Exactly one week ago, Food52 friend and contributor Anna Hezel penned a barnstorm of an essay for the Awl that read like a script for a Dario Argento movie. “Why Does This One Couch From West Elm Suck So Much?” the piece’s headline asks. What follows is a trenchant, 1,600-word piece of journalism wherein Anna bolsters her thesis—this couch sucks—with some first-person writing and light reportage on a blazingly awful product she bought from West Elm.
Anna details how she and her partner Kevin bought a creaky little couch the color of burnt sienna from West Elm late last year. Called “the Peggy,” it was ostensibly a product as fine as any other you’d find in West Elm’s catalog. Conveniently, West Elm doesn’t have reviews for its products on its site, making it all but impossible to gauge the quality of their products before purchasing.
But the Peggy's asking price of $1200 suggested a couch of stamina and fortitude. Who would sell a bad couch for that much money?
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Within days of Anna’s purchase, she found that even the faintest trace of human interaction made the couch show wear. If Anna deigned to be, say, sentient in the couch’s vicinity, it’d send buttons ricocheting across her apartment. West Elm’s customer service arm was responsive to Anna’s complaints, sending her a button-repair kit that arrived two months after she lodged her complaint.
The horror culminated in a disastrous New Year’s Eve party, during which the couch collapsed in her apartment, sending tremors through the building. As Anna began expressing her concern to friends and acquaintances she knew owned the Peggy, too, she realized that there was an angry swath of consumers who had the same problems with the couch, taking to Yelp and Instagram to vocalize their distress.
Upon publication of her post, Anna saw a flurry of comments from similarly displeased consumers who'd purchased the Peggy. Her piece traveled widely across social channels. West Elm caved to the public shaming. Anna’s article was published on February 16th; by February 20th, the couch had been de-listed from West Elm’s online catalog. And then came the fun: Yesterday, West Elm announced that it’d be offering full refunds to anyone in the United States and Canada who bought the couch since 2014. If you're part of this demographic, call West Elm’s support number at (888) 922–7870 or email [email protected] and demand your money back.
“All I can really say about the whole thing is that I am surprised and delighted that anybody read my 1600-word customer service rant,” Anna told me yesterday. “And I'm especially pleased that a bunch of people are about to get checks for $1200.” Anna, agreed. We’re thrilled for you. Thanks for producing journalism that matters.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.