How Quickly Will Your New, Shiny, $100 Office Chair Become The Pain in Your Back?

So maybe you’re getting around to thinking it’s time you ditched that old office chair and you figure, “I’ll take a look in the local office supply depot, they’ve always got deals on desk chairs.”

You see what looks like a great deal. You sit in it, pull a few levers, feels comfortable — hey, it’s even got leather too.

Everything looks great, and yet – is it a serious bargain or is it a serious liability?

If you have a worn-out chair, then anything you sit in is likely to feel like a million dollars by comparison. Not only that, virtually any new chair you sit in for a couple of minutes will feel great, and that’s not altogether surprising.

After all, everything is new so it naturally feels good, and that’s where everybody gets it wrong with cheap chairs — they flatter to deceive.

To truly know whether a computer chair is right for you or not, you need to sit in it for several days — not minutes, not hours, several days. Only then will all its shortcomings become apparent. This is why a 30-day return policy is a must when buying either in person or online.

How do these shortcomings suddenly become apparent once you use it for a day or two? It’s down to what’s under the hood. Sure, on the exterior, the thing look great; yet what’s it really made of?

Any chair around the $100 mark will always be a compromise because it is made to fit a price, so corners get cut to achieve this.

Here are some of the things which aren’t immediately obvious about low cost chairs:

  • Made with cheap foam pads normally seen in packaging which soon lose shape and go as flat as a pancake.
  • Low cost upholstery which quickly takes a shine like a well-polished shoe. Or leather that likely came from remnants or rejects that ages prematurely becoming brittle and starting to crack.
  • Low quality components — arms that break off, backs that won’t recline or stay in place, gas lifts that keep descending.
  • Limited or no guarantee — a sure sign the supplier sees the product as little more than a liability.

The right approach
Here's where you can read about the critical features you need to insist on when replacing your old desk chair.

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Is Your Office Chair A Halloween Nightmare? How To Avoid Another Zombie Seat

With Halloween nearly here, it's timely to ask if you're sitting on a nightmare of a chair.
There are some real ghoul chairs out there. Here are some of the things which often happen with these chairs

  • Seat foam is flat and feels like you're sitting on cold concrete
  • Arms are loose or broken
  • Back no longer reclines properly
  • Upholstery is either shiny, torn or both
  • Wheels keep dropping off
  • Seat keeps sinking
  • Everything just feels loose and worn out

We often put up with a lot, however eventually there comes the time when we say to ourselves ‘that's it, I really must do something about this.'

The thing is how do you avoid ending up with another zombie chair? Like the one in the photo I took at the weekend in a local discount warehouse?

What Not To Do

cheap leather chair

FAIL! Cheap Leather Office Chair

Don't just rush out to the nearest office supplies discounter and buy another cheap chair, because 6 months down the road those ghouls and zombies will be back, and well before next Halloween.

Never buy a chair on price alone, get the functions right first, and then look at price, more on this later.

Don't be fooled by looks, far eastern manufacturers have perfected making junk look a million dollars into an art form.

Just because it's got shiny chrome legs and leather upholstery doesn't mean it has any quality at all.

Next, there's that wonderful misused word ‘ergonomic' which you see bandied about so much these days. Realize there is no precise definition for ergonomic when applied to office seating. This means the term gets abused and becomes a marketing ploy to sell you something which is anything but ergonomic.

Here's my definition of an ergonomic office chair:

An ergonomic office chair is a seat that has been carefully designed for the user to be able to work productively, efficiently and safely as well as minimizing any feeling of fatigue or discomfort.

$100 will never get you a high quality chair, products sold at this price level will always be built to a target price and corners will be cut to meet the cost, typically on the parts you can't see like the foam in the seat and the back.

What Should You Do

The first thing to recognize is that you need certain minimum features, here are the five I believe are essential.

  • Seat depth adjustment for optimal leg comfort
  • Back height adjustment to properly support your back
  • Height adjustable arms for comfort and to minimize RSI (repetitive strain injury)
  • Seat height adjustment to suit your body height and weight
  • Adjustable tilt tension allowing you to recline comfortably

Here's a video and article with more about these vital features.

Take time to read some product reviews both on this site as well as sites like Amazon.

Ask for other user's opinions in Twitter, FaceBook and similar sites

Plan to invest at least $300 to get the right quality and features you need to support you safely and comfortably.

Lastly, make sure you get a 30 day return period if you do decide to replace your computer chair whether you are buying online or in person.

You will only know if you have the right chair after you have been sitting in it for a few days. Bear in mind you will probably be adjusting settings to begin with until you get things just right for you.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is they try a new chair in a big box retailer. Of course it feels great sitting in it for a couple of minutes, especially if yours is worn out.

Realize it just isn't possible to try a chair out properly in 5 or 10 minutes, it takes days to know for certain not minutes or even hours.

Next time you're looking for a new office task chair, take your time and do the research because if you do and you get it right it won't need replacing for years.

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