Would you like to supersize that office chair

October 2, 2011
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Download, the quarterly BIFMA newsletter for the office furniture industry, just came out, and it does, in fact, have a brief report on the download in the American office chair these days.

BIFMA organizes teams in the industry to set industry-wide safety standards pertaining to office furniture. A team began meeting in May to work on a Heavy Occupant Chair Standard X5.11.

So far, according to Download, “two critical elements that received a lot of attention were Weight and Seat Pan Width. The team recently bumped up the target weight from 375 lbs. to 400 lbs. The team is proposing a minimum Seat Pan Width of 22 inches to qualify for testing to X5.11. Test plans are being formulated with Mississippi State University to study chair stresses from heavy occupants.”

Tom Reardon, executive director of BIFMA, said “the idea of the standard has been on our radar screen for a while.”

The seating standards team has revised its preliminary proposals regarding heavy occupant seating because “we had some new data that indicated that the average American is growing in size,” according to Reardon.

The chair standard previously had been tested for 225-pound individuals, which covers a range of up to 95 percent of the population. New research indicates the 95th percentile has to include individuals weighing up to 253 pounds.

But that’s just for average chairs.

Reardon said the manufacturers have occasionally received calls from customers indicating they have an employee in the 350-pound category, and they want to know if the office chairs they are buying will be safe for that employee.

Reardon was quick to add that “these are just normal, fully functioning members of society on the larger size, and they need products to accommodate them.”

So there we have it: the proposed new standard for the Heavy Occupant Chair, which should accommodate everybody all the way up through the 99.5 percentile. That’s good for a download of 400 pounds.

That’s some food for thought.

Customer comedy

A pair of Holland film producers plans to make “Perks,” a series of short, sitcom-like films inspired by what they’ve seen and heard while working at Lemonjello’s Coffee on the corner of 9th and College.

Although they are still seeking capital for their venture, Paul Genzink and Lindsey Scott have lined up local talent for their cast and crew and plan to start filming “Perks” in October. They hope to end up with a dozen eight-minute segments, which will be aired on the Internet.

Genzink and Scott, both 25, have worked at Lemonjello in the past. Scott’s husband, Matt Scott, has owned it since it opened in 2003. Lemonjello has also been a venue where local musicians perform, so music also will be part of the short films.

“The majority of the stories are actually true,” said Genzink. “All of the conversations people are having (in “Perks”) are conversations that I or people I’ve worked with have actually had with other people. There are some crazy shenanigans that happen in the coffee shop and in the customer-service world.”

Both Genzink and Scott have had experience working on film productions: Genzink in Los Angeles and Scott in Michigan since the advent of the state film industry incentives.

Genzink said they won’t be applying for state incentives for “Perks,” mainly because their budget probably wouldn’t be large enough to qualify. Genzink was advised by an attorney that since the state incentives have been severely cut back by the new administration in Lansing, competition for them is very intense and time consuming.

Genzink said he and Scott would rather just “see this show get made.”

He said the pair has done their best “to get our foot in the door in the Michigan film industry, just trying to make connections with people. We’ve met a lot of wonderful people, a lot of generous people.” The two producers feel a passion, he said, “to somehow keep the film presence alive, and build up the credibility of Michigan film makers.”

Genzink is a member of the Genzink Steel family. Genzink Steel, a fabricating company founded in Holland 50 years ago, took a beating along with most other Michigan industrial companies in the recession, but is coming back strong now. Structural steel for construction was once its mainstay, but the Holland company has diversified into heavy equipment for coal mining and components for the oil and gas industry.

YES, or no?

You would think a grocer would have a firm grasp of the carrot-and-stick concept, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

An informal and internal poll of staffers here turned up very few nice things to say about D&W Fresh Market’s new YES Rewards program — You Earn & Save — with terms like “exclusionary” and “discriminatory” bandied about.

For those who don’t know, last week customers visiting D&W, Family Fare, VG’s and Glen’s were asked to turn in the YES cards they’d been given over the previous three weeks to sign up for the program. Enrolling in the program offers rewards in both the grocery store and pharmacy, fuel rewards, accumulated shopping points (that would lead to more rewards), e-mail rewards and coupons loaded directly onto the card. All this in return for giving out personal information that includes name, address, phone number and e-mail.

What became clear to many last week, however, was that only members of the YES club would be able to take advantage of advertised specials and in-store specials. If you don’t provide your personal information, you don’t get the deals. Simple as that.

All right, that’s using the stick, but it’s up to the grocer to decide how important that customer information is and whether it’s worth running the risk of alienating long-time shoppers.

But since D&W isn’t the cheapest store around, it probably isn’t a big deal for customers to head elsewhere. Besides, people don’t need the food that’s on sale; it’s just more of an enticement to save a few pennies on something you might want.

More troubling, however, was a visit to the pharmacy. People need their prescription medication, and to penalize customers who refuse to participate in the YES Rewards program is simply egregious. As an example, blood pressure medication is $10 with a YES card but nearly $30 without it. You can figure out what non-participation costs on an annual basis. Now picture yourself on a fixed income.

When asked, the store director assured that none of the information collected by the store is shared with any other parties, and that it’s only used for tracking “shopper preferences” and “inventory control.” (As a side note, D&W instituted inventory tracking control software at the checkout more than a year ago.)

Although he didn’t ask, that same store director might have been interested in a news release issued last week by Verizon regarding debit card fraud and cyber security. The wireless giant’s No. 1 tip to avoid being ripped off?

“Play it close to the vest. Provide businesses with limited data and on a need-to-know basis. Don't give a cashier your phone number or ZIP code just because they ask. You can use a false address and phone number for supermarket loyalty cards. And exchange gift cards for credit or debit cards so every merchant or service provider doesn’t have your personal info.”

Sounds like good advice.

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