I Almost Died for a $250 Discount on an IKEA Chair

Life has been a little boring around Philadelphia. I mean, sure we have a new house, new car and I’m starting grad school in the fall, but there hasn’t been anything REALLY exciting happening like there was in DC.  So I decided to spice things up a little. Because, is life really worth living if you don’t appreciate the thin line between life and death?

You guys remember my POANG chair, right?

Here it is:

And, as you can tell, it doesn’t really match anything in the living room and now that I think about it, my bear is kind of creepy, too. So my biggest first world problem last week was to find a matching leather chair to balance out the other two leather chairs that we have. Remember, Russians love leather.

Mr. B and I went to IKEA, where we saw that the POANG chair was available in leather.  However, it costs $200 and the footstool is another $100. And you know me.  There’s no way I’m shelling out $300, especially at IKEA where I expect to have to reassemble the chair at least five times a month using an allen wrench and some of my own minor bones because the screws they include don’t fit by a couple of inches.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw the POANG leather chair PLUS tuffet on Craigslist for $50.  The photo looked ok and the ad mentioned that the bottom was a little scuffed up, so I was trying to figure out what the catch was.   And then I saw.

The chair was for sale in West Philly.  Now, some of you well-versed in American pop culture may know that West Philadelphia is where The Fresh Prince was born and raised.  Which makes it sound like a friendly middle-class neighborhood.  But the reason Will Smith’s mom sent him away from West Philadelphia was because the Philly crime map looks something like this:

Actually, I just realized this makes it look like you should never go into the city of Philadelphia.  Which is probably true.

But anyway. Back to my story.

West Philly is not the best area to be in at night.  Or during the daytime.  Granted, UPenn is in West Philly and it’s a really pretty area to walk around in, but that’s like saying that there’s a Green Zone in Baghdad and it’s a really pretty area to walk around in.

So,to be safe, I Google-mapped the address I’d be picking up the chair from, and I came up with this street view:

Which doesn’t look too bad, right? I mean, kind of sketchy, but not sketchy enough that a girl couldn’t go get a deeply-discounted chair.  So I consulted with a safety expert, after I found a couple pictures of the actual house on Flickr, which is where I edited out the link.

With that vote of confidence, I emailed the seller and said I’d be picking up the chair.  Note that I did this during the daytime (I left work a little early that day, which is why Mr. B couldn’t come along.)

So, here I am, female, young, in a brand-new car, alone,  headed to West Philadelphia, which some people who love the area describe as

“block-by-block. My street was wonderful. But, a few blocks over, where my cousin lived, there were plenty of boarded up drug houses packed with squatters.”


uhhh cuz my cousin got shot there?

Good thing I googled this up only after I went.

Anyway, so as I drive to the house, the neighborhood gets sketchier and sketchier, people on the street are looking at my car,  and soon I’m getting to the point where I’m seriously debating turning around, but I’ve already gone so far, and a $50 chair AND tuffet await me.  My Jewish instincts overpower my will to live.

I drive up to the house, park across the street, and text the girl, because I’m not sure it’s the right house.  Mainly because there is what looks to be a homeless man sitting on the stoop.  On another stoop across the street, a man sits and smokes and watches me.  I’m sitting in my car, waiting for the girl to text back, feeling like a creep, and also feeling like I probably should relearn self-defense.

She comes out of the house and waves to me, and I feel even more like an asshole for not getting out of the car.

She comes up to me and shakes my hand. “Hi, I’m X,” she says, shaking my hand.  “And this is Howard.”  He smiles a toothless smile at me.  She motions me inside.  I look back at my car with longing.  The chair is exactly as promised, only covered in dust since she is renovating.  The row house itself is gorgeous and has so much potential to be fixed up as a historical home, and it’s obvious that the owner has already put a lot of work into making the front beautiful. Unfortunately on the inside it’s 100% falling apart and it’s a good thing I’m not wearing flip-flops because holy tetanus.

