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A Lesson In How Not To Buy Online Furniture

Aug 6, 2008
I have had a lot of experience with buying online, and all seemed to go smoothly in the past, and I considered myself a happy online shopper, until I decided to buy furniture: or rather a sofa!

I have done this three times now, and all with horrific results.

Buying Furniture Online

I have purchased many weird and wonderful things online, from ebooks to yogurt, and most of it has always gone smoothly. Well, mostly...There have been times when a manufacturer has believed that a t-shirt in UK size "extra large", wouldn't have fitted a baby, nevermind an 18 stone man! But I digress, as I said, its usually been pain free until that is, I came to buying furniture.

Online Store Only Sells Barbie Furniture.

My first and worst experience was with a UK based firm, who had recently decided to compete with Ikea and had vastly expanded its range to keep up. They had sourced all their products quickly, and I am guessing very cheaply, and held a huge TV and magazine based assault on the public at large. They have a huge market share, and some of their more standard products, such as electronics, are very good. Plus these items don't necessarily need a touch and a feel to make a purchasing decision, so things are a little easier.

Hammers At the Ready

I had wanted to buy some furniture, mainly a decent sized sofa, so I looked around both on and offline at various options, and all seemed to offer "build to order" and no one held any stock. Prior to this I had ordered and paid for a sofa (big and lovely corner five seater), but as we lived in a baseement flat, the segmented sofa option the salesman had assured us would fit round all corners and stairs, actually would have involved a saw and a big hammer to put it into practice. So we sent it back and got a full refund, after much arguing.
Back To Square One.

Tip 1: make sure you see the physical version of the sofa or any furniture, do not rely on pictures, and do not rely on the salesman; if he says its comes in pieces, ask him to show you.

We Deliver...On Time (ish)

Our next venture (by now my girlfriend had wanted to get involved as she didn't want to miss out on any of the fun), was to order online without first seeing the actual product, and only looking hastily at the measurements etc. Well, we went for this option as they had them in stock, and it would only take 2 days for delivery.

After wasting a whole day sitting on the floor where my old sofa had been, the delivery guys finally turned up. I greeted them with a handshake and a numb bum and they proceeded to bring my prized new sofa down my winding stairs.

I began to unwrap the prized sofa once the delivery guys had gone and it was with some glee and awe that I removed the huge amount of packaging, a lot of packaging in fact; rather like peeling an onion, I was left with a sofa that a dwarf would find uncomfortable. Later when my girlfriend arrived home I pretended that everything was fine as we sat almost on top of each other to watch the latest episode of 24. We were stuck in the "bucket design" sofa, legs pressed against each others, and close enough to pass fleas without too much jumping on behalf of the flea. I had made a huge mistake, and it took an hour before I would admit it.

"Its Very Small"

"It's very small", my helpful girlfriend pointed out, two millimetres from my nose and everything else. "Its fine", I'd tried to reply, but I'd begun to see her point as I got up from the sofa with most of it attached to me.

Tip 2: check everything BEFORE the delivery guy goes, and before you sign for anything. Make sure its the model you wanted, the colour you wanted, and the style too.

"Whats a Refund?"

I rang the online store, and was greeted after ten minutes at 80p per minute of waiting. I explained the situation and the very helpful person passed me around to a few of her colleagues for fun, and I re-explained myself to them also. The crux came when I asked for my money back and asked that they come and pick it up. A silence that said a thousand words ensued. "Do you have the main packaging?". "yes". "Is it still in its packaging?" "no."...
"Oh dear sir."

Tip 3: Check the refunds and returns policy. If they don't offer either, then go somewhere else.

We argued on for some time over the phone and in person and finally I gave up and bought ANOTHER sofa.

I never did get the refund as I had done something I shouldn't have - I had sat on my purchase, and that had involved the removal of its packaging. But whats more important is - I didn't read the ton of fine print, and not so fine print when it came to dimensions. Be very very careful.

Don't make the stupid and easily avoidable mistakes I had made simply because you are in a hurry. A sofa or bed is going to give you a lot of years of good service hopefully; so take the time to get it right, and read the small print, ask questions, ask more questions, and get all the information YOU need, and not what the store thinks you need.

You have time, I promise.
About the Author
Sean Redfearn is finally a happy sofa owner, thanks to online furniture
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