The Saga of Evelyn at Office Chair @ Work

I’ve burned through quite a few desk chairs over the years. In the office, I tended toward leather high backs or the sort one would find on a bench, but at home, I went for the more contemporary models. You know, the ones that claimed to be ergonomic so my ergs would be happy? But being cheap frugal, I tended to buy the disposable ones from mini-mall office supply stores.

Last Christmas, the kids decided that I should have a better quality desk chair, so they got me a Herman Miller chair. Now, I didn’t know much about Herman, but I was reliably assured by Dr. SJ that this was a good chair, not the cheap crap upon which my butt usually resided, and would bring my ergs great relief.

On November 14th, while resting my ergs, I noticed that the fabric covering the seat that had been neatly tucked into the injection-molded hi-tech plastic (Plastics!) frame had come out. Well, I thought to myself, that shouldn’t happen with an expensive, fancy, ergonomically correct chair. So I went to the website of the seller, a business called Office Chair @ Work to call its customer service and let them know that Herman’s chair was defective.

I called and received the typical recording expressing how deeply they cared about my satisfaction, and then pressed 2, which informed me that I should send them an email as they are a hip internet business where no human being will speak with you, whether from Mumbai or Elizabeth, New Jersey. I took a pic of the defective seat, put the order number in the subject line and shot off an email. I swiftly got an auto-reply.

Thank you for contacting us.

We have received your message.

Important note: Please allow up to 24 hours for email response. We usually respond even faster. If you do not see a response within the above time frame, please check your junk folder or provide an alternate email address. We thank you for your patience and appreciate your business

Thank you for choosing Office Chair @ Work.

Fair enough. The next day, I awaited their email response. Nothing. But on November 16, I got an email from Evelyn. Movement!

Can you please email a photo from under the seat?

Thank you for choosing Office Chair @ Work.

Have a wonderful day.

I dutifully turned on my trusty Moto Razr and snapped a pic of the bottom, which was uneventful and it was pretty much your basic bottom, but if that’s what they needed to correct the defect, who am I to argue? And then I waited for Evelyn’s solution.

I will ask our team about this and I will let you know.

Thank you for choosing Office Chair @ Work.

Have a wonderful day.

Did this really require a team discussion, I wondered? Was I the first person who ever had a defective chair? Maybe Herman’s chairs were that good. So I waited to learn what the team had to say. When I heard nothing further that day, I inquired how long it would take for the team to figure out this complex problem.

Usually just a day.

Thank you for choosing Office Chair @ Work.

Have a wonderful day.

Well, teams being teams, it was unsurprising that they would require time to weigh the available options. But the next day, nothing. Was the team kidnapped and taken hostage? I emailed Evelyn to ask about the welfare of the team and on November 18th, finally heard back.

How is the rest of the fabric?

Thank you for choosing Office Chair @ Work.

Have a wonderful day.

Fine, thank you, but what does that have to do with anything? I was now becoming concerned that Herman wasn’t making chairs as good as people thought, so I called the Herman Miller customer service line, which assured me that it valued me and I could leave a message, and someone would return my call within 24 hours. I did. They didn’t. But after a nudge on Twitter, I received a call back from a supervisor at Herman Miller. Her first question was where the chair was bought, as she had no record of the purchase. I told her it was bought from Office Chair @ Work.

“Oh boy,” she responded. “We know about them. They’re not an authorized distributor and we have our legal team working on stopping them from claiming they are authorized to sell our chairs.” Does everybody have a team these days?

I told her, “but it’s your chair,” and she explained that they aren’t new chairs, but used chairs they clean up and resell. It looked new enough when I got it, but then, I’m not a new chair inspector so what do I know? In any event, she was deeply empathetic and offered to put me in touch with an authorized dealer for repair at my expense, but she wasn’t going to do squat for me otherwise. I demurred.

Out of the blue, I received another email from Evelyn on November 19th.

Hi.

How did some of the fabric come apart?

How are you making use of the chair?

Please explain.

Thank you for choosing Office Chair @ Work.

Have a wonderful day.

No one has ever asked me to explain how my ergs use a chair before. Was there some way in which ergs might use a chair so abusively as to render any seat unwarrantable? I suppose I could have been using the chair to hammer roofing shingles or as a defense against unwanted intruders, but then, given what the supervisor at Herman Miller chairs told me, it finally occurred to me that I’ve met the future of customer service for internet sellers. The problem wasn’t the defective chair, but an old man’s mistaken expectation that the warm concern for my satisfaction was just a line in an email to be repeated over and over.

Have a wonderful day, Evelyn.

32 thoughts on “The Saga of Evelyn at Office Chair @ Work

  1. Hunting Guy

    Oh, boy. Here we go again.

    Didn’t you go through this with an appliance some years ago? I feel kinda sorry for the folks on the other end of the phone.

    Mr. T.

    “I pity the fool.”

    Reply
  2. Kirk A Taylor

    Try sending an email in all caps asking them, “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?!”
    It is especially important that you mention you are a lawyer in the email.
    Mention you are good friends with a judge too.

    That should do it…

    Reply
  3. Guitardave

    Hope ya didn’t pay new price for a ‘refurbished’ POS.
    I’ve wondered if one of those HM’s were really worth the crazy money. Had a building maintenance job where they had HM cubicle system, and I must admit, they were well designed and built…and heavy.
    I could do a two page rant on the 5 china made, absolute pieces of shit I’ve gone thru in the last 18 yrs, but I’ll spare you all the details with a two word sentence. Planned obsolescence.