Unfortunately, the house is located in West Philly and I’m afraid that any moment I’m going to have to call Mr. B and tell him that he either needs a new car or a new wife.

So, she helps me take the tuffet and chair out to my car and just as I think she’s standing there to help me load them, she says, “Bye,” and runs back into the house.

So here I am, alone, chair and tuffet out on the street, trying to load them into the car as quickly as possible while the guy on the stoop continues to watch me.  Howard seems to have meandered off.   I don’t try to position them in the back seat, I don’t try to lay them down in the best possible way, I just stick them in the car and go, go, go.

Two minutes out, I realize that I put the chair in in such a way that it’s blocking my entire rear-view mirror, and I not only need to get out of West Philly, but merge lanes on the highway, etc, to get home. Well, screw that. Because I am not stopping.  I floor it and rely on my vision from my two side mirrors to get to I-76, merge onto that highway, and then get home and take a stiff long drink.


Do NOT try ANY of this at home.

Unless you are Jewish and want a 71% discount on furniture.

But aren’t you dying to know what it looks like?

Here it is. Zaaaa, right?


And here’s the entire living room.  Better, yes? (Just lie and humor me.)

By the way, interesting story about the original POANG, which is now in our bedroom:


I got this one, also from Craigslist, but in D.C. And by D.C. I mean that part of Silver Spring where it turns from Nice Suburban Georgia Avenue into OHMYGOD It’s sketchy DC. Which is less sketchy than West Philly. But still.  But instead of going during the day like I did this time, I decided to go after work, alone (where is Mr. B in these situations?) Also, I had my Honda Accord, which meant that the chair originally didn’t fit.  So there we were, a small white girl and a small Asian girl, kneeling on the ground on sketchy Georgia Avenue after dark, un-Allen-wrenching the chair to make it fit in my sedan.

Apparently I’ve learned nothing.

Other than the fact that I LOVE discounts on POANG chairs.




29 thoughts on “I Almost Died for a $250 Discount on an IKEA Chair

  1. I got the same leaning shelf at my place, 2 of them. Tastes are genetic? Also the same chair. We drove 7 hours to Minneapolis to get ours, through the dangerous corn fields of Iowa and stuff

  2. It’s like that time in star wars where Luke is piloting his X-wing down the Death Star Trench, and relying on his targeting computer (which, by coincidence, just looks like an x-wing in that trash compactor Han and Chewie found themselves in just off the Detention Block where they found Leia) when Obi-wan says to Luke to use the force, and he puts away his targeting computer, which freaks everyone out on board the Mon Calamari cruiser “Home One” but in the end, he’s able to shoot his proton torpedoes down the ventilation shaft and blow up the death star (but really, having Han show up in the Millennium falcon at the last second didn’t hurt either.

    Sorry, I love Star Wars just a little bit too much.

    1. I mean I love Star Wars too. Did you read the Thrawn Trilogy or the Callista Trilogy? I totally did and I also used to have Star Wars trading cards and OHMYGOD Luke married a COMPUTER???? Also did you know that Mon Calamari are some of the most cultured species in the Star Wars Universe? And that Ackbar used to be a slave under the Empire until he freed himself and became the one that convinced the Mon Calamari to join the Rebellion?

      But, what does this have to do with my chair? Are you suggesting that there is a special Jew Force that lures me to poverty and violence-stricken neighborhoods for the best deals?

      1. i was talking about the when you couldn’t see with the rear view mirror. Rear view mirror = targeting computer.

        I also have star wars cards. I mean…had. Yeah, had. cause i threw them out when i grew up, like…last week. You can…i mean you could…play a whole game with them building scenes from all the different star systems. totally badass. but then the company that produced them got sold to WoTC, they stopped making them, and I cried a little.

        Oh, Akbar. I think of you every time i have tea from net cost. or eat squid. or something might potentially be a trap.

