If you want me to buy, DON’T make me hunt or call!

So close… and yet so far…

Continuing on my curmudgeonly kick today… I’m trying to improve my ergonomics for working at home, so I’m seeking a small adjustable-height working surface. Sounds simple, right? Right….

Mostly I want to be able to work with my laptop (my main — and only — computer) at an ergonomically correct height and angle, regardless of whether I’m perched on my balance ball, my kneeling chair, my regular chair, or standing. It’s healthier to not be in the same position all day. (Yes, I do take breaks, stretch, and exercise, but being able to vary working position would make my spine and shoulders much happier.)

I’d be happy with a manually adjustable (hand-crank) work surface. I don’t want an elaborate workstation with a hydraulic lift system and self-adjusting seat. Just a small work surface that I can adjust up or down — and ideally set the angle back to front, too. I don’t want to spend a fortune on this, but I’m willing to spend a reasonable amount.

The hard part is finding out what these puppies actually cost…

Take, for instance, Steelcase — a well-known office furniture company. They offer something very close to what I want: Crank Adjustable Worksurface. I searched their online store for “crank adjustable worksurface” — and get no results. It’s as if their own online store hasn’t even heard of the product. Hmph.

So I contact the company via their online form, and get this reply:


Please contact your local Steelcase dealer for pricing/availability, as the Steelcase Store does not carry the whole line of Steelcase products. That information can be found on http://www.steelcase.com/na/dealer_finder_dealers.aspx?f=13972. If you need further assistance please let us know.

Gee, thanks — NOT! Their online store search engine could have said: “This item is only available through our local retailers. Please contact your local retailer to ask about availability, options, and pricing.”

…But even more profoundly, their local retailer is in Littleton, CO — a considerable distance and many traffic jams away from my home in Boulder. Plus, I don’t like calling a company on the phone just to get simple item pricing — I always have to wait on hold, deal with two or three people who don’t understand what I’m looking for, and finally a manager who tries to upsell me to a larger package I have no interest in.

I just want the price for this one small piece of furniture. That’s all. I should have known when I saw the site navigation item “how to buy” that I was in trouble. If a site needs to explain to me how to buy from them, that’s a red flag.

It’s not just Steelcase’s problem, of course.

When I linkblogged the Steelcase table yesterday, Carolyn Little of Baker Manufacturing left this comment touting her company’s NEXT product line of adjustable-height tables. But there’s no pricing info on the site. After finally plowing down through the FAQ section on the Baker site, I found this note:

11. Where can I find product information and prices?

Product information and pricing can be found through Baker’s Regional Sales Managers and Customer Service. You may also contact any Herman Miller dealer to get product information. To find a dealer in your area click on the following link. Herman Miller dealer locator.

Arrrrgh!!! Why do you have to make it so difficult???? I don’t want to e-mail or call your customer service reps. I don’t want to navigate the byzantine Herman Miller site, or call their stores. I just want the price for your adjustable-height table!!! That’s all! Really!

Why should this be so hard?

I think I might have better luck just posting a “wanted” ad on the Boulder Craiglist.

9 thoughts on If you want me to buy, DON’T make me hunt or call!

  1. I think you can modify a waterboarding table to get the perfect hand crank work station.

    Please consult the section of the CIA’s website called: How To Turn Torture Into Treasure.

  2. Sorry to see you’re frustrated with the “byzantine” contract furniture industry. The industry is really focused on large contract commercial accounts, particularly with products like height adjustable tables, which tend to be large, complex installation and premium priced.

    HM does have a retail channel–HM for the Home, and you can shop them online through e-tailers (yes, the listing… http://www.hermanmiller.com/stores). We don’t offer a retail height adjustable table, but if all you’re looking for is a laptop surface, you might consider the “Scooter” stand, which travels well around the house and can be raised to 30″, though maybe not sufficient for your needs…. http://www.hermanmiller.com/CDA/SSA/Product/1,1592,a8-c1345-p156,00.html

    Hope you find something. Mark

  3. Mark, actually I’d described your site as byzantine, but yes, it does seem an apt description for your industry on the whole. If your industry is mainly focused on large contract commercial accounts, then why bother even trying to create the appearance that you also want to sell to individuals? Seems to be a recipe for generating ill-will with consumers and undermining your own brand on a grassroots level, IMHO.

    I’m puzzled why you’d mention a product that, if you’d read my post, obviously doesn’t meet my needs. I want a table that will adjust to a height suitable for working while standing — and 30 inches is definitely not standing height for your average adult.

    Could it be that you just wanted an option to mention your brand — and thus use my blog as a “marketing opportunity” rather than genuinely try to participate constructively in this conversation? Hmmmm….. If so, I think you just undermined yourself there. Again.

    – Amy Gahran

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  5. Hi, just to add insult to injury, I’m now another person looking for this same table, and google searching brought me to your site.

    At least I now know not to waste time searching further. Geez, it’s as if they don’t want us to buy their products for home use.

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