Holding up the rear

By Amy Standen

Published August 8, 2001 7:30PM (EDT)

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I am growing increasingly upset by the numerous disparaging comments and articles Salon is publishing regarding the Aeron chair and the dot-com industry.

Having had major back surgery, including two permanent rods bolted to my spine, I do not consider an Aeron chair a luxury. For me, it is a necessity. I have tried many different chairs, and would always go home with back pain, sometimes so severe I could hardly sleep at night.

Let's take a hypothetical example. Say I worked for a dot-com for $70,000 per year for one year. The cost of the chair represents 1 percent of my income, or about three and a half days of salaried pay. Even for a worker paid $35,000 per year, we are talking 2 percent of their annual salary -- a good deal less than a typical bonus or annual raise. This hardly seems like excess to me if discomfort is avoided, and therefore the worker is more productive.

Why don't your writers do some research on the money spent for gratuitous technology, such as multiple huge plasma screens, flat-panel LCDs for desktops, and multiple-processor, RAID-configured PCs? Or the thousands of dollars spent on unnecessary office remodels and redecoration? There are many other truly obscene excesses that don't relate directly to worker health and welfare.

It's bad enough that the proposed ergonomics reforms probably won't happen. Please stop using the Aeron as the symbol of dot-com waste. I have a hard enough time as it is convincing my employers it is a medical need, not a frivolous toy.

-- Lisa Devlin

I contracted for a dot-com two years ago, just after their stock price peaked and they began a slow slide into oblivion. Everyone -- at that time 400-plus people -- had an Aeron chair, even contractors. Best damned chair I've ever had the pleasure to sit in.

This week they've announced they are cutting their workforce by 75 percent. It was still a damn good chair.

-- Brian Dunbar

That's about the shallowest, most imbecilic piece of "reporting" I've seen yet on Salon. The bit about using the number of Aeron chairs a company owns as an indicator of their eventual success is both moldy from age and asinine in its narrow-mindedness. If you want to talk about indicators of dot-com excess, talk about $700,000 lofts and the marketing drones that could afford them. Talk about the ridiculous salaries and stock benefits executives of these companies gave themselves and their cronies. Complaining that people actually got to sit in comfy chairs is just ridiculous, and indicates more about media sound bites taking the place of actual reporting than anything else.

-- Michael Huff

As someone who hasn't been much involved in the whole dot-com boom/bust cycle, I don't think Aeron chairs are as excessive as you make them out to be. Your best technical employees are costing you over $100,000 a year. So buying them an unergonomic Malaysian chair from OfficeMax is kind of a false economy, like saving money by buying them cheap computers and making them wait 20 minutes while their program compiles.

Let's say you get an extra hour of work a week because your employees are more comfortable (their backs don't hurt as much from sitting there 12 hours straight, etc.). That adds up to $2,500 a year per $100K employee. It would be worth $750 a year from even a lowly $30K employee. Suddenly that chair looks pretty cheap, doesn't it?

-- Andrew Norris

I realize that it's satisfying to poke fun at the excesses of the dot-com outfits, but if your company's success depends on the productivity of software engineers who work 80 hours a week -- and who earn annual salaries in the neighborhood of six figures -- doesn't it make sense to spend an extra $600 on a chair that will help an engineer comfortably sustain that sort of effort? Compared to the ridiculous business models of many of these companies, the decision to order Aeron chairs looks like the Marshall Plan.

-- Eric Renkey

Here are some Haiku that I wrote about my Aeron chair. Your article just solidifies its greatness in my mind.

Perhaps costs too much
Comfort made for bony ass
No wiggle in chair

You cost eight hundred
Green dollars paid by the man
Ergonomic Bliss

A seat named Aeron
Flexible fabric for tush
Reclining breaks free

Swivel, roll, rise, fall
Magic movements through small cube
Carnival ride joy

-- Benjamin Roberts

By Salon Staff

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