Does your online furniture retailer qualify?
1) Are you dealing with a ‘real’ company?
Check that all the company details are easily found on the web site, and that you can easily get in touch with knowledgeable people on the phone. Some companies use call centers and it can be difficult to get issues and enquiries dealt with. Also, some web sites are merely portals. They are purely engaged in the marketing of the products and often, they do not control the management of the order processing.
Our Advice: If you can't easily find the company reg. no. and trading address on their web site, be very careful about ordering. Just ask yourself what reasons any company could possibly have to hide this data. Besides it is a legal requirement that this information is readily available.
2) Can they deliver within the time frame they promise?
Needless to say, any company will have the best intentions to deliver the furniture they sell. However, if your furniture supplier doesn’t keep their own stock, they can only rely on their supplier’s ability to deliver, which is either a factory (abroad) or a local wholesaler. Again, in this case, your furniture retailer is possibly not in control and may be let down by their furniture supplier. This often results in long, frustrating waiting, beyond the time frame which was originally promised.
Our Advice: If the retailer you are researching does not hold their own stock, only order if you can accept the possibility of delays beyond what they are promising.
3) Do you have to pay up front?
This is an important point. Once you have parted with your money, whether your order is paid in full or in part, you are tied in. There is a strong incentive for retailers who do not hold stock, to demand a deposit or payment in full, to accept your order. This is because they do not want to end up with obsolete stock, should the customer cancel. The bigger uncertainty of delivery time scale, the bigger the incentive to ask for payment or deposit up front.
In addition, some companies are holding large sums of customers’ prepayments which help finance the operation. This involves a risk for you, if your supplier has financial difficulties.
At OAKEA you can choose to pay on delivery by Chip & Pin or cheque/cash. Our drivers carry mobile Chip & Pin machines so you have the added security of only paying when you have the furniture.
Our Advice: If you are asked to part with your money several days or weeks or months before expected delivery of your furniture, whether it be in full or part, don't order. If, however, you are happy to pay in advance, make sure you pay by CREDIT CARD only. Not by Debit card, cash or cheque. If the furniture retailer encounters financial difficulties, you could loose your money. However, if you have paid for the furniture by credit card, you should be protected by the credit card provider, in case of the retailer going into administration.
4) Do they have a Showroom?
Many on-line retailers say that they don’t have expensive showrooms, to save the overheads, and in turn to save you money. The reality is that if a retailer does not have a showroom, they are likely to have very little knowledge of the products they are selling. This is particularly true when dealing with Quality Solid Wood Furniture. A showroom is just as important for staff as it is for customers. It is vital for good advice that sales staff can actually see and touch the furniture they are selling.
For on-line retailers, it is tempting to list furniture that seem like a good deal, without actually knowing whether the product lives up to the level of quality they would like to offer.
Our advice: If your furniture retailer does not have a showroom, don't buy, unless you can accept the risk of the furniture not being quite as described and expected by you.
5) Can your supplier deal with problems and issues?
Problems do occur, although any furniture company will strive to eliminate them. If you receive a faulty piece of furniture requiring replacement, your supplier’s ability to replace swiftly will – once again – depend on whether or not they hold stock.
6) Does your supplier use couriers to deliver?
If your retailer delivers using a courier, hope for the best and plan for the worst. Some couriers are very good but the fact is that your retailer will have surrendered control of the way your furniture is being handled, the politeness of the people delivering it, the timeliness of the delivery, communication (or lack of...) relating to your delivery, not to mention the drivers product knowledge which can be handy.
Using couriers can be a convenient solution (for the retailer) but it does leave the road open for all sorts of problems, beyond the control of both yourself and your retailer.
At OAKEA We always strive to deliver everything with our own fleet of vans and drivers. We do, however, occasionally use furniture specialised couriers, but only when absolutely necessary. An exception is small items which can be delivered on an over night service which is sometimes preferred by customers.