The Saga Of “The Chair”

When I came back to Buenos Aires for this most recent trip, I was determined that I was bringing a Herman Miller Aeron chair with me.  Good office chairs are almost impossible to find in Buenos Aires or are ridiculously expensive, and I was pretty sure it would be nearly impossible to find this particular model.

Now, if you’ve never tried the Aeron chair, you may not understand the slight obsession I have with it. Suffice it to say that this is one of the most comfortable chairs available, and it’s made out of mesh, which means it is super-breathable as well. They are not cheap. New models can easily cost US $1200. But, when you spend 8+ hours a day in a chair, aren’t you worth it?  I’m a firm believer in spending good money on mattresses and office chairs.

Luckily, I found a like-new model on eBay for slightly less and had it shipped to my house in the States. I had previously called American Airlines to confirm that I could take this box on the plane with me, and they said I could – for a $100 third bag charge, a $150 oversize baggage charge, and a $50 overweight baggage charge. Ok, so $300 more to bring it with me – still a good deal in my mind. The chair arrived at my house with no problem, and I carefully opened the box to see if I could remove any excess items to get it below the weight limit. No such luck. I carefully repacked it, including putting the plastic straps back around the box that I had carefully slid off before.

On the day of my flight, I carried the chair out to my car. Crap! The box was too big to fit! Ughh… Undeterred, I went back in the house, unpacked the chair and then wedged the pieces of the chair and the folded box into the back seat and trunk of the car. Whew! It just made it. I then drove to a friend’s house in Boston where I was leaving my car and having him drive me to the airport.

Now, he had a pickup, so once at his place, I reassembled the box and put it on the back of his pickup. He dropped me at the airport doors and took off for a weekend in Vermont.  I piled my three suitcases, backpack and this huge cardboard box onto a smart-cart and wheeled them up to the airline counter.

“Where are you headed, sir?” the American Airlines agent asked me while peering at my pile of luggage.
“Buenos Aires via New York,” I replied as she started typing away.

She looked up and said, “Sir, there is no way that box is going to fit on the plane.”
“What? I called American Airlines and they said I could bring it with no problems! I just have to pay the charges.”
“Did you tell them that you were on a small commuter plane between Boston and New York? It will fit on the plane from New York, but not on your connecting flight,” she said.
“Yes, of course I told them that,” I lied.

She called someone else over who looked at the box and confirmed the bad news.  So, here I was standing at the counter with no one else around and wondering how I was going to make this flight.  I asked what my options were.

“You can drive to NYC and still make that flight,” she said.
“Ahhh…I don’t have a car and my friend has left for Vermont,” I replied.
“Let me see if I can get you on a flight to Miami and then connect to Buenos Aires,” she said as she started typing away. “Hmmm…unfortunately, it’s spring break and all the Miami flights are full. Let me look for something else.”

As I waited, I started to try and think about all the possibilities I had for myself and my chair. I could call my friend and beg him to come back for the chair, but that would mean leaving it in the States.

“Sir, I can route you through Dallas, but you’ll have to overnight there because the next flight to Buenos Aires is not until 7:30pm tomorrow.”
“I’ll take it!”
“You’ll have to pick up all your luggage in Dallas though as they cannot hold it overnight,” she told me.
“Ok, I’ll manage it.”

So, now my chair and I were going to Dallas. Luckily, she took pity on me and decided to overlook the excess weight charge of $50, which meant I could apply that to the hotel room in Dallas.  She then directed me to the TSA oversized baggage area, where I once again had to unpack and repack the chair. We put it on the luggage belt and I ran off to find wifi access so I could book a hotel room.

Luck was with me – I found a $49 room at the DFW Airport Hyatt on Priceline! I boarded my flight and arrived in Dallas with no problems. I picked up all my bags and once again loaded them on a smart-cart to go catch the shuttle to the Hyatt. The next day, I did the same thing to head back to the airport.  And, yes, once again I had to unpack and repack my chair for security.

The chair and I made it to Buenos Aires the next day and only one day behind schedule. At customs, I explained that yes, I was bringing a “silla oficina” (office chair) with me and I presented him with the receipt.  I had to pay 50% duty on any amount over $300, but the process was painless – you just walk to the bank counter near customs and pay cash for it.  My chair and I had made it to Buenos Aires!  We hired a van to take us to Laura’s apartment in Olivos.

So, I’m sitting here on my new Aeron chair and writing this to you. And yes, it is incredibly comfortable!

When I come back again in July, I’m bringing a 46″ Samsung LCD TV with me, but don’t worry, this time I learned my lesson and I’m flying out of JFK on a large plane.

ps – If you happen to know that they do sell Herman Miller chairs in Buenos Aires, and you know the price, do me a favor and please do not tell me.

  • Claire

    Thank for sharing this story! Reminds me of a lot of airport mishaps of my own. Quick question: why did you have to pay duty? It was my understanding that US citizens can basically bring whatever we want into Argentina. Please correct me if I'm wrong, I don't want to end up paying a ton to bring in things for friends!

