What to avoid when shopping for furniture online

Recently, I’ve been discussing all the different sites I look when I’m shopping for ____ online (sofas, one-of-a-kind pieces, original art, accessories, dining table & chairs).

However, there are a few things that I want to say about what to avoid before you type in your credit card #....we need to make sure you are getting something GREAT! (and not crap :)

1. Be aware of “Composite woods” or furniture that use the description of “cardboard”. These aren't great materials and indicate that the furniture is cheaply made. "Veneers" can also vary in quality so sometimes that means it's okay and sometimes that means that it will chip off. Customer Reviews will tell you what type you are dealing with :)

2. Don’t just assume you know how big (or small) something is. Measuring out the piece of furniture (or whatever you want to purchase), can really save you lots of headache. And make sure you measure the doorways, stairs and anything else your piece has to go through!

3. Read all the comments...with a grain of salt. I treat comments very seriously, but you have to realize that some people will want to complain no matter what. You can usually tell with the tone of voice they have, that it’s one of those types of people. In general, assume that you can trust the comments….but keep your eye out for the “negative Nancys” :)

4. Websites that don’t offer credit card protection. Keeping your identity safe in the virtual world is important and no piece of furniture is worth losing it. Many retailers have their own security or use PayPal or Stripe that are protected. Here is a post that goes into this more detailed.

5. Trusting your eye with color. Just because something looks a certain way in online, doesn’t mean it will look like that in person. In particular with upholstery, if you are able to get a sample of the fabric before you purchase, that is the best.

6. Don’t impulse buy. I know that it might not sound like that wouldn't happen online, but if there is a "flash sale" be certain you actually want it and need it before you buy it (I'm talking about you, little accent table that is adorable).

7. Paying too much. Unlike clothing, if you find something on Overstock, it might be on Target or Home Decorators. Shopping around can usually help you find the best deal. If it’s a company that has exclusive items (like Ballard), then there may special sales you can take advantage of. 

8. Free-shipping isn’t all the same. Your goal is to have the highest quality shipping with the lowest risk of damage. If you are purchasing a piece of furniture, you can’t always guarantee that it’s going to come in without any damage- but you can add extra protection through “white glove service” (if it’s available). There are some pieces that are worth having the this added onto, in order to make sure you don’t deal with damage. Customer reviews are also great to know if a company is known to have damage issues.

One final note: If you can see something in person, it may be worth going to check it out if you can. Most online sites do a great job of giving you a realistic idea of what a piece would look & feel like, but seeing something in person can be helpful.

Do you have any tips when shopping for things online?