Creativity Magazine

Consumers Speak Out: “Today’s Ethan Allen is NOT Your Mom’s Ethan Allen”

By Legosneggos @LegosnEggos

new country by ethan allen burton armchairnew country by ethan allen miller table 56new country by ethan allen gilbert side chair

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My mother is having multiple problems with her new Ethan Allen “New Country” Burton armchair and Gilbert side chairs, several falling apart (one while my brother was sitting in it, causing him to fall to the ground) with only occasional use.  Lucky for them, we are not a litigious family.

The Ethan Allen customer service and frequent errands to the Ethan Allen store are becoming a part-time job for my mother.  I figure, since Ethan Allen strives to make her feel as though she is she is overly demanding, I owe her some dignity and due respect in throwing up this post.  Don’t piss off a southern girl’s Mama, EA, or give her the run-around, especially where her home interior is concerned.

Watch out, consumers.  Ethan Allen is not the trusted name in fine heirloom-quality furniture that it used to be.

And word to American companies that market with words such as “quality workmanship,” “quintessential American style,” “authentic American design elements,” and promise to be “heirloom quality” — Americans do not like to turn over such costly pieces and see “Made in China,” nor to read about yet another American manufacturing plant closing down due to outsourcing, despite the fact that most of your buyers are Americans.  Although, EA has recently acquired a new manufacturing plant in Honduras (way to fight the ‘Made in China” backlash, EA), so that will probably be the new sticker placed underneath.

Read Brian’s story, a one-time employee of EA’s plant in Union City, Pennsylvania:

I used to work for Ethan Allen. As did many other people in our small town. Ethan Allen was a major company in Union City since I was a small boy. We made high quality hardwood chairs and tables. We wouldn’t put out anything less than perfect quality. If it wasn’t right, it didn’t go out the door.

We made end tables, coffee tables, bistros, and dining tables. Across the street in our chair division, we made several designs of hardwood chairs with hardwood, woven, and padded seats. We took a lot of pride in our craftsmanship and quality. We used only the best materials and solid wood parts. I have some of our furniture in my home now and it is in very good condition. We were the best producers of high quality hardwood furniture in our area and in the Ethan Allen chain.

Then Ethan Allen spent about six million dollars to build an addition on our building and purchased a lot of high tech equipment. I ended up running a fully automated, robotic finishing system. This was a million dollar system. It was a system designed to spray dining table tops with conventional and precat sealers and lacquers and later to be converted over to UV finishes. The system had a robotic spray head that would spray a good even coat of finish on each top. Our oven was huge. It had four bays that would hold fifty two dining table tops at a time. It was all automatic, when one top went in, one would come out the other end. The system had a UV tunnel that cured the tops when they came out of the tunnel. And it had a transfer table that would move the tops over to the start position to go through for a second coat if needed.

It was a very impressive system. It looked like we were here to stay. However, when we changed over to the UV finish material, we started having finish material problems. I alerted management about the problems and told them we should look into finding another finish company as this was starting to cost us time and money. Every time a bad top came out, we had to sand the finish off and send it through again, costing us more money. It was obvious that the problems were finish material related because I had four filters on the system and they were all getting plugged up with flattening paste and bad material,and abrasives, and our problems on the tops were blisters in the finish, dirt in the finish, fish eyes, bad adhesion, orange peel, and flaking.

Management tried to make it look like it was my fault as the operator, and refused to try another finishing company because our plant manager was good friends with the finishing company’s rep and they would go to conventions together and they were golfing buddies and therefore, it couldn’t be the material, it had to be something the operator was doing wrong. Then the company shutdowns came around. There were a lot of Ethan Allen companies in our tri state area, and they started shutting down, about three or four at a time. Then it came our turn. We were informed that our factory was being shut down and outsourced to China. We had a backlog of product to finish and then we were to be laid off.

We contacted another finish material company to come in and sample some of their material and guess what? All our finishing material problems went away and we didn’t run a single bad top for the rest of our time there. But it was too late. Most of our company was gone and the doors were closing. That put about two hundred and fifty seven people out of a job, in a small community. I was one of the last to go in our Div. and I got the last table our factory ever made. Ethan Allen was the biggest employer in our town and they pulled the plug on us without a second thought so they could outsource their product to China and produce sub standard junk for less money and make more profit. The name used to mean something. It meant experienced, proud, American craftsmanship. Now Ethan Allen means Chinese junk. This is only my opinion, based on fact.

No xenophobia here.  Just a testimony to the paradoxical experience of buying “solid” and “traditional American” furniture pieces today, from a once revered company that closed out many of its small-town American plants in recent years and, so, has paid with its reputation.  Maybe it is time for Americans to react.  If you are a corporation that abandons American employees on such a large scale as this, then American consumers should abandon your business.  Turnabout is fair business, especially if you feel you will sell better overseas than in America.

Potential buyers of Ethan Allen’s furniture — BEWARE.  You have been amply warned.

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