A cushioned monstrosity

November 28, 1994|By Elaine Tassy

AFTER COMBING the classified newspaper ads this past summer in search of a used sofa for my new apartment, I gave up and decided to take the plunge: I'd buy my first brand new couch.

I had relied on used furniture since graduating from college in 1988. (I don't know if I had ever even been inside a furniture store before.) But after settling in Baltimore this summer, I decided that my days of sagging, semi-soiled seating were over.

So I got down to work, going from one store to the next, comparing styles, fabrics and prices. At a small Towson store, I eyed the couch I'd dreamed of: It was a beige cotton contemporary with big pillows across the back, overstuffed cushions on the bottom, and multi-colored accent pillows in the corners, all for about $600. That seemed about right to me, even though I can't remember ever spending that much money on anything before.

I had to steel myself to sign a credit agreement for the purchase. But I couldn't wait to see the plastic being pealed off my new sofa and enjoying that new-furniture smell.

Little did I know the headaches that 92-inch upholstered monstrosity would cause.

The deliverymen brought it to the mouse-infested Bolton Hill rowhouse apartment I'd rented a few months before, where whatever could go wrong did. But although the apartment had problems, the couch was just right. I lounged on it to watch TV. I'd sprawl on it while talking on the phone. Sometimes I'd sit on it to eat dinner. It was perfect for my apartment.

Then, the mice and other problems in the apartment got to be too much. So in October, I found a new apartment. A mover hauled most of my stuff to the Roland Park high-rise, but left before the job was done, so I appealed to a building worker, who helped me get everything else inside.

Everything, that is, except the couch. We turned it upside down and sideways in an attempt to fit it into the elevator. We took the light panels out to get more room. But the elevator was about an inch shy of being able to accommodate the couch.

After a sleepless, frustrated night, I went to nearby Loyola College and recruited two students to carry the sofa up the stairs for $20 apiece. They too tried all kinds of contortions, but it wouldn't fit. The couch's overstuffed arms -- which first attracted me to it -- were too thick to make the trip.

Desperate, I called the furniture store to relay my problem and to see if I could return the couch. They said they would take it back -- for a $100 fee. Hours before the Furniture Lady was to look at the couch to make sure it was still in new condition before a driver took it back, I went to the spot where the students left it. It was gone.

I called the Furniture Lady, thinking maybe she'd already seen that it still looked good and whisked it out of my life forever. She hadn't. Convinced someone had stolen it, I went running to the apartment's manager, who said the building staff had moved it. She said she would direct the Furniture Lady to the sofa's location.

Later, the Furniture Lady called to report that the back of the couch had several tiny rips and dot-sized splatterings of blue paint (which were about the same color as the apartment building's newly painted doors). She said she couldn't take it back because of the damage.

By this time I was at my wits' end. I decided to call the building manager and ask to be compensated. I even said they could have the couch if they would give me a month's free rent (almost the same value as the couch) which they had recently offered to attract new tenants anyway.

No luck. Since I'd asked a worker for help when I moved in, the manager told me, I waived the building's liability. When I argued that I never said they could move it the second time, he told me if I wanted compensation, to go get a lawyer.

Now, my case is pending in small claims court. And I'm still paying the bill for a couch I cannot even use. And now I'm too scared -- and broke -- to buy another sofa.

Sitting on the floor in the living room, with the cushions from my upholstered nightmare as a makeshift sofa, I ask myself again and again: Why did I have to have a brand new couch, anyway?

Elaine Tassy is a reporter for The Evening Sun.

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