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August 6, 2011

9:57 AM

Bonded Leather

     The furniture manufacturers have sneaked in an inferior leather product on an unaware public. They have found a way to sweep up scrap leather, mix it with an epoxy, roll it out and cover furniture with it. It’s called bonded leather, and I haven’t seen it used in automobiles yet. They’re not lying to you, they are selling you leather upholstery. But they’re not disclosing the differences between their product compared to a quality top grain leather. I don’t care what the salesman promises you; I’ve seen damage claims systematically denied as if the unsuspecting consumer is at fault when the leather/glue combination doesn’t hold up. They’re making more money because a local upholsterer might have to pay 50 cents a square inch for a hyde and scraps are much cheaper, but I have no doubt the name will change when the backlash affects sales.

    I’ve bid a slew of jobs this summer; one of these couches was purchased 4 years ago.

It was 1 of a pair purchased at a big name reputable retailer. She spent $1800 on the pair. Her 12-year-old granddaughter was standing on the couch and her foot went through the seam, causing an 8-inch tear.  Sometimes when the kids run on top of the upholstery, quality leather might show stretch damage, but this piece ripped on the dotted line. When she asked me if I could hand stitch the damage, I told her the seam might come out wavy. She said that was better than a $500 insert, so I tried to close the tear. My problem was that this leather wouldn’t hold a stitch. My thread pulled right through this brittle leather. Apparently $900 doesn’t buy a quality leather couch anymore. The new normal is probably closer to $1500.  If she had bought the insurance, it probably would have expired. So the lesser of two evils would be to pay up for top grain leather.

   Another situation I’ve bid twice is when a medium to large size dog gets his paw stuck on a cushion and rips the leather. I will update with pictures later, but in both situations the leather ripped from 9 inches to 2 feet in length. One of my customers bought his couch for a thousand dollars from a big name chain store. He lucked out and bought the insurance. His couch was only a year old but the claim got denied which is why he called me. I went over to his house to do a hand stitch and noticed the back of this so-called leather had a cloth backing. He originally thought the dog ripped the leather with his teeth, which is why the insurance company denied his claim. But when I took a close look at the tear I couldn’t see any teeth marks. So I told the customer he needed to re-submit the claim using me as his consultant. The company conceded and gave him a full store credit.

   On another bid a construction worker sent me pics I’ll update with later, but this so called leather just started falling apart after a couple of years. Especially where he sat most frequently while watching TV.

   I’ve done some research and can’t find much negative info on bonded leather. It might just be too new to show up on Internet forums yet. I have only just become aware of the proliferation of this style of construction a few months ago. So I am making these assumptions. If you have no pets or children, and don’t sweat too much on this leather you might be just fine buying bonded leather furniture, but I’m not chancing it. I have a leather couch that still looks new after 16 years. It all depends on whether you really consider leather upholstery a legitimate investment.

 

Correction Update:       11/10/11

   I got a phone call from a customer who was hoping I could save his “blended leather” as the salesman described the living room set he purchased from a big name furniture chain store. I stand corrected when I said you could protect yourself if you buy an extended warranty for new furniture made of bonded or blended leather. It seems the warranty companies have caught on and are now protecting themselves with regard inferior quality materials used to make the furniture they insure. This customer was horrified to see the leather finish coming off in big sheets after he owned it for a couple of years. So he called the warranty company and they immediately denied his claim because his problem wasn’t caused by some accident. They advised him that he needed to go back to the manufacturer and make a claim. The manufacturer only offered a year warranty and he was two years out. The customer got shammed and it was all perfectly legal. So if you’re not thinking short term I wouldn’t buy any furniture labeled “Bonded Leather” or “Blended Leather”.

 

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