MrConsumer, who prides himself on being a savvy shopper, belatedly learned an expensive lesson about buying leather furniture.
Slaving over a hot keyboard too many hours a day producing those two fine literary works, “Consumer World” and “Mouse Print*” has taken a toll on MrConsumer’s office chairs. The most recent one from Staples, lasted for just four years, before the red vinyl became gold-leaf-thin and started to peel off at the front edge of the seat cushion. And the one before that, made out of heavy black fabric, began to fray in the same spot.
Checking the Staples’ warranty on the red chair revealed that it only had a three-year warranty on the upholstery, not five as did the rest of the chair. Drats.
Determined to upgrade to a longer lasting material this time, MrConsumer checked Staples’ website last week, and found a $170 “bonded leather” chair of theirs was on sale for $99. And with their extra 20% off sale on everything that can fit in a bag (yes, they consider a chair something that can fit in a 14 by 20-inch bag), it would be only $79.99.
Checking the leather in that troublesome spot on the front of the chair on display, revealed that it was of good thickness, not likely to wear out for many many years. So MrConsumer bought it and assembled it, and was quite happy until he decided to Google “bonded leather.”
To be quite honest, I thought that bonded leather just referred to the fact that parts of the chair were leather and parts were vinyl, or maybe that pieces were put together. In particular, I understood that the seating spots (and hopefully the arms) were leather, but that the back of the chair was vinyl.
According to Wikipedia:
“Bonded leather or reconstituted leather is a term used for partially synthetic leather. It is a synthetic material made of varying types of plastic (generally polyurethane or vinyl) that may be spread over ground-up leather and other substances, mechanically processed to give the appearance of leather, but at reduced cost and with less wastage compared to natural leather.”
“In the home furnishings industry there is much debate and controversy over the ethics of using the term “bonded leather” to describe a vinyl upholstery product. The Leather Research Laboratory has said that calling this product “bonded leather” is “deceptive because it does not represent its true nature. It’s a vinyl, or a polyurethane laminate or a composite, but it’s not leather”.
A vinyl upholstery product? MrConsumer thought he was buying a leather chair, or at least it was leather in the critical seating area.
MrConsumer decided to call True Innovations, the manufacturer of the Staples’ chair, to ask them what “bonded leather” was:
“It is scraps of leather put together.” “It’s real leather, just not one whole piece.” “It is real, full-on leather.” And when asked if it had the durability of leather, she said “yes.” — Emily, Customer Service Agent
Reading more online about bonded leather seemed to suggest that it was ground up leather pieces bonded together with plastic to form the backing of the material, over which polyurethane is applied and then embossed to look like leather. The amount of actual leather content can be anywhere from 15% to over 90%. In fact, because of the possibility that consumers could be misled about bonded leather products, the Federal Trade Commission actually has guidelines about labeling products as leather or bonded leather:
“(f) Ground, pulverized, shredded, reconstituted, or bonded leather. A material in an industry product that contains ground, pulverized, shredded, reconstituted, or bonded leather and thus is not wholly the hide of an animal should not be represented, directly or by implication, as being leather. This provision does not preclude an accurate representation as to the ground, pulverized, shredded, reconstituted, or bonded leather content of the material. However, if the material appears to be leather, it should be accompanied by either:
(2) If the terms “ground leather,” “pulverized leather,” “shredded leather,” “reconstituted leather,” or “bonded leather” are used, a disclosure of the percentage of leather fibers and the percentage of non-leather substances contained in the material. For example: An industry product made of a composition material consisting of 60% shredded leather fibers may be described as: Bonded Leather Containing 60% Leather Fibers and 40% Non-leather Substances.” –16 C.F.R., Section 24
There certainly was no disclosure of the percentage of real leather in the seating portion, nor that it might be composed of a certain amount of leather fibers and plastic.
Now the question is whether this bonded leather material will last. Staples has a five-year warranty on this chair, and MrConsumer won’t hesitate to make a claim if it shows any signs of fraying or cracking.