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Is a ‘sample seating bench’ a good indicator?

Many Jewish communities ask the manufacturer to make a `sample bench` for them to evaluate synagogue seating. They believe that after judging this bench and comfort level, they can decide to purchase. Yet theory doesn`t work out in practice. Here`s why.

Furniture for synagogues

The advantage of this method is that it is very convenient. Apparently, without too much effort it is possible expose the product to the community as a whole, allowing them to gain an impression and mainly to compare between the products of the various producers.

Paradoxically, also for some manufacturers, this is the preferred method since it places a single bench in view and blocks the customer from taking into account other factors – which are even more important – and on which we will go into more detail later on.

Many make this mistake and test subjective comfort on the basis of sitting once on the “sample” seat. This trial does not test the bench in relation to its “true” mode of use, since the single “sample” bench tells only a part of the story. Thus, relying only on this element in making the decision is not to be recommended.

Using examples, we would like to point to a number of issues that cannot be tested using a sample bench:

Usually, a sample bench consists of two seats. When planning the placing of the benches in the synagogue, it is reasonable to assume that some the rows will have six seats or more. The raw materials come in lengths of 2.5 meters, and it is possible to produce a bench with a maximum of 5 seats. As a result, for benches that are longer than 5 seats, the manufacturer will need to carry out professional joining of two boards, in order to attain the required length. The sample bench being tested cannot show these joins and the level of professionalism used in creating them.

The width of the sample seat is not necessarily the width of seat that will actually be installed in the synagogue (considerations of price, space, and location affect the placing plan of the seats and also the width of the seats). As a result, the feeling of comfort is not necessarily representative of the final product.

In order to test comfort in a representative manner, you need to sit on the bench for around 60 minutes (the average length of worship), and not 30 seconds. Similarly, in order to gain an impression of the comfort of the seating, the seat needs to be positioned in its final location in the synagogue, including the distance from the other benches.
Finally, every company invests the maximum effort in the quality of the sample. It is quite reasonable for a manufacturer to place a sample bench with 2 seats that looks perfect. Their ability to manufacture a large number of benches of uniform quality similar to that of the sample, needs to be taken into account.

In view of all this, we recommend taking two additional steps which will enable you to build up a complete picture and reach informed decisions based on all the facts:

1. Visit a number of synagogues where each company has supplied furniture. Test the furniture when installed in its final form, compare the condition of the furniture after a number of years of usage, talk to members of the congregation and gain an impression of the service and professionalism demonstrated by the company prior to sale and after the sale, and the manner in which they deal with defects for other problems arising over the years.
2. Request that manufacturer enable you to visit the company`s production facility. Usually, you will be able to gain a direct impression of the company, of the facilities it has at its disposal, and the way it operates. You can gain an impression of a wide variety of models and products, the way raw materials are treated (ask to see the boards control system), the production processes, the finishing products and the way they are applied, and the attention given to the details of the order. This visit will enable you to gain an impression of the stability of the company and the likelihood of the company being around over the many years during which you will be using the product.

Can it be the right thing to do, to decide on buying furniture worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of shekels based only on testing a sample bench? No answer is needed.