The internet makes shopping for everything in life so easy. And while there are no major surprises when purchasing toilet paper or cleaning supplies, buying furniture and home decor online can prove a bit tricky. Is that sofa more of a cream, taupe or oatmeal? Will those barstools really fit under the counter? So we asked Michele Hofherr, co-founder of the online-only home goods consignment shop Previously Owned by a Gay Man, to weigh in with her tips about what not to do. Here’s what she has to say.
MAKING ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT SIZE AND SCALE
It is virtually impossible to look at a chair online and know if it will fit with a table or desk in your home. That’s why a measuring tape is essential. Look carefully at the dimensions listed online and then physically measure them out at home to make sure the piece is the right size for your space before clicking purchase. And if you are buying a chair to fit with a desk, don't forget to check the arm measurements to make sure they’ll fit under the desk comfortably.
FORGETTING TO CHECK ON QUALITY
That distressed leather loveseat you’ve got your eyes on may look like the perfect piece for your home, but just because it looks good online doesn’t mean it will necessarily live up to expectations in person. As the saying goes, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is." Do your due diligence: Research the manufacturer (the company one keeps can be very revealing) and look for material content. Make sure the item that looks like wood is indeed made from real wood, or that a rug that appears to be wool isn't actually made from man-made fibers.
IGNORING SHIPPING AND RETURN POLICIES
It’s easy to get caught up in the price of shipping and forget to ask or look into how an item will be shipped. This is especially important with large, heavy or awkwardly shaped items. Ask how long shipping will take (if not explained on the site), and, for large items, if white-glove delivery is available. When dealing with an individual seller, it might also be wise to ask who is liable should any damage occur in transit.
MISJUDGE COLOR ACCURACY IN ONLINE IMAGES
This is a tricky one. Colors can appear very different online because of lighting, camera flash or photo editing. If possible, request a color swatch that you can hold up in your own space, or look for additional shots of the item elsewhere online.
FAIL TO FIND OUT WHETHER ANY ASSEMBLY IS REQUIRED
Very often, a piece of furniture may look like it would come in one piece, but when you read the fine print, you see two sometimes-scary words: assembly required. Rather than leave it up to surprise, try calling and talking to a customer service representative who can provide specific details about what work you’ll need to do on your end. Pro tip: Consider buying previously owned or vintage pieces because you’ll rarely need to assemble a thing.