Research big-ticket furniture purchases with care

During the COVID-19 outbreak, online furniture sales has skyrocketed. This increase likely reflects the home improvements many homeowners are making, parents shopping for desks for home school learning, and employees who have permanently switched to a work from home situation.

Convenience aside, making large purchases online should always be approached with care. The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers the following tips for consumers to help select quality furniture at a reasonable price as well as avoid a few common online shopping pitfalls:

Only shop with reputable retailers. Research a retailer’s page before deciding to do business with them. Reputable sellers provide information about their company and always have valid contact information. Look for company reviews online. For example, on BBBHouston.org, shoppers can find out if an online retailer is BBB accredited, read consumer complaints and reviews.

Understand the store’s return and refund policy, especially during the current pandemic. Return shipping for heavy items, such as furniture, can get costly. Some retailers may have special restrictions for delivery and returns because of the coronavirus pandemic. Before placing an order, read carefully or call the retailer directly to find out upfront if a retailer has a return policy, if refunds are available, how refunds are issued, what the return process is, who pays for return shipping, and whether or not a restocking fee is charged. This information will often help decide whether or not you will complete the order.

Get to know the delivery options. Typically, there are three kinds of shipping offered by furniture retailers and each one may have a different cost.


Front door delivery: the packaged product will be shipped to your front door and no further.

Inside delivery: the delivery person will take the packaged furniture into your home, sometimes into the room of your choice.

White glove delivery: the delivery person will take the packaged box to the room of your choice, unbox it and assemble it if necessary. They will also clean up any mess from the packaging and take it with them.

Ask before placing the order if these types of delivery options are available, as some retailers have changed to curbside or simply front door delivery service to avoid contact delivery.

Measure your space – will it fit through the door? Be extra conscientious when measuring the space where the new furniture will go. A small mistake when taking measurements can mean the difference between the new sofa fitting comfortably in the living room, or not fitting through the doorway and down the hall! Make certain to measure doorways, ceiling heights, and any hallway space (including banisters) the furniture will have to get through to make it to its final destination.

Choose the color carefully. Furniture colors, as they appear on a computer screen, can be significantly different from how they look in real life. Look at images of the furniture on different devices to get a better feel for the real color. Consumer reviews can be helpful too, as many people will comment if the furniture is darker or lighter than it appears online.

Ask questions right up until making a purchasing decision. Reputable furniture companies will be happy to answer any questions about a specific product right up until the button to purchase it is clicked. When in doubt, contact the company directly. For example, maybe it’s important to know whether the feet of a couch unscrew so it will fit through a tight doorway. Many companies are also willing to send fabric swatches for a reasonable fee — a good idea if there is a specific color or texture preference to match in the room.

Do a price comparison. Some pieces of furniture are available from multiple retailers, so always do a price comparison before getting the best deal. Don’t forget to factor in shipping fees and taxes when comparing prices.

For store financing, rent-to-own, and layaway plans, carefully read the fine print. Since furniture can get expensive, many retailers offer store financing, layaway plans, and the option to rent-to-own. If you are thinking about one of these options, carefully read the financing plan. How much interest is charged? How long does the payment plan last? How many payments over how many months or years will it last? Is there an fee to pay the balance in full? Get the answers to all of these questions before signing a finance agreement.

Inspect furniture upon delivery. Before signing any delivery paperwork, inspect the furniture. If it is damaged or missing pieces, you don’t have to accept it. When a delivery is refused because of damage, you will no longer be responsible for payment.

The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Visit www.bbbhouston.org or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the BBB of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send questions to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail [email protected] Include your mailing address and phone number.

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