I've had a semi-broken desk chair at home for years. A friend's company was getting rid of a bunch of office chairs, and I picked up two of them; comfortable enough, but not all the features worked. But hey, free chairs, and they worked well enough.
Until a few days ago, when the one at my desk started riding lower than usual. I fiddled with a control, and all the air went out of the pneumatic system, and suddenly I was sitting about a foot off the ground. Nothing would raise the seat.
I left it alone overnight, and the seat raised itself to the point where it was usable again (though I don't think it's quite as tall as it used to be). But a couple days later, the back suddenly stopped reclining. None of the controls would make it start reclining again. It was stuck.
So yesterday, while I was out running errands, I stopped by the Office Max a few blocks from my house to look at chairs.
I had the vague idea that I would get a Herman Miller Aeron chair. I quite liked the one I had at work many years ago (the lumbar-support bar felt so good that it was almost a little distracting), and they're attractive. But Office Max didn't carry them, and when I looked them up online (via iPhone) I found out how expensive they are. Yikes. Not out of the question, just more than I think I'm currently interested in spending on a chair.
(I just now came across the aeron chair sucks page, featuring entertaining brief videos of the Aeron's pain points. I had forgotten that the arm rests used to get in the way (I may have removed them), and that the front edge of the seat dug into my legs painfully (though I may have eventually figured out how to adjust that, I forget).)
So I figured I would try out the Office Max chairs and see what I thought. Most of them were padded "manager chairs," which I suppose I could have at home but somehow they seemed more suited to lounging in than typing at a desk in. But there were some "task chairs" (that is, chairs for lowly office peons) that seemed more suitable.
I tried various chairs, and found one I rather liked the feel of. (Actually, it was a manager chair, but the general design seemed to be loosely modeled on the Aeron.) Each chair had a plastic pouch attached to it, containing slips of paper with info and barcodes; you take the slip of paper to the front counter to get a chair. So I did.
The sales guy told me it was out of stock. I asked if it would be coming in again soon. He said it had been discontinued. I bit back a snarky "Why do you have it out on display, then?" response, which I figured would be unproductive. He made some phone calls and said I could have the display model for 10% off.
I went back to look at it. On the plus side, I already knew I liked sitting in it. On the minus side, something was wonky about the reclining system--when I had been sitting in it earlier, sometimes it would recline and sometimes it wouldn't, and I couldn't find a control to set that.
And then I noticed that the item number on the slips of paper was different from the item number on the display card behind the chair. The display card showed a picture that looked just like the chair I was sitting in, so I thought maybe the display card chair was the replacement for the discontinued version. So I took the display card and found another sales clerk and showed it to him.
He came back and looked at the chair with me, and said he would look into it. While he was there, I mentioned that I was considering buying the display model, but that it wouldn't lean back consistently. He looked it over, and said, "We had to let the guy who put these chairs together go. He kept doing it wrong."
Way to inspire confidence in the customer.
Eventually, after much discussion and several phone calls and the clerk making a trip to the back of the store, we determined that (a) the paper slips in the plastic pouch were for a different chair entirely--someone had put the wrong slips in the pouch (the sales clerk seemed entirely unconcerned about this, so while he was away I removed the pouch from the chair and hid it so other customers wouldn't have to go through the same confusion); but (b) the actual chair was the same price shown on the slips; but (c) the actual chair was out of stock; but (d) they could ship me one, free shipping, in 1 to 3 business days. So I went with that.
But the whole experience reminded me that I've never actually had a good or pleasant shopping experience at Office Max (at least not at this particular one; don't remember if I've been to any others). It's no Fry's--the clerks aren't totally incompetent most of the time (just often annoying and generally underinformed--and I imagine also way underpaid), and I do often end up leaving with some semblance of what I wanted--but I should stop thinking of it as the nice office-supply store around the corner and start thinking of it as a low-end but convenient way to get office supplies if I have no other convenient options.
Anyway, sometime this week, if all goes well, I should have a nice and comfortable desk chair.