The Star (Nairobi)

17 November 2012

Kenya: If You Are Too Heavy for These Beds, Please Do Not Visit

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I like to think that I am not easily shocked or surprised by things, events and happenings that might give most others pause for thought. Nevertheless, even I cannot fully escape situations where I am forced to think to myself: I have seen it all now.

This happened to me most recently just over a month ago when as part of setting up our new apartment, we went looking for a bed to put in the guestroom so that when we had friends or family visiting, they could spend a night or two with us.

Now in my experience there are generally speaking two types of bed, a single bed and a double bed. Of course there are also sub-categories such as king-size, queen-size etc, but generally it is a bed that is meant to sleep one person or a bed to be shared by two people.

So you can imagine my initial surprise and then a little bit later, horror, on coming across a shop where the beds are sold and rated to only hold up to certain weights and no more.

For instance, one double bed was advertised as being limited to holding 80kg per person. So basically if the combined weight of the two people who one presumes will occupy the bed is over 160 kg, the bed will break or malfunction in some manner or the other.

This would basically mean that you would have to monitor the weights of your guests before letting them spend the night. Now how to do this in a polite and hospitable way?

Do you invite your guests to weigh in before you invite them to spend the night? If for instance the guests are your slightly overweight but dearly beloved parents or other close relatives or friends? How does that conversation even begin?

Then what if it is your bed and at some point after you buy it your weight increases? Must you now get rid of the bed and purchase a new one that takes for instance 110kg per occupant?

For me this was absolutely one of the weirdest sales concepts I have come across in recent years and certainly one of the most offensive since certain airlines began considering charging fat people extra for their seats.

Now of course I have an axe to grind here. Had I been a skinny, (sorry, should that be slender or underweight?) person instead of the chubby person that I am (I dare you to say 'fat' to my face) I might have thought this was funny or let it slide.

Also, embarrassingly, I have on occassion been in a situation where I have sat on a chair and heard it crack or even had it break, under my weight.

In fact a while back, I was at an internet cafe where they had these cheap and horrible chairs and in the middle of my internet business, the seat collapsed.

I felt awful and embarrassed until a much less heavily built individual also fell off their seat in the same place, leading me to believe that the chairs were faulty and so it was not about me and my size.

The bed weight limit issue reminded me of a story I read in the Daily Mail some years ago about an overweight man who was banned from becoming a blood donor in Britain over fears he would break the hospital's bed.

The man told the newspaper that he had been turned away by blood bank staff due to fears for his own health and safety as medics were concerned that at more than 150kg, he might have buckled a bed under his own weight and potentially then sued the blood bank after hurting himself.

The beds were apparently only capable of holding someone up to 100kg. When contacted, the hospital said they were worried about the beds collapsing and people suing them and when the man offered to sit on the chair and donate blood, they said they didn't do it like that any more.

There was also a scene recently on one of my favourite TV shows, Come Dine With Me, when an overweight guest went to sit at the dinner table and broke not one but two chairs, leading one of the other guests to comment that when he has overweight people over to his house, he requests that they do not sit down. Only the Brits can be so rude.

It would seem, if these weight limits on chairs and beds are the new trend, people who are more plump than the average are now going to be forced to sit or sleep in things that are really not rated to hold their weight or to lose weight in double quick time.

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