American Junk! How Legends Furniture and Overstock.com Eschew Accountability for Making Expensive Landfill (Waste Series: Part 1)

Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.

Henry Ford

Here I am, writing at my Ikea desk, or rather at my new Ikea desk. Big deal, you say, and you’re right, except this is my third desk in two years. It’s a longish story, but invaluable as a contemporary, cautionary tale on the plight of American-made goods. Read this to save time, money and energy on important major purchases for would-be durable goods. For those with hectic schedules here are the two major lessons contained in this document:

It doesn’t matter from whom or when you purchase a table, chair or sofa, furniture is meant to last. It should be high-quality and last decades. Otherwise, it’s junk–plain junk. In my recent situation, neither Overstock or Legends Furniture was willing to accept responsibility for selling non-durable furniture. I want to remind you that humans have furniture that is hundreds of years old, and there’s never a reason for a desk to fall apart in under two years of normal usage–I don’t care how it was moved, as suggested by the owner of Legends Furniture.

When officiousness and victim blaming take the place of integrity and customer service, society suffers. And, I take my wallet elsewhere. In a time when environmental concerns are paramount to the survival of numerous species on the planet, lack of integrity is equal to outright polluting, wasting fossil fuels and creating unwanted garbage. Companies have an obligation to consumers that their crafts are not destined to landfills. Many companies will stand by their products as wholesalers and retailers. If they don’t, consumers must avoid their products lest they share in the irresponsibility. I don’t know a better way to show a business that I value them then by patronizing an establishment. The same is also true when I displeased.

I’ll never buy from Overstock.com again. You shouldn’t either. They don’t stand by their products. Even Amazon will advocate on their customer’s behalf. Less than two years later, a $1,000 desk is falling apart. I’m pretty upset and disappointed to find poor construction at heart. First the top drawer fell out, then the bottom file drawer collapsed and pulled away from its wall, with tiny screws holding the entire left side up. There’s no bottom, only staples and glue holding at least 100 pounds. I fear it will fall over at any moment. I’m really upset, too. It’s pretty, but has no guts. The truth is I have books from my childhood because I handle my things with care. This is my first big investment in junk.

In this situation, I have another big purchase from Overstock, a kitchen table, that was also a big disappointment in the quality department. That purchase combined with the lack of commitment to their products means a waste time, energy, money and other resources. In short, patronizing Legends Furniture or Overstock.com is bad for the planet. What follows is the correspondence between the owner of Legends Furniture, shirking responsibility for making an expensive and heavy piece of junk–the kind you have to spend money to be rid of, not even on par with an old mattress that has served out its usefulness for more than a decade.

Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It’s what the client or customer gets out of it.

Peter Drucker

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

Steve Jobs

My Letter:

Date:   August 19, 2021

To:      Chris Docker

Legends Furniture

10300 W Buckeye Rd

Tolleson, AZ  85353

RE:      Defective Legends Furniture Executive Desk

Dear Mr. Docker,

Do you agree that a desk should last forever? When I told my friend, a mechanical engineer, about the problem I was having with my desk, he asked me “Was it made in China.” I laughed. “No way,” I bought an American-made desk from a good company, carrying quality brands. It turns out, I bought a lemon when I purchased your product, the Carbon Loft Grimm Whiskey 71-inch Distressed Executive Desk, now called Sausalito Executive Desk (https://www.legendsfurniture.com/products/SL6270.WKY). I need your help to get proper customer service, Mr. Docker. I start school Monday, August 23, 2021, and I must replace my desk this weekend—a true hardship and inconvenience. I hope that you stand by your product, your brand and your desk by helping off-set the costs of both the original purchase and the replacement of your defective product.

Ironically, your desk was supposed to be an upgrade from my Ikea desk that I owned for twenty years—all the way through undergrad studies and several cross-country moves. It was a simple, sturdy and minimal design that was highly functional, large and traveled well. It was particle board with a beautiful veneer, a lovely inexpensive product, unlike the Legends Furniture Carbon Loft Grimm Whiskey 71-inch Distressed Executive Desk. It is a lovely desk, large enough for my needs and in an elegant warm color. I’m saddened to see that the IKEA desk I traded has already outlived your desk after only a year and a half. I think a desk should last forever.

Mr. Docker, I’m an artist and a writer. I sculpt paper mache like one of John Brown I’m currently working on. He is one of my heroes and role model. He had integrity to stand the test of time, to endure the gaze and the daily utility of life. My sculpture must do the same. I hope you agree that a desk should last longer than a sculpture.

I’m an immigrant, good sir. I’ve worked hard, accomplished much and yet, still have far to go. Just as the new semester begins, my desk bursts apart at the files. The one area of the desk which needs the most care, the most integrity—the file cabinet—is held together by only five or six ill-placed nails, glue, twelve ¼-inch screws per drawer and drawer gliders. No wonder it just gave out.

I cannot sell the desk in this condition. The desk cannot be given to a charity in its condition. I’m afraid to use it in this condition. Instead, I will need to pay to haul it away and dump it. I can throw it in the corner in my garage. That was not my intention when I purchased it less than two years ago. I know the value of money because I’ve worked hard for it, and I experience long dry spells of income as I’m a black woman in America. All this to say that a $1,000 is still a significant sum of money to pay for a piece of furniture that can not get me through a master’s degree. I am saddened and wish you and your company to take responsibility for making land fill that you don’t care about. I’m problem solver, and I see many ways to avoid this kind waste and damage to your reputation.

For now, I’m stuck with a heavy piece of garbage that I can’t give to charity because it’s broken.  I was told by your customer-service representative that Legends Furniture does not stand by your craftsmanship because I purchased the desk from a second party. That is a ridiculous excuse. Well, excuses were made that I couldn’t be helped because I purchased it from Overstock.com. All retailers buy furniture from manufacturers. That’s how it works: Crate and Barrel, Blu Dot, Room and Board. The only difference is that these retailers stand by their products unlike Legends Furniture and Overstock. There’s really no excuse for leaving me with your large, heavy piece of junk. In fact, it rather reflects fore-knowledge of the poor quality of your products.

My question when I buy something is: Will it, or won’t last? When was the last time you purchased a chair (indoor/outdoor/beach) with the intention to sit on this chair for just a year? I doubt that you would find that acceptable. I thought I’d pass this desk on to my niece, who is also an artist. It turns out I can’t. Whatever your excuses, they’re just a way eschewing responsibility for passing off what amounts to expensive landfill. I now must replace the desk, pay to remove, pay to dump it. A desk, a chair or table should last forever.

Mr. Docker, I can see you’re selling the Carbon Loft Grimm Whiskey 71-inch Distressed Executive Desk, SKU # 28608961, the exact same model as mine, on your website as the Sausalito Executive Desk. It looks exactly the same in every way except name. Do you care about “customer experience” as your website states? You should care that your desk can hurt someone and that the unfinished left credenza cannot bear its own weight. Based on what I see on your website, it should be no problem for your company to pay me some amount to replace the desk, which is only a fraction of what I will pay to remove and replace it. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely disappointed in your executive desk,

Edissa Nicolas-Huntsman

Enclosures:

Overstock Receipt

Photo details of my desk:

4 Comments

  1. This is totally sad and disappointing. Youbare right, a desk or furniture should last a lifetime most especially under good care. So sorry about the whole situation.

    1. I hope it’s more than sad. We’ve got to do better. Our survival depends on it. Landfill equals greenhouse gases. We’ve got to live and shop for posterity.

  2. Thank you for bringing the plight of our disposable culture to light! As an avid re-user I love your observations and actions.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. I also reuse everything–especially in my art. Feels like a small thing to do to keep things out of the trash and useful. Shame when these things happen. I’m still looking for a home for the table in the garage. Such is life!

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