    As for the people who ask an engineer, “How cheesy can we make this part so it just makes it past the warranty period?” …I say, come on boys, lets go for a ride…(sorry about vid quality, but the sound he makes upon impact is epic)

    Reply
      1. Guitardave

        When seeing the number of office chair racing vids, I thought of the recent “discovery” of how people working from home seem to do what they did in the office in half the time.
        Imagine that.

        Reply
  4. gitarcarver

    Years ago, I actually sold office furniture from many brands including Herman Miller.

    As a company, we loved them because the markup was so high. The product itself was terrible. They were always coming back to us to be repaired. Still, people bought them for the name, and that was fine with us. If a person wanted a pretentious, over priced piece of manure, who are we to deny them the experience?

    Twenty five years ago we always recommended Steelcase and United Chair. United was bulletproof and offered a lifetime warranty on their frames. Steelcase was just bulletproof but more stylish. You paid a little more, but the comfort and durability was there.

    I still have my 30 year old Steelcase chair. It has been recovered, and the casters have been replaced, but it is still as stout as the day if popped out of the box. (And it too makes the ergs feel good after a long day working.)

    Good luck getting your chair fixed.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Before receiving my gift, I hadn’t heard of Herman Miller before. They could have taken responsibility for their chair, considering there was no doubt that it was their chair. That aspect of customer service eluded the woman who called me, even after I pointed out that regardless of who sold it, it was still theirs and I was still a not satisfied customer of their product.

      Reply
    2. Ned Freed

      My first dealings with office chairs were back in 1986, when our nascent company needed a bunch. We opted to buy the best ones we’d encountered in college, which turned out to be Steelcase. $400 or so per chair seemed really steep, but what did a bunch of tech geeks know?

      Subsequent expansions, moves, and acquisitions brought us into contact with Allsteel, Trendway, and yes, Herman Miller. Each time new ones showed up I tried them, and each time opted to keep my original Steelcase chair, even when it meant enduring the ire of some interior design weenie. If memory serves, the Herman Miller wave was during the time when chair arms were “out” – so they were especially awful, not to mention unreliable. Allsteel and Trenday were better, but way too expensive.

      These days I work from home, and right now my butt is parked in my original Steelcase chair with the original burnt orange fabric. No doubt WR was glad to see the last of it.

      Anyway, my advice is to dump the Herman Miller. Even if you manage to get the current problem fixed, odds are it’s going to fail again.

      Reply
  5. Drew Conlin

    I’m thinking of guitar Dave when I write this. There is a gentleman W.E. Moll a gun maker but previously a guitar maker. Moll guitars are by and large excellent hand made instruments.
    A friend bought a used Moll guitar. There was a defect. He contacted Moll and without hesitation Moll told him you get a brand new guitar; in about a year because it had to be built. So my friend waited and got the guitar.
    Miller should simply send Mr. Greenfield a new chair… if he wants it.

    Reply
    1. B. McLeod

      All the more so because the part of the story they won’t tell is that the refurbished chairs other merchants are selling are the ones they refused to repair for their original customers. There is a point here which Moll understands, but which they do not.

      Reply
  6. Chris Van Wagner

    Your kids really do love you. And know you too tell. Alas, mine do not, so I tried this experiment on myself. Apparently the office chair biz is as unreliable and unresponsive as the used car biz. I finally “settled” on Ergoal after being stymied by All33’s customer service – well after purchase. Neither is as good as the Office Depot chair I wore out after 15 years – or $10/year over time. If a doctor endorses a chair for a company (here, all33), remember that doctors stand all day. I forgot that as I read an ad while my back hurt. (Ps. Both chairs cost more than my first used car. Neither drives as well.)

    Reply
  7. Erik H

    That sucks.

    Of course, that’s a discount outlet selling used, poorly-refurbished chairs, without a real manufacturer’s warranty. You can tell they’re a scam because they don’t disclose it on their front page or the main page of their listings; you have to click to “additional information” to find out that they are used and refurbished, which they call “restored.” And even if they deign to fix it, you’ll have to pay for return shipping.

    The better places (i.e. authorized dealers) are actually much more responsive. In all fairness this isn’t Herman Miller’s fault. I love my new Steelcase Gesture, FWIW.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      It was a gift, Erik. Maybe I should smack my kids around a few times for being so neglectful as to not achieve peak anal compulsiveness?

      Reply
    2. B. McLeod

      It is Herman Miller’s fault, because the second hand chairs are chairs they didn’t fix for someone. Apparently, they only feel remorse when it costs them new sales.

      Reply
  8. Sgt. Schultz

    After looking at their website, it’s easy to understand how they scammed your kids. Who would have expected these chairs to be refurbished? They tout their product and warranty, and certainly give the appearance of being authorized to sell these fancy chairs.

    Since Herman Miller knows this company is out there scamming people with its product, it’s their responsibility to deal with it, not the customers to get burned with buying what they reasonably believe to be a new Herman Miller chair without recourse.

    And it appears Evelyn is about as real as their warranty, a dummy name to pretend they have a customer service department. Scammers gonna scam, as you well know.

    Reply
    1. L. Phillips

      Same here. Just for grins I googled “Herman Miller chairs” and the shit-bird outfit the Admiral’s kids dealt with comes up first on the list. Condolences to the kids. Sorry they ran headlong into the axiom that no good deed goes unpunished.

      Reply

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