Having been a part of e-commerce now for over 10 years. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of speaking with folks all across the country who have been in the market for new furniture over the years. Many of these individuals were seasoned web shoppers with a lot of knowledge about how products are shipped and what to expect at the time of delivery. They had purchased large ticket items before and shopping online came very natural to them. There are also customers I talked with who were making furniture their first online purchase. They had never purchased so much as a CD or DVD online before and were starting out pretty big so to speak. These customers were always very pleased to find what they were looking for but may have been somewhat unprepared or perhaps didn’t get a chance to read some of the information online about what to expect at the time of delivery or how the product would be packaged when it arrives. I’d like this article to be a guide for consumers who are new to purchasing furniture online and perhaps this will answer some more common questions related to buying furniture online that aren’t normally addressed when shopping furniture stores online and take the mystery out buying furniture online.
How is furniture shipped?
Furniture is shipped several different ways when you purchase it online and when you buy online it is important to read on the website how the product is being shipped so that you are prepared at the time of delivery to receive your new furniture. Most sites are pretty good about sharing this information to their customers so that they will have an idea of how the furniture is coming and who will need to be home to receive it when it comes. Below are the three common ways furniture is shipped when you purchase it online.
UPS/FedEx/DHL/ Ground Services
These are common services used by many online retailers and is used typically for items that are RTA (Ready to Assemble) furniture. [More about this later.] This packaging is small enough that one person can easily manage it and the retailer will usually provide you a tracking number that you can use online to track your package for the date of delivery. The delivery driver will usually bring it to your door but if you live in an large apartment complex or on a second floor they usually deliver to a central location.
These delivery drivers usually run the same routes every day and typically will come with the delivery around the same time frames of the usual deliveries they do in that area. There isn’t a way to schedule a delivery time with this type of delivery as these companies are just too large with too many packages going through their systems to be able to set up timed deliveries so it is best to be able to have someone home to receive delivery on the day they specify or if you know your delivery driver and you live in a safe area where packages can be left at your door you can always leave a note to leave your package.
Standard Truckline Curbside Delivery
These services are usually done through a truckline like Roadway, Yellow, Overnite, Estes, Conway, USF and so many more. Many of the products shipped with these carriers are too large for FedEx or UPS and need to be shipped with a carrier able to handle larger packages. Many of the products shipped with this service are RTA (Ready to Assemble) furniture but many others come fully assembled when being shipped with this method so it is very important to know from the retailer how your product comes packaged. The nice thing about this service though is you can schedule your own delivery for a day that works for you in most cases within a time window of several hours.
Standard curbside delivery service is just that. These are often delivered on semi-trucks with 50 foot long trailers that are not going to be able to back into your drive let alone go through neighborhoods with low telephone or powerlines or where semi trucks are prohibited from being used or can’t turn around. The driver will bring your furniture to the back of the truck but someone will need to be able to receive it and take it inside. Sometimes a service to help customers get it to their front door is available and can be added for a fee to the order. It is referred to by many different names. Lift-gate, inside first threshold, inside residential delivery and many more. The fees for this can vary greatly and if you can have help at the time of delivery this is something that is worth saving as most often your furniture will be in several boxes and typically one to two people can manage most of the furniture products shipped.
White Glove Delivery
This one has always brought a smile to my face as I remember years ago a customer telling me she was rather disappointed. I asked why and she told me that the delivery folks weren’t wearing white gloves when they delivered her furniture. Well… white glove delivery is just an expression used that indicates the furniture is being handled by moving professionals into your home. This is actually a very premium service that not many online retailers offer due to the high costs of the service. The advantage though is that a professional moving company is hired to pickup your furniture and bring it to your home where two professional furniture movers will bring your furniture into the room you need it and help un-box it. If your furniture comes already assembled then you are ready to go as this service usually doesn’t include setup or assembly of furniture. The important thing about this service though is it gets the furniture right into the room where you need it. Much like truckline delivery you can setup a day and time window with the shipping company to schedule delivery.
Is my furniture assembled when it is delivered?
Furniture retailers often ship furniture RTA which in the industry is short for (ready to assemble). This means that the product is shipped unassembled in parts and that there is some assembly required by the person receiving the furniture before they can use it. The reason for this is not to make it difficult on the person buying the furniture but as a means of packaging it in such a way to prevent shipping damage and by packaging it smaller it can ship by a less expensive means which helps to keep the pricing lower for the furniture. Some furniture is shipped assembled in the box though and depending on the size of the piece of furniture purchased you may need assistance receiving it so double check with the retailer if you are unsure. I always liked the retailer joke that said they tried shipping people with the furniture to assemble it but they often got lost or never made it back so they don’t ship people to assemble the furniture anymore. (Anyone need me shipped to Hawaii to assemble some beds?)
What happens if my furniture arrives damaged?
A very good question. Fortunately most furniture arrives just fine when shipped and rare is it that problems happen. However there are times when perhaps a forklift accidentally runs through a box or an item is accidentally impacted and it’s best to be prepared for what to do when this happens. Since it doesn’t happen often, customers are not always prepared for what to do if their furniture has suffered damage in shipping.
Whether an item is shipped UPS/FedEx/DHL or truckline retailers usually ask that customers look over the product themselves since the retailer can’t be there to help should there be an issue. Signs to look for are crushed ends on a box, impact through the box or areas of the box that have been taped over by the shipping company. These are sometimes signs that the furniture may have had an issue in shipping. It is actually best to open up the packaging and inspect the surfaces of the furniture to be free from scratches, dings and dents before you accept it. If you find something you can’t live with, it’s best to note that while the driver is present on the receipt the driver has you sign or to simply refuse the product due to damage. That way a replacement can be sent to you at no charge. Many customers aren’t aware that this is an important extra step in receiving their furniture much in the same way the retailer receives it at the warehouse when it is first inspected. It’s your furniture after all and you want to make sure it’s exactly the way you want it before accepting it.
When ordering furniture online you can take much of the mystery of delivery away by finding out several things. First, find out how it is being shipped and with what carrier. This will help you understand the information you’ll be getting and how to best use it. Second, ask how it comes packaged and if possible the weight of the packages so you can decide if you need to have someone there at the time of delivery to help you. That way you’ll know ahead of time how to plan for getting the furniture into your home. Third, when your furniture is delivered check it over well to make sure everything arrived safely and if you find anything make a note of it on the delivery receipt you sign. Ask the retailer up front before you buy what things you should do in case of damage. It’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask to be prepared in that rare instance that something does happen to your furniture during shipping. Fourth, enjoy your new furniture! It can be very rewarding to find exactly what you’re looking for online when you were unable to find it locally. This is the reason online retailers exist so that they can offer products that their customers want but can’t find anywhere else. If you keep these things in mind when ordering your furniture online, you’re sure to become a seasoned web shopper.