The seven-week itch

In order to write an editorial on this page, you have to occasionally describe a retail furniture-buying experience. Those are the rules. So, here's my most recent furniture-buying journey.

After looking in several stores over two or three months, I decided on the style and color of the new sofa and love seat I wanted.

Then I went to the retail store of a certain chain close to my home to buy it.

I told the salesperson exactly what I wanted. She checked the computer, and then started to do the paperwork for the order.

"And it has to be made in North America," I announced.

She paused from filling out the order form and looked up wearily.

"Some components may be made outside the country, and certainly you understand that upholstered fabric may be cut or sewn elsewhere," she advised in a flat, robot-like voice.

She made it sound as if she answered this question 20 times a day, and had to constantly explain the vagaries of the global marketplace. But I doubt the average customer has much interest in where the product is made.

Later, I had to arm wrestle the salesperson to avoid paying the inflated fabric protection charge. There was no real protection offered, only a promise that someone would come and clean the sofa if I spilled ketchup on it while watching "SportsCenter." I was, I learned, one of those in the 10 percent minority who recklessly chose not to make such a purchase.

I already knew that the sofa and love seat would be made in the Magnolia State. I had looked at the display during an earlier visit, and did some additional research about the manufacturer and its upholstered products division in the FDM 300 and online.

Promised delivery time: Six weeks. No problem.

I told a friend about my purchase and she exclaimed, "That's a month and a half!"

I also planned ahead, cleverly delaying the purchase so that it wouldn't show up on my credit card bill for more than a month. With a little luck, I'd get the goods before having to pay. (It didn't work out that way. They somehow got the charge on the earlier month's credit card bill, and the final delivery took seven weeks.)

When I had bought my first new car years ago, I had a similar experience. It had to be made in North America. And it was. The "final assembly point," in carmaker lingo, was in Ohio. But the engine block was made in Brazil! (For the record, the engine ran well for almost 140,000 miles, including trips everywhere from New Brunswick to Arizona and Florida to Washington.)

Go to your local car dealer sometime and look at the sticker. A Japanese car may be made mostly in Japan, Korea or Ohio.

Will your customers do the research to see where your product is made? And will they wait seven weeks? I took an inventory of other furniture at home and will provide further information on country of origin in a later column.


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About the author
Karl Forth

Karl D. Forth is online editor for CCI Media. He also writes news and feature stories in FDMC Magazine, in addition to newsletters and custom publishing projects. He is also involved in event organization, and compiles the annual FDM 300 list of industry leaders. He can be reached at [email protected].