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Mark Stodghill, Forum Communications Co., Published November 04 2009

Bidding restarts on chair used in drunken driving arrest

PROCTOR, Minn. – La-Z-Boy has long been a clever trademark for reclining chairs.

The Proctor Police Department will soon find out how valuable that name is.

After receiving eBay bids topping $43,000 for a “La-Z-Boy” motorized lounge chair that police confiscated from a man who drove it drunk into a parked vehicle, Proctor Police Chief Walter Wobig said he was notified Monday that the chair is not a La-Z-Boy and cannot be auctioned as one.

The chair, which can reach speeds of 20 mph, was temporarily removed from the eBay site Monday. It went back up on the site again Monday evening, but bidding started over again and there’s no telling whether it will get back above $40,000.

Wobig said Proctor police posted the chair, which is mounted on a lawnmower deck with a Briggs & Stratton engine, under the La-Z-Boy name because that was how it was described in media accounts and police wanted people to know what they were bidding on. The chair received news coverage throughout the United States and overseas.

Wobig said he had a pleasant conversation with a representative of La-Z-Boy on Monday. He said La-Z-Boy didn’t ask that the chair be removed from auction, but did ask that the company name not be used. La-Z-Boy’s corporate counsel also contacted the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune asking that it not use its trademark in future news reports about the motorized chair.

Wobig said the chair was custom built and there are no markings or manufacturer’s names on it.

Wobig said the chair was reposted Monday night under the headings: “DWI Chair,” Motorized Chair,” and “Racing Chair,” under the eBay listing 150385696050. He said it will be up for bid for three days.

“This has just been one nightmare,” Wobig said and then joked: “I can’t wait until it’s over. It’s going to cause me to drink.”

Mark Stodghill is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune, which is owned

by Forum Communications Co.