    • Hey Claire,

      A couple of things with the duty:

      – I believe that any new items acquired abroad are subject to 50% of the amount over US $300 if they are going to stay in Argentina. They have typically been pretty lax with US Citizens on tourist visas who can claim they are taking those things out of the country with them when they leave.

      – I have an Argentine temporary residency visa, so I definitely have to pay duty. Also, I brought in a lot of used electronics (two iPhones, laptop, two Vonage routers, digital camera, Flip video camera, etc) as well. I decided to declare the chair as new and pay the duty on it to avoid having problems with the other stuff. I figured if I declared one thing, they would accept my explanation that the other stuff was used. I actually said, "Solo esta silla esta nueva, todos las otras cosas son viejos."

      Finally, the box was ridiculously big, so there was no way of "sneaking it in."

      • Claire

        Thanks Dave! That clears a lot up, and now I'm planning the strategy for my customs experience at EZE. I might have gotten into some trouble if I hadn't figured this out with your help!

        • Glad it helped! Let me know what happens with you…

  • Another thing on duties, customs at Ezeiza seems to know a lot about electronics prices as they seem to be the most common thing Argentines try to bring back. They had no idea what my chair should cost, so took my "HTML" receipt as proof of purchase price.

    I have a friend with dual citizenship that tried to bring back a laptop last fall. Customs asked him and he said it was an old laptop and thus not subject to paying duty. The customs guy flipped it over and saw the Dell sticker with the Windows 7 license key. He said, "Ahhh…Windows 7. This just came out last week." My friend was busted and had to pay the tax. So, they know a lot more than one may expect.

  • Nice story !

    When you decide to bring a TV, please call AA first : last febr, friends of mine bought a 57inch in NY, then called AA and they were told that they could not enter JFK with a box… Security reasons. They had to have it shipped seperately with cargo, paid for the transport, and had to pay 60% duties. It was still cheaper then buying it here, but the stress they had when they had to leave their expensive TV behind caused big marriage problems 😀 THey have now received news from the officials that the TV has arrived in BA, but they will not be able to get it until after the mundial. Viva Argentina!

    • Thanks, I will definitely call first. I know people traveled through other airports, but maybe JFK is special.

    • I called American Airlines at JFK and they do have a summer box restriction in effect from June 5 – August 24. This only applies to certain locations and luckily Buenos Aires is not one of them! I just ordered the TV today…

      • Waw that is great! It's a pity they didn't let my Argentine friends through though… maybe their English wasn't well enough to understand that to certain locations they could take theirs. They still don't have the TV they bought in february.
        Good luck with yours!

  • Dalton

    hahahaha, yes, here u can find that chair in Buenos Aires. But if u dont want to know it, I dont tell u where u can buy all about Aeron

    • Thanks, Dalton. I actually assumed you could buy it here, but it would probably be about double the price of the US. So, in the end I still saved myself some money, although there was a lot of hassle!

  • This story has a lot in common with my bringing an electronic piano on the plane from L.A.
    I had purchased it on eBay, and had it shipped to my son's house in L.A.–really BIG box! And then when I next was there, took it with me. Only had to pay $200 usd combined oversized box and 3rd checked baggage, but nothing in Ezeiza.

    This brand of piano–Real Piano–isn't available in Argentina, so it was all worth it.

    • Yeah, it is amazing what we will do to get the things we want here.

  • tito

    If you are looking for aeron chairs in Buenos Aires you can try here http://www.coleccion.com/
    I did some research not long ago because I was thinking about getting one but never call to see if they actually have them on stock!

    • Any idea what they cost here?

      • luciana

        They are around $6000 pesos.

        (!!!)

        Good thing you brought it all the way here.

        • Good to know. Looks like I saved a few dollars!

  • Enrique Allegretta

    Chabon estoy por hacer lo mismo y tu post me convención, sos un idolo!!!! / Duuuuuuuudee, I’m about to do the same and your post conviced me, you are my idol!!!!!

    • Jaja. I am leaving Buenos Aires in March 2016 and selling my chair!

      • Enrique Allegretta

        how much?

        • Enrique Allegretta

          I’m still willing to buy it 😀

          • Thanks, Enrique, but looks like my brother-in-law is taking it. It’s a hot item!

          • Paleta

            buuuuu, 😀 that’s ok, its an awesome product, I hope he enjoys it!

          • Paleta

            So long since we last spoken, I was in US in December but I did not have time to buy it, I just checked in Argentina and the same 869 dollar chair costs me 2979. Do you know any US Store that might be willing to deliver it to Argentina? 😀

  • Paleta

    Dude I dont know if you remember me but I asked you long ago to buy you the chair and you said you already sold it.

    Well, guess what

    I HAVE THE FUCKING CHAIR!!!! I BROUGHT IT HOME FROM NEW YORK VIA PLANE

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

    HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY

    • Great news! Did you have to pay import tax? I now live in the US, and bought a cheap one instead that I am very unhappy with!

      • Paleta

        I bought the chair at 650 from maddison seating (with posture fit movable arms and full tilt) then 150 of extra weight, 100 of extra bag and then 300 of taxes. The same chair in Arggentina is 2800 so I guess I saved some money :p