Shopping for furniture online might appeal to you because you can quickly cover more “ground” by clicking on selections at four or five stores than by traveling to those same stores by car. But not all Internet retailers are reputable or secure, so follow some vetting tips before you screen your selections.
Vet the retailer first
- Consider shopping at retailers with brick and mortar stores. Limiting your search in this way can enable you to see pieces in person first. You also might eliminate shipping costs since many bigger stores allow shoppers to buy merchandise online and then have it shipped to a nearby store for free.
- Limit your online shopping trips to stores with secure websites. There's a simple way to reduce the risk of identity theft, just as you begin the checkout process. The URL on the page will switch from “http” at the beginning to “https” – the “s” standing for “secure.”
- Search the furniture store website for – and read thoroughly – the following pages:
- “About us,” which should provide information about the company's history and service and product guarantees
- Reviews or testimonials, remembering that a few complaints are normal; a deluge is not
- Shipping costs, which deserve a close look since some furniture companies charge by weight while others set a flat fee
- Return policy and procedures
Vet the furniture next
- Narrow your search to stores that reflect your style. Admittedly, this may not be easy at first, but you'll quickly get the hang of it. If nothing at all appeals to you after you scan, say, two or three pages, move onto another retailer to make the best use of your time. You can refine your search even further if your taste fits into categories, such as “traditional,” “French country” or “shabby chic.”
- Scrutinize the photos – each and every one – and take advantage of the opportunity to “zoom in” on details.
- Scrutinize the product description even more carefully. If something strikes you as curious, call customer service and inquire.
- Be watchful of colors. It's in the interest of every online furniture store to post accurate colors. But there are many shades of oak, walnut, white, black and other “basic” colors, so if you're in doubt, call customer service and ask for clarification. If you're lucky, you might even be offered a free color sample.
- Double-check furniture measurements – not just online but in the room where the furniture is destined to go. Ensure the piece (or pieces) will squeeze through your doors and hallways.
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