I’m sitting on has to be replaced soon. I stopped in at my local Staples while I was out and about this morning to see what they have. It turns out they have a whole slew of chairs and various price ranges. We don’t need the Rolls Royce of chairs, just a sturdy comfortable and adjustable utilitarian office chair. Should be easy, right?

I check out the chairs and I can see pretty quickly that what we need is one of the mid-priced products. Lo and behold, one of them is on sale, $50 off. That’s a 25% discount. I compare it to the one next to it that is not discounted. By all appearances they are functionally the same. They look a bit different but the weight rating is the same, the materials are the same, the wheels are the same, and they both look about like office chairs.

They way this place has their chair section set up is to have all the floor models along the back wall of the store with chairs in boxes in racks above. This means I need a human, so I go looking for one. I find a staffer and say, hi, can you help me buy a chair. Sure, she says, I’ll have someone meet you at the back of the store in a few minutes. Sure enough, in about 2 minutes, Buddy shows up.

I’d like to buy this chair, I say. Oh, he says. We’re all out of that one (the only one on sale). I see. Well, I’m willing to buy this here floor model, or alternatively, I’ll happily buy this one next to it if you are willing to give it to me at the sale price. He says, I dunno, I have to check, and off he goes. A few minutes later, Buddy returns. I can sell you the floor model, he says. I say, perfect, let’s make this happen.

He wheels the chair up to the cash and opens up a cash for me. Great, I think. These people want my business. He punches something into the cash, then turns to me and tells me it will be a few minutes because it requires an override to sell me a floor model and he doesn’t have the authority to do it. So he stands there for a couple minutes, then he starts serving other customers. I stand around for a couple customers, then tell him, just want to let you know, I’m leaving in 3 minutes, so if you want to sell me the chair, you’re really going to have to make this override happen.

He finds a manager and they have a little conversation. The manager says to me, there is a $20 build fee if you’re going to buy one already assembled. I start laughing. It’s the floor model – you should be giving me a discount, but look, I want the chair and I’m willing to buy it at the sale price. No no no no, that can’t happen. He explains that they charge $20 for assembling chairs for their customers. Again I say, but it’s the floor model. Are you sure? There is no way I’m going to pay more for a floor model. It’s just not going to happen.

At this point it is no longer about the $20. If the price of the chair was $20 more (not quite as big a sale), I might have bought it anyway. At this point, it’s the principle of not paying more for a floor model. I think, this is a drag, I just want to buy the damned chair, but he’s dug in his heels and I’ve dug in mine. I say, well I guess you’re not getting my business today. You understand though, that when I need printer ink, paper, electronics and whatever else I might buy at your store, I’m going to rethink where I shop and give somebody else my business in the future.

The manager has a look on his face that can only mean, I’ll show you I’m not going to get pushed around by a damned customer. We deserve that extra $20. So I say, have a nice day, turn and leave the store. Next week I’ll go buy a chair from somebody else. It will cost me another shopping trip I’d rather not make, but I’ll get over it. The $20 surcharge was over the top. If it were my business, I’d be happy to sell the chair.


  1. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    I think I beat the office chair deal. I was in a local thrift shop one day looking for previously viewed movies and they had a half dozen office chairs that looked like they would do the job. Slightly used. So I bought one, no assembly required. Took it home and wasnt happy with it so next time I was in town I took the chair and donated it back to the thrift shop. They were delighted. While I was there I bought a different model. Another 10 bucks. Perfect. I have had it for 5 years now, use it a LOT and it still works fine. Total spent 20 bucks no assembly required.

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