West Elm's Peggy sofa has been the source of much controversy this week. Here's how the affordable mid-century style option went from popular pick to discontinued in just about six days.
It all started when Anna Hezel's piece, Why Does This One Couch From West Elm Suck So Much?, was published on The Awl last Thursday. In it, she details how she and her partner bought the Peggy after moving in together. A nice, mid-century style sofa that starts at under $1000—what's not to love?
Well, as she says, "[Soon after,] the couch began to disintegrate in small ways. We would scooch across a cushion at the wrong angle, and a button would pop off, leaving a fraying hole behind. We would lean back slightly too far, and all of the cushions would shift forward and over the edge of the couch in unison." West Elm's button repair kit was backordered, a telling sign that this is not a rare occurrence.
When the kit finally arrived and was tough to use, Hezel became obsessed with the sofa, and began to collect stories of other frustrated Peggy owners on social media and her own friend circle. Left on a Denver West Elm's Yelp page was this (excerpted from a 700-word review): "To have created a detailed training guide with colored pictures on how to repair your sofa means you've probably received hundreds, if not thousands, of calls, emails and visits about this awfully made Peggy sofa. You have to do better, West Elm." Hezel's Peggy eventually collapsed, by the way:
So how does this happen? West Elm does not have product reviews on their site, so it's not that easy or convenient to do due diligence. For low-to-mid-tier retailers that are the next step on the "adulting" ladder above IKEA, it's easy to assume higher prices mean higher quality, but it can vary from brand to brand, and product to product. As someone who tested Peggy for our comfort rankings, I can say that while I didn't rate it highly, it wasn't the worst sofa I've ever sat on.
Of course, if you read the comments on the above post, you'll find people who both love and hate their West Elm sofas, Peggy and otherwise. Bobby Finger over on Jezebel wrote about how he hasn't had a problem with his Peggy, but now suffers from "sofa dysmorphia." He writes: "And even though none of the buttons have popped in some 22 months, they now feel like aging, unexploded bombs, capable of bursting off the cushions at any moment, with any poorly calculated scoot."
The backlash West Elm got from the original piece, other publications' commentary about it, and the following uproar on social media from dissatisfied Peggy owners resulted in the brand first removing the sofa from their site, and then ultimately offering a refund. If you own a Peggy, West Elm is now giving "a full refund or replacement of orders placed in the U.S. and Canada after July 2014." The refund requires you to return the sofa, though.
Like the "Nosedive" episode of Black Mirror, Peggy's popularity crashed and burned in a quick and spectacular fashion, and we can't look away.
February 28: Updated to include that return is required for refund.