Chairs and the Internet age

So I had this old office chair that’s been with me since 1982. It was expensive back then, which explains why it lasted this long, but lately it’s become wobbly. The back rest seems not to know exactly what’s vertical and what’s not. Parts and padding are falling off every now and then. It’s a German or Belgian make, forgot exactly which. Good stuff, for its time.

Old chairOld chair backsideOld chair, handrest

Looking around for a new chair, I couldn’t find much except IKEA, and their chairs aren’t really good quality. Don’t get me wrong, I buy a lot of stuff at IKEA, but I wouldn’t buy an office chair there. I didn’t find any other decent brands that I could test and experience, either. There are lots of brands and types, but it’s very hard to find a store where you can check them out, and I won’t buy an unknown chair sight unseen or seat unsat. About the only chair I would dare buy on reputation alone is the Aeron. It’s the chair a lot of programmers expect to get, just as they expect to get top end workstations. It’s a top end office chair. Just google it.

Now, price… in the US, you can find the Aeron for around $950, which isn’t exactly cheap but considering the current exchange rate, it comes out to around 6000 SEK (I’m in Sweden), which is only twice the price of most decent office chairs.

Checking out the official Aeron prices from the Swedish distributors is bound to make you sick; around 15000 SEK, plus tax. That is $2500 plus tax! Jeez… how the h… can they mark it up like that?

Second hand, you can find Aeron chairs in Sweden for around 7-9000 SEK, but then you have no guarantees. I found them on Blocket.

Next, I checked out prices in the USA and found Home Office Solutions. They’re selling it new for around $750 and free shipping within the USA. I called them and asked if they’d ship to Sweden and they told me they can’t sell new chairs to me, due to Herman Miller prohibiting them from selling outside the USA. Good old market protection in action. However, they can sell “Certified Refurbished” chairs anywhere they want, and these go for a little less, $718 plus $199 shipping (when I bought it), including a 12 year warranty. Yes, I ordered one, plus the casters for hard floors, around $30 extra. I expect to pay around 5% customs. The VAT will be added by Fedex, but I’ll get it back on the company VAT account, so it’s of no consequence. At the current exchange rate, this chair will cost me around 6000 SEK.

The chair arrived today (it took a week) in perfect condition. Even examining it in detail, I can find no sign it’s ever been used. I’m sitting in it right now and it’s simply great. Here are a couple of pictures of it, including my little son who I had a lot of problems convincing to let me use it.

I highly recommend buying this chair, and if you do to get it from Home Office Solutions. There may be other good places to get it, of course, I didn’t check them all.

Update 26 aug 2008: just got the invoice from Fedex, and I was only charged 100 SEK admin costs and VAT. No customs charge. So the grand total comes to around 5600 SEK plus VAT, just a whisker over a third of the Swedish internet mail order price for a new chair. And as I said, you can’t see the difference. What a deal.

Update 19 september 2008: this chair is heaven. It’s so good that I just want to go sit in it all the time, and while I’m there, I could just as well get some coding done. Developer managers out there, if you don’t get this kind of seat for your developers, you’re missing out on a great ROI opportunity. Payback time? I’d say a week, but I’ll claim less than a month, to be on the safe side. Ok, two or three months at the Swedish prices, but still. (No, I don’t have shares in Herman Miller or Home Office Solutions or anything related.)

Big box

Extra carpet casters

Julian on chair

Julian on chair, jumptin

Handles right side

Handles left side

Julian figuring out how it works