Thursday, August 02, 2007

The $10 Chair

I realized recently it was time to stir up the chi in the house again, so I've been moving things around and purging closets. The pile bound for eBay and craigslist is quite impressive. If you ever feel poor, just drag everything out of your closets and estimate what it must have all cost. How could you possibly be poor if you afforded all that stuff you don't even use?

During this shake-down of the abode, I decided I was going to manifest a more comfortable reading chair for my bedroom. My wallet doesn't usually live up to my taste so a lot of the money I make on eBay gets spent in the same place. It's like magic really, turning your pile of old stuff into something new through virtual transactions. I love it. I take my stuff to the post office and it goes away to make someone else happy, then new stuff shows up in my mailbox to make me happy. I think the standard postal uniform should be robes and a pointed hat. Or they could use owls.

Sometimes you get a good story along with your item, like the Mumpy Couch story, or my $10 chair story last night. Those are the pieces you cherish because you can't buy a good story, some furniture just comes with a tale.

I've been looking for this chair for a few weeks now. You have to have lots of patience and ready cash to shop like this because you never know when it's going to pop into existence and you don't want to miss out. I laid out my specs to the Universe like I was placing an order.

I adore the chairs at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble because they're squishy comfortable and funky cool. I'm not sure if it's a factor of down-filled cushions or the number of butts that have contributed to their wear, but I could sit in those chairs for hours (and I have).

I've asked managers at both chains for a manufacturer name, but apparently they're sworn to secrecy even if they did have an answer. Google searches revealed mostly speculation with no true knowledge. My only choice was to go to Starbucks (twist my arm!) and memorize the lines and materials they choose, then compare my mental notes to hundreds of ads online.

I found a perfectly shaped moss green Mitchell Gold chair on eBay starting at $20, but it had several days left and a corner of the cushion chewed open (still fixable though). The chair lived about an hour away so I watched the auction until it went over $75, then I gave up. I was disappointed, but it was for the best because at the time I only had the faith that I could scrape together the cash, not any actual money.

A search on eBay the next day over a wider mileage range revealed a nice Broyhill chair in light green stripes, very nice curves, starting at $9.99 with no bids and only a few hours left. Awesome. I had plans that night, but I left the auction page on the Mac and made Kaytee promise to be home at 9pm to bid on it for me. I pestered her on the phone from Barnes & Noble for the last 10 minutes of the auction:

"Has anyone bid yet?"


"How bout now?"


"Awesome. Check it again."

"No, Mom, nothing."

"Did you refresh the page? Did anyone bid?"


Since I call this my $10 chair, you can already guess that we won the auction for only $9.99 as the sole bidder. This was an awesome deal. I thought the Universe really did me a favor with the price too because when I "placed my order" I said I wanted a chair for $50, knowing I'd go up to $75 for a really great piece, but also knowing I really shouldn't be spending that money at all with the bills I had due. This was a perfect compromise. But the Universe has a sense of humor and once you place an order you can count on getting it.

I paid for the chair right away through PayPal hoping the owner wouldn't back out when they realized their chair went for much less than it should have. The eBay store that was selling the chair on behalf of the owner tacked on another $5 local pick up fee so now my chair cost $15. Still an amazing deal for a brand name chair in a great shape and color.

This chair lived on Long Island, about an hour and a half away. Between bridges and gas it cost me about $25 to get there and back. Everyone else was busy the night I had to pick it up, so I went alone. A three-hour trip with Jason Mraz tunes repeated ad infinitum with no one else in the car to complain is my idea of an awesome drive, so I didn't mind.

The owner's address sounded like a single family home, so I figured no worries. I'm an experienced Mover of Large Things so I was sure I could find a way to get one chair out her door and into the car by myself, and if you look like you're really having trouble, most sellers will help you out a bit.

When I got there tho, the joke was on me because the owner lived in an upstairs condo, the chair was as wide as the entry stairway, and she had back problems so she couldn't help me at all. My brain was doing overtime but I couldn't think of a way to get it down the stairs by myself. It wasn't heavy, just awkward. She suggested several times that I come back with Mark on the weekend, but I wasn't defeated yet. I asked her to give me half and hour and she reluctantly agreed.

I drove a block away to an ATM and got some cash. In case you're reading this and you don't know me, you have to understand how horribly shy I am, and also how stubborn my Irish genes are about asking for help. Put the two together and it's a lot to overcome, but sometimes the need to get something done kicks my inner issues to the corner.

There were bars across the street and I saw a bunch of college-age guys standing outside of one. I was trying to figure out how to approach them without sounding completely lame when two guys and a girl came out of a nearby restaurant. They were discussing where to go next, so before I lost my nerve I jumped in and asked if they wanted to make a fast buck. They looked unsure of how to respond to that, so I quickly described my situation. In classic Long Island accents they agreed to help. They must've both had good, scary Italian mothers that taught them to help a lady in distress... or else they looked at me and saw beer money. My bet is on the beer money.

To the owner's surprise, I knocked on her door again inside of 15 minutes and the two guys and I went upstairs to survey the situation. One guy must've been in college for engineering because he asked if I had a tape measure, which I did (yes, I have everything in my purse, and he looked appropriately shocked). He measured the chair, measured the stairwell, directed the other guy to hoist the chair and tip it diagonally, and down the stairs they went like professional movers. They had the chair in my car in less than five minutes. I paid them $30 and thanked them, and the chair owner, profusely, then got in the car and breathed a huge sigh of relief as I headed home.

So remember I said I was going to spend $50-75 for this $10 chair? Let's add this up: $10 auction price + $5 pick up fee + $25 for gas & tolls + $30 for L.I. Italian Help = $70. And we'll have it cleaned next time they come to clean the carpets, so that will be even a little more.

I'm telling you, the lesson here is Reality may be malleable, but you gotta know what you're asking for because you definitely will get it.

By the way, don't judge me by the wallpaper. It came with the house. I think it's hideous, but it's a lot of work to take it down, so I've just rolled with it for now. I prefer a more southwestern/Mexican look, but that stuff is so hard to find on the bEast coast.

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