      2. also, i just realized i mixed up a new hope and return of the jedi. i’m a bad star wars fan, not worthy of his stormtrooper’s outfit.

  3. Like you, I wonder where was Mr. B in these situations? As payback, you need to find another piece of discount furniture available only in Harlem, NYC or around Frankford ave in Philly and have him go get it.

    1. shows how knowledgeable you are about socio-economic trends from the 1930s to today in African American neighborhoods. While crime was definitely high in the past (due mostly to economic depravity resulting from prohibition gangs), Giuliani laid the smack down in the 90s, and now it’s actually a fairly safe neighborhood now that boasts a huge portfolio of culturally significant locations.

      Thanks wikipedia!

      1. If it’s that safe, I think Mr. B and you should go to Harlem together. You know, to scope out the culturally significant locations.

        1. It’s preferable to go at night, too, when the views of Harlem would truly be magnificent. I would even be willing to drop the 2 of you off.

          On the other note, did you (Bill) really Wikipedia Harlem, just so that you could comment on my comment?? #someoneneedsahobby

  4. 1. Yes, it’s much better with the new chair.
    2. Girl get something up on your WALLS
    3. Meh. Get back to me after you’ve wandered around at midnight in East Jerusalem by yourself with a duffel bag looking for a *specific* sketchy hostel out of dozens of sketchy hostels (all signs only in Arabic). ;)

    1. Working on the walls. It’s a tricky one since we want some real artwork, not stuff you can find at HomeGoods, and we have very specific tastes.

      We actually did wander around near the Mount of Olives near nightfall by accident trying to get to the shiny Russian cathedral. An Arab guy rode by on a horse.

    1. I was gonna say, “Glad YOU made it home” from Israel, but even Tzipporah’s East Jerusalem comment above is safer than Philly, I think.

  5. Adding to the Dangerous Outings Olympics:

    Have you ever walked the sketchy part of downtown Dallas trying to find a supermarket because you don’t have a car but are out of real food and by Zeus you will NOT eat pizza YET AGAIN tonight, passing an industrial complex and a rundown neighborhood where I was scared the dogs were not fenced in or on leashes? And then when you find said supermarket you are scared to buy anything fresh (and certainly not any meat, ew) because everything looks like it’s covered in a layer of soot?

    If you haven’t ever done this, don’t. Not worth the sketchy tomatoes.

    I eventually found a bus route to another nearby supermarket only to discover that it was THE saturday morning (when I went grocery shopping) bus route to some drug rehabilitation or counseling center. There was no way that many skinny, toothless, needle-marks-on-arms people were on that same bus by coincidence every weekend.

    Now I love my car like Fidel Castro loves dictating. I’m never going back to the sketchy bus routes if I can help it.

  6. You have more chance getting dying of boredom in a long queue in IKEA on a Sunday afternoon then driving through West Philly.I think.
    Great before and after. What a difference leather makes. I have the same beige chair in our guest bedroom that useful be in son’s room when I nursed that will behisfamily heirloom. 300years from now they will be antique and high comodity. That is why I am. Wrapping mine in plastic.I suggest you do the same.

    1. Wow typing on iPad while arguing with 3 year old make sfor some mad comments. I promise you I have not been drinking yet. But looking at the above comment, I need a drink.

    2. I never thought of it that way. I gotta put everything in plastic. Including My Little Pony from my Happy Meal 10 years ago.

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  8. Hey, West Philly is my old hood! Drexel!! Yeah, it is sketchy there. But I used to walk around drunk at night, and I lived. I say your trip was totally worth it for the 71% discount.

    This blog is hilarious, by the way.

  9. So, let me get this straight. Absolutely nothing happened to you except your privileged white ass was afraid something would happen to you? They should never have let you into grad school since you clearly don’t know how to examine social issues critically. Elitist and not funny.

  10. Hi!
    I just ran across your story and laughed! I come across Poang chairs on Craigslist all the time and want one but have a smaller sedan. How did you fit it into the car??

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