Analysis of “Pivot” Couch Scene in “Friends”

Whether it’s “Chanandler Bong” or “we were on a break,” there are certain terms from “Friends” that have catapulted themselves into the pop culture lexicon. And for any fan of the sitcom who has attempted to move apartments without the help of a professional, there’s one simple word that’s most likely ingrained in your brain: “PIVOT”.

In the episode titled “The One with the Cop,” Ross buys a new couch and decides to carry it up to his apartment instead of paying a delivery fee. With the help of Rachel and Chandler, Ross tries to navigate the couch up the stairs by pivoting and screaming “pivot” over and over again (hence the iconic reference). If you’ve watched the scene, you know it didn’t end up working out and results in a shameful sawed-in-half couch. But was Ross right to at least try and wing it with his friends? We asked a couple of experts to see if the couch was doomed from the get-go. Spoiler alert: that last “friends” part is the only thing they agree with (no pun intended).

“Do not, I repeat, do not try to move a couch up a stairwell by yourself,” Scott Goldblatt, Director of Marketing for Fernish, a furniture and home accessories rental service, tells Apartment Therapy. “That’s one thing Ross got right… ask some friends and get help! You’ll need at least two people, possibly more.”

Professional movers are in agreement. “Make sure you have the right people to do the job,” Michael Pepla, co-owner of Boston-based M&M Moving Company and Storage, says. He mentions two strong people are enough, as long as they’re able to hold the couch in the air for a period of time. “They can get heavy. A regular couch, like the one in that episode, is probably about 150 or 200 pounds. And then you have the sleeper couches that can go up to 300.”

If you do find yourself in a situation where you and a few friends are attempting the couch-carrying deed, there are a few expert-approved tips of what to do—and what not to do—as told through analyzing the “pivot” scene.

At the furniture store, Ross didn’t think twice about carrying the couch home once he sees the $$$ for delivery. And what’s even more convincing to him and Rachel is how light the couch is when they pick it up—easy breezy, they’re thinking! But according to the experts, that’s not all they should have considered when bringing it up a flight of stairs.

In small spaces, every inch plays a role—so measuring beforehand, if possible, is suggested. “It’s very hard to measure if a couch is going to fit [up a stairwell], because there are so many different angles,” Pepla says. “People are like, ‘just try it!’ To satisfy customers we try it, and then we approach it in a different direction. We go through a balcony or window or hoist it up or something.”

Additionally, do whatever you can to make the couch smaller, whether it’s removing excess cushions or taking off detachable feet.

Master the “pivot” strategy

In the episode, Rachel recruits Chandler (who isn’t exactly known for his strength and fortitude) to help her and Ross do the heavy lifting. Yes, Ross drew some sort of “sketch” with a strategy to get the couch up the stairs, but he barely got through any of it before concluding with “just follow my lead.” As each one grabs a part of the couch, they ascend the stairs and attempt to navigate the first curve into the stairwell.

“Turn! Turn! Turn!” Ross shouts. “Here we go! Pivot! PIVOT! PI-VOT!” he yells, emphasizing the “vot” like it rhymes with “hot” or “lot,” and finally cascading into an embarrassing “PI-VAT.” Naturally, Rachel and Chandler get frustrated from the yelling and whatever they’re trying to pull off not working, which ends in the couch being stuck between the walls.

Like Ross, professional movers rely on pivoting, but with a whole lot more expertise. “It depends what kind of staircase you have, and what couch you have,” Pepla says, who advises you to start by placing the couch on its side with its back facing up. “When you take the turn, you want the opening of the couch to roll around the rail. It’s all about the angles with the couches.”

As you get to each floor’s landing, stand the couch up. “Twist it, PIVOT, and then you drop it down and carry it up,” Pepla says. “That’s really the most simple way.”

Sometimes, just go with the movers

If you’re unsure if you’ll be able to move the couch yourself, it’s better to hire a professional ahead of time than finding yourself wedged into the stairwell, a la Ross, Rachel, and Chandler. 

“It’s kind of like driving a car. Anybody can really do it, but then you have professional car drivers,” Pepla says, who regularly gets emergency calls from people who are unable to complete a move. “We have people call and say ‘hey we moved the whole place, but we had two pieces we couldn’t lift’.”

After all, you don’t want to end up like Ross. As the credits roll, he attempts to return the couch, which was sawed in two and ready for a trip to the junkyard. He gets a store credit of $4. To avoid a situation like his, know when it’s time to call in the professionals. 

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