2008-03-06

Could A Desk Chair Be Worth Paying $1,000?

I sit all day long, and then I go home and sit some more (after the kids go to bed). I am currently sitting in a chair in our study that I’ve had for maybe 13 years. I don’t recall what I paid for it, but I’ll guess $25-50. I bought it while I was still a student, and it’s pretty much been my “computer chair” ever since. I’m not actually all that frugal (for better or worse), and there was no grand design in not replacing the chair along the way. The chair just hasn’t seemed all that bad. And of all the things on my “to do” list, “chair” has never made it to the top.

Until now.

My back is killing me. It’s been particularly bad in the past two or three weeks. It’s been killing me all through the day, and it’s particularly bad at home—sitting in this chair in front of the computer. Like now. So I am thinking this chair is the culprit. Let me clarify. The culprits are my increasing age, my increasing lack of physical activity, my increasingly weak back muscles, and my terrible posture. (No “increasing” adjective needed on the last one—my posture, particularly sitting, has always been suspect.) But I am led to believe that a good chair could help this situation.

As luck would have it, there happens to be a store about 20 minutes away from my house that is, in its entirety, a “back” store. Everything in it relates to helping your back. It has a lot of chairs. I checked out a few of them out on the store website before I went there. The website showed a few models of the type that you kneel in (which supposedly forces your back posture into the right position), with one listed for about $150. That seemed more than reasonable to me. Actually, I have historically been willing to spend a bit on things that seem I think are related to health (or try to justify for that reason)—so in that light, $150 didn’t seem like much to me.

When I got to the store, I sat in one of those kneeling chairs. It was okay. It definitely forced my back into a better position. But it wasn’t great or anything. And then I started talking to the guy in the store—an ostensible “back expert.” According to what he said, those types of chairs can be better for a change of pace rather than sitting for long periods. He said that they can be harder on the knees, and that his customers who have tended to like them have often been more petite women—less weight to put on the knees.

So I started sitting in some other chairs. I should have clued in to the fact that none of the chairs had prices on them. There were probably two or three that really did feel great. As I was sitting in them, I could feel the specific support that they provided and could experience how they forced me into better posture. My back actually did feel better during the time in which I was sitting in these chairs.

They were all right around $1000.

Could I possibly justify spending that much on a desk chair? Were these nicer chairs really six or seven times nicer than the $150 chair? I’ll tell you—even before learning of the prices, I would have reported that they were three or four times nicer. But I kept looking at them and thinking they couldn’t cost that much more to manufacture—and how much research could have really gone into developing the design?

I went back and forth, sitting in the very expensive chairs and the less expensive chairs. Unfortunately, I could feel the difference. Maybe some of it was psychological, but the signals in my little pea brain consistently preferred the expensive chairs and told me that my back felt tons better in those chairs.

Now I’m fortunate in that we could afford one of the expensive chairs. We could buy one without significantly impacting our pace of saving, investing, and so on. And I am particularly blessed in that my wife would not immediately throw me out on the street for making such a decision. It was for my health, after all. Right?

I managed to walk out of the store without a chair. But my back is still killing me, and I haven’t quite made up my mind about it all.

Other than thinking I shoulda gone into the chair business.

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