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My $1,449 Herman Miller Pre-Assembled “Embody” Chair Did Not Work

Written by Gary North on August 29, 2015

I bought the business chair generally regarded as the best in the world: a Herman Miller Embody chair. I bought the top-of-the line version: the Balance Carbon.

I bought it pre-assembled from the company.

They sent it. I unpacked it and sat in it. I was sitting as low as the chair allowed. So, I tried to raise the seat. No go. The little button that is supposed to raise the seat does nothing.

I brought in my wife, who is a true fix-it lady. No go.

There is a little instruction booklet, but there is no YouTube video on how to adjust the chair to the user’s size and shape. Yet these adjustments are crucial features in the marketing of this chair. It has been around since 2008.

I contacted the company. I was sent this:



Why does the customer service department have this in reserve for its staffers to send out? (1) Because this information is not in the eight-page booklet. (2) Because the company does not have an instructional video on this procedure on YouTube.

The company has a user’s video, but I could not find it with Google. A customer service guy sent me the link. It is not listed in the booklet. It should be. They should also use a simple URL-shortener to shorten the long YouTube URL. They should publish this short URL in the booklet. This would make it easy for someone who reads the booklet to access this video. I have created a short link for them: http://bit.ly/AdjustEmbody.

Sadly, this video does not show the procedure required to make the chair work.

I did as the follow-up guide suggested. It worked. But it should have worked without my having had to contact customer service.

The company spends a lot of money to design their chairs. It should spend a few thousand bucks to make sure there is a comprehensive “new customer” video for each of their products. Then it needs to let customers know about the existence of these videos in their little booklets.

For $1,449, a chair should work right out of the box. No surprises. No secret instruction guides, “available if you complain.”

They should hire a $10/hour employee, and have him test every Embody chair that gets mailed from the company to a retail buyer. The employee beta-tests each chair. This takes two minutes per chair. For a $1,500 chair, the company can afford this. Complaints will decline.

Years ago, I read the book by the CEO of Herman Miller, Max De Pree: Leadership Is an Art. It is a good book. Senior management needs to review it. There is always room for improvement.

For those of you who want to see a chair that costs $1,449, watch this.

Note to the Vice President for Soothing Unhappy Customers and Annoyed Senior Managers: you will have to prepare a position paper on this. You have been told to fix this problem, but your solution will have to be approved by a committee. It’s a hassle, but that’s what you get paid for. It could be worse. You could be the $10/hour kid who spends his life sitting in chairs to test them.

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