“You get what you pay for” is not just an old, overly repeated mantra of the retail world. It is a very accurate assertion in the world of furniture and of futons in particular. If the average price for a good, reliable new car, for example, is $15,000 and some store is advertising a “good reliable new car” for $4,999 you should be feeling every single BS flag light up all over the place. The same is true of futons.
Hold on to your brain cells, because this might just destroy your ideas of how to buy a futon:
A futon that sells for around $100 is going to be 1,000 times crappier than a futon that sells for $500. The exponential relationship is like nuclear physics in that as the price gets lower, the crap factor increases so substantially it can almost not be quantified.
I know, I know, I know. It sounds like such a great deal and the salesperson swears its good and it’s just the same as any other futon and blabbity blarb blub. It’s not. I’m telling you from over a decade of selling futons –and delivering and installing them—that a $100 futon is a complete waste of money.
They are normally made of some cheap thin metal alloy with fast, crappy soldering and the cheapest of the cheap hardware –the nuts and bolts that you are supposed to rely on to keep the thing from falling apart and smushing your poor kitty cat underneath, god forbid. The average lifespan for these futon frames is 6-12 months. And don’t worry about the warranty because there is none. The owner of the store I managed insisted we sell these things for "Back To School" sales (despite my objections) and we would as a courtesy put a 30 day "store warranty" on these because we cared about our customers, but the manufacturer seldom had any type of coverage offered outside of "we'll replace it if it's found damaged or missing when you open the box." I have personally known of only 3 of these monsters to make it to the 8 year mark. Do yourself a favor and drive around a college campus at the turn of the month and see how many of these things are being tossed to the curb or thrown in the dumpster, destroyed, mangled and useless.
This is disposable furniture. Landfill futons. About the only useful purpose these can possibly serve is to line the backs of the scrap collectors broke down pickup trucks as they drive through the alleys in search of more crappy metal futon frames.
Did you get to try out that hunk of crap before you bought it or did you just see a poorly shot picture on a website or in the “Back To School” aisles of the Big Mart store? Because if you can honestly tell me that before you bought it you tried out the futon --you touched it, sat on it, laid down on it, opened it up and gave it a good once over—and you still felt good about going ahead and buying it, then I’d like to interest you in my latest bicycle made from a bamboo rod and a couple old lawnmower wheels. It’s great for long rides, it’s the “same” as any other bike and it’s only $49!!!
The so-called mattresses that come with these crap bombs are thin, uncomfortable, stuffed with who the hell knows what, and are limited to red, blue, black or tan. In less than a week these futons go from crappy and uncomfortable to horrible and even more uncomfortable. The interiors are usually made of “reconstituted fabric” or “blended cotton fibers” which translates into “the leftover scraps of industrial fabrics that would otherwise be thrown away.” This is not how real futons are made. Feel those bars right under you as if there was nothing between your butt cheeks and the metal frame. And when you stand up and turn around, look right there! There’s the impression of your hinder right there! You’ll be able to see your own butt print every day because the sub-par stuffing isn’t resilient and has no substance to it. Imagine filling a pillow sham with popcorn and sitting on that day after day. It would flatten out in no time at all. That is what these cheap $100 futons are like.
OOPS! Your idiot friend just spilled a beer on the futon. OH NO! Well, now you have a big pile of butt cheek imprinted, painfully uncomfortable, beer soaked, stanky futon to enjoy. I’m sure that’s really going to impress the ladies. If you had a nice futon you’d be able to remove the outer cover and wash away that spill before it set in and seeped through your mattress. You’d even be able to put a mattress protector in between the mattress and the cover to prevent such spills from ruining your futon.
Now, I don’t blame you for being focused on price, price, price. As a parent myself I totally understand the importance of budgets and not having a whole lot of money to just dole out on things that may otherwise seem less than essential to buy. You should be aware that these Big Mart stores specialize in getting you to do just that: to focus on price first, second, and usually third, too. They are experts at making you infer that something labeled “product X” (or whatever) that is priced at $99 is the same as something else labeled the exact same “product X” and it looks pretty much the same but the price on that one is $499 and your brain can be temporarily fooled to think “why would I pay $499 for the same thing that this other store is selling for $99?” And that is, on paper, a very valid question of basic economics.
But the trick is that they are not at all the same. With a little knowledge and expert advice, I’ll have you able to recognize the differences and encourage you to abandon the “price first and second” philosophy of consumerism.
Even if you spelled junk with big, bold all capital letters it still couldn’t possibly convey the abhorrent quality of these things. You’d be better off investing $100 into a CD or savings account even at the paltry low interest rates currently offered as you’d still come out ahead in a year.
Figure it this way: Let’s say you’re buying one of these crap monsters for your child who’s going to college and living in a dorm or apartment or whatever. On a more than likely average, you’re buying one per year and just throwing them away at the end of the semester. And let’s say little Tommy or Tammy or whoever is one of the focused kids who gets done with their undergrad in 4-5 years. That’s $400-$500 right there. And then you’re still left with nothing at the end. Plus you get to carry the kharma –if you believe in that sort of thing—of contributing to the environmental degradation of your child’s future planet and their children’s planet and so on.
If you had just made the investment –and that’s really how you should frame your selection and purchase-- of a nice $500-$600 futon from the get go you’d have a really nice piece of furniture that’s well made, comfortable, useful, and at the day after graduation, your kid would still have something to use in their first “big boy/girl” apartment. Buying a quality piece of furniture or futon is really an investment that will continue to be realized for years and years.
Do not be fooled by appearance and price based factors when buying a futon. Again, these Mega Stores and quickie spreadsheet based online shops are good at creating the illusion that what they are offering is the same as a real, good quality futon. They get you to infer that you are being duped by the quality futon companies through smoke and mirror type games.
Another caste of the crappy futon are the frames that have wooden looking side arms with a metal body and supports. These are just as worthless as the all metal ones but cost more. These are really trying to get you to believe that they are just the same as an actual real, good futon. Some of these have real wood, some have partial/blended wood, others veneered with particle board (Mmmm…yummy chemicals!). All of these are junk.
I cannot tell you how many times at the retail store I ran someone would come in and say, “I need a new futon. Mine is all broke,” and I’d ask them to describe what kind they had and if there was tubular metal involved, which almost always there was. They might look around the store or page through a catalog and say “there, I had that one” or I might show them a few floor models and they’d say “that’s the one I had. There’s no way I’m going to buy another one of those” and then they’d make some rude and shocked comment about the price.
But they did not have the ones that were in the store or in the catalogs. We sold high quality 100% solid wood (all wood, no veneers or blends) futon frames with comfortable mattresses made of quality, resilient materials. The smoke and mirrors was so effective that it was a laborious task to walk these people through step by step in showing and explaining that they did not have the same futon that we sold. Sometimes it worked, sometimes they walked out thinking we were scamming them.
There is a whole bunch of consumer misconceptions caused by companies intentionally misleading customers just to make the sale, and it has damaged the general perception of what a “futon” is. I hope that you will help fight against this disposable furniture mentality and reconsider your purchase power and use it for good. You really can get what you pay for, and you can benefit from that for years and years.