20 Online Furniture Buying Tips From An Industry Insider

A tipster from one of the top three online furniture retailers advice for shoppers spills his guts. His top advice for consumers looking to shop for furniture online: don’t.

Time is money. Buy locally, even if it’s more expensive. Trust me, it’s worth it.

But if you just gotta gotta get that oak dresser you saw on the interweb, here’s twenty tips to save you some ulcers…


Some tips you NEED TO USE before purchasing furniture online:

1. CALL THE RETAILER. Speak with a human. Ask some of the following questions.
2. Do you have a brick and mortar storefront? Most legit furniture retailers will deal with the public personally by having a storefront. If the location is near to you, opt to visit them and look around their showroom before placing a purchase online. In most cases the furniture will be more expensive, but you can get a feel for how they take care of their property. This will follow over into the way they take care of their customers and their freight (if shipped from THEIR warehouse)
3. If they have a warehouse, ask for a tour. Take a look at the way they warehouse employees act and handle the packages. What the retailer expects of its employees is what they expect from their manufacturers.
4. f the retailer is located in a different state, do not be afraid to ask off-the-wall questions. Ask them how long they’ve been in business, even if it’s posted on their website.
5. Ask them if they are a member of the Better Business Bureau. If so, inquire about their standings with the organization. Verify this against their actual standings on http://www.bbb.org
6. Ask them what the furniture is made of, and if it can be configured in a number of different ways.
7. Ask them about the shipping procedure and how long it takes for the order to be processed.
8. Ask them about how long it takes for the order to be processed -in the warehouse-
9. Ask them how long it takes for the trucking company to come and pick it up
10. Ask them if you will be notified and WHEN you will be notified and HOW (email, phone)
11. Ask them HOW LONG it takes for the freight to be TRANSPORTED
12. Confirm everything. Hold them to their word, and WRITE DOWN THEIR NAMES. Get their last name if possible.
13. Before you end the phone call, simply ask for the owner’s name. This carries a lot of weight with most furniture retailers, and will in most cases result in preferential and special treatment of your freight before it’s shipped. Also, have them write down your name and phone number. Even if they don’t, they will remember that you asked them to.
14. You are paying their salary. They need to be working for you.

15. Buying furniture online is in most cases like being set up on a blind date who’s most likely going to be very very late. It is very rare that you will receive your furniture on the quoted/estimated arrival date due to the time it takes to process and ship the orders. Processing the order itself and placing the order with a drop shipping manufacturer on average takes up to 5 business days. This includes:

– charging the card,
-verifying the billing address and CVV,
-receiving the funds, (+1 day)
-faxing the manufacturer,
-receiving confirmation from the manufacturer, (+1 day)
-the manufacturer pulling the furniture from the wall and packaging it
-the manufacturer forwarding it to shipping (+1 day)
-the manufacturer shipping it (+1 day)
-the manufacturer providing the retailer with tracking information(+1 day)
-the retailer notifying the customer of it shipping
-the shipper updating their tracking status(+1 day)

Again, this can take up to 5 business days for the item itself to be shipped.

16. Transit time for the average package (180lbs+) via freight carrier is 5-7 business days, excluding pickup, weekends, holidays, and drop off. The average pickup, transit, and drop off procedure is typically as follows:
-trucker arrives and receives BOLs (bills of lading) for the freight he/she will be transporting
-warehouse workers load freight that is strapped to a palette via forklift and fill truck to capacity if possible, in order to lower freight costs regardless of the contents of the package(s)
-trucker counts boxes and signs the retailer copy of the BOL (+1 day)
-trucker arrives at local trucking terminal and transmits freight data to their database for tracking
-5 to 7 business day transit time begins (+7 days max)
-if freight is being transported through the weekend, the truck arrives at a terminal and sits until next business day. (+3 days max)
-when the freight arrives at the closest trucking terminal to the customer, terminal calls and arranges a date for delivery on the next business day (+1 day)

17. Once the freight is to be delivered, there are several stipulations to how it will be handled.
-all “standard delivery” is curbside delivery. unlike ground delivery, this means the freight will be unloaded at the expense of the customer (which was included in the original shipping cost). this means the driver will NOT unload the freight by himself unless he has been paid from the retailer to use a liftgate to lower the freight out of the truck.
-the freight is then left curbside once signed for, and the driver leaves.
-the customer is liable for getting the freight into their home

18. If the freight is damaged in-box, the customer must call the retailer to have it picked up. This is how it goes:
-customer calls retailer stating the freight is damaged inside the box
-retailer notifies manufacturer (+1 day)
-manufacturer notifies trucking company (+1 day)
-trucking company notifies customer that they will be picking the item up between set time and set time (usually 8am through 5pm)
-trucking company has a 60% chance on average to arrive on time (+1 day)
-trucking company picks up freight with help from the customer in loading it onto the truck
-process repeats above from #1. (+21 days)

19. NOTE: 40% of freight delivered using any trucking company arrives damaged in-box. That means 2 out of 5 people will have to reorder their freight a second time (total process taking 42 business days- 2 months). 4 out of 25 will have to order a third time (total process taking 63 business days- 3 months).

20. Most online retailers will try their best to emulate popular shopping sites, such as Amazon.com, by estimating a ship date within 3-5 business days. This is not the case as you can see.

I hope all this information helps your decisions in buying furniture in the future.

— BEN POPKEN