Around when the throw pillows finally arrived, 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. As soon as one button had fallen off of our couch, it was like a spigot had been turned, allowing all of the other buttons to fall off, too. I emailed customer service and asked if this was normal. They sent me a button-repair kit, indicating that this probably happens a lot. The kit was backordered, so it arrived two full months later and contained a wooden dowel, two buttons, and some directions that didn’t make sense. One direction was to “Hold the cushion properly and make sure the pointed end of the stick is all the way through, until you can see both ends of the stick on each side of the cushion.” I tried in earnest to follow the directions, but the wooden dowel would not fit into the buttonholes, and the entire exercise left me with fewer buttons than I started with.
I became obsessed with the extremely banal mistake I had made as a consumer. You know how you’re not supposed to talk about the weather or your commute because they’re boring? The same is true of couches. The craziest fucking couch in the world is still not more exciting than the Q train running on the R line because of scheduled track maintenance. But I was obsessed, and all I could talk about was the couch. The more I talked about the couch, the more I heard from people having the same problem. It turned out that an unusually large number of our friends owned the same exact couch and were extremely miffed at West Elm about it.