J.R. Salzman rips the media over its coverage of Ben Carson’s $31,000 table

Twitchy favorite J.R. Salzman, who is a professional woodworker if you didn’t know (really — check out his site — the products are amazing) took to Twitter to criticize the media with a must-read thread on Ben Carson’s now infamous $31,000 dining room table.

First up, the $31,000 doesn’t just buy a table:

Alright, about this table. As I understand it, it wasn’t just a table, it was also the chairs and a hutch. All of which were custom built and made of hardwood. https://t.co/6JDmbVeKlv

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

(And note this isn’t a defense of government employees enjoying a luxurious lifestyle on taxpayer dime)

First, I’m not defending Ben Carson flouting a $5000 max purchase rule, or government spending lavishly. I’m a conservative. If it were up to me all government buildings would be bare concrete blocks, and employees would wear burlap clothes and be fed community gruel.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

But it’s not up to me, which is why we have 21 trillion in national debt. But that’s a whole other conversation entirely. The bulk of the argument seems to be the cost of the table. In the corporate, government, or even nonprofit world, that’s not out of line on price.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

It’s about honesty in reporting on just what Carson was looking to buy. The $31,000 is for a set, including chairs and a hutch that’s custom made out of hardwood. Do the media folks mocking the cost actually know what they’re talking about, because it doesn’t sound like they do:

To your average pearl clutching journalist who lives in a rent controlled apartment in NYC outfitted with IKEA furniture because their dumbass spent six figures on a J-school degree that earns them $35K a year, $31k is a lot to spend on furniture.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

I’ve seen their complete lack of expertise in many articles. “Here are five tables Ben Carson could have bought much cheaper,” as they proudly show photos of cheaply built mass-produced garbage furniture that would fall apart in two years and need to be replaced.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

Now here’s what goes into making a custom hardwood table:

I have 20 years experience in woodworking. In fact, woodworking and building tables is what I do for a living. I saw my own logs, dry the wood, and then build the final piece of furniture. I do everything except cut the tree down. Most of my logs are salvaged urban trees. pic.twitter.com/QIwBPsbXnl

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

The timeline from sawing a log to the finished product might be two years to allow enough time for the wood to properly dry. This doesn’t include the 100 years it might’ve taken for the tree to grow. It also doesn’t include the 40 to 80 hours I need to build the table.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

Unfortunately the question of why my tables are so expensive is one I face every week. You’re buying a custom built real hardwood product that will last generations. If you want something cheap, you’ll have to go to Ashley furniture and buy plywood veneer furniture.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

And just how much do these journos think the furniture cost in their executive conference room? Maybe they should do articles on that:

Look, in the corporate, government, or even nonprofit world, they don’t buy cheap goods. They don’t go to IKEA or Ashley furniture. They order something custom, and high-quality. In my world a $31k table is not uncommon. The most expensive table Ive heard of was $50k.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

Again here, the media has been lying. It wasn’t $31K for just the table, it was the table, the chairs and the hutch, all custom built from hardwood.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

More on the difference between the two types of products:

People are probably asking, what’s the difference between a $10k table and a $1500 table? First the materials. Most cheap furniture these days is made from plywood or particleboard wrapped in a hardwood veneer less than a millimeter thick. They cannot be repaired or refinished.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

Also of note, John Kelly was mocked for saying the $31,000 set might have made sense economically. Well, actually, he was right:

The furniture Ben Carson was replacing was literally from 1967, and couldn’t be repaired or refinished anymore. It was at the end of it’s life. It lasted 50 years, which he could easily achieve again with another custom built hardwood furniture set.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

So let’s do some basic math here. Which is smarter, spending $30K on a furniture set that will last 50 years, or spending $5k on a furniture set that will need to be replaced every five years? General Kelly pointed this out, yet all people did was criticize him for it.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

Besides the materials, higher end furniture gets you quality and durability. Sure you can buy an office chair for $80 from Walmart, or you can drop $800 on an Aeron chair from Herman Miller. If all you have is $80 you go to Walmart and buy a new chair every year as it wears out.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

Maybe Carson should have focused on the environmental benefits of the hardwood set and then libs would’ve been happy:

But you don’t junk the Aeron chair, because it doesn’t wear out nearly as fast. Not only that, but you can buy each individual component if they break. And to top it off, all of the components are environmentally friendly and made from recycled materials. Not the Walmart chair.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

I own a Walmart chair and an Aeron chair from Herman Miller. I’m about to junk the Walmart chair and buy a second Aeron chair. One, they are amazingly comfortable and adjustable. Two they are very durable. And three, they’re environmentally friendly and more cost-effective.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

The same goes for the furniture set Ben Carson was going to buy for $31k. It’s real hardwood, which means the trees and lumber were sustainably harvested and manufactured here in the United States. That’s not where a lot of cheap plywood furniture comes from.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

More and more plywood and man-made materials are being outsourced overseas in places where environmental regulations are a joke. In China they don’t care if plywood gives off Formaldehyde gas for the first 60 days, or if the resins pollute the ground water.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

They might be building Ashley furniture right down the road from in Arcadia, Wisconsin, but that’s not where they’re getting all their materials from. They want them as cheap as possible so they can mass-produce and kick it out to the consumer. We’ve become a throwaway society.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

It’s the reason I have my business. If you buy one of my tables, it’s going to outlive you. You’ll be able to refinish it and repair it numerous times. You’ll be able to hand it down to your grandchildren. You not only helped the environment but saved money long term. pic.twitter.com/iDcToeXAfy

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

I guarantee you that $31,000 furniture set Ben Carson ordered would have outlived him and the majority of the people serving in Washington right now.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

And finally, an economics lesson on the high-end furniture business:

My last point in this thread is one of economics. The reality is, the people who buy my tables do not buy their clothes at Walmart. I’m not going to complain about people having more money than me because if it weren’t for those people I couldn’t make a living doing this.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

The margins on our furniture are small and there’s a lot of competition. Our overhead and labor costs are high. But congrats, you collected a scalp and got Ben Carson to cancel a custom $31,000 furniture order. You also made it harder on someone trying to make a living.

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m supposed to be working on this maple table right now. I ran into a couple unforeseen issues with the top which means I won’t make a dime on this one. Hopefully I can make it up on the next one. Such is life. pic.twitter.com/V59fz8Qgsw

— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) March 20, 2018

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