My chair was recalled, do I have to answer?
October 30, 2017 2:44 PM   Subscribe

A chair I love very much and use daily was recalled by the manufacturer for safety concerns. They are not manufacturing the chair anymore though, and are only offering a refund - no replacement! What do I do?

It seems silly to stress how much I love this chair, but I really love this chair. I spent years thinking about and saving for it. I planned using it for the rest of my life. It brings me such joy!

But they just instituted a product safety recall on it. The company has no intention of manufacturing this model of the chair anymore it seems, so we're only being offered a refund. (We asked about a replacement.) So what do we do? My partner thinks we should just keep the chair, but I feel like if we know about the recall we should probably return it. It looks like the failure rate isn't very common.

So MeFites, what would you do? Are we obligated (legally or morally) to return it? I can't tell if this is going to gnaw at me.
posted by kendrak to Home & Garden (20 answers total)
What is the worst case scenario with the chair? What is the fault?

I mean, you know, you can have a car recall when a lighter fails, and you can have a car recall where the engine lights on fire. Ask me how I know. It's okay if you don't give a shit about the car lighter working, but the engine catching on fire is a different matter.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:48 PM on October 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

IANAL. You have a moral obligation not to sue the manufacturer should the chair break and injure you, since you know about the recall and are choosing not to comply with it. You also have an obligation not to sell the chair, give it to someone else, or (if you're being cautious) let anyone else sit in it. But you definitely don't have to send the chair back if you're willing to assume the risk for yourself.
posted by coppermoss at 2:49 PM on October 30, 2017 [12 favorites]

Seconding the suggestion to find out why it's being recalled, and use that to decide whether to send it back. "Structure is weaker than planned; chair may collapse unexpectedly" - you may decide to keep it and be careful. "Oops we soaked the liner in cancer-causing disease-ridden mold instead of sealant" - probably send it back.

Mostly, being notified of a recall and declining sharply limits your ability to sue in case the problem actually happens. That's pretty much why companies do recalls: they measure the cost of lawsuits from the problem against the cost of a recall; if A is greater than B, you get a recall. If not, they absorb the lawsuits as operating costs.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:54 PM on October 30, 2017 [14 favorites]

I work in regulatory affairs for biotech. A manufacturer is legally mandated to recall a product even if there's just one instance of malfunction depending on how impactful the event is to the performance of the product, and the risk level of the product (e.g, surgical gloves vs a pacemaker.)

The probability of the fault happening might be negligible, and the chair manufacturer may not even have instituted a recall if laws didn't exist, so this really comes down to your own tolerance level for the risk.

You are not legally obligated to return it, but the moral obligations do exist, such as selling it or allowing someone to sit in it. On preview, what coppermoss said.
posted by Everydayville at 2:54 PM on October 30, 2017

If this is in the U.S. you can look and see if the CPSC has info on the recall. You be the judge of whether you should act on the recall (like, is it being recalled because a knob on it is a chocking hazard for infants or because it has a hydraulic post that might fail and explode while you're sitting on it, because there's a world of difference in my level of concern between those two reasons). If you like the thing, keep it.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:00 PM on October 30, 2017

The issue is that they base can separate from the seat. It sounds like the injuries so far have been bumps and cuts.
posted by kendrak at 3:05 PM on October 30, 2017

Consider what you can do to mitigate the danger to future, older, kendrak. Can the chair be fixed or reinforced somehow? Can you built in some kind of warning? Can you prevent whatever position leads to the separating?
posted by amtho at 3:11 PM on October 30, 2017

You are in no way legally or morally obligated to return the chair, though you perhaps should not allow others to sit in it.

I had a chair with a similar fault, and never injured myself beyond my dignity, so if you feel like taking the risk, I say sit in your chair and live your truth.
posted by halation at 3:18 PM on October 30, 2017

I didn't know people considered recalls to be so mandatory! I would definitely keep the chair and never think about it again.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:18 PM on October 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

The issue is that they base can separate from the seat

Well since you know what the issue is, you can have a furniture maker examine it and reinforce the area of concern
posted by littlesq at 3:22 PM on October 30, 2017 [12 favorites]

The issue is that they base can separate from the seat

Nope, I personally wouldn't send back a chair I absolutely love just for that. You can either choose to reinforce it somehow or do nothing and just be aware of it. I wouldn't let anyone outside of the household sit on it for liability concerns, though.
posted by vivzan at 3:28 PM on October 30, 2017

I would keep the chair and perhaps see about reinforcing the connection between the base and seat (or just be a little extra careful). I would also be careful about letting other people sit in it (i.e. at least warn them of the problem).
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:54 PM on October 30, 2017

I'd inspect it every now and again; this problem would not likely become catastrophic overnight. A lot of inexpensive office chairs are all-too-likely to have the allen bolts holding them together start loosening, so this isn't a bad idea anyway, IMO.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:56 PM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe you can call in a fixit guy (do they still even have the yellow pages?) to secure the seat to the base. That way you can stay in love with your chair. Never have any niggles. Better safe than sorry!
posted by karmachameleon at 4:27 PM on October 30, 2017

I feel like we can assume the seat doesn't fall off the base via magic, right? So it's going to be something like screws shaking loose over time. I'm thinking you can mitigate this risk by doing the thing nobody ever does and tightening the screws under your chair like, once a year. I nominate every year on Halloween!
posted by DarlingBri at 4:45 PM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is it this Herman Miller fiberglass rocking chair? Perhaps some epoxy could strengthen the connection between the seat and base.
posted by ShooBoo at 5:17 PM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is not a problem. Search out a reputable repair place and discuss how the chair can be fixed without ruining the chair, you don't want the look of the chair compromised. If the chair can only be fixed by visibly ruining it (I'm assuming it's the Eames) than weigh the risk and decide. If reinforcing it means you can keep it worry free, fix it & keep it.
posted by jbenben at 5:34 PM on October 30, 2017

The only reason I'd return a chair I loved would be if the gas lift canister was likely to rupture. And explosion where I'm sitting? Not worth it. Having the chair someday collapse underneath me? That's just Tuesday. Potentially have the back detach from the seat? Um, you really should see my home office chair... I think that would be an improvement.
posted by nobeagle at 6:42 AM on October 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, unless there is something more to it, I think somewhere about 2/3rds of the swivel chairs I've owned have had that happen at one point or another. Therefore, I'd continue to use it unless it has strange structure that seems more dangerous than the usual office chairs when it falls apart
posted by wierdo at 6:06 AM on November 1, 2017

You also have an obligation not to sell the chair, give it to someone else

You might have more than just an obligation. I tried to give away on Craigslist one of the recalled IKEA Malm dressers and I got a nasty-gram from the CPSC with all the legal problems I might have if I tried to give the dresser to someone else.
posted by sideshow at 7:14 PM on November 1, 2